Friday, April 27, 2012





Date of Release 03 31 2012

Sri Ramakrishna Mission in their books projected Sri Ramakrishna as having practiced Christianity and Islam along with Hinduism. For over 150 years this has become so popular a legend and it has permeated the mass media so widely further spreading the popular view that Ramakrishna's religious or spiritual experiences within the context of Santana Dharma have been translated into an equation "Sanatana Dharma=Universal Religion."

As a deep scholar and critic of Ramakrishna movement pointed out: "It is strange that when Sri Ramakrishna practiced Hindu techniques of meditation, he did not feel any hostility to other religions, but when he started to practice Semitic religions, he is reported to have felt hatred towards Hindu Gods!" This leads to expansion of the above equation as follows: SANATHANA DHARMA= SRI RAMAKRISHNA'S METHODS=UNIVERSAL RELIGION

In the everyday Arati conducted all over the world, in the shrines of Ramakrishna Mutths and Missions or Ashramas there is a particular chant which was composed by Swami Vivekananda, 101 years ago, which says, Sthapatyacha Dharmasya=one who established dharma Sarva Dharamaswaroopine=embodiment of all dharmas Avatara Varishtaya =the greatest incarnation of the divine. Sri Ramakrishnaaya te namaha=I worship him, Sri Ramakrishna Across the world thousands of people attend the artis every day.

Over the years this has nurtured Hindus to swallow everything and anything in the name of religion and this view has emerged as a "Pseudo-Advaita" philosophy. Thus the unseating of Hindus and Hinduism has occurred slowly and Hindus have entered into a "psychedelic state." They have strayed, out of everyday context into the strange world of 'Maya' of "Pseudo-Advaita". Transcendental Meditation reduced Hinduism to a mere 'technique of meditation' and later to be invented as 'yogic flying'. 'Allah', 'Ram', and 'Rahim' and Jesus Christ were soon given equally exalted status. Nirguna Brahman was made equal to a formless Allah. Advaita was equated with monotheism of Islam, which led India to become the playground for all Players of all religions. Prayers to Ram, Rahim and Jesus became a common feature in Gandhiji's Ashrams across the country during the freedom movement and Gandhi ji and his new "religion" became the brand ambassador for the vote bank politics for National Congress Party of India. Hinduism lost its identity in its land of origin and also lost its cutting edge. Result: Praising of Jesus and Allah along with Iswara had become the "inevitable" for all Hindus in India.

Though none of the Christians and Muslims has bought this philosophy and incorporated a worship of Ishwara or any Hindu God in their Churches and Mosques giving their time of the day. Thus Pseudo-Advaita occupied the hoary seat of Hindu Religion. "Love all and serve all" even at the very cost of your life and family members, was expressed in so many words in thousands of speeches and published in hundreds of volumes of books by a variety of so called "noble" but gullible teachers of modern day Hindus in the last 150 years. (Editor's note: This is precisely called the intra-psychic unconscious defense mechanism of "Identification with the Aggressor" also known as the "Stockholm Syndrome." Colonized Hindus and their leaders became victims of this phenomenon.)

Nirguna Brahman (gigantic Radha Soami [of Beas] Satsanghs) was the watch word in many of the movements. Atman and Brahman were used indiscriminately to obliterate any Hindu sense of identity. As if the National Congress wanted it, unconsciously, were these mahatmas serving the new ruling party's vital interests? Soon national integration became the mantra of the national party. Every top Congress member was hobnobbing with all important spiritual leaders of all religions to explore the vote banks. The religious leaders were happy to see so many power-weilding Party men and women standing in bee line for their darshan which in turn became the USP that attracted even more devotees. 

The teachings of several Gurus since Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Arya Samaj fame, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Keshab Chandra Sen (of Brahmo Samaj), Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda themselves showed deep interest in understanding ancient Hinduism in all its variety and in establishing a reformed and modern Hinduism, but their teachings did not have deep knowledge of any western religions . It is pointed out that Raja Ram Mohan Rai changed the minds of the person who came to convert him by his debating skills; however, all their understanding of Christianity was still debatable in the retrospect. Sri Yukteswar, of Kriya Yoga fame, and his Principle disciple Paramahamsa Yogananda, gave thorough yogic interpretation for Christian scriptures in his autobiography of a yogi, displaying Christian scriptures side by side with the teachings of yoga sutras which the Vatican itself did not know about up to that point.

Recently I had a long chat with an ex-member of Yogoda Sat Sangh society of Ranchi, who was closely associated with the organization at Ranchi, Jharkhand. He was narrating how in the 1940s and 1950s Paramahamsa Yogananda had to be extremely careful during the WW II wartime in USA, and how every utterance of his was under surveillance, to see whether it was anti-Christian. I found Nuns of Missionaries of Charities of Mother Theresa, selling milk from their dairy in Ranchi to yogoda Satsangh society founded by Paramahamsa Yogananda. Raja Ram Mohan Rai, Keshab Chandra Sen and other Bramo Samajis opposed "image worship" so very indigenous to all Hindus.

Political gurus like Bal Gangadar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal, Veer Savarkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Vinobha Bhave, Rajaji, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and others were busy in opposing the Colonialists and they too showed very little understanding of Christianity in their writings though they all opposed conversions. Sri Ramana Maharishi in his most important record of his daily Talks compares Advaitic experience with some incoherent utterances of Jehovah in the Old Testament.

Gandhiji had many discussions with missionaries on theological and religious issues. But he too had very little original exposure to Christian history. Ramakrishna Mission books on Christ celebrate Christianity, Rama Tirtha (Compared Om with Amin and Amen). Likewise Sivananada had no resistance to invasions by Christianity. Satya Sai Baba went as far as to construct a mosque for Muslims in his village Puttaparthi. Which Christian saint or Muslim Mullah has built a Temple for Hindus? Satya Sai baba's logo incorporated in his "sarva dharma stupa" established in 1975, which has religious symbols of all major religions.

However, this was opposed by Malay Muslims in a court of law and Malaysian branch was forced to remove the crescent from its "Sarva Dharma Stupa." Mata Amritanananda Mayi Maa has to allow lots of space for her Christian neighbors in Kerala; Sri Sri Ravishankar almost publicly lost the debate with Islamic fanatic Zahir Naik, who also audaciously advised Ravishankar ji to convert to Islam on open TV debate.

Brahma Kumari's sect worships Shiva through Raja Yoga. Their meditation centres are spread all over the world, with the world HQ located at mount Abu. They were refusing to call themselves Hindus, till about two years ago. For them Shiva, Jesus, Allah are the same. When they found some Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists converting Hindus in their backyards, and also some of their own members, they were shocked. They started speaking against conversions, in private. Yet they have to go a long way before they get grounded in basic core Hinduism. They are not doctrinally sound and do not have solid philosophic base like so many modern movements leading to raja yoga experiences projected as "merger with Shiva."

They also bring Islam and Christianity under this umbrella of "raja yoga". [Merger with God is an anathema to both Islam and Christian religions which the founders of Brahma Kumari movement are not aware of and they were and still are trying to impose Raja Yoga Concepts on Islam and Christianity].

Jaggi Vasudev [endorsed Aryan Invasion theory on his Mahashivartahri Televised TV address 2011]. Baba Ramdev, in his book Jeevan Darshan page 77 qualifies and exalts Bible and Koran as Dharma Granthas, even though he is a disciple of late Swami Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj. Sri Ramdev ji, two years ago contradicted the statements made by his guru who condemned several teachings in the holy books in his book "Satyartha Prakash."

It was reported widely, in the late fifties the late famous saint Kanchi Paramacharya, actually dissuaded Muslims from leaving the place in front of his ashram, [it was widely reported that he with an added emphasis ["that their azan was a wakeup call for him"], they had approached him seeking his help, to allot them a place outside the town, for a new mosque using his influence with the then government, but he forbade them and persuaded them to continue to do their prayers in same Mosque and carry out their activities as if it would give a fillip to both the religions. Daily Jagran a Hindi news paper from Punjab reported in its Delhi edition 30.3.2011, that "Sri Jayendra Saraswathi announced his plans to build a large mosque as in an area of 20 acres in Bhopal the capital of Madhya Pradesh, incorporating an advanced netra chikitsaalaya" (eye hospital) for Muslims".

