Clarification on Anju Bhargava
In Breaking India (chapter 15) there
is a section critical of the US Commission on International Religious
Freedom's biased treatment of India, and especially Hinduism. This was
the first ever published report analyzing that institution from India's
perspective, and recently a few other persons have written summaries
from the book in their own blogs. The chapter goes on to show that under
the Obama administration things have not changed, as that body remains
under the control of rightwing evangelists. It points out that a new
organization specifically set up by Obama to represent religious
diversity made recommendations that were drafted by these same rightwing
Christian evangelists, right under the nose of the Hindu
representative. This representative was Anju Bhargava who served for one
year and whose term expired in early 2010. I expressed my
disappointment at her complicity in not speaking up formally and
publicly against such US initiatives. I did make clear that she had not caused the problems though she went along. I want to clarify certain points on this.
has become very upset and gone to various persons complaining that my
criticism has caused "divisiveness". Behind my back, she even asked at
least one prominent leader to cancel my talk at a recent major event
where I was featured as a prominent speaker. (But her petition was
refused, and this leader reaffirmed his full support for me and my book,
and asked me to speak at the event as planned.)
have thought over this matter and one civic leader whom I respect has
asked that we make peace in the spirit of broader cooperation. I have
decided to make peace with Anju on terms based on principles of truth
Anju's main issue with me is that
my stance has adversely impacted her Seva project. Here, I wish to
clarify that Anju's Seva project is unrelated to my issue of evangelists
in India and the US government's tacit support for them. Seva (charity,
service, compassion, philanthropy, etc.) is a key part of our
tradition. Most mandirs in the US already are engaged in seva of their
own initiative. I don't see anything wrong in someone surveying such
initiatives to place them under a banner in order to gain visibility for
the tradition. So the seva initiative by Anju is good. I don't want
people to avoid her seva project on my account - you must evaluate her
project on its own merits.
On the issue of US interventions in India via evangelism or other means: That's the core issue in Breaking India
and my position gets strengthened as more evidence pours in. The book
has shaken up many people and its Tamil edition is finally at the
printer. A Hindi edition is being translated and will take a whole year
to get ready. So my position on that particular issue stands. I merely
want to decouple it from Anju's Seva work, and wish her the very best of
My hope is that in future, anyone who
represents our community in some official capacity will become very well
informed of our major concerns, will set up a broad
advisory committee to consult with on all issues being addressed in the
official capacity, and will speak with courage officially even when it
is an unpopular stand. As an American minority community we need leaders
who will speak up against those causing problems. That will remain my
litmus test on leadership....
.....Anju has clarified that she did indeed speak up at the
inter-religious council when she was a member. I have acknowledged this
in the book. It is not that she didn't try. My issue has been different.
When I got a chance to review the draft that the evangelists
had come up with, I wrote a detailed point by point rejoinder and sent
it to Anju. I tried to press her to put such a formal statement of
dissension on the record and then make it public to add pressure.
The council ought to have been told, "this is how my community feels
about whats being done here, and as their representative I must put this
complaint as my position on the record." People representing a
constituency often do this to be faithful to those they represent. They
stick their neck out for something that is critical to the constituency.
Even in many Supreme Court decisions a minority statement on the record
has merit because it asserts a principled disagreement with the
decision being passed.
As I wrote, the lesson learned is that a
leader representing us in some official body should set up an advisory
committee and consult them all along. In this instance I am
unaware of any such committee. I was given the draft resolution after
World Vision et al had been busily writing the draft for most of the
year (why Anju did not bring this up to me earlier beats me)....
"Without making any comment on Ms. Bhargava, I would like to point
out that one of her associates from her seva organization, Ms. Saumya
Arya Haas has given credence to a malicious report by the FOIL group (of
which Angana Chatterji, who finds mention in BI, is a prominent member)
against Indian and Hindu interests in a public post in huff pro. More: here
I was appalled to see that someone who claims to
work for Hindu interests sided with those who seek to dismantle our
country and civilization. It is understandable that people would wish to
not publicly associate themselves with the Hindutva movement since it
has been so badly maligned through sustained and organized calumny. But
to take the side of people who are consummately against Hindu and Indian
interests, and that too in a public forum..."
