Indian embassy in Washington DC kick started their Third International Yoga Day (2017) celebration with the below lecture by Rajiv Malhotra. The main theme of the talk was appropriation and digestion of Indian ideas and techniques by the west. It charted the developments in Mind Sciences in the West since Swami Vivekananda’s trip to the west. In one-hour Rajiv Malhotra mentioned all the people (in yellow), institutions (in red) and techniques/ideas (in blue) in the image above! That should be reason enough to watch the lecture!
Every time I hear RM speak on this topic, I realize something that I was overlooking earlier. Digestion clearly violates the ethics of academic and scientific research since the references are not properly cited and acknowledged. By weakening Indian culture and tradition, digestion also facilitates various Breaking India forces. I appreciated all this earlier.
However, all that is a problem for the Indian government and Swadeshi scholars. Should the aam aadmi care? How does it matter whether one gets the authentic version of a technique or the digested one? In other words, should it matter whether you learn Vipassana or it’s digested version of mindfulness; yog nidra vs lucid dreaming, Transcendental meditation vs relaxation-response? Rajiv Malhotra argues that it does matter because the digested versions are usually just a small subset of the source body of knowledge, and often are also substandard. He mentions that authentic Vipassana is much more advanced than mindfulness, yet mindfulness is projected as the “new and improved” version and is all over the town today! In a few generations, people may not even know that something called Vipassana even existed. I can easily imagine this. Indian scriptures and rituals can be very complex with many layers of meanings and symbolism. Same idea can often be interpreted and implemented in many different ways and combined with other ideas in numerous different ways. Once the source has been reduced to one or two digested forms, such experiments will no longer be possible. Paraphrasing from the talk:
digestion effectively plucks the fruit on a tree and leaves the tree behind to atrophy thereby eliminating the possibility of future harvests.
Another thing I realized is the difference between the way rest of Asia treated knowledge from India and how the west did it and is still continuing. Buddhism spread to China, Japan and south-east Asia over millennia and steadily became less prevalent in India. Yet, Buddhist scholars and practitioners in those countries even today respectfully acknowledge their Indian roots. Western appropriators, on the other hand, go out of their way to avoid crediting India. RM gives a powerful analogy to illustrate this point:
it is like you run 100m faster than any one before and the credit goes to the guy with the clock who timed you and reported it to the world!
RM mentioned that he is writing seven books based on this talk. I can’t wait for it!
Watch the below speech of PM Modi on the occasion of 1000 year birth anniversary of Sri Ramanujacharya, one of the great philosophers of Hinduism, in the same league as Ādi Shankaracharya and Madhvāchārya.
PM Modi presented a biography of Sri Ramanujacharya most of which I was not aware of. Particularly interesting was the fact that Sri Ramanujacharya’s guru was a non-bhrahmin! This was a big deal then. Removing caste-based discrimination was one of the big themes of Sri Ramanujacharya’s life. And this was duly acknowledged by Ambedkar in an editorial to which PM Modi heavily refer to in the speech. [Readers, if you find the soft copy of Ambedkar’s editorial, please share.]
So, two points:
Finally there is some sign of sensible and urgently needed reform in JNU‘s humanities departments. But some intellectuals are not happy about it:
Sheldon Pollock, Columbia University
David Ludden, New York University
Lawrence A Kimpton, University of Chicago
Joya Chatterji, University of Cambridge
Mrinalini Sinha, University of Michigan
Francesca Orsini, School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS)
K. Sivaramakrishnan, Yale University
I am glad that they expressed their opinion as it is a good indicator of a Sepoy. Right, right, I am not using Sepoy accurately here, since some of these are actually Angrez, not Indians employed by Angrez to shoot at fellow Indians.
Ok, so let’s call this post Sepoy and Lords-of-Sepoy alert! I will keep adding to the list.
This is a very important talk by Rajiv Malhotra delivered in Feb 2017 in New Delhi at an event organized by IGNOU. It addresses the question – what is the Indian counterpart of American exceptionalism?
The answer is – Bhartiya Exceptionalism. RM defines it, lays out the need for such a thing and compares it with the Grand Narrative of other nations. Of course, the sad thing is that there is need for articulation of Bhartiya Exceptionalism 70 years after independence!