At Sri Ramachandra Mission Saharanpur: the followers are asked not to go to Hindu temples, stop worshipping deities at homes, stop giving Shraddam to ancestors etc; cutting at the roots of the very Hindu identity, which has played havoc and neutered Hindus into a psychedelic state. I was shocked one day when my friend who worked for the Indian Railways approached me and wanted my advice on the two contentious issues. I requested him stop going to the mission and follow, what his traditions taught him. Hindus strayed out of context into the strange land of 'Maya' where 'Ram and Rahim' were given equal status. (Editor's note: it would be unwise for Hindus to advise Americans to not observe their rituals on Memorial Day honoring their departed, yet Hindus influenced by their own faulty knowledge of Christianity or Islam misguide their adherents to imitate Christianity and Islam.)

Prayers of all religion became a perpetual common feature in the Gandhi Ashrams. Hinduism has lost its identity and its cutting edge. Result: Singing Praise of Jesus and Allah with Iswara in the same tune and face the inevitable consequences. THUS "PSEUDO-ADVAITAM" METAMORPHOSED INTO "PSEUDO-SECULARISM" PROMULGATED BY PREDATORY POLITICIANS. Almost all Congress politicians even endorsed them, PRAISED THEM in so many places, in their very long lives, AS CAN BE SEEN FROM THE SPEECHES, WRITINGS, ANECDOTES ETC. published in the last 100 years.

The only exception was Rajneesh, who openly critiqued Christianity and the State policies of USA, for which he was punished in America by the CIA. It is not the intention here of placing them in a tight spot or to go into specifics here, as I have talked to, many of them in Private. These teachers criticize Western influence and Christianity in private but do not criticize them in public. They also do not have any deep knowledge of the Abrahamic religions, and some even have glorified them on their emblems and symbols.

Generations of Hindus have been fed such fodder as staple diet and Hindus have lost their identity with the result even their presence as HIndus is not noticed. They have become insignificant in their own land, in India, leave alone in other countries and their features as a demarcated social identity are not sharp, as a result of eating such fodder. The only exception was as stated above was Acharya Rajneesh, who openly critiqued Christianity and the State policies of the USA, for which he was punished in America by the CIA by putting him in Jail and administering slow poison that killed him ultimately.

To repeat, in the everyday Arati conducted all over the world, in the shrines of Ramakrishna Mutths and Mission there is a particular chant which was composed by Swami Vivekananda, 101 years ago, which says, Sthapatyacha Dharmasya=one who established dharma Sarva Dharamaswaroopine=embodiment of all dharmas Avatara Varishtaya =the greatest incarnation of the divine. Sri Ramakrishnaya te namaha=I worship him, Sri Ramakrishna In the popular Bhaja Govindam sung by M.S Subbalakshmi with Rajaji's introduction, there was this verse written incorporated in praise of Sri Ramakrishna among the four verses in the chant, the second verse is particularly intriguing- "Sarva Dharamaswaroopine"; what did Swami Vivekananda have in mind when he wrote this piece?

Did he include only the Hindu sects in this definition, or did he include other Semitic religions like Christianity and Islam also? Did Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda come on this earth as Avataras to establish Semitic religions also? This is wholly misleading. These are I would say like jarring notes in the music. The trend continues with Sri Ramakrishna Mission, who in some of their books project Sri Ramakrishna as having practiced Christianity and Islam along with Hinduism, that lead to the notion that Ramakrishna's religious experiences practiced under various teachers like Bhairavi Brahmani and Totapuri of Santana Dharma has been translated into a simple equation of "UNIVERSAL RELIGION."

The Elites in the Ramakrishna Mission and its followers must ponder over this basic question whether the religion of Sri Ramakrishna is Sanatana Dharma, or is it their own brand of Universal Religion? Monks of R.K Math are requested to make a choice between Satya and asatya. [They need to clarify if their Spiritual experience gives them the right to teach that Hindus may convert to Christianity and Islam and still have the freedom to practice their kind of "Advaita" openly. -Editor's comment]

It is strange that when Ramakrishna practiced Hindu techniques of meditation, he does not does feel hostile to other religions, but when he practiced Semitic religions, he was reported to have felt hatred towards Hindu Gods! The monks of RK Mission have the obligation to explain this phenomenon. Gandhi recites verses from Koran and Bible along with Gita in Hindu Temples but does not read Gita in a mosque. The Gandhians have an obligation to explain the reason for this timidity.

In the chapter "PSEUDO-SECULARISM" of his book 'Being Different' Sri Rajiv Malhotra does not trace the root cause of this malady. Its root cause lies in "PSEUDO-ADVAITA" which Sri Rajiv Malhotra has swallowed lock, stock, and barrel. That is the travesty of "Being Different" for Hindus. (To be continued)


Intemperate Defense of “Being Different” by the Author Malhotra


Dr. Seshachalam Dutta

Much is said about the recent book tour and debates on the publication of 'Being Different' by Rajiv Malhotra. Some of the observations may not be valid, but the most recent three part article on and one previous article on the same blog are excellent critiques by G.P. Srinivasan outlining several factual blunders and logical inconsistencies.

This book, "Being Different," has also been reviewed objectively from academic view point by the present author in covering a wide spectrum of issues with particular emphasis on historical, theological and philosophical inconsistencies. Malhotra has indulged in constant rhetoric in his book tours in the U.S and India that he had no problem with Western audience but had great impatience with Hindus of Diaspora. It might be true that some Hindus are not as knowledgeable like him but many more Hindus have more than superficial knowledge of the subject at hand. Their observations and, particularly, well meaning criticisms have met acerbic and vitriolic abuse by the retorting author, Shri Rajiv Malhotra.

Unfortunately some well respected people have defended him in this exchange; Dr. Balaram Singh of U-Mass being one of them. I agree that Rajiv Malhotra has his own right to write his books, speak and debate as a free agent, and nobody should criticize his activities, much less attribute motives. Whether he succeeds in debates with his Christian opponents or gets a black eye is up to him. In as much as he has a right to publish and propagate his views, his critics also deserve and reserve the same rights. If he is so sensitive to criticism, he should neither write and publish, nor undertake public appearances.

Dr. Balaram Singh's admonition that the critics of Rajiv Malhotra should not be guided by "emotional outbursts and should exercise rationality" is one sided and it may wisely be addressed as well to Malhotra. Whether the author of "Being Different" has achieved a grand inning for Hindus after a 1000 years of entry into Western academia, as commended by Dr. Singh is another matter, subject to further deliberation. I shall briefly address it here and have already addressed it in detail in my previous article in (2011).

It is Malhotra who called his critiques "half baked intellectuals," "new entrants into field", called them "sour grapes" and described some as "jealous" (of his achievement presumably), although he has not published a best seller yet nor achieved the recognition of Deepak Chopra at least! He called Hindu Gurus and Acharyas "incompetent" to conduct what he mistakenly calls "purva paksha" with adversaries. At the same time he carries his own baggage that runs afoul. He is the man who defended the charlatan Nityananda, in allegations of sex scandals, describing him as a great spiritual leader and concocted the story that the latter was defamed by some Christian conspiracy. Then he called Vijaya Rajiva, his former collaborator in activism as a ‘hero’. He gracelessly attacked Dr. Vinekar, who expressed his admiration for Malhotra's learning many a time. He advised that the latter should leave his job and go around the world for 20 years to learn Hinduism! Dr. Vinekar, professor of psychiatry, has done relentless service to the Hindu community for 40 years in a variety of ways, guided young generations of Hindus and is highly regarded for his scholarship. Malhotra also sets a qualification for his critiques and criticizes that they did not publish any books in 20 years and so they were not qualified to critique his book. He forgets that even criminals from prisons in the U.S. published books, some of which are widely read. It is, therefore, appropriate to address the unfortunate invective and appeal Malhotra to accept criticism with calm and dignity. The mark of true scholarship is humility. After decent interregnum of cooling of tempers one would have expected him to apologize for his remarks by now. That has not happened.

Coming to his oft repeated refrain that people should buy his book and read before criticizing, IT IS NOT EVEN NECESSARY THAT EVERYONE READ HIS BOOK TO BECOME AWARE OF THE PROCESS OF ENTERING INTO INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE THAT HE STARTED PROPOSING IN POPULARIZING HIS BOOK "BD". From the speeches of Malhotra one can glean nothing substantial as he seems to be inclined to market the book rather than explain his positions. But for those watching the discourse at U. of Mass presented as a dialogue/debate between Malhotra and Fr. Clooney, it revealed nothing substantive. Fr. Clooney, who was somewhat generous towards Malhotra, said that he was troubled by the third chapter (what is the third chapter for the audience?) in which the author made a distinction between Western synthetic approaches to Hindu integral approach. Then Clooney went on to say that when God said "let there be light there was light” and there is nothing synthetic about it. In answer to the author's position that Hinduism is Dharma not a religion and shall be addressed so to be linguistically correct, he defended saying that one day Dharma may enter lexicon and treated with the distinction which is for now quite trivial. If he wished to be stronger in his argument, he should have posed the question as "what is the Sanskrit word for religion?" The author presented no rebuttal or response in the debate-no poorva paksha. Fr. Clooney did not further press for what he meant by integral vs. synthetic for he was not a scientist. If we synthesize copper sulfate is sulfur not integral to the copper sulfate? The argument is plainly like "tweedledum-tweedledee."

