Monday, September 10, 2012

Hindus and outsiders

Prof. Vijaya Rajiva thinks that I as an outsider cannot really help the Hindus. So far, so good: if Hindus don’t help themselves, there is indeed no outsider who can save them. However, she also says (indeed it is her chief message) that Hindus don’t need outsiders because the traditional Hindu way is good enough. But is it?


A diagnosis of the Hindu situation

Yes, the traditional Hindu way has some remarkable achievements to its credit, no one should deny that. The very existence of a Hindu civilization after more than a thousand years of Islamic battering and a few centuries of European colonization is indeed not so evident. Hindus have fought, and there was something invincible in the Hindu social structure.

However, the losses were also staggering. A part of the Hindu biomass, i.e. Hindu people, went over to the Islamic enemy. They secured an Islamic territory in 1947 as well as legal, constitutional and de facto privileges in the Indian republic. Christianity tried several strategies to win converts, at first rather unsuccessfully, but now with increasing results. At last, the climate is right, with a defenceless Hindu society offering little resistance against the conversion wave.

Meanwhile, the world has changed. As I have argued in my article about missionary anti-racism, the Christian Churches and the missionary apparatus have adapted admirably, crossing the floor all the way from association with colonial racism to a Dalit-Dravidianist discourse which borrows fromanti-racism. They have many successes to show for it. Though the Indian Churches have cooperated with the governmental goal of reproductive self-restriction, they have still made demographic gains, with the reality being far more impressive than the official figures, which are already impressive enough. Indian Islam too, for all its looking back to a medieval Prophet, has adapted sufficiently to make and consolidate its gains. After winning a separate territory in 1947, it gained a promising foothold in the Indian Republic, secured a partisan anti-Hindu section of the Hindus (“secularism”), made the media and academe toe an anti-Hindu line, and gained enormously in numbers both through a consistently high birthrate and through immigration.

Hinduism, by contrast, is losing constantly. It is fragmented along caste and ethnic lines (worsened by the “secularist” regime) but also along ideological lines, chiefly secular against Hindu activist.  It is divided against itself. There is a Hindu nationalist movement, but it is warped by the “Western” nationalist viewpoint and deliberately unable to wage the ideological struggle against Hindu society’s non-Hindu besiegers. Its recent help to the people from the Northeast is commendable, but proves also how formidable the problems inside India have become. Traditional Hinduism is losing its grip even among nominal Hindus, who learn the government version of culture and history in their schools and watch TV-programmes on stations owned by foreign or Indian (but either way anti-Hindu) magnates. That is why the Hindu historian Sita Ram Goel concluded his diagnosis with the observation that the death of Hinduism is no longer unthinkable.

There is very little sign of Hindu forces adapting themselves to the new realities. A few individuals show a remarkable sense of initiative, like Swami Dayananda Saraswati (who patronized the Jerusalem declaration), Subramaniam Swamy (the convert to Hindu nationalism), Prof. Yashwant Pathak (convenor of the Elders’ conferences) or  Swami Vigyananda (VHP general secretary); but over-all, this seems too little. The main representative of the Hindus in politics, the BJP, has completely abandoned its Hindu agenda, showing not just the weakness of character of people in the party concerned, but the weakness of the Hindu spirit to which they respond. The Hindu masses haven’t got a clue, though they react healthily whenever they have to deal with hostile subversion or violence. They long for leaders, but most leaders disappoint them. Hindus are mostly stuck in the past, and I interpret Vijaya Rajiva’s article as a defence of this tendency to live in the past.

The good thing about being an outsider is that, while one may not see what goes on inside the black box of Hindu society, one can see the input and output all the better. From the outside, it seems that Hindus are not dead yet, but are losing ground all the time. So, from my vantage point, I can see very clearly that there is no reason for the smugness emanating from Vijaya Rajiva’s article. One can argue about the methods proposed by “alarmists” like N.S. Rajaram or Ashok Chowgule, but their diagnosis that threats to India and to Hindu society are looming large, is only realistic. One does not have to be a foreigner to see what those Indians see, but suffice it to say that in our own way, we can see it too.




