Prevent Digestion and Distortion of Holi!

We thank Raj ji for this post that summarizes discussions on Holi from March and August 2013. Examples of how Holi festival of Hindus is being distorted and potentially ready to be digested either into some secular "festival of colors" or some Christian "Holy" day, etc. 

The discussion was initiated by a member who followed up with Desh from Houston who talked about the Holi celebration there: "I was one of the participants there. It was predominantly attended by Hindus.. It was a day of fun and colorful abandon!!

If the presence of a politician causes some surprise, so be it. Indians in Houston are now becoming more politically active especially with [] contesting for State Representative in the upcoming elections. She goes to work wearing "sindoor" in her "manage" every day and has a Ganesh ji locket around her neck always. And mind you, Pete (Olsen) is a strong supporter of all things Hindu and Indian; has been pro-India since the beginning of his political career."

Arun asks Desh: Why does our Holi celebration become an event of "digestion"?
I honestly fail to understand Desh ji's logic here. Can someone please explain?

Rajiv comment: I agree with Arun. The issue at hand is not about digestion, but about potential distortion. Digestion would be if (as in the case of yoga) mainstream Americans were appropriating Holi into some kind of festival claimed to be their own - as they did with Halloween. But the examples cited do not apply to American digestion of Holi, rather they concerned Indians in USA morphing their own symbols and festivals - i.e. difference anxiety from below.

Raj posts:
Digestion of Holi is happening at a rapid pace and it is now gone global. Please see this. The main "fun" aspect of Holi -throwing colors- got disconnected, secularized and now it has been digested.

In an earlier discussion on this topic of "Holi Digestion" (message 2343), it was about Americans participating in our celebration.... Now Americans have taken over. This Color Run was started by someone in Utah, where Holi celebration has been a big draw in recent years.
.... also starting this year [another example] ... The timing of this also coincides with when our local India Association usually organizes Holi - first or second weekend of April.

Babu: That celebration in Utah was done by ISCKON devotee and was done as per the Purana without any [digestion/distortion].... We will be doing the similar celebration in LA this summer. Holi similar to played by Bhagwan  Krishna in Golokdham is a traditional Vaishnav north India celebration.

Raj responds:
One more organization combining 5K races & Holi colors...  I have looked around and so far no organization has specified the ... Hindu culture as the source for this fun activity of throwing colors.

Easter & Mardi Gras - Digesting Holi
For many years our local India Association has celebrated Holi in April, as weather gets warmer. In the same event, they also have Easter egg hunts to make it more fun for children. With growing popularity of Holi, we can expect throwing colors to become part of "traditional" American Easter celebration along with the bunny & eggs which were digested from European pagans. Holi could get fully digested into Easter within this generation itself. ...our local ColorRun happened on April 6th, just after Easter (March 31st for 2013).

Holi colors are already directly associated with Mardi Gras now in New Orleans.

Rajiv comment: Mardi Gras is itself a digestion of pagan festival. The same predator is digesting everything else that it can eat up and turn into some exotic pop culture.

In another thread Shanti posts:
"I came across this article in the Sunday Times about Holi festival becoming a rage in Europe, being marketed as the 'Holi One'. I went to the HoliOne website to check. They acknowledge that they have been inspired by the Holi festival in India. But how long before it is called 'Holy One' ?

This also has to be looked at as another instance of digestion at the social level. It is a dangerous kind of 'digestion' as it is started by entrepreneurs with a seemingly innocuous money-making business purpose. Many would view it as harmless. Should we? "

From a recent facebook post by Raj:
"Yes, such false equivalence of similar sounding words, using folk etymology & fabricated folklore, are used to claim sameness of two vastly different systems - where one side has been a remorseless plunderer. You can easily spot the U-Turning 'liberal' when they claim "same knowledge/practice is available *everywhere*" while appropriating something that they clearly got only from India. Millions of heathens have sacrificed everything to preserve these cultural treasures, bravely facing centuries of slaughter & censure. But appropriators who don't know the history get offended if we barely raise an eyebrow. We are expected to just mutely watch. Only free speech we are allowed is politically correct silent sigh.

I have posted here before about digesting Holi. RM had predicted that it'll become part of Easter. Just like the Christmas tree. What's worse: some of the funds raised by these color runs could be getting funneled thru do-gooder 'charities' that are involved in heathen cultural genocide. To demonize us, foremost authority 'scholar' #WendyDoniger has written that our barbaric Hindoo ancestors used to throw blood on each other for Holi. If such shaming & censuring doesn't make the heathen give up, secularize, appropriate & christianize it: yoga, bharathanatiyam, holi etc


An Independent Review of Paul Courtright's book on Ganesa - Chapter 17 part 1

Pdf of the book is available for free download here.

Editors’ Note:

In this chapter, Vishal Agarwal and Kalavai Venkat provide a detailed review of Paul Courtright’s book, Ganesa, Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings. Their analysis raises very troubling questions about the quality and integrity of Courtright’s scholarship. Nevertheless, Courtright, Doniger, and her followers, continue to evade these questions about methodology by demonizing their critics.