The author indiscriminately flings expressions like “integral” “knowledge" and “endowed” "knowledge", "anxiety (angst) of being different" among Hindu scholars. He speaks of cultural digestion of Dharma by Western universalism, none of which have foundation in any systematic study. Hinduism is not monolithic as he narrowly conceives even as much like an esoteric occult practice of Yoga. Hindus are best defined as the original people of Bharat, just as Jews are original people of Israel. Hindus may be atheists like ancient Charvaka, polytheists, monotheists, monists, ultra Orthodox who view Vedas as God given (apourasheya), agnostics like Nehru or modern atheists like Savarkar, the great Hindu Nationalist... But they are all children of one civilization that survived for millennia not amenable to cultural “digestion”. They are inheritors of an ancient culture, tradition, ethnicity and love of land they call sacred.

The author’s ideas of Western Universalism are derived from the popular, but, flawed work of Samuel Huntington, “Clash of Civilizations” which is essentially racist and imperialistic as reviewed by current author ( (2011). Greatness or nobility of Hinduism is in its immense charity to people who worship any symbol or lesser God, so long as their conduct is commendable and if they are engaged in divine conduct. This is beautifully expressed in Gita in two verses;

Na buddhibhedam janayed Ajnanam karmasanginaam 
Yojayet sarvakarmani vidwan yuktah samaacharan                 Chapter 3 verse 26

A wise man should not unsettle the mind of ignorant man engaged in (just) action, implying that he may not get any wiser by abandoning the proper action he is engaged in and in fact may lose in both ways. Instead, a wise man is engaged in balanced (good) actions, all organized wisely, while remaining not overly attached.

Prakruter Gunasammoodaah sajjante gunakarmasu 
Taan akrutsnavido mandaan krutsavid na vichaalayet            Chapter 3: verse 29

Deluded by the gunas (qualities) of Prakruti, ignorant man is engaged in actions arising out of nature in an imperfect way and a wise man should not confuse such people (so long as they perform right actions) just because they (the wise) are in possession of the knowledge of Karma (krutsavid). Thus, Hindus take a charitable attitude towards spiritual individuals following all religious or spiritual persuasions, whether they worship Jesus, Mary or a village Goddess.

This statement was made prior to the onslaught of proselytizing religions with political agendas directed at destroying Hindu Society.

Unfortunately Malhotra adopts the stance of Wendy Doniger (author of Alternate History of Hindus) in characterizing Hindu Holy texts as supporting situational ethics. It is not surprising that Wendy Doniger can take that stand as she finds nothing of merit in Hinduism and its literature other than the sexual gymnastics of Kama sutra. But it is sad that a Hindu activist like Malhotra admires her and falls in line with her. It is already becoming self-effacing for Hindu youth in colleges in the U.S to accept such a claim as illustrated in a recent article by Hindu students of Wharton School of Management, who published in an article that Hindus don’t have ethical standards like Westerners have, arguing on the same lines as Malhotra and Wendy Doniger. The first generation Hindus may become like Jews of 1930s in U.S who were afraid to identify themselves as Jews.

It was not too long ago, only in 1950s that if a Jewish Rabbis wore Yarmulke in public he would be ridiculed, as narrated by Charles Silberman in his history of American Jews-‘A Certain people’. Jewish children were told in 1930s not to talk in public of their Jewishness and asked to remove Yarmulke when they go out. They were told that it was not ‘Nice’ meaning that they should be like others. There are parallels to Hindu immigrants in some ways. Hindu women are afraid to wear Hindu dress in public or wear a tilak (bindi) being afraid of dot busters in certain areas. We even truncate our names for the convenience of Americans, Shyamala as Sam, Arun as Aron and Gowardhan as Gordon. Being different and claiming so has no value and does not necessarily command respect... Young Hindus may be embarrassed or even feel ashamed to identify themselves as Hindus, when they are told that their country of origin is not only corrupt but even their Gods are liars and cheats!

The author of Being Different advances an argument, as if it is an an original invention of his, that Hinduism is not a religion but Dharma. What then is the religion of Hindus? Hinduism is a religion with its own epistemology, soteriology and philosophy. Dharma is the code of life as elaborated by scriptures. (Dharayate lokaaniti dharmah. Also Dhiyateevaajaneeriti dharmah. Dharmo dharayate prajaah.) There are several meanings of Dharma, but in the context of religious life of Hindus, it refers to code of life in accordance with the scriptures, but not independent of religion. The term Hindu religion was always used by all modern Hindu leaders from Tilak and Aurobindo to S. Radhakrishnan and Gandhi. Of late, it became Talmudic and trivial exercise of dwelling on the correctness of the translation of Sanskrit words into in English to describe Hinduism; for instance debating whether Caste is a correct word for Varna or Kula and Dharma is different from Religion and Atma is different from soul! Every one knows what Caste, which is ripping the society, means without going into its etymology, still we want a debate on its etymology, a Talmudic exercise, to use a Jewish term, where the form of argument is more important than its substance. The real debate is either to search for the differences or alternatively look for the commonalities in the world culture. VHP advocated, (World Order of Ethics, Vishwa Dharma, whereas V. S. Naipaul recognized the world as progressing toward Universal culture and Gandhiji spoke of Sermon on the Mount and Bhgavad Gita on the same pulpit taking the best of both cultures. There is Christian Universalism, Muslim Universalism, nondenominational Universalism based on scientific humanism such as advanced by Julian Huxley and especially Carl Marx who based it on the philosophy of Epicurus.

But there is NO SUCH THING AS “Western Universalism" that Malhotra keeps drumming about. When Hindus talk of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or advocate Krunvanto pruthviraaryam, it is Hindu Universalism. Probably it is this Hindu Universalism that appeared threatening to Western Culture that Alan Patton in his monograph on South Africa refers to saying that Hindus are regarded as a threat to their culture.

Greatest challenge to Hindus has been to consolidate their Hindu identity bringing into one fold all Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, emphasizing that they are all children of Bharat, of same heritage and bound by common thread of history and Culture calling them as religions all encompassed in Dharma tradition. When the British East India Company suppressed the Indian Liberation movement for Freedom (1857), it was the Sikh regiment that was effectively used to suppress it. Sikhs of that time did not feel that they were of the same blood as Hindus. Eighty five years ago Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedagewar took the mission of uniting all Hindus (indigenous cultures of Bharat) by making them overcome their differences. He dedicated his life to that mission and countless others followed him and sacrificed their lives in that effort. Yet this task inspired by Swami Vivekaananda is unfinished to this date. The call of the times is to seek unifying principle of all Hindus and not dwell on differences.

We discern parallelism with Jewish history to the plight of Hindus in many lands when we examine pogroms in Pakistan, appropriation of properties and exile of Ugandan and Kenyan Hindus, of Hindus in Burma (Myanmar), massacre of Hindus in Sri Lanka and even in India expulsion of Hindus from their own land of Kashmir. It took holocaust to unite Jews; one wonders what magnitude of atrocities towards Hindus (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains) it would take to unite all "Hindus" meaning the original children of Bharat. There is much work to be done for the uplift of Hindu Society. It is appropriate to emphasize their own uniqueness and assets of Hindu culture to the children of Hindus. But when with others, they need to seek commonality.

So we say E Pluribus Unum and not to go on endlessly debate how different we are. The attitude of Jews is very instructive in this aspect. They never tried to debate, for instance, they never make an issue that there is no Hell in their religion in contrast with Christianity! By keeping their distinct identity and conforming to the universal culture of humanity, they survived for 2000 years in extremely hostile cultures. Moses Mendelssohn, regarded as German Socrates, when once asked to convert to Christianity replied "why should I leave the true religion".

