RMF Summary: Week of February 15 - 21, 2013

February 16
Sunday 11am on MSNBC television panel
I will be on the Melissa Harris Show at 11 am (Eastern Standard Time) on MSBNC. The themes are: American minorities, the context in Black History month....

February 18 (continuing discussion from previous week)
Re: Are all religions really the same according to Vedas?
Raghu responds to Surya (pls see last week's post):

I like your response. However, I think we also have to look at minds that are conditioned by the teaching and the social constructs that the teaching implies.

A Hindu mind seems to have two characteristics that are important in this context. One the ability to accept different ways, and the other to act from a sense of generosity. These are civilization-ally more advanced than mono cultures of thought and hierarchical political control. Over the years, it has turned into a passivity. This passivity was leveraged to great advantage by Gandhiji, but it has also led to a glorification of non violence. The non violence of Gandhiji was very powerful, it s not afraid of confrontation or of being violated.

When such a mind confronts the aggressive and predatory mind, it fails to value itself. Rajivji's analysis of difference anxiety is spot on. In my behavioural work self-hate of being Indian reveals itself often..."

Thatte responds:
".......why the tendency of  all religions are same  seems  to  pervade amongst a number of people - Hindus and non-Hindus..

In my analytical model for a religion, (and by the way, this is applicable to all religions) the outer layer is comprised of rites, rituals, festivals and practices. ...The next layer is comprised of values. Values dictate how one lives in a society. Since most  religions claim to promote harmony in the society  the values tend to be very similar.
For example, the key values of Hinduism are:
1.      Truth                           (Satyam)
2.      Purity                           (Satva Shuddhi)
3.      Self- Control                (Brahmacharya)
4.      Non-Violence              (Ahimsa)
5.      Charity                         (Danam)
6.      Forgiveness                 (Kshama)
7.      Detachment                (Vairagya)
Different religions may emphasize certain values more than others.  But, by and large these values are professed by all religions. This is where most people stop and take a position that all religions are  same...."
Surya responds:
"The tiger and deer metaphor comes to mind. It is the nature of tiger to be predatory. Deer is better off understanding this and behaving accordingly..."

February 18
Excellent critique of Romila Thapar
Venkat posts: ...Wagish Shukla ... details how Romila Thapar relies on translations of Sanskrit texts and distorts the meanings to suit her line of

February 19
Evangelical Christian group helps sue California school over yoga
Ravi shares a link: 


Karthik responds:
"A highly relevant passage from the article:

Ann Gleig, the editor of Religious Studies Review and assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Central Florida, said in an email that two groups have continually asserted that yoga is inherently religious evangelical Christians, and some Hindus who want to preserve the practice's religious influences.

"So both of these groups, which have very different agendas, ironically support each other in an historically flawed construction of yoga as an essential unchanging religious practice that is the 'property' of Hinduism," Gleig said.

{It is Gleig's analysis that is flawed by essentialization. She considers the Christian category of "religion" to be equivalent to, and interchangeable with, Hindu traditional utilization of  yoga as a "religious" practice. In Hindu spiritual traditions, yoga is one of many techniques by which the truth of man's ultimate unity with the Supreme can be verified, empirically, at a personal level. Christian religion does not allow for man to unite with the Supreme, and only permits communion with the Supreme through specific intermediaries and institutions. Hence, any technique which may verify an idea inherently blasphemous within Christianity (direct personal experience of unity between man and the Supreme) does, in fact, stand in direct opposition to Christianity. Yoga may not be anybody's "property" but it can never, ever be practiced by religious Christians without blaspheming the very foundations of their religion, i.e. the Nicene Creed.

Gleig's canard that a religious practice must be "unchanging" in order to remain the "property" of a particular religion, is another example of her flawed understanding. Hinduism is not history-centric, as Abrahamic religions are. The wealth of our knowledge system isn't static, it's always evolving; but for all that, it remains our own, and the credit isn't up for grabs.}

Andrea Jain, assistant professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis said that the forms of yoga commonly practiced in the US are the result of the mix of colonial India and euro-American physical culture.