The above is someone's independent view which I cannot
verify or refute. I dont want to restart another round of anger from her
as I am way too busy with more important things right now - like
organizing what now turns out to be 14 events in India in November for
my new book. ..."
"The Caribbean Hindu Community also must be represented in all advisory
Hindu committee. We are a formidable group in America, and we have many
unique concerns about conversion and other issues in the Caribbean and
America. I met Anju at a function in New Jersey a few years ago and told
her I was from the Caribbean Hindu community. She was not interested in
our conversation and walked away. This was not the first time I had a
bad experience with this type of behavior. I don't know who elected
these Hindus to represent our community."
Illiteracy about Hinduism
Koenraad Elst posts:
"On the Religion in South Asia list, a forum for Indologist members of the American Academy of Religion [AAR], an American professor generally sympathetic to Hinduism makes the following observation in a discussion on the notion of "Hindu theology":
> Whatever case, the lack of a forum for people who practice Hinduism to teach and write constructively about Hinduism is clearly something that Hindus need to create for themselves by producing first rate Hindu theological literature (which must include a meta-reflective discourse on what "Hindu theology" means in a Western context, as
> One reason Hinduism is so far behind in establishing the category "Hindu theology" is that Hindus living in Europe and America have done nothing substantial to make sure their traditions are preserved. With a few exceptions, one can say that Hindus' ability to articulate their traditions in the contemporary West is dismal. Other religious traditions have done a better job of creating a space for learned
theological reflection on tradition and modernity, and as a result they have many situations in which they can "do theology."<
To be sure, I know exceptions to this "dismal" rule, a few Hindus (mostly not professional scholars of Hindu religion or related) who do perform well when challenged to represent "the" Hindu viewpoint on a given topic. But by and large, the above observation is impeccable. In most cases, Hindus claiming/asked to speak for Hinduism only represent a narrow segment of Hindu tradition, e.g.
the Arya Samajis (and some others under their influence) who confidently answer monotheist polemicists that Hinduism, contrary to appearances, is not polytheistic at all, thus delegitimizing the vast majority of Hindu practices
from the Mirta & Varuna hymns and the Sarvadevah hymns of the Rg-Veda on down. Two years ago I did a presentation at Balu's Rethinking Religion in India conference (of which I just missed the follow-up session in Pardobice, Czech
Republic, this week) comparing British school textbooks of Hinduism, issued by ISKCON, VHP, Vivekananda centre et al. I found my apprehensions confirmed: they all distort the basic concepts and doctrines of what they present as Hinduism in the direction of their own specific positions. And those were group efforts well thought through by people who at least tried to make it look scholarly,
historically accurate and impartisan; it gets far worse with amateurs, who bore their interlocutors with platitudes like "the wise call the one with many names" (misinterpreted as monotheism) and "vasudhaiva kutumbakam", as if these are the invariable essence to which Hinduism can be reduced.
Most Christians and most Muslims have received some training in the over-all story of their religion, they are like modern people who turn on the TV and get the news from the capital. Most Hindus, by contrast, are like premodern
villagers who only get the story circulating in their own village,...
When I compare Dutch TV's Hindu and Muslim programmes, well, there's just no comparison. ...
....The Muslim programm is for adults, the Hindu programme is at school level.
The catechism-type programmes are always within the confines of the particular tradition of the Hindustani-Surinamese (originally Bhojpuri) immigrant community, Rama-devotional, Tulsidas-centred, unaware of difference in Hinduism through time and space. That would be perfectly normal in a village setting back in Bhojpur, but in a modern context where Hindus are often addressed as
Hindus-in-general, where they meet different schools of Hinduism and are faced with different outsider conceptions/expectations about Hinduism, that just isn't
Hindus tend to be illiterate about Hinduism-in-general. That may not be a hindrance to leading a good life, but in the modern dialog of religions, it is a real handicap."