Sadly all his children, except one and their grand children converted to Christianity. Some of them became great celebrities in Germany. Neither conversion nor great recognition did sadly save them from Nazis. My advice to Hindu activists is not to go around debating how great our religion (Dharma?) is or how it is different from others. Mere difference does not command respect. They should remember Enoch Powell, whom British Prime Minister called a Parliamentary Leper, not only learned Hindi but also became familiar with Hindu traditions, and then campaigned to kick out all Indians from Britain!

So, in summary Rajiv Malhotra’s campaign is not likely to be fructuous but may even be harmful to Hindu Society and Diaspora. He may as well redeem his honor by apologizing for his intemperate attack on his critics. He should be reminded that Hindu Dharma is unique in regarding and respecting freedom of thinking and freedom of worship as "essential" for Hinduness; the essence of democracy too is criticism and dissent. .

Sunday, April 22, 2012


The ONE true god: Some Reflections by Vijaya Rajiva 22 Apr 2012 The historical record of conquest and violence by believers in their ONE true god (monotheism) is well known (and well documented) and need not be repeated here. What is of interest to the non-believer, especially those accustomed to the democratic nature of Polytheism, is why this belief arose. Speaking about the Islamic faith, some historians opine that it was in reality a pan-Arabism which was seeking legitimacy through a religious belief. This would apply equally to the Christian faith, since it is only after the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity that the conquest of peoples to the new faith (and the attendant violence) became a way of life. With the Nicene Council of 325 AD, the stage was set for the imperial development of Christianity as a world proselytising religion. In due time, while ‘pagan’ believers in their own faith were systematically destroyed (notably Greece and Rome) by the two monotheistic faiths (Islam and Christianity), there evolved a philosophy and a theology that extended their control of the world. The rise of colonialism/imperialism went in hand with this belief system and brought the whole enterprise full circle, as far as the Christian component was concerned. With the Islamist enterprise, it was a straightforward invasion and conquest. But has this belief in the ONE true god outlived its original impetus towards violence and conquest? Both the Islamic and the Christian West’s success in this continues, while the fanatical believers of their faiths continue in tandem. In India, both continue their attack (both physical and philosophical) on the only surviving Polytheistic faith, namely Hinduism and its ancient civilization. It is no accident or coincidence that the late Pope John Paul II on his visit to India said publicly that in the first millennium Christianity spread to Europe, in the second to the Americas, and in the third it will spread not only to Asia, but to India! The pontiff was hoping for what he called the “harvesting of souls”. Do Hindus need this unattractive religion? If not, it must be summarily rejected without further ado, quite simply and firmly rejected. Bharat has been and always will be Hindu, so thanks, but no thanks, Pontiff! The Kanchi Sankaracharya was quite right in stating that unless conversions stopped there could not be any dialogue with this proselytising faith. Indeed, it is not still clear to the present writer why there should be any dialogue at all from the Hindu side. This talk of dialogue is a sleight of hand trick by which Hindus are made to believe that they have done something wrong in remaining Hindu! What precisely is there to ‘dialogue’ about? It is only about conversion to Christianity? Demographics predict a future Islamic mode in India (as the recent series on this webiste by R.K. Ohri ‘Demographic Coup of Islam’ demonstrates). But Christian competitors are not far behind. In such a context, it might seem futile at first glance to discuss the merits of Sanatana Dharma, especially the link between Monism and Hindu Polytheism, which sets it apart from the proselytising faiths. In a demographically superior Islamic India, Hindus can at best hope to live as second class citizens. At worst, they will be eliminated as has happened to the Hindu populations of Pakistan and Bangladesh. But is there an even worse possibility? The present writer proposes to explore this matter. The possibility of the rich diversity of Hindu Monism - Hindu Polytheism, starting with the legacy of the Rig Veda, being forcibly abandoned for belief in a ONE true god presents a BLEAK landscape. Socially, it is depressing to say the least. Philosophically, intellectually, spiritually, it is a dead end. Why is this so? Theoretically, it does not stand scrutiny. The notion of a ONE god is a contradiction in terms. It began with Abraham’s declaration of a ONE true god, continued into Christianity, and thence to Islam. No other god(s) exist for the monotheists except for the ONE they worship. This narrow definition of God is different from that of the Greeks. Plato began by talking about the Demiurge who was responsible for creation in his dialogue Timaeus. Aristotle spoke of a First Cause behind motion in the world. Aristotle was not interested in a personal god, but in the question of who started the motion of the world. Whichever Cause started it, was for him the Unmoved Mover. His notion of a First Cause is close to Satchidananda and may indeed have been borrowed from Hinduism. It is eternal and conscious. Aristotle’s First Cause was borrowed after narrowing it down to fit the Abrahamic framework by Catholic medieval philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas as an explanation for the Creator god of Christianity. Although this theory was criticised by many Western philosophers, notably Immanuel Kant and David Hume, and is today known in philosophical circles as the Cosmological Argument for the existence of god, what is relevant for us as Hindus is to note that there is a close binding link between the ONE existing god of monotheism and his being THE ONLY TRUE GOD. This is quite different from Hindus saying that their gods and goddesses are manifestations of the Infinite Divinity (Satchidananda). This is also the important reason why Hindus should not confuse Monism (Satchidananda) with Monotheism. A persuasive argument against the ONE true god of the Abrahamic faiths is offered by French Indologist Alain Danielou in Hindu Polytheism (1964): “A supreme cause has to be beyond number, otherwise Number would be the First Cause. But the number one, although it has peculiar properties, is a number like two, or three, or ten, or a million. If ‘God’ is one, he is not beyond number any more than if he is two or three or ten or a million. But although a million is not any nearer to infinity than one or two or ten, it seems to be so from the limited point of view of our perceptions. And we may be nearer to a mental representation of divinity when we consider an immense number of different gods… for the number one is in a way farthest removed from divinity. Though, in its manifest form, divinity is of necessity multiple, in its ultimate essence it cannot be said to be either one or many”. Here it is important to supplement Danielou’s argument by emphasising that the Hindu Satchidananda (the Infinite Divinity) is worshipped by Hindus as an Infinity, not as a ONE. As the present writer has pointed out previously, the notion of an absolute ONE is a contradiction in terms. You cannot theorise about an absolute deity in terms of number, since number would constitute a limit of sorts. The limitless Infinity cannot be boxed into a ONE. Socially, spiritually and religion wise, the BLEAK nature of the landscape of ONE god-ism is especially marked in contrast to the richness and diversity of the Rig Vedic tradition. Here, there is no ONE god that is imposed on anyone. Instead we have an Infinite Being that is described by humans as being eternally Existent, Conscious, and Blissful (Sat, Chit, Ananda respectively). We can speak of it as Satchidananda. And the earth, especially the Punya Bhumi (sacred earth) is peopled by a plenitude of gods and goddesses who are manifestations of this Infinite Being. This is no angry or jealous god who threatens punishment, hell fire and damnation if HE is not worshipped. Hindu rituals capture this abundance and richness because the Rig Vedic seers worshipped the terrestrial, atmospheric and cosmic deities. The intimacy generated by these celestial beings is captured in the 1008 plus hymns of the Rig Veda. Even the very first famous hymn to Agni ends with the invocation that Agni will come to the worshippers as a father to his son (Book 1, Hymn 1 by sage Angiras). The gods and goddesses are repeatedly called upon to come and be seated on the kusha grass. Hindus do not fear their gods. And to the extent that they relate to Satchidananda, this, too, is an ecstatic experience. Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman) is the Upanishadic affirmation of Satchidananda in the plenitude of its Being. The individual Hindu is allowed to merge with Satchidananda if that is the path he or she chooses. This is a matter of choice by the individual, depending on his/her spiritual evolution. In a spiritually elevating comment on the Rig Vedic ritual ceremony, the yagna, the Kanchi Sankaracharya observed: “… a yajna is making an oblation to a deity in the fire with the chanting of mantras. In a sense the mantras themselves constitute the form of the deities invoked. In another sense, the mantras, like the materials placed in the fire, are the sustenance of the celestials invoked.” (Hindu Dharma: The Vedas). As for the celebratory nature of Hindu festivals, does one need elaborate? In view of the above can there be any sort of serious contest between a BLEAK landscape and a joyous one? Can Hindus ever opt for the former? The answer is obvious. (The writer is a political philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)