"In fact, postural yoga has been shown to be a successor of fitness methods that were already common in parts of Europe and the United States before postural yoga was introduced," Jain said. "So we could think of postural yoga as a 20th century product, the aims of which include all sorts of modern conceptions of physical fitness, stress reduction, beauty and well-being, these things were not present in pre-colonial traditions of yoga at all."

{According to this Andrea Jain, "conceptions" of physical fitness, stress reduction, beauty and well-being were completely absent from pre-colonial India, and hence could not have played any role in inspiring people to practice yoga in pre-colonial Hinduism. Instead, because these "aims" existed only among people of colonial India, Europe and the United States... ITSELF a dubious and highly problematic claim... then any technique applied to fulfill such "aims", no matter what its origins, belongs only to those who experience it in pursuit of those "aims", and not to those who originated it.

These postural forms of yoga include Ashtanga yoga, which was introduced in the early 20th century.

"Unless we want to argue that contemporary American culture and its valorization of physical fitness, beauty and health, modern conceptions of those things are religious values, then we really can't identify yoga as religious," Jain said. "We certainly can't identify it as essentially Hindu."

{Andrea Jain casually transfers attributes from the subject of her argument (Americans steeped in a culture that valorizes fitness, etc.) to the object of her argument (Yoga itself). Is it her faint hope that no one will notice this rather sloppy and intellectually dishonest sleight-of-hand? 

If I use a fountain pen, not to write but to stab people to death... is it now no longer a writing instrument? Is Louis Waterman (the inventor) now a weapon-maker? Or is Louis Waterman to be deprived of all credit for inventing the fountain pen at all?...

As a child in India I would watch Mickey Mouse cartoons, and "identify" with the character Mickey Mouse in terms of other, pre-existing "mouse" representations in my own culture... such as the more familiar Mouse from the Panchatantra fable, who freed the pigeons from the hunter's net out of cleverness, loyalty and compassion. ... Does this mean that Mickey Mouse is no longer quintessentially American but Indian? Does MY experience (as the "subject" experiencing Mickey Mouse) count for more in defining what Mickey Mouse is, than Mickey's (the "object"s) intrinsic origins? }
Manas posts:
"Ann Gleig, one of the academics quoted in that piece is associated with a group called, "Modern Yoga Research" which includes Mark Singleton, one of the primary exponents of the not-Hindu-but-is-Euro-American-Christian "postural"-yoga thesis. Singleton's name has previously come up in this forum. Singleton is also associated with a notorious Hardvard academic's sidekick and this "modern yoga research" group has been endorsed by this sidekick in the e-list he runs. In a recent AAR conference, Singleton presented a paper titled, "Christian Influences in the Development of Modern Yoga". A search in this forum archives will provide more information on these dangerous nexuses and their agendas."

Rajiv comment: I agree fully. I wish more persons were informed as the person who posted this. We have too much uninformed opinion and forwarding the same stuff to look important - that is counter productive.

I have known of Singleton's work for many years which only recently started becoming public this way. Too many Hindus continue to support such works. The co-editor of his forthcoming book infiltrated Vivekanandra Kendra's yoga camp, took lots of notes and recordings which her web site proudly says will be used to expose yoga gurus. The very same folks who find my works "too controversial" to promote and claim they dont have funds to support it either, line up in awe when they welcome such visitors and scholars. The decadence within Hindu leadership is amazing. These are termites who have caused the decay. Because I point this out openly in order to warn others from joining such bandwagons, I am branded.
Koenraad Elst responds to Karthik:
Recap for comment 1: "....So both of these groups, which have very different agendas, ironically support each other in an historically flawed construction of yoga as an essential unchanging religious practice that is the 'property' of Hinduism," Gleig said.

  ... In Hindu spiritual traditions, yoga is one of many techniques by which the truth of man's ultimate unity with the Supreme can be verified, empirically, at a personal level."

Patanjala Yoga Sutra, known till Shankara as a branch of Sankhya or simply as Patanjala Darshana, defines yoga in an atheistic way. "Yoga is the stopping of the motions of the mind" is a purely technical definition. The next verse, "Then the seer rests in himself", defines the goal of yoga as "isolation" (kaivalya), i.e. of consciousness (purusha) from its objects (sensory perceptions, desires, memories, intellection, all belonging to the less or more rarefied reaches of nature/prakrti). In both phrases, there is no God in the picture, He has nothing at all to do with the goal of yoga.

