Curating Rajiv Malhotra's Works. Online Resource, Database, Crowd Sourcing, and Expert Feedback on Contemporary Hinduism, Dharmic India, and topics covered in 'Breaking India', 'Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism", 'Indra's Net: Defending Hinduism's Philosophical Unity', 'The Battle For Sanskrit', and the newly released book 'Academic Hinduphobia'.
A senior forum commentator recently provided a summary of the thesis of the neo-Hindu cabal that is analyzed in the 'Purva Paksha' section of Rajiv Malhotra's new book 'Indra's Net'. The book is available at http://indrasnetbook.com, flipkart, Amazon (including Kindle e-format). This blog is published here so that all Indra'sNet audiences around the world can use this excellent summary as a reference resource while reading. Comments welcome.
Surya wrote: This summary only provides the
context but facilitates reading and understanding the book.
Thesis of neo-Hindu camp:
(1) Hinduism as a modern construct: Hinduism is 'an orchid bred by European scholarship ... In nature, it does not exist.' (Page 50). Hinduism
is no more than a collection of amorphous religions that co-exist in
the same region and have some commonalities, but these commonalities are
far outweighed by divisions and mutual antagonisms.(Page 67). It is
primarily not a religious concept but one of geographic origin. (Page
19th century, there was no Hindu religious identity that transcended
narrow sectarian boundaries.(Page 50). Before 'Hinduism' came into use,
the natives of India referred only to sampradayas (lineages of
traditions), which were orthodox and narrowly defined. (Page 94). Instead
of seeing Hinduism as a religious system, it would perhaps be more
accurate to view it as a multidimensional socio-religious process which
has undergone radical transformations over the last hundred years and
continued to change. (Page 94). Hinduism
then is a joint construct of Britain and India, Christians and Hindus,
who devised 'something that the later 19th century would take for
granted: a coherent, pan-Indian Hinduism.' (Page 134)
(2) Neo-Hinduism as a modern variation of Hinduism under Christian and Western Secular Influences:
In 1800s, Indian leaders suffered a deep inferiority complex about the
weakness of India compared with Europe, and attributed this weakness to
Hinduism's inability to adapt to modern times. (Page 68) 1800s was a
time when Protestant and Catholic missionaries constantly denigrated and
criticized the Hindu scriptures. Their attacks were troubling to Hindu
reformers of the Brahmo Samaj. Under these conditions, Western
Unitarians arrived in India as a welcome relief, for they interpreted
Hindu theology as being open, rational, experiential, and
science-friendly. Sensing a good-fit, Brahmo Samaj sent its bright
youth to Unitarian Seminaries in England for training. Following this,
Brahmo Samaj started to adapt the framework of Unitarian Christianity in
order to identify alternative sources of authority within Hinduism that
would support this kind universal and scientific ideology based on
experience. This is the advent of neo-Hinduism (as distinct to and
discontinuous from native traditions). (Page 53). The
neo-Hindu dogma of equality of all religions emerged originally in the
19th century from the ideology of European Enlightenment. The neo-Hindu
concept of Dharma was clearly prompted by the philosophy of Saint
Augustus and Philosopher John Stuart Mill but expressed completely in
Indian terms. (Page 70).
(3) Swami Vivekananda as a key architect of Neo-Hinduism and his political interests:
Swami Vivekananda, who was familiar with and influenced by Brahmo Samaj
and Unitarian Church, introduced Western scientific inquiry and direct
experience in order to bring Hinduism on par with Western thought. (Page
call for unity and inner resolution of tensions were clearly ideas of
nationalism and the driving force behind the neo-Hindu concept of unity.
(4) Swami Vivekananda brings Western Thought into neo-Hinduism:
Swami Vivekananda's innovation of 'Practical Vedanta' was meant to
address the needs of his time using Vedanta Principles. One such
practical application was in the realm of social ethics. Such social
ethics were not in alignment with traditional Vedanta. (Page 74).
Christian missionaries inspired the new definition of karma: 'Under the
influence of Christian missionaries, the idea that karma = seva
(understood as social duty and service to others) was articulated in the
19th century.' (Page 91).
(5) Neo-Hinduism deviates from tradition:
Per traditional Advaita, moksha is brought about by merely a
'cognitive shift' and this cannot be caused by any action, be it
devotion or work. This means that actions such as meditation, bhakti,
social service, and so on, are unable to cause moksha (Page 100). Lack
of intellectual depth in contemporary Hindu scholarship is due to the
popularity of views on the primacy of yogic experience, and secondary
status to Sruti. (Page 117). Additionally, Vivekananda chose to
reconcile and unify various schools of Vedanta (Page 117) bringing
hierarchical relativism to Hinduism.
(6) Contemporary Hinduism = Neo-Hinduism as an incoherent amalgam:
Unlike Abrahamic religions which are wary of epistemological relativism
out of the fear of relativizing the World of God revealed in the Bible
or the Koran, Brahminical Hinduism (and Hindu nationalism) thrives on a
hierarchical relativism to evade all challenges to its idealistic
metaphysics and mystical ways of knowing. (Page 142). Therefore,
the idea of a unified Hindu religion is counter both to religious
practices and to the theological doctrines of India (Pages 50, 51).
Unified Hinduism is counter to tradition and serves nationalistic
interests and calling for unity for political expedience. Hinduism then
is an instance of Pizza Effect i.e., Indians adopting Western concepts
but giving them Sanskrit names. These are true neologisms, invented by
Western Indologists and then copied and re-marketed by Indian scholars
who displaced the old pandits with this newly minted coinage that is now
in vogue in the Indian literature, media, and educational institutions.