Hindu Intellectuals Must Protect the Traditional Acharyas by Dr. Vijaya Rajiva April 20, 2012 Our Punya Bhumi (sacred earth)is protected both by the aam admi and the traditional acharyas. Meddling with them is suicidal. They have been the backbone of our civilisation. Certainly, there should be some internal social reforms and that should happen in an accelerated way. The Hindu Samaj should undertake those social reforms. However, the suggestion that traditional acharyas should involve themselves in the day to day mundane activities of intellectuals at large (and their special preoccupations) is an absurd suggestion. The present writer has written about this in earlier articles. The task of engaging with the West is the task of Hindu intellectuals, not that of the acharyas. THE TRADITIONAL ACHARYAS’ ROLE IS TO FAITHFULLY TRANSMIT THE VEDIC-AGAMIC TRADITION IN ITS ENTIRETY. This means that all traditional acharyas are trained in the tradition and communicate this to the Hindu Samaj accurately and faithfully. Interpreting our tradition for each generation is built into the tradition itself. There is no need for new fangled methods. One has to trust and have faith both in the tradition and the exponents of this tradition, even though they may not speak Latin and Greek. The Sanskrit language that they are all trained in provides the greatest knowledge and as well flexibility. Meddling with this tradition is at best folly and at worst a crime against it. Hindu intellectuals can play an important role both nationally and internationally. Nationally, they can lecture and talk to the college educated youth who are being enticed by modernisation and globalisation into a rejection of their civilisational values. Internationally, they can present the Hindu view at various forums. Some Hindu intellectuals are already doing that and more can be done. And if they feel strongly that tradition and modernisation should be combined, good luck to them since THEY are dealing with a generation that has to think through these situations. At the same time they can also be slowly encouraged to think out of the box of modernization. But the interpreters’ roles and the acharyas’ roles cannot be confused. The traditional acharyas must not be dragged into these ventures. They should be allowed to continue with what they are already doing excellently well. The interested reader can watch such videos as the one put out by the Kanchi Matham ‘The Sage of Kanchi : The Life and work of the Kanchi Acharya Shri Chandrashekarandra Sarasvati’ It provides an insight into what a traditional acharya can do and has done. And there are thousands of acharyas, unknown and unsung who have continued the Hindu tradition. Recently, some attention has been paid to the Nambudiris of Kerala who since the 4th century A.D. have single handedly maintained the Rig Vedic Aaathirathram (Fire Ritual)which has been abandoned elsewhere in India. The value of this as a world heritage alone should make Hindu ‘intellectuals’ pause and take stock of the situation before blundering into unknown terrain. The California Indologist and scholar Frits Staal has documented the 1975 performance of the Agni fire ritual by the Namboodiris of Kerala, in his 2 volume Agni: The Vedic Ritual of the Fire Altar (April 2010). Asking the few Nambudiri families that are heroically holding on to the Rig Vedic traditions to abandon their task and engage in dialogue with the West is to short change ourselves. A great cultural heritage will be lost by our blunderings into complex terrain. Even if Hindu ‘ intellectuals ‘ should disdain the task of correctly interpreting the role of the traditional acharyas (already under attack from the liberal media and deracinated Hindus) they should at the very least refrain from attempts to make inroads into the tradition, one which they do not fully understand (by the very nature of their own enterprise ). Their own public displays and efforts may have some value, although even here the sense that some of them have that this is not being currently done by others may be something of a stretch. The euphemism of combining the ancient and the modern is not appropriate to the work of the traditional Acharyas. It is misleading. (The writer is a political philosopher who taught at a Canadian university. Her degrees are : B.A. (Hons.) Literature, University of Madras ; M. Litt. Literature, University of Madras; M.A. Philosophy, University of Madras; M.A. Political Science, Mc Gill University, Canada; Ph. D. Humanities (Political Science, Philosophy, Political Economy,History), Concordia University, Canada ).

Saturday, April 14, 2012



Rig Vedic Polytheism and Punya Bhumi


Vijaya Rajiva

15 April 2012

The Rig Vedic worship of many gods and goddesses provoked commentators from Abrahamic faiths (mainly Christians) to call the system polytheism (the worship of many gods). Modern Hindus are no longer intimidated by the polytheist label. Hindus believe that their land is Punya Bhumi (sacred earth) inhabited by the gods and goddesses of the universe, who are invited to special open air feasts (yagnas) and also housed in temples built for them by devotees. Perhaps no country in the world has so many temples, from north to south, east to west, and no other religious tradition has invoked the presence of deities in the Vedic yagnas and their successors in the Agama traditions of ritual and worship.

The Hindu bhakta knows that the gods actually EXIST, but the educated Hindu elite are reluctant to admit to their heritage thanks to the massive indoctrination by the Macaulay-ian educational system and the missionary onslaught on Hinduism which denounces it as ‘pagan’, ‘polytheist’ etc. They contrast it with their ONE true god in whose name they have visited death and destruction on the planet.

Recent commentators from the Hindu side, such as Swami Devananda Sarasvati (a Dasanami sannyasin) and earlier still, the chronicler late Sita Ram Goel, have pointed out that the contemporary educated Hindu elite have been misled by their ill-conceived identification of Monotheism and Monism, and their inability to understand that the difference is crucial to understanding Polytheism.

Sita Ram Goel prefers the word Panentheism to Polytheism (to describe Hinduism) since the former emphasises the special Hindu concept of Ishta-devata, the special deity to whom a worshipper can relate to (a phenomenon unique to Hinduism).

The crucial difference between Monotheism and Monism is that the former believes in a ONE true god, and denounces the gods of other faiths as ‘false gods’, whatever that means, for how can a god be ‘false’ if the concept of god is real?

Monism believes in the Infinite existence of the Divine, which is characterised by Existence, Consciousness and Bliss (Sat, Chit, Ananda). This is better known as Advaita Vedanta or Non-Dualism (Unity, non-divisiveness). Its best articulation came with Adi Sankara (788 -820 CE). There are two other major Vedantas, the qualified non-dualism of Ramanuja and the Dualism of Madhva.

Modern practitioners of Monism are many, the most renowned being the Kanchi Sankarachariar who specially highlighted the importance of the many gods in Hinduism:
“… a yagna is making an oblation to a deity in the fire with the chanting of mantras. In a sense the mantras themselves constitute the form of the deities invoked. In another sense, the mantras, like the materials placed in the fire, are the sustenance of the celestials invoked…” (Hindu Dharma: Chapter on The Vedas).

Elsewhere, the Sankarachariar remarked that the devout Hindu also sees the forms of the celestials appearing in the yagna fire.

These preliminary remarks are intended to emphasise the link between Hindu Monism and Rig Vedic Polytheism. It allows for an enriched Hindu Pantheism where the devotee does not consider his/her chosen deity (ishta devata) as the only true god, and does not anathema-ise the gods of other faiths, as happens in Abrahamic monotheism. This is, of course, the difference between Abrahamic monotheism and Hindu pantheism.

Abrahamic monotheism must be rejected by Hindus for two reasons: [1] political, [2] religious.

Politically, monotheism has been the source of conquest, violence and intolerance, both in Christianity and Islam. It is important that Hindus are always vigilant to this dimension in the interests of security. The security question arises not only in the crude context of everyday dangers such as the throwing of a severed cow’s head by miscreants inside a Hindu temple or the verbal abuse of Hindu scriptures and temples, but the equally looming danger of sophisticated Inculturation. Here we perceive both Islamist and Christian attempts to find their monotheistic doctrines reflected in the Rig Veda, and the sophisticated attempts to wrest the ‘Rishi tradition’ as they call it, from the Hindus, distort it and appropriate it for their own purposes.

In this project, the Vedas are no longer dismissed as ‘paganism’, but viewed as harbingers of the two monotheistic faiths. This can range from the crude attempt by evangelical Christians (and Islamic counterparts) to find references to Jesus in the Rig Veda, and/or references to the coming of the prophet and so on, to the more sophisticated attempts by scholars (mainly Catholic, but also such persons as Dr. Zakir Naik) to find parallels in the thinking of the Veda and their own scriptures and beliefs.

In this way, Inculturation, or the process by which another’s culture is absorbed into one’s own, has become a current trend. The aim, of course, is to eradicate the visited local culture. It is not some gentlemanly exercise or purely scholarly enterprise. The agenda is clearly there.

The link between Hindu Monism and Rig Vedic Polytheism establishes the richness of both dimensions: the Infinite Divinity and the infinite manifestations of this Divinity in the gods and goddesses that Hindus worship. One can theorise about this link, as have the great Hindu philosophers such as Adi Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva. But for our purposes it is important to keep in mind that these manifestations are the murtis (derided as ‘idols’ by monotheists) that Hindus consecrate and install in temples and worship. Hence, the importance of murti reverence and temples in Sanatana Dharma.