Doniger has recently adopted an interesting new tactic to silence criticism while simultaneously appealing to American liberals. She has started comparing those who criticize her to fundamentalist Christians opposing the teaching of Evolution in schools. She casts herself in the role of Darwin, as a courageous ‘scientist’ being attacked by obscurantists who are unwilling to deal with empirical evidence. The allegation is that her critics are irrational. This charge is over and above her prior allegations that her critics—along with their deities and spiritual traditions—are violent and immoral.

To enlist liberal sympathies against the Indian–American minority, Doniger disingenuously positions the debate as between scientific reason, represented by her school, and unreason, represented by the Hindu diaspora.

Ironically, most Indian-Americans who have criticized Doniger’s scholarship are scientists or professionals with considerable technical training, while Doniger and her cohorts are typically trained in the humanities, and questionably, at that. In addition, many critics within the Hindu diaspora have had lifelong instruction in many Indian languages and in Sanskrit. They have, importantly, knowledge of multiple versions of narratives based on regional differences, chronology, or schools of thought, besides a culturally rooted understanding of texts.

In an interview with a local American newspaper, posted on UChicago’s public relations website, Doniger engages in undisguised us-versus-them branding and insinuation by misrepresenting her critics’ positions. The newspaper reported that Doniger:

sees some parallels with the debate in Kansas about how much teaching on creationism should be allowed in the classroom. ‘This same fight is going on in my field,’ Doniger says. ‘Not literally, of course, about Darwin and the Hebrew Bible and Genesis, but whether the scholarly attitude of the events in the history of Hinduism or the faith attitude to the history of the events in the history of Hinduism is the one that should be taught in school. There’s a very close parallel.’

The ‘fight going on in [Doniger’s] field ‘is not a battle between modern scientific approaches, represented by RISA et al, versus a tradition-bound obscurantist Hindu diaspora. It is a debate
between, on the one hand obscure, arbitrary approaches to Hindu Studies based on Eurocentric paradigms and poor evidence, which make unverifiable inferences about the meanings’ of the events in the history of Hinduism’ versus an approach to Hindu Studies that insists on rigorous training, accuracy in translation, independent peer-review and cultural authenticity. The reader should judge for herself whether Doniger is justified in calling her followers’ approach to Hinduism ‘scientific’, i.e. comparable with Darwin or even ‘historically accurate’. On the one hand, Courtright’s book, carrying Doniger’s endorsement, won a prestigious history prize. Courtright has also tacitly compared himself to noted historians and chroniclers like De Tocqueville and Myrdal, even though he is not trained as a professional historian. Courtright’s work was supposedly peer-reviewed by other Western academic scholars prior to publication to ensure scientific rigor in the use of evidence and theory. On the other hand, this chapter demonstrates the value of independent peer-review, when the academic peer-review system is broken. The reader can judge for herself whether Courtright’s book is, in fact, scholarly and evidence based; or relies upon fabricated data, shoddy research and arbitrary theorizing—dressed up with a scholarly gloss to disguise prejudice.

Introductory Remarks:

Background and Importance of Courtright’s Book

In the years 2003–2004, a fierce controversy involving Hindu- Americans on one side and certain Indologists on the other, broke out over Paul Courtright’s book on the Hindu deity Ganesha. The controversy gathered steam in November 2003 when a chapter of the Hindu Students Council (HSC), at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, started an online petition criticizing the book. The petition reproduced several passages regarding Lord Ganesha from Courtright’s book that were deemed pornographic in nature. Within a matter of days the petition successfully attracted almost 7000 signatures. Unfortunately some anonymous signatories took advantage of the privacy that the Internet offered them and posted death threats to Courtright on the petition. The HSC members who started the petition immediately took if off the website before the situation got out of control. Meanwhile Motilal Banarsidass, which had published the Indian reprint of the book, withdrew it from circulation before the controversy reached Indian shores. The publisher also apologized to the protestors for hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus.

These two developments in turn raised a storm among a section of scholars of South Asian Studies in the American academic community. They went on to denounce the publishers and protestors as ‘Hindu fundamentalists’ bent on damaging freedom of speech in American Universities by intimidating the author of a ‘scholarly’, ‘sensitive’, ‘thoughtful’, ‘peer-reviewed’, and ‘excellent’ book.

Courtright’s book cannot be ignored and it is in fact a prominent yet controversial Indological publication for several reasons outlined below. First, the text bears a Foreword by none other than Wendy Doniger, who currently acts as the reigning Czarina of Indological Studies in the United States. She is a cult figure for a very large number of her students, who have a profound influence on how India and Hinduism are depicted at American Universities. Even those who are not her students, nevertheless feel proud of their association with her, such as Courtright. Second, the book has received a national award for its presumed excellence.

Third, the dissension actually prompted Oxford University Press, one of the most reputed academic printers in the world, to publish a 2003 reprint of the book in the West.

Fourth, its reprint in India was brought out by Motilal Banarsidass, the largest publisher, exporter and distributor of Indological books in the country. As a result, the book was also noticed and commented upon in India. We will refer to some of these reviews in our own extensive comments here.

Fifth, it appears that perverse descriptions of Ganesha from the book have started to creep into mainstream society in the West. For instance, in a recent exhibit on the Hindu deity Ganesha arranged by a museum in Baltimore, the book served as a seminal text that was quoted in citations accompanying the displays.

