St. Thomas in India: True or False? – N.S. Rajaram

N.S. RajaramHere is the substance of the St. Thomas story: First, if he existed he was a twin brother of Jesus which is unacceptable because Jesus was the Only Son of God. Next, he could not have preached Christianity in 52 AD because Christianity and the New Testament came into existence only in the fourth century, after the Council of Nicaea called by Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 AD. The first Christians came to India with the Syrian merchant Thomas in 345 AD escaping persecution in Persia. Lastly, the Namboothari Brahmins settled in Kerala only after the fourth century AD, so could not have been converted by Apostle Thomas in 52 AD using the Bible from three centuries later. – Dr. N.S. Rajaram

St. ThomasAccording to Christian leaders in India, the Apostle Thomas came to India in 52 A.D., founded the Syrian Christian Church, and was killed by the fanatical Brahmins in 72 A.D. His followers built the St. Thomas Church near the site of his martyrdom. Historians however say this apostle, even if he existed, never came to India. The Christian community in South India was founded by a Syrian (or Armenian) merchant Thomas Cananeus in 345 AD. He led four hundred refugees who fled persecution in Persia and were given asylum by the Hindu authorities.

This story was too commonplace to attract converts. So Christian leaders identified the merchant Thomas with Apostle Thomas and created the dramatic story of the Apostle’s persecution and death at the hands of the “wicked” Brahmins of South India. This became current in the 16th century when the Portuguese gained control of the west coast of India and forced the Syrian Christians to follow the Catholic faith. The Portuguese also destroyed the Kapaleeswara Temple that originally stood on the site now occupied by the San Thome Cathedral on the beach.

Kapali TempleThe creation of this myth and the history is told in detail by the Canadian scholar Ishwar Sharan in his famous book The Myth of St. Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. The purpose of the myth was to create a local martyr. Christianity depends heavily on the appeal of martyrs who are projected as victims like Jesus Christ. Then as now, Church leaders liked to pose as victims to generate sympathy and propaganda. But no matter how much they tried, the Hindus of India refused to supply the Portuguese with martyrs. So they were forced to create their own. So they turned the merchant Thomas into the Apostle Thomas killed by the Hindus.

In his foreword to Ishwar Sharan’s book, the Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst wrote: “In Catholic universities in Europe, the myth of the apostle Thomas going to India is no longer taught as history, but in India it is still considered useful. Even many vocal ‘secularists’ who attack the Hindus for relying on myth in the Ayodhya affair, off-hand profess their belief in the Thomas myth. The important point is that Thomas can be upheld as a martyr and the Brahmins decried as fanatics.”

San Thome CathedralTargeting Brahmins to undermine Hinduism was a favorite tactic among missionaries. Elst gives the true picture: “In reality, the missionaries were very disgruntled that the damned Hindus refused to give them martyrs (whose blood is welcomed as ‘the seed of the faith’), so they had to invent one. Moreover, the church which they claim commemorates St. Thomas’ martyrdom at the hands of Hindu fanaticism, is in fact a monument of Hindu martyrdom at the hands of Christian fanaticism. It is a forcible replacement of two important Hindu temples (Jain and Shaiva) whose existence was insupportable to the Christian missionaries.”

Another motivation for the myth was to erase the unsavory record of the Catholic Church’s close association with the Portuguese pirates and even worse, the Goa Inquisition inspired by St. Xavier. But serious scholars including Christians have rejected this myth as we shall soon see.

Who was this Apostle Thomas and why was his name invoked? The main sources relating to Apostle Thomas are two Gnostic (non-Biblical) texts known as the Acts of Thomas and the Gospel of Thomas. According to them Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus. For this reason the Thomas myth is not accepted by the Vatican because of a doctrinal problem: Jesus as the Only Son of God cannot possibly have a twin brother. (Greek for Thomas is Didymus, which means twin brother.)

Christians in South India who identify themselves as St. Thomas Christians claim that their ancestors were blessed by Apostle Thomas in 52 A.D. who preached from the Bible. This has no historical basis as we shall see. In fact, there is no evidence that Thomas even existed. His “history” is full of contradictions as will become apparent.

Marco PoloAs just observed the Portuguese missionaries who came to India in the 16th century found that they could not do without a local martyr and created the myth of St. Thomas claiming that he was martyred in India. They gave no explanation as to how they discovered it more than 1500 years later. Marco Polo is supposed to have mentioned it but there is no authentic manuscript that can be attributed to him. Then there is the question of how he discovered it more than a thousand years later.

There is even a tomb that is supposed to contain his martyred remains in Mylapore in Chennai. But the problem is there are several such memorials spread across Persia, Acre (Israel) and a few other places dating to different times, all laying claim to be the place where Apostle Thomas was martyred and buried!

After examining all the evidence, the late Father Heras, former Director of the Historical Research Institute, St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, said in 1953 that he was convinced that the tomb of St. Thomas was not in Mylapore. He had earlier said, quite emphatically in The Aravidu Dynasty of Vijayanagara, that the Portuguese account of their discovery of some relics was “a most barefaced imposture [with] all elements of a forgery.” Heras was himself a Jesuit father but also an eminent historian.

Henry HerasThis is not the end of the story, for while denying the myth because it challenges Jesus as the “Only Son of God” the Vatican wants to have it both ways. On September 27, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech at St. Peter’s in Rome in which he recalled an ancient tradition claiming that Thomas first evangelized Syria and Persia, then went on to Western India, from where Christianity also reached Southern India. Syrian Christians derive status within the caste system from the tradition that they are converted Namboothiris (Brahmins), who were allegedly evangelized by St. Thomas after he allegedly landed in Kerala in AD 52.

There are serious problems with this theory: the Namboothiris started settling in Kerala only from the fourth century onwards, which means they did not exist at the time the alleged St. Thomas allegedly came to Kerala. So we have a possibly non-existent apostle preaching in the first century from a text, the New Testament, dating to the fourth century, to a people, the Namboothiris who settled in the fourth century or later. In reality the Pope’s original statement at St. Peter’s, reflected the geography of the Acts of Thomas, i.e. Syria, Parthia (Persia / Iran) and Gandhara (Afghanistan / Northwest Pakistan) — all far removed from Kerala in the southernmost tip of India.

Bleeding CrossThis is not the end to the contradictions. If Thomas landed in Kerala in 52 AD, he could not have taught from the Christian Bible (New Testament) with its four gospels which came into existence only in the fourth century. In fact Christianity did not exist at the time because there was no Christian scripture! In addition, the famous St. Thomas Cross supposedly brought by him made its appearance in Kerala only in the fourth century, about the same time as the Namboothiri Brahmins. So it is quite possible that the highly ornate St. Thomas Cross [with Hindu motifs carved in it] was borrowed from the Namboothiris, having nothing to do with St. Thomas or even Christians. The Church borrowed its cross from the Egyptians and the oldest so-called St. Thomas Cross is a pagan Persian symbol.

Prof. Francis Xavier Clooney, SJAs if this were not confusing enough, Father Francis Clooney, a theologian with the Harvard Divinity School has stated that St Thomas had preached in Brazil, no matter that Brazil as we understand today was unknown in his time. According to Clooney, one Ruiz de Montoya, writing in Peru in the mid-seventeenth century, thought that since God would not have overlooked the Americas for fifteen hundred years, and since among the twelve apostles St. Thomas was known for his mission to the “most abject people in the world, blacks and Indians,” it was only reasonable to conclude that St. Thomas had preached throughout the Americas:

“He began in Brazil – either reaching it by natural means on Roman ships, which some maintain were in communication with America from the coast of Africa, or else, as may be thought closer to the truth, being transported there by God miraculously. He passed to Paraguay and from there to the Peruvians.”

St. Thomas Book CoverSo here is the substance of the St. Thomas story. First, if he existed he was a twin brother of Jesus which is unacceptable because Jesus was the Only Son of God (born to a virgin). Next, he could not have preached Christianity in 52 AD because Christianity and the New Testament came into existence only in the fourth century, after the Council of Nicaea called by Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 AD. The first Christians came to India with the Syrian merchant Thomas in 345 AD escaping persecution in Persia. This was probably because Roman and Persian empires were great rivals. The Namboothiri Brahmins settled in Kerala only after the fourth AD, so could not have been converted by Apostle Thomas in 52 AD using the Bible from three centuries later.

Finally, the myth was created by Portuguese missionaries in the sixteenth century with the help of pirates. They destroyed also the Kapaleeswara Temple and a Jain temple building the church known as San Thome Cathedral in 1504. It acquired its present status and recognition as a cathedral (grand church) under British patronage in 1893. It was also the Portuguese who converted the Syrian Christians to the Catholic faith.

So, all these contradictions have to be reconciled before the myth of St Thomas can be taken seriously. – Folks Magazine, 7 November 2009

» Editor’s Note: Historians do not agree about the date for the coming of Namboothiri Brahmins to Kerala. Marxist historians make their arrival as late as the sixth century AD. However with the identification of the Namboothiri priest Mezhathol Agnihothri (b. 342 AD), the date can be moved back to the fourth century. Namboothiri historians themselves do not give a date for the arrival of their community in Kerala from North India.

» Dr. N.S. Rajaram has referred to the second (1995) edition of The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple for this article. The second edition is now out of print and not available on-line. However the third (2010) edition, which contains everything in the second edition, revised with corrected dates and many new references, is available on The Ishwar Sharan Archive.

See also

Meera Nanda against Hindu India and its friends – Koenraad Elst

Dr. Koenraad Elst“Sita Ram Goel’s rejection of the Sangh, while having a strong ideological dimension in the mind of that hard-headed ideologue, was primarily … stemming from his many personal experiences with the RSS and its functioning. His very first objection to the Sangh was against its personnel, against their low intellectual and moral calibre. In all dealings with them, so he told me, there is some unpleasantness, some promise not kept, some trespassing against ordinary good manners, and often some ideological betrayal. In our first conversation, in 1989, he derided the RSS-BJP as ‘the biggest collection of duffers that ever came together in world history'”.

Voice of India’s true identity

Meera NandaMeera Nanda, the microbiologist turned philosopher of science, focuses her best work on a topic properly belonging to a science philosopher’s field, viz. the claim that Hinduism is a “scientific religion”. The claim has been made since at least Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th century, and many English-speaking Hindus take it for granted even though they themselves have little grounding in science. I hope to give her refutation of this claim due consideration in the future, for it is truly important, being the highest-quality deconstruction of Hinduism’s most promising bid for a place in the modern world.

