|NG (March 2012): The Journey of the Apostles
Vishal comments: I am forwarding this note of protest that I sent to the National Geographic magazine today immediately upon seeing their issue. The article starts with a picture of Christian tribals in Odisha with an inflammatory caption. Thereafter too, there is another picture of an Indian Christian who 'suffered for Christ', and usual nonsense on Christianity saving low caste people in India...
"Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise. "
-- I don't want to promote Broad's book, or help him sell more by stirring up a controversy. However, some critical analysis will be needed, I think. I'm going to assume that his book will contain all kinds of errors and misinterpretations
(e.g., sutras don't name any specific asanas, so those asanas didn't exist, e.g., yoga was stripped of its sexual baggage and republished by Indian nationalists, and so on).
-- So what is the way to make sure (assuming there are such mistakes) that such a book does not become general wisdom?.."
"Rajiv has given an excellent clue about handling western style descriptions of dharmic/Indian events and activities which give only a part of the meaning of these untranslatable words. I have been using this methods to good effect
recently, by pointing out that in our tradition some words have several meanings at different levels, and choosing just one meaning is wrong.
For example, my friend who is of Indian descent, has been saying that the Shiva lingam in the Hindu mandirs is a phallus, and that Hindus are worshipping.... I found this to be a gross misrepresentation, and told him that ... they went up to the murtis to do arti, but were seeing it as a symbol of Shiva, or a symbol of the manifest universe etc.
He was not convinced until I showed him the Wikipedia entry (below) which showed 16 meanings for the word lingam, only one of which was phallus ....He now understands that Hindus can see the lingam in many ways, ... My friend, who claims to be a Hindu himself, has now stopped with his favourite story.....
Nagaraja recounts a story of Adi Sankara and Mandana Misra:
"...Adi Shankara stands in front of Mandana Misra's house and says Bhikshan dehi. But, Mandana Mishra wants to taunt Adi Shankara and the conversation goes like this.
MM - Kuthaha Mundi (From Where? Shaven (Implying Where are you coming from oh shaven one? - shaven used in a derogatory sense))
AS - Agalath Mundi (Shaven from Chin and above, twists the question to mean From where onwards are you shaven and answers)
MM - Kim Sura Peethaha (What? you want to drink liquor?)
AS - Sura Shwethaha (Liquor is white, twists the question Kim Sura Peethaha to mean What? is liquor yellow?, based on a different meaning of the word peethaha)
The conversation continues like this and Mandana Mishra cannot continue his satire and comes to the point. Once they sit for a proper argument Adi Shankara then provides straight arguments to the point based on his knowledge of Tatva.
What Rajiv ji is set out to do is similar to a part of what Adi Shankaracharya has done (objective, calm arguments to establish certain truths) and Adi Shankaracharya's heroics offer many lessons to do this."
bluecupid shares a link:
"A good [rebuttal] to Broad's sweeping generalization can be found here;
Raj says: I guess this confirms that yoga has entered stage 4 of the u-turn.
Rajiv's comment: Yoga like most other dharmic items has been simultaneously in stages 2, 3 and 4 for many decades. Each stage has its own champions, and they perform like good cops versus bad cops in mutual tension. This is how enzymes operate in mutual tension to end up digesting the food. Most folks cannot see this big picture and hence run around glorifying the good cops.
BD defines specific boundaries which anyone wanting to be a good cop must be asked to cross explicitly and publicly. It forces a hard test, so the person cannot vacillate or pretend there is no difference. It clarifies why he cannot have it both ways. Naturally, this is very discomforting to those who have
become settled in sameness. I have many angry critics attacking me for disrupting their sameness comfort zone.
Karthik responds to Arun:
"I had emailed Rajiv about this book a few weeks ago, on the evening I heard William Broad being interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air".
As far as developing a strategy goes: could we write en masse to NPR (specifically, Terry Gross)? We would need to outline what, specifically, we found objectionable about the views aired in that interview and why, in the interest of fairness, "Fresh Air" ought to feature a balancing viewpoint. The transcript of the Broad interview is available here:.."