Sixth, since the publication of the book, Paul B. Courtright has been acknowledged as an authority on the subject of Ganesha. This is evident from the way in which numerous other writers of books on the deity not just acknowledge his help and guidance; they also often quote his text either approvingly or at least in a neutral manner. Conversely, the list of people whom Courtright acknowledges in his book for their help reads like a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ in the world of Hinduism studies in the United States.

Seventh, the book is derived, at least in part, from the author’s Ph.D. thesis and therefore should be considered a result of intensive research. The thesis was completed in 1974, eleven years before the publication of the book. It is reasonable to assume that the book therefore contains the fruits of his intensive research as a doctoral student, and perhaps a lot of other subsequent research in the eleven years thereafter. Moreover, the author has published several journal articles on themes related to the subject matter of his book.

Eighth, in the wake of this controversy, a number of professional scholars of Hinduism Studies and in related fields have actually gone on record with whole-hearted praise of the book. Such academic support not just defends Courtright’s right to free speech; it actually praises his book for its content and analyses.

Ninth, Courtright has done better professionally than most scholars in Hinduism studies. He is currently a tenured professor and former co-chair of the Department of Religion at Emory University; a feat attributable to the accolades his book has drawn in the past.

Tenth, a cursory search on WorldCat and other electronic catalogs shows that approximately 300 college and school libraries in North America alone have a copy of his book on their shelves. This is a large number for any Indological publication and attests to the widespread acclaim and popularity that his text has attained in American academia, almost to the point of canonization.

Finally, a sourcebook on Hinduism and Psychoanalysis cites long extracts from his book to explain the father-son relationship in the Hindu society! These citations actually constitute some of the most obscene and offensive sections of the book. Obviously according to the
editors of this sourcebook, Courtright’s psychoanalysis provides seminal understanding of family relationships amongst Hindus!

Being such an important book also means that the controversy raises many other issues besides the question of free speech and academic freedom. In our review, we restrict ourselves to the issue of Paul Courtright’s misuse of primary data from Hindu texts for developing his theses. (For more on the methodology, please read page 194 and 195, chapter 17)

Psychoanalysis and Indology in the United States: When the Cigar becomes a Phallus

Sigmund Freud had a lifelong relationship with cigars. He was rarely photographed without one between his lips. It is said that he enjoyed as many as twenty of them every day. When his friends suspected that he was addicted to cigars, he argued that they were a very private aspect of his life that should be insulated from psychoanalysis by others. This disagreement with peers supposedly gave rise to a statement at times attributed to Freud, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” The implication being that people should not see something else in his cigar since it really was just a cigar.

What we are referring to is the complete Freudianization of Indological parlance, or lingo, by a small band of academics. The phenomenon has advanced to such an extent that words and phrases like ‘castration’, ‘flaccid-penis’, ‘sexual-fantasy’, ‘erect penis’ and such have become a sort of lingua-franca through which the intellectual intercourse of closely-related scholars achieves effect in their academic publications.Wendy Doniger, the doyenne of academic studies on Hinduism has summarized the weltanschauung of these scholars in the following words:

Aldous Huxley once said that an intellectual was someone who had found something more interesting than sex; in Indology, an intellectual need not make that choice at all.

Who wrote the Mahabharata?

The Foreword to Courtright’s book is written by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty who, in her typical colloquial and superlative style, praises his book without apparently adding anything substantial. Except she does reveal undisclosed lore about the writing of the Hindu epic the Mahabharata, “ . . . in which Ganesa dictates the epic to Vyasa” (Courtright, viii.)! Hindu tradition, however, is unanimous in informing us that it was the Sage Vyasa who dictated the epic to Ganesha rather than the other way around as Doniger states. No, this is not a slip of the tongue on Doniger’s part, unless it is some kind of a Freudian slip, because she actually constructs a pseudo-psychology out of her erroneous version of the tradition:

In Courtright’s defense, we must point out that he himself has correctly referred to the tradition about the authorship of the Mahabharata in his book (Courtright, pp.151–53). Doniger herself perhaps did not read the book thoroughly even though she wrote the ecstatic Foreword to it.

Lord Ganesha does not get to bask in the glory of his surprise, albeit ephemeral, promotion from a scribe to the narrator of the epic. Courtright brings Ganesha down from the heavenly realms to the earth and transforms him into something of a eunuch, an incestuous son, and a homosexual. Had Ganesha indulged in the ephemeral glory bestowed on him by Doniger then one must indeed pity his naivety, because Doniger had earlier forewarned:

Ganesa has everything that is fascinating to anyone who is interested in religion or India or both: charm, mystery, popularity, sexual problems, moral ambivalence, political importance, the works. [added emphasis]. (For more on this, please read page 197, chapter 17)

Misuse of Textual Sources

Courtright attempts to base his study on the contents of Hindu texts and then interprets them to derive a particular thesis. The two major classes of texts he deals with are the Vedas and the Puranas. The Tantras and the Upanishads are largely left out, except for a stand-alone translation of the Ganapati Atharvasirsa Upanishad in the appendix. In this section, we examine the validity of Courtright’s use of Hindu texts in his study.

