|2009 discussion on Kashmir at Harvard - attended by Angana Chatterji
In light of the recent dismissal of Angana Chatterji, who Rajiv did highlight in BI, I wanted to look into some of the company she kept. No surprises that...
"Let us not put Eliade or Joseph Campbell on the U-turn boat. Their works consist in highlighting and bringing out the mythical, cosmological aspects of the Western traditional cultures in order to reconnect with the Perennial Philosophy. Everyone must work on the truth from the departure point of his own civilisation by rediscovering its roots and its hidden meaning.
Both these characters definitely ARE prominent uturners. I am
glad Come expressed his support for them, as I want to provoke puncture this kind of aura of people like Campbell (and many others glorified in "American Veda" type of works). You can add Jung to this list and many other lineages of so-called "western" pioneers who were unfair in hiding their Indian sources in order to be seen as "original" thinkers.
In the case of Campbell, people in India praise what they see as his love for Indian spirituality. But he lived many years in Esalen where he facilitated many uturns. Read his book "Baksheesh and Brahman", written after he had finished his
mining expedition to appropriate Indian things, and in it the whole tradition is depicted as a form of corruption by brahmins to dupe the masses....
... The fact that people today dont see these as uturns is precisely what makes that work so important.
Such "bridge builders" were biased and served as the stomachs of the digestive system. The whole Perennial Philosophy is merely stage-2 of the uturn."
Mrithak asks Rajiv:
"I was wondering your view on Rudolph Steiner as my wife is a Waldorf school teacher. Steiner is very sympathetic towards Indian traditions in his works such as " how to know higher worlds" and even has incorparated the Guru-kula model of
having the same teacher for all subjects till 8th grade. Interestingly Steiner says that he has a "Guru" but won't reveal the name of his Guru.
Rajiv response: Rudolph Steiner is an important uturner. After J. Krishnamurty was selected to head the Theosophists, Steiner quit the movement because he wanted that post. Till then, he had learned a lot from Indian sources, as did most Theosophists. He wrote a fairly ok interpretation of Gita, etc.
Steiner then started his own anthropomorphism movement. This was initially a sort of half-way place combining Hinduism and Christianity - the way most uturns begin. As it evolved, it got more and more distant from Hinduism.
I would say he was in the same league as Carl Jung - (1) learned from Hinduism; (2) then used it to construct his own hybrid of Christianity and Hinduism; (3) gradually after the founder's death the movement distanced from the Indian
sources and became increasingly neo-Christian. ....
Today, both these movements are among the "new" and "liberal" thought that is seen as a part of the development of western thought. In other words, they have used dharma to reinvent Christianity. There remain some Indian terminology and many ideas are borrowed as is clear. BUT THEIR LEADERS TODAY DO NOT WANT TO BE TOLD THIS PUBLICLY, OR AT LEAST THEY WILL NOT LIKE TO TALK ABOUT THIS.
I approached the Steiner people to get them interested to do a project explicitly on "Indian influences on Rudolph Steiner and his education system." Informally they accept "some influences" but do not want to emphasize this aspect.
Similar influences also exist in the case of Montessori and her famous school system. She spent many years in India as a shelter during World War 2, and thats where she wrote some of her important works on education. She had good relations with Gandhi, Ramana Maharshi, and various others. But try asking the headquarters of the Montessori system to celebrate the "Hindu education system's influences".
I have been around the block engaging dozens of such groups since the 1990s. In fact the Theosophy folks in Adyar, Tamil Nadu show no interest to celebrate their appropriations of Hindu thought."
"What a revealing yet sad fact to know for a person like me who has held Montessori in high esteem for many reasons including having had owned a Montessori school, and who has studied Jung as a psychotherapist, while being ignorant about direct Hindu influences in their work. ..."
... My interest in the appropriation of education per se started when in the 1990s I saw a course at Princeton Univ called "the history of universities". The textbook had zero mention of Nalanda/Taxishala or any other Indian center of learning. It was all about Alexandria, Greece, Europe and the West. I approached the professor and suggested that he include the history of ancient universities in India. His predictable response said things like: "I am unaware of any such Indian universities", "there is no reliable source on this", "we want to stay away from rightwing chauvinistic claims", etc.