Patanjali makes a practical concession to the believers among his readers by saying that "devotion to God" is one of the preparatory stages of yoga. He defines God/Ishvara exactly like radically atheist Jains define their liberated
souls, namely as a desireless purusha; so it remains highly uncertain that "God" as currently understood is meant. At any rate, he refuses to make this special purusha somehow the goal of his yoga. Yoga does not revolve around an external being called God, but is purely a matter of relating to yourself, viz. totally sinking into yourself and forgetting about the world and the "tentacles" of consciousness into it.

When modern Hindus speak about yoga (and they speak about it a lot but practise it very little), they have a distorted view of it, inflected by what has been
the dominant stream in Hinduism for centuries, viz. theistic bhakti (devotion). "Unity with God", whatever that may mean, is a concept from bhakti/sufism and also adopted by some writers on Christian mysticism. But it is completely absent in historical yoga as defined by Patanjali.

Yoga is very much part of Hindu civilization, but is not the property of contemporary God-centered Hindus.

I am currently finishing a booklet for the greater public on the external enemies of Hinduism. It will make me very popular among Hindus. But next, I want to write a similar booklet about the internal enemies of Hinduism, or is other words: what is wrong with the Hindus... it will certainly make me many enemies among Hindus. They don't like a Westerner criticizing them, though I have most of it from Hindus themselves. At any rate, if Hindus don't make a systematic diagnosis of the problem, someone else has to do it. And the current (sentimenal and confused) Hindu bhakti notion of "God" is certainly a big part of the problem.

Recap for comment 2: " ... Andrea Jain, assistant professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis said that the forms of yoga
commonly practiced in the US are the result of the mix of colonial India and euro-American physical culture.:
> "In fact, postural yoga has been shown to be a successor of fitness methods that were already common in parts of Europe and the United States before postural yoga was introduced," Jain said. "So we could think of > postural yoga as a 20th century product, the aims of which include all sorts of modern conceptions of physical fitness, stress reduction, beauty and well-being, these things were not present in pre-colonial traditions of yoga at all."

This supposed expert Andrea Jain is simply parrotting a very recent theory. She is plainly wrong, for yoga in the sense of meditation is very ancient, and was given a synthesis (of pre-existing views) by Patanjali. As for postural yoga, it dates back at least to the Nath yogis, who started in maybe 1100 AD, before Muslim rule in the Ganga plain, when the British were nowhere in the picture and America as a state didn't even exist yet.

Unlike Patanjala Yoga (meditation) the more recent postural Hatha Yoga is indeed directed to relaxation and fitness. Hatha Yoga classics promise you a lustrous body and concomitant success with the opposite sex -- not quite the goal of Patanjala Yoga, but very much the goal of Madonna and millions of other American yoga practitioners. But whatever may be the worth of that, Indians invented it themselves, long before British conceptions of fitness could (marginally) influence it."

tvikhanas also catches the falsehood on postural Yoga:
" This lie is now popping up in many places. Looks like this is the currently favored strategy to break up Asanas from the larger Hatha Yoga (and that in turn from Hinduism).

The overall story goes like this: Hatha Yoga Pradipa (HYP) is the founding text of Hatha Yoga and is 500 yrs old. HYP mentions only a dozen or so seated poses.
The rest and more advanced poses are recent invention. In fact, they were invented in 20th century under the influence of militarism & British physical culture. The pioneer of this was Krishnamacharya, the guru of BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois and others. .... Ergo case established and we can reclaim what is really ours after putting it through due scientific process to clear it of all undesirable
cultural/religious/superstitious baggage.

We are going to hear a lot more about "Modern Yoga", "Postural Yoga". The story is of course garbage and it has any number of holes:

1.HYP is dated to 500 yrs based the usual fraudulent methods.

2. Sri Krishnamacharya himself credited a Yogi living in Himalayas for teaching him Yoga. (Incidentally, one of the sons of Sri Krishnamacharya, Desikachar seems to crave western approval & money. He and his son keep dishing out whatever nonsense western "yogis" want, like Yoga is not religious etc)

3. HYP itself acknowledges there more poses than the dozen or so it describes in detail. This is in line with Indian tradition where only the important points are given and rest left to the living tradition or pupil's effort. Quite
different from western patent driven approach where the goal is claim as much for oneself as possible.

