Jesus Sahasranamam: Digestion of Hinduism in Kerala

We recently summarized the digestion of the Hindu festival of Onam into some mangled secular celebration. This post continues in this path and tracks various attempts in Kerala.

November 2013
Jesus Sahasranamam

Vaneesh shares this link:
"Jesus Sahasranama of Prof. Chacko is another example of digestion. This has an apple App as well. I came across this accidentally.
This reminds of Sri Rajiv's mention how the europeans learn sanskrit and then try to influence the native indians especially who are uneducated and illiterate. Now the slave mentallity Indians are doing their job.

Rajesh finds more:
"The 'Digester' - an Author of Jesus Sahasranama Mr Chacko does not stop only
at one

*Other works by the author:*

- Yesu Suprabhatham
- Kristhubhujangam
- Giriprabhashanam
- and Other Ten odd Monographs
- (All in Sanskrit)"

Rama shares a link on 'Jesus Namaskaram

Gokul adds:
"..The attempt to "Hinduise" Christianity has been a phenomena for centuries in the state of Kerala. The Bible is called Veda Pustaka by Christians. Their festivals and art forms have borrowed heavily from Hindu traditions. In recent years, this effort has gained considerable momentum. That is the only difference. 

...If you look at the people who helped this Christian priest in his endeavor to create the Jesus Sahasranama, you can see that there are two Hindus who knowingly or unknowingly .. collaborating with the Church. I don't want to leave with a note of pessimism. I am very hopeful that the Malayalam editions of Rajivji's books will become available soon and will have a major impact on the thinking of Hindus. If we are to prevent the further advance of anti Hindu forces, education of Hindus will have to remain the primary goal of all Hindu groups. Let us all continue to support the work of Infinity Foundation with greater vigor and purpose."

Raja adds:
"...Nearly 16000 Keralite priests and nuns work in churches outside india.

... There is hardly any scope for conversions in Kerala,due to high literacy rate and boundaries for the three religions are clearly defined.In fact Kerala is like an old age home as younger generation is forced to migrate outside kerala. Perhaps Yesu Sahasranama may be ...for the purpose of conversions outside kerala.Even if the churches are poaching hindus in Kerala,the hindus do not any political leadership to tackle the issue.People carrying hindu names are mostly marxists, ..." 
Sree shares:
"This type of digestion dates back to 17th century.
In Kerala we have a poet named Poonthanam who wrote devotional songs about lord Vishnu in the 16th centuary.
The hymns that he wrote is known as Jnana-pana (I think, it means the song of knowledge). But soon after the inception of Jnanappana, a german Jesuit wrote a poem in the same tune known as Puthen-pana by around 17th century.

The songs are similar to Jnanappana but it praises Jesus.
There is even a doctoral dissertation about the origin of Puthen pana..." 

Rajiv Malhotra shares a YT link:

Watch Father Sadhu George digesting Bharat Natyam into Christianity, duping  Hindus who see it as respect for them: 

"Dancing Jesuits"

ksn responds:
".. the erection of Flag staffs in front of all the churches which was never the case. Wearing of Tilak and so on, giving Hindu names to children, Yoga,going to church everyday like the Hidus throng to temples are other instances.
In fact the effects are clearly visible. ... The orphange route is there across India. In fact people come home to ask for donations hiding the fact that the children have already been converted. The cases of  inter religious marriages used to be resisted tooth and nail in the past in Kerala and today, we see parents helplessly accepting the move. The children are ready to fall in the trap and defy the parents in cases where there is resistance.
Kerala is also the breeding ground for sending conversion agents to various other states. Mizoram and other NE States, Andhrapradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and so on. .... provocation and resultant trouble, may it be in Orissa or Lucknow or anywhere else. 
..How about the Swargeeya Virunnu (The heavenly feast?) When I confronted a woman who frequents such a place, she very clearly mentioned about the methods they adopt to lure them. She is a brilliant person, but claims that as a Hindu., she does not have a system to get even a counselling.They ask her to shout out to God for help,get monetary and other helps and in return, she has to wipe out her bindi/convert finally.
.... is only the tip of the iceberg that you have seen."

Digestion versus Inclusivism

This is one more in our series of blogs on digestion - what it is, and what it isn't. Here, we have a question from a western scholar who has rejected proselytization, and wants to know:
- the difference and similarity between 'inclusivism' and digestion. 
- and haven't some schools of thought in dharma always digested some other schools to yield what is today called Hinduism?

The responses and discussions are quite important. For example, it's pretty stunning that attempts to discredit Vivekananda, and brand Hinduism as some colonial construct, have continued since the 1890s - when Vivekananda enlightened the west, after which the holes in history-centric Christianity were permanently exposed. For a more complete answer to such attempts we will have to await Rajiv's new book 'Indra's Net: Defending India's philosophical unity'.

November 2013

Karl asks:
categories/typologies used in interfaith forums to classify forms of dialogues and attitudes toward the "other"...:  exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism.
Do you see any similarities or differences between "inclusivism" and "digestion"? In what ways?"