But some of her work is of lower quality, having only the anti-Hindu animus in common. Yet, Meera Nanda has done her homework fairly well and, with a few exceptions, avoids taking cheap shots. In a political sense, she could have afforded to, for no one who attacks Hinduism risks any censure for not getting his facts straight. It seems that her intellectual seriousness or even her conscience has prevailed: she didn’t want to be caught in the act of lying by even one informed reader. All the same, some serious inaccuracies have crept in.

Sometimes Meera Nanda ventures outside her own domain to attack other Hindu efforts to assure the survival of the Dharma. Her latest major essay in this category is “Hindu triumphalism and the clash of civilisations”, published in the influential Political and Economical Weekly (Delhi), 11 July 2009. She notes that it is only the third paper ever to focus on the pro-Hindu publishing outfit Voice of India. The first one was by the Japanese graduate student Mitsuhiro Kondo, who interviewed Sita Ram Goel, founder and mastermind of Voice of India. I wrote a comment on her work in Elst 2002. The second one, of which I hadn’t heard yet, is given as Reza Pirbhai: “Demons in Hindutva: Writing a Theology for Hindu Nationalism”, Modern Intellectual History, 2008, and which will get a reply in due time. The third is her own.

On personal details, she gets a few less important ones wrong regarding myself, but some pretty fundamental ones concerning the Indians involved. Writing in 2009, and after paying a visit to the Voice of India office, she doesn’t seem to know that Pradeep Goel, who managed the practical aspects of publication for over fifteen years, had passed away in 2005. She also writes about Abhas Kumar Chatterjee and others as if they are still alive. These are not just painful mistakes, but indicate a serious misunderstanding about the role of Voice of India today, viz. that it is now a thing of the past (italics ours). Secularist “experts” on Hindu activism have strictly ignored this centre of Hindu thought while it was active and only discovered it near or after its end, and that too only sparingly.

It is no surprise, then, that she gets the main things wrong as well. Thus, she associates Sita Ram Goel repeatedly with “Hindutva”. But to my knowledge, Goelji never ever applied the term “Hindutva” to his own thinking. Though a freedom fighter (i.e., in India, an activist in the anti-colonial freedom movement) in his youth, he often explicitly rejected the nationalist paradigm, especially in contexts where the Sangh Parivar was using it as a ploy to skirt around the difficult ideological issues. In RSS parlance, difficult ideological themes are systematically replaced with a simplistic dichotomy of Indian/foreign or national/”anti-national”. Thus, Babar as a “foreign” rather than “Islamic” invader, Communism as “anti-national” rather than any of the ideological things one could hold against it, the Christian mission as a “CIA vehicle” rather than a religious challenge.

Like most somewhat open-minded people, he was fully aware that the identification of Hinduism with India was becoming obsolete, with ever more Hindus settling abroad and forgetting their mother tongue, and with ever more Westerners adopting Hinduism formally or de facto. The present age is the worst moment in history to redefine Hinduism in terms of its geographical roots rather than its contents.

On balance, though, I think his rejection of the Sangh, while having a strong ideological dimension in the mind of that hard-headed ideologue, was primarily of a different nature, stemming from his many personal experiences with the RSS and its functioning. His very first objection to the Sangh was against its personnel, against their low intellectual and moral calibre. In all dealings with them, so he told me, there is some unpleasantness, some promise not kept, some trespassing against ordinary good manners, and often some ideological betrayal. In our first conversation, in 1989, he derided the RSS-BJP as “the biggest collection of duffers that ever came together in world history”. And in our last, in 2003 (in the presence of Prof. Saradindu Mukherji and Dr. David Frawley), he gloomily said: “Hinduism will not survive unless this RSS-BJP movement perishes.” And in between, he said things like: “The RSS is leading Hindu society into a trap.”

Hindu Society Under SiegeShe manages to accuse him of “Hindu triumphalism”, repeatedly. Like in the paper’s title, here it is the word triumphalism that catches the reader’s eye. That is about the last word I would have thought of when Sita Ram Goel’s work is mentioned. The almost opposite concept of alarmism would seem more appropriate. On the first page of his seminal booklet Hindu Society under Siege, Sita Ram Goel wrote: “But the death of Hindu society is no longer an eventuality which can no longer be envisaged. This great society is now besieged by the same dark and deadly forces which have overwhelmed and obliterated many ancient societies.”

As a loser, Meera Nanda quotes from Voice of India writers themselves only very sparingly, being all the more talkative about alleged “links”. Thus, she quotes from “Hindu terrorist groups like Sanatan Sanstha” (2009, p. 107) as saying much the same thing, but then alleges that “the most strident expression of Hindu triumphalism comes from a group of writers associated with Voice of India”. That is, more strident than “Hindu terrorism”. The Breivik quotes follow the same pattern: she cannot pinprick the critique of Islam given by Voice of India authors (there is no trace of it in these articles), so she just juxtaposes Voice of India with Breivik’s name and hopes readers will fall for it. Given the great demand for reassurance about Islam, and hence for ridiculing its critics, she may well have some success with what is contents wise an admission of weakness.

Meera Nanda shows her utter confusion, or her lack of scruples, when she tries to link Voice of India to the Nouvelle Droite. She claims that “they are finding new recruits from the European New Right”, though she cannot name any (and I as an insider can say that they are non-existent), and purports to name three cases of interaction.

One is an interview which Ram Swarup gave to Christopher Gérard (Brussels), editor of the second Antaios. It is true that Gérard was enthusiastic about Ram Swarup’s apology of Hindu polytheism, and for that reason he gave some publicity to him. But there were also deep differences, papered over in social contexts but nonetheless real. Thus, Gérard was a great believer in the Aryan Invasion Theory, while Ram Swarup opposed it. And Gérard was a great fan of Alain Daniélou, a bookish defender of Hindu traditionalism (as he conceived it, highly idiosyncratically) and of the caste system, while Ram Swarup stood in the native “tradition” of Hindu reformism. The interaction between Ram Swarup and Christopher Gérard, limited to a few meetings, did not go beyond a joint celebration of polytheism, a cause to which both of them were wedded before.

Incidentally, in describing Antaios, Meera Nanda commits several mistakes. She says it was “started by Mircea Eliade and Ernest Jûnger, both of whom had close connections with fascist movements in their native Romania and Germany respectively”. (2009:113) Yes, Ernst Jûnger was a Nazi in the 1920s, when it was an opposition movement repressed by the German police and being a Nazi took courage; he was also an anti-Nazi in the late 1930s when Nazism was in power and being an anti-Nazi took courage. That makes him a very different sort of anti-Nazi from Meera Nanda, who is always found on the safe side. As for Mircea Eliade: Wendy Doniger, the darling of the Nehruvian secularists for her anti-Hindu writings, held the Mircea Eliade Chair at the prestigious Chicago University. Shall we say that she was not averse to fascist connections?

Though Antaios had the same name as a paper founded by Jûnger and Eliade, it was not founded by them. Their paper folded and Antaios was founded anew by Christopher Gérard. He in turn folded it years before Meera Nanda wrote her piece. So the title is available, and a Croat has again founded a paper called Antaios. Oh, and one more detail: Gérard’s Antaios appeared in French, so Ram Swarup never read it.

The second case of interaction between Voice of India and the Nouvelle Droite which Meera Nanda alleges, is this: “Francois Gautier, a follower of Sri Aurobindo, and more recently of Sri Sri Ravishankar, is another VoI author who had a long career with the French newspaper La Figaro, which has been described as the mouthpiece of the French New Right. Gautier is the brain behind the idea of creating a museum showcasing the Hindu ‘holocaust’ at the hands of Muslims.” (2011:113)

The only thing in common between François Gautier and the French Nouvelle Droite thinkers is probably that they are French. He has been in India for decades and is out of touch with developments in France. Yes, he has been a correspondent for Le Figaro for a while, but that was after the paper severed its links with the Nouvelle Droite authors working for its magazine ca. 1980. His museum of Muslim atrocities on Hindu society is the best proof of his non-connectedness to the Nouvelle Droite, which happens to be pro-Islamic and has nothing to do with the counter-jihad agitation now animating a new generation of European parties.

The third is me. But I already said that, save for criticising Christianity, I have never espoused the typical agenda points of the Nouvelle Droite, not even when, long ago, writing for Nouvelle Droite publications. And here again, the opposite viewpoint on Islam is striking and significant. Luc Pauwels invited me to the Nouvelle Droite paper TeKoS precisely as a counterweight to the existing pro-Islamic tendency. Though Meera Nanda hopes to use the “New Right” as a bridge between Voice of India and the Islam-hating terrorist Anders Breivik, these champions of a “Euro-Arab alliance against the US and Capitalism” have strictly nothing to do with Breivik.

What then is the difference between Voice of India and the established Hindu Nationalist movement? According to Meera Nanda, “While Islamophobia is not new, its expression used to be moderated by the so-called ‘essential-unity Hinduism’ – the familiar rhetoric which proclaims that all religions are equally true. (…) Even the most radical Hindu communalists occasionally said some good things about other faiths in order to show how big-hearted and tolerant their own faith is.” (2009:107) Yes, and in fact, far more than she will give them credit for. Frequently, BJP leaders declare and the Organiser writes that terrorism has no religion, that the great religion of Islam is misunderstood by its critics and misused by its fanatics, that “Islam is more sinned against than sinning”, etc.

According to her, “This essential-unity Hinduism, hypocritical though it was, is facing new ideological threats. A new triumphalism is emerging which does not hesitate to openly and unapologetically celebrate the alleged superiority of Hinduism over the alleged depravity of Islam, and to a somewhat lesser extent, Christianity as well.” (2009:107) Yet, “the new tribe of triumphalists speak in terms of pluralism, science and tolerance which supposedly abound in Hinduism.” (2009:107) Her term triumphalism is as inept as could be: everything of value is vulnerable, and consequently Hinduism is no match for its challengers, just as Greek philosophy wasn’t. It has, according to Voice of India’s mission statement, only truth on its side. And whether Truth Shall Prevail, as India’s motto has it, remains to be seen.

Voice of India and Islam

Sita Ram Goel & Ram SwarupMeera Nanda describes Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel as “two ardent Hindu revivalists and anti-Communists”. (2011) What she does not write, is that they had been Leftists themselves in the late forties, and that Goel failed to become a Communist Party member only because of Sardar Patel’s crackdown on the party the very day Goel had an appointment at the party office. What she does not write at all is that their anti-Communist stand, brave and lonely in the fifties, has totally been vindicated by history. This she doesn’t want to know because she still has a soft corner for Marxism.

