Ragini Sharma takes on Rambachan

A Forum Member responds to Anantanand Rambachan 

Anantanand Rambachan, ever since he has been called out as being one of the proponents of the Neo-Hinduism thesis in Indra's Net has been attacking Rajiv Malhotra personally. His latest is in a piece in the Open magazine.

Ragini Sharma, one of the forum members of Rajiv Malhotra's discussion forum wrote a brilliant rejoinder to Rambachan's attack, as a comment below his article. It is reproduced here, along with brief follow up comments from Rajiv ji.

Dear Anantananda,
With all these accusations and counter accusations, I thought I must be fair to you and therefore I just did some research on you. So you studied 3 years with Dayanand about Advaita and you say you learnt some practices and then you spent the rest of your career as a Prof. at an evangelical Christian University in the US to teach about what you know.

According to the Olaf U website you and “a regular participant in the consultations of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican” and your writings seem to directed towards the Christian community - to explain Hinduism to them. I have read several of your articles. I am not impressed with that but I do see Rajiv's point about your neo-Hinduism ideas because its the type of ideas that Paul Hacker, the founder of Neo-Hinduism, had. Like you, Hacker was educated in Yoga and Advaita,  he then converted to Catholic faith, and was doing this Hindu-Christian dialogue. You did not.
Now I saw your earlier article that you do not refer to Hacker in your thesis, but it is not contested that you PhD Supervisor, Ursula King, did write a translation on Hacker and would be an influence on you. All your talk about you wanting to "interrogate" Advaita and the sacred texts and revered gurus and you need to "critically evaluate in order for the tradition to be relevant and creative" reeks of neo-Hinduism. The problem is that your interrogations are within the Doniger-Pollock-Clooney-Rambachan clique. If you are honestly interested in interrogating the truth, why not have this dialogue with Hindu practitioner scholars in India - with the current religious leaders in India who do never read western academic work - they are the ones who live it, breathe it and have the most invested in its survival.
You would agree that it is the oral tradition, of guru paramparas, that have preserved the sacred knowledge - not your books, written texts. Whatever, is written is a fraction of what is known to the oral tradition even today - along with its cultural context. Work like yours and other western non-practitioner scholars do not come close to knowing what the oral tradition lives - in the hearts of devotees. You do not have an ounce of devotion in you - and Bhakti -devotion, which cannot be divorced from Gyan because it permeates every cell of the disciple that learns at the feet of the Master, while he questions the teachings, with an open mind. The Guru is happy when his disciple turns out to be more learned than him or her. And, the love of the guru is equal to 1000s of mothers, and guru is exalted in all Vedic traditions. You just never had one - I mean a guru you gave your heart to. You are stuck in the head.
Just to give you a fair chance, I thought I would check out some of your talks. Again, Rajiv is right. You are well intentioned but you are an apologist for a Hindu. I have posted the links to the videos below - I am referring to your talk at the KAICIID Global Forum of 2013 - a multi-faith dialogue on how religions conceive the Other. Your introduction to this idea of the other in Hinduism was pathetic and apologetic, no mention of Vasudev Kutumbakam or Hindus' illustrious history of giving shelter to Jews, Parsees, Buddhist etc.; or that there are over 300,000 mosques in India and almost as many Muslims as in Pakistan, living in peace, as compared to in the rest of the word. You did not say anything about 800 years of rape, murder, killing of Hindus by Mughals, burnt libraries, and the Muslim Iconoclasts (Goel) who smashed every temple they could find in India - millions and the cultural genocide. Never mentioned the Goa Inquisition of the Catholic Church and the menace of conversions today by saffron robed Christians - the shame of acculturation, which by the way I hope you talk about in your classes you teach. Or the stealth of thousands of our Sanskrit texts by German, English and others.

Rajiv is completely right - because, you DID bring up the issue of caste and shamefully in the context of religion. Not only is this contested by Hindus who assert the caste system is not in the Vedas, which have varna, and also the social context of jati. You call yourself a Professor but you present yourself as ashamed of your Hindu roots. Can you bring up the issue of Hinduphobia in the academia - about Wendy's and her protégés horrible sexualisation of Hindu gurus, deities and texts? Do you have any guts to defend Hindu rights? No, for that we need Rajiv.

At the same time, at the conference, the Muslim cleric began by reciting a Koranic prayer, and to lecture about tolerance, Islamophobia, racism, multiculturalism. No mention of extremism or problems with its religion - Pakistan has 15% Hindus - now has 2%, they were killed off. There are hardly any temples left. there and Shias, Ahmediyas are being killed.

The Jewish presenter talked about "humanity as one", hegemony, tolerance. You could learn pride in one's religion from these people, they have no less intra-religious conflicts and problems.

The Catholic Priest presenter took the cake - its the religion that has the history of causing cultural genocide and mass killings in every corner of the world. And the sexual abuse of children all over the world. Yet, he only talked about how great the Pope was and his religion was.

Also, there was Buddhist priest from China who lectured everyone about extremism - no mention of atrocities on Tibet. She preached others about harmony of non-sectarian, practical use of faith. Amazing.
You looked sheepish and ashamed of Hindu faith - you are not fit to represent our wonderful faith to the world. Yes we have problems, but lets present a balanced picture, with honesty and talk about the progress that has been made, considering our own cultural genocide and continued assault on our religion from all sides. Rajiv Malhotra does that. Can you return the western gaze or are you a colonized Hindu? Your talks and writing demonstrate you speak as the latter.
I also saw your talk on Karma and forgiveness. It was so Christianized - no mention of the mystery of karma - you never mentioned the reincarnation either which is such an important aspect of karmic theory.

Anantananda, here are the links. I wish you well and hope you can find some courage. And attacking Rajiv for exposing your half-heartedness Hindu self is not going to do it for you.  And trying to present Rajiv, who lives to protect Hindu Dharma, as a terrorist, is pathetic and shameful.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBbtDWq7Kzg Jewish
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BH2uvefumQ0 Catholic
Chinese buddhist
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljKdLzMOSLI Rambachan

Rajiv Malhotra's followup comments
  • Ragini's new comment deserves to be posted as an article, so I hope people will do so wherever they can.
  • The Rambachan-Richard Fox nexus becoming clearer all the time.
  • Wondering why Aseem Shukla, otherwise quite level headed, fell into this and cannot see the big political picture.
  • I would respect Rambachan a lot more if he wrote on the contentious issues rather than "defense by offense". In other words he should act like a philosopher he claims to be, and argue his point that Vivekananda did not properly understand Vedanta. Why obsessed with personal defensiveness?

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