'How Not to Engage in Hindu Christian Dialogue' - Dr. Vijaya Rajiva
'How Not to Engage in Hindu Christian Dialogue'
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva
Jan. 17, 2012
At a Discussion at the University of Massachusetts (Dartmouth) Rajiv Malhotra, the author of the book Breaking India (2011) addressing a small gathering, presented a spectacle of retreat and submission before a known 'adversary' Jesuit theologian and scholar Dr. Francis Xavier Clooney. Malhotra's co author Aravindan Neelakandan was not present and it is not known what his views are on his co author's start of a new career in Hindu Christian Dialogue. It was not so long ago that Breaking India had poignantly informed readers of the dangers facing India : terrorism, maoism, Inculturation from the Church and so on. And now we see the one of the authors of that book engaging with the self same Inculturation forces, under the rubric of Interfaith Dialogue, in this instance, Hindu Christian Dialogue. The present writer has explained in previous articles the reasons for this capitulation by Shri Malhotra. The reader is reminded that Inculturation is the process by which the Church ingratiates and insinuates itself into the local culture (in this case Hindu culture) not to integrate with it but to subvert it in various ways, so that the end result would be Conversion. The Vatican has openly endorsed this method and one avenue of Inculturation is the drawing in of Hindu intellectuals into the process of Interfaith Dialogue, specifically Hindu Christian Dialogue. Violence and conquest are no longer the chosen methods. Other avenues are there and Interfaith Dialogue is one of them, along with creeping Conversion.
At present Hindus should sit up and take notice of the fact that Shri Malhotra has further intentions of spreading his 'message.'
During his recent visit to India for talks on his new book Being Different, Malhotra met three different groups. The first meeting was with academics in Delhi amongst whom was a professor from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU, not known for its Hindu orientation) who informed Malhotra that he Malhotra is interested in 'knowledge systems'. Shri Malhotra repeated this line at Dartmouth. In the video of the Discussion there he tells us that he is interested in knowledge systems, that he is not interested in the 'politics' of interfaith dialogue. This coming from the author of Breaking India is indeed precious !
The second meeting was with business people, a new group who Malhotra claims, does not know much about their own identity as Hindus and needed to be educated on the topic. And the third group was composed of some Hindu acharyas who Malhotra felt did not know much about Western thought and who needed to be educated in order to engage in Hindu Christian Dialogue. It is this last group that should concern the Hindu Samaj most. It is one thing for diasporic Hindus to keep themselves occupied with interfaith dialogue, quite another thing to help in the subversion of the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths by the Church. These have been the mainstay of our civilisation and we tinker with them at our own peril. The present writer has explained why this is so, in a previous article ' If a thing ain't broke don't fix it !' (in Bharata Bharati, kalyanblogspot & Haindava Keralam). The central argument of that article is that the traditional acharyas are well versed in their own tradition and that should continue. Spreading the virus of interfaith dialogue amongst them is doing a disservice to them and to the Hindu Samaj.
Here, we want to briefly examine the shape of things to come by looking at the process by which the well trained Jesuit scholar Dr. Franics Xavier Clooney was able to exploit Rajiv Malhotra's vulnerabilities, both the latter's new found agenda of interfaith dialogue (and now quite openly Hindu Christian Dialogue) and his position as an autodidact. The 'churning' that Malhotra did in understanding the differences between Hinduism and the monotheistic faiths (specifically Christianity) is important to himself undoubtedly. He is taken in by his own involvement with this process and as with most autodidacts (self taught) though not all, he imagines this to be a world shaking event. This subjective illusion can be the basis of a fine adventure of ideas, even perhaps an autobiographical account of his personal evolution. But as a 'scholarly' attempt to tackle a well trained adversary it was bound to end in a debacle.
Who is Francis Xavier Clooney ? He is a Jesuit priest and scholar who is a Professor at the School of Divinity at Harvard University (USA). He has a long standing interest in Hindu Christian Dialogue. He was introduced at Dartmouth as :
1. Professor of Divinity and Comparative Theology
2. He is on numerous editorial boards
3. He is the Director of the Centre for the Study of World Religions
4. He is the first President of the International Society for Hindu Christian Dialogue
5. He was the Co ordinator of Inter Religious Dialogue for the Society of Jesus
6. He is the editor of New Comparative Theology.
His academic credentials are impeccable. So is his dedication to the Vatican's program of Inculturation (See the article by George Thundiparambil 'Old Poisoned Wine in new Tetra Packs' in Vigilonline and as well the writings of Radha Rajan in Vigilonline and Sandhya Jain and Tamizhchelvan in Viajayavani). The present writer has pointed out on several occasions that Dr. Clooney is a soft spoken, well spoken, well trained scholar who does not appear before audiences with the words Inculturation and Conversion blazoned on his forehead. His modus operandi is intellectual discussion and the occasion at Dartmouth provided him with a ready venue. Both he he and Malhotra expect to continue these interfaith, Hindu Christian dialogues. This was clearly stated. These 'dialogues' will not benefit the Hindu Samaj. They will only offer opportunities for Fr. Clooney to open the door further into Inculturation while providing Malhotra with the ILLUSION that he is benefitting Hinduism by explaining the differences between Hinduism and the monotheistic faiths to a Western audience, even though he claims that he is addressing himself to Hindus.