For any student (this is, an honest student – not the Pollockian variety!) of Indian history and Hindu philosophy, it would be clear that Bhartiya exceptionalism would derive from Hindu heritage and philosophy.
The immediate next question, most likely from a confused Hindu, would be – what about the non-hindu minorities? Is there room for them? How can you right wingers be so intolerant?! First, let me remind you of the name of this blog: this-is-not-right-wing! Second – calm down. These would be non-issues in a society built on Hindu principles. That is because mutual respect (read Being Different) has always been a defining characteristic of Indian civilization. It has not just been an abstract idea but a ground reality and has actually facilitated integration of multiple immigrants over the ages.
So, how would we go about implementing Bhartiya exceptionalism in today’s India? Towards the end of the talk, RM clearly lays out there requirements that minorities ought to meet in order to integrate in a nation built on Hindu values. These are :-
1. Mutual respect should be a two-way street
2. Minority religions should disown foreign authority (apparently China has done this)
3. Minorities must accept the history of violence and oppression perpetrated in the name of their religions (think Aurangzeb).
I think these are perfectly reasonable requirements.
On the third point, note that no apology is being demanded from the minorities today. What is being asked is a recognition that, just like Jewish holocaust is a fact of history, so is Hindu holocaust. Anyone denying the Jewish holocaust in the west is promptly labeled fringe. But in India, Hindu holocaust deniers can easily be found writing for The Hindu, appearing on NDTV and, of course, raising slogans in JNU!
Rajiv Malhotra today posted the below talk delivered in Feb 2017 at the Foreign Service Institute in Delhi which is part of the Ministry of External Affairs. I must have watched over 50 lectures by RM. This one is definitely among his greatest hits. It is full of deep insights, telling anecdotes and, of course, political incorrectness!
Some of the questions that RM addresses are:
- Why would US and the west destabilize India? Isn’t India, being a democracy, a natural ally?
- Are the Breaking India forces isolated and local? Or, are some foreign “grand designs” also at play?
- How does India studies in the west compare with that of other major civilizations such as Chinese, Japanese and Islamic? Who funds it? Who controls it?
Some observations from the talk that struck me are:
- It is not always the case that Breaking India forces are driven by Western agencies. Indians are far too eager to blame it all on the west. However, now there even are vested interest groups based in India who are duping western agencies into supporting them under the pretext of human rights, etc. It is the responsibility of Indian government to identify and weed them out.
- Islamization of India is often pointed out as a threat to the stability of India. However, RM makes a distinction between islamization and Arabization, and says that it is the later that is the problem. Islam per se is not an issue. He points to Indonesia as a case study since, in spite of converting to Islam, it has retained the Indian civilizational identity. So religion and civilization are two different things – fascinating! He also points to the rise of Urdu in Kerala as a symptom of the problem. Urdu in Kerala – WTF?!
I came across this wonderful two-part lecture by Dr Kapil Kapoor on the Obsessions of Indian Intellectuals. Dr Kapoor presents a detailed and insightful deconstruction of the JNU and NDTV-chaap intellectuals who dominate Indian media and intelligentsia today. He analyzes their mindset, motivation, talking points and also the historical origins of this school of thought. Dr Kapoor is uniquely qualified to do this since he was a professor of linguistics at JNU, that Kremlim on the Yamuna!
In the process of critiquing these left-liberal intellectuals, he also outlines what Rajiv Malhotra calls the Indian Grand Narrative. The two hour lecture concludes with these words:
There are two knowledge cultures in the world – Hebraic and Vedic. And in the Vedic knowledge culture the fundamental drivers are different, for example, the definition of God, the definition of nature, the definition of man, the definition of being, other beings, the definition of time, the definition of duty and the definition of values .. these differ fundamentally … It is important to save the Indian, Hindu system of thought not only for the sake of Hindus but for the sake of the world. Because this (Hindu) alternative system alone is the solution to the crisis which is looming.
That is a huge claim. But I think if you listen to the whole two hours and reflect on it, you would at least consider the claim as plausible.
If my recommendation is not strong enough, read this cool summary by Dr Koenraad Elst.
By the way, please inform if this lecture has been published as a book or article.
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 Shoaib Daniyal 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.
“Dr. Koenraad Elst”