Dubious Vedic Textual References

In Chapter I, titled ‘The Making of a Deity,’ he explores the evolution of Ganesha as a deity in the Hindu pantheon from a historical perspective. He begins with the antecedents of the deity in Vedic literature and proceeds to make dubious statements. For instance, while dismissing all Vedic references as evidence that the worship of Ganesha was known when the Vedic texts were the primary source of Hindu practice, he says:

A similar invocation in another Brahmanic text addresses ‘the one with the twisted trunk [vakratunda]’ (Tà 10.1.5), also leaving it uncertain whether it is Ganesa or Siva who is being addressed.

This is puzzling, because vakratunda is distinctly another name for Ganesha. Moreover, the last portion of the mantra (called the Vighneshvaragayatri in the Hindu tradition) reads—tanno dantih pracodayaat (Taittiriya Aranyaka 10.1.5), which is clearly a reference to the tusk of Ganesha. Courtright also mistakenly classifies the text as ‘Brahmanic’ or from the Brahmanas, whereas in reality it is a mantra. Another obvious reason why this mantra containing the word vakratunda refers to Ganesha and not to his father Shiva is that the preceding mantra is in fact addressed to Mahadeva and Rudra (other names of Shiva), and the mantra after the Vighneshvaragayatri is addressed to Nandin, the mount or vehicle of Shiva. Thus from the words of the mantra and its context as well, we should infer that this mantra is clearly addressed to the deity Ganesha and not to Lord Shiva. (For more on this, please read page 198 and 199, chapter 17)     

Finally, Courtright claims that ‘TB [Taittiriya Brahmana]10.15’ contains the word dantin. This reference by Courtright is problematic because Taittiriya Brahmana is divided into 3 books that are further divided into smaller sections. Therefore, the citation of TB 10.15 does not make much sense. The Vedic Word Concordance of Vishvabandhu also does not indicate any occurrence of the word dantin in the entire Taittiriya Brahmana. Courtright attributes the textual reference to a publication of Louis Renou. After referencing Renou’s article, however, we did not find any mention at all of the Taittiriya Brahmana in it. The reference in Renou’s article is in fact to
Maitrayani Samhita 2.9.1. The presence of so many erroneous and apparently invented textual citations in just one page of the book is simply unacceptable from an academic perspective.

Errors of Vedic citations are seen in other parts of the book as well. For instance in Chapter II of his book, Courtright claims: “The association of the thigh with the phallus in the Indian tradition dates from the Rig Veda (RV 8.4.1).” The mantra in question reads:

yadindra praagapaagudam nyag vaa uuyase nrbhih
simaa puruu nrshuuto asyaanave.asi prashardha turvashe

Ralph Griffith’s translation reads—

Though Indra, thou are called by men
eastward and westward, north and south,
Thou chiefly art with Anava and Turvasa,
brave Champion! urged by Men to come.

There is no reference to the penis or thighs here. We therefore question what Courtright was thinking. A majority of references to Vedic texts by Courtright in Chapter I of his book and others in subsequent chapters are either interpreted incorrectly, or they are non traceable. Thus we question if Courtright even had a first hand, or even a reasonable second hand, knowledge of Vedic texts when he wrote his book.

Mythology of Ganesa and Abuse of Puranic Texts

Chapter II of the book, titled ‘Mythology of Ganesa,’ deals with the different ways in which academics studying religion can approach the mythology of the deity. Courtright lists five such levels, of which Wendy Doniger is credited for explicating the first four while the fifth is Courtright’s own contribution. This particular chapter seems to focus on the first or ‘narrative’ level, in which the story of the deity is stated in all its versions. Varying divergent and convergent versions of the story of Ganesha are scattered throughout a diverse set of Hindu texts belonging to different centuries. Courtright treats these texts in a combined, holistic manner to explore the thematic, structural, and interpretative dimensions of these myths. Courtright says that he has treated all Puranic accounts as belonging to a single ongoing tradition in order to paint his picture of Ganesha. We believe that this is not a sound approach, because each of the Puranas catered to the needs of a particular Hindu sect and some of them are known to display sectarian rhetoric against other sects and their deities.

Winternitz presents a very relevant example to demonstrate this sectarian bias, bordering on the absurd, as reflected in the Puranas regarding the deities of a rival sect. (For more on this, please read page 201, chapter 17)

Read chapter 17 part 1 from page 190 to 201

Pdf of the book is available for free download here.

Full Text of Rajiv Malhotra's Response to Swapan Dasgupta on a recent 'Twitter Debate'


HHG has fully documented Rajiv Malhotra's twitter debates a few days ago, along with a full introduction to the objectives for having such debates, as well as conclusions drawn, takeaways, and lessons learned. This particular debate on twitter had an early entry by journalist Swapan Dasgupta (@swapan55), who later blogged about this. Rajiv Malhotra has posted his full response in the forum  (March 8. 2014), which is presented below. The debate summary above, as well as the original Twitter TLs of the participants are all in the public domain.


Since Swapan insists on continuing his twitter debate with me, I shall set the record straight going back to my first dealings with him.

