Sabrimala has NOTHING to do with Women’s rights

.. just like Jallikattu has NOTHING to do with animal rights, Dahi Handi has NOTHING to do with safety, Diwali firecracker ban has NOTHING to do with pollution.

[20 Oct 2018]

On 28 September, 2018 Supreme Court of India ruled that Women Of All Ages Can Enter Sabarimala Temple, thereby ending centuries old tradition of women of certain age (10-50 years) not being permitted in the temple.  The purpose of this post is to make one thing absolutely clear – regardless of where you stand on the SC verdict, this case has nothing to do with women’s rights. I arrived at this conclusion after based on multiple reports, some of which are listed below.

  • The central issue in this case is explained in this 8-min video by RM
  • For the history of the Sabrimala temple and the nitty gritty details of the case see Pgurus interview of activist TR Ramesh

For the real big picture of how this case is a perfect case study of rising Hinduphobia as well as apathy of Hindus read this article by Sandeep Balakrishnan in Dharmadispatch.in. He coined a name for the sleeping Hindus – Incurables. I think it is very apt.

Advertisements

A Case Study in Digestion of Vedic Mind Sciences?

In my other post, I explained that mind sciences is at the core of the Yogic world view and can be considered the organizing principle for the Indian civilization. Various Dharmic schools (including Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism), Sanskrit, Yoga, meditation, Pranayaam and Ayurveda were all developed to create an ecosystem for exploring the mind. Needless to say this is not generally appreciated, not even by Hindu Indians, forget the rest of the world. I myself didn’t appreciate this until a few years back when I was still an IBCD!

Why so?

One of the reasons is the systematic decoupling of the Indian mind sciences from Hinduism and, consequently, India. RM’s talk in this earlier post (India’s (unacknowledged) contributions to Mind Sciences by Rajiv Malhotra) presents numerous examples of famous westerners indulging in this appropriation and digestion. They are all from recent times (last 100 years); some are around today. I think I have found one more which can be added to that list — David Chalmers, a professor of philosophy and a cognitive scientist in NYU and Australia.

I came across this episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour titled the Unknown Brain. Last segment of the show is on the below TED talk by Chalmers. With over 600,000 views, this is one of the most popular TED talks. Watch it before reading further –

Amazing, isn’t it?! It could hardly have been grander. With his following two “crazy” ideas, Chalmers is sketching the outlines of the next scientific revolution which might well be much more fundamental than quantum mechanics and relativity combined (!):

Idea 1: consciousness is fundamental – in the same sense as space, time, mass and charge are; he calls it his “postulate”.
Idea 2: consciousness is universal – everything is conscious, even the rocks. There is even a word for it — panpsychism!

I was stunned when I heard this talk, and not at all by the grandness of his vision or the originality of his ideas. Even a casual reader of Vedanta would recognize the ideas as the core tenets of the Vedanta, as I explain in the other post using references to a talk by Sadhguru. In fact these ideas would not be novel to any one who knows about the philosophies of any of the Indian-origin Dharmic traditions. Still, all that Chalmers says about the eastern connection is a casual side comment – these ideas are not all that alien to people from the eastern traditions. But an unsuspecting viewer might not pick it up and may well get the impression that these are radical new ideas and that Chalmers has pioneered them!

At this point, you may say – all right, he is not crediting the source adequately. Why is this such a big deal? A friend of mine actually said this to me. And he is certainly not the JNU-type with any allergy to anything Hindu. He is just confused! In other words – my target audience!

Ok, so what is the big deal? For starters, using an idea without crediting the source is considered academic misconduct. Chalmers, being a professor, ought to know this. Perhaps he is not aware of the Vedic philosophy? Possible, but unlikely. He is a philosophy professor, after all! So yes, I do suspect that he has plagiarized from Indian thinkers, but I can’t make that  claim just based on a 15 min video. I am raising a red flag, just like RM raised a red flag for Wendy Doniger, Sheldon Pollock, Devdutt Pattanaik and many more. Readers should investigate further. But certainly, if Chalmers ever applies for a patent for a product (say a new “mindfulness” app!) based on these not-really-that-crazy ideas, I hope the patent office considers Vedic mind sciences as prior art. (Related – Dr Mashelkar on The Turmeric Patent Battle and KSRI, Chennai)