Indeed, she treats “anti-Communist” as a swearword. That is why she calls them “anti-Communists” even as late as 1981, not to speak of 2011. After the Chinese Communist invasion in India in 1962, Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel knew that Communism’s chance to take over India had gone. To be sure, the Communist hold on the entire cultural sector kept on increasing, but political control was forever with centre-left dynasts. But let us not focus on them, let us focus on Meera Nanda. In respect of anti-Communism, now a historical subject, she is still a Stalinist.

Meera Nanda goes off on a tangent about the European Nationalist Right, about Jean-Marie Le Pen and such, who have nothing to do with Voice of India, not even with its European sympathisers such as myself. Then she turns around and asks: “One could ask: why we in India should care about these European racists?” (2009:112) Well, nobody in India paid them any attention, nobody there cares about them. It is only Meera Nanda who has them in mind. Like the medieval theologians who wondered about the earth being in the middle and the devil living in the earth, hence the universe turning around the devil, she is obsessed with European racism and drags it in where it has no place. Because she has no way of countering Voice of India’s case, she has to fall back on associations, and false ones at that.

Or, well, there is one thing she has to say in defence of Islam. By way of conclusion, she ends her article in the Economic and Political Weekly as follows: ““Monotheism does not automatically translate into totalitarianism and polytheism is not a synonym for tolerance, as the triumphalists would have us believe. Theology is not destiny. The (more or less) peaceful coexistence of many religions that India is justly famous for, is not a gift of Hinduism: all of India’s religions contributed to it in ways without compromising their religious beliefs. To forget their contribution is to forget the love and patriotism of India’s Muslims and Christians for their country.” (2009:114)

No, theology is destiny, if taken seriously. Of course ideas have consequences. That monotheism leads to intolerance has been admitted by Christians like Rodney Stark in his book One True God or Jan Assman in The Price of Monotheism. Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel are not the first ones to assert this, it is a matter of worldwide consensus. The great pioneers of monotheism, Pharaoh Akhenaten, Moses and Mohammed, all distinguished themselves by killing large numbers of dissidents. Fortunately, many Muslims are people first and Muslims second, they don’t take Islam very seriously and that explains their less-than-Islamic conduct.

That Muslims love India is only Meera Nanda’s contention. In the last and only de facto referendum, the last election before independence, 87% of the Muslim electorate voted against India and in favour of the Muslim League and its programme: the Partition of India. While the Hindus voted for a multicultural India, the Muslims voted against India and against multiculturalism. That is a historical fact, and Meera Nanda cannot alter it. Today, most Indian Muslims are against a further Partition, but that is only because their leadership class has determined that the same mistake should not be made and that the Indian Muslims should seek to Islamize the whole of India. It is only on these terms that the Muslims love India in one piece.

As for the Christians, on p. 292 of Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, the only book of mine that figures in her bibliography and which I therefore assume she has read, I have written: “However, while Christian separatism is indeed a reality in the small and peripheral states of the North-east, in most tribal areas both native and foreign-missionary Christians have definitely accepted the fact of India.” Contrary to what she implies, we are well aware of Christian patriotism. The only way for her of overriding Voice of India is to falsely put words into our mouths.

Voice of India is only secondarily an Indian nationalist movement. It is first of all a civilizational revivalism. It attaches no particular importance to the differential degree of patriotism of the average Hindu, Muslim or Christian. Even if a religion fosters patriotism, as long as it troubles others and tries to impose upon them its irrational beliefs, we have to do something about it.

According to Meera Nanda (2011): “What distinguishes the VoI-brand of Hindutva — and pushes it into the global network of Islamophobia — is its staunch opposition to the mantra of sarva dharma samabhaav, the Hindu equivalent of multiculturalism. Hinduism, they assert, is not any ordinary religion, but rather contains the very essence of religion itself: it is sanatan dharma, the Eternal Cosmic Truth. To equate Hindu dharma, this mother of all Truth, with violent, materialistic and monotheistic ‘creeds’ like Islam amounts to equating dharma with adharma, the ways of devas (gods) with the ways of asuras (demons). (…) This equality is not acceptable to cultural nationalists: if all cultures are equal, how can they oppose the influx of what they see as inferior cultures? If all cultures are equal, how can they carry on their ‘consciousness-raising’ campaigns against The Quran and Sharia?”

We will ignore Meera Nanda’s confusion between nationalism, which only divides religions between national and non-national, and religion critique, which divides religions between true, false and every shade in between. What distinguishes Voice of India according to her is that it really practices religion critique (which, according to Karl Marx, is the beginning of all critique), whereas the RSS family only practices nationalism. The RSS, following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, asks people to suspend their power of discrimination and treat all religions as equal save to the extent that they are anti-national.

In reality, religions make truth claims and these can be judged. In particular, Christianity and Islam are based on truth claims which aren’t true. They differ by more than their country of origin, they differ by their beliefs. And these can be found wanting. It is only a common use of the human mental faculties which leads to the questioning of religions.

Islamophobia is, according to Nanda, based upon the view that Islam itself is so innately barbaric, irrational, sexist, violent and aggressive that “the followers of Islam must exhibit these abominable behavioural traits”. Indeed, “Muslims are reduced to automatons programmed to obey these dreadful commands”. (2009, p. 106) That is again a projection from the eye of the beholder unattested in Voice of India writing. It is, moreover, logically incompatible with the reconversion option advertised many times in Voice of India publications.

As she herself writes: “To add insult to injury, debunking Islam from a Hindu perspective is supposed to be good for Muslims because: ‘Muslims of Bharatvarsha would start returning to the Hindu fold only when they realise how obnoxious a doctrine Islam is, how false and fraudulent, how degrading and dehumanising, how unethical and superficial. History has bestowed a role on Hindu nation to help Muslims discover that Islam is a prison house that deprives them of their freedom of thought, powers of reasoning and qualms of conscience…. When, and only when, Muslims find out the reality of Muhammad and his creed, they would start walking out of Islam and feel proud to join their ancestral culture.” (2009:110, with reference to Abhas Chatterjee in S.R. Goel, ed., 1997: Time for Stock-Taking: Whither Sangh Parivar?, p. 64-65). Exactly. And what is wrong with “reality”? What problem does Meera Nanda have with it?

But such a stand does not make Voice of India popular, for it does not go well with the widespread trait of laziness: “It appears that even though the cadre of RSS are avid readers of the VoI literature, they tend to distance themselves from the Goel-Swarup camp in public ‘because of their extremist anti-Muslim tirades’.” (2009:109) At least we have it on her word that there is a deep cleavage between Hindutva and Voice of India.

How did the Marxist intellectual Meera Nanda find employment with the Christian Templeton Foundation? Why, she led them to believe that she was a scientist and philosopher of science, sharing with her prospective employers a proven anti-Hindu animus. I do not doubt her competence to do whatever it is that microbiologists do. She has certain scientist’s skills, but she doesn’t have the mind of a scientist. She has the mind of a believer, or at least of a politician who wants to keep the believers happy. By contrast, Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel had the real scientist’s mind. They questioned. In particular, they questioned the beliefs which are so obtrusively propagated, those of Christianity and Islam. They had no patience with the unscientific assumption that all religions can be equal. Of course truth and untruth are not equal (italics ours).

“Once they got rid of the mantra of sarva dharma samabhaav, VoI militants declared an open war against Islam.” This of course is Meera Nanda the liar speaking. No Voice of India author has ever hurt a hair on the head of any Muslim. By contrast, many Muslims have been killed by politicians who praise Islam. Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy, Barack Obama or David Cameron have never said a bad word about Islam, but their bomber pilots have killed a great many Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya. The less Islam criticism, the more Muslims get killed. – Koenraad Elst, May 2012

» Read the complete set of articles at Dr. Elsts’ blog.

» Many Voice of India books can be accessed at Voice of Dharma

Banning books – Jaya Padmanabhan

Jaya PadmanabhanWhen authoritarian regimes ban books it’s often a validation of an author’s influence, a writer’s rite of passage. It is when democratic countries stifle opinion that there is a breakdown in the equipoise of the governing process. Censorship is assuredly an action that negates debate. Difference of opinion is neither a cause nor a criterion for elimination. It is just a convenient way out of intellectual engagement. If we remove displeasing ideas, motives, and morals from our vocabulary are we not creating prototypes of conformity?” – Jaya Padmanbhan

Harold Robbins + Mario PuzoWhen I was 14, I was asked not to read Betsy by Harold Robbins. I did, of course, read the book right away, hiding it within my chemistry textbook. I remember Betsy having daring material on sex and drugs, but what was most thrilling was the fact that I was reading a forbidden book.

From the time my daughter Kavya was 12 she has been eager to read Nabokov’s Lolita. “Isn’t the title character about my age?” I recall her asking. After numerous discussions I settled on “later” as the age when I thought she would be better able to deal with the mature contents of the book. I realise that my Betsy is her Lolita.

As parents we often decide what our children can and cannot read, motivated by the desire to protect their innocence, shield them from harsh realities, and limit their exposure to controversial religious and cultural issues. These intentions are not dissimilar to the rationale used by authority figures throughout history in their attempt to sway public opinion, suppress dissent, and perpetuate ideology. This is true even of the world prior to 1440 AD, when Gutenberg invented the printing press.

ProtagorasHistory of Censorship

Historically, religious and cultural disagreements have driven emperors, religious leaders, and members of the ruling class to curtail readership. Greek thinker Protagoras’ works were burned in the 5th century because he was agnostic. Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered the burning of Christian works and, during the Qin Dynasty (213-206 BC) in China, history books were burned and hundreds of Confucian scholars were buried alive for their ideological differences with the rulers.

According to University of California, San Diego, Professor of Communication and Science Studies, Chandra Mukerji, censorship was used during the Reformation in Europe as a tactic “to control poor people from thinking about issues that threatened elites.” As the Western world became more and more literate, new ideas and thoughts began to find their way to the printed page. “Political person-hood,” Mukerji emphasizes, “was shaped and molded because of “access to books.”

Indeed, a large portion of our intellectual heritage comes from books, art, movies, artifacts, and word-of-mouth stories and anecdotes. They provide shades to our concepts, outlines to our ideas, and color to our thoughts. Yet, countries, states and governments exercise censorship, some more violently than others.

