Defaming of Hinduism
By: V Sundaram, IAS, Retd.
7/31/2007 5:55:12 PM
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All books are either dreams or swords,You can cut, or you can drug, with words Sword Blades and Poppy Seed
- Amy Lowell
A wonderful thing about a book, in contrast to a computer screen, is that you can take it to bed with you.
- Daniel J Boorstein
The test of any great book or literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it. I have just finished reading a very great book titled INVADING THE SACRED?An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America edited by Krishnan Ramaswamy, Antonio De Nicolas and Aditi Banerjee. I am under the spell of this great book because it is a beacon of moral illumination. It is a powerful frigate which takes us lands away. An avant-garde book, to adapt the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas?a place where history, past or present, comes to life. In every sense of the word this landmark book is a mighty ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty.
I understand that Rajiv Malhotra who is the President of the Infinity Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey is the main force behind the publication of this revolutionary book. Krishnan Ramaswamy, one of the editors of this book, is a scientist in psychometric research. He is an ardent student of the Vedas, Vedanta, Sanskrit and Panini, with a lifelong interest in Bakthi poetry. The second editor Antonio T. de Nicolas is Professor Emeritus of philosophy at the State university of New York at Stony Brook. He is the author of several books and is now serving as Director of the Bio-Cultural Research Institute. The third Editor Ms. Aditi Banerjee is a practicing Attorney in New York. She has authored books like 'The Hyphenated Hindus in Outlook India'; 'Hindu- American: Both sides of the Hyphen, in Silicon India'; and 'Hindu Pride'. She is totally committed to the preservation and revival of the traditional ways of knowledge rooted in Sanathana Dharma.
Till 1000 AD, India was a major civilizational and economic power. After that date, India suffered centuries of decline and degradation. After centuries of stagnation, the world is noticing a new resurgence of India in the spheres of business, geo-politics and culture. However, a powerful counterforce is operating within the American academic circles which are systematically undermining core icons and ideals of Indian culture and thought. Let me give some examples in this context. Many scholars belonging to this counterforce have disparaged the Bhagavad Gita as 'a dishonest book'; declared Lord Ganesha's trunk 'a limp phallus'; classified Goddess Devi as 'the mother with a penis' and Lord Shiva as 'a notorious womanizer' who incites violence in India; declared Ramakrishna Paramahamsa as 'a pedophile who sexually molested the young Swami Vivekananda'.
These 'Great Writers' (!!) have condemned Indian mothers as being less loving of their children as compared with their white western mothers; they have interpreted the sacred 'Bindi' as a drop of menstrual fluid and the ?HA? in sacred Sanskrit mantras and incantations as a woman's orgasm.
I have no doubt that this new generation of 'Great Writers and Scholars' in America are creating new categories of revolutionary sub-disciplines like Pornographic Anthropology, Pornographic Sociology, Pornographic Philosophy, Pornographic Comparative Religion. For such great thinkers nothing can be graphic unless it is pornographic; nothing can be logical unless it is sexually logical; and nothing can be intellectually stimulating unless it is sexually titillating.
This new book is the product of an intensive multi-year Research Project. It seeks to uncover and to bring out into the open platform of fearless and informed public debate about the sub-terranean networks operating in America behind what the Editors/ Authors of this book describe brilliantly as ?HINDUPHOBIA?. This work describes the Indian diaspora's challenges to such dubious and pornographic scholarship and effectively documents how those Scholars (Intellectual Kshatriyas indeed) who dared to speak up have been branded as ?Dangerous?. Against this background, the editors and all the writers of individual articles in this book are asking the following relevant questions:
1. Are these graphically pornographic academic pronouncements really based on evidence, and how carefully is this evidence cross-examined?
2. How do these images of India and Indians created in the American academy influence public perceptions through the media, the education system, policy makers, and popular culture?
3. Are India's internal social problems going to be managed by foreign interventions in the name of Human Rights?
4. How do power imbalances and systemic biases affect the objectivity and quality of scholarship?
5. What are the inalienable historic rights (like riparian rights in the field of irrigation in every country) of practitioner experts in ?talking back? to academicians?
6. What is the role of India intellectuals, policy makers and universities in fashioning an authentic, effective and enduring response to such cultural onslaughts from the west?
As Prof S N Balagangadhara from the University of Ghent, Belgium in his foreword has observed: ?India will be a global player of considerable political and economic impact. As a result, the need to explicate what it means to be an INDIAN (and what the 'INDIANNESS' of the Indian culture consists of) will soon become the task of the entire intelligentsia in India. In this process, they will confront the challenge of responding to what the West has so far thought and written about India. A response is required because the theoretical and textual study of the India culture has been undertaken mostly by the West in the last 300 years. What is more, it will also be a challenge because the study of India has largely occurred within the cultural framework of America and Europe. In fulfilling this task, the Indian intelligentsia of tomorrow will have to solve a puzzle: what were the earlier generations of Indian thinkers busy with, in the course of the last two to three thousand years??
Most of the textbooks produced and read by all our students for nearly 250 years contained a standard story of Indian culture which ran as follows: Caste system dominates India, strange and grotesque deities are worshipped in strange and grotesque ways, women are discriminated against, the practice of widow burning exists and corruption is rampant.
In this context I am reminded of the three important British statements and views made on India in the British House of Commons in 1813 during the debate on the Christianization of India by Mr. William Wilberforce (1759-1833) and Mr James Mill (1773-1836) and by Mr Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) in the House of Commons in 1843. All of them subscribed to the belief of the great inferiority of India as a Civilization and treated it as degraded, sunk in superstition and wretchedness. They condemned everything Indian, manners, beliefs, religious systems and philosophies, Indian art and architecture, the manner in which Indian Society was organized in Communities and Jathis, and thought that its fine manufactures would only be the creation of effeminate beings. In brief for them India knew neither manliness, nor the great European Art of War. For all three of them and certainly for James Mill, the people of India could be compared only with the indigenous people of the Americas (Red Indians). For all of them if most of the people of India were to disappear (to be exterminated!!) like the Red Indians of America did, it would have been no loss and perhaps a great good.