Rajiv comment: 

"This is a good question.

I do not consider the standard academic classification of inter-religious postures into the three (exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralism) to be adequate. I am aware that this classification is normative in the classroom. First of all, these are not mutually exclusive of one another because often a given person's attitude is a muddled combination of more than one of them. He might be exclusive on certain points and inclusive in others, for instance.

But more importantly and to the point of your question, Digestion is an outcome that can result from many starting postures including these three postures. An exclusivist posture like Protestant Nicene Creed based denomination explicitly rejects Hinduism and yet appropriates yoga into Christian Yoga. They do so by distorting those aspects of yoga that would not be digestible. So exclusivism can also lead to partial digestion. Similarly, Inclusivism and Pluralism are each prone to culminate as Digestion of Hinduism. My point is that the 3-way classification does not go deep enough as these three are surface positions where the encounter starts but does not end.

SPECIFICALLY, INCLUSIVISM IS NOT AN END STATE BUT AN INTERIM STATE. IT IS AN UNSTABLE STATE OF TRANSITION. The Christian spouse of a Hindu finds inclusivism convenient, and family/friends on both sides can get a period of peace because it can seem that there is no problem. But in fact they have just set aside the hard issues of differences rather than deal with them. So later on, I find in most such cases, problems surface. They would be better off extensively discussing differences up front, and reaching some sort of "deal" consciously rather than pretending there is no issues because they have slogans to chant from both sides."

Would you agree that what you define as "Hinduism" has also been, and will maybe always be, a locus of digestion of its own? Would you agree that "digestion", as you define it, has taken place within the work of various and great Indian thinkers without them caring much about giving proper acknowledgement to their sources, even sometimes completely modifying the nature of the material they incorporated? (For example, one could try to prove this point by showing how some Buddhist notions were absorbed and reformulated in Vedantic terms, without acknowledgement, even under the cover as one might say. ...) Or would you think that this is impossible?

If it did happen, what do you make of this phenomenon in regard to your own quest of identifying "digestion" in other traditions?"

Rajiv comment:
"Yes, there is continual intra-dharma digestion-like process going on, BUT with one critical difference: The source does not get destroyed as in the case of digestion by Abrahamic religions due to their exclusivity claims, and their mandate to take over "100% market share of souls" in the world. The doxographers in India (I refer to them extensively in my forthcoming book (Indra's Net)) were cross-appropriating from one another and kept the debates and purva paksha vibrant all the time. This is how innovation took place. This is why Hinduism has always been dynamic, continuous and yet connected with its sources (whether explicitly acknowledged or not).

Borrowing without harming the source is a good thing. It is how humanity advances by learning from each other. But in Digestion per se, there is no trace of the source left - as Pagans getting digested into Christianity.

There is another important distinction between cross-borrowing among dharma traditions and Abrahamic digestion of others: As BD shows

there are important common tenets across most dharma systems and hence when they borrow the foundation is robust enough for this to happen with mutual respect.  

In history centric religions, the digestion must remove every trace of whatever disagrees with this absolutist and exclusivist historical grand narrative. Hence the latter is invariably destructive..."

Karl's followup:
"....I share your disappointment with the terminology (or typology) used in interfaith forums. ...

As for your views on digestion, if I understand your point, the problem lies in the power struggles generated by the Abrahamic faiths who always tried to impose their views and now try to absorb whatever is attractive in other systems. ... Coming from [], disillusionment with the Church and with other Christian missionaries is deep rooted.

...I am doing my [] research on Indian doxography. .."

Rajiv comment: The best evidence that Indian doxography did not lead to digestion (in the sense of digestion by the west) is that the systems incorporated or borrowed from by a given doxogrpher have continued to survive independently and separately as themselves, in most cases. For example, many Vedantins assimilated ideas from Samkhya but Samkhya flourishes as its own system. Similarly, Gaudapada got Madhyamika Buddhism ideas but nobody has destroyed Buddhism in the process. In other words, cross-learning was not destructive as it was in the case of history centric religions. I am trying to put your attention back on to history centrism."

Kundan adds:
".... your paper [] .... it is quite clear that it is inclusivism that bothers you...inclusivism has bothered the likes of Hacker and Halbfass and numerous other authors who are invested in a social constructivist approach of showing that Hinduism is colonial construct.

The reason why it bothers people who are opposed to inclusivism is the philosophy of Vedanta, which basically brings into its fold anything and everything which is in the universe and beyond—including the so called negative or demoniac forces.

Interpreted from the fundamentalist point of view, the nondual Vedantic philosophy makes the dualistic worldview of Nicene Creed Christianity a subset. This subordinated status is not acceptable to the Nicene Creed because of which the proponents of Vedanta have been under constant line of fire, including an attempt on the life of Swami Vivekananda (please see “On Himself” by him) who is considered to be the chief protagonist of the Vedantic thought in the west. After the fundamentalist Christians were not successful in killing him, they bandied to deconstruct and delegitimize him in western academia, mostly by spreading canards. In every era new ways were devised to do so—the latest is the philosophy of social constructivism under which people like Halbfass, Richard Kind, Brian Pennington, Andrew Nicholson, etc fall. Paul Hacker is actually the father of them all in the modern times. However this scholarship can be traced to the likes of James Mill.