The Professor thinks that I am not in a position to say that the Vedas are apaurusheya, “impersonal”, often interpreted as “supernatural”, “of divine origin”, because there I would not be talking about my own heartfelt tradition. Well, exactly. That is indeed a point on which I have waged many discussions with internet Hindus. Let me reword my considered opinion a bit differently. I am in a position to say: no, the Vedas are not divinely revealed. This is not the viewpoint of “Western” or “Orientalist” scholarship, it is the Vedas themselves that say so: they are composed by human seers who address the gods.

The Vedic hymns naturally contain in passing many data about the age and region in which they were composed, as well as the genealogy and the circumstances of their composers. The gods figure in them in the second or the third person, the seers in the first. Bhargo devasya dhimahi, “let us meditate on the god’s effulgence”, or Tryambakan yajamahe, “Let us worship the three-eyed one”, or Agnim ile, “I praise the fire”, all have the human seers as their subject, the gods as their object. This is in sharp contrast with the Quran or the 10 commandments, which are deemed to be revealed by God through his conduit, the prophet.

What Vijaya Rajiva represents, is the Hindu tradition, which over the millennia has come to differ considerably from the Vedic inspiration. Hindu tradition has turned the Vedas from a human composition into a divine revelation, the seers and poets into prophets. In fact, it has turned the Vedas into a kind of Quran. It is unclear whether this is cause or consequence, but the Hindu mentality seems to have evolved since the Vedic period. Whereas an unencumbered outsider sees the greatness of the Vedic poets as creators, Hindu tradition reduces them to conduits of the gods. Or worse even, to conduits of the single monotheist God, who created the timeless Vedas along with the world. If that’s what the Vedas said, we wouldn’t have bothered to give up the Bible, for it says much the same thing.



Post-Vedic Hinduism

In particular, the introduction of the notion of “liberation” or “enlightenment” (absent in the Vedas) created an absolute, a steep inequality between people deemed enlightened and the rest of us. Hence the veneration of gurus, see e.g. the “Vedic” (but in fact Puranic, medieval) mantra in which the guru is equaled to Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara. Rama never venerated his guru Vasishtha as a quasi-god.

Another novelty is the belief in reincarnation. It is not in the Vedas, no matter how internet Hindus look for it there. The Upanishadic Brahmins Uddalaka and Shvetaketu came to know about it from a Kshatriya (not coincidentally the caste to which the later Buddha and Mahavira belonged), and explicitly acknowledged it as a novelty, not implicated in the central Upanishadic doctrine of the Self or in the liberation from the false identification of the Self with the non-Self. In recent centuries and today, most Hindus are crypto-Buddhists to whom reincarnation is a central belief and liberation is even defined as the escape through meditation from the cycle of rebirths. That is not the original Upanishadic view. I have seen many internet Hindus get angry for my making these factual observations, but hey, that’s what scripture itself says. It just goes to show how tradition may differ from real history as laid down in the Vedas.

This is not to say that reincarnation is untrue. Post-Christian Westerners with their matter-of-fact approach have investigated testimonies of reincarnation (spontaneous testimonies by children, provoked testimonies by adults in regression trance, and Tibetan tulkus) and are inclined to conclude in favour of reincarnation. Incidentally, they found no proof of the concomitant Hindu-Buddhist doctrine of karma in the sense of reward or punishment for deeds from a past life, a doctrine unknown to other reincarnation believers. But reincarnation may be a fact, and those much-maligned Westerners would not say: “I believe in reincarnation because Lord Buddha or the Shastras tell me so”, but: “I believe in reincarnation because research findings confirm this hypothesis”.

This is also not to deny that the belief in reincarnation is old. It certainly existed in Vedic times, indeed it existed before the Amerindians left Northeast-Asia for America, so that they could take it with them. But those who composed the Vedas did not hold this belief, in fact they had a ritual for the dead in which they pointed to a specific part of the heavens where the deceased went. In the European world, the belief in an afterlife (Valhalla) coexisted with the belief in reincarnation (taught by the Druids, or in Virgil’s Aeneis). Others, who contributed to the non-Vedic part of Hinduism, may have held this belief, and later it was accepted by the successors of the Vedic seers. Hinduism is a confluence of Vedic and non-Vedic traditions, just as the Paurava Vedic tribe coexisted with other tribes, and just as the Vedic Sanskrit language coexisted with other Indo-Aryan, other Indo-European and totally other languages.  

