Re-Clarifying what BEING DIFFERENT is and what it is not
BEING DIFFERENT is not a book written for inter-faith dialogues, but for a much wider impact to reposition dharma especially in the minds of those within the dharma traditions. As a result of reading it and engaging me, several third party initiatives have emerged in various domains of knowledge where people see it as offering fresh approaches. Some events and initiatives that have already got started including the following ones:
Sanskrit scholars are taking the issue of chapter 5 (non-translatability) very seriously and I have been invited to numerous centers of learning to conduct workshops. You should anticipate our traditional scholars to start putting up a spirited defense against common translations of key Sanskrit words. This is a big shift. Earlier they did not like the translations but kept silent and gradually accepted them. This new resistance will sprout among the leadership of such scholars.
The idea of reversing the gaze upon western thought using our own categories and framework has captured the attention of many important thinkers. Ironically, there are two opposite kinds of interested scholars. The dharmic philosophers will turn out works that take BD's insights deeper into more formal purva paksha. Secondly, those in left-leaning social sciences see this as a more sophisticated extension of postcolonial studies, a field which dried out in recent years because it utilized western models to critique the west.
One group has met in Delhi last month, led by a political science Professor from JNU, to develop a new Indian approach to social sciences. We plan the next meeting in 6 months and a book out in a year. The group includes many top scholars across several disciplines in the humanities. It is being jointly sponsored by a Delhi based NGO/think tank and Infinity Foundation.
BD has made a mark in several important circles in Indian approaches to psychology. Following Univ of Delhi's lead in using it as a text for MA courses, I anticipate several other scholars of Indian Psychology to pursue many of its ideas further both in research papers and for course materials.
The field of Spirituality and Leadership has become an important space for new management gurus worldwide, and at various international conferences on the subject BD is seen as a new source for specifically dharmic principles. BD argues against the generic spirituality approach that has dominated this kind of topic, because it is too simplistic and will not produce concrete results. This is why several management schools and corporate groups have shown interest in BD.
Sustainability is another field of popular discourse in which BD has made an entry. The ideas of chapters 3 & 4 are especially relevant to open new doors in this field.
Integral Education is a major field these days. Unfortunately it has been led by folks like Harold Gardener and Ken Wilber who have repackaged classical Indian ideas into what they consider as original Western approaches, and have made themselves famous worldwide including in Indian elite circles. BD sets the foundation for future volumes by me where I reclaim such ideas in dharmic categories. This approach by me was well received at last month's education conference in delhi sponsored by the indian government. About 100 educators lapped up copies of BD for their use in developing new curricula.
Hindu dharma gurus and organizations have in most cases succumbed to mapping Dharma on to Western Universalism, losing its distinctiveness and also causing distortions. Several major leaders and groups are now examining BD's challenge to reverse this dangerous trend. First impact will to the way they teach dharma internally, i.e. to the next generation. Second impact will be the way they represent dharma externally in a variety of bodies - such as interfaith dialogue forums, academic religious studies forums, and policy making forums that include international as well as national.
(Unfortunately, a few critics of BD, who do not seem to have read it, have reduced it to a book about interfaith dialogues, and have failed to see its wider and deeper dimensions. Even within this item 8 out of a list of 10 items, interfaith is only one aspect, and that too must be seen as an existing activity of many Dharmic groups. BD does not say to start interfaith dialogues or dont start them, but if and when you are in such a forum, it supplies critical differentiators of dharma that should not get compromised.)
Youth groups are confused about their identity since it is being taught that all faiths are the same or lead to the same goals. Yet they are being told not to convert to other faiths. This contradiction also exists among most leaders I have debated in recent weeks. BD has opened an approach to defining identity that is firmly rooted on Dharma, and does not want our leaders to cop out from the hard questions by proclaiming that "everything claimed by everyone is the same".
New approaches to science are implicit in BD's ideas, and these will be developed in greater detail in future volumes - i.e. the inner sciences and the role of higher consciousness even in scientific inquiry about the material world. As my talk at BARC illustrates, this is a very promising initiative that many top scientists appreciate, and it will have repercussions.
I hope that serious readers here will see the book in its wider context. I am spending much of my time nurturing these multiple dimensions with the help of third parties who are located in these specialties. Many new doors have opened up with BD.
(Editor's Note- All articles are posted in the order they are received unless editorial screening leads to delays. The authors' titles are not changed but the Headlines on Sookta are the prerogative of the Editor and Webmaster including the IT advisors who select the wording for internet search engine. The title for this article is based on "BD does not say to start interfaith dialogue or don't start them." The editor acknowledges the scholarship of the author of "Breaking India" as reflected by a previous publication on Sookta intended to publicize this book in its early stages of inception and also recognizes the immense value and strength in the contents of "Being Different" for all Hindus who may be drawn into inter-faith dialogue. The book obviously provides invaluable armamentarium to hold one's fort for all educated Hindus. The headline does not diminish the scholarship of the author nor does it diminish the importance of the books like "Being Different". Sookta is not a list-serve but can accept articles of differing views that merit publication. Readers are encouraged to write a persuasive concise article on "The necessity and desirability of Inter-faith and Christian-Hindu Dialogue in the 21st Century." The best of those received will be published. The articles must avoid personal attacks as much as possible and stay truthful to the topic.)