1) Until the book "Invading the Sacred" came out I did not know much of him except tangentially. When ITS was about to get released, I wanted endorsements, reviews, articles, etc. So I asked Swami Dayananda Saraswati for advice, because he had been very supportive of my decade long debate with Wendy's Children and the book ITS that resulted from it. At a meeting in Delhi where a few of his followers were present, I asked for his guidance: I wanted to prevent the book being either slammed in a one-sided dismissal or simply ignored.
Swamiji named Swapan Dasgupta as the right man to do a detailed review. In front of me he called Swapan on a mobile phone and introduced me to him and asked that he help us. I held the mobile and set up a meeting with Swapan. He did not sound very enthusiastic, but complied with Swamiji's request to meet me to learn about the book.
I met Swapan and went through the history of what ITS dealt with. Swapan was non committal. He said generic nice things about wanting to help, but nothing concrete.
I then went back to Swamiji and mentioned Swapan's lukewarm response, which surprised swamiji who saw him at that time as a solid Hindu voice. But some individuals close to Swamiji felt that Swapan was in the midst of career upheaval as he had left one top media slot but not yet landed another. So he was being cautious about avoiding controversy. The bottom line is: there was zero coverage of ITS by Swapan.
But he cannot pretend that he never heard of the book, as he was among the first to receive a copy of it when it came out. (Just for the record, it was Tavleen Singh who first wrote a detailed article on ITS and her meeting with me -- it came in India Today. She was very courageous and clear.)
Sometime later, Swapan became a TOI op-ed contributor. My hypothesis is that he was negotiating something with various media houses and did not want to rock the boat by writing on ITS.

2) All these 7 years since ITS there has not been any direct interaction between Swapan and myself. But we follow each other's work. I do not have any gripes against him whatsoever. Indian journalists tend to be superficially educated and busy recycling hearsay especially when it emanates from Westerners. They thrived on one-liner wisdom long before there was twitter. (Colonial rulers destroy the leadership competence of people they subjugate and this means breaking up the mental capacity to think strategically on large complex matters that are multi-layered. Such people depend upon brand value,slogans, consensus among opinion leaders, opinions without facts...)

3) In my recent twitter debate with Darlymple (on my assertion that intellectual discourse forums were biased against Hinduism; the context being his support for Wendy Doniger), Swapan suddenly sends a tweet basically supporting my side. He said that Jaipur Lit Fest is biased. Then Swapan stopped tweeting and some others continued the debate. (My conjecture is that someone approached Swapan privately to discourage him -- see below.)

4) Suddenly, several days later the following exchange took place which I will copy below just to make this account complete.Swapan dasgupta wrote ("I was slightly taken aback at the venom that was recently poured on the writer William Dalrymple, who I like to describe as Delhi’s ‘White Moghul’. Apart from the familiar charges of racism—an occupational hazard for anyone who is a co-organiser of the Jaipur literary jamborree—and being anti-Hindu, which too is becoming distressingly routine, Dalrymple’s histories have been debunked by those Arun Shourie taunted as the “eminent historians.” The reasons for their hatred of this genial Scot are three-fold: Dalrymple writes readable narrative history; his books sell and has made him a celebrity; and in burrowing through dusty archives for untapped sources, he has exposed the inadequacies of the tenured cretins."

Rajiv response: Lets get some facts straight - which Dasgupta being a participant in the Twitter debate cannot pretend not to know:
  1. In this twitter debate it was Darlymple who first introduced the terms "firangi" referring to himself and "desi" referring to his co-founder Namita.  But Dasgupta faults us for "charges of racism".
  2. The issue that was at stake in that twitter debate has been totally sidelined by Dasgupta. The issue was in the context of the Doniger saga wherein Darlymple has been an ardent supporter of her side of the story while trivializing ours as "throwing eggs" and being "Hindu nationalists" who want to censor free speech. In fact, Dasgupta uses the same style of journalism as Doniger supporters: in which party Y is blamed for responding to X, but the journalist is silent on the instigation by X that started the whole affair.
  3. Dasgupta's list of 3 reasons many people have so-called "hatred" for Darlymple (who Dasgupta calls "genial") ignore the reasons that started this twitter debate. My reasons had to do with -- please get this Swapan -- asymmetry of discourse in forums controlled by Darlymple. I repeated this phrase many times in the course of my tweets. But Dasgupta is catering to a different audience than we...
It is clear that someone tapped his shoulder to remind him where his limits are in criticizing a westerner who controls prestigious Indian forums.

5) Since he persisted tweeting in inconsistent and random ways, I sent the following: @swapan55 love for "genial Scot" ignores that @DalrympleWill is big fan of Aurungzeb. …

I posted the link to Francoise gautier's article exposing this side of Darlymple. Many twitteraties like ZhoomIndiaMedia & JalanSahib jumped in and Swapan found himself having to defend Aurungzeb's fan.

This is when Swapan showed his predicament and tweeted that he is stuck between two sides (Leftists and Hindus). I truly sympathize with him. It happens when someone is opportunistically oscillating between two sides and not genuinely grounded in either.  So I tweeted: I sympathize plight of @swapan55 for oscillating to prove neutrality. Solution: 1) Find your true ground. 2) Project outside fearlessly.
In other words, he needs to be first
internally rooted and grounded securely and only then should he articulate any positions publicly, or else he will blow randomly with the latest direction of the wind. This requires sadhana for years and no amount of hobnobbing in public can suffice.
6) Swapan once again changed the subject. He tweeted that I was "reducing a larger discussion on Indian sensitivity to foreign criticism" by discussing the JLF (i.e. Darlymple). Another attempt to deflect attention away from Uncle William! So I responded that each of my 4 large books deals with this issue of the West and hence he cannot say that I have been reducing it to JLF only. (The fact that Swapan was party to my involvement in ITS many years ago, as explained in point (1) above, means that he cannot pretend that I have reduced all these problems merely to JLF.)