...You have actually taken the battle of de-legitimizing the inclusivism of Vedanta even further—you have taken it to the pre-colonial times. have taken the works of Sadananda and Jitatmananda, fifteenth and sixteenth century Vedantins, to show how inclusivism is based on a fraud (you give the name doxography). So basically, you and your ilk will go to everywhere in Indian thought where an attempt is made to bring existence, universe, cosmos, under the canopy of Oneness, because this threatens the exclusivism and the exclusivity of the Nicene Creed.

Now coming to your questions, if there is a difference between inclusivism and digestion. Rajiv ji has answered how the inclusivism of Nicene Creed becomes problematic when it engages with dharma traditions. Let me answer the question from the Vedantic perspective:

From the Vedantic perspective inclusivism is not digestion. Why? When Vedanta came to the West, it did not promote a singular and homogenous idea. When it spoke about Oneness, it spoke about diversity as well. It created a perfect harmony between Oneness and diversity. It spoke about its own truth but it did not invalidate the truths of Christianity. It did not inculturate to take over Christianity and push Jesus from the pantheon of the divine beings. .. It did not wean away Christians from Christianity but made an effort to make them better Christians—yes, in that wake, it did not dwell on the differences because of which we have “Being Different” now. Vedanta, explicitly and implicitly, did not harm Christianity. It did not go on a conversion drive.."

Let me take the following question (#2)

First and foremost, the thesis of this question itself is flawed. This is again based on the “construction of Hinduism” theme. If my understanding is correct, this will be refuted in Rajiv ji’s upcoming book. In the meantime, if at all you want to change your views, I am sending you a paper titled “Swami Vivekananda in Western Academia.” You can see for yourself the truth which makes you formulate your question in the above manner."

Manish adds a game-theory based thought
// For example, many Vedantins assimilated ideas from Samkhya but Samkhya flourishes as its own system. Similarly, Gaudapada got Madhyamika Buddhism ideas but nobody has destroyed Buddhism in the process.// --- This is a quote from RM (below mailchain)
-- this sounds good and noble...but it has come at a great cost...since so many competing schools of thought are allowed to co-exist, there is no central theme, or a unified civilisational weltanschaaung (''UCW"), in our civilisation that binds people together...even how our people assess threats from enemies is not a uniform process, so our enemies have always found it easy to divide, make inroads and defeat us...

Rajiv comment: The example in the following sentences is a counter productive diversion away from the point that has already been expressed well above .

Manish provides a couple of options:
.... Option A: Take a misplaced pride in notions of nobility even if it means you are never able to forge your own UCW, and therefore are left vulnerable -- even predisposed --- to being decimated by other not-so-noble civilisations who have forged a UCW of their own.

Option B: Be pragmatic, dump all notions of nobility and recognise the stark reality that the civilisation that invariably wins is the one with a UCW (not necessarily the more noble one), which will conquer you and then force its unified civilisational weltanschaaung down your throat.

Game theory suggests that you are better off with (B). In other words, if you don't develop your own UCW, you will end up being subservient to an alien UCW. In either case, you have to have a UCW. So, why not one which is your own UCW?

Rajiv comment: The flaw with the above is seeing the philosophical exchanges among dharmic worldviews as a matter of "nobility" (whatever that might mean). The discussants in India saw their enterprise as a quest for truth, not a political quest.

Seeing in dharma terms, the deficiency being pointed out concerns kshatriyata in the kurukshatra of discourse. My new book (Indra's Net) has a long chapter in the end that gives my solution to this dilemma: how to remain true to our quest and at the same time not be weak and vulnerable to infiltrations/digestions. The problem I address is that we must remain open and yet pre-empt these attacks. Stay tuned...

Karl responds to Kudan:
"...I am not bothered by "inclusivism", not even by "exclusivism" or "pluralism". I am more prone to think like Mr. Malhotra on the issue, meaning that I believe that the categories are somehow superficial, at most that they are mental attitudes appearing in some circumstances and not in others..." wrongly label my intentions and my work by putting it into some boxes pre-existing in your own worldview. Unfortunately, it does not capture the reality and appears to be a good example of "adhyâropa" (अध्यारोप)...

I have nothing to do with Christianity or any Abrahamic faiths .. as a matter of practice (sâdhana - साधन) I am guided by the Karma Kagyü Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. view (darshana - दर्शन) can hardly be defined by a single word, or concept, or any substantiation like an "ism". It is certainly not a "religion", not even a cultural phenomenon or some kind of a national identity. At best, it is nothing standing by and of its own.

I am in fact struggling to understand the worldview of those who find it relevant to reify their (relative) identity with such concepts as "ism" or"religion". Especially when these people claim to understand the such deep views as the one found in Vedânta for example. It appears to me as a really "relative" understanding indeed.

