RMF Summary: Week of January 30 - February 5, 2012

January 30
Impact of BD
JCP shares: I happened to call on Swami Shantatmanand at the New Delhi (ND) RK Mission during my short visit to ND & he was kind enough to give me time on the 26th, in spite of a few hours notice. He asked me "What does Rajiv Malhotra want us to do?" when I posed your idea of interfaith dialogue to him, that Indian Dharm gurus are ill-prepared about their knowledge of the opponents. In fact, he said that in his interfaith dialogue-experience in India, the others are on the defensive, which appears to be the result of your work on, specially BD now...

[i provide alternative links below for this well-known incident]
January 30
Example of Western Universalism: Eating with hands an offense!
Rajiv shares: An Indian couple has their child taken away by authorities in Norway, on the grounds that they eat with their hands and the boy sleeps with the parents. Both these are common characteristics of "embodied" cultures, but considered uncivilized according to Western Univeralism. In BD I explain the "disembodiment" of western culture, i.e. a form of self alienation they suffer even with the body. It expresses in various unconscious ways including way of eating, not comfortable breast feeding, heightened sense of "privacy" needs, and so forth. Such persons are psychologically disembodied, I argue. Such a culture is synthetic, not integral. The example above is illustrative of Western Universalism being not universal but particular to their region and history
Kaajal shares:
"...The Norway example does sound extreme...actually in my view in America at least, eating with hands is becoming quite popular. This is not to deny that the tendency toward universalizing its norms doesn't exist in the West, but shifts
in certain areas are afoot:

here's an interesting article from the New York Times:

Mind Your Manners: Eat With Your HandsAmy Dickerson for The New York Times
JULIE SAHNI vividly remembers the first time she had to eat with utensils. Ms. Sahni, a New York-based cookbook author and cooking teacher, grew up in India eating the traditional way, with her right hand. Then, in college, she won a
dance competition that would take her to Europe. How, she wondered, would she eat?

The answer was a three-day immersion course in Western dining etiquette, which progressed from soup (don't let the spoon clatter on the bowl) to green beans (spear them without sending them into your neighbor's lap) and finally a
slippery hard-boiled egg. Ms. Sahni, 66, mastered the knife and fork, but she has never really liked them.

"Eating with the hands evokes great emotion," she said. "It kindles something very warm and gentle and caressing. Using a fork is unthinkable in traditional Indian eating. It is almost like a weapon."

Eating with the hands is common in many areas of the world, including parts of Asia and much of Africa and the Middle East. But until recently, you would have been hard-pressed to find many restaurants in the United States — especially
those with $20 or $30 entrees — where digging in manually was encouraged. Now, several high-profile chefs are asking diners to get their hands dirty, in the belief that it heightens the sensual connection to food and softens the formality of fine dining...."

Surya adds:
"You are supposed to wash your hands and feet before sitting down for a meal. You are also expected to shower or bathe before a meal. That is tradition.  Sure, there are people who do not maintain hygiene. So? Would you suggest driving is bad because many folks still drink and drive (and worse, kill
innocent people) ?

Buffet style lunch does not suit eating with hands. Traditional approach is a sit down meal with food brought to you and served. You are not supposed to walk around when having a meal. It is sad what they are doing in Indian weddings
these days.

There are many Indian dishes that are best eaten with hands. It is awkward doing so with a fork or spoon. Besides, when you are enjoying food with all your other senses, why deprive the sensual feel of touch?.."

January 30
Contextualizing Freedom of Speech and Expression
Kundan shares: Rushdie’s participation or non-participation thereafter at the Jaipur Literary Festival has caused a lot of media frenzy and much welcomed debate. It has brought to sharper focus the absoluteness of freedom of speech. Though most people interviewed on news channels like CNN-IBN or NDTV have upheld the absoluteness of the freedom of speech, there have been a few voices like those of writer-diplomat Mr. Pavan Varma and actor Rahul Bose who have questioned the notion of the absolute nature of this freedom. Mr. Varma argued against it saying that no freedom in any country, even in western countries, is unrestrained and therefore, it should not be so even in India. Though I am essentially in support of his contention, I wish he had shed some light on historical and social context of freedom of speech, which is now considered a corner stone of democracy.