4. Within Hatha Yoga asanas themselves are quite preparatory. The real deal is pranayama, bandhas etc. So it is stupid to expect HYP to devote all the space to a minor aspect.

5. Vedantins condemned the focus on body that Hatha Yogis fall into. Traditional sannyasins in orthodox mathas practice hatha yoga.

6. Ayurveda uses asanas in treatment for various disorders. Traditional dance poses are closely linked to some asanas.

So on and on.

This story seems have started with Mark Singleton's book Yoga Body. Singleton seems to be church funded. He is very well published in all the right places Oxford University Press etc (which probably are held directly or indirectly by the church as well). He teaches at St. John's College at New Mexico, a Christian institution. Take a look at his website (http://modernyogaresearch.org/people/dr-mark-singleton/), it's a real master piece of deception. A casual observer will think he is very sympathetic to
Yoga/India and not understand why we should be critical of his work..."

Ram notes:
"....We won't accomplish much by circular debates within
this forum. We may educate (and frustrate) ourselves in the process and provide necessary ears and eyes for Rajivji, but members should be encouraged to individually bring open pressure on systemic forces bent on expropriating,
abusing, denigrating, or marginalizing the wisdom and achievements of India.

Since joining this forum and reading Rajivji's book "Being Different", I am encouraged to be more assertive in speaking up and defending what's mine!..." 

Srinath asks:
"What should Andrea Jain have said? A lot of Indians might offer up similar analyses in the hopes of diffusing criticism that Yoga is religious, which could serve to turn-off American Christians. Indians are usually very eager to enhance Western acceptance of India and Indian philosophies as we have been looked down upon by the West for so long, and perhaps water-down concepts to make them more acceptable..." 

February 19
Digesting the gurus
Rajiv posts:
The ... Huffpost blog criticizes westerners who look for "eastern gurus". This type of rethinking is quite a phenomenon for a few decades now. They turn away from the source and replacing it with westerners as the new source. Note how the two authors are now the
gurus, with their own marketing programs. Note that all their spiritual leaders" are these uturned people - see list at the bottom of the blog where they are selling them. All this is justified using a quote from Ramana Maharshi. If the purpose is to be one's own guru, why are Ed and Deb selling their own products? It is just one kind of guru replacing another. Yet out folks go ga-ga when they see such people showing their "sympathy" for Hindu dharma. There is one thread someone on how exciting it is to see some harvard people studying kumbh mela. ...Amazing inferiority complex. Yet they love to organize events with fancy themes like "decolonizing Hindu Studies". Nothing really changes after participating in 20 years of hundreds of such events - because its fake and meant to impress.The tiger says that he loves the deer. The stupid deer takes it as a great compliment."

February 20
Dharmic perspective on Artificial consciousness
Amol posts: What is the Dharmic perspective on 'whether machines can develop consciousness'. Have our philosophies answered these questions ? I am curious to know.

Miguel Nicolelis is a leading neuroscientist working on brain machine interfaces and he says that "human consciousness (and if you believe in it, the soul) simply can't be replicated in silicon. That's because its most important features are the result of unpredictable, non-linear interactions amongst billions of cells..."

February 20
My recent event at Princeton University
This past Monday, I had a different kind of academic event for my book, "Being Different". This was a big success. Two Hindu student leaders, ... along with the dean of religious life, .... organized something with a different format than usual. .... it was not open to the general public ...One woman minister from the Presbyterian Church generated an interesting discussion with me. She appreciated many things but disagreed with my depiction of Christianity concerning its fear of "chaos" and obsession with "order". She cited some good counter examples. I responded by citing that Aristotle's Law of the Excluded Middle had become deeply embedded into Christianity ever since Augustine started what we know as "Christian theology". This law extols normative thinking and cannot deal with ambiguity, flux, uncertainty, etc. She agreed with the facts, but felt that this Greco-Roman takeover was not the "real Christianity". Then I mentioned my next point that western corporate institutions (the Roman Church being the first multinational) were mechanisms of power/control  and expansionism, and these were built on normative rules, policies, governance, etc. The whole notion of normative "commandments" from God and absolute "laws" imposed on peoples was the product of history centrism. This is very different than decentralized embodied knowing approaches in dharma, which the Christians persecuted in their own mystics. I did not expect her to get convinced, but I must say she was quite open and we had a healthy exchange.