7) Swapan's tweets today show desperation once again. He tweets that Rajiv "deals with the issue in US academia. Seen from India, many different perspectives are in order." This is yet another over-simplication by him and use of "selective" facts. My book "Breaking India" is not about US academics and it shows the sepoys at work in India under the supervision, funding, training and protection of Western nexuses. I deliberately avoided mentioning old issues already covered in prior books to force my readers to understand this problem INSIDE India.
Clearly, Swapan wants to slide the troubling things about sepoys under the rug -- by deflecting attention towards US academics.
The whole point of Breaking India and now Indra's Net is to show how all this is global discourse and what starts in one place impacts everywhere else. Swapan cannot isolate "US academics" from their direct impact in India. Few Indian public intellectuals like him today are sufficiently educated on Indian civilization to be able to assert positions without the backup of what Western scholars feed them like pets being hand fed.
He must appreciate that I am one of the foremost persons at this time going to the ROOTS of certain biased discourses (wherever in the world these roots might lie) and then tracking from there all the way to the public square in India where the impact is real, serious, and largely unchallenged. All attempts to deal with symptoms of the disease or isolated instances of it will contnue to fail until first there is clarity on the pathology and physiology of the disease and its end-to-end systems functioning. My goal is to research, articulate, debate and train supporters on this very deep situation. This is personally taxing on me, risky, and consumes my entire life ...
CONCLUSION: A) I want to hold Swapan in high regard and give him the benefit of doubt regarding good intentions. I also sympathize his plight having to oscillate just to prove he is not a "Hindu radical". Such are the times.
B) My real targets are twofold:
(1) the Western nexuses of various kinds of specialties - several of which I have targeted in my separate books and more of them will be targeted in forthcoming books.
(2) the Indian sepoys (of various sorts, various levels, in various capacities) who serve as the ones carrying out the same kind of work as the sepoys who fired in Jallianwallah Bagh under General Dyer's command.
C) Therefore my criticism of sepoys, potential sepoys, and fence-sitters is for the following objective:
(1) Expose those who are solidly entrenched in the Sepoy Army, especially in influential positions. Let Indians beware and not get duped.
(2) Warn those who are fence-sitters that social media is disrupting the cushy & unchallenged positioning enjoyed by such forces, and there is a price to pay if they sell out.
(3) Pressure those who are duplicitous and who pretend to be on the side of Dharma Civilization while enjoying the patronage-funding-protection-direction of the foreign nexuses. I want such persons to make a clear choice and not thrive on mumbojumbo, hocuspochus doubletalk.
D) I wish Swapan the very best and hope he will make choices based on loyalty to his dharma more than to his short-term career opportunism.


Encounters with Western Psychology

This blog summarizes forum discussions on the digestion of dharmic concepts and the stealth-appropriation of Hindu-Buddhist methods into western psychology - something that has been going on for a long time. Then the discussion also talks about practical ways and examples in which this digestion can be stopped. 

This post is divided into three parts below.

1. Rajiv Malhotra's lecture at SRCC on 'U-turn theory' provides a detailed description with evidence, on how the aforementioned digestion and appropriation has taken place. This gives the serious reader a background. For example, most in the world are unaware about the appropriation of dharmic ideas by Carl Jung.

2. In a March 2013 thread, Tripathi shared an interesting paper that Rajiv Malhotra introduced as follows:
"... A great bit of research that illustrates how Western Universalism (in this case in the field of psychology and ethics) has been wrongfully imposed upon other cultures. It is amazing how many "eminent" Indian psychologists have adopted such WU ideas."

".... interesting paper which states that broad claims about human psychology and behaviour based on narrow samples from Western societies are regularly published and questions the practise. It makes a very interesting read. Specially the term WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic) used for the folks of the west. Below is a part of the paper which you might like: 
Research in moral psychology also indicates that non‐Western adults and Western religious conservatives rely on a wider range of moral principles than amorality of justice (Baek 2002, Haidt & Graham 2007, Haidt et al. 1993, e.g., Miller & Bersoff 1992). Shweder, Much, Mahapatra, and Park (1997) proposed that in addition to a dominant justice‐based morality, which they termed an ethic of autonomy,there are two other ethics that are commonly found outside the West: an ethic of communion, in which morality derives from the fulfilment of
interpersonal obligations, and an ethic of divinity in which moral decisions are based on the fit with a perceived natural order (for a further elaboration of moral foundations see Haidt & Graham 2007). In sum,the high‐SES, secular Western populations that have been the primary 27 Weird People 5-Mar-09 target of study thus far appear unusual in a global context, based on their peculiar reliance on a single foundation for moral reasoning (based on justice and individual rights).
The paper also describes the commonalities and the nuances of American from the rest of the west. 

3. The summary was initiated by Dr. AB in a December 2013 thread in a discussion that spanned 3 months:
"I am a psychologist by profession and a Practicing Hindu...we everyday encounter 'digested' knowledge systems thrown at us in our professional life . Living in the west and practicing western psychology is different from how in India , these same concepts are adapted by and for Indians.

