Being Different with many U-turns of the author - A critique of the book
Summary of Criticism of "Being Different"
("Being Different" is a recently published book by Shri Rajiv Malhotra)
(Hindu Voice, March 2012, page 13, with Editor's Note) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mr. Rajiv Malhotra has recently released his book "Being Different". Here is my critique, in brief.
Praising Wendy Doniger in page 182 "as a leading authority on Hinduism" is atrocious. There are many authorities in India on Hinduism who question Wendy’s knowledge on Hinduism.
The differentiation between basic Hindu scriptures and Hindu society has not been clearly demarcated. The scriptures have maintained high standards of perfection, even in literary level, which one cannot find in Abrahamic religions.
The fact that the Indian society had become chaotic due to 1300 years of foreign invasions has not been brought out effectively. We cannot justify the resultants of history though we may try to trace the origins of the present malady, by not orienting presentations to suit the western palate.
The explanation given in page 184 Para 2 does not quote the actual source of the story in verse but the author makes a jumbled whole out of series of broken quotes. It would have been much better if this story was not disguised to please western tastes jumping to Rig Veda, along with unjustified praise of David Schulman, Wendy, and F.X. Clooney. However Rajiv Malhotra accepted his "Solid mistakes".
The incompatibilities of three Abrahamic religions and their innumerable Squabbles even among themselves have not got adequate attention. These categories have been dumped into one middle-east Abrahamic basket.
The author takes a clear detour of inconvenient aspects of encounters between Hinduism and Christianity in India, and the infighting within Christianity especially Roman Catholic and Protestant variety. He has referred only once to the works of F.X. Clooney in the Bibliography.
The author praised Clooney thus: "in divine mother blessed mother, Francis Clooney offers the first extended comparative study of Hindu goddesses and the Virgin Mary". (2005). Malhotra praised [page 427] Clooney as "almost unique in the field of Hindu studies as a Christian theologian with the linguistic and philosophical expertise necessary to produce sophisticated comparative analysis."
Rajiv Malhotra endorsed Clooney: "Building on his previous work in comparative theology, he [Clooney] sheds new light not only on individual traditions but also on the nature of gender and divine," page 427.
His dumping of all the three quarrelling Abrahamic religions into one Middle Eastern basket is a naive way of dealing with them. It is like the ostrich burying its neck in the desert sand during a sand storm, hoping the storm will go away.
"There is problem of plenty in Indic religions"; the author dumps all Indic religions into one dharma basket again as a way of dealing with them, not bothering to differentiate between Vedic-theism, Vedic-atheism versus Non-Vedic Middle east religions [though considered but theistic]. From Vedic point of view they are viewed as Atheistic as they do not think Vedas as their authority.
Nivritti Marga wrongly compared with "startup companies of Silicon Valley" though Hinduism is full of enterprising Sadhus.
Page 106: There was a clear case of Blunder of blunders. Prodigy Mathematicians Srinivasa Ramanujam was described as "SRINIVASA Ramnujam the equally important founder of the school of Vedanta, known as Visistadvaitha".
The founder of Visistadvaitha was Srimad Ramanujacharya who lived 995 years before present and not Srinivasa Ramanujam who was a Math genius who lived 90 years ago and his 125th anniversary is being celebrated in 2012.
The author though he is very careful when it comes to WESTERN SENSITIVITIES, and sees to that he differentiates between "panentheism" and "pantheism", but does not care to differentiate between world’s famous [the prodigy mathematician] Srinivasa Ramanujam and Sri Ramanujacharya [founder of the school of Vedanta]. What a tragedy!
The confusing presentation in page 357 and 437: The author says Jiva Goswami was a successor of Ramanuja [page 357] - was in fact a Gigantic mistake. Jiva Goswami was the successor of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and not Ramanuja who lived centuries before.
I discussed this with some Top Experts in Hinduism who opined "this is comparable to some of the greatest History distortions in Indian History, comparable to what the British did, in order to bring down the history of Hinduism by centuries, to keep it on par with a Mosaic History".
Here it is Sri Vaishnavism brought down to later day Gaudiya sect, and they say definitely there is a Vatican hand in this distortion, as Sri Vaishnavism is posing a big challenge to Vatican Christianity theologically. By reducing its historical age they can link it up with the dubious claim that Hinduism and all its sects emerged from mythical Thomas! Definitely there is the hand of Vatican if not anyone else in this blunder. One of the experts even cited a quotation: "Mistakes can be tolerated. Errors can be rectified. Blunders will lead to ridicule". Added "This is not an ordinary blunder but Himalayan Blunder". Mr. Rajiv Malhotra ought to act quickly to own up his blunder and issue a corrigendum.
The analysis made is comparing Christianity to a large extent and even defends Islam. On pages 343, 344 and 345, the author takes a dig at Swami Vivekananda which is not in tune with facts of history. He praised Gandhiji (pp. 346 and 347) which is to keep in tune with political correctness.
This book also calls bible "smrtihi", which is nothing but hijacking the Hindu concepts by Christianity. Page 251: Is it right to call sayings of the bible "smrtihis of Christianity" as the author wants us to believe, and hence "changeable"? Does it mean that Christianity had Shruthi, also?
Page 336: "A Muslim jati can have Sharia, as jati dharma, for internal matters". This will be considered an unwanted interlude to the whole thesis, where the contentious issues related to Islam are avoided or denied. Does he advocate "triple talaq" over emails, phones, and FGM (female genital Mutilation), etc?
After reading the book three times, I think, the above two contentious points calling Bible as Smrtihi and justifying Sharia need to be removed to make this book tolerable to Hindus.
(Hindu-Voice Editor’s Note: In his earlier book "Breaking India", the author Shri Rajiv Malhotra criticised Christianity for calling Church in South India as Vedakoil (in Tamil), meaning a temple where Vedas are taught. Even in my village in Tuticorin Dist. of TN, during our childhood, we used to call the Church as Vedakoil. I later realised the folly. Hence, when Rajivji criticised this fact in his book "Breaking India", I was happy.
But now, in his new book "Being Different", he has termed Bible verses as "Smrtihis of Christianity". Thus he has equated Bible with Vedas, which is exactly contrary to what he wrote in his earlier book "Breaking India".
Shri Rajiv Malhotra should explain what is the cause of this paradigm shift in his stand within a period of say two years. Has he outsourced his writings for "Being Different"?
Readers are aware that sometime back I wrote to Baba Ramdevji objecting to his mentioning Bible and Quran as Dharma Granths in his book ‘Jeevan Darshan’. How can they be? Now Rajivji says Bible verses are ‘Smrtihis’. All these amounts to giving undue sanctity to these Books, many verses of which preach hatred, intolerance and violence. This must be opposed tooth and nail by all Hindus.
Hindu Voice believes that Bible has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, a loving and compassionate person. Bible was written by a mafia about 400 years after the death of Jesus Christ, to serve its vested interests. It is being rewritten even today. Please refer to page 36. - P. Deivamuthu).