Another example of how Westerners may see what Hindus don’t, was given to me by a reviewer of my 1997 book BJP vis-à-vis Hindu Resurgence. Like Vijaya Rajiva, he hoped to be delivered from those non-Hindu busybodies trying to defend Hinduism. Apart from myself, he also directed his ire against David Frawley, namely for writing in his autobiography that he was a self-taught Sanskritist who had read the Vedas all by himself. In the reviewer’s opinion, Frawley should have been initiated into the Vedas by a recognized Vedacharya. Well, then he would have studied the Vedas through the eyes of Hindu tradition, which captures and transforms the message of the Vedic seers, whereas now, he accepted the face-to-face encounter with the Vedic seers themselves. It has not kept him from becoming far more Hindu than myself, but I note that to some Hindus, he has remained an outsider nonetheless.

So, a Westerner, or indeed a globalist, may miss certain things, but conversely, they see things which Hindu nationalists fail to see. That is why I am not apologizing for being an outsider.



Hindu survival

However, I have no quarrel with Hindu tradition. For me, everyone is free to practice religion as he likes (within the usual confines of morality). There may be something to living Hinduism which I cannot feel, and what I do see and feel is already glorious enough. So, by all means, go ahead with it. Only, I am curious to know what those traditional methods of survival are. Among them is certainly the continuation of Hinduism as a living religion. In that sense, I have no quarrel with Hindus forgetting about politics and taking part in religious activities such as rituals and festivals.

It’s just that I think this is not enough to survive. Many people have practiced their religion but turned out to be no match for the “asuric forces”. So, on top of continuing Hindu tradition, I’d like to see what strategies are being deployed to outwit these asuric forces. Don’t tell the details to an outsider like me, but then at least show me the results. Show me how the Hindu percentage in India is increasing again. Show me your victories.



Anonymous said...

I share your amazement at the hindu art of making enemies out of friends. RR is Jehovah's poisoned gift to Hinduism, a more obnoxious writer is hard to find. She finds Mira Alfassa and Sister Nivedita among the white seducers of India's saints!

Your problem is also the skin colour and being born a catholic. I know its unfair, but to some of us, all whites look alike, just like all Chinese. We learnt it from the Brits, to whom we all looked alike.

Oh BTW, Vijay vaaNi is filled with anti-Israeli rants, and typical western left-wing claptrap, along with over-the-top "hindu" chauvinism. I think the "hinduism" is a mask to hide its real pay-masters, the "white" left. Just make a survey of its articles on international issues, position on NRI Hindus (not in the puNya Bhumi, so second-class hindus) etc. The "Dravidians" and Christain missionaries should fund them well, to aid the boomerang effect.

Mahalaya said...

I have been called a mleccha so many times...maybe it's true.

But even we "Mleccha" have a vested interest in Dharma...not for the fashion or culture. But, for the very wealth of philosophy the richness of Truth. The true nourishment that was lacking in my own life, found within the Beloved Words of Beloved Krishna.

The stakes are high...what will come of Dharma and the Beloved Peoples who this very Truth resides?

You know, Beloved One. They may say they do not need you...they may say you can not help. But, at this point i think every hand is needed.

There is a dam ready to burst and who would be ignorant enough to turn away the capable hands of another based upon where they spawned?

So keep striving, keep writing. We all have a very real stake in this...despite many not understanding that, or caring.

Hari Om Beloved<3

sandalwood said...

Reincarnation exists alongside non-duality as a teaching. If you can't see through the former, then you're in it. Moksha takes one towards the latter.

In the battle of ideas, the non-dual Dharmic teachings are way, way ahead of theistic teachings of the Abrahamics. Science spreads, destroys belief in theism, but bolsters non-duality. Soon, we will reach the conclusion that consciousness is to be explored directly. Science itself is going there, so I feel some of the Hindu cultural beliefs will not survive the cut, but the deep teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism are finding a fertile ground in the modern world.

Somya Sharma said...