To continue, as a scholar, I reject the use of the word "religion", sometimes even of "philosophy". What we call "religion" today is in fact the end of "religion" as it have been understood and lived by most traditions in the past (see Wilfrid Cantwell Smith)." 

[to be continued ...]


How does the karma theory of Hinduism work?

Take some time and follow through this enriching discussion on Karma, how it works, how it doesn't work, the role of free will, past actions, the future impact of action, or inaction ... 

Insightful exchanges throughout this post. Among the very best in the forum. Proud to share this. Bookmark it. You may need to come back to this  discussion at some point in your life :)

This discussion started off from a question on the origins of the term 'Chandala'. Dr. Koenraad Elst provides a deep historical and scriptural perspective. In the latter half of the discussion, Rajiv Malhotra explains Karma theory quite beautifully. This is followed by a refreshing sequence of Q&A.
November 2013
Need help with the meaning of a word: Chandala

Kiran asks:
"..  Recently somebody gave me a copy of Ravi Zacharias's DVD, Jesus among other gods, where in he quotes from Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.7 (8).  The english transaltion of the verse is below.

"When one acts piously, he attains a good birth. He is born as a brahmana or a kshatriya or a vaisya. When one acts sinfully, he attains a sinful birth. He is born as a dog, a pig, or an outcaste"

When I looked up the sanskrit verse, it says "Chandala" (womb of a chandala women). According to Wikipedia, Chandala means "Chandala is a Sanskrit word for someone who deals with disposal of corpses, and is a Hindu lower caste, formerly considered untouchables. Currently it is a term used specifically in Indo-Aryan speaking regions of India. Sandala has become a swear word in the colloquial usage of the Tamil language. Chandal is a general derogatory slur used to refer to a filthy, mean or low person[1] in North India."

... Ravi says this verse promotes caste system, which is incorrect and seems like the verse was completely taken out of its context. (Upanishad talks about progression of atman in its journey to Mukti)
.... what is the real meaning of the word “Chandala”, is it possible this word had a different meaning during the post vedic period and over the period of time meaning of the word got changed based on its use."

Karthik forwards an interpretation from a priest:
"...This verse does not endorse any system of discrimination it merely states that whatever vasanas or habits one cultivates in life one reaps the fruits thereof in the next birth. The family that one is born into and the social circumstances of one’s birth are all due to Karma..."

Koenraad Elst comments: (glad to have Dr. Elst back after a long break!)
"... To say hazily that words just happen to undergo changes in meaning. Something more specific is needed, esp. on such a possibly very harmful quotation.

It is a fact that the very oldest mention of the reincarnation doctrine (of which the Rg-Veda is totally innocent) already implies the caste application of the karma interpretation of reincarnation. It is in this form the Uddalaka et al. first learn the doctrine from their king. It says that if you have shown a pleasant character, you will be born as a Brahmin, Kshatriya or Vaishya. These caste titles necessitate a caste translation of the second part: if you have led a stinking life, you will be born from a stinking womb: dog, pig or Chandala.

Chandala was originally an ethnonym of one of the Dravidian-speaking tribes of Central India, where you still have the Kandhs, Gonds etc.; probably the Kandaloi mentioned by Ptolemy in his geography....

At any rate, the emotive meaning of "Chandala" must have been something like "savage", "cannibal". So, in the moralistic version of the karma doctrine (future reward or punishment for your present conduct), caste is included in the calculus of auspiciousness: just as poverty, a handicap, slavery etc. are miserable conditions which may serve as karmic punishment, so also the birth in a lowly community, regardless of whether it is classified as "untouchable" or "tribal".

If you want to present Hinduism to the world as egalitarian, you will indeed have to straighten out quotes like this one from the Chandogya Upanishad. But to a Christian, you should not answer by apologizing for or refuting his understanding of the Upanishad quote. You should simply point at the Biblical repeated sanction for slavery or at Yahweh's repeated commandments to kill the unbelievers (e.g. the pious worshippers of Baal incarnated as the Golden Calf, made from their generously donated Jewels) or the strangers threatening to pollute the people's purity (e.g. the cheating and massacre of the Shechemites by the sons of Jacob). You may set your own house in order, but meanwhile you have to keep Christian meddlers out by refocusing their attention on their own injustices."

This resulted in a very interesting discussion by Rajiv Malhotra on the nature of karma theory, which we carry 'as' is to avoid any misinterpretation

 "There is a persistent confusion on the difference between the following two ideas:

A) Bad karma leads to future birth in adverse conditions, whereas good karma leads to future birth in good circumstances. (Karma theory)

B) A person should be treated by society depending on the type of parents. (Caste system as known today)

A is true as per Hindu dharma, but B is untrue. These ideas must be separated and differentiated. Otherwise people falsely conclude that A implies B.

Some points to consider are:


1) One's karma leads to corresponding phala (consequence). This is the principle of causation. Karma X causes the effect Y. We might write it as: X ==> Y.