When the barbarian invaders arrived, their first task was to destroy as many temples as they could. Thousands of Hindus lost their lives in defence of these temples. The shocking desecration of murtis by Islamists and Evangelicals continues to this day, though on a smaller scale, and mainly by Evangelicals.

If the underlying unity between Monism and Hindu Polytheism is not clearly understood, many Hindus get misled to believe that the ONE god of the monotheists is the same as Satchidananda (Infinite Divinity) and go on to downgrade Vedic polytheism as an accidental/ incidental feature of Hinduism, which Hindus outgrew in their historical development, and are now presumably moving towards the higher (sic) faith of Abrahamic monotheism. This is a profound mistake and merely parrots the narrative put forward by the ONE god-ists. Nor is the ONE god the same as the ishta-devata of Hindus. The ONE god is held by its followers to be the ONLY true god with all other gods being FALSE gods. Whereas the ishta-devata is only one among many gods and each devotee is allowed to worship freely his/her own ishta-devata (who may be different from the kula devata or even the grama devata).

The difference is politically significant since the ONE god-ists are prone to intolerance, violence, conquest and proselytisation, as happened historically and continues with a renewed sense of urgency by the Evangelicals today. Hinduism, thus, is always in danger of attack from the ONE god-ists. The punya bhumi is the land peopled by the gods and goddesses of the Rig Veda and many other divinities and eminences of the Indic tradition who are not mentioned specifically in the Rig Veda. It has to stay that way.

The further philosophical /religious/ spiritual dimension of the Satchidananda-Polytheism link is that while Vedanta stresses the former aspect, the latter is important for the householder (grihastha). The four stages of life (varnashrama dharma) each have their own dharma. Even Adi Sankara, as far as is known, stressed that the householder must fulfill his/her duties before taking up the last stage of sannyasa (incorporated from the Jaina ascetic tradition). In this he was different from the Buddha, for whom the monastic life could be taken up at any time that the individual desired.

The writer is a political philosopher who taught at a Canadian university

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


The Rig Veda and ‘Hindu Polytheism’


Vijaya Rajiva

4 April 2012

Hindu ‘polytheism’ – the worship of the Divine in its diverse expressions and manifestations – is the Rig Veda’s gift to the Indian subcontinent, which is why the land is called punya bhumi (sacred earth) by Hindus. The tradition of worshipping a pantheon of gods was a worldwide phenomenon in the ancient world, and was destroyed by the proponents of mono-theism or One God-ism, the belief that only ONE MALE GOD worshipped by the patriarch Abraham was the TRUE GOD. All divinities worshipped by other peoples were declared as FALSE GODS.

The violence, conquest, murder and mayhem that followed such a conviction were not incidental or accidental. They were part of the strategy of invading, conquering and subjugating the conquered. All the ancient faiths and attendant civilisations that flourished in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Africa and the Americas were destroyed and the neo-paganism of the international community today is only a pale revival of the same. It has possibilities, and it is to be hoped that the revival will come of age soon, before a marauding globalisation once again defeats them. The current revival of native traditions of the Americas is also a hopeful sign.

Only in the Indian subcontinent and in places in the Far East has polytheism continued as an unabated tradition. This is significant not only for India but also for the rest of the world, where the forces of greed, one god-ism, violence and destruction of the planet are proceeding apace.

The worship of Divinity in the form of many gods and goddesses as an ongoing, continuous and widely prevalent tradition of religious practice is unique to Hinduism and commenced with the Rig Veda (conservatively dated anywhere between 2000-1500 BC, though some scholars put it earlier still). In the four Vedas, the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda, the worship of terrestrial, atmospheric and celestial powers (deities) was conducted through elaborate ritual. This continued throughout Indian history and is preserved in Hindu ritual. It is the central feature of Hindu worship, whether in the temple or elsewhere, and is practiced by the entire Hindu society. While the devotional and philosophical aspects of Rig Vedic worship were developed towards the end of the Vedic period and especially in the Upanishads (there are various interpretations of the same), the rituals are intact. They were part of a complex oral tradition handed down the millennia and is now ranked as a world heritage by UNESCO.

With the arrival of the British colonialists in the 17th century and earlier still with the conversion activities of the Church and its missionaries, this ritual became unpopular among Hindu intellectuals and elites of the 19th century, as they felt the maximum pressure for survival and upward mobility under the new political dispensation. They began to subscribe to some kind of ‘Hindu monotheism’ consistent with Abrahamic ideology and distanced themselves from Vedic tradition and its attendant rituals.

Surprisingly, this trend continues even to this day amongst the elite. Rather than question the monotheistic enterprise of attacking polytheism via colonial and post-colonial scholars and missionaries, the Hindu elite are either apologetic or dismissive and distort the Hindu concept of the Unity of Divinity into an artificial construct that asserts that Hindu Polytheism is really the worship of the one true God – who is suspiciously like that of the Abrahamic god – but is known by different names!

Alternatively, the elite take refuge in the deep philosophical tenets of Advaita Vedanta, where most Occidentals lose their bearings anyway and give up their agenda, except for the tenacious Inculturationists. Perhaps there is some wisdom in this strategy, or at least one hopes so! In this way, the Hindu elite try to present a respectable face to the Christian West which is their main – perhaps sole – audience.

In some cases, this has become a frantic, frenetic tendency. Vedanta then becomes a shortcut and an easy way out before the international community while negating the reality of the vast number of Hindus in the homeland of Hinduism who are upholding and following the Rig Vedic tradition, and where rituals are largely the legacy of this Vedic tradition.

Some contemporary Hindu gurus such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar have engaged in a type of interfaith dialogue which has at best only some limited utility. The reference here is to the famous debate between Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Islamic scholar Dr. Zakir Nayak on the Hindu idea of God. In fairness, Sri Sri cannot be blamed for maintaining a stoic and dignified silence most of the time before Nayak’s school-boyish recital of Hindu scriptural verses at breakneck speed. It was quite obvious that the reciter had mechanically memorized the verses without understanding them (the fact that he seemed pleased with his performance, and it was just that, is neither here nor there).

The 1008 plus hymns of the Rig Veda are invocations to multiple male and female divine energies, Agni, Indra, Varuna, the Viswa Vedas, Sarasvati (invoked 78 times), and they together represent the Vedic comprehension of terrestrial, atmospheric and cosmic powers. At various times, various deities are invoked without the least feeling that only one or two or groups of them are more important than the rest. Agni is invoked as the chief messenger who carries the worshipper’s message to the rest of the pantheon, but there is no rift or rivalry with the other deities in the pantheon.

The Vedic universe’s innumerable deities convey an impression of richness and variety, a deep spirituality absent in the limited monotheistic framework. Historically, the practitioners of a monotheistic faith (chiefly Islam and Christianity) have forced their belief in THEIR One God on peoples of other belief systems. This has been so since the inception of these monotheistic creeds, from the Nicene Council of 325 AD for Christianity, and since the 8th century AD in the case of Islam. In India, this process can be dated from the 7th and 8th centuries onwards and continues to this day through jihad and conversion.

Hindus need to question why the belief in ONE (Abrahamic) god is superior to polytheism or even whether such a belief is necessary. The ONE god is an abstraction. No mortal has either seen or heard this entity. There is only the testimony of other mortal individuals. Above all, Hindus must question WHY this One God of Abraham cannot coexist in peace with other faiths and belief systems? And when this One god is actually only a political weapon of the power wielding it, it has to be rejected without hesitation.

As a system of religious belief per se, the ONE god-ists are searching for an unattainable goal, as argued by French Indologist Alain Danielou in Hindu Polytheism (1964). Contemporary Hindus can use this methodology creatively to start an inquiry into the nature and structure of Hindu spiritual diversity and the limitations of a frantic search for the ONE god, as opposed to the UNITY of God. (The 1984 edition’s first chapter is available on the internet under, Indian Gods: Hindu Polytheism). Danielou himself creatively appropriated the work of Kant.

Briefly, Danielou rebuked those who dogmatically describe God as the ONE:

“A supreme cause has to be beyond number, otherwise Number would be the First Cause. But the number one, although it has peculiar properties, is a number like two or three, or ten, or a million. If “God” is one he is not beyond number anymore than if he is two or three or ten or a million. But although a million is not any nearer to infinity than one or two or ten, it seems to be so from the limited point of view of our perceptions. And we may be nearer to a mental representation of divinity when we consider an immense number of different gods than when we try to stress their unity, for the number one is in a way the number furthest remove from infinity (Chapter one, p.7)”.