The freedom of speech has attained a godly status in western countries mainly due to the tyrannical conditions that were unleashed by the Church in medieval times in Europe. Given the totalizing control that it held in matters of inquiry and artistic and literary expressions, it was through the sacrifice and struggle of many during renaissance that Europe could win the freedom to inquiry and creative expression. Given this history, it is understandable why “freedom of speech” has such a divinely ordained status in western countries.

Now India has not had any such history. Through the Varna-system, it was seen that totalizing power never got concentrated in the hands of a section of people in India..."

Cynthia responds:
"While being in broad agreement with the points made by Kundan Singh, I just wanted to point out that there have been instances in India's past where thinkers of two camps did come into violent disagreement, such as the incident of the opposition to the Jains in Tamil country where several hundred munis were killed; the opposition to the work and teaching of Basaveshwara; the opposition faced by Ramanujacharya and Madhwacharya from contemporary religious leaders; the opposition to Meerabai's devotion to Krishna, the famous incident where the shepherd Kanaka was not allowed into the SriKrishna temple in Udupi, whereupon the idol was said to have turned to face the rear, where Kanaka was singing out his devotion; and in more recent times early and mid-20th century) the severe conflagrations between the Iyers and Iyengars on the namam ( vertical and u-shaped for the Vaishnavait Iyengars, and horizontal in the case of the Shaivite Iyers) issue. "

Radhakrishnan's response to Cynthia: 
Cynthia's account that many Jain Munis were killed in Tamil Nadu is not correct. On the other hand saivite saints like Tirunavukkarasar was thrown into the ocean tied to a stone because he propagated Siva worship.  Further Ramanujacharya or Madhwacharya did not face any obstruction. There was also no dispute between Iyers and Iyengars on the sporting of 'namam" (the religious mark of vaishnavites on the forehead).  It was a dispute between two sects among the vaishnavites 'viz" the  "vadagalai" and "thengalai" in Kancheepuram.  All these things have gone into oblivion by the learned discourses of scholars belonging to both the sects lie Sri Velukkudi Krishnanswami, Venkatakrishnaswami, Sri Andavan Swami etc.

Nilesh shares: As for Meera Bai's case, please leave it as a domestic disagreements between a married couple. It is not a case of violent clash between two groups of people. As one or two sparrows do not make spring, a few example of questionable research over a history of thousands of  years do not make for intolerant psyche. It was a clear blue sky last thursday in an otherwise overcast sky of Vancouver last week. I was with my six year old grandson. As it was a major shift in climate after a week full of snow and rain, I exclaimed to him, Oh, great, the sky is clear today. He pointed out to a small stray white cloud on horizon and mischievously proved me wrong. Was I? Mature people see things in perspective. Just consider the number of heretics burned, killed, injured or stripped of their belongings in Europe and European colonies when considering so called intolerance in India...

Senthil adds: Excellent perspective by kundan singh..  I had this question earlier, but after Rajeev's BD, gave the perfect answer..  The absense of History Centrism, and the absense of Messenger, as explained in BD are the important reasons (apart from varna system explained by kundan singh) why we had freedom of expressed inherent in our civilization. another similar example we can quote is the Indian Intellegentsia's obsession with Pluralism and Multi-Culturalism..  We have it inherent, but they start lecturing (in opinion column) on the need to preserve it, as though we never had it.
January 30 
In Toronto: Inculturation clash within the Church
Gopala shares a link:

Rajiv comment: A very interesting article worth reading to understand the broader dynamics of inculturation. This internal fight has always been there within the Church, between those who see inculturation as blasphemous, and those who advocate it as a practical way to digest Hinduism into the history centrism of Christianity.

Readers of BD should note why this immense display of pro-Hindu symbolism and performance in the new liturgy DOES end up in dharma getting digested into Christianity BECAUSE THE DIFFERENCES THAT WOULD UNDERMINE THE CHURCH ARE NOT INCLUDED.

January 30
BEING DIFFERENT to be featured by prominent Religion Book Club
Patheos is one of the top 2 or 3 sites specializing in religion....

February 1
BD review in New Global Indian magazine
Arun: Page 102 of this large pdf document has the review.