Now, whether or not Chalmers has plagiarized from Indian thinkers or is “inspired” by them is not really my main concern. Ignoring the ethics of all this, look at this from the point of view of the end-user — a layman who has no exposure to this stuff but is curious about meditation, brain, mind, etc. I happen to be in that category. Recently, I have been listening to an (authentic) lectures series on Patanjali’s Yog Sutra, the master text for meditation. And I am completely awe struck by the depth, sophistication and rigor of it. Patanjali, unlike Chalmers, is not iffy about things. He does not use words like “postulate” or “crazy” to describe his theories, presumably just to be safe, in case he turns out to be wrong later! Patanjali has developed the whole thing from theory to application. And by the way, Yog Sutra is just one of the many Hindu theories of the mind.

My point is that, not only is Chalmers not original, his formulation is likely also crude. So, a new student would be well advised to refer to authentic Hindu material along side Chalmers and see which makes more sense. For me, Patanjali’s Yog Sutra is the real deal. Why would you go for something like scotch when scotch is available; or, since it is mango season now, why go for any other mango when Indian mangoes are available?! RM has often commented – the digested versions of Indian traditions are invariably inferior to the original. And it is not always due to an ulterior motive. For a westerner, it may just be due to a lack of context.

Now, let us change the point of view to that of a nation or civilization. Imagine a TED talk which starts with these words: Imagine if we could cure diseases without any chemical drugs or surgery .. just by poking on your skin with micro needles. We call this technology micropoking! And it continues for 15 min without any mention of accupunture or China. Anyone, even an IBCD, would smell something fishy. The fact that people do not associate meditation with Hinduism, in the same way as they associate accupunture with China, or, for that matter, burger with the US, shows how India has squandered its greatest soft power. Even today, in India, Vedic mind sciences are not given enough attention in school curriculum nor in medical training. The centers of excellence in mind sciences are all in the west and that is were most the innovation (new apps, courses, etc) is also happening. The situation is very much like that of yoga 25-30 years ago. India had nearly lost the adhikaar on Yoga till PM Modi intervened a few years back. Different matter that the intervention may be too little and too late. Ayurveda and meditation are fast heading in that direction.

Finally, I think I should make a disclaimer which should really not be necessary for those who know me or those who have read the rest of this blog. But then, this is on the internet and people have short attention spans! Some of you might be asking – so, you think all of modern neuroscience — fMRI based brain mapping, human-computer interfaces, artificial intelligence, moon shot projects like BRIAN — are all pointless? I never said that. And I don’t think so. But I am asserting that the Vedic mind sciences are useful and have relevance today. The object of study for both the Hindu rishis and modern neuroscience is the same – the human mind. The two approaches have to be complementary, not at conflict with each other.

[Proof reading TODO: using Hindu, Vedic, Yogic and Dharmic interchangeably. Sort out and standardize the terminology.]

Further reading:

  1. Very nice (and short!) video on the Hindu formulation of consciousness by Swami Sarvapriyananda of  Ramakrishna Mission.

 

India’s MAHAKATHA (Grand Narrative)

This is a one-and-a-half hour long lecture delivered on 20 March 2018 at the iconic India International Centre in New Delhi.

RM has often talked about grand narratives of other civilizations but more as a side note. The central thesis of this lecture, which is a sneak preview of an upcoming book, is the Indian Grand Narrative. Anyone new to RM should start by watching this lecture as, I think, it provides the context to all of RM’s work so far.

Now, some of my comments:

  • The bits of the early romantic phase of Indology was quite interesting, especially the french prisoner of war; Initially German indology scholars did not want to create trouble for India. But later Max Mueller (1823-1900) did. After all he was sponsored by the British East India Company!

 

  • RM’s comments on new documents from Columbia University related to Ambedkar’s study there are troubling. These documents are apparently not in public domain but Ananya Vajpayee, Sheldon Pollock’s protege and now faculty at CSDS,  New Delhi may have access to them.