2) For Y to happen within the natural laws, the right conditions (Z) are necessary in which Y will happen. Z is simply the means by which Y will happen. If I am to die in a plane crash, I will "happen" to book a seat in that particular flight. It is not that the pilot or anyone else involved in the flight "caused" my death. It was coming to me. The circumstances (Z) leading to my death (such as pilot error, engine failure, hijacking, etc) were mere mechanisms to bring it about, but the effect of being killed was coming to me because of my own past karma.

3) In the above example, can we say that: Z ==> Y? Did the pilot error or engine failure or hijacking cause my death? Karma theory says NO. These were merely the mechanisms by which natural law could operate and bring my death. The real cause of Y was X, not Z.

4) Once you understand the above, then it becomes easy to appreciate that one's parents do not cause one to have certain experiences or propensities. These are the result of past karmas and the parents are merely the mechanisms. Each of us chose his or her parents, society, time and place of birth by virtue of the portfolio of karmas that needed to be expressed or played out.


5) Even though a person has a specific circumstance at birth it does NOT follow that his entire life's outcomes will be pre-determined by that. There IS meritocracy at work. The outcomes in one's life will be a combination of both past karmas and one's use of free will in the present. Thus a man born in adversity can advance by his own actions and free choices. Conversely one can fritter away one's good conditions by being foolish, unethical etc. So one's life's outcomes are a combination of both past karma and free will that is exercised in the present.

6) Therefore, one cannot use past karma as excuse, and fail to take responsibility, or just give up. Conversely, one cannot take the good life for granted because of birth circumstances.

Hence, karma theory is NOT fatalism.


7) The above has focused solely on one's own self: what I choose to do and how it impacts me. But what about one's attitudes towards someone else? Should my attitude towards a person be biased by that person's conditions? If yes, that would mean I am biased because he is born poor and hence I feel it was coming to him. Or if I am biased favorably towards a rich man because I feel his good karma made him rich. These biases would be WRONG on my part and they would be acts of bad karma by me. My attitude towards another person should be unbiased either way, and should be based entirely on what is MY RIGHTEOUS ACTION, I.E. MY SVA-DHARMA. The fact that he is in adverse conditions ought to generate sympathy/karuna, and not harsh judgment.

8) In other words, caste bias by me is wrong!!!

9) Karma theory is my guiding principle in my OWN actions. That is how I judge MYSELF, not others. My attitude towards others should be 'tat tvam asi'. "

Upon member request, Rajiv elaborates on tat tvam asi.
"There are many levels of this "second-person" practice. It culminates in what is called nididhyasana. To learn this get a good guru to initiate you in Shankara's Upadesa Sahasri or some other similar text.

At preliminary levels you can practice by seeing the other person as Brahman-playing-role-abc.

So you need bifocal vision: one vision seeing Brahman and the other seeing the person abc.

Also experience oneself at both levels: one anchored as atman, the other as "Rajiv" or whatever the role happens to be.

So one sees the Self-playing-1 interacting with the Self-playing-2. Note the Self is same in both cases but the roles are not.

The realm of action is where there is multiplicity of roles. Hence its a fallacy to escape into sameness citing all is one like many people do. But this dual vision keeps both one and many views in perspective.

Second-person practice is 24/7 or as often as you can remind yourself. It is easier when things are pleasant and the other party is likeable. But when there is tension, it is easy to slip into one of two ways: Either into sameness (forgetting the role), or into dualism of 1 fighting 2 (forgetting the Self).

Second-person practices are what we can practice living actively, transacting with others. It is meditation off the mat so to speak." 

Sree seems clarifications on Rajiv's discussions:
"I would like to clarify the balance between past karma and free will that is implied in dharmic philosophy, and how that free will component contributes to future karma.

I believe Part 2 is important i.e the outcome of a janma cannot depend solely on the initial state of karma. Because if so, then the state of karma at the beginning of Janma1 already determines the state of karma at the beginning of Janma2, which determines J3 etc., for all time.

However, Part 1 intrigues me. X ==> Y; Z is the mechanism for Y and is not responsible for causing Y. If so, then what about the karma of Z ? Does the pilot gain or lose karma because his errors caused the death of a person? What if it was a mugger Z who killed person Y who was scheduled to die because of X - will Z accumulate bad karma? By this logic, no. But then, how does anyone ever accumulate bad karma? Or good? "

Rajiv comment: This final point above is very important to discuss. If pilot is an intermediary, does HE accrue karma on his account?

The pilot has a separate account for his karma. He is accountable for his actions. But his karmic transaction is with the cosmos and not with me. So there can be many scenarios, such as:

1) Pilot was not in error or his error was without bad intentions. He does not incur karma on his account.

2) Pilot was committing something wrong and knew it, or was careless due to being drunk or some kind of violation of the rules that he could have avoided but did not. So pilot commits karma with the cosmos.

The important point is that either way his action is a karmic transaction with the cosmos and not with me... "

Jal goes deeper into the discussion:
"....In his example of X, Y and Z, my take is that the phala of X is not Y but it is Z. That is to say that the karmic consequence of one's action manifests itself as a circumstance but not as a fact/state of one's being. So if someone did something horrible (action X) then they must face as its phala an air crash (circumstance Z) which MAY OR MAY NOT result in their death (fact/state of their being Y) which will ultimately depend on my free will.