The editors / authors of this book show that while generations of Indian intellectuals have accepted the above British Colonial lopsided descriptions as more or less true, the future generations in India will not be so accommodating and yet at the same time they will also never fail to test these answers for their truth. Anyone can say this with confidence because more and more people in India are gradually moving towards this kind of research based upon honest intellectual curiosity and critical inquiry.
We can see from this book that the relations between the academic community and the Hindu community in North America are being dominated by a sharp debate, which has rolled over to journalism and on to the internet. This trend has been activated by the turbulent reservations expressed by a large number of Hindus in North America over the way Hinduism is being portrayed and depicted in the Western Academia and by the vigorous response of the academic community to such criticism.
In his brilliant and perceptive preface to the recently published book - INVADING THE SACRED, An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America, edited by Krishnan Ramaswamy, Antonio de Nicolas and Aditi Banerjee, Arvind Sharma of McGill University in Canada has observed that the study of religion in a historical perspective can be best developed by utilizing the distinction regularly drawn in the history of religion between the INSIDER and the OUTSIDER. From the point of view of this distinction, the study of religion, in the intellectual history of humanity, seems to exhibit a fourfold typology in terms of the modalities of transmission involved, in the context of the various religious traditions over the past few centuries :
1. Insider to Insider
2. Outsider to Outsider
3. Outsider to Insider
4. Insider to Outsider
As a general observation, one can say that till the beginnings of the renaissance in Europe in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, the main channel of the intellectual communication of a religious tradition was from Insider to Insider. This began to change with the rise of the West and the onset of the modern era. In this phase, as the West became familiar with the religions of the Americas, Africa and Asia, the main mode of transmission about these religions became that from Outsider to Outsider. During this phase Western scholars, Outsider to these different religious traditions, began sharing their knowledge about such traditions with other Westerners, who were as much of an Outsider to the religious traditions they were receiving information about, as those who were providing it. As the Western domination of the world became institutionalised in the form of imperialism and colonialism, the West began to control the intellectual discourse in its colonies, and the Insiders to these traditions came to be profoundly affected, even in their self understanding of their own religious traditions by Western accounts. Thus another dimension was added to the channeling of religious communication ?? from the Outsider to the Insider. I would explain this process in this phase by quoting from the writings of Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), who was responsible for the introduction of English language-based education in India in the 19th century. This is what he wrote in his famous Minute on Education in India on 2 February, 1835: 'It is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a CLASS who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a CLASS of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.' Most of the secular and pseudo-secular Indians in India and abroad who are proud of their Himalayan ignorance about the great Hindu heritage of India in diverse fields belong to this category.
When the age of European imperialism was gradually beached by the tide of history after the end of the II World War in 1945 and when many erstwhile colonies of European countries in Africa and Asia became independent, the direction of the intellectual and cultural discourse took another turn. The people from these various non-Western religious traditions began to openly challenge the colonial descriptions, done by their earlier colonial masters for more than 200 years, in the post-colonial world. Now these Insiders themselves began to claim the right to tell the Outsiders about their faith and culture, thus reversing the earlier established trend of flow of information from Outsider to Insider for more than a century. I fully endorse the verdict of Arvind Sharma 'It could be argued that the new book INVADING THE SACRED, An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America reflects the state of discourse about Hinduism at this cusp of Insider to Outsider.'
In this book it has been forcefully argued and claimed in essence that the academics in America are either biased or in gross error when dealing with several aspects of Hinduism. Anyone can see from the essays in this book that the Hindu community in America wonders whether the academic community there can ever evoke Hinduism without condescension. Likewise it is also clear that the American academic community wonders if the Hindu community can evoke Hinduism without sentimentality.
In my view this book serves a very important and necessary purpose, more particularly in today's context of totally ill-informed, lopsided, arbitrary, unscientific and even barbarous attacks on Hinduism, Hindus and Hindu culture being made in the West (specially in America). This book can be hailed as a harbinger of an important attempt to start a new kind of dialogue in India-related cultural and post-colonial studies. This book effectively challenges the Western portrayals of India, her religions and problems. Most of these Western portrayals view Indian culture as a panorama of abuses and social evils, such as caste, Sati, dowry, murders, violence, religious conflicts, immorality, grotesque deities and so on. They do not view problems of India as being historical or economic in origin, but as essences of the traditions, cultures and civilizations of India, making it a 'chaotic and even desperate country.' The problems of India are being viewed by Americans as inseparable from the problems of Hinduism. According to American academics discussed in this book, India's problems are in its DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid). These prejudiced and biased American scholars and some Indian scholars as well (who have sold their Hindu souls for a mess of 'American' pottage) seem to be in a state of bumptious delusion by imagining that for Western religions and societies DNA means (not Deoxyribonucleic Acid) but Divine Noble Authority. Sadly for India and her people, attempts by nervous secular Indians in the west to distance themselves from Hinduism have also led to an academic vacuum about Indian traditions which has been filled by external voices from the West which have their own agendas.
