Did Jeffrey Long 'Out' Rajiv Malhotra's new book before publication?

This post covers a controversy created by the actions of a Western scholar, who appears to have misused a pre-publication draft of the yet-to-be titled new book authored by Rajiv Malhotra, from whom he privately obtained the copy.

Jeffrey Long first showed up in this forum in Feb 2012 (#2270), where he was the subject of some positive feedback re Hinduism. Next, he appears in regards to the DHANAM conference, in November 2012 (#3373), where he was the steering committee member (despite which, there was room for just a single book discussion on BD).

July 2013
Please dont hijack my new book before it comes out
Rajiv Malhotra writes: Earlier this month, I shared with a small number of scholars the full draft of my new book that is a thorough refutation of the thesis of Neo-Hinduism started by Hacker and continued by others like Rambachan.  One of the very few scholars I trusted sharing my draft with is Jeffrey Long, who is a follower of RK Mission and whom I respect. It was done under strict confidentiality. He promised to write me his comments and suggestions, which I am still waiting for. Then I met Jeff at the recent Vedanta Congress, and we went to a private room to discuss his feedback to my draft....

Today, I see the following post written by him in the RISA List (where I am banned as are most scholars who do not "obey" the authority of Western hermeneutics.)

Clearly, Jeff is reflecting our conversation and my book thesis. Sadly, he chose the forum of his peer group to express this idea, while I had shared my book on the hope (and promise) to get useful feedback from him. I wonder why he could not wait for my book to come out first, and LET IT BE THE SOURCE OF THIS NEW DEBATE...

My disappointment is that he replaces all my work with other references, as though my hard work is to be ignored. Had I known this earlier, I would not have shared my draft with him. He was very keen to have my draft, as he said it would help him in his work, but I expected him to refer to it. (People often cite a work with the author's permission and say it is "forthcoming." So the means to do this attribution exists.)

Rajiv adds:
"...I wish to clarify that I do NOT accuse anyone here of plagiarism. However, if my ideas, which have been written and discussed in so much detail, "trigger" similar ideas in another scholar, it would be normal academic practice to cite me as a source. Even if one's ideas are independently derived, one cites others with similar ideas. Jeff certainly goes out of his way to cite academicians in this regard, but ignores me as if I do not exist. This is a double standard. Yet I see him as a friend and hope he will change this approach.

I am being treated like the "native informant" who has no voice, whose ideas "become valid" only when regurgitated by a "credentialed scholar". This asymmetric posture towards the native informants became the subject of so many of my writings over a decade ago. One sulekha article that summarized this was called "The asymmetric dialog of civilizations". There were many more I wrote on
this issue. That started a whole movement which has snowballed in many directions ever since.

The Europeans started this trend to appropriate the knowledge of pandits and publish it as their own. This is how "Sir" William Jones became established as the "discoverer" of Sanskrit in the eyes of the West - like Columbus being called the discoverer of America as though the natives who lived there for 10,000 years had not discovered it. In a massive wall carving in his honor at oxford, he is referred to as the man "who gave the Hindoos their laws".

To declare only those scholars with western credentials (and hence under their system of management) as being valid, is the worst form of colonization. By this criteria, none of our acharyas, gurus, and even the most advanced yogis would be legitimate. So Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Gandhi, Aurobindo, etc. - none of them and others like them qualify as voices of authority in their own right.

... You may disagree with many of Gandhi's positions (as I do myself). But what I found remarkable in his life was his courage to defy the colonial apparatus and set an example of resistance. We need scholars to be satyagrahis in this sense."

thepatrika adds: "....I am once again appalled  -- not surprised -- at the intellectual dishonesty among some of the Academicians in th US, even in fields which does not involve great amount of money. 
No wonder secrecy has become the hall mark of academic research in Science, Technology and Management, which the possibility of making a "killing" with patents, invention disclosures, or membership in national and int'l organizations, or corporate board memberships, even as they brag about academic freedom and "open" environment for enquiry in universities"

Surya wonders: "...I suspect that Jeffrey may already be engaged with other AAR members in dissecting the contents of the book. I would conjecture that Jeffrey will likely not offer any useful feedback to Rajivji but use the early access to direct his own research.

I hope Jeffrey has access to this forum and offers public response."

Shashi comments:
"...This is sad.

This emphasizes why the book "Invading the Sacred" commissioned by Rajivji is a must-read. Specially relevant is Yvette Rosser article. It exposes how RISA folks operate as a cartel. What is particularly sad in this case is betrayal at even person-to-person level trust.

Rajiv's response:
Thanks, Shashi ji.
I want people to know that Shashi drove from out of state just to attend my talk at the Vedanta Congress. He can verify that I spoke on this thesis in my forthcoming book. 

Ashish comments:
"...I am a dalit residing in India. And I am very very impressed by your work. Have read both of your books. Even though I am dalit I still love my country INDIA. India has given me opportunity to rise above the poverty in which I was born. I am a s/w engineer in a multinational firm in India..."

Madhu adds:
"... it is equally true that most westerners do look at us through a lens of superiority even if some manage to hide it, that is just the social conditioning they got via history, culture, church, society. There is nothing racial about this. There is still some time to go before these attitudes change. Until then there is no harm in being pragmatic about it."

Rajiv's response: 
"...   It has to do with the ego's mixed up loyalties and projects. I once reprimanded Sarah Caldwell who was simultaneously (1) a practicing Hindu in the academy and
very active in organizing Hinduism related events, and yet (2) more loyal to her academic peers than to dharma, and hence compromising 1 to benefit 2.