Joseph LelyveldIndia and its Great Soul

The holy cows of religion and patriotism have usually driven censorship efforts in India. Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses was banned for its supposed attacks on Islam. Books on Shivaji have drawn the ire of activists who cherished the hagiographic memories of the Maharashtrian warrior king. More recently, a biography of Dhirubhai Ambani (the business magnate who founded Reliance Industries) termed The Polyester Prince, came under fire.

The latest controversy has been over Joseph Lelyveld’s book, Great Soul — Mahatma Gandhi and his struggle with India. The Pulitzer prize-winning author highlights Gandhi’s “erotically charged friendship” with a German-Jewish architect named Herman Kallenbach.

The Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, denounced the book, stating, “The perversion shown in the writings not only deserves to be condemned in the strongest possible terms but cannot be tolerated. I know that the members of this august house share my feelings.” He was referring to the Gujarat State Assembly, which summarily banned the “publication, printing and publication” of the book in Gujarat, even though the book had not been released in India as yet and had most likely not been read by its denouncers.

The author, Lelyveld, “damns Gandhi not with direct attacks but with an overdose of scepticism,” reprimands Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, in his Hindustan Times essay of March 30, 2011, yet also submitting that it is a mistake to ban the book, especially “in the light of Gandhi’s commitment to freedom of speech.”

Columnist and peace activist, Praful Bidwai, criticizes India’s “knee-jerk instinct to prohibit, ban, punish and censor,” calling it a “huge flaw in India’s democracy.”

Rohinton MistryRestraining Rhetoric

Since the British era, several Indian writers have faced the wrath of authority. The great Hindi writer and social thinker, Premchand, came under literary scrutiny in 1910, when the British government banned his collection of short stories, Soz-e-Watan, claiming it was seditious in content. The book consisted of five stories that sought to inspire patriotism and political freedom.

Even though Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s government banned The Satanic Verses, Gandhi said that the ban “did not detract from the literary and artistic merit of Rushdie’s work.” To which, Rushdie retorted acerbically in an open letter to the Prime Minister, “thanks for the good review.”

In 2010, the Shiv Sena, a fundamentalist regional party, coerced Bombay University’s Vice Chancellor, Rajan Weluka, into removing Canadian-Indian writer Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey, from the University’s literary curriculum. The reason given: it contained some derogatory comments about Shiv Sena and its leader, Bal Thackeray.

“I just don’t understand the secularism practised in India,” argues Belgian writer Koenraad Elst, saying that these so-called secularists “arrogate the right to decide for others what they can see and read, and what not.”

Shel SilversteinThe United States’ Challenge

In the United States, Sept 24 to Oct 1, 2011, has been designated the Banned Books Week. This yearly event celebrates the freedom to read and, during this commemorative period, libraries and book stores put together a display of books that have been “challenged,” according to Los Altos Teen Services Librarian, Sarah Neeri, who adds that, “a lot of books that are challenged are children’s books.” “Challenge” is the new politically judicious word for censorship. There have been 4659 challenges reported, according to the American Library Association (ALA) website and about 48% of these challenges were initiated by parents.

On occasion, though, the rationale is stupefying. Consider Shel Silverstein’s lighthearted poem, A Light in the Attic, which was banned in 1985 in Cunningham Elementary School in Wisconsin. The official ALA records indicate that this is because it “encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.” Could the fact that Silverstein’s prior profession as a Playboy cartoonist have had anything to do with the edict, I wonder.

“Well, I do hope they don’t provide sex books to young children. That’s all I ask,” says Althea Anderson, a diminutive woman with a big smile who works as a volunteer at the Friends of Palo Alto Bookstore.

Menlo Park Kepler’s bookstore employee, Amis Maldonado, dismisses the issue of book banning as “really irrelevant.” Then after a few moments of consideration, “If I were to think of any books that should be on the list, I’d say the one that describes how to be a safe paedophile. It created some controversy on Amazon.”

Ray BradburyThe book Maldonado refers to is a self-published book, titled, The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct by Phillip R. Greaves II, which was made available on Oct 28, 2010. I did a quick search for the title and found that Amazon has since removed it from its database.

Suruchi, a high school junior, shakes her head at my question of whether any book should be censored, “Reading a banned book is cool but why should books be banned, even if they have inappropriate content? It’s a question of freedom of speech, not morals and values.”

At the library, an older gentleman proceeds to tell me about the book Hit Man, published by Paladin Press in 1983. “All existing copies of the book with the publisher were destroyed since it described how to become a hit man; a contract killer. I have a copy of the book,” he tells me excitedly, refusing to divulge his name, for obvious reasons!

The book Hit Man became a paperback guide to an actual triple murder in 1993, leading to a lawsuit. But despite that, Googling the book, leads me to these words, “This file has been stored on the publisher’s virtual drive on 4shared.com (online file storage service). The file is shared for public access and downloading. The publisher is responsible for the content of the file.”

“Book censorship is not really effective,” affirms Mukerji, “and even more so now because of the Internet. Banning books often makes people more interested in them, and affects publishers more than readers.”

My 9th grader, Prianca, concurs with Mukerji: “If a book is banned I’m more compelled to read it for its forbidden value.”

Nasrin Jafarey, owner of Books N Bits in Cerritos, contends that as a bookseller she doesn’t take sides in this debate. “It’s a business,” she says, “and I’m a practical person,” explaining that if there are books that people want to read, she is happy to supply them. “As a mother, though,” Jafarey muses, “There are books that should be banned for kids.” Though, when pressed for names of these books, she demurs, saying she cannot recall the titles or the authors. This exposes the nebulous fear that censorship exploits—our belief that there are some materials that go beyond the pale. But since where that line is drawn is so subjective, it questions the very foundations of free speech.

J.K. RowlingA Distinguished List

Many august writers have made it to the banned list in the United States: Harper Lee, William Faulkner, Joseph Heller, Aldous Huxley, John Steinbeck, Walt Whitman, J.D. Salinger, William Shakespeare, and even the wildly successful J.K. Rowling, whose Harry Potter series has been challenged or banned in several states because it allegedly “promoted witchcraft!”

A number of Nobel Prize winning authors have faced censure from their countries or people for their views: Turkish Orhan Pamuk, South African Nadine Gordimer, Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz, Chinese Gao Xingjian and Polish Wisawa Szymborska.

In Ray Bradbury’s brilliant, futuristic book, Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953, society is controlled by censorship. The title refers to the supposed temperature at which a book disintegrates. Fahrenheit 451 describes an anti-intellectual climate where academics and erudition are anathematic and accursed (harbinger of today’s political climate?)

In a supremely ironic turn of events, Fahrenheit 451 was itself banned and censored for containing the words, “damn,” and “hell.” An incensed Bradbury wrote a scathing criticism in a published coda to Fahrenheit 451. “In sum, do not insult me with the beheadings, finger-choppings or the lung-deflations you plan for my works. I need my head to shake or nod, my hand to wave or make into a fist, my lungs to shout or whisper with. I will not go gently onto a shelf, degutted, to become a non-book.”

Henry MillerWhy are Books Banned?

In the United States, books are usually removed from shelves because the contents are considered lewd, indecent, or obscene—Fanny Hill, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lolita. Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer was banned in the United States for almost three decades starting in 1930 for explicit sexual content. Ulysses by James Joyce was also banned temporarily for its sexual content. The issue went to court and the ban was overturned in 1933 in a landmark case, United States v One Book Called Ulysses.

During times of war, national interest and security become barometers of judgement. Operation Dark Heart, written by Anthony Shaffer, was banned in the United States in 2010 because it contained compromising classified information. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was prohibited in the South during the Civil War for promoting anti-slavery sentiment. More recently, Bradley Manning’s incarceration for leaking classified government documents has made him a cause celebré for anti-censorship activists.

Tahrir Square Book FairBut if authority can seek to censor ideas, people power can successfully reverse the suppression. Librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community have fought to restore banned or challenged books to shelves. Never has the effort been more inspiring than at the Tahrir Square Book Fair, held in early April, after the peaceful revolutions in the Arab world. “Everyone around the globe now associates Tahrir Square with freedom and revolution,” proclaimed Trevor Naylor of the American University, one of the organizers of the book fair, stating that the book fair “celebrates what happened here.” In Tunisia too, with the ousting of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, books that were previously banned are now openly on sale in bookshops. Each suppressed title now on view adds a freedom stripe to the sleeves of democracy.

When authoritarian regimes ban books it’s often a validation of an author’s influence, a writer’s rite of passage. It is when democratic countries stifle opinion that there is a breakdown in the equipoise of the governing process. Censorship is assuredly an action that negates debate. Difference of opinion is neither a cause nor a criterion for elimination. It is just a convenient way out of intellectual engagement. If we remove displeasing ideas, motives, and morals from our vocabulary are we not creating prototypes of conformity?

I heard novelist Ayelet Waldman on the radio, recently, talking about her book, Bad Mother. This is the same author who wrote a revelatory and famously criticised essay titled, Truly, Madly, Guiltily in the New York Times, in which she declared that she desired her husband’s company more than that of her children, confessing that it is not her children but her husband’s face “that inspires in me paroxysms of infatuated devotion.” I admit, I was startled yet taken by both Waldman’s essay and the premise of her book, just as I am with Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Both authors test my slant and persuasion. But in everything that I don’t believe, there’s an analysis I’ve missed, a truth I’ve glossed over, or a stereotype I’ve succumbed to.

As I write this article, I realize that the time may have come to loosen a few parental strictures; it’s time to help my children discover and learn the moral responsibilities of freedom. Armed with a copy of Lolita, I approach my daughter’s door, framing the words to a singular teachable moment. - India Currents, Jun e 2, 2011

» Jaya Padmanabhan is a prize-winning fiction writer.


Zaytouna Arabic BookshopHypocrisy in the Arab World

An Arab bookshop in Geneva has capitalized on literary proscription by selling banned Arabic books. Zaytouna Arabic Bookshop’s owner, Alain Bittar, was quoted in Gulf News as saying that his clientele consists of Arab leaders, government officials and royalty, eager to purchase books that are not available in their countries. Bittar offers an anecdote of a royal personage calling him and asking whether he had any books that were banned in her country. Upon his affirmative response, he was asked to put all of them in a bag and wait for her driver to collect them.

Falun Gong ProtestSuppression in China

Within China, Falun Gong literature has been systematically destroyed and several authors who’ve given voice to civic unhappiness have found themselves behind bars.

Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, Ran Yunfei and countless others are currently in prison for voicing their thoughts, while the citizens of the world watch, mute and helpless.

Articles, stories, poems, readings and even references to and on Tibet appear to be a red flag to the Chinese government. When Adrienne Mong, NBC News producer, moved to Beijing, Chinese customs impounded her books on Tibet. In her blog, she wrote, “A few days after my books finally arrived in China, the shipping agent sent an email, “Please be kindly advised there is a book named Tibet which is confiscated by customs when they are inspecting your books within your shipment. As they thought the content of the book break one China’s principle (sic).”

A Chinese American Santa Clara physician, who requested anonymity, states plainly, “they (the Chinese government) don’t want to hear different voices.” He stresses that most Chinese living in China have the same views that he does. “They talk about it, make jokes about the government and relate stories about corruption, within their own private worlds.”

Taslima NasrinThe Flight of Taslima Nasreen

The very act of banning can make a decent writer a high priest of literature. Take the case of Taslima Nasreen, an anesthesiologist-turned-author. Her novel Lajja, revolving around the revenge rape of a young Hindu girl in the backlash against the Babri Masjid demolition in India, created such an uproar in Bangladesh that she was forced to flee to India.

Despite questionable literary merit, Nasreen received several awards for her work and even published a self-indulgent memoir about her sexual experiences. Eventually, growing opposition to her anti-religious views forced her into exile from India. Today, she lives in Sweden and works to build support for secular humanism, freedom of thought, equality for women, and human rights.

Book Banning in Iran

San Carlos resident Mozhi Habibi is an active member of the Association of Iranian American Writers (iranianamericanwriters.org), which raises funds to support authors that are banned or jailed in Iran. According to Habibi, banning in Iran follows no real pattern, and can be broadly applied to “anything that smells of western culture, sex, female empowerment, non-religious ideas, revolutionary ideas, democracy, separation of religion and politics regardless of the country of origin of the author.” Habibi discloses that there are ways to get around the ban. “You just have to know which book store to go to and it is usually ‘in the back.’” - India Currents, June 2, 2011

Taslima Nasrin assault in Hyderabad

Protecting the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas – Vijaya Rajiva

Sita Ram Goel“The non-Christian religions have persevered on their own, their truths, their social life and culture throughout these long centuries; they certainly do not stand in need of help from an apparatus which has tried its utmost to uproot them. The stark truth seems to be the other way around; it is the Church of Christ which is seeking desperately the help of non-Christian religions in order to save whatever little is left of its superstitions.” – Sita Ram Goel

History of Hindu-Christian Encounters: AD 304 to 1996 by Sita Ram GoelThe aam admi Hindu, the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths have been and are the backbone of Hindu civilisation. Protecting them is the responsibility of the Hindu elite, especially the Hindu intellectuals. This duty had been discharged in earlier times, with the labours of the Swami Vivekananda generation (in the 19th century) and in our times by vigilant Hindus, Hindu organisations and publications. Unfortunately, the same is not true of the new fangled methods of ‘dialogue’ which show a dismal record of retreat and capitulation before the enemy so to speak, especially the Catholic Church and its allies in the evangelical movement. The goal of this generic Church as it has been rightly called, has always been the single-minded aim of the conversion of the Hindu population, a process which started systematically with the Goa Inquisition of 1560 when a variety of methods were used, including, torture, murder and mayhem to convert the local population and destroy their ancestral faith. This process has been written about by several authors, the most well-known being Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel. The latter’s many works include the History of Hindu Christian Encounters (1996). Sita Ram Goel passed away in 2003, but the work has been carried on by other writers such as Swami Devananda Saraswati aka Ishwar Sharan, Radha Rajan, Sandhya Jain, Tamizhchelvan, Virendra Parekh, to name the best known of the recent writers on the subject.

Breaking IndiaFor a brief most recent survey of the trajectory of the Church’s changing tactics including its tactics of Inculturation the reader is referred to Sandhya Jain’s article ‘Inter-faith Dialogue: What’s in it for Hindus?’ For a historical survey the above writers are good sources. One can also include the book Breaking India by authors Rajiv Malhotra & Aravindan Neelakandan (2011). The above is not a comprehensive list of works but it will help the reader to understand how and why the latest tactic of Inter-Religious Dialogue is a manifestation of the process of Inculturation by the Church to infiltrate Hindu culture and subvert it by co-opting Hindu intellectuals in the process. The present writer has written several articles on the topic.

The aam admi Hindus continue to practise their faith in ongoing fashion. This has been well expressed by Sandhya Jain in her above mentioned article:

“India has hitherto withstood the missionary assault because of the devotion of the ordinary citizen, especially the denizens of villages and tribal belts, to their ancestral faith as represented by the grama devatas, kula devatas and sthana devatas who form a protective shield around their devotees and save them from harm. Then, there are the great gods in the larger temples and peeths and pilgrimages which gird the whole country in a protective grid, along with the spiritual strength and leadership of the traditional acharyas, gurus, mathams and so on.”

Kanchi Acharya Sri Jayendra SaraswatiThe traditional acharyas are not expected to know their Shakespeare and Milton or the Bible and scriptures of non-Dharmic faiths. They do their job of maintaining their existing Hindu traditions very well. To distract them from their main task which is the expounding, explication and propagation of the Hindu scriptures and the maintenance of the rituals of the tradition is unconscionable. It might well be that there may be some traditional acharyas who are also versed in non-Dharmic religions, but this is an accidental phenomenon and should not be the criterion to judge whether the former are doing their task adequately.

Dwarka Acharya Sri Swarupananda SaraswatiIt is the responsibility of the Hindu intellectual to engage, only if NECESSARY, in the task of interacting with non-Dharmic faiths and the present record of producing coffee table books does not bode well for the new fangled method of ‘dialogue’ which the Church has imposed on Hindu India. There cannot be any two opinions that it is THEIR considered strategy of drawing Hindu intellectuals into the orbit of Inculturation and thereby accomplishing both that specific task as well distracting Hindu intellectuals who are prone to imagine that their adventure of ideas is somehow a world-shaking event. At best, it might keep the well-heeled upper classes satisfied that something is being done for Hindu India, and / or that it demonstrates how well-informed Hindus are about their faith. It might even provide some educational value to the upper classes who are increasingly getting distanced from their ancestral faith. But it cannot and never will be a substitute for the ongoing aam admi Hindu’s daily practice of his / her faith and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths. To attempt to do that is a sign of hubris.

And these are the targets of the Church, not the Hindu intellectuals, who may fondly imagine that their self-importance has been validated and vindicated by invitations to Dialogue, since after all important representatives of the Church have conferred their blessings on these projects.

And to continue to believe that this is so, is in reality, a danger to the Hindu Samaj. The Church merely toys with these intellectuals in the interests of its larger agenda.

Puri Acharya Nishcalananda SaraswatiSince the method of ‘dialogue’ is essentially part of Church strategy, there is only one way left for Hindu intellectuals and that is to reject the fraudulent dialogue outright. The rejection of globalisation in the Indian economy is being advocated in the realm of Economic Nationalism by able advocates of the same. Precisely that same approach is required at the intellectual level. And just as the Ecomomic Nationalists have a well argued and well presented agenda, likewise the Hindu intellectual must resist the siren call of globalisation and develop a well thought out scheme of meeting the ‘enemy at the gates’ so to speak. A contemporary scholar has, after the recent debacle in dialogue, suggested that a growing team of well-educated, well prepared Hindu scholars and intellectuals can engage with the enemy in aggressive fashion, knocking down their pretensions at theological and religious superiority vis-a-vis the Dharmic faiths, while at the same time develop Hindu Siddhanth. This would be in line with the Hindu tradition of Purva Paksha, for which the REFUTATION of the adversary’s arguments is central to the whole project.

Sringeri Acharya Bharati TirthaSuch an ever-expanding project (a non-fraudulent one) requires team effort and the participants must surely be team players. It also requires vigilance in not entering arenas without adequate preparation and indeed not entering them at all, if not NECCESSARY. It was the writer Tamizhchelvan who memorably said that there was no need to create artificial battlefields. As he pointed out in a comment to an article in Haindava Keralam: since the start of interfaith dialogue there has been no benefit to the Hindu Samaj. In fact, there has been a dramatic increase since the start of interfaith dialogue in evangelisation and conversion, the mushrooming of Christian NGos (working against Hindu interests), the construction of prayer houses and churches next to temples, the acquisition of huge lands and properties, the menace of Inculturation and the increasing flow of foreign funds to these dubious organisations (the detailed comment can be viewed in the comment section of ‘Purva Paksha and the Siren Call of Hindu Christian Dialogue’, Haindava Keralam, 27/12/2011).

Hence, it is important for any new initiative for aggressive interfaith dialogue not only to be able to meet the adversary fully armed and fully prepared (metaphorically speaking), it is incumbent on these non-fraudulent dialoguers to keep their ears close to the ground. There is absolutely no need to wade into a morass, to walk into something set up by the adversary. It is pertinent to remember Sita Ram Goel’s words:

Adi Shankaracharya & Disciples“The non-Christian religions have persevered on their own, their truths, their social life and culture throughout these long centuries; they certainly do not stand in need of help from an apparatus which has tried its utmost to uproot them. The stark truth seems to be the other way around; it is the Church of Christ which is seeking desperately the help of non-Christian religions in order to save whatever little is left of its superstitions. That is the meaning of the “dialogue” for which Christian theologians and missionaries are crying now-a-days. The ‘dialogue’ does not seem to be a sincere attempt at reconciliation; on the contrary, it is only a strategy for survival on the part of Christianity” (Preface to the First Edition, The History of Hindu Christian Encounters, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1996).

Therefore, there are two dangers that the new dialoguers need to avoid: create artificial battlefields and make their project an elitist one, while ignoring and downgrading the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths. Should they not heed these dangers they will be repeating the mistakes of the last two decades whereby they have been unable to stop the following dangers to the Hindu Samaj (which Tamizhchelvan has listed in his detailed comment mentioned above). They will be unable to:

  1. Stop evangelisation and conversions
  2. Stop the mushrooming of Christian NGOs that work against Hindu interests
  3. Stop the construction of Prayer Halls and Churches near temples
  4. Stop the Church from acquiring huge lands and properties
  5. Stop the menace of Inculturation
  6. Stop the flow of foreign money

OmkarIf these dangers are not heeded then once again we will have a project that merely entertains the Hindu intellectual elite and will not benefit the Hindu Samaj. It will become another round of distraction from the central goal of protecting the aam admi Hindu and the traditonal acharyas, gurus and maths, whose very existence has frustrated the goal of asuric forces down the centuries to defeat Hindu civilisation.

» Dr. Vijaya Rajiva is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university. Her academic training is in Philosophy, Political Science, Political Economy & History.

The Nation needs a Hindu Rajguru, not a secular Gandhi — B. R. Haran

Anna Hazare

What happened to the Bharat Mata photo, Annaji?

An open letter to Anna Hazare

Respected Annaji

Namaskar

Thanks for writing to us countrymen cautioning against the divisive powers which are working to divide the anti-graft movement by spreading misinformation and propaganda. But Annaji, you must be aware that those who have openly critiqued the movement were not the jholawala types surrounding you in the guise of “civil activists”, but seasoned writers, intellectuals, political observers and erudite scholars passionate about Indian Democracy and its progress.

You have appealed to the people to ignore any kind of rumours Annaji, but those critical points cannot be brushed aside as rumours, as they have been made in the interest of the nation with clear evidences. Please be aware of the fact that your movement against corruption is seen with suspicion because of the jholawala brigade surrounding you. Let me take the liberty of reminding you of the old saying, “One is known by the company one keeps”. And what a company you have Annaji!

A “dubious Swami” who openly supports anti-nationals such as Maoists, Kashmiri separatists and Christian aggressors who wreak havoc in remote villages, tribal areas and coastal hamlets, indulging in conversion activities; an “RTI Activist” with a dubious track record of running NGOs without any accountability or transparency; a “dancer & social activist” who was allegedly involved in robbing innocent dancers in the guise of sending them abroad; a woman police officer who has not achieved anything, not even regular service awards, except the “distinction” of being the First Woman Police Officer of India; a “Social Activist” who thrives on instigating innocent people to riot against developmental projects and who has been indicted by Courts of Law in India including the Supreme Court for illegality and shady activities; yet another “Activist” whose NGO was thoroughly exposed in the VIGIL Book “NGOs, Activists and Foreign Funds: Anti- Nation Industry” (1). Being a socially conscious person, why didn’t you check their antecedents Annaji? Or did you think it did not matter?

With such characters supporting you, you are bound to face questions and criticisms Annaji, and you cannot reject them as rumours. As “leader” of the movement, you are responsible and you must clarify doubts arising in the minds of the fellow countrymen who are “blindly” following you.

Here are some more questions for you, in the hope that you would at least introspect if not willing to give a candid reply.

- A columnist of a reputed newspaper has said it was Arvind Kejriwal who prodded you two months ago to lead this fight for Jan Lokpal Bill (2). So why didn’t you start a separate movement then? Why did you go and join Swami Ramdev’s Bharat Swabhiman Andholan? Were you forced by Kejriwal and other “activists” to attend Baba Ramdev’s massive rally on 27 February? Did you announce your “Fast unto Death” plan there on the instruction of those activists?

- Between 27 February and 5 April you were not to be seen on the national scene Annaji. Why? A famous blogger has questioned the timing of your hunger strike (3). Can you give a convincing answer? Was the timing also decided by the “Activists”?

- In your letter to the Prime Minister, Annaji, you have mentioned that UPA-2 has shown complete contempt for even the most innocuous issues raised by the National Advisory Council (NAC) and you have also asked the government to accept the recommendations of the NAC sub-committee on Jan Lokpal Bill. In other words, you have literally batted for NAC. Why Annaji? What is the difference you perceive between UPA, Congress Party and NAC? Please don’t tell us you are not aware that all three are headed and controlled by Sonia Gandhi.

- As a crusader against corruption for so many decades, you must know the Bofors Scam and the persons involved in it; you must also be aware of the huge scams coming into the limelight one after another from the dark cabinets of UPA, presided over by Sonia. How and why did you bat for Sonia’s NAC in your letter to PM? Was the letter written by you or did you simply sign a letter drafted by “activists”?

- In your latest letter to us countrymen, you have mentioned that your hunger strike was not aimed against any government or person, but was the people’s voice against corruption. Why Annaji? Don’t you feel this government is the most brazenly corrupt government in independent India? Why didn’t you ask for speedy trial of CWG, 2G, Adarsh and other scams? When you are leading a fight against corruption, is it not your duty to highlight the various scams involving the present government, especially in your letter to the Prime Minister? Why should you go out of the way and say that your movement was not against any government or person?

- Because of your insistence and also because you have been steadfastly against him in Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar quit the GoM. But you seem happy to accept Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram, who have been castigated in your presence as corrupt, by none other than your colleague in the movement, former Income Tax Commissioner Vishwabandhu Gupta. Why this soft corner towards Congress and cold shoulder to NCP? Why you didn’t demand the inclusion of opposition leaders in the draft committee Annaji? Don’t you realize the opposition plays a significant role in parliamentary democracy and that its support is needed in parliament to pass the Lokpal Bill? Did the jholawala brigade prevent you from making such a demand?

- Coming to the composition of members of Lokpal, Annaji, why you have not considered the Chief Vigilance Commissioner and why you are specific about Nobel and Magsaysay awardees? What is so important about those awarded by foreign organizations?

- It seems you were not satisfied projecting yourself as a “Gandhian” and want to proclaim your “secular” credentials too! Hence you said “repeated” clarifications on your opinion about Narendra Modi “pained” you. You took pains to repeat the statement uttered by Kejriwal into your ears about Modi being “communal”; you took pains to send a written reply to the activist-dancer who objected to your appreciating Modi for the development milestones achieved in Gujarat; you took pains to clarify your position vis-à-vis Modi on “communal” aspect when confronted with another letter from a bunch of Gujarat-based jholawalas called Lok Andolan to Maoist sympathiser Agnivesh.

- But you never had the courtesy to reply to Mr. Modi, who not only appreciated your efforts wholeheartedly and thanked you respectfully, but also warned you of a vilification campaign by these very same people. Why Annaji? Did you think you would be dubbed ‘communal’ if you replied to Modi?

- Congress goons massacred more than 3000 Sikhs across the country in 1984. But you bat for Sonia and her NAC and don’t seem to bother about supporting or communicating with Congress. Annaji, do you mean Congress is not communal?

- You said you appreciated Modi for the development of Gujarat based on Media reports. Have you not seen media reports about 100-odd Muslims winning local body elections on BJP tickets? Have you not seen media reports on Muslims voting for Modi in large numbers in consecutive elections? Why didn’t you have the courage to tell the jholawala brigade that you stand by your opinion on Modi, that he was not communal and that Gujarati Muslims are the happiest lot when compared with Muslims of other states?

- More than a dozen states including your Maharashtra have Lokayuktas, but not Modi’s Gujarat. You must know how Maharashtra is doing in the august presence of yourself and a Lokayukta. However, with just the existing laws, Modi was able to achieve corruption-free governance reducing corruption to the barest minimum while other states couldn’t achieve even a fraction of this. As a leader of the so-called anti-corruption movement, you should have appreciated Modi for this. Yet you chose to demand constitution of a Lokayukta without even knowing that it was the Sonia-led Congress party which creates obstacles in the formation of a Lokayukta in Gujarat. Annaji will you show some courage by asking Sonia to cooperate with Modi in forming the Lokayukta in Gujarat?

- The monumental scams and corruption involving UPA ministers have been tumbling out of the closet. There is a lot of noise by nationalists who are more credible than the jholawala brigade surrounding you on Black Money stashed in tax havens across the globe. You have kept silent on this, Annaji. Why not ask the UPA government to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which would free our investigating agencies and facilitate investigations on foreign soil? Since you have so much confidence in Sonia (‘If Sonia orders the Government our remaining demands will be met’), why not ask her to prevail upon the UPA to ratify UNCAC? Once the investigating agencies are freed, we may not even require a “Lokpal”, Annaji.

- When Baba Ramdev objected to the presence of a father-son duo in the draft committee, you silenced him. Annaji, wasn’t it proper to have only one Bhushan in the committee? Are there no equally good and even better legal luminaries? Are you aware that Prashant Bhushan, with Sandeep Pandey, attended a “National Political Conference” organized by the terror outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) in Kozhikode during February 13-15, 2009? (4). Will you demand an explanation from him? And in the wake of new controversies about the Bhushans, will you demand explanations from them?

- You have been confined to Maharashtra for years. Suddenly you have become nationally famous! How? Isn’t it because you joined Baba Ramdev’s Movement against corruption? Are you not aware that Baba Ramdev has been singularly responsible for creating a genuine movement against corruption in government and black money stashed in tax havens? Who advised you to usurp the movement from Swami Ramdev? It was the jholawala brigade, wasn’t it?

- Was it not because of this fact that you uttered the “infamous” statement, “The most significant thing about this movement was that it had no religion”? Annaji, what made you utter this? Are you not aware that Baba Ramdev has been instrumental in uniting the people of this great nation across castes and religions, against corruption? Didn’t you see the Muslim and Christian clergies at his rally?

- Or was the statement pointed at the saffron clad Hindu Yoga Guru, indirectly asking him to stay away from your “secular” show for the future? In that case, Annaji, can we take it that you have hijacked the anti-corruption movement from Baba Ramdev at the behest of Sonia’s minions who are surrounding you in the guise of “Civil Society” representatives?

- Last but not the least Annaji, what is your take on the Reports of Justice P.B. Sawant Commission which inquired various complaints against you and found maladministration and misappropriation in NGOs connected with you?

You have a lot more to explain Annaji.

- The Deccan Herald reported that you have yielded to the demand of the so-called activists to remove the Bharat Mata image from your movement’s pictorial backdrops on the grounds that it signifies “Hinduness” and hence is communal. (5) That is an insult to the nation and if true, Annaji, you have lost the credibility and moral authority to lead a movement like this; you must apologise to the nation and quit.

Any movement against virulent alien forces controlling the pillars of our democracy needs to have Hinduness in its outlook, image, character, thought, word and deed. That is how Rama achieved with the help of Vasishta, Chandra Gupta achieved with the help of Chanakya, and Shivaji achieved with the help of Ramdas.

If you are really concerned about corruption, please ask the jholawala brigade to get lost and leave the mantle to Baba Ramdev, and quit.

This great nation needs a Hindu Rajguru, not a secular Gandhi!

