RMF Summary: Week of March 17 - 23, 2013

The first discussion started last week as a comment on the seemingly unfair treatment to Hindu institutions in India. The discussion trajectory has turned into a very useful debate. Is Hinduism a religion? a way of life? or it is something else? What exactly is it?

March 18 (continuing from March 15)
[from member Kiran ] Just wanted to post this news I read amongst the group members to get their suggestions on what should be done for the kind of... 

Ganesh adds:
".... This news is just a re-run of what appeared in 2012.

As you can see, there's a mere re-wording of the above article. Typical of ToI to grab eyeballs by filling up spaces with such re-runs. Indian journalism has no ethical values, whatsoever.

This link .. gives a much more details analysis on how to understand this tax angle to this issue. Expense on worship of Hindu Gods and temple maintenance cannot be regarded to be for religious purpose "

Arun responds:
"As per the Economics Times article... the Income Tax Tribunal cited the 1954 ruling of the Supreme Court, in COMMISSIONER, HINDU RELIGIOUS ENDOWMENTS, MADRAS V/S SRI LAKSHMINDRA THIRTHA SWAMIAR OF SRI SHIRUR MUTT.

The judgement can be downloaded via the Supreme Court of India web-site. I've read it and the Income Tax Tribunal is wrong. In the 1954 judgment, the Court ruled that religion is not just a matter of doctrine, it also includes
practices, and the prescribed rituals in Hindu puja are religious acts and therefore under the freedom of religion, Article 26 of the Constitution, cannot be regulated by the state.

In this case, it seems to be that the Income Tax Department says that the Shiva Sansthan is a religious, not a charitable institution, and therefore contributions to it are not tax-exempt, and the Tribunal overruled that saying
that pooja, etc., are not religious. This may help some Hindus fund their organizations, but it also opens up the specter of state regulation - the protection of freedom of religion will no longer apply, if the IT Tribunal
decision finds its way into the judiciary..."  

Ravindra comments:
"......you can not translate Dharma as religion, and that is clearly one of our failings. For example, every finite entity has Dharma. Space has Dharma, Air, water, fire, earth all have Dharma. The friendship has Dharma, a wife has dharma. In fact Dharma patni has no analogue of "religion wife". And that is what it would have been if Dharma was translated as religion. And Air, water, space, tree, animals have no religion. Clearly Dharma is pointing to something that religion is not pointing to. Dharma in fact refers to the sustaining and supporting principles of an entity whose Dharma is under consideration. It arises from two sanskrit roots, Dhr(from Dhrinya) + Ma (from Mange through an unadi suffixing.

Pooja also does not mean worship, it arises from Po +Jaayate. i.e by which pavitrataa grows or is born. So Pooja is a mechanism to remove your internal and external Mala (dirt). Removing that makes one pavitra and saatvicta grows. So it is not worship. To tis extent it is fine.

But the question is why should a religion (that is an alien construct of different land) get the preference for tax status and not Dharma based on Inidian ethos. That is what Hindus should fight for. In fact if because Dharma is not religion, all Dharma texts must be mandatory learning in schools, since now secularism can to b eased to by pass learning of India's internal knowledge and ethos. That I believe should be the real battle. In fact Dharma and the associated Samskrut should be made foundation of development, since it will not violate the secular principles, because Dharma is not religion" 

Brahma suggests an alternative:
"It is true to say "Dharma" cannot be translated as "religion ... But it is also important that we don't allow the Abrahamic paradigm of religion stand as the only denotative/connotative content for the word "religion," in the field of thought/discourse. This leads to the ridiculous and very dangerous statement that "Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life" (originally declared by an Irish Catholic Priest, according to Swami Chinmayananda) which we see now playing out in this tax debacle.

Rajiv comment: I disagree. It is better to REPLACE the statement "Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life" with the accurate statement:
 "Hinduism is not a religion but a dharma". 

Now you must know how to explain what dharma is and how it differs. That's what BD was written to be able to do.