For example, ... in the field of psychosocial rehabilitation [PSR] for people with mental illness , [] has had the experience of applying the same constructs in India in a more holistic way than how it is practiced here in the west. This reality has made us discuss at length about the dharmic context in India, where we are able to influence better outcomes for PSR ,the reason being the context and not the PSR principles alone. We are now thinking of reframing this whole approach to PSR (psycho social rehabilitation) in India .
Like these , I can cite many instances where I come across appropriation of our own tantra and vipassana practices being called as mindfulness based stress reduction [programs] etc which is now becoming a core curriculum in school districts , both in Canada and in the US. We all know this.
The new form of therapy which is being researched with the intention of making it 'global' is called "Avataar therapy" ! Yes - this is already being rolled out in academia and therapy clinics to bring about behavior modification for people with psychosis, obsessive compulsive disorders, generalized anxiety disorders etc by using the virtual world media.

The Avataars are designed to help people suffering auditory hallucinations to engage with their own persecutory voices in a more comfortable way , than trying to make them go away . I would like to bring your attention that this is an ancient tantric practice of Kashmir shaivism (vijnana bhairava tantra) , where the mental formations of the mind is witnessed through 'saakshi bhaava' rather than controlling or trying to make them go away. a conference recently....psychiatrist who is based in London dismissed what I was saying with the argument that the new therapy is a logical evolution of psycho drama etc. It was very evident to everyone that he was shutting me down, and I offered him the option to be intellectually honest to engage in a debate rather than shutting me down.

... what lens are we wearing when we are thinking of developing knowledge base and skill sets to understand different cultures? By generalizing cultural mores and traditions, we might miss the contexts of cultural development as a complex fluid process etc..."

Rajiv comment: "...  It is an area of my active research, both on how the west has adopted these techniques and how we can revive them within the dharma context.

I dont like the term "avatara" in the above context as it distorts.

I prefer the term "sakshi therapy" which is also something my guru taught and its a term we can use in this way without distortion. In fact, much of so-called western therapy today is drifting towards the sakshi method. I hope it is possible for Dr. AB.. to use "sakshi".

I am presenting at a workshop in UK in April on this matter, to scholars specializing in the interface between psychology and religion/dharma. Most of the people I will need to argue against happen to be Hindus, who are propagating "mithya = illusion", world negation, otherworld-liness, etc. -- westerners love them as they can easily supersede such nonsense, and quietly digest Hindu-Buddhist ideas into western frameworks. My job in this Western+Indian select group is largely to point flaws in the Indians who will be present."

Dr. KM responds:
"..I have been in private practice as a psychotherapist in [the US] for the last 20 years and now in the prosess of moving back to India for retirement. My experience resonates with that of [Dr.AB]. I felt at times uncomfortable, at times crossed the speaker, couple of times gave talk at our local counselor's association about eastern spirituality and it's usefulness in psychotherapy, and often used it in my practice without clearly naming so!

Rajivji's identifying, understanding, and naming this whole process as "digestion" is unique and brilliant. This has given me deeper and clear understanding to what was I experiencing. It has also given boost to my desire to spend some time and energy of my retirement years towards reading/writing/collaborating towards the psychotherapy clearly rooted in our dharmic belief system. .."

Venkat shares an article:
The Americanization of Mental Illness

Dr. R (behavioral scientist) responds:
"I am one [of] a group of behavioural scientists working with the laboratory learning method. Our work is deep and transformative, but we are not therapists. I work with the yoga Sutras as the basis of my work, however, even among my colleagues the ideas from yoga are not as internalized as the western theories. The learning of our scripture from an authentic source is rare. The ideas that are internalized from their own families is not well founded. Books in English then form the source of their learning. The average translation even by the various Anandas is poor.

Not all of my colleagues have read read BD [Being Different book]. And the idea of India is often held in deep self hate. All of this makes the going very difficult when one is training the new generation. It will be a great to work on a theory that is based entirely on our scriptures and our practice....How can we share notes and develop a coherent theory and practice?"

Rajiv comment: Start with your OWN institution. Why is a western style degree required to be considered a legitimate scholar? Why is the Indian notion of an accomplished practicing yogi or someone with knowledge but not western-style certified insufficient? This fetish for western style certification even in Indian matters is a deep rooted form of colonization." 

Dr. CRS shares his experience:
"I work in the research field of Post traumatic stress disorder & Systems Biology.... The Systems Biology concept is more-so similar to Ayurveda in the context that both preaches holistic health. Difference is that the combination of Yoga and Ayurveda has higher success rate in preventing/curing diseases than the Molecular biology/Translational systems biology approach. Over these years, I have increasingly realized that Yoga and Ayurveda are the best cure available for Psychological disorders.

This research frontier is going to boom in the next 10 years especially because of the funding given by US government for the BRAIN initiative Such perks are going to pressurize researchers to look into alternative medicine and facilitate accelerated digestion of Indian concepts practiced by Gurus.

I believe that one way to retain our Native Apps in the Dharmic OS framework, is to perform scientific research (by setting up dedicated research institutes/departments) on these concepts and publish extensively. People like Benson & Denninger have to be beaten in their game by playing our strengths by engaging the best philosophers like Rajivji, the best Indian Gurus, best Indian doctors across the globe (with unique characteristics not seen in US /Europeans), best Indian IT people, botanist (studying herbs). The collaboration of such interdisciplinary team will produce significant results.