As a less subtle example, if someone shoots a bullet at me, that's a phala (circumstance) from my past action that I cannot prevent but whether I decide to [try to] get out of its way or resignedly accept my fate and stand still is my free will. Extending further, all circumstances in my life are phalas of my past actions and my reactions to these circumstances are my new actions which will decide my future circumstances...."

Rajiv comment: He makes a good point, but its more complex. Phala is not always a specific/concrete outcome though it can be that in some cases.
Usually the probability distribution of possible outcomes has changed as the result of phala. There is still uncertainty of concrete outcome as there is free will. But the probability distribution has become adversely impacted.

The point I wanted to make is something else: The pilot is not the culprit in whatever adversity I face, be it death or anything else. The pilot is a conduit for the phala to reach me, much like the postman who delivers a notice that could be good or bad news, or a bank teller who hands cash to a client but the teller is not a party to the transaction between the bank and client.
The transaction is between me and the cosmos, various intermediaries are like the postman or bank teller."

Maria has the next set of questions:
1- If there are not bad intentions, no karma is incurred? Or karma is incurred but less strong? I thought that even without bad intention, some karma is always incurred, in different degrees, from the simple fact of breathing to that of causing a death to somebody unintentionally or intentionally. We keep creating some karma or the other while we think we are the doers so, in fact, till the moment of enlightenment in which we are completely surrendered to Brahman. Only when we realise we are not the doer, then we don´t create or accumulate any karma. It is not like this? the case of this pilot, the crux is not if he was mere intermediary or not for a karma of somebody else being realised, but the fact that, almost for sure, he would not be enlightened. So that action of him, even unintentionally, even as only an intermediary, does create karma for him. Maybe mild, but it does.

2- In the typical example of a plane crash in which all the passengers die, it must be true that the karma of all of them was to die in that very moment....logic says that our moment of death is inevitable. But it seems is not death that finds them, but that they book that very flight to look for their death, of course, unconsciously. This case always seems to me strange...

3- What about natural disasters? It is the karma of all the population of that place to die together? It has to be... ???

4- In the case of adoptions, which parents were to be their parents? Both biological and then adoptive?"

Rajiv provides a detailed response. Again, we carry it without omitting anything, but highlight some key points.

  1. Karma account is individual. But often the phala is given collectively when multiple persons deserve similar phala even though their karmas were independent. So if the set of persons ( S) happen to be in the same plane crash, it does not necessarily imply (though it could in some cases) that all the members of S committed a collective karma and hence got a collective phala.
  2. Karma theory cannot be reduced to an algorithm. It is not deterministic or reductionist. It is probabilistic and has some uncertainty of outcomes. Free will operates within a system of causation that has built in uncertainty as well. This is why Indian thinkers had little issue with quantum mechanics whereas western thought went into a tailspin and the leading quantum physicists Heisenberg and Schrodinger both referred to Vedanta as the only system that could make sense of it. (This started the massive digestion of Vedanta into new formulations by Westerners so as to domesticate it within their own frameworks.)
  3. My karmic analysis should be specific to my own actions and consequences, and I should not in the same analysis also bring in some third party's karma or consequences. If I try to understand his karma as part of analyzing my karma, it will confuse me. His karma deserve a separate analysis in which I dont figure. So each individual does karmic transactions with the cosmos and not with one other. Analogy: I sold shares of IBM to the stock exchange and someone else bought them from the exchange, but we did not transact with each other.
  4. For example: Rajiv causes harm to person X. Implications: (a) In Rajiv's account: Rajiv has new entry/perturbation in his karmic account with the cosmos. (b) In X's account: He got phala from cosmos (NOT from Rajiv). Plus, depending on his reaction to rajiv, he could be creating new karma in his account with the cosmos. Important point is that both persons karmically transact only with the cosmos and never with each other. The rest of the details are inconsequential as far as this point is concerned. Focus ONLY on this one point: Who is the karmic transaction with?
  5. Notice there are two levels of transactions going on. At the visible/empirical or worldly level, the two persons are doing things to each other. Someone who does not believe in karma theory will accept this level of transactions, and he will think that it is the entire transaction. (So if he got away with a corrupt deed, he will think he has escaped.) This is the level of transactions we see openly. Where we disagree with such a person is that we also believe in a second level that takes places invisibly to us. This is the shadow level of transaction. The shadow transaction is the karmic transaction with the cosmos. It is causation that is in addition to the first level that is visible. Each time you do visible-action it automatically adds a perturbation into your individual karmic account with the cosmos in the shadow system. Karma system is a shadow system of causation between each individual and the cosmos.
  6. Once you get this point, then the idea of caste by birth becomes clear.  First, my parents did not cause my circumstances as my phala came from the cosmos, and parents were mere facilitators. Second, the phala is probabilistic and not deterministic, meaning that I have free will to change my life. Third, how I react/respond to my circumstances creates new karma which is entirely up to me.
The implications are:
  • Dont blame others for your present circumstances.
  • You are not stuck in your circumstances long term.
  • You must act in a dharmic manner in each present moment, in order to create positive karma going forward.
We have not discussed here how to transcend karma by performing nishkama, wherein actions continue selflessly without accruing karma. Thats another level of discussion.

Furthermore, we have also not discussed a very important: Performing karma with dual-lens as Krishna asks Arjun to do. (A) The men on the other side are ultimately the same atman. (B) But in this role/manifestation they are men who must be killed, and Arjun-as-role-player must perform his svadharma and do this.
Its best to leave these two points for future threads. The main treatment above must be understood and not get sidetracked with these two more advanced levels of understanding."

Aditya has the next followup:
"does inaction on one's part create a karmic entry/perturbation? So, for example, if I walk past a beggar on the street and clearly have enough money in my pocket to give him but choose not to do so, then will this be a negative entry/perturbation with respect to the cosmos that I must deal with later on?"

Rajiv comment: "Great question. Physical action or inaction is not relevant. What was the intention in taking action or in not taking action?

This is where a living guru is important as only such a person can read your intentions and put them in context of the circumstances. My guru gave different advice to different persons on this very question, and it depended on multiple factors. If it is nishkama (non-doer mode) there is no karma accrued because "you" did not do it  it is prerna (divine inspiration). But if "you" have intentions or vested interest then it is karma if you elected to escape action out of self-interest  ego-driven desire to help. My most favorite question used to be: How do I know when the desire to help is prerna and when it is ego-driven? At times guru said Who are you wanting to get involved in what is none of your business; your ego seeks self-importance. At other times guru said This person needing help is Bhagvan and the situation came to you with prerna to act in a detached manner that is helpful.

So I dont think I can answer generally it depends on all the facts in a given situation. Nor am I qualified to be a guru who can evaluate all your circumstances. My advice is: You need a guru for at least a decade during your formative period of practice.

Chir comments:
"Is there a book you would recommend that would give me more insights into karma and how it works or  how to understand/interpret it. Something that explains karma from not just Vedanta's interpretation but also from Samkhya and maybe Buddhism side (basically from various different schools)... I remember long time back you recommended a book on nondualism, Non-duality by David Roy. Do you think that would be a good start, since you also mention about karma with dual-lens?"

Rajiv comment: There are important areas of difference among various interpretations of karma in Indian philosophy. But I gave my own insights, not a canned/standard view from any particular text.

Buddhists do not go into detailed mechanics of karma and nor do Vedanta texts. Both these philosophies focus more on ultimate reality's relationship to provisional reality, and not so much on the details of how provisional reality functions. Samkhya gives a lot of detail on karma. But none of these philosophical explanations is very complete and much of what we know comes in the form of stories rather than a systematic end-to-end model per se. So you have to extrapolate a model/system by learning from anecdotes and examples.

...This eclectic method bothers many bookworms wanting a specific X or Y school's position. Other bookworms say "aha! I discovered that you must be in school X" just because I happened to use an example from there. Because they cannot think out of the box, they project this limitation upon others.
In the West there is an emerging field called "constructive theology" where Biblical scholars extrapolate, innovate and propose new solutions. They connect the dots in their own ways and this gets debated among them. Classical Christian texts do not address many issues people want to address today and this is done under constructive theology. In Hinduism we have smritis to do this job of innovation. In a sense my interpretations would fall under that. The laziness of our thinkers (who can do little beyond parroting) shows -- as in one example of a member writing persistently to me privately complaining that I must belong to some "sect X" because of what I write. They just cannot think out of the box."

Kundan adds:
"In addition to the beautiful explanation that Rajiv ji has given, you would want to check out "Problem of Rebirth" by Sri Aurobindo. Also there are two chapters in Sri Aurobindo's "Letters on Yoga: Volume 1 titled "Rebirth" and "Free Will, Karma" etc that you would want to check out."

Jal adds:
"I feel there is some confusion regarding the terms "probability distribution", etc., as used by Shri RM,. Terms "probabilistic", "non-deterministic", etc. - all allude to the concept of uncertainty. This uncertainty may stem from two possible sources and thus these terms may be understood to have two different shades of meaning:

Randomness: Dharma does not admit randomness, which is just another term for lawlessness, an antonym for Dharma. Hence this concept of randomness is Dharma-viruddh and hence must be shunned. I am almost sure randomness is NOT what Shri RM means when he uses the term "probabilistic".

Dynamic-ness: The other concept pertains to the ever-changing, fluid nature of Reality, which too leads to uncertainty. However, unlike randomness, this concept does not betray any lawlessness or anti-science character. It does agree with a law-based if-then determinism, in compliance with science... However the condition itself being fundamentally indeterminable (mainly because of consciousness and fundamental freedom of the self), the resultant fact too is indeterminable. Thus while admitting non-determinism, this concept is quite Dharma-sangat and should be adopted. (This is also a strong retort against fatalism that is unnecessarily imposed on the law of karma and hence important to understand.)"