Unlike in India, where only the academic study of Islam and Christianity is surreptitiously promoted by the State as a handle of 'Minority Vote-bank Politics,' in America the academic study of religion is a major discipline (which today has become a large scale anti-Hindu industry thanks to the University of Chicago and its powerful academician Wendy Doniger) involving over 8.000 university professors most of whom are members of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). AAR is the primary organisation for academic scholars or Religious Studies in the United States. RISA (Religions in South Asia) is the unit within the AAR for scholars who study and teach about religions in the Indian sub-continent. Within this organised hierarchy, the study of Hinduism is an important and influential discipline. This book under review argues that the discipline has been shaped by the use of preconceived Euro-centric categories that are assumed to be universal by Western syndicated research. Most criticism or 'peer review' comes from a coterie of scholars who are linked and interlinked (financially and organisationally!) in different ways and they take particular care to largely exclude practitioners of Hinduism. The mass producers and distributors of this specialised knowledge (mainly of the Hate-India and Hate-Hindu Religion variety) comprise a sort of closed, culturally insular cartel, which has disastrous consequences for original thinking about India and Hinduism. The heated controversies described in detail in this book have emerged out of the Indian diasporas' debates with RISA scholars.
Keeping in view the fact that much of this scholarship always attempts to portray Hindu culture and therefore Indian culture as pathological, exotic and abusive, a diaspora intellectual named Rajiv Malhotra has coined a beautiful generic term called HINDUPHOBIA to describe this anti-India and anti-Hindu religion phenomenon. Rajiv Malhotra is a remarkable crusader, indeed an Intellectual Kshatriya, cast in a very grand mould. He is the founder of The Infinity Foundation which is a non-profit organisation based in Princeton, New Jersey engaged in making grants in the areas of compassion and wisdom. His aim is to create a global family, a 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.' This requires that indigenous non-Western civilisations get a seat on the international table as equals in crafting the frameworks of discourse, rather than simply being used as exotic artifacts to be plugged into an overall Euro-Centric framework. Re-vitalising the Indic discourse and helping India find its own voice in this dialogue is a key part of Infinity Foundation's mission. This avant-garde book owes its origin and inspiration to RISA Lila: Wendy's Child Syndrome, a seminal essay by Rajiv Malhotra published on an Indian-American web magazine in September 2002.
Sometimes ill-informed, biased and ignorant input from prejudiced purveyors of hate like Wendy Doniger and Martha Nussbaum can have an impact on US foreign policy. At a recent conference at the University of Chicago in which these two scholars and Amartya Sen participated, Nussbaum claimed that Americans are wrong to be focusing on Islamic Fundamentalism as a threat to democracy. To quote her words: 'Thinking about India is instructive to Americans who in an age of terrorism can easily over-simplify pictures of the forces that threaten democracy?in India, the threat to democratic ideals comes not from a Muslim threat, but from Hindu groups.'
I am not very sure whether truth-defying and falsehood-mothering Wendy Doniger and Martha Nussbaum are aware of the following tribute paid to India by Mark Twain (1835-1910), a 'paganish' and 'heathenish' and saffronized Christian (!!) from America: 'India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.'
In section I of this book, there are nine essays by Pandita Indrani Rampersad, devoted to the paraphrasing of RISA LILA : Wendy's Child Syndrome, a landmark essay by Rajiv Malhotra, published on an Indian-American web magazine in September 2002. In this essay, Rajiv Malhotra presented spectacular examples of unfounded and unscientific Hinduphobia (a brilliantly generic term coined by Rajiv Malhotra) in the work of certain American scholars in the area of religious studies and related academic fields. He examined and questioned the training and expertise of some self-proclaimed and peer-acknowledged Western scholars, particularly their ability to translate Indian languages (specially Sanskrit) into English. He also examined the dubious, prejudiced and many times even jaundiced use of psychoanalysis and other Eurocentric theories to analyse indic categories and conditions and more specially Indian culture. Rajiv Malhotra clearly proved that there are no true Outsiders involved in this effort - because those who stand Outside Hinduism remain firmly rooted in their own ideologies, institutions and cultures. There is no such thing as what is called rigorous academic objectivity in these studies by American academicians who always take markedly anti-Hindu ideological stances and postures.
In chapter three, we can see a detailed examination of the writings of a closed coterie of award-winning scholars who have declared Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (to be referred to hereafter as Ramakrishna), to be a sexually disturbed and abusive homosexual. They also claim with authority to have 'academically proved and established' that Ramakrishna was a child molester, and one who also forced homosexual activities on Swami Vivekananda. They consider Ramakrishna's mystical experiences and those of other Indian mystics in general as pathological sexual symptoms and conditions which are badly in need of psychoanalysis.
Under the guidance of a known Hindu-baiter called Wendy Deniger of the University of Chicago, Jeffrey Kripal did his Ph.D dissertation on Sri Ramakrishna. His perverted pornographic ideas about Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda which I have presented above were part of this Ph.D thesis. Later a book based on this thesis was published under the title Kali's Child. It won the First Book Award from the American Academy of Religion (AAR), an organisation in which Wendy Deniger and her colleagues hold powerful positions. Kripal soon landed a job at Harvard, which was followed by a prestigious academic chair at Rice University at a very early stage in his career. The popular and prestigious source of reference, Encyclopedia Britannica, listed Kripal's book as its top choice for learning about Sri Ramakrishna. Pandita Indrani Rampersad has rightly argued that even a shoddily researched and hastily peer-reviewed book of this kind, if accepted and promoted by a strongly organised academic establishment, can swiftly become authoritative. To quote her words in this context: 'This is dangerous, especially when the readership consists largely of persons who are ignorant about the tradition, and worse still, when the readers have biblical or race-based stereotypes passed on through mythical images of folklore 'Others.'
Swami Tyagananda gave a fitting rejoinder to Jeffrey Kripal in this manner: 'None of the symptoms enumerated in the 'literature on sexual trauma' is present in Ramakrishna's life. But since Kripal has approached his subject with a predetermined verdict, he resorts to specious reasoning in order to come up with the judgement he has in mind. Ramakrishna has 'pronounced homosexual tendencies,' ergo he must have suffered childhood sexual trauma, ergo he must re-enact the traumatic events. This exercise in weak-link logic is reminiscent of Kangaroo courts where the prisoner is convicted first and then the 'EVIDENCE' is manufactured at a more convenient time.'
Thus anyone can see that these scholars wedded to hair-splitting analysis of obscenity and vulgarity rooted in sex, consider their pornographic work as belonging to the field of Religious Studies which definitely it is not. As a practicing Hindu with no pseudo (!) claims whatsoever to any intellectual distinction in any field, I would like to ask these 'mischievous' scholars as to whether they would come forward to accuse Christian Saints like Saint Benedict of Narsia, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Nicholas of Myra, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Bernadette of Lourdes and others of pathological sexual symptoms noticed or displayed by them towards their followers and disciples.
These academically fraudulent and 'politically' active scholars by applying the principles of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) to the study of Indian Religions (more specially Hinduism) where they are totally irrelevant and inapplicable, have clearly shown that they themselves are dangerous psychopaths who can only be described as ACADEMIC HITLERS and INTELLECTUAL STALINS passionately trying to create a new field of MULTIDISCIPLINARY NAZIDOM totally dedicated to the wholesale destruction of all non-Christian religions / cultures in general and Hinduism / Hindu culture in particular. Like Osama Bin Laden promoting Islamic terrorism in different parts of the world including America, these pseudo-scholars and anti-Indian 'intellectual' terrorists are letting loose a continuous barrage of salvos against Hinduism and Hindu culture with continuous and lavish financial backing from the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and several American universities. This luridly bizarre drama has been fully documented and explained with facts and figures in this book under review.
Sarah Caldwell, another member of Religion in South Asia (RISA), was given the prestigious Robert Stoller Award for her scholarship on the Hindu Goddess. I am giving below a long excerpt from her paper 'The Blood Thirsty Tongue and the Self-feeding Breast: Homosexual Fellatio Fantasy in the South Indian Ritual Tradition,' for which she was given an award by her largely Western peers.
The essential rituals of the Bhagavati cult all point to the aggressive and fatal erotic drinking of the male by the female and the infamous orgy of blood sacrifice of male genitals at the Kodungallur Bhagavati temple... Following Freud, such analyses stress the father-son polarity of the oedipal conflict as the central trauma seeking expression.
Yesterday I had concluded with the words of Mark Twain. Today I would like to invite the kind attention of Wendy Doniger, Jeffrey Kripal and Sara Carldwell and others belonging to the anti-Indian and anti-Hindu brigade in America to the following words of Will Durant (1885-1981), a famous American historian of World Civilisations: 'India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages: She was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.'
I have no doubt that this trio of fraudulent 'scholars' would be funded by the American Academy of Religion (AAR) through RISA to subject Will Durant to the same detailed and debauched psychoanalytical treatment through which Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism were put through.
''Scholarly'' works produced by specially hired scholars under the overall feaudal tutelage and pecuniary stranglehold of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and Religion in South Asia (RISA) are being used by American Christian groups to describe Hinduism as a 'dirty dignity destroying religion' and as a 'pig-pen from the east'. Let me give some examples to illustrate this point. American students are taught that Shiva Temples are 'notorious for ritual rape and murder'. How can we understand the reasonableness, civilizational aspect apart, of the American School System (funded by a US Federal Grant to promote multiculturalism in America) which has a prescribed textbook which accuses Lord Rama of causing the oppression of Indian minorities and women? Parents of many Indian school and college students in USA have for very valid reasons started challenging the letter, tone and spirit of the educational materials which are having a detrimental impact on the sensitive, innocent and impressionable minds of the youth.
This book completely exposes the dubiously self-proclaiming academic credentials of Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Professor of History and Religion at the University of Chicago. She is one of the most influential persons in the study of religion. Largely on account of Rajiv Malhotra's classic essay RISA LILA-1; Wendy's Child Syndrome, published in 2002, Wendy Doniger and other scholars have come under the scanner of scrutiny of Hindus in North America?for their nefarious practice of dredging-for-dirt and resorting to the use of disheveled, questionable approaches to translations and interpretations of traditional Hindu texts in Sanskrit and other Indian languages. In the field of studies relating to India and Hindu Religion, Wendy Doniger functions as a feaudal landlord, successfully placing her erstwhile students in academic jobs and chairs and they in turn carry forward the torch of her theories and principles regarding Hinduism. She has taken care to see that all her former students are carefully planted throughout the field of Hinduism studies and thus serving as an impregnable fort of fascist intellectual influence. Wendy Doniger is notorious for her vulgar, racy and bawdi interpretations of Hindu texts. One of the websites refers to her in these words: ?Professor Wendy Doniger is known for being rude, crude and very lewd in the hallowed portals of Sanskrit Academics. All her special works have revolved around the subject of sex in Sanskrit texts?.
In RISA LILA-1 Rajiv Malhotra clearly brought out the fact that there was not a single comprehensive critical evaluation of Wendy Doniger's work, despite the fact that powerful organisations like the American Academy of Religion (AAR), RISA, several academic institutions, TV Channels and powerful newspapers like New York Times, acted together in an orchestrated manner to project her work as one of lasting global significance. The intellectual approach of Wendy Doniger and her distinguished students acting in concert for the total extinguishment of all things Hindu and Indian, can only be compared with President Bush's theory of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) which he invoked against Iraq.
Wendy Doniger's translations of Hindu texts are widely available in Paperback Publications and serve to inform the layperson's image of Hinduism. Prof Michael Witzel of Harvard University pointed out that Wendy Doniger's knowledge of Vedic Sanskrit was severely flawed. Prof. Witzel wrote: ?Wendy Doniger' rendering of even the first two paadas of the Rig Veda is more of a translation?, and her style ?is rather a stream of unconnected George Bush- like anacoluthas?. He considered Doniger Wendy's scholarship as lazy and not of the standard required by Harvard University. He expressed the reasonable doubt as to whether Doniger Wendy's translations of Hindu texts would have been accepted in the Harvard Oriental Series rather than in Penguin Books. When Prof Witzel was publicly challenged to prove his claim, he published examples of Wendy Doniger's 'Sanskrit mistranslations' on the web. Taking due note of Wendy Doniger's Cosmic and Global stature, Rajiv Malhotra concluded with acute mathematical precision: ?Prof Michael Witzel's assessment of Wendy Doniger seemed as audacious as saying that the Pope was not a good Catholic?. In the light of Prof Witzel's assessment of Wendy Doniger's Sanskrit, I am only reminded of the following comic poem about a linguistic scholar:
?A major in language, wasn't she,
Who attended a school in Chicago?
So she'd master the tongue,
But she said with head strung and not hung,
'I'm afraid that the tongue mastered me.'
Over the years, Wendy Doniger has endeavored to build up her academic 'franchise'. Deluding herself with notions of her own immortality (like Fuhrer of the Third Reich), she is reported to have imperiously asserted in 2000: ?My former students have given me a sort of immortality, because they have provided me with a Parampara (a spiritual lineage) more enduring than my own books, let alone flesh?. Keeping this 'cosmic form' (Vishwa Roopa!!) dimension in view, Rajiv Malhotra has titled his article as ?Wendy's Children?. Wendy Doniger and her children apply the principles of psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) to the study of all aspects and forms of Hindu religion. Freudian speculation about Hindu God Ganesha, having an Oedipil Complex, has found its way into American Museums as ?FACT?. At the famous Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, we have some of the finest pieces of Asian Art. Each art object has an explanation text board next to it. These explanations are avidly read by all the students who go on a study tour to this Museum of Art. Here there is a large 11th century Ganesha Carving and there is a write-up below it. I am quoting some excerpts from it: ?Ganesha, is a son of the great God Shiva, and many of his abilities are comic or absurd extensions of the lofty dichotomies of his father? Ganesha's potbelly and his childlike love for sweets mock Shiva's practice of austerities, and his limp trunk will forever be a poor match for Shiva's erect phallus?.
I would like to give a pointed rejoinder to the organized and culturally deranged pornographic efforts of Wendy Doniger and others of her ilk in the words of Shri Aurobindo (1872-1950) who observed as follows: ?I find it difficult to take Psychoanalysis seriously. As a science it is still in its infancy?inconsiderate, awkward and rudimentary at one and the same time?. One cannot discover the meaning of the lotus by analysing the secrets of the mud in which it grows?.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) came out with his revolutionary Theory of Evolution of Society. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) gave his revolutionary Theories of the Mind and Psychoanalysis. Max Weber (1864-1920) gave his classic Theory of Organisations. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) came out with his Theory of the Universe. In my view Rajiv Malhotra has not come out with his brilliant model of ?WENDY'S CHILD SYNDROME? (WCS) just in jest. He has done it to make his valid point in a forceful and provocative way?with the articulation of the WCS theory, more and more scholars from Asia in general and India in particular will come forward to turn the tables of Psychoanalysis around and apply them with greater paganish vigour (perhaps if not with Wendy's academic acumen!!) to the cultural and social phenomenon of Wendy Doniger and her tribe of anti-Hindu scholars. To quote the words of Rajiv Malhotra in this context: ''To fully appreciate the academic portrayals of Hinduism, one must study Wendy Doniger's influence (perhaps not just intellectual but also physical and sexual?these suggestive words within brackets wholly mine!!)playing out through her followers' subconscious conditioning. Because Wendy wields far grate power in western academe than does KALI, Wendy's child is far more important to deconstruct than Kali's Child''. Thus through this one short paragraph Rajiv Malhotra, to use the metaphor of Cricket, has bowled an unplayable bouncer against not only Wendy but also against Jeffrey Kripal, the much acclaimed author of the book, Kali's child and Sarah Caldwell.
In my review of this book, I have already quoted Mark Twain and Will Durant. Today I would like to quote Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American Philosopher, transcendentalist and writer. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) who aroused in him a true enthusiasm for India. In the 1840s and 1850s Thoreau's discovered India. He mastered the Rig Veda Samhita, and Mandukya and other Upanishads, the Puranas, the Institutes of Manu, the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhagvata Purana etc.
In his famous journal written on the banks of Walden Pond, Thoreau often alluded to water? the metaphor is clear?the Bhagawad Gita's wisdom teachings are the purifier of the mind: 'By a conscious effort of the mind we can stand aloof from actions and their consequences; and all things, good and bad, go by us like a torrent.' About Bhagawad Gita, he said: 'In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophies of the Bhagavat Gita, since whose composition years of the Gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial...? I wonder what Thoreau would have said of the writings of Wendy Doniger and others of her tribe today.
May I request Wendy Doniger to carefully select a scapegoat as a research scholar to 'suitably deconstruct' Thoreau as part of an academic project of the University of Chicago and help him / her to get a sumptuous grant from the AAR and RISA for undertaking such a study of everlasting significance which will not only mock at Hindu Gods / Goddesses but also at TIME itself?