This issue is where S.N. Balagangadhara failed. He wrote one book many, many years ago. All it did was to say that "religion" comes from an earlier word that got distorted. But so what? How does that help us? Besides that is a well know point by zillions of westerner themselves. He NEVER defines dharma in term of positive qualities. He also makes the mistake of saying things like "Hindus (or maybe Indians?) lacked the notion of science", when he ought to have introduced the notion of adhyatma-vidya as inner science. Ditto for the claim that Hindus lack ethics when the point ought to be to explain how dharmic ethics differs.

His was the typical postcolonial critique of the West and its religion category, but like all post-colonialists to date, it was unsuccessful in replacing this with anything positive about dharma itself. In BD I explain that postodernists
criticize Western universalism without any alternative worldview to replace it with. This leaves a vacuum, and hence we have a generation of "intellectual morons" who are not grounded." 
Saket shares a link:
Hence at least for this one word which I feel is most important, members may refer to this book which explains this one word.

DHARMA The Global Ethic by Justice M Rama Jois ..."

March 18
Rajiv Malhotra shares a link:  In the 1990s I had numerous personal discussions as well email exchanges
with a Marxist who had left that tradition in search of new ideas. I argued varna as an organizing principle that has some merit to consider. While I did not pursue the matter after a few years of discussions/debates with him, it seems he continued that line of thinking and influenced various others to take this up. Now there seems to be a tiny beginning of such thought in respectable circles.

The above article should make many of you smile. Its a Post-Marxist view of varna. I have not read the major book that is being announced:

No doubt there are many issues we will find with his treatment from a strictly dharma interpretation. But I consider such openings an opportunity for us to show intellectual rigor and vigor in order to take the ideas forward.

Sudhir responds:
"Ravi Batra who is a professor of economics in South Methodist University in Texas has written a book

Quite a old one but it touches on the merchant class, soldier class, proletariat class and the intellectual class. He goes into the history of the world using this and on the basis of this understanding he believes India, US and Europe are at a phase of merchant class dominating the planet ...

...He is a follower of Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar who made 'Anandmarg' famous or infamous... PR Sarkar apparently has written extensively on this issue. I do not subscribe to their views but its worth considering.

My take after reading your book - BD- is the reason why we are seeing a downfall of west ( And I am sure its perhaps in the best interest of Dharma that the west
falls) is they lack integral unity. The people who make money feel no responsibility for the world at large. Thats manifested as exploitation of the world in the pursuit of happYness (moneyness).

Varnashram is looked down upon by elite Indians with western education as they believe it encourages 'Brahmanism'."

Jayant adds: "The analysis of the author is good but when talking about 'Varnas' one should not forget that its Varnashrama Dharma. The word Dharma attached to it make the whole difference in the context of India.

In India ruling class was always Kshatriyas and there was no conflict among the castes for domination. In other varnaless civilizations, such competition may have taken place. "

March 19
Oxford Hindu centre looks for permanent base
Saket posts: The Oxford center for Hindu Studies is trying to raise 1 million pounds to become an international hub of Hindu studies.

Rajiv comment: I was invited by them when it first opened to give a talk. Then it was called Center for Vaishnav Studies. I recommended they change the name and scope to include Hindu Studies, and I am glad they did that. But the rest of the story is not so good. ....They wanted recognition by their peers rather than the courage to stand up to them. Gradually, I saw Judeo-Christian digestion of Hinduism being encouraged. This is done in a subtle way via speakers, visiting professors, etc. who on the surface are teaching "positive" things about Hinduism. Yes, they are better than the blatant Hinduphobia in some places (which also has quietened down over the past 20 years since I started calling out their biases). But they are not going to name names of fellow academics - without which it is useless.

Three important (positive) things happened as a result of my visit:

1) I ran into Ursula King accidentally after my talk, as the group walked to dinner. Her work became important in my subsequent research - she was the PhD adviser to Anantanand Rambachan dissertation. More in my forthcoming book.

2) I finally managed to get a nice picture of the huge carving of William Jones and the Pandits.I used it for the cover of our book...

3) I discovered English translations of Pierre Bourdieu from French. I have considered this is important to my research.

After that episode which was probably in the 1990s, I was never invited, and never went back. I kept criticizing them as I saw them slip into encouraging the digestion of Hinduism, especially Vaishnavism, into Judeo-Christianity. They want naive Hindus of which there are plenty to give them lots of money, in exchange for putting their smiling faces next to some white people who are supposedly "prestigious" to be associated with.

Kirit comments:
"In the link below about Oxford news, Shri Rishi Das stated, "Religious studies doesn't really exist in India so we want to help them and anyone in the community understand Hinduism."

What a arrogance and ignorance! .... To me it seems that Oxford center itself is taking shape of a camouflaged "tiger", and it would be in the interest of Dharma to engage with them diplomatically and slowly help them understand BD.  

Rajiv comment: The statement is valid that ACADEMIC STUDY of Hinduism is virtually non existent in India. I have raised this issue and given talks on it for 2 decades. We organized a few large conferences in India to spread awareness of the issue. The comment above betrays a common ignorance - not knowing the distinction between academic study of religion and he teaching by gurus, acharyas, etc.

At the same time, it is dangerous to let western religious studies folks be the ones who export their model of religious studies to India. Unfortunately this is whats happening in a big way. Both the western exporters and the Indian importers are engaged with enthusiasm. ..... we are still ignorant as the above comment suggests, on the distinction between emic and etic approaches.

This post by Kirit lead to a followup from Kusum with responses (numbered for clarity) from Rajiv:
1. Rajivji mentions that Academic Study of Hinduism is virtually non-existent in India. While I agree partially, I feel that there are institutions that I have personally visited and feel that they could be better than any outfit in the world...

Rajiv: I made this case a hundred times in the past years. Nothing new. But have you gone beyond blue sky into actual implementation exercises, to get experience and be able to articulate based on that?

2. Instead of reinventing the wheel, why not nurture what is already there? The two places that come to mind are the ones I have visited, albeit briefly. The first one is Banaras Hindu University (BHU). I was there last month and met with the VC and heads of other departments. While the main purpose of my visit was a different one (Greening & restoration of pilgrimage sites),  I found the leadership open to new ideas.... he promised any help needed.

Rajiv: Again, this is the typical Hindu habit of always starting from scratch ... Watch the Youtubes from my day long seminar on BD at BU. See the BD videos at the web site. I got to know the dean, dept heads, etc far more than your "meeting" suggests. Yes, they talked big as expected. But no action after...The BHU folks are so digested that its sad.

3. Would it be possible to convince BHU to establish a world-class School of Hindu Studies?  All the apparatus are already in place. What if there were to be a collaborative effort with a US university?

Rajiv: What would it take to get out people to move beyond the ad hoc "off the top of head" ideas which everyone is so full of? ...

.....When asked for CONCRETE deliverables the person usually runs away. I no longer waste time chasing such "offers". Sorry. Its for YOU to get hands dirty and then develop something concrete....

...But hope you read prior thread where I explained our funding a decade ago to U of Hawaii to start a project to teach purva paksha of the west to Sanskrit pandits in Indian universities? As a serious scholar surely you will work hard to do some due diligence on all this stuff and not discuss so superficially. Especially when lots was done before and lots of lessons available to learn from.

Kaushal adds:
"BHU: Except the term Hindu in its name, it has nothing to do with Hinduism. BHU is a central university, similar to JNU. Of course, BHU has its own history being started by Shree M. M. Malviya ji. But today, they are things of past. .... occupied by the same set of "digested & sold Intellectuals", whom RM has been criticizing here.

Why not look towards our traditional Math and Akhara. They are the real defenders of our Dharma. They gave their life and blood to protect it in worst of scenario in the past. But, they are neglected in independent Bharat where Hindus are well off.

If you want to do something, plz do think once in this direction. Rajiv ji gave a session in Dharma Sansad in Ahmedabad to explain the issues mentioned in BD. It will take some time and effort, but it will help Dharma
in real terms.

Rajiv comment: This is a true observation about BHU. It got secularized over the past several governments in the type of appointments and selection of activities.

Besides, there is ZERO competence in other religions, making a broad Religious Studies not viable. The changes required would be sweeping to say the least."   

Pushpa adds:
"....Interesting topic that needs to be explored further. I do have some questions though.
First & foremost, does the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies (OCHS) have a mandate to represent all Hindus? Second, is OCHS an entity of U of Oxford ? Third, who is Shaunaka Rishi Das the guy who calls the shots at OCHS?...."

Rajiv comment: ... The person(s) in charge have encouraged digestion by the type of visiting scholars and lecturers they selected. Not always but often enough to be a concern.  The above statement about OCHS being independent of Oxford U is valid. But gradually over time, such independent centers gain recognition and collaborations become closer. This is how the game is played. Most prominent universities in the US have several such groups that are officially unrelated but exert influence.

Kishor comments:
"Originally it started as OCVS, with full endorsement and support of ISKCON. Later, with a view to gaining universal Hindu approval, they changed this to OCHS. The feelers that I have been getting from ISKCON leaders for last few years indicate that they have distanced themselves from OCHS. Most Hindu orgs here are also keeping distance with OCHS, for they have doubts about the direction OCHS seems to have taken by projecting "scholars" whose presentations, verbal and written, confuse ordinary Hindus, most of whom are devout followers of their respective gurus or sant-mahatmas - the same has happened to ISKCON devotees. Hindu sampradaayik organisations will not touch OCHS even with a barge pole. ...

In the beginning, an eminent Hindu scholar, Shri Kirit Joshi, was appointed, with seconding from Hindujas, to head OCHS, but he disappeared in no time. ...As far as the new generation is concerned, I believe from experience that they are vigilant and far from gullible they enquire and question.

Rajiv comment: Most of the above points match what I know except: Kireet Joshi (whom I have known since the 1990) did his work with Dharam Hinduja Center for
Indic Studies, but that had no relationship with OCHS a far as I was aware. The Hinduja centers were set up in UK, India and USA (at Columbia U) in the memory of the billionaire's son who had died suddenly . Eventually folded. I only knew the folks at Columbia - thats here Jack Hawley was in charge and he nurtured many Hinduphobics in the academy like Jeffrey Kripal, several JNU radical leftists getting trained to be deployed in various academic places. Used Hinduja money and yet lambasted what Hindujas stood for behind their backs.

Kireet Joshi himself is excellent, a great expert on Sri Aurobindo. Now settled in Pondy in not great health.
See: and:

There have been dozens of such initiatives to bring change and these need to be studied in order to learn why they all failed in the end.....This is getting worse as there are more people craving instant prestige as sponsors who are too arrogant and lazy to do their homework...  

Kishor adds: I got OCHS mixed up Hinduja`s  project.
March 19
This thing we call 'Life'
Vish shares some links: For this week, I am tempted to send out a video story - an extremely modern story. It comes with a warning; It is not for the squeamish. It is as real as one...

March 19
Ravi shares: (Interview) Zareer Masani lauds Macaulay, denies the concept of India ...  'Everyone wants to be English-speaking in...

Arun responds:
"... far from being some kind of liberator for the Indian underclass, Macaulayite policies can be considered to be the cause of the massive Indian illiteracy, e.g., less than 10% in 1901.

The argument is as follows - Macaulay's minute of 1835 was the winning argument in a debate about education in India - so you should read the losing side's arguments to know what they were proposing. I do that briefly here:

William Adams, on the losing side of the argument, wanted to use the educational system that Dharampal documented in "The Beautiful Tree" as the foundation for education of Indians.

Macaulay's own thoughts should be noted. He explicitly wrote that English education would be provided only to an Indian elite, and it would be that elite that would educate the masses. It is obvious from this - usually the focus is
on the first sentence; but focus on the second for now:

"We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern - a class of persons, Indian in blood and
colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to redefine the vernacular dialects in the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from Western nomenclature and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population."

So, Zareer Masani is playing to an audience rather than providing any kind of historical truth."

March 19
(Kerala) Catholic Church pressurised Chief Minister not to act preci
Ravi shares: This is an interesting scenario wherein the Vatican-Italian interests appear to precede's India's interests.

The Vatican's nominees in the Kerala Catholic Church interfere and forestall action (on the killing of two Indian fishermen by Italian Marines) by pressuring the authorities, following which these two men are allowed to quietly slip away to Italy where they cannot face the Indian judicial system..."