With warm regards,

B. R. Haran

A Concerned Citizen

References

(1) http://www.vijayvaani.com/FrmPublicDisplayArticle.aspx?id=1721

The company that Hazare keeps – Krishen Kak

(2) http://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/randomaccess/entry/anna-hazare-the-real-celebrity

Anna Hazare: The real celebrity – Rajesh Kalra , Thursday April 14, 2011, 06:49 PM

(3) http://www.sandeepweb.com/2011/04/13/anna-hazardous/#more-1620

Anna Hazardous – Sandeep, Published: April 13, 2011

(4) Tamil Daily Dinamalar dated 19 February 2009

(5) http://www.deccanherald.com/content/153731/symbol-hazares-movement.html

New symbol for Hazare’s movement, New Delhi, April 14, DH News Service

» B.R. Haran is a senior journalist whose articles appear regularly on the Vijayvaani Opinions Forum

Video: Dr. Koenraad Elst comments on Ayodhya history and the Ayodhya verdict 2010 – India Nationalist Post

♦ Dr. Koenraad Elst’s rejoinder to well-known subalternist sociologist Ramachandra Guha is below the videos.

Part One

Part Two ↓

Part Three ↓

Part Four ↓

Part Five ↓

Part Six ↓

Dr. Koenraad ElstDr. Koenraad Elst’s rejoinder to Ramachandra Guha’s article “Foreign Certificates” published in The Hindu Magazine on 4 January 2008

The past decades have seen a high tide of history distortion by the dominant Leftist school of historians in India. Future scholarship will study their self-assured posturing with amusement. Here is one instance.

In his column “Foreign Certificates”, published on 4 January 2009 in The Hindu Magazine, the well-known subalternist sociologist Ramachandra Guha makes the following assertion:

“At the height of the Ayodhya movement, the Sangh Parivar circulated, at vast expense, the writings of an obscure Belgian ex-priest which claimed that Hindus had been victimised for thousands of years by Muslims and Christians, and that destroying a mosque, building a temple in its place, and sacrificing thousands of (mostly innocent) lives along the way was the only way that this cumulative historical injustice could be avenged. This ex-priest had little training as a historian, and even less credibility. But unlike the other similarly untrained ideologues of the Hindu Right, his citizenship was not Indian, but Belgian. The hope was that the colour of his skin would trump the shallowness of his arguments.”

To be sure, I am not an ex-priest. As a child I considered becoming a priest, but like most fellow-countrymen of my generation, I outgrew the Roman Catholic religion. I am fully trained in historical method, one of my diplomas is in “Oriental Philology and History”, and I have quite a bit of hands-on experience with innovative historical research. As for my lack of credibility, it is a fact that people of Guha’s class were in no mind to lend me any credence, but none of them has ever demonstrated in writing any “shallowness” in my arguments. Neither does Guha in this column. While I have analysed the arguments of his school in considerable detail in my books on the Ayodhya question and on Hindu-Muslim relations in general, no refutation of my position has ever been produced.

As for the colour of my skin, it is his own school that has been using its white connections for decades as an implicit argument of authority. It seems that white people on average are quite silly, for most of us have lapped up the version of Indian history propagated by India’s “eminent historians” whose eminence results from their toeing the hegemonic party-line rather than from a respect for the data in the primary sources. Anyone with normal intelligence regardless of skin colour can sort out their distortions by using proper historical method.

In the meantime, my position has been endorsed by the Allahabad High Court, the one reasonably impartisan institution that has held both argumentations against the light. After availing itself of the best archaeological expertise, it has ruled in favour of the old consensus, upheld until 1989 by all sources but denied since then by Guha’s circles, viz. that Ayodhya is indeed a case of Hindu victimization by Muslims through the imposition of a mosque on a Hindu sacred site in forcible replacement of a temple. In its verdict, the Court has also given a most unfavourable judgment of the historical “method” of the anti-temple academics.

Ramachandra Guha: Another brown sahib blinded by Nehru worship!The right thing to do now for Ramachandra Guha is to offer his apologies to me for his exercise in defamation. Likewise, his entire circle of “eminent historians” ought to come forward with heartfelt apologies to Prof. B.B. Lal and the ASI archaeologists whom they have lambasted as “running-dogs of the Hindutva agenda” for their conscientious research that happened to confirm the old consensus. If the eminent historians want to save their honour for posterity, they should hurry to concede their mistake and do the honourable thing towards those whom they have slandered for being true to the method and facts of history.

After I heard of Guha’s column, I sent the following letter to The Hindu Magazine. I have not heard of its ever being published, but perhaps someone out there has better information. Here goes:

“In his column “Foreign Certificates” (The Hindu Magazine, 4-1-2008), Ramachandra Guha makes allegations against a Belgian participant in the Ayodhya debate. Though he mentions no name, apparently to avoid libel charges, the description can only mean myself. One approximately true assertion of his is that I have confirmed the received wisdom that “Hindus had been victimised for thousands of years by Muslims and Christians”. Indeed, I don’t pretend to know it all better than top-ranking historians like Will Durant, who wrote that “the Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history”; or Fernand Braudel, who wrote that “the Muslims could not rule the country except by systematic terror. Hindu temples were destroyed to make way for mosques.” Not a favoured view in Guha’s circles, but well-documented.

“Then, Guha imputes to me the claim that “destroying a mosque, building a temple in its place, and sacrificing thousands of (mostly innocent) lives along the way was the only way that this cumulative historical injustice could be avenged”. That is a lie. My research findings on Ayodhya are extant in cold print, chiefly in my book “Ayodhya, the Case against the Temple”, 2002, available on-line, so anyone can verify that they do not contain anything like the injunction to mass murder that Guha imputes to me. Since I have better things to do than suing Mr. Guha for libel, I’ll be satisfied with an unqualified apology from him.

“For the record, I have frequently emphasised the distinction between the historical record and contemporary policy, e.g. I have repeatedly written in support of the Serbs’ case against the injustices suffered at the hands of the Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims in the Ottoman and Nazi periods, yet condemning their mindless violence against contemporary Muslims. Guha’s own school could have made that same distinction, e.g. by saying that “it is a pity that Muslims destroyed Hindu temples, but that is no reason for us now to destroy mosques”, or so. Instead, at a time when their power in academe and the media was absolute and unchallenged by any capable Hindu opposition (as demonstrated in M.M. Joshi’s textbook reforms, a horror show of incompetence), it went to their heads and they thought they could get away with denying history. They did indeed get away with their bluff, and may well continue to do so for some more time. However, the prevalent power equation.will not last forever, and one day the “secularist” exercise in history denial will be seen for what it was.” — Voice of India Features

About Dr. Koenraad Elst

Dr. Koenraad Elst was born in Leuven, Belgium, on 7 August 1959, into a Flemish (i.e. Dutch-speaking Belgian) Catholic family. He graduated in Philosophy, Chinese Studies and Indo-Iranian Studies at the Catholic University of Leuven. During a stay at the Benares Hindu University, he discovered India’s communal problem and wrote his first book about the budding Ayodhya conflict. While establishing himself as a columnist for a number of Belgian and Indian papers, he frequently returned to India to study various aspects of its ethno-religio-political configuration and interview Hindu and other leaders and thinkers. His research on the ideological development of Hindu revivalism earned him his Ph.D. in Leuven in 1998. He has also published about multiculturalism, language policy issues, ancient Chinese history and philosophy, comparative religion, and the Aryan invasion debate.The Koenraad Elst Site

Ram Swarup, Hinduism, and Monotheistic Religions – David Frawley

This article is the foreword to the new book Ram Swarup and Monotheistic Religions. The book is a collection of Ram Swarup’s articles and reviews. It has just been published and is available from Voice of India, 2/18 Ansari Road, New Delhi 110002.

Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley)While people in the world generally look at Christianity and Islam according to Christian and Islamic sources, Hinduism remains looked at primarily according to non-Hindu sources which have not changed significantly since the colonial era. While India achieved its freedom from colonial rule, Hinduism remained in the colonial and missionary shadow. It was not freed along with the country, nor did independent India seek to remove the distortions about the majority religion of its peoples, which it continued to allow to be taught in its schools, even though it collects money from Hindu temples taken over by government control.

The lack of a proper and accessible definition of Hinduism by Hindus themselves has confused other religions and religious scholars. They may think that Hinduism is not a religion at all but a collection of disparate sects and cults with nothing really in common. Some western scholars see Hinduism as a conglomeration of a Vaishnava, Shaiva and other religions with no common teaching behind them. After all, each Hindu sect has an extensive literature about itself but little to say about or to define Hinduism as a whole.

Rather than seeking to reformulate, articulate or defend Hinduism as a whole, Hindu gurus have usually given priority to developing their own particular group and its following, which they then seek to expand in its own right. If you ask western followers of such Indian gurus what religion they follow, they often say that they follow the universal religion of their guru, not that they are Hindus. This may be the case even if the individuals have Hindu names or are swamis rooted in traditional Hindu orders.

Ram Swarup Though he never had an organization, a mission or an ashram and preferred to remain in the background, Ram Swarup nevertheless became one of the dominant figures in modern Hindu thought. He brought an important new point of view into the Hindu renaissance of the past two centuries which can move it in a new positive direction. He not only wrote about Hinduism in the India context but relative to the world as a whole and the major movements and ideologies of our times. He articulated a Hindu point of view in a clear, succinct, cogent and comprehensive manner that makes it compelling for all those who have an open mind and an inner vision.

Ram Swarup represents the deeper response of the Hindu mind to the critical cultural and religious challenges of today. His work has had a strong impact in India already but its main impact is likely to be for the future, for generations yet to come, as he was a thinker ahead of his time. His impact in the West, though crucial in regard to a number of individual thinkers, is yet to come and may prove more significant. Starting with his main disciple and colleague Sitaram Goel, he has inspired a whole group of thinkers and writers East and West, who are disseminating his ideas and inspirations in various ways. In introducing his writings, I will try to first put the Hindu movement into a broader perspective, reflecting my study of his writings.

Swami Dayananda SaraswatiStart of the Hindu Renaissance

The nineteenth century witnessed a remarkable and largely unexpected renaissance in Hindu thought, Yoga, Veda and Vedanta that brought back to life and placed in the modern context, the world’s oldest spiritual heritage. An ancient religion that seemed on the verge of extinction was suddenly awake and able to express and assert itself on the stage of the modern world, providing a new view of humanity, culture and religion that could enrich all cultures and countries.