Luckily, I found in the Princeton library a 3 volume history of Nalanda written by a western scholar, using sources from visiting Chinese and other students who had written of their experiences at Nalanda after returning back to their home
countries. Even after I showed this "source" material, the prof was unwilling to include anything about India, giving the excuse that he was "unqualified" to teach such a complex matter without first spending a lot of time to study it for
... then I came across an entirely different and very CONTEMPORARY example of a MAJOR educational movement in the west that (according to official accounts)
owes its origins to one man living in Europe (now in his 90s). This methodology of learning has become extremely mainstream and is spreading like wild fire. But the smoking gun came when I happened to meet a western woman by chance at a talk on uturn i was giving in a university. She told me that she had an interesting "example" of uturn to bring to my attention. What transpired was amazing .... What resulted is now a solid chapter on this particular case study, which clearly establishes the Indian origins of something very modern and of relevance today.
Meanwhile, a friend's wife teaching at the Princeton Waldorf school (a system started by Steiner using what he regarded as "his own" theory of education) related some incidents that happened in the school. They were teaching many India/Hindu techniques but never acknowledging the source or any links at all with dharma. After I gave her some background and encouraged her to open the subject, she approached the head of school, but was told in direct words that "Hinduism could not be introduced into the curriculum or mentioned as a source" - even though Steiner himself was heavily influenced by dharma.
... one man who claimed to be "bridging" the east-west was a Steinerite. He was some senior official in an organization that researches and promotes Steiner's philosophy called anthropomorphism. He was speaking "on behalf of" hindu/buddhist thought - often these folks who are middlemen in the appropriation serve as proxies representing dharma in ways that are remarkably authentic if the audience is sophisticated.
... From their research output I discovered how very
cleverly they were replacing all references to Sanskrit terms, dharmic paradigms, and turning this into "new western thought" by so-called pioneers like Steiner and many others, and/or "old western thought" that could combine
Hellenistic (Greek) and Hebraic (Judeo-Christian) thinkers.
Indian civ was being digested into the belly of the west. ... So even before coming to Maria Montessori's Indian influences, there is a whole history of how Indian education has become digested into the west.
... a group with centers across USA that has started spreading Sri Aurobindo's philosophy of education after removing Indian sources (or turning them into a small footnote of "minor influence").
.... Just in case you imagine that there is a support base for my work, you are sadly mistaken. 99% of the "support" offered is either a waste of precious time, or else it ends up being someone with self-serving agendas that only make things
worse. Our tradition today simply lacks the mechanisms for consistent support for original research that has the potential for being a game changer. Its too much filled with politics, pettiness, short-term "whats in it for me"..."
Venkata.. responds to bluecupid:
"The word 'liberal' in the US context and perhaps in the European context too, seems to have taken a meaning of its own ... I have found many of them art Hindu-haters too... It is not clear ( at least to me) why persons in the West influenced by the four thought processes by Bluecupid below, should wish to take to Dharmic traditions.
4. The Sexual Revolution
Perhaps if we go in to this phenomenon deeper we may come tofind why people get disappointed or take a U turn or become uncomfortable in the 'culture' but not in the philosophy of Indian society."
In Uturn I examine the psychological, political and social
forces at work on these people. Many of them ran away from something in the west, rather than specifically towards dharma for positive reasons. When the fad appeal wore off they made uturns. But they got transformed by the journey, hence they had a need to digest what they had learnt into their own western framework.
Gurus have failed to uproot the western fixations in order to clear the soil of its preconditions, and then plant the new knowledge. Buddhists do this re-conditioning more systematically, hence they have fewer uturns (although they
have them as well).
The process known as "conversion" is precisely to remove past conditioning and axioms, in order to properly plant new ones. Hindu gurus have been reluctant and even afraid to convert. So the new knowledge gets added without first cleaning the vessel from the old contaminants. This fails to be sustainable when the old/new civilizational assumptions are inherently incompatible as BD shows."
"Rajiv and I deal with 2 different sets of "liberals". I'm not mixing it up with Christians or academics. The people I deal with are "liberal minded" non-academic folk who practice yoga or partake in one or many forms of Eastern traditions, often on a surface level but sometimes going deeper. They are nice, open-minded people who are not interested in joining any organized religious cult."
It is precisely these "nice and open minded" persons I did research on at dozens of yoga centers, meditation centers etc. Yes they are "nice", but within the safe boundaries of their comfort zone as "westerners". This zone assumes a sense of american exceptionalism. Try contesting "western
Universalism" - they will continue being "nice" but will not call back even though they will show interest. You have a limited experience of american liberals, and that too untested by provoking the safety net. ...."