Rajiv comment: Distinction between uncertainty in the cosmos and uncertainty in human ability and perception. Latter means inherent limit in the ordinary mind. All science, physics, knowledge is in the latter realm - i.e. wnat is know-able."

NY Times India Ink and Breaking India

October 2013
EU Passes "Resolution" on Caste-Based Discrimination! (NYT Article)
Arun shares a link and comments:
Pls see this article in the NY Times:
I'm shocked that this has "passed" as a resolution to link casteism (caste discrimination) as a "human rights" violation! This is exactly what Rajiv Malhotra said is happening in Breaking India.

The author Rikke Nohrlind is a leader of a "Dalit Solidarity Network" - a group explained in 'Breaking India'!"
Aditya notes: "Rikke Nohrlind seems to have a misunderstanding of Hinduism when she says: "While in South Asia caste discrimination has its roots in Hindu philosophy and religion and is sanctioned by the religion..."
Maria adds:
"... This topic is specially dangerous because, unless one opposes with base, everybody would be initially with such a "generous" organization which seems to support the helpless. Thanks to our eyes-opener, we can know and let others know what is behind all of this."

Tattva notes:
"It may be pertinent to mention that India Ink at NYT is edited by one Basharat Peer, a Kashmiri Muslim, who has on public forums spouted pro-separatist and anti-India stands. Not too long ago there appeared a placed blog over at NYT India Ink on the Mujaffarnagar riots which sought to reverse the truth of armed Muslims attacking HIndus returning from the Jat Mahapanchayat by claiming it was vice versa. Such audacity.
In general, NYT is hostile to Hindu interests and HInduism. Does no one recall the sorry piece on Ganesha festival or the motivated piece on Narendra Modi?

Make no mistake, this will only get worse unless things change in India..."
(here's a rebuttal to the aforementioned Ganesha article. The Modi article is covered in the 'Digestion' post on Onam earlier this month. The rebuttal to that article is available in this thread).

Vibhinnata, Vibhinnate: Hindi and Kannada editions of 'Being Different'

October 2013

Rajiv Malhotra announced:
Vibhinnata (Hindi edition of BEING DIFFERENT) is now available on Amazon:

Its an excellent translation by Devendra Singh, thanks to his tireless dedication to the cause.

I hope you will support this very complex and difficult accomplishment by buying multiple copies for yourself and as Divali gifts for others.

It is already available in India on 
Link from Rajiv's Facebook page.

The Kannada edition is expected to be released in January 2014

Vibhinnate Project Team reports:  

We are glad to announce that Being Different Kannada Translation  'Vibhinnate' has been completed and will be going for printing very soon. A formal release of the book is expected when Rajiv Ji visits Bengaluru in January 2014. The program details and date will also be announced as it becomes available.  There will be web link to purchase the copies.

The Sita Syndrome

This is a discussion on the erroneous interpretation of Sri Ram as a woman-absuser. This post provides samples of the type of shoddy, misrepresentative, and superficial work of Hinduism and its epics that is being done in US academia.

October 2013
Anshu starts the discussion by sharing an article: "The Sita Syndrome"
Archana Bhatt (2013). The Sita syndrome (pdf link): Examining the communicative aspects of domestic violence from a South Asian perspective...

I wanted to write a letter to the editor or a journal article explaining that this phenomenon is prevalent worldwide, regardless of race or religion. I can do a literature review for Gender Based Violence, but need some help to justify Shri. Ram's actions..."

Rajiv shares a Huffington Post link: "The following is a typical superficial article by a Hindu in interfaith:

A prominent Hindu rep supported this "Sita sings the blues" when I first got to know her in the 1990s, taking a western feminist stand. Then we had some arguments. I think she later regretted encouraging this interpretation but by then it had taken root and gone mainstream. Today this interpretation of Ram = woman abuser is very standard in academic and other intellectual circles."

Anshu shares a couple of links and comments:
" UChicago link 1, link 2.

Not only that, GOI also "gifted" $1.5 million to burn. But, when it comes to fund "real" scholars or research, they never have enough money.

What to say about Ministary of Culture, Hinduism is not even in their ("secular") mission statement..."

This discussion is continued in another thread. This is largely about whether the Uttara Kanda of Ramayana was or was not a part of the original, Valmiki's Ramayana.

Param adds:
" Uttara Kanda is certainly not a part of Valmiki's epic; for instance it distorts the characters of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita; the Shambuka story is also fake.
...  Also, what some critics call Sita's "agni-pareeksha" is really Sita's Agni-pravesha".  Rama NEVER suspected Sita's chastity, and Sita knew it..."

Krishnamurthy responds
"while Shambhuka episode is a patent interpolation, being not in consonance with the Valmikian philosophy, Uttarakanda cannot be severed from Ramayana, since the biography of any character should stretch from the entrance of that character to his exit; as otherwise it will be incomplete. Further, it is wrong to say that the said kanda is in derogation of the Characters of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana; though there are good many misinterpretations by the Commentators; which lead the lay readers astray.."
 [more discussion truncated, read the original thread in the forum for complete details]


RMF Keywords

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