The Rig Veda celebrates these gods and goddesses and invokes them in profound Yagnas (ritual prayers). It is relatively easy for the determined non-Hindu with philosophical training to work his/her way into the profound philosophical speculations of Vedanta and even try to subvert them to his/her purposes by the process known as Inculturation. Bede Griffiths, after a prolonged study of Vedanta, eventually returned to the Christian Trinity. But the Vedic rituals cannot be so subverted; this is also the formidable obstacle faced by Islamic scholars.

(See my article on Bede Griffiths, ‘Frank Morales and the Jesus Video’ in;; and

The oral ritual tradition of the four Vedas may seem to be ‘regional’ and has been so dismissed in the past, as pointed out by American Vedantin Dr. David Frawley (aka Vamadeva Shastri) in his BIRD lecture of 24 March 2012 (reproduced on the BIRD website and in Haindava Keralam). Dr. Frawley says that the universalism of Vedanta is gaining recognition in today’s world. But on the other hand, as the present writer has been stressing, it can be subverted owing to the nature of philosophical speculation, whereas the authenticity of Vedic mantras (and mudras) remains immutable.

Contemporary Hindus, therefore, must pay special attention to the preservation of this aspect of our Vedic heritage.

(The author is a political philosopher who taught at a Canadian university. Her academic training has been in Philosophy, Literature, Political Science, Political Economy & History)

Sunday, April 1, 2012


'Temple Priests and Preserving the Vedic Heritage'


Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

In a previous article 'The Mighty Fortress of Brahmanism' the present writer pointed out how the anti Hindu lobby since the time of Monier Williams has tried to portray Hinduism as identical with something they conjured up as ' Brahmanism,' identified as a primitive hierarchical world view, which must be rejected in favour of the modern (read Christian) ethos. Monier Williams, author of the Sanskrit English Dictionary (1899) had said :

"When the walls of the mighty fortress of Brahmanism are encircled, undermined and finally stormed by the soldiers of the cross, the victory of Christianity must be signal and complete" (Modern India and Indians, p.247).

In the twentieth century we have the likes of Arundhati Roy, under the unconvincing rubric of Leftism (during her globe trotting tours) hold forth on the "Brahmanic Hindu State " ! And we have similar echoes from deracinated Hindus and the motley crew of liberals, progressives and Macaulay's children.

This type of crafty anti Hinduism should not stampede Hindus into making unwise moves such as the recent initiatives in Tamil Nadu (under the anti Hindu DMK) to pass legislation that would adversely affect the Hindu temples priests, legislation even endorsed by some misguided Hindus.The writer Tamizhchelvan has pointed out that this legislation (now abandoned with the coming to power of the AIDMK) is in reality a Christian ploy. Temples in Tamil Nadu employ both Brahmin and non Brahmin priests, depending upon where the temple is situated (For details of his criticism the reader is directed to 'The Mighty Fortress of Brahmanism' in www.haindavakeralm.com ; ; Vijayavaani).

We now have a move by the Kerala government to 'democratise' Hindu temple activity. The Kerala government as it is now constituted is made up of Christians and deracinated Hindu Congresswallahs, and the Muslim MLAs. The Devaswom Boards are composed of government's handpicked candidates. On the face of it, the project of training non Brahmins to be temple priests appears to be a 'democratic' move. While any individual who genuinely wants to undergo the elaborate training to be a priest, should be given the opportunity to do so, a government sponsored project is most likely an effort to secure the vote banks and as well to undermine the Hindu structure in the nation. Government lackeys will be hired over other deserving candidates and from there on it will move to other aspects of tinkering with Hindu religious tradition, which in the end is the goal of such parties. Not social justice or social reform !
Hiring individuals from the non Brahmin castes may be a laudable move at social engineering, but the way to go is to provide them with educational and employment opportunities in the non religious sector, and not throw already impoverished Brahmin priests onto the streets. It is also a waste of existing talent and resources. Since neither the state governments nor the central government have any role in the Indian Constitution to meddle with Church or Mosque affairs, it is not clear why the fathers of the Indian Constitution allowed blatant interference with Hindu temple affairs. It would seem that the founding fathers were unwittingly looking through the prism of Monier Williams's anti Hinduism. Restoring the freedom of the Hindu majority to pursue their religion without government interference is a goal that contemporary Hindus should clearly agitate for.

In a similar context one recalls the effrontery of the famed Kalakshetra's danseuse (a non Hindu) quietly moving away from the stage the murti of Ganesha, lord of beginnings (in the Hindu pantheon and worshipped prior to a dance performance ), with the brazen argument that this is a secularisation /democratisation of the Hindu dance ! Hindus should take back their dance from such misplaced 'progress' and such brazen Inculturationists ! The Bharata Natyam dance has always been an invocation to Hindu deities.

The Sangh should also be careful in promoting governmental moves indiscriminately. The Sangh's work with tribals, and minorities in bringing them back to the Hindu fold from where they had been alienated by Christian and Islamic attempts at conversion is praiseworthy. On the other hand, the governmental meddling in Hindu temples must be opposed. In Kerala the legislation to promote the hiring of non Brahmin priests must be seen as  part of a ploy to attack the Vedic heritage, rather than moves towards social justice. It is social engineering with a political motivation. The recent suggestion by a certain non Hindu engineer that the wealth of the Padmnabhaswamy temple should be utilised  in such and such fashion is laughable simply because he does not have similar 'creative' suggestions concerning the immense wealth of the Church ! He even had a detailed plan ready for distributing the wealth of Lord Padmanabhaswamy !

In order to understand in context the significance of  the role of the Brahmin temple priest one must go back to the Vedic period.

Here the Vedic ritual of oblations  (Yajna) is officiated by a layer of priests.

1. hotr : reciter of the hymns
2. adhvaryu : who looked after the physical details of the Yajna, such as the building of the altar.
3. udgatr : chanter of the hymns set to melodies
4.brahman : superintendant of the entire performance

Needless to say, the Vedas were an oral tradition and the performance of rituals had to be followed meticulously in the chanting and the ritual itself. The Rg Veda mentions 7 hotrs. In time the entire body of officiants became 16 in number. The class of Brahmans then began to expand and was hereditary, so that the AUTHENTICITY & INTEGRITY of the rituals could be maintained in an unbroken tradition. This class therefore was not motivated by economic motives.The Vedic Yajna was performed under the open sky. Subsequently, with the rise of temples (built according to Vastu Shastra) the Vedic rituals were moved into these structures.

Since the Vedic seers worshipped the terrestrial, atmospheric and cosmic "devatas" (deities), the legacy of Hindu polytheism and the ATTENDANT PRIESTLY STRUCTURE IS  DERIVED FROM THIS RELIGIOUS FOUNDATION. The division of society into brahmin, kshatriya, vaishya and sudra served the purpose of maintaining the rituals intact. In time, the evolution of the economy led to the sreni system (comparable to the Europeans guild system) and this system (mistakenly described as the caste system) was the basis of India's material prosperity. Trade, commerce, and productivity were unparalleled. The scientific, philosophical and cultural achievements were also a wonder to the world. Hindu society flourished . Hence, the  role of the priesthood was limited to the maintenance of religious norms. Scholars are yet to determine when and why Untouchability arose. The favoured date is approximately the third century before the Christian era. Dr. Ambedkar ( the Dalit politician,lawyer and scholar) had suggested that sudras who defied the four fold caste system became the Untouchables. Still others believe that the population was composed of peoples who were captured in war, very much like the helots of Sparta. At any rate, Untouchability is no longer condoned and both NGOs and the government of India have worked to eradicate it,  through affirmative action and educational programs, though much more can be done. Much more needs to be done.

But the central point to note here is that the Vedas do not mention an Untouchable population. There is no evidence of it in the 4 Vedas.   The priests who performed the rituals were the upholders of the Vedic rites and this corpus is the foundation of Hinduism as it evolved and gathered innumerable beliefs and populations into this fold. The gods and goddesses (devatas) of the Vedas continue to inhabit the land, as Hindus believe, and the temples house the consecrated deities who are worshipped and called by Hindus, murtis. The monotheists call them idols.That is their terminology and there is no need for Hindus to rush to apologise or to be embarassed.

In the end, therefore, well intentioned Hindus must pause before they advocate the tinkering with Hindu temple rituals. There is no need also for craven scurrying around trying to prove to the Christian West or the monotheistic faiths that Hindus are not polytheists and idol worshippers, for both these  have a profound reason for their origin and continued existence on the subcontinent. Temple priests are not to be installed and discarded at the will and whim of governments or the vagaries of the free market or globalisation. They are not only cultural icons either or merely historic relics. They are the ongoing solemn expression of the Hindu religious engagement with the cosmic, atmospheric and terrestrial powers.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university. Her academic training is in Literature, Philosophy, Political Science, Political Economy & History).