N. S. Rajaram comments:
"There is a lot of truth in this. This is on the other hand an
occupational hazards of pluralism."
"All opinions sounded here are true concerns. Hindus are not equipped to
negotiate the evil in our midst. In this regard, without mentioning the
Hindus, William James had mentioned this problem in his The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature. This explains partially why Buddhism is more at ease in the ex-Christian world.
unlike philosophy, is alien to Hinduism. True religion and true
philosophy cannot differ, according to Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, which I
endorse. For Hindus, theology was unnecessary so far and in my opinion,
it still is for the whole of humankind. The god concept is secondary in all aspects.
What is necessary for Hindus is to burn to cinders the so-called
theology of the Judeo-Christian thought. This Christian theology in
actuality is pure sophistry. The flaw is fundamental. Muslims are part
and parcel of it, so it cannot sustain itself alone without the
I am in agreement with what Shri. George has stated below even
though I understand the concern that Dr. Elst has brought up. It is true
that the Hindus are not in a position to articulate their position and
that is primarily because they are completely untrained in their own
darshanas, sampradayas, and samskaras. This has largely been true in the
last few decades. But I think one should be cognizant of the real
Firstly, some traditional Hindus do articulate their
framework very well and are exceptionally knowledgeable about their own
sampradayas. A couple of examples would be the Advaita Vedanta list or
the Sri Vaishnavism list. These groups are made up of practitioners and a
large number of younger people who are well trained and well read about
their own sampradaya and are also very well educated and articulate. An
area where they have not done well is in taing their message across to
the western audience or in dealing with Abrahamic religions as purva
paksha. I think that is one area of improvement they should consider.
Secondly, some activist Hindus pose a certain danger to
Hinduism which they may not recognize. They are often very keen to
present Hinduism in the western mould - both the Christian mould and the
western value system mould. ...At some
stage, Hindus should get ready to take on the very edifice of
Abrahamic-western civilization, deconstruct it rationally, and present
Hindu traditions as an alternative instead of seeking recognition and
acceptance within the western-Abrahamic framework. Shri. Malhotra's
Being Different lays the foundation for such an approach.
This would mean that there never would be a Hindu
theology but there should be a serious and widespread attempt to
articulate the traditional Hindu position (not the misguided harmonizing
attempts) and fearlessly contrast it against the western paradigms. For
example, Jayanta Bhatta's Nyaya Manjari as the framework using which to
present a Hindu tradition and evaluate the western-Abrahamic worldview
Ram shares a link:
"Came across an article in tamil
by the writer Jeyamohan, where he refutes the charge being propagated now by the church and the dravidian parties (dravidar kazhagam etc), commies that hinduism has destroyed the village deities.
He mentions that ten years before in St.Xavier college of Palayamkottai a conference was held by Fr.Jeyapathi on the topic 'People's Gods' for ten days, where such ideas were more emphasized. one person who asked about the status of
the village deities in cultures taken away by desert bloc religions was expelled during that meeting. Jeyamohan gives an excellent insight on how hinduism is a collective ideology and how it accumulates all the deities as tributaries and grows as a major river."
In my new book there is a section called "Forest and Desert
Civilizations" in which i explain this key difference. Vedic civilization originated in forest geography while the Abrahamic religions originated in desert tribes. The influence of geography on peoples' psychology gets examined. This section was drastically reduced because of "editorial inputs". In fact it used to be a whole chapter, and even before that, the working title of my book was "Forest and Desert Civilizations". It went through many working titles before the final one."
"As to the comments below, I agree whole-heartedly. We here in Minnesota are developing a 13 year curriculum (from Kindergarten to Adult) to teach multi-facted and yet a definitive, non confusing version of Hindu Dharma from a modern perspective. We just came out with a Beta version of the Kindergarten workbook. Knowing that KG kids do not read full sentences, and that they parents are quite ignorance about our Dharma anyway, it is meant to be a guide for parents and teachers to read out to kids and derive morals that are appropriate to and relevant to KG level kids. The parents will perhaps (and perhaps need to) learn more than their kids, while being able to transmit the correct message to their kids.