One overriding fact which clearly emerges from this path- breaking book ?Invading the Sacred, An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America? is that the entire blame of biased and selective portrayals of Hinduism and Indian culture by Western scholars cannot be laid at the doorstep of American Academy of Religion (AAR) or even of biased scholars within it alone. Indians themselves have contributed to the problem in significant ways. While American Universities have major programmes for studying world religions and cultures, Indian Universities do not offer similar programs. This is what the editors of this book have to say on this vital point:
?While the intellectually rigorous discourse of traditional Indian religious scholarship continues to limp along in ashrams, mattas, Jain apasaras and gurudwaras, in order to engage in a serious academic study of Hinduism, Indians have to go to American, British or Australian Universities because there are hardly any opportunities available for such study within India. In other words, unlike all other major world religions, Hinduism does not have its own home team, by which we mean a committed group of academic scholars who are both practioners of the faith and well-respected in the academy at the highest levels. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Sikhism each have their respective home teams in the academy?in fact, multiple homes representing different denominations of these religions. Even China has recently established numerous well-funded Confucius Institutes around the world that teach Chinese civilizational approaches to human issues on par with western models.?
It is also sad to reflect that while Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Arab, and even various European cultures?such as Irish, Italian and French, for instance?have actively funded and managed the American academic representation of their cultural identities and lineage, Indian-Americans have not done so to a comparable, much less similar, extent. The Indians in America have remained content with building temples, while their cultural depiction and portrayal in the education system and in the media have been literally abandoned to the tender mercies of the dominant western traditions.
Consequently Indian-American and especially Hindu-American children are often the target of cultural and racial bias and prejudice in the classroom. These children learn nothing or are taught nothing about the civilizational achievements of India in science and technology from the beginnings of pre-history or of India's contributions to modern American lifestyles like yoga, vegetarianism, non-violent approaches to political and social issues.
Thus the real and eternal India remains or is deliberately made to remain a dark and invisible continent in the classrooms of America. As the editors of this book have rightly concluded ?When academically licensed (largely by AAR and RISA?words within brackets mine!) misportrayal of the oppressiveness, weirdness and dangerousness of Indian culture and religions (mainly of the Wendy Doniger variety?words within brackets mine!) is added to this mix, it has a powerful impact on Hindu-American children, many of who try to hide the religious identity. Many of them become disaffected with their families and communities. The pride that Christian- American children take in their civilisational contributions to the world is lacking in many Indians, and this leads to emotional pain and self-alienation.?
It is now a well known historical fact that the ?Control? of 'OTHERS' by white Americans resulted in the ethnic cleansing, incarceration, enslavement, invasions and genocides in several parts of the world. Native Americans, Blacks, Jews, Gypsies, Cubans, Mexicans, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Vietnamese and now Iraqis have suffered brutalities let loose by the American State/ Society which were later legitimized by depictions of them as primitive/ exotic, irrational, heathen, savage and dangerous and as lacking in human values. I fully endorse the view of Rajiv Malhotra that there is the alarming possibility that the combined failure of Indian-Americans to translate their personal professional success into respect for their cultures and traditions might lead to a condition paralleling that of Jews in Europe before the II World War and in the event of an unforeseen or sudden economic downturn in the not very distant future, they could easily become scapegoats in America.
Against this very bad and sad background, the learned editors of this book make their most important point. India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. This fact has been noted by the business world in the West and by all the top business schools in America and Europe. Yet with all this pointed understanding, there are several factors / aspects relating to India which are adversely affecting its total image and credibility in the world. India's reputation in the world continues to be fragile. The Western perception of India, partly shaped by Eurocentric academic wisdom about India's religious and cultural milieu, views all Indian problems as stemming from its ?Religion and Culture?. This outlook will undermine India's future unless all the enlightened Indians acting together in concert come forward to change the Western perception. Otherwise, all our so-called spectacular success in the IT world today may be very short-lived. As Simon Anholt rightly observes: ?Just like any other country, India needs to consider perceptions alongside reality, and recognize their almost equivalent importance in today's globalised world. India's brand image may not be complete, up-to-date or even very fair, but so much in the modern world depends on what people believe to be true, that a good twenty-first century Government must learn to be as good at branding the country as building the country.?
India does not lack entrepreneurial talent. What is lacking is economic, cultural, religious and political nationalism, so palpable in Japan and South Korea where their economies took off on a high growth trajectory. What is also absent is the spirit of competition and innovation, work culture and discipline, accountability in public life and above all, a strategic vision to make India stronger, economically, politically, socially and culturally. In this context I cannot help quoting the stirring words Shri Aurobindo spoken in 1907-1908: ?What nationalism asks is for life first and above all things; life, and still more life, is its cry.
Let us by every means get rid of the pall of death which stifled us, let us dispel first the passivity, quiescence, the unspeakable oppression of inertia, which has long been our curse; that is the first and imperative need? The Mother's feet are on the threshold, but she wants to hear the true cry that rushes out from the heart, before she will enter?The Mother asks for no schemes, no plans, no methods?.She asks for our hearts, our lives, nothing less, nothing more? The only qualification the new nationalism asks for is a body made in the womb of an Indian mother, a heart that can feel for India, a brain that can think and plan for her greatness, a tongue that can adore her name or hands that can fight in her quarrel. The new nationalism is the rebirth in India of the KSHATRIYA, the Samurai.?
The most important Chapter in this book is Chapter 10. It is all about power. Soon after Rajiv Malhotra published his famous essay RISA LILA-1: Wendy's Child Syndrome in 2002, paid mercenaries of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and its subsidiary RISA, launched a vicious attack on him and those scholars of Indian origin who shared his views. His critique of the writings of Wendy Doniger and others belonging to her School was dismissed as inauthentic.
What is shocking about this new fang of neo-American Cultural and intellectual imperialism is that Hindus' own new religious interpretations are dismissed as shoddy work, not worthy of any credence or recognition or public notice. Rajiv Malhotra raised some unanswerable questions: ?Do non-white people have the same rights of re-interpretation, WITHOUT supervision by the dominant culture, and NOT as mere proxies? Furthermore, why am I attacked when I use a method to deconstruct certain RISA members, when they use the very same methods themselves? Could it be that my conclusions are a bit shocking to someone locked into only one horizon of meaning??