 

  • Based on RM’s and other thinkers and the current state of affairs, I am convinced now that at the core of all of India’s issues is the lack of a clear and positive grand narrative. A grand narrative which holds a country together is not simply about being patriotic (nothing wrong in that!) or just about having a sense of pride in one’s heritage (nothing wrong in this too, there are plenty of reasons to be proud) or India trying to become a global super power (also, nothing wrong!) or about Hindutva (nothing wrong with that too .. reminder – this is not right wing!).

 

  • The Indian Mahakatha should have been developed and institutionalized within the first decade of independence. The fact that a lecture like this is a crying need 70 years after independence is itself a symptom of the problem. If you reflect on this lecture for sometime and connect the dots with the news (of course, not the NDTV version), you would realize how big the stakes are — not just the integrity of India but also the very existence of the world’s oldest continuous civilization. You would also realize that we are very close to the tipping point. Current and the next generation will determine whether the Hindu civilization ends up like the Greek, Roman and Mayan civilization – in the museum. RM hints at this when he says that I am afraid that we may not have enough time.

Hope that is enough motivation not just to watch the lecture in its entirely but also to  reflect on it.

A wake up call for parents who read Devdutt Pattanaik to their kids

Finally! I have been hoping for a few years now for Rajiv Malhotra to expose Devdutt Pattanaik (DP). I had become suspicious of DP when he called Wendy Doniger his mentor because I knew the reality of Wendy Doniger from RM’s book Academic Hinduphobia.

The video is a conversation between RM and a Sanskrit scholar named Nityanand Misra who has studied DP’s work minutely, but from a Dharmic perspective. It is a rigorous hour-long critique. This is enough evidence for me to conclude that Devdutt Pattanaik is a quack.

This post is primarily addressed to parents who are using DP to introduce Hinduism to their kids.

Ok, so one more quack. What is the big deal? The big deal is that this quack is considered an authority on Hinduism by many, including some in my family and friends. One thing that stood out for me in this video was that most of the errors and distortions by DP are not that sophisticated. I was stunned by the अ vs आ error and the insidious definition of आस्तिक. One does not have to be a big pandit to pick these out. So more than exposing DP, this video exposes the ignorance of the people reading DP. The high popularity of DP shows how widespread this condition (of ignorance and confusion!) is.

Ok, let’s say DP is toxic. But I don’t see any good alternative to DP. I have actually heard that from a friend whom I told that DP might be toxic. First, this is a ridiculous argument. Would you take poison if you are hungry and food is not readily available? Second, this is a lazy excuse. There is plenty of good material out there. You just have to  seek it out. Lastly, you can’t preach something that you don’t practice. So before you try to teach hinduism to your kids, you should first learn. And I will be honest — for someone who has been preconditioned by the popular hinduphobic (pseudo) secular narrative, Hinduism is easy to appreciate. First you would do some serious unlearning. And then put in some serious time into reading authentic material and reflecting upon it.

Alright then, forget it. I will drop DP … and hinduism! Neither do I, nor my kids have the time for this.  The fact is that you are not dropping anything. You have ideas and opinions on everything, not only Hinduism but also every other religion. In fact, given how the world is changing you better know not only Hinduism, but also every other religion. For kids, this education is far more important than math and coding. I am not interested in converting anyone to anything. But if you are going to form opinions on Hinduism, do so based on authentic sources, not quacks like DP.

That is too big an ask. Still, let’s say I try educate my kids accordingly, can I tell if I am getting it right? There is actually a simple answer to this. While in school, as long as your kids don’t get the impression that all religions are the same, you might be fine. And by the time they are out of school, they should be absolutely clear as to why the Dharmic religions are fundamentally different from the Abrahamic religions. Note that I said different, not that any one is superior.

Dr Koenraad Elst’s fitting Response to Scroll.in promoting Aryan Invasion Theory

And there it is again – an article on scroll.in with an animated map of nonsense complete with ominous music in the background! Not to forget the customary hinduphobic section predictably titled “The Hindutva out-of-India myth”. It was first published on Jun 10, 2015 and updated on Jan 03, 2017. The author has solid hinduphobic credentials as evident from his regular contributions on scroll.in.