I'd be glad to email (write to me offline) an ecopy for review. The book will be kept copyright free and will be eventually online... "
"1. There are NO practicing Hindus, because, Hinduism cannot be practiced. As per Supreme Court Definition, a Hindu is the one who is NOT a jew, NOT a christian, and NOT a muslim. Can any one practice a religion, which does not have its own independant identity?
2. Adhi sankara classified diverse sets of customs and practices in to 6 mathams. But he kept the philosophical discourse outside these sanmathams. Customs and traditions of sanmathams are for common people, while the
philosophies (advaita, dwaita & vishistadvaita) are for the learned.. (please correct me, if i am wrong).
What is being done today is a vague attempt to define the Hindu identity, by mixing everything, including the budhism and jainism. Can such thing be called a religion? Yet, most of the people here are obsessed with hindu identity.
3. The actual traditions and customs that can be practiced in our life are the sanmathams.. the smartha tradition, shaiva tradition, vaishnava tradition, has definite and unambigous customs to follow, and corresponding religious practices
and scriptures. .."
"The above kinds of issues are what I churned for years and wrote BEING DIFFERENT. Kindly approach my new book with an open mind on all these issues. Rather than defining a positive direct identity as is often being attempted, I look for differences from what we are NOT. Here I use the west as foil for contrast. So a very new approach to identity comes about in which the various kinds of dharmas share key commonalities. This shows how all the internal differences can be accommodated without abandoning the notion of a common identity."
""There is a false sense of insecurity existing among most of us, that relying on shaiva and vaishnava identity will divide us.. (as though we are all united earlier).. They fail to understand that, both shaivites and vaishnavite worship both shiva and vishnu, and it is the preference of god that makes the difference.
For eg, our kula guru belongs to adhi saiva sect, but in his siva pooja, he worships vishnu too, and has vishnu deity in his pooja room"
Best example for this is the Shloka "Shuklam Baradharam Vishnum, Shashivarnam Chatrubhujam, Prasanna Vadanam Dyaayet, Sarva VignopaShantaye"
Sadly, the axe and knife if out by those who want to take egoistic stance on this. Shaivites claim this to be invocation to Bhagawan Vinayaka. Vaishnavites refute saying this is invocation is to Maha Vishnu.
I doubt this was how our great sages and seers wanted it to be. ..."
In chapter 3 of BEING DIFFERENT I go into all this under the concept of Integral Unity. This idea is in contrast to the west's notion of unity that I characterize as Synthetic Unity. When a lens of synthetic unity gets applied, the integral unity seems broken into "parts", and these are found to be in mutual tension, and turned into caricatures. So the starting point in dealing with this should be to get a thorough grounding in the difference between integral unity and synthetic unity.
"I am of two minds about the value of "proper" well argued theological systems. They end up creating dogmas and hierarchies, building limits and soon become outdated. Perhaps the Sanathana Dharma is better off, by remaining
pluri-systematic and non-dogmatic. Why should Hinduims imitate Abrahamic messianic religions? In the end the latter become the victims of their own constructions..".
"... Our tradition has a strong learned component. I dont like this common argument that goes: Since west misused materialism let us abandon all material pursuits. Or since others messed up their intellectual tradition, lets abandon ours. The Brits said (and foolish gullible Indians accepted) that material wealth like the kohinoor was not good for the so-called "spiritual east".
My new book explains how our intellectual tradition is on solid ground without suffering the same issues as the west. This is why purva paksha gazing at the west is the central methodology used.
I look for specific ingredients in western theology that causes problems, not discarding any and every theology.
In a category where west is deficient (e.g. theology here), it is fashionable to say let everyone else also abandon that category. why? our theology deserves to be evaluated on its own merit."
"The one objection I have is the actual critique of the purva paksha, in
this case the Christian theology. In my opinion, there is no need
to counter-pose a Hindu theology to critique the purva paksha or to find
a foothold in arguments as suggested by the "American professor
sympathetic to Hinduism", because Christian theology has a basic flaw,
which has to do with the basic premises it is built on. So, pointing out
the basic flaw is enough to disqualify theology as a valid argument.