"By way of introduction, I teach Hinduism and Buddhism ... ...although I have not read Rajiv Malhotra's text yet, I am in agreement (to some extent) with the essence of his basic thesis on difference. Having said that, I want to introduce yet another way of looking at 'religion'. Bear in mind that scholars of 'religion' are really not concerned with the same issues that practitioners are and this is why 'insiders' often have debates with or have taken objection to their work. But, I need not go into detail here, this discussion has raised so many issues with academia on its own that it is not necessary to rehash the objections and central points again and again. What is important to point out, I think, is that within the scholarly study of religion -- as the saying goes -- we teach 'about' religion, we don't actually teach religion -- and this might be the crux or source of the central objection. In order to do this we attempt to explain and interpret 'religion' as a phenomenon using the methods of the social sciences (and most insiders don't always agree with this approach). But, please bear in mind, this is true equally for all religions, not just Hinduism.
Having said that, I want to introduce a new way of understanding religion, but certainly not the only way. That is to say, through the lens of cognitive science or the study of the mind/brain. It seems to me, that when we look at the human mind/brain we see more 'similarities' than 'differences'. ...
This is true not only for neuroscience but also for cognitive linguistic theorists who debate Noam Chomsky's notion of a universal grammar that is triggered by linguistic environments at birth. In other words, we (i.e., humans) don't arrive in this world at birth as a tabula rasa. ...
Cognitive theorists are looking at religion as a deeply human phenomenon that expresses itself, like language, in myriad ways. To this end, cognitive scientists are generating a wealth of empirical data based on analytical and applied research, and their efforts lend a new and vital theoretical approach to the field of religious studies. It is my view that the cognitive science of religion has several critical areas of mutual (and beneficial) intersection with Hindu and Buddhist religion (particularly the teachings of the great yogis and mahasiddhas) including critical discussions on the nature of consciousness, the role of the nervous system in religious experience and claims of non-duality (advaita). In this way, science and religion have a role to play in levelling the playing field where religions are concerned, at least in my view.
The question is not, as I see it, one of difference per se, but rather how does the mind/brain generate religious experience and why? In the case of the great yogis, this is an exceedingly important question given the embodied nature of religious experience and the role that mind plays, for example, in meditation (including such states as turiya, samprajnata and asamprajnata samadhi, etc.). I once asked a great yogi the central question raised by cognitive philosophers. That is to say, 'how does matter become conscious?" In turn, he looked at me and did what any great yogi would, he turned my question on its head (into a headstand of sorts!) and said, "no, Ellen, the question is, how does consciousness become matter?" Either way, it is clear that for both sides consciousness is the key. And it is clear, at least to me, that on this subject humans are more alike than we are different.
There is an excellent and what I consider to be a beautiful quote from an amazing scholar of psychology named Merlin Donald who writes: ....
....why humans aspire for a sense of unity and cognitive integrity in the first place. ... it is intrinsic to our evolutionary, biological self. It is written in to our genetic structure. The explanation is that simple. It is human to do so!
I have added this simple thread for your consideration. I realize you will have to debate and tear it apart. But I do think it is worth considering seriously.
Let me end with a scene from the vastly successful Bollywood film 'Dulwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' to make my point using a different approach. Baldev's pigeons, as it turns out, were the same everywhere -- in Traflagar Square and in the Punjab. It was his 'mind' (or his culture) that created the differences. Nature is One. So, too, Simran (the lead female character) prays both at a her family altar as well as in a church. Why? The pure mind sees no difference. And I think this is why we cry at the end of the film -- Baldev realizes advaita through love -- through prem -- when he opens his heart."
"... For the sake of clarity, lets use the term 'spiritual experience' or 'mystical experience' as opposed to 'religious experience' for the sense of cognitive integrity or larger consiousness, as described by Ellen....