March 21
GURUs & Sanskrit non-translatable usage
Nitin shares snippets from an interesting conversation with a Guru with some following:
"Here is my conversation with one of the Gurus with sizable followers on the net. BD was at full use in trying to convince him of using right terminology. Unfortunately they are simply not aware of the concept of digestion. I'm
shipping him copy of BD.

GURU: ...finally attains salvation
N:Salvation is the wrong word. It indicates saving from original sin. It contradicts your basic teachings of SatChitAnanda!
GURU:We can not avoid the limitations of any language while getting translated.
N:Calling Dosa as Indian Pizza is a disservice to the South Indian tradition. It is like killing a part of the culture. People all over the world have now learnt to use the word Dosa. We need to be firmly in control of certain sanskrit categories or someone else will define these categories and will misinterpret it especially in your absence. Using salvation instead of Moksha (or may be something better that you may know) is outright disservice to the very
tradition that you are preaching.
GURU: And what may be the English equivalent to Moksha?
N:There are certain Sanskrit words that cannot be translated in English so no need to translate those words at all. You can keep it as it is... In fact 'Moksha' can also be found in Merriam-Webster English dictionary.
GURU:I think "Emancipation" may be more appropriate.
N:That's not right either. You must keep it as Moksha. see how Buddhists never translate nirvana to salvation....Otherwise Dharma is not represented accurately on a global platform like this.
GURU:Yeah...true.I did not find the exact translation of word "Guru" yet.."

March 22
Pope Francis calls for "respect" for all religions
Tapan shares: Is it the first time that a pope said something like this? If true Rajivji's stand on mutual respect is accepted:Pope Francis calls for 'respect' for all...

Rajiv's response:
"Lets push them rather than declare victory prematurely. Does his "respect" for dharma mean he will respect specific things like:
- karma, reincarnation
- our murtis
- our mantras
- our avataras
- etc.

If so, he ought to end conversion campaigns against such a faith as ours.

To implement his principle he should start a complaint investigation group where we can file complaints against any Catholic who is violating the principle of respect for us, and if the person is found guilty then punishment should be enforced by the church against such members.

In other words it should not be mere diplomacy talk but a policy that gets enforced."

Saket shares an update:
This subsequent statement of pope was reported in Reuters

Alex shares a NYT link and comments:
".... Hope Pope Francis is serious about being open-minded, inclusive of his call for "respect" of all faiths. The fact that Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu and Jain faith
leaders were represented at the installation ceremony is encouraging. Hope that the Dharmic faith leaders will take the initiative and PUSH the Pontiff to make a more decisive declaration on where the Vatican stands in relation to truly respecting the non-Abrahamic faiths.
In my opinion, the Leaders of the Dharmic Faiths should ask for a separate meeting with Pope Francis specifically to seek his stance on proselytization among peoples of Dharmic faiths. Even if such a request is denied that would be telling enough to discern his true commitment to his expressed sentiments of "respect" for all faiths."

Basant comments:
"...A true Christian especially a pope will never give equal respect to the Dharmic people. This is because of the fundamental dogma of Christianity that man is a born sinner and he or she can only be saved through Jesus Christ. Also the old testament forbids worshipping of false gods. To give equal respect to us will mean they would not be Christians any more..."

March 22 (continuing discussion from February 19)
Evangelical Christian group helps sue California school over yoga cl
[original link] ...
Ravi shares an update: 
More on this issue [beliefnet]:

Here's the second and concluding part of Masani's interview... Ignore the initial segment on politics and read the hagiography on Macaulay towards the middle and end of the interview.."

March 22
Re: Tamil movie : Paradesi
The word paradesi has the same meaning as the Hindi word but is used more in a derogatory sense in Tamil unlike in Hindi that has a aura about it. There is new movie in Tamil with that name running well, in Theaters across TamilNadu. Masterly crafted, that shows thread bare and naked the work of the evangelicals. It could not have said better..."
March 23
Hijacking of Wharton - republished
Kanchan: The HP blog has been republished for the Global Indian audience:
Also it is in the print...

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