Another simple way is prevention of diseases and this frontier is effectively being led by Baba Ramdev at the grassroots level by encouraging people towards Yoga & Ayurveda."

Dr. AB follows up:
"In my therapy work, I use the core tenets of Advaita like "Tat team Asi","Sat chid Ananda " "mitya" etc as frameworks to experience self. Some of my clients have found this framework significantly different from the so called evidence based practices like cognitive behavioural therapy , dialectical behaviour therapy (by the way, this particular mode of therapy uses mindfulness as its core tenet for borderline personality disorders) etc.
Today I came to know that an organization in California has customized a training program for mindfulness for all schools in North America. This is now a sought after training program which is offered online for school districts, mental health professionals etc. 
I have already started reading IN (Indra's Net). The poison pill and porcupine strategy has to be applied creatively in this field too.

Rajiv responds:.. I am doing a book on how Hindu-Buddhist ideas are getting digested/distorted."

Dr. J adds:
"I have also been trained and engaged in psychotherapy, and had similar observations. I keep looking for ways to channelize it. [], where I am teaching a course 'Mind, Life and Consciousness'...: The course content is heavily dependent on Indian systems of psychological knowledge. I am having my observations and learning in the process. I would be happy to collaborate and share notes with anyone interested in this field."

NS adds:
"I .. have read 9 chapters [of Indra's Net] till 'Traditional foundations of social consciousness'  and I find it such an admirable companion of BI (Breaking India) and BD. Having tread BI and BD , I feel one may read IN first and thereafter go to BD. From, my point of view In is an extraordinary review of BD and BI and its most admirable feature is its its beautiful narration that does not take away its scholarly content. " 

Dr. AB shares important feedback:
"..a heart rending story of a woman who was murdered because she tried to write a thesis on the dispossession of Indigenous women in Canada. It strikes parallel to what's going on for Hindus , the motive to eliminate us and our symbols methodically.

I feel for the indigenous people in North America. Their story resonates so deeply with ours. .. a theme in their stories- they see  all their mental health issues  stemming from loss of their indigenous culture and world views.  They do not connect to the western interpretation of their problems. They are quite vocal and articulate about the superficiality or even the credibility of western solutions to their problems. 

It's interesting that this is where we differ in India. Our deeply entrenched colonized mindsets do not get the layers and nuances of colonization and its impact on our mental health. Here, I see an opportunity to do some Conscious raising programs in the field.."

Ananth asks Dr. AB:
"You have mentioned that you use Indic concepts in your work, e.g., vijnana sakshi tantra, sat chit ananda, etc.  Have you used these concepts on your Indigenous clients?  If so, did the clients relate well to them? Or did Indic concepts help you to get a good command of your clients' problems?"

Dr. AB provides a detailed response and provides some amazing feedback on the practical use of non-translatables, poison-pill strategy (in Indra's Net), and other ideas introduced by Rajiv Malhotra in 'Being Different'.

"I have used the concepts of Atma, Sakshi bhaava, understanding the different mental states as vritti and the nature of vritti etc, which my clients can apply in the moment as opposed to a cognitive exercise.
I go back and forth to explore various concepts depending on what my clients are ready for. Some of them are ready for doing some advanced vijnana Bharirva tantra practices like Dharana on negative states of mind. They discover that through dharana, the sakshi bhava gets strengthened and there by they can see the mental states as dynamically changing. Some of them cannot move being Shavasana!
For those who are ready and willing,I sometimes even go further, to use a mantra of their choice while they are doing dharana. ...They begin to understand the 'mithya' nature of these inner experiences and are then able to see the one who labels each experience negatively or positively.
These concepts are well taken both by Indians and also westerners. I have seen that the westerners have a hard time to see the experience as different from themselves. This is where I introduce our terminologies and not use English. The minute you give them English translation, they objectify the knowledge, rather than go into the experience. I have also noted that some of these practices creates resistance for them. They still want to hold on to their core beliefs.
I had an [middle east] client, who was very open and articulate about her inner experiences through the Indic practices. At some time, she brought up great resistance, when we were exploring the concepts of Advaita....She could not bring herself to consider that that at some level all beings are interconnected,... That's when she began to distance herself from the process and terminated the sessions with me. ... I fully accepted her limitations and had a closure with her.  Now, I appreciate the poison pill strategy. She could not be part of the open architecture. She excluded herself out!
I also want to highlight the importance of using non-translatables. Recently I had a client who had suicidal ideation. This person is an Indian and we started exploring the meaning of the word "atma hatya'. I allowed this person to first understand what Atma means and then went on to further inquire whether it is then possible that atma and hatya could go together. This was such a revelation to this person about the paradox in the term itself. It is a myth going on in western academia that certain cultures are intolerant and have a big taboo around suicide. However, the reality is , on inquiring honestly about self (through our worldview not the western worldview) , killing oneself is a fallacy. This is the power of using our own non-translatables in this work. I will stop here. I am fascinated by what we can achieve to re-create a Grand Narrative through different streams of knowledge."

Recommended reading related to this topic at the forum: