'From Sanatana Dharma to Jesus'
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva
February 16, 2012
We have seen the dangers of over reach in Dharma when the individual is neither prepared nor trained to engage in the task of explaining a complex religious system such as Hinduism . Recently, we have the case of a combination of an ill starred defence of the indefensible(the Nityananda scandal), the u turn to interfaith dialogue ( hoax perpetrated by the Catholic Church) and the setting up (intentionally or unintentionally) as an alternative to the traditional acharyas and gurus of known sampradayas (lineages). The present writer has critiqued this phenomenon in the case of author and writer Rajiv Malhotra. (1)
Unfortunately, this seems to have become endemic in the Hindu diaspora with the recent u turn taken by Dr. Frank Morales who has set himself up as an Acharya (Morales is a Spanish Italian American who has seemingly espoused Hinduism).
He did his undergraduate work in Christian theology at a Jesuit university and then trained at the University of Wisconsin's Indian Studies Program and became an outstanding student of the subject. However, he does not seem to have stayed any great length of time in India, nor has he received diksha (initiation) from any known Hindu acharya before he set himself up in turn as an Acharya and headed the Hindu temple in Nebraska (USA). He is also the Founder President of the International Sanatana Dharma Society. His rise to fame was based primarily on his extraordinary article 'Philosophical Critique of Radical Universalism' (2005) which endeared him to some Hindus in the diaspora and he was acclaimed as a defender of Hinduism.The people who acclaimed him were well known, some even authentic exponents of Hinduism. And predictably Frank Morales has now become an exponent of Christian doctrine, using the clever ploy that he is talking about the perfect being of Jesus and that this fits in well with Sanatana Dharma. He frequently reads from the Gospels to his audiences.This has been the ancient dream of Jesuits and is seen more noticeably in the work of Raimundo Panikkar, the Spanish- Indian Jesuit scholar and priest, who claimed that the Vedas and Hindu scriptures in general, heralded the coming of the universal Christ, hidden in history uptill an auspicious moment.
Can Frank Morales have perfected the art of Inculturation ? He seems to have moved away from the rejection of his early positions on the uniqueness of Hinduism and its refusal to accept that all religions are the same. He seems to be bringing in Jesus by the backdoor. Defenders could argue that he is inculturating Christianity, instead of the other way around !
Frank Morales's performance in the 2 videos Jesus: The Dharma Master (2008)should leave no ambiguity in the minds of Hindus that he is now all set on presenting Jesus as the ideal being (who is also God) to the bemused Hindus of the diaspora. He begins by saying that Jesus was a perfect man because he set himself the goal of accepting the will of God and make himself ethically pure. It is not clear why Morales chose Jesus as an example. The jury is out on the historicity of Jesus. Did such an individual exist ? Or was he merely the concoction of Pauline Christianity, the Church and the bishops who met at the Nicene Council in 325 A.D. ? And even if he did exist, was he the pure being that he was supposed to be ? He is supposed to have damned to eternity all those who did not follow his teachings. Was he merely a political revolutionary who was feared both by the Romans and the jewish Sanhedrin ?
Questions abound for the non believer. Clearly Morales is a believer, if not in some rabid fundamentalist sense, in a subtle and sophisticated manner.
How did this come about ? Perhaps we should go back and read carefully his philosophical Radical Universalism which argues that all religions are NOT the same. Morales points out that Hinduism did not at any time say that all religions are the same. This line that all religions are the same is one adopted by those Hindu gurus travelling in the West in order to make entry into that society and gain some traction.In his brilliant essay Morales rejects this tendency and outlines why and how Hinduism did not , could not have maintained that all religions are the same. According to him Sanatana Dharma is unique and the sages and saints and traditional acharyas have maintained this unique identity.
In the case of Rajiv Malhotra there is a parallel situation here. From his book Breaking India (quite different in tone and content from the second book) to Being Different and now his public espousal of the cause of Hindu Christian Dialogue there has been a marked u turn. The reader is referred to the article ' Hindu Christian Dialogue and the Second Front against Dharma' (in Bharata Bharati, kalyan97blogspot and www.sookta-suman.blogspot.com). That article references the recent Huffington Post blog where Shri Malhotra openly embraces Hindu Christian dialogue. This has become part and parcel of his world view, the divine lila where all differences are really of no significance. Malhotra is entitled to his world view but he seems to be singularly unaware of Francis Xavier Clooney's subtle entrapment.
He cites Clooney's argument that he, Malhotra, is a contrast to other exponents of Hinduism who merely dismiss the differences with Christianity without understanding the DEEP STRUCTURES (italics added by the present writer) of the differences ! Need one comment on the implications of this statement from Clooney ? In other words, while Malhotra is talking away for the valid existence of difference, all part and parcel of divine lila, Clooney is saying (in effect) that the deep structure of diffence is what makes Christianity superior to Hinduism.
The Dartmouth video also shows the same subtlety and craftiness with which Dr. Clooney first flatters and then puts down the unsuspecting Malhotra and as well gains the upper hand in his overview of the difference between Christianity and Hinduism.
The present writer has analysed this in the article ' How not to engage in Hindu Christian Dialogue.' (see list below) The moral here for the Hindu Samaj is to understand the trajectory of individuals such as Frank Morales and Rajiv Malhotra and approach their work with caution. Both are entitled to their world views but both should not set themselves up as the new acharyas of Hinduism. They have neither the training nor the adhikara for this supreme task.
1. All articles on the topic are listed (in Bharata Bharati) at the conclusion of the article 'Hindu Christian Dialogue and the Second Front against Dharma'.
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva is a Political Philosopher who taught for several years in the part time faculty of a Canadian university. She is now retired and lives in Canada with her husband who is also an academic. Since retirement her interests are in Indian history, culture and politics. She holds a B.A. Hons.& M.Litt in Literature (University of Madras, India), an M.A. in Philosophy (University of Madras, India), an M.A. in Political Science (McGill University, Canada) and a Ph.D in Humanities in Political Science, Philosophy, Political Economy&History (Concordia University, Canada).