G P Srinivas

March 31st, 2012


This essay is dedicated to the memory, of late Swami Mukhyananda, one of the senior-most monks of the Ramakrishna order (Order of Hindu Monks) and of Ramakrishna Mission’s Institute of Culture, Kolkata,India, who passed away two years ago at the age of 90. In the year 2000, Sri Ramakrishna math had constructed a magnificent temple, for Sri Ramakrishna at Mylapore, Chennai, India with a huge budget. The temple incorporated architectural features of major religions of the world apart from Hinduism. Religious motifs and sacred symbols, of all religions were part of the fusion and pressed on cement, on the walls and roof of the building. Those who conceived the "noble" project thought it was the finest way to remember Sri Ramakrishna’s “universal message”, as they thought it would be the best way to begin the new millennium, and the unique structure was given the name “Universal Temple”.

There were knowledgeable people within the mutth, who questioned the very idea of engraving symbols of Islam and Christianity on the WALLS OF THE TEMPLE DEDICATED TO THE HINDUISM'S MOST REVERED SAINT. THEY RAISED PERTINENT QUESTIONS LIKE “WHICH MUSLIM WOULD PERFORM NAMAZ HERE?” AND “WHICH CHRISTIAN PRIEST WOULD CONDUCT A MASS THERE”?


For the consecration ceremony the Ramakrishna Mutth had invited dignitaries from all religions, and frankly did not expect any trouble on that auspicious occasion, that too from dignitaries!. They did not expect in the least, a guest they had invited, in all good faith, would put them in a quandary, in their own premises, in front of thousands of devotees, drawn from five continents. When a dignitary, Prince of Arcot, representing Islam, whose name was respectfully announced, rose up, cleared his voice, adjusted his attire and walked across to the microphone stridently, and said in the open meeting “You are calling this temple Universal Temple, right"…If you are calling Hinduism a Universal religion, “why then did you destroy the Babri Structure.” (As if RK Mission had any part in so described event in Ayodhya, India, where the invader Babur had erected a mosque after destroying an age old Temple of Rama on the very spot believed to be sacred place of birth of "Lord" Rama, revered by all Hindus!!!!) (Many Bahai'i temples depict sacred symbols of all religions, and although Bahai'is were
persecuted and bullied in Khumeini's Iran, they are not object of open criticism by Muslims in other democratic and secular countries including India - Editor's comment)

The President of the RK Mutth who sitting on the dais could not believe what his invited guest was doing. The normally passive Ramakrishnaites, who believe in the validity of all paths, were taken aback, by the loaded question thrown at them by the political person, when they were totally unprepared for answering such complex issues. Luckily to save the honor of the Mutth, in the audience there were some people, who got the message. It should be remembered the argument was presented before an audience, a majority of them a-political & spiritual minded-Hindus. With the commotion created by the speaker there were some participants, in the audience, who raised objection to this, and also soon afterwards issued a printed pamphlet that said,

#1) Ayodhya is the most sacred place for Hindus & not Muslims
#2) Here the Temple of Sri Rama was destroyed by Mir Baqi, the general of Babur
#3) How come a dome came there in the first place?
#4) The site was, and always will be a Temple and was it ever a Mosque?

I cannot help but mention the name of late Swami Mukhyananda of the Sri Ramakrishna order, who was with the Mission’s Institute of culture, Kolkata and who issued a rebuttal to the Prince of Arcot, under an assumed name. He actually wanted to publish it in his own name. But was disappointed when his stature in the Mutth, would jeopardize such activities, and he was subtly pressurized, not to publish it in his own name for unknown fears and political correctness. Prof. Sri Rangarajan published the pamphlet on his name. Though the Prince of Arcot had violated the code of conduct laid down for dignitaries, no so strangely as a Muslim would feel free to do in a Hindu function, in universally welcoming Hindu sacred abode on Hindu turf, some self respecting Hindu Swamis of the Mutth rose up to the occasion, but with the press hovering nearby looking for some juicy gossip, were gagged. The Swami had published the rebuttal, of course, under prevalent conditions in an assumed name. Subsequently he passed away at the ripe age of 90, two years ago.

The big lesson drawn from this incident is, when Muslims bully Hindus, in a Hindu function, in their own home and on their sacred abode, even a big organization like Ramakrishna Mutth shies away and run for cover. Any Hindu that toys with an idea of "Debates with Semitic religions" under the guise of “Universalism” or “Advaita” even on their own turf, in the presence of thousands of Hindu followers, it is ultimately, the Hindu who yields and not the Muslim. What has it got to do with Rajiv Malhotra's new book, “BEING DIFFERENT”? Rajiv Malhotra is no stranger to Ramakrishna Mission. Three years ago he was instrumental in putting up a stout defense in “INVADING THE SACRED‟ against Jeffrey Kripal, Prof. Paul Courtright, et. al.

Now he is committing the same mistake which Ramakrishna Mission committed.


Not only RK matth, but also hundreds of Hindu organizations that have come up roughly within the last 220 years have been promoting vigorously their own "brand of universal philosophy‟, and have become prisoners of their own creation. This strange creation has no sanction in the Vedas, Brahma Sutras, or in the Gita. Not only are they becoming victims of their Frankensteins but are also leading millions of na├»ve followers into deep pacific trench.

The examples cited are indicators of "public snub‟ that Hindus are receiving in a good dose, but it is not registering in their thick skulls. The point that I am trying to get registered here is, though Rajiv Malhotra's defense team comprising Krishnan Ramaswami, Antony de Nicholas, and Aditi Banerji, did accept a ground breaking assignment in defending the Ramakrishna Math & camp; its Mission, etc.,(without which, their complete past would have been tarnished beyond anybody’s imagination) but has this nasty experience, taught them any lesson? Has it changed them beyond reprieve? Has it taught any major lesson to Ramakrishna Mutth and Mission, based on this unpleasant experience that would make an individual of ordinary prudence willing to undergo any major course of correction? The answer will be not acceptable. Sources tell me, the organization is internally at work officially, which cannot be detailed here, as this is not the forum. In the first place it was the same gullible Ramakrishna Mission that had allowed insidious characters like Jeffrey Kripal, in the first place 1) to undertake research projects on their founder Saint's life by hosting him 2) to stay in their premises and 3) extended their undue open armed welcome and patronage to a "white man." trusting his honest intentions. 4) But, will the Mutth allow the same facilities and welcome to any other Hindu researcher? 5) Why such double standards are adopted by not only Ramakrishna Mutt, but also by all other Hindu Ashrams, when it comes to their preferential treatment of "white skinned foreigners" as against Brown Hindus? (Previous examples are Arthur Koestler -Editor's Note)

On the one hand they are attracting foreigners in droves, due to their liberal policy and as a result, that brings good revenue. But, many of these ashrams are stubbornly refusing to consider the ground realities and the impact of the philosophy of Universalism, promoted by them and its impact on their followers, and the political future of their Hindu followers. Clueless, Hindus are becoming more and more attached to some cult and getting uprooted, from their moorings and their future is being vaporized. In the memory of late Swami Mukhyananda who refused to yield to the bully, his friends from outside the Mutth are planning to release the pamphlet shortly. If Ramakrishna Mission is refusing to put itself in the line of fire, at least some members will. This humble article is dedicated to Swamy Mukhyananda. Not too long ago, now, Shri Rajiv Malhotra came out with a second book “Being Different” with the subtitle “An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism”. The small print says, the book project was a “Joint venture with the India Today group”. It is not clear what the terms of the joint venture were. It was not specified in the book. I hope in these days of public's Rights to Information, one has every right to expect some level of transparency from Malhotra and India Today’s Joint Venture.

The first book, ‘Breaking India’ was written by Shri Rajiv Malhotra and Thiru Aravindan Neelakandan. Prior to that Rajiv Malhotra was associated with “Invading the sacred”. The next book by Rajiv Malhotra will be "U Turn" as he himself has declared in his forums. What is this about? I am not able to get more details. I hope this new book of his will be free of monumental errors. Earlier he was let down by many of his endorsers who without going through the manuscript or reading his book had given him their ‘precious endorsement,’ especially Prof. FX Clooney. Now I hope Malhotra will find better Hindu Scholars who will do justice by giving a thorough reading of his manuscript and save his honor.