As for the present article Dr Koenraad Elst‘s response below sums it up perfectly –

Dear Mrs./Mr. Editor,

“While I don’t much mind an ignorant pen-pusher pontificating about the Aryan invasion debate, some concomitant modesty would at least be in order. Ridiculing any scepticism about the 19th-century Aryan invasion theory (AIT) merely shows that he is quite unaware of the state of the art.

“So he equates the rivalling Out-of-India Theory (OIT) with Flat Earth and Creationism. But it is very easy to find material evidence against both the latter, such as the fossil record. By contrast, your contributor is quite unable to muster any evidence against the OIT. Even Harvard professor and AIT champion Michael Witzel admits that no material evidence of Aryans moving into India has been found “yet”, i.e. after two centuries of being the official hypothesis sucking up all the sponsoring. So your correspondent thinks himself superior, successful where the greatest specialists have failed?

“A year ago I was participating in a Delhi conference on the Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization. While there, I received an e-mail from one of the world’s foremost specialists on the linguistic aspect of Indo-European origins, HH Hock, all the way from the US. Predictably, he upheld the now-dominant invasion scenario and added that no one takes the Out-of-India Theory seriously today (though it was the dominant assumption from 1786 till ca. 1820). Among linguists, this is approximately true: Nicolas Kazanas, Shrikant Talageri and myself have been in splendid isolation in those circles. But then, linguists who can competently argue in favour of the AIT are hardly more numerous. As I have verified at several specialist conferences, most concerned linguists don’t work on the problem of the origins, which has an aura of obsoleteness, and blindly follow the dominant theory because it happens to be what their textbooks contained. Which is what non-linguists like the cited team from Auckland also do.

“However, while I read this e-mail, I was surrounded by the creamy layer of Indian archaeology. Each professor read his paper presenting the findings at a particular Harappan site where he was digging, and each of them reported a complete cultural continuity, no trace of an invasion. Sitting next to me was the dean of Indian archaeology, the nonagenarian professor BB Lal. When he was young, he made his name by “proving” that the archaeologically attested Painted Grey Ware indicated the Aryans on their way into India. That “proof” is still cited till today in favour of t”he AIT, at least in India. But in reality, Lal himself has renounced that hypothesis decades ago, realizing that his posited link with Aryan invaders was itself based on a tacit acceptance of the omnipresent AIT. Today he emphasizes that there is no trace at all of any Aryan invasion.

“You choose to poison the debate by insinuating a Hitler reference into it. Suit yourself, but again it proves your ignorance, for Hitler was a zealous follower of the AIT. If the OIT has been associated with Hindutva (wrongly, for VD Savarkar, who launched this political concept, was an AIT believer), its alleged political use is at any rate only a trifle compared to the AIT. The OIT has been upheld mostly in one country for a few decades by a few scholars without any political power. By contrast, the AIT has been used politically for some 160 years by major state actors such as the British empire and Nazi Germany, and in India by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Ambedkarites (though BR Ambedkar himself emphatically rejected it), the Dravidianists, the missionaries and of course the secularists. If you don’t like the mixing of scholarship with politics, you should first of all lambast the AIT, not the OIT.

“May Allah (or Whoever serves as God to you secularists) give you the wisdom to keep your mouth shut on topics you don’t know enough about.

“Yours sincerely,

“Dr. Koenraad Elst”

Jallikattu – Animal Rights or a Breaking India issue?

I saw this post from ShankNaad on FaceBook today:

jallikattu

Along with this text (emphasis mine):

It is only extreme cases of cruelty that need their lordships to ride in favour of hapless creatures. Jallikattu does not fall in that category. Off late we’ve seen frequent attacks on our traditional practices. These attacks are hidden behind the garb of animal rights, women rights, child rights, minority rights and so on.

Our cultural ethos, our scriptures, the roots of our belief system have ample provisions for every aforementioned groups and much more than that. Therefore, any traditional practice, if it strictly follows our scriptures, is guaranteed to be harmless against any group deemed to be one without a voice.