It is correct that Hindu tradition has been versatile and strong enough in the past to find ways to overcome several crises and continue to survive, and in future also I don't have any doubt that it will be able to withstand the combined challenge being posed by the three external enemies (the three religions of Westernization, Christanity, and Islam) and the bigger internal enemy-- the growing Ashuric force among the Hindus.The real strength of Hinduism lies not in the large body of learned who expound its principles and its excellent qualities (though they are a substantial and capable body doing admirable work), but among those who, innocent of all the politics happening around them, continue in the path shown by their ancient and modern seers and avtars. They are the ones who come to the Kumbha mela--worshipping god and life in all its forms, frauds and tricksters included, taking most of the things at their face value; and relishing the experience of trinity of god, jeev and maya on their onward path). The real danger lies in the Ashury forces getting to them-- which has already made many of the humans into unhumans and most of the brahmins into rakshasas. I am not even worried about those who get converted to Christanity because at heart, even when following an alien and different god using alien rituals, are still Hindus within. The same was the situation with most of the Muslim converts and their progeny also, till as recently as 50 yeras ago. But things are changing with the coming of petro dollars in the hands of Islamists.
As far as at-heart Hindus like Elst (though he would like to label himself something else)and one of the commentators above who were born non-Hindus, it can only be a non-sattvic person who will try to belittle their contribution in understanding differnt facets of Hinduism and its traditions, as well as their achievements in the realm of Dharma.I for one have found the articles and books of Elst highly educative as well as bringing a refreshingly new perspective which can't be seen among born Hindus. Hinduism doesn't go with this type of exclusivity. All said and done, tradition is not in our genes (unless there has been some recent research to prove it). At best we can say that it might be within the atma which migrates from life to life unless it is all learned by us. Given this, it is beyond me to understand how anyone not born as a Hindu is excluded from the sanctum sanctorum of Hindusim. In fcat the very fact that they have made more effort to get there makes them more eligible and more capable Hindus than lazy people like me who were content just to be born as Hindus and woke up too late.

Trailer of Dharma said...

Koenraad Elst,

perhaps you should simply retort to these people, that they are Christianist plants, who use radical Hindu rhetoric designed to scare away all friends of Hindus!

Rita Narayanan said...

I went to very good schools and colleges and unlike a lot of uprooted city folks spent my formative years visiting grandparents in gramam in south india.

But until i availed the largesse of the public libraries and museums in the US my Hindu beliefs hardly had the bigger philosophical foundation.

essentially everybody talks about an India before the British created the modern state but the truth is people's lives were governed by the places they lived in. So you have no structured Hindu identity say like a Tibetan identity.

the whole mess of huge masses of people who moved around and the resultant displacement has had a huge impact and no national project to deal with the resultant cultural loss.

the cultural loss as a result of the crude defanging of the royal india will be documented by future generations as a hasty and monumental folly.

unless Hindus stop blaming the muslims, British etc etc and contend with themselves, the future is bleak. By that i am not being romantic but the hindu right is not a robustly aesthetic sight. So while people eat from the culture for votes and power they are not adding to it.

Julian said...

"essentially everybody talks about an India before the British created the modern state but the truth is people's lives were governed by the places they lived in. So you have no structured Hindu identity say like a Tibetan identity."


Was that why Shivaji called his ideal Hindavi Svarajya.

What about Bhushana who wrote the following in the 17th century?

May be before pontificating about the "Hindu right" and how we should not "blame" your beloved Muslims or British, you should read history more carefully.

Rita Narayanan said...

Mr Julian Shivaji's is a favourite of mine i was making comments about the "Modern" Indian State as we know it with its history.

I have a right to have an opinion on any subject as long as I maintain decorum associated with critisism.

Mr Elst himself often makes critical observations about the Hindu right and Hinduism today.

Why should it be seen as beloved "muslims" and "british".

state your "own" comments about issues and leave me to define my own and who I am.

Thanks and good luck!

Phillip said...

[I know its unfair, but to some of us, all whites look alike, just like all Chinese. We learnt it from the Brits, to whom we all looked alike.]

No, no one has to teach Indians or anyone to see generic similarities rather than individual differences when they encounter a new class of individuals, human or non-human. This is just the way humans deal with new and unknown things. Even if you have not travelled to various countries, your own experience and self-observation should teach you this.