February 2
(5-day) Workshop on decolonised History of Philosophy & Science curr
The relevance to Rajiv's ongoing (and earlier) efforts (promoting rehabilitation of history of Indian sciences) and vice-versa should be obvious. Sunthar ...

February 3
Being Different - Book Review in Arsha Vidya Newsletter
Avinash shares: Book Review of Being Different has appeared in Arsha Vidya Newsletter January 2012 issue Arsha Vidya Newsletter is the Official Newsletter of Swami Dayananda ...

February 4
Prof. Rita Sherma's review of BEING DIFFERENT
.. Being Different makes it astoundingly clear that the `global' civilization today is actually nothing of the kind. It is not an integrative fusion of beneficial ideas and perspectives from every civilization across the globe. It is, instead, a swallowing up of all human endeavor and culture for the nourishment of a madly materialistic, ultimately unsustainable, wildly destructive credo of monolithic cultural, political and religious imperialism. Rajiv Malhotra maintains that this is nowhere more clearly manifest than in the case of the centuries-long Western appropriation, re-mapping, and eradication of the sources of the native traditions, sciences, and spiritual practices of India.
Being Different boldly deconstructs the ubiquitously lauded tenet of `religious tolerance,' so widely celebrated by diverse groups, and reminds us that none of us would want to be merely tolerated in any other situation and that mutual respect is what we should be aiming at. But it is made clear that this is a very difficult proposition because mutual respect in the realm of religion entails the affirmation of other faiths and their modes of worship as equally valid spiritual paths. This would mean the complete overturning, at the deepest level, of foundational dogmas of strict exclusivism that underlie historically orthodox Western theologies (an occurrence that liberal theologians would applaud).."

Margaret adds:
"That is a superb review. I appreciate the recognition of the existensially struggly traditions which I also include   my own "Haitian Vodou" that has been totally misrepresented and oppressed under the cloak of colonialism, slavery, and Western imperialism. Most likely within this group itself, the word Vodou evokes the western feelings. However, I am even more passionate about my traditional culture as Raj is is of what is going on with Indian culture.
My book "Healing in the Homeland - Haitian Vodou tradition " is upcoming and I hope to receive the understanding and support of Raj Group .."
February 4 (continuing discussion from few weeks prior)
Itihasa versus history-centrism
Surya adds: In chapter 2 of BD, Itihasa's important role as a stepping stone is one' spiritual journey is emphasized.

BD says:
Begin Quote:

"Truth and not mere history is the concern of itihasa. ... Truth is not dependent on history; rather, history is a manifestation of the truth. The Dharmic relationship between history and myth is thus not at all comparable to the Western relation between truth and fiction."

"... Hindus recognize that history can be valuable to beginners on their spiritual journey ...dharma practitioner who studies itihasa explicitly aspires to bring about a change within, emphasizing the virtues illustrated in the narratives and not the historical facts."
End Quote:

Take away point is this: Hindus are invariably exposed to great deal of itihasa during their life.  Whether it is the story of Rama, Krishna, Satya Harischandra, or Prahlada, no Hindu suffers irrecoverably from questions of what time these stories have happened in history or whether there are incredulous parts to these stories in relation to our experiences in life, or whether archaeological evidence can establish historicity of these itihasa.  At the same time, as Hindus glean the essence of the itihasa, viewing itihasa as history allows for sraddha in their spiritual pursuit. They do not suffer from a debilitating need to establish the historicity of itihasa.

This is hard to understand for followers of Abrahamic religions where history-centrism is the core essential.  Why? Because they have specially chosen prophets who have special access to God's message that other mortal humans cannot. God's message to humanity passed through prophets is tied inseparably to the historical truth of these prophets claiming special access.  

Establishing credibility for prophets is of supreme importance.  History is the sole means of establishing this credibility.

In Dharmic religions, no individual prophet has such exclusive access. What Buddha achieved, anyone can aspire to achieve. What Adi Shankaracharya achieved, anyone can aspire to achieve. .."

Arjunshakti adds:
In reference to biblical history i would recommend everyone to see this series 'Bible's Buried Secrets' by the BBC that caused a bit of a storm last year when latest archaeological and scientific  evidence told a very different story to the narrative appoved by the church..