The purpose of such exchanges (as all debates) is to benefit and educate the audience who are watching. Hindu students need more events where their stance is resilient to being toppled easily. Too often we have leaders who either capitulate easily by hitting the "sameness" button in panic (once they feel cornered), or the opposite extreme when they resort to anger or chauvinistic proclamations. I don't think either extreme works. We need calm, informed positions that can be backed up with evidence. For young minds today the extreme/unintellectual approaches are a good way to turn off people. We need serious responses that make sense. This capability comes from long-term research and debating experience, something too many of our folks want to bypass by taking shortcuts...

.....some years back one top caliber MA graduate of the same seminary worked for me as a research intern on a full-time basis. This man was simply brilliant, and also open minded. ....He helped my work a great deal, especially in anticipating and responding to issues raised by Christians. Because we had frequent brainstorm sessions to churn on serious Hindu/Christian differences, he also started to rethink what he had been taught in the seminary. By the end of his year long internship with me, he told me that he had changed his career plans. He would no longer pursue the career of a church minister or theologian. .....After hearing this, she said that she might also be heading in the same direction herself, as my previous intern. So I will be evaluating her as a candidate to help my work. ... I want the other party to be candid and able to argue against my positions, because that churning is precisely what strengthens my final work. Whether the other party changes or not is unimportant to me. If they can help improve my work, that's what I appreciate.

February 20
Coexistence with India - A Dawn Blog
Gopal shares:
Part 1:  Coexistence with India-1
Part 2:  Coexistence with the world
Part 3:  Coexistence with India-2

February 21
The history of India is a history of colonialism: The Telegraph
Appearing today in the UK, The Telegraph .... another one of those periodic articles designed to subtly reinforce colonial history and shape the opinions of the upcoming generation.

I posted the comment below, as a first line of defense and to promote Rajiv's work.

"oh dear, yet another of these articles which tries to build on a fabricated idea of Indian history in a sweeping way. I wonder how qualified the author of this article really is.

 Some brief thoughts:
1) The Aryan Invasion Theory has been discredited - it has no basis! 
Importantly this was an imported idea, this supposed invasion finds no mention within classical Indian history or within its own texts, it was used primarily to justify British plunder and rule. The Sanskrit term "Arya" denotes a human characteristic: noble, righteous etc....The term was later hijacked by European Indologists ... read Rajiv Malhotra " Breaking India, Western Interventions in Dalit and Dravidian Faultlines" or Rajiv Malhotra "Being
Different". Here is someone who is an intellectual, historian and has knowledge of Sanskrit.

If Charles Allen considers himself a serious scholar/researcher then I look forward to reading what he has to say in response to whats put forward in these
two books, particularly the first one, which trash much of what he has said above.

Indian history, as its studied now, begins with conquests, first the Moghuls and then the Europeans. This has given rise to a sorry generation of Indians, who have only been familiar with a history of conquest. This then gives space for such misleading article titles, such as the one Charles has used. Just consider ancient Indian contributions to the world (there are too many to mention) the concept of Zero, the 1-10 number system (referred to as Arabic, but in fact
having an Indian origin, the Arabs being the middle men in the transition of knowledge from East to West) Language, the antiquity and unparalleled sophistication of Sanskrit (Panini), Medicine (Ayurveda), Integrated Spiritual/Mind/Body Sciences (Yoga). Indian academia has even till now struggled to throw of the Macualite shackles.

....glossing over history or worse still, fabricating it, just will not do! What Indians suffered here was akin to a holocaust in its magnitude of impact upon millions of people, except over a much longer period of time. Empire
was all about Money, Control and Power hiding behind a veil of a "a necessary civilizing mission that the white man had to burden. "


1 comment:

  1. Here is Koenraad Elst's post in CRI on "Yoga and Hinduism" and the interesting discussion it generated there.