When I first moved to Pune, there were people in my neighborhood (Gultekadi across the street from Dais Plot slum) who had evidently never, or only very rarely, seen a real white person before. People would sometimes comment to one another that I must be Chinese. This was not because they had failed to properly learn their lesson from the Brits, but because their experience of foreigners of any kind was so extremely limited that all of us (or at least the more palefaced of us) looked the same to them. A couple of months ago, someone even shouted "chong-ching" at me as he drove by on his motorbike -- a nice change from the usual गोरे (note the neuter gender), which I hear almost every day.

Muse (# 01429798200730556938) said...

KE ji,

The missionary racism has not only expanded to a Dalit-Dravidianist discourse, it has also created a powerful British-brahminical lobby that stands as the reason for the Dalit-Dravidianist racist existences. Both feed on each other, and sustained by the anti-other.

Both must be eradicated for the rebirth of the Dharmic spirit, which is dead now.

Prof. Vijaya Rajiva and others of Radha Rajan clan represent the colonial version of British brahmins. They are supporters British-brahminical elitism of the cities, as opposed to the village-based Indic systems.

For example, their hatred for Gandhi ji is mostly because he does not have the birth-based qualification as a brahmin. You would find that their opposition to Nehru is a silent murmur, because he is the icon of the British-brahmins.

These British-brahmins are pure racists. They warp Hinduism in the anvils of abrahamism.

Therefore, they cannot understand the exposition of and cannot tolerate the existence of an 'Indic' indologists who stand against abrahamism.


Muse (# 01429798200730556938) said...

No wonder greatest Indologists of the world, Koenraad Elst and David Frawley, become mere 'mlEchA-s' while the greatest enemies of India are worshipped as gifts from God based on 'the caste', which the Europeans introduced.

These people are internal enemies of Hinduism and Hindutva.

These are NOT hindu nationalists, but hindus influenced by European natioanlism. They misinterpret this european natioanlism as One-true-nationalism.

They assume that this european nationalism becomes Hindu nationalism, merely by who implement it !

It is implemented by self-appointed colonial-hindus, though principally and practically it is european nationalism.

Those aside, I completely agree with KE's views about 'apaurusheya', but surprised about his views on liberation and rebirth, which appear different and new to my understanding.

The pre-Buddhist upanishads do discuss about liberation, birth and re-birth. For example, one of the three earliest upanishads, which predates Buddhism says:

‘When his body becomes thin through old age or disease, the dying man separates himself from his limbs, even as a mango or a fig or a banyan fruit separates itself from its stalk, and by the same way that he came he hastens to his new abode, and there assumes another body, in which to begin a new life.’” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4:3:33-36)."

Second observation is Koenraad Elst's seeming classification of Brahmini created Upanishads and Kshatriya created Buddhist schools.

It is true that upanishads and vEda give importance to brAhminic way of living and polity, and buddhism demands kshatriya hegemony and hierarchical polity. However, I do not think it is correct to say that contributors to these religions can be categorized based on caste.

Majority of the rshIs who gave out upanishad-s are kshatriyA-s. Almost all of the buddhist monks and masters who gave out great buddhist philosophical systems are brAhmin-s.

Hinduism, has found great heights after imbibing noble Buddhist insights, creating philological differentiation, and adapting epistemological arguments.

Therefore, there wont be any Hinduism without Buddhism, and there wont be any Buddhism without Hinduism. The Mahayana is almost in all the way Hinduism.

If Hindus are called crypto-buddhists, then the buddhist could be called as crypto-Hindus.

In my amateur understanding, the marking difference between these two religions is, their political and social approach.

If I am allowed to use the modern european terminology (which is not 100% suitable) Hinduism brings affluent anarchical thoughts and creates root-level polity and inter-dependence among all the social groups.

However, Buddhism is completely hierarchical and tries to make every social groups clearly independent of others.

(To use the opt modern software industry term) sanAtana dharmA is open-source religion (whereas Buddhism is centrally-organized religion).

Therefore, Hinduism is crypto-Buddhism, crypto-Jainism, etc.

In addition, sanAtana dharmA is not upanishads alone. Restricting Hinduism only to upanishads and even vEdA-s could be over simplification.


Anonymous said...