Many western educated Hindus went back to their own traditions and sought to create new movements within Hinduism that reflected a deeper interpretation of their older teachings as well as a new projection of it for the modern age. They sought to restore, reform and universalize Hindu thought. They did not see a need to abandon their traditions for the trends in western thought or religion that they were exposed to — though that had come to dominate their country and its educational institutions — but rather began to recognize in their own traditions something more spiritual and more comprehensive than the products of the western mind, which seemed to them mired in materialism and dogma.

Swami Dayananda of the Arya Samaj in the late nineteenth century brought about an important call to return to the Vedas and provided strong critiques of western religions and philosophies, which had put Hinduism under siege and in defense. He personally debated with western missionaries and educators and was able to show that Hindu thought had a depth that they could not dismiss or even counter when it was clearly articulated.

Then at the turn of the twentieth century, Swami Vivekananda of the Ramakrishna Mission took the message of Hinduism, Yoga and Vedanta to the western world itself, where he was enormously successful, setting up missions in Europe and North America that continue to the present day. Vivekananda also helped revive the ancient traditions in India, setting the stage for the modern Hindu, Yoga-Vedanta movement.

Whereas Swami Dayananda sought to preserve the Vedic message to protect Hindu society from colonial efforts to undermine it, Swami Vivekananda sought to universalize the Yoga-Vedantic message to transform the world. Hindu thought suddenly had not only a renewed value for India but a new message for the entire world. Many other teachers and thinkers of India took up similar views and activities.

Hindu Swastika FlagInfluence of Indian Independence Movement

The late nineteenth century saw the beginning of another major movement in Indian thought and society, the Indian independence movement. It started under the inspiration of the Hindu renaissance through Vivekananda, Dayananda, B. G. Tilak, and Sri Aurobindo and others like them, who looked to Hindu thought through the Vedas, Bhagavad Gita and Vedanta for the foundation of the national struggle.

The Hindu renaissance naturally became strongly aligned with the Indian independence movement as India was a Hindu majority country. However, the Indian independence movement proved over time to be both a boon and a curse to the Hindu renaissance, expanding it in some areas but contracting it in others.

Many Hindus joined the movement and brought Hindu values and practices into it. Mahatma Gandhi, who later came to lead the independence movement, wore the garb of a Hindu sadhu, spoke of the Bhagavad Gita as the greatest book, criticized the missionaries, and called himself a Hindu.

However, a tendency arose to modify Hindu thought for the sake of the independence movement. In particular, the need to bring religious minorities into the movement went against the need of Hinduism to awaken and reclaim its ancient glory. The Hindu reconversion movement that Swami Dayananda set in motion was almost brought to a standstill largely by Hindus themselves. It eventually became politically incorrect from the standpoint of the Indian independence movement for Hindus to defend much less promote their religious identity, so as not to politically alienate the non-Hindus in the country.

Because of the political necessities of the Indian independence movement, the effort in Hindu thought to articulate its own unique identity as well as to expand its reach gradually receded. The Hindu renaissance took a back seat for the Indian independence movement. The fearless and bold self-confidence of Vivekananda, Rama Tirtha and Swami Dayananda in relating the Vedic and Vedantic teachings gave way to an almost timid and apologetic seeking for consensus against the British.

Repercussions of Indian Independence Movement

The muting of the Hindu voice that occurred in the Indian independence movement became hardened in independent India, largely to maintain political support of the same minorities. Politicians of a Hindu background found that they could get more easily elected by playing to minority religious vote banks and appealing to their religious identities and insecurities.

Hindus remained hesitant to project their own tradition in a positive way, much less criticize other religions, in order to avoid offending religious minorities that might vote against them or feel unwanted in the country. In some respects the situation became worse. For example, very few Indian politicians today would make the same statements against the missionaries that Mahatma Gandhi made during his lifetime, or even quote these, so as to maintain their Christian vote banks.

After the achievement of independence, the history, philosophy and global relevance of Hinduism failed to get properly articulated or taught. Vedic and Hindu schools did not come up. Hinduism did not take its place, much less its seniority and depth in the world’s presentation of religious and spiritual traditions. It did not create its own global voice but remained under foreign, alien and often hostile outside interpretations.

While people in the world generally look at Christianity and Islam according to Christian and Islamic sources, Hinduism remains looked at primarily according to non-Hindu sources which have not changed significantly since the colonial era. While India achieved its freedom from colonial rule, Hinduism remained in the colonial and missionary shadow. It was not freed along with the country, nor did independent India seek to remove the distortions about the majority religion of its peoples, which it continued to allow to be taught in its schools, even though it collects money from Hindu temples taken over by government control.

Another negative result of the lack of proper formulation of Hindu thought was that Indians of an intellectual bent went over to other systems, notably Marxism, which had more to offer by way of an intellectual point of view and a future to strive for. People were not given any Hindu identity or sense of worth, so they naturally sought a non-Hindu or anti-Hindu identity. They embraced intellectual critiques of Hinduism and had no Hindu intellectual response to provide any balance.

Julia RobertsThe Global Spread of Hindu Thought

Global Hinduism has had a similar result, becoming both a help and a hindrance for the Hindu renaissance. In spreading their message globally, Hindu teachers found it easier to promote their own guru or sect of Hinduism and leave Hinduism itself behind or at home. The perceived ethnicity of Hinduism, its being limited to India and those born as Hindus was one side of the issue. The other side was the difficulty of communicating the Hindu tradition as a whole compared to the ease in promoting one particular guru or lineage.

Vivekananda himself, who was the first real global guru from India, found that the greatest interest in the West was in the figure of the guru-avatar, Yoga practices, meditation and a generalized Vedantic thought, while the missionary inspired fear of Hinduism as polytheistic and superstitious was deeply entrenched.

The result was that Hindu gurus in the West tried to appear as universal figures that accepted all religions and were Hindus only by accident of birth. This may have been necessitated by the anti-Hindu propaganda and even racism that they had to face initially — which was still strong in the West particularly in the early twentieth century — but it also became hardened into a trend of its own.

Rather than seeking to reformulate, articulate or defend Hinduism as a whole, Hindu gurus have usually given priority to developing their own particular group and its following, which they then seek to expand in its own right. If you ask western followers of such Indian gurus what religion they follow, they often say that they follow the universal religion of their guru, not that they are Hindus. This may be the case even if the individuals have Hindu names or are Swamis rooted in traditional Hindu orders.

One could say that Hindus are very universal in their sectarianism. Hindu sects have gone global and universal. Some have formulated themselves as new universal religions, with their guru as an avatar. Others claim to have gone beyond religion to a universal spiritual tradition. Yet few have taken the effort to openly honor the greater Hindu tradition or Sanatana Dharma as the universal tradition it has always formulated itself to be, even though they rely upon the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras and other standard teachings of Sanatana Dharma for their particular approaches. There may have been historical or cultural necessities for this phenomenon but its long term limitations must be recognized.

Proud to be Hindu!The Hindu Diaspora

The global spread of Hinduism has a human dimension, with many Hindus migrating to the West over the past several decades and some having arrived during the colonial era itself. What they find is that the people in their new countries regard them as Hindus, even if they would rather define themselves according to a particular Hindu sect or in some way as universal. Such Hindus in the West have found a need to define themselves as Hindus not only for westerners to understand them but for their children to continue their traditions.

However, when they look to define what it means to be a Hindu, they find that the Hindu tradition is amorphous and they often don’t know exactly what it is. They are torn between a vague universalism, on one hand, and an ethnic identity on the other. They find a lack of educational material in Hinduism to direct their children toward in order to resolve this problem. The lack of any real articulation of Hinduism as a whole has left them at a disadvantage, which other groups have been quick to exploit, especially among the Hindu youth that is vulnerable to peer pressure.

Relative to Other Religions

The lack of a proper and accessible definition of Hinduism by Hindus themselves has confused other religions and religious scholars. They may think that Hinduism is not a religion at all but a collection of disparate sects and cults with nothing really in common. Some western scholars see Hinduism as a conglomeration of a Vaishnava, Shaiva and other religions with no common teaching behind them. After all, each Hindu sect has an extensive literature about itself but little to say about or to define Hinduism as a whole.

For many such non-Hindus, the Hindu claim to accept all religions is regarded as a kind of  ‘me-too’ following, a currying of favor from a colonized people, not a sign of a mature analysis or critical understanding of disparate religious doctrines. It seldom helps other religions understand Hinduism and its particular teachings. Though Hindus have been the main religious group today to promote a tolerance of all religions, it is curious to note that the other religions of the world do not respect Hinduism in turn. This may be because Hindus in trying to be all things to everyone do not project a self-confidence or self-definition that others can recognize.

While this urge is understandable and important, there needs to be a clear formulation of how to proceed in a way that is credible and expansive. Many Hindus who want to reclaim the different facets of the Hindu tradition that have been taken over by other groups may not understand Hinduism in the broader sense and how to explain it to the world as a whole.

Mahant Ram Puri (left) and Manhant Amar Bharti.The Hindu Backlash

This compromised and co-opted state of Hinduism has naturally had its backlashes, which have similarly had both positive and negative sides as backlashes usually do.

On the positive side, many Hindus are seeking once more to redefine Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma or the universal teaching and the different sampradayas or sects of Hinduism, including the modern universalists, as its branches. While they are recognizing the importance of India as the repository of Santana Dharma, they are also discovering a global Vedic heritage that reaches to every part of the planet.

There are now westerners who are happy to formally become Hindus. Hindu as a religious option is arising all over the world as it is after all the world’s third largest religion! In addition, the idea of the Vedic sciences, which includes Yoga, Vedanta, Vedas and Ayurveda under one umbrella, is gaining credibility. People are beginning to discern the outlines of Sanatana Dharma behind its many facets, though a clear understanding of Hinduism as a whole remains rare.

On a social level in India, there has been an arising of political parties and social movements that address Hindu sentiments to counter the favoritism extended to religious minorities in the country that is unparalleled in the rest of the world. However, owing to a great extent because of this same lack of articulation of Hinduism in the broader sense, they can be unclear as to what they are really promoting as Hinduism or as Hindutva, which has itself become a negative term in the global media. They appear to others as Hindu nationalists, not as universalists portraying Hinduism as relevant to the entire world. They have lacked the intellectual voice to bring out what Hinduism really is and give it a futuristic vision, which has shadowed and limited their efforts.

There is yet another type of Hindu backlash arising among Hindus in the West. Many Hindus are disturbed to find that Hindu teachings through