One doesn’t need to be a scholar of our belief system to confirm the same. Our upbringing and memory of our festivities is enough to see how that’s taken care of.
But then, how will the nexus of Indian deep state and conversion freaks of all kinds demonize your native culture and nation? Propaganda must be carried out to show us that we’ve, all this while, been a pukeworthy regressive society.

The court orders, the fatwas by NGT, the campaigns by the feminist groups, the biased outcries by animal rights groups.. they are not the end result, they are very much part of the propaganda and the actual end result is a complete disaster for us and our nation as people without their identity and core values run around in panic like headless chickens in decades to come.

I completely agree. But let me elaborate further on the topic at hand – Jallikattu.

Some might say that pointing out the cruelty of slaughter does not reduce the cruelty in Jallikattu. I agree that pointing out a greater evil does not make a lesser evil any less problematic. But selectively pointing out only the lesser evil does indicate hypocrisy. Also, it must be pointed out that the extent of animal abuse in slaughter houses that work on an industrial scale, all year round and all over the country (and world) is orders of magnitude greater than that in a once-a-year degree regional event of Jallikattu.

The degree of abuse is still not an excuse for abuse in Jallikattu, if any. For every news article or anecdote that expresses horror at the cruelty against animals in Jallikatu, I have found another report which says that either the news is fake or overblown.

My view is that any tradition, or for that matter, any institution, which has been around for hundreds of years runs a risk of accumulating distortions which may not be true to the intended spirit of the tradition. Do you think the founding fathers of US would consider the election of Trump a success of democracy as they had envisioned it? I doubt it. And would the solution be to do away with democracy or fix it? The later, I think.

Likewise, if there are distortions in Jallikattu, then it should be investigated and fixed. But it should be done by people who have respect for Indian heritage and tradition and are genuinely interested in reform, such as Sadhguru (this is what he has to say on this matter). Respect for animals and nature is a core value in Hinduism. You don’t need to learn it from these modern animal rights activists.

The Big Picture

PETA and other activists who are calling for a ban on Jallikattu, regardless of their rhetoric, are not really interested in mitigating animal abuse. In some cases, their hypocrisy is out in the open, for example in these tweets by Shoba De –

sobhade

But often it is not so obvious. To really understand the motivations of these activists, you need to look at who are funding them and why? What philosophies – Islamic, Christian, Marxist or some other – guide them? Are these activists evenly critical of all societies, cultures and countries (for example, do they have anything to say about bull fighting in Spain)?

Attacks on Jallikattu is not an isolated incident. Attacks on the Kumbh Mela, where human rights violation and caste discrimination is the cover up, are similar. These attacks are manifestations of the Breaking India forces aimed at undermining India by attacking her underlying Hindu culture. Remember that India is a relatively young and weak nation-state, but an ancient, highly developed and resilient culture-state. The Hindu culture is what defines the Indian civilization and has helped India resist colonization for nearly 1000 years. All this is explained in painstaking detail in Rajiv Malhotra’s book Breaking India.

(update) This detailed article on Indiafacts by Sankrant Sanu explains how these attacks on Hindu festivals fit into the larger strategy of Christian evangelical organizations.


Updates

  • Swamy speaking on 16-Jan-2017 in Bay Area US (watch for ~5min)
  • A first hand account of what happens in Jallikattu by Francois Gautier, an insider  journalist. It starts off like this:

I covered Jalikattu a few times and found that it was pretty harmless. Don’t let the intellectuals and the Marxists deny your Hindu inheritance, boys and girls …

The Deception of William Dalrymple

William Dalrymple is another character whom I admired in my confused days. I considered him to be a true admirer of India. I had browsed some of his books and seen them in many book shelves of friends and family.

I got suspicious when I learned that he is one of the main organizers of the Jaipur literary festival and has hosted and showered praises on Sheldon Pollock. While at the same time blocked Rajiv Malhotra from being invited to the festival.

That is guilt by association, and not a clinching evidence. I agree. Now read these articles:

  1. Does Willy get it Wilfully wrong? by Farrukh Dhondy (Outlook 2004)
  2. William Dalrymple’s incurable colonial hangover by Arvind Kumar (Indiafacts 2014)

Still not convinced. Ok, just consider this a red flag and BEWARE!