There are similar instances I encounter daily among Indian Hindus - conflict between their private domain of Hindu practice and their public domain of career or "reputation" or business interest, etc. "

Rahul thinks:
"... even as the new book is launched with an attempt to steal the limelight with an attitude that might go like "RM is treading a path that has already been examined critiqued  and debunked". They are likely going to launch a propaganda war with a head start having had time to read the transcript and formulate the approach to attack the new book (or RM)." 

Karigar provides additional context on Jeffrey Long:
"... I've had some personal interaction with him in the past. He's definitely a very nice guy, but -

I've no hesitating in completely agreeing with Rajiv's nuanced critique of his actions. Also, during last year's AAR (where a separate Panel featured Being Different) I recall some behind-the-scenes controversy at another panel where Jeff Long was involved. There his semi-public comments were an interesting study in virtually ignoring Rajiv, while off handedly (back handedly?) agreeing that the points made were serious enough to warrant a high level discussion/response.
I'd like to add just one point to what Rajiv has already said. It seems that he is a symptom of the Social Sciences scholar mentality, where one gets one's authority/credibility by subjective means, mostly by how "impressive" one sound/writes, etc. This just won't fly in the hard-sciences, technology or business, as one's capability can be very easily evaluated. 
For a religion scholar, to stay above the glass ceiling (& be called a scholar) it appears one has to ignore non-academia people's work as long as one can afford to get away with it. Jeff Long seems to be following this standard-operating-procedure. Of course it doesn't say much for his personal behavior & sense of judgement, when he does this to Rajiv.

Firstly, Rajiv has pretty much broken thru this 'glass ceiling' a long time ago; and secondly, he seems to be using private discussion material from Rajiv's work to preempt it's impact when it's published, even if he claims it was not intentional."

Jeffrey Long is welcome to respond at the 'Being Different Forum'.

Update: October 19
Jeffrey Long responded in the comments section below, as well as the forum (link here) defending his position, and Rajiv provided a counter response. After some followups, this thread was closed. I've summarized the final comments of Rajiv Malhotra below (emphasis mine):
"... I had made a remark on Jeff's writing many weeks ago, and he exercised his right to respond, and this started a brief back and forth discussion. I am glad he and I have agreed to cooperate as friends sharing our passions as Hindus. It is good when such episodes lead to solidarity and clarity going forward. So no point in further discussion as the [matter] is happily resolved. I look forward to Jeff's participation on this forum."


  1. This whole thing was a very unfortunate misunderstanding, which Rajiv and I discussed thoroughly in a semi-public email exchange.

    Rajiv had specifically asked me NOT to cite his work prior to its publication. Also, the specific ideas I used were not drawn from his manuscript, but from my own work--something which I demonstrated with previous publications of mine and postings on Hindu Dharma Forums which predated his sending me his manuscript.

    People can think of my character what they like. The truth is the truth.

  2. If my response is not posted, I can only infer that there is no serious interest in a conversation on this topic, only an attempt to win points with a fan base by playing the victim against another big, bad western academic. (And I am not even all that well-known of a scholar, so we are really scraping the bottom of the barrel here.)

  3. It is interesting that this web page is dated August 31, 2013, but does not make any reference at all to my lengthy correspondence with Rajiv on August 16, 2013 in which this entire incident is explained and in which Rajiv's allegations against me are revealed to be utterly false. I cannot help but think that this is a manufactured controversy intended to sell Rajiv's new book. I have no interest in being used in this way.

  4. I am pleased to see that my comments have been posted. This goes a good way towards restoring my faith in the integrity and sincerity of this conversation.

    To answer the question in the title, no I did not "out" Rajiv Malhotra's new book before publication, either intentionally or unintentionally. I responded to a query on RISA based on my own prior knowledge of and interest in the question of "Neo Vedanta." Yes, I was reading Rajiv's manuscript at the time, and it would have been a very nice source to cite in responding to that post. But I deliberately did not do so precisely because Rajiv had asked me NOT to "out" his work, but to keep our conversations about it confidential. I honored his request, and then was attacked by him online for doing precisely what I had gone out of my way not to do. When this came to my attention, I responded swiftly, through email, and I felt that Rajiv and I had come to a resolution of the situation. Then I came across this blog...

    So no, I did not "out" Rajiv's new book. He has certainly drawn far more attention to it by charging me with such an "outing" than the RISA posting in question ever could.

    As far as the charge of treating Rajiv as a "native informant," this is also simply wrong. I cite Rajiv's work in my own as I would that of any other scholar. If anyone on this blog bothered to read my work, they would know that this is the case. Instead, I feel as if I have been tried, judged, and hanged on this blog by those who are talking about my "character" on the basis of these false allegations. But again, people can think of me what they like. The truth is the truth, and satyam eva jayate.

  5. Jeffrey, thanks for taking the time to comment. This blog is done by volunteers, updated periodically as time permits. Hence the request at the end of this post to respond at the forum:

    This would enable you to read the thread that is summarized here, respond directly, and obtain more immediate feedback.
    Again, thanks for your comments.

  6. Thank you, ∫ubra, for those helpful instructions and background information.

    I have a lot of respect for Rajiv and his work, even though we do not always agree. (Who does?) We have always had a good relationship. This whole episode was thus a huge and unpleasant surprise for me. I greatly dislike controversy (and would like to think I am a true son of my sampradaya in that sense). I look forward to interacting with the readers of this blog so that they understand what really happened.

    Though his allegations were false, I do not believe Rajiv was lying, but describing what he really believed had happened. If he had only contacted me privately first, this would all have been settled between the two of us as friends, rather than becoming a public controversy (and raising my suspicion that it was being used to promote the book–wholly unnecessary if it is the case because the book will stand on its own merits).

    Pranams and best wishes.