While Ellen is correct in stressing on the commonality of humans striving towards this 'spiritual experience' - religions are certainly not all 'equal' or the same in their support for such activity. In fact, BD repeatedly brings up the point that Christianity and 'history-centric' religions in general have historically been antogonistic towards this 'mysticism' and there is the well-known history of mystics being marginalized and persecuted in the Abrahamic tradition. In contrast - Dharmic religions view spiritual experience as
an inner science and the the entire goal of religion is to facilitate such a state.
By providing scientific validation to the thesis that striving towards cognitive unity is a fundamentally human need and goal - Ellen provides support to the conclusion that this individual striving should be recognized as a basic human right. There is a need to debate whether religions that impose dogmatic, exclusivistic or history-centric restrictions on a basic human right can be allowed to propagate and destroy the more individualistic and inner-science oriented faiths
through 'push' sales techniques."
"....The underlying voice in your conclusion seems to be that the 'difference consciousness' creates a divide, an unpleasant and uncomfortable feeling which can be overcome by a 'sameness consciousness' or a 'consciousness that overlooks
differences" creating unity which is a pleasant and comfortable feeling. Please correct me if I am wrong. My contention is that while this aspiration for unity and pleasantness is good, there is another way of achieving it which the Rishis have shown and our previous generations had mastered. That of acknowledging the differences and respecting them... "
Rajiv adds a moderating comment here:
"I started a new thread [this is carried in a separate post, see the egroup link at the bottom of this post] because this misunderstanding by Ellen also explained below is a very common one and a very serious one. It inflicts many well intended and supposedly well informed dharmic people including many acharyas and swamis who teach Vedanta = escapism. Lets migrate to that thread so its not personal about Ellen. But I do thank her for opening this up here."
Honestly, I find Ellen's arguments completely jumbled up - ...Here is why:
Sandeep responds to Ellen:
" > The question is not, as I see it, one of difference per se, but rather how does the mind/brain generate religious experience and why? <
I think this question has already been answered in Yoga texts. Spiritual experience occurs due to suspension of thought. The energy (Prana) which was occupied in thinking is first recovered in order to transfer consciousness into the subtle body.
There are three energy channels Ida, Pingala and Sushumna collocated with the spinal cord. In normal circumstances, the breath moves through left and right channels - Ida and Pingala. All methods of Yoga aim to divert the breath from the side channels into the central channel so that it connects with the universal energy (Mukhya Prana) which can be contacted through the Sahasradala Chakra at the top of the head.
Cognitive theorists are too pre-occupied with the brain. They should pay attention to the spinal cord as well. "
"...This is a comment on the argument used for justification of a certain way of studying religion/philosophy and not on the intentions of the person.
...."we teach 'about' religion, we don't actually teach religion"
Does that mean non-belief and/or non-experience in a topic gives a person the right teach "about" it? Or is it like Deepak Chopra saying I teach "about" Quantum physics not actually quantum physics. I don't have to point out what true quantum physicists think about such people.
....I do think the contributions of such "scholars" is valuable ..."
I must clarify what Ellen meant, I think. Teaching "about" something is a third-person view, whereas practicing it is a first-person view. Both are valid and complement each other.The important point is that religions defined by a text rather than by embodied experience can be and usually are interpreted using third-person techniques known as hermeneutics. An expert need not be a practitioner because its a matter of interpreting what the text means. This is like a lawyer interpreting what a contract says. (These texts are seen as covenants or contracts given by God.) Indians must understand that this is the result of history-centrism and shortfall in embodied knowing in those traditions. So if that text (a historical record) were lost, man would be doomed as there would be no way even in principle to recover it again. Not so in the case of embodied knowing - thats the whole point of chapter 2."
"To add my two cents to this post, I would say that the West has been in a parasitic instead of symbiotic relationship with Indian Thought. It has enriched itself by appropriating the thought while simultaneously destroying it in India and suppressing the influence in its home soil.
We are opposing a parasitic relationship that the West has forged and we do not have anything against a symbiotic relationship. True to the Indian principle, we will encourage a symbiotic scholarly exchange that is based on mutuality and parity of power. "
RMF Summary: Week of February 27 - March 4, 2012