Theology is pure sophistry and very peculiar to Christians. To construct
a theology for Hindus to critique purva puksha or to make a stand in
debates is not only unnecessary but would amount to condescension or
worse, aping the West (this is where I agree with Carpentier) and
in the process also bestow an undeserving intellectual credential to
Christian theology. It actually deserves to be incinerated for its
Vijaya Rajiva responds to George:
"... Adi Sankara's method is the quintessential purva paksha and it created a Hindu system subsequently called Advaita Vedanta (Monism, as distinct from monotheism). Sri Sankara, ofcourse was debating Nagarjuna's Madhyamika philosophy. The difference between Brahman(Sankara) and Sunya (Nagarjuna) is one of the distinguishing criteria of Hinduism. Western scholars have tried to assimilate Sankara with dependent co origination (Buddhism).
My point here is that Rajiv's method is crucial to his undertaking which is outlinging what Being Different is. In that sense he is not creating a Hindu theology. This is not to say that he is a great mystic in the way that Ramakrishna Paramahamsa or Ramana Maharshi were and they were followers of Sankara.
I found watching his video at the Oberoi Conference which positions his work gives you an idea of what to expect from the book."
Fw: Fw: [RajivMalhotraDiscussion] Re: Illiteracy about Hinduism
Short reply to Carpentier : the danger that
you pose is there, but only if for a reader who is non Hindu. As you
rightly point out, Hinduism is by its very nature non dogmatic. Take Adi
Sankara's Brahma Sutras. You cannot get anything more abstract than the
argumentation there and yet he was also amystic as in that other famous
work Saundarya Lahiri. His modern disciple Ramkarishna Paramahamsa
spoke both about the Nirguna Brahman (Formless) and Saguna (with form)
and so on. Or Ramana Maharshi etc.
The above being the case Rajiv's book ( I am freely speculating here,
since I have not yet read it) will move easily in both dimensions (no
matter even in a small degree since I am not presuming to place him
alongside of Adi Sankara and
others) and avoid the pitfall of a dogmatic theology. This is my hope and expectation.
Politically it is important that the book appear, the sooner the better.
At a time when India threatens to be overtaken by Bollywood values and
other asuric political forces, a constant Hindu resurgence is crucial.
Vijaya Rajiva adds:
"I wish to comment on 3 of RVN's insightful remarks on Dr.Elst, Rajiv's new book, and the need for Hindus to pull together.
1....Since I have not as yet read the book I cannot comment further further on the book itself, except to say that I watched Rajiv's video at the Oberoi Conference in the summer and am convinced that I will not be wasting my time reading the book.
However, I also want to add this: there may be many who have attempted a similar project in the vernaculars and these are not easily accessible to the diaspora. There are probably also some in English also.
That is the richness and variety of the country's cultural achievement, the density which is there and is often unsung and unknown, but nevertheless there. I had the privilege of recently interacting with some fine Hindu scholars also.
2. On the question of Dr. Elst and the Belgian tv shows etc. Dr. Elst is an outstanding scholar and is understandably impatient with the high school level standard of these shows. My own response is that these levels are also
important. Adi Sankara himself did distinguish between the learned seekers of Brahma Vidya and the popular aspirants thereof. Neverthless, he considered all the levels important, from the least to the highest. And this he expressed in
his inimical way by stressing Sri Vidya, Saundarya Lahiri, the devotional aspects of popular Hinduism and the need for an action oriented Hinduism. This aspect no doubt influenced Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and others.
3. RVN is right in saying that Hindu scholars should be diplomatic in their disagreements within their own community, no matter how aggressive they can be with external opponents. The door should be kept open so that a quick and meaningful unity can be established. "
This is a wild supposition. Not good enough for a scholar. She is comparing one unknown
(my book which she has not read) with an imagined book by some imagined
writer. What kind of rigor is that? Also, this does nothing to spread knowledge, which is whats needed.
There were several other illuminating comments that can be read in the original thread.
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