Bible's Buried Secrets (BBC) Ep.1
hosted by biblical scholar Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou

Nalini adds:
"it is with interest that i listened to you in the Department of Psychology (Univ. of Delhi) and began to assimilate your writing....
As a researcher in the late seventies and early eighties, I had the good fortune to observe closely some events in a country that underwent a cataclysmic revolution ... I lived among the people exposed to the barbarity of war and the barbarity of faith as was being thrust upon them - the Khurds of Iran and Iraq. It was then that from a vantage point of a liberal and thinking Human (that i do not describe as either Hindu or Christian, but as just Human), the need to study and delve into the teachings of the four major faiths  began to disturb me. I managed to read a large part of the Koran and the Sharia and the Hadith, the narratives of betrayal of Hussein. The teachings of Christ and the Book of genesis. The beliefs of the jews and the teachings of GuruNanak... It began to dawn upon me that religion in any garb Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Sikh and organized form of prescribed faith based on revelation and mediated by priests and prophets did not promote the higher levels of principled Moral reasoning based on Universal principles of human justice and equality. The Study was an empirical one based on analysing and reasoning with Cognitive dilemmas presented in a narrative format and adapted for use in Indian Contexts. Religiosity too was defined and measured. It was found that doctrinal teachings of the revealed faiths did promote the development of Obedience to Authority stage of moral reasoning, but it impeded the development of the higher cognitive schemas based on the Categorical Imperative and universal principles of Justice. Thus in 1984 I came to the conclusion that faiths that did not rely on a prescribed book or Dogmas were better in allowing their followers to develop their own understanding of what is right and Just. i would still not say that Hindus are a uniform faith, as many/ majority of the hindus follow the meaning less prescriptions of rituals and varying dogmas of the Brahmanical faith. Few are aware of the Higher truths that are so complex that they can be communicated only through a series of Dilemmas that confronted the characters of the Epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. .... "
Vish adds:
"..With all due respect I am attempting to breathe some life into these type of sentence constructs, which follow the same "Rejection" syndrome because "I don't know much about it".
This is one form of India breaking, too.

There is one aspect of India that Hindus must 'extraordinarily' understand; given all the ravages of barbarism that a vastly refined civilization went through, they have still managed to retain through thousands of years, a mind-boggling symbolism.

Yes, Brahmins can be accused of many things including Dogma, but at the end of the day, the Vedas (one of the true wonders of our world) was saved because of their practicing 'Ganapataas'...complex weaving of patterns as carriers for  code. Once you reflect on this, you are left baffled at the ingenious methods of our forefathers, due to whose survival you and I are alive to talk about it.

No, Ladies and Gentleman, coding was not just found out in the modern world wars.... for destruction!
Our forefathers found it to pass on messages in peace on "that which supports" humanity!

Iam appealing for a study of how a Temple is constructed, what is the meaning of the offering of a "Poorna Kumbha", what does it mean to see a "Shilpa" of Vishnu on a Garuda, why is a bird named "Garuda"?; is there any truth of an Einstein proportion in the Hindi word 'Makar' for a crocodile? How did the sculptor in Halebeedu (Karnataka) construct six hundred heads of the most alluring hairstyles that even "Allure" and "Vogue" do not know about?..."

Shaas responds:
"....I don't think it is justified to name Hinduism on the same line with other religions and "organized forms" of faith. I wonder from where you have gained the impression that Hindus have an "organized form of prescribed faith". I would
say that this is exactly the point that makes Hinduism so much different from other religions.

Rajiv comment: There are organized forms of Hinduism as well. That is why I prefer the term dharma, which is what you describe below quite correctly.

Shaas continues: Firstly, Hinduism is based on the Vedas which significantly means "knowledge" and in its foundation of the Vedas there are also very practical disciplines that make the direct realization of Vedic themes possible. Such a structure is entirely foreign to the other religions mentioned and apparently studied by you...."

Rajiv comment: Even history centrism is a form of knowledge, i.e. knowledge of unique historical events. In case of dharma the knowledge is what BD explains as embodied knowing. Hence calling it knowledge is insufficient, as that implies
that other traditions lack knowledge. The point to make (as in chapter 2) is that history centrism is not valid pramana and certainly cannot trump adhyatma vidya..."

This post marks the end of the summary for the first year of the forum that was started in February 2011!

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