@ अश्वमित्रः

[I know its unfair, but to some of us, all whites look alike, just like all Chinese. We learnt it from the Brits, to whom we all looked alike.]
This is just the way humans deal with new and unknown things.

I'm trembling with laughter .... perhaps you MISSED the irony. Or perhaps you did not, in which case a deliberate play dumb act. Droll.

Even if you have not traveled to various countries, your own experience and self-observation should teach you this.

That was great, Sherlock. You figured out that I did not travel to other countries. Have you heard of Karl Johann's Gata somewhere in the world? How about Delphi, Rhodos, Arc De Troimphe, Wax Museum, Tate Gallery?

signhere said...


Vedas never proclaimed it is composed by any one, well many seers through their intuition realized hymns so it is not work of intellect. But through them what was present just came out.

Point no one can be taken for complete authority as everyone is finite in comparision to infinite.

In VISHNUTATVA NIRNAYA of Achary Madhva it is proved vedas as apourusheya, please have a look at it before coming to conclusion

Varnas are present in akasha.
varnas(character/aphabets) are nitya so are the padas(word) so is the sentence formed out it. Now your question so why is kalidasa kavya or any other for that fact Apourusheya ?
Answer to that is(anoopurvi) is not present for these but Vedas. In the beginning of creation as you have given vishnu preaches complete Vedas to Brahma as knowledge is to be spread else whole world would have been in dark.

webasura said...

Rebirth (tied to Karma) is not Vedic and Upanishadic? LOL, what an old and worn out view!

RigVeda 10.16.3
सूर्यं चक्षुर्गच्छतु वातमात्मा द्यां च गच्छ पृथिवीं च धर्मणा ।
अपो वा गच्छ यदि तत्र ते हितमोषधीषु प्रति तिष्ठा शरीरैः ॥

"To the Sun let your Eyes go,
To the Wing your Life-breath.
By the good deeds you have done,
Go to the Heaven and then come back again
To live on the Earth or take to the Waters
If you are comfortable with it.
Remain in the Herbs with the bodies you intent to take."

RigVeda 10.16.2

श्रुतं यदा करसि जातवेदो ' थेमेनम् परिदत्तात् पितृभ्यः ।
यद् गच्छात्यसूनीतिमेतामथा देवानां वाशनीर्भवाती ॥

"When the Supreme Lord gives the soul rebirth and facilitates another mother-father duo based on the fruits of Karma, then the soul inherits that particular type of life-force dynamics, and becomes engaged with the sensory apparatus."

AFAIU, the theory of Rebirth and Karma is intrinsic to the Veda-Vedanta process. However, there is no need to explicitly subscribe to this theory as doctrine, in order for the process of self-purification to work. Rather, it is postulated as a way to explain certain psychic phenomena observed during this process. Moreover, while there is no need to a priori accept it, denying this theory during the process can become a serious obstacle, because then one is invalidating one's own "subconscious" memory. Keeping these important points in mind, different sections of VedOpanishad will postulate this theory and others will remain agnostic about it. But this is a logical separation, not a historical separation.

Phillip said...

David Shulman's recent review of Pankaj Mishra's From the Ruins of Empire (in The New York Review of Books) has an excellent discussion of the natural, organic emergence of individualism and "modernity" in South India, and elsewhere in India and Asia, well before European culture arrived or began to have an influence. Unfortunately the article is restricted to subscribers, and cannot be cut and pasted (it was sent to me by a friend), but it should be sought out by those who care about the vexed question of Indian modernity and its supposed roots in western influence.

Omkar Deshpande said...

@signhere: Sorry to disappoint you, my friend, but the Vishnu Tattva Nirnaya's "proof" is not a proof for modern historians. The whole argument there relies on the existence of an anadi-parampara that has always maintained that the Vedas are apauruSheya. Needless to say, the existence of such an anadi-parampara is purely a matter of faith, since historical evidence is not available beyond a few thousand years, and modern genetic analysis has already shown that all humans migrated out of Africa 50,000 years ago. Claims about the existence of an anadi-parampara (or akartrikatva prasiddhi or whatever other technical phrase you want to use) cannot be extrapolated back into the past indefinitely, since human beliefs can change with time, can be invented with time, and cannot be indefinitely projected back into the past without actual historical evidence from the past.

Bhavya Ketan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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