Rajiv Malhotra makes a very important point when he says that many Western scholars of Indian religions are experts in manipulating and dealing with poor villagers in India, whom they lovingly describe as ?native informants? and from whom they extract research data, in the manner and measure required, using their own preconceived filters. This has often been done with the collusion of slavish Indian scholars, NGOs and intermediaries. The native informants feel highly obliged to the foreign scholars and go out of their way to extend full cooperation to them because they have a lot of grant money to splash around in the data gathering process.
Antonio de Nicholas has effectively debunked RISA's obsessive claims of superior rationality for European people in these words: ?Nothing of what RISA scholars claim of yoga or 'Hindu Religion' has much to do with Indic texts and the practice of religion in India. Notice also, that you are dealing mostly with the University of Chicago. My personal experience with them in philosophy is as bad as yours in religion. According to these (Western) scholars, Indic texts have no rationality; they are mythical and therefore not historical and therefore false and irrational? My answer is that to proclaim one single rationality as RATIONAL is sheer irrationality and conceptual imperialism.?
Every self-respecting and patriotic Indian would be highly inspired by what Rajiv Malhotra has written under the title ?We Are Not Native Informants Any More!? He has said that the specific kind of Indian that certain RISA scholars are most uncomfortable with, is the Indian who is already successful in a Western organisation, and especially one who has managed over a large number of Westerners for an extensive period of time. Such a person is not likely to idolize them or be taken for a ride. Western scholars can neither exploit such a person as a 'native informant', nor patronize him in the same manner as a young NRI student looking for a good grade. In short Western scholars would love to prey upon only uneducated Indians.
I found the articles by Aditi Banerjee in Section III of the book ?Invading the Sacred? particularly fascinating and illuminating. In this Section we get an interesting view of both the community activism by the Indian-American Community and the actions and reactions of many scholars, from the academic establishment in USA in the context of several issues relating to Hindu religion and culture discussed in this book. It brings out the exciting drama of how the debate got started, derailed, started again and still continues today. The Indian diaspora and a few courageous members of the academia, inspired and emboldened by the initial lead given by Rajiv Malhotra, have attempted to start a serious, no-holds barred debate on the merits of the issues involved. But on the other side of the platform are many Western scholars who insist that they know Indian culture even better than practicing Hindus themselves. What is disturbing?even disgusting?to note is that all attempts at debate by Indian diaspora members have been branded as 'Hindutva' or 'Saffron' or 'Hindu fundamentalism' without any basis. It is clear that mere act of intellectual defiance against the American institutional establishment can bring down wrathful condemnation. To quote the succinct words of Aditi Banerjee: ?The remaining two Sections of this book examine how the RISA Establishment and the mainstream media sought to hijack and recast the substantive challenges made by public intellectuals as an 'attack' on scholars and as a 'threat' to academic freedom. In this re-telling, the RISA scholars whose works were critiqued were portrayed as 'victims' of a conspiracy from dangerous and violent 'OTHERS'. Due to the power imbalance between the RISA cartel and the diasporic public intellectuals, and the cultural complicity of the main stream media with the academy, this strategy succeeded in distorting and thwarting sincere efforts to re-evaluate the academic objectivity and credibility of RISA scholarship.?
Aditi Banerjee advances a clinching argument about the academic assumptions and presumptions of the RISA establishment. According to her the RISA scholars who have cast themselves as victims are actually tapping an institutionalized mythology of the 'Savage versus the Civilized', also known as the 'Frontier Myth'. It is an accepted historical fact that this Myth has long formed the collective subconscious of white Americans and ?has given them meaning and direction ever since they first established colonies at Plymouth Rock and gazed covetously across the vast North American continent. A famous historian of the American Frontier explains as follows:
?The Myth of the Frontier is our oldest and most characterstic Myth, expressed in a body of literature folklore, ritual, historiography and polemics produced over a period of three centuries. According to this Myth?Historiography, the conquest of the wilderness and the subjugation or displacement of the Native Americans who originally inhabited it have been the means to our achievement of a national identity, a democratic polity, an ever-expanding economy, and a phenomenally dynamic and 'progressive civilisation'.
Scholars like Wendy Doniger, Jeffery Kripal, Sarah Caldwell and Paul Courtright, with their virulent anti-Hindu bias view their own writings as legitimate weapons to be deployed against the works, writings and academic responses of the Indian diaspora whom they would love to exterminate and conquer as the 'Myth of the Savage Frontier'.
I fully endorse the magisterial finding of Aditi Banerjee that Hindus are the latest in a long list of 'savage' minorities to be pitted against the 'civilizing' force of the America's Manifest Destiny. Unlike the frontier struggles of the past, this is not a physical battle with literal bloodshed, but a battle of ideas, where indigenous traditions and ways of knowledge are sought to be decimated by Western tropes and ontologies (brought forth by academic 'Pilgrims' venturing into foreign and exotic intellectual and cultural territory!), where the 'dead Indian' is not a physical body, but a deity (Ganesha, Shiva, the Goddess?victimized by the psychoanalytical weapons of the academic battalion) or a saint like Sri Ramakrishna, defamed as a paedophile. It is only when we start looking at the ongoing raging controversy in terms of this paradigm that we can make sense of the war cry being sent out by the RISA Cartel against the indigenous Hindus re-staking their claim over their own intellectual and philosophical territory. No wonder Rajiv Malhotra is being viewed by American Indological scholars of the Chicago School as a Red Indian leader from the 'Savage Frontier', who has to be exterminated at all cost, in spite of all 'Hindu terror' and however long and hard the road may be!!