After a 34 minute talk (approximately) by Malhotra on the themes of his book Being Different, Dr. Clooney took the podium and his talk lasted approximately 46 minutes. It has a 3 pronged approach and its subtlety and sophistication are all too evident, besides which Malhotra sounded amatuerish and unprepared.
In the first part Clooney paid the obligatory tributes to the author and amongst these there is one that stands out. He remarked that it is not the first time that Hindus have embarked on a critique of Christianity (and the West). He mentioned that Swami Dayananda Sarasvati in the 19th century and Swami Vivekananda in the 1900s did just that, but now Malhotra has provided a MORE SOPHISTICATED (and updated) critique. Fr. Clooney thus conferred the mantle of a new Vivekananda on Shri Malhotra's shoulders, which the latter did not decline to accept. This was evident in Malhotra's remarks after the Clooney talk.
The second part of Clooney's talk was devoted to a summary of the themes of the book which Malhotra had already presented to the audience, the over arching theme being that Hinduism was a different kind of Universalism ( different from the West) and that differences should be respected and can be the basis of dialogue.
It is in the third part that Dr. Clooney excelled in the subtle and sophisticated dialectic that Jesuit scholars are known for. In this segment he both acknowledged the merits of some of Malhotra's arguments and at the same time he pointed out their inadequacy as an account of the West and Christianity. At the end of the session Malhotra acknowledged that had taken close notes and these points would be the subject of further interfaith dialogues ! While Shri Malhotra dutifully brought out his copy book, Dr. Clooney's frequent gestures of rubbing his hands together, said it all. The present writer has already pointed out elsewhere that Shri Malhotra's method Purva Paksha was fatally flawed. He truncated the ancient Hindu method of argument (Tarka Shastra) by omitting an important section of it : Refutation of the opponent's arguments. He merely 'gazed' at the opponent but did not refute him. And the Hindu Christian 'dialogue' is set up just for that.
The ancient method consists of (1) statement of the opponent's arguments, (2) REFUTATION of the opponent's argumenst, (3)Statement of one's own arguments.
Dr. Clooney, even as he praised his host,managed to show that Shri Malhotra did not really understand the West, especially Christianity. At least half a dozen examples were cited and it would be useful here to point out two or three of them. One of them was Malhotra's incomplete understanding of the god of Christianity and his historicity. Another example was the 'complexity' of the synthetic unity of Christian thought, unlike Malhotra's implied description of it as being inferior to Hindu integral unity.
The third example is telling. Clooney pointed out that in using the periodisation of history as starting with Rome, followed by the birth of Christianity, followed by Renaissance & Reformation and then followed by Modern Science, the Enlightenment, and then Colonialism etc. Malhtora was using the West's own model of itself. Hence, here again Malhotra was deficient in truly describing the West and especially Christianity.
Fr. Clooney even managed to throw in a quick remark that questioned the specificity (according to him) of the Hindu interpretation of the Rishi tradition. The Rishi tradition according to him is much more open than Hindus would allow. Shri Malhotra held up Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi as his sources, but he did not and could not defend the vast smriti tradition or even the Upanishads as he did not seem to be very familiar with these. A traditional acharya would immediately have been able to respond to this. A traditional acharya does not need to have gone through the fraudulent exercise of interfaith dialogue to explain the Vedas and the Smritis ! He certainly would not have allowed himself to be entrapped in the periodisation of history, borrowed from the West !
Apart from all this being Clooney's misrepresentation of the Vedas, it is also a sign of the current attempt by the Church to refine its Inculturation by appropriating the Vedas ! The Hindus do not understand the Vedas but Christians such as Fr. Clooney can. This is the subtext of his observations.
All in all, the video shows a dismal lack of preparedness by Shri Malhotra on how to handle the Jesuit scholar. This is, ofcourse, where his lack of formal training shows up. What should alarm the Hindu Samaj is that the book Being Different is being considered (so the author informs us) for students at the Department of Psychology at the University of Delhi. One hopes that intrepid students and faculty can tackle the situation. Hindus do not need lectures on what atman or punarjanmam mean, nor do they need to seek for a place at the table of Western Universalism( which is Shri Malhotra's stated aim). Dr. Clooney has already done the rounds of institutions in Chennai, among college students in particular. Should he appear at classrooms in Delhi one can only hope that the door of interfaith dialogue is firmly shut. The book Being Different cannot be allowed to become the thin end of the wedge for Inculturation (although that may not be the author's aim).
The chipping away at the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas. gurus and maths has been the ancient dream of the Catholic Church. Hindus should resolutely show up these designs and above all reject Hindu Christian Dialogue. That exercise is intended to be a distraction. The real target of the Church are the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths, because the Church has understood that these are the backbone of our civilisation .
(Dr. Vijaya Rajiva is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadin university. Her academic training is in Philosophy, Political Science, Political Economy and History).