Wendy Doniger and her friends when they get worsted in any academic debate, they resort to vitriolic abuse and character assassination. Right from the beginning Indian intellectuals like Rajiv Malhotra tried to engage Wendy Doniger in a public debate to discuss her ideas on Hindu Religion and Culture. She dismissed all such overtures and attempts as being 'unfit' to debate or discuss, calling them inferior. When Rajiv Malhotra wrote his landmark essay RISA Lila-1 Wendy's Child Syndrome in 2002, he indicated his aim as a sincere attempt to ?synthesize, summarise, and simplify? RISA's scholarly perspectives which ought to give the Hindu diaspora a voice. Since more than seventy percent of his Wendy's Child essay merely summarised critiques by others, he asked the question: ?What is wrong with an Indian journalist who covers Indologists for the benefit of his community? This is merely reverse anthropology.? Everyone would agree that Rajiv Malhotra has become a pioneering path-breaker, opening new ground in educating the Indian American community regarding the biased anti-Hindu academic portrayals concerning them.
Wendy Doniger wrote to Rajiv Malhotra: ?I would be happy to speak with you as scholar to native informant... I would be very curious to know what prayers you recite, what rituals your grandmothers performed, what stories your aunts told you when you were a little boy... As a Hindu you do indeed have some authority with me on the subject of Hinduism.? Further she also wrote ?I refuse to have a conversation with YOU, RAJIV MALHOTRA, because of the ill-informed, inaccurate and malicious things you have written about me and about Jeffrey Kripal, statements that disqualify you as a valid spokesman for anything at all, let alone the Hindu community as a whole.?
These offensive and barbarous words remind me of the writings of Ms Catherine Mayo who came to India in the 1920s and savagely attacked India and her people. Mahatma Gandhi dismissed this report as a ?Municipal Drain Inspector's Report?. Today I would like to say this about Wendy Doniger: ?She is so coarse-grained that if you take her skin-smear, you can effectively use it as an industrial abrasive paper!!?
Aditi Banerjee gives the correct and final judgement: ?It is important to note that this is not Wendy Doniger's personal bias: she is swept away by the deeply embedded civilizational mindset inherent in White Culture while dealing with non-Euro-American cultures.?
Sankrant Sanu in his essay ?Is There Prejudice in Hinduism Studies? A Look at Encarta? brings out the biased nature of articles about Hindu Religion and Culture in the Microsoft Corporation's Encarta Encyclopaedia which is widely used as a reference source in American schools. He gives the following quotations from this book:
* Judaism: ?The God of creation entered into a special relationship with the Jewish people at Sinai?
* Buddhism: ?Karma consists of a person's acts and their ethical consequence?
* Hinduism: ?Rama and Krishna are said to be Avatars of Vishnu though they were originally human beings?
Sankrant Sanu notes that the statement chosen to describe Hinduism above repudiates Hindu belief, while the statements for the other two religions reflect a balanced, positive or neutral stance. You should also notice the use of 'said to be' in Hinduism while the statement on Judaism is presented in the editorial voice as a presentation of fact. Keeping this in view, Sankrant Sanu draws up the following brilliant quote on Christianity to parallel the Encarta quote on Hinduism:
* Christianity: ?Jesus Christ is said to be the 'Son of God' though he was just a human?
Sankrant Sanu has clearly proved that in the description of Christianity, Encarta approaches it from a point of humility?the problem being of the expository limitations of the author. No such humility is visible in the description of Hinduism, where the Encarta author quickly reduces any notion of complexity to an anthropological view point.
In Section IV Krishnan Ramaswamy has exposed the unholy alliance that exists between leading newspapers like Washington Post and New York Times and the hired writers / scholars belonging to the American Academia represented by the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and RISA. To give just one example:
In April 2004, the Washington Post published an article entitled ?Wrath Over a Hindu God: US Scholar's Writings Draw Threats From Faithful?. In this article it is alleged that wrathful Hindus are threatening great Hinduism scholars like Wendy Doniger, Jeffery Kripal, Sarah Caldwell and Paul Courtright. In this context Krishnan Ramaswamy has rightly observed ?Unfortunately the Washington Post completely evaded the range of issues explained to Shanker Vedantam, a staff journalist at the Post, such as the inadequate training of scholars, the politicized peer reviews, the parochial portrayals, and the asymmetries of power in the academy. Focussing instead on juicier offerings, the Post framed the story in the Mythic trope of savages (the Hindus) victimizing the civilized Whites (Scholars like Wendy Doniger, Jeffery Kripal, etc).?
Krishnan Ramaswamy, Antonio de Nicholas and Aditi Banerjee, the editors and the other learned authors in this book have given a resounding rejoinder to the biased and prejudiced anti-Hindu and anti-Indian writers of America and the West. I have no doubt that these Western writers today, in their hatred for Hinduism and all things Hindu, are behaving like Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler who tried to eradicate Judaism and the Jews from the face of the earth. I would like to oppose these charlatans and quacks from the West by quoting the blazing words of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the great Russian poet: ?Mankind is essentially a single organism, a single body, a single soul. But can we imagine a body surviving if it were hacked into little pieces (even if in these little pieces artificial dams were to be constructed for normal blood circulation)? Would anybody withstand such bestial torture? Yet mankind endures, somehow; even hacked to pieces it somehow exists, and its separate little pieces pulsate, breathe, hope, strive to coalesce. Clearly mankind is a special kind of organism, a special kind of body and soul, possessing supernatural powers of survival? Hinduism is one such time-defying, world-defying, time-mocking, imperishable, Cosmic Universal Organism.
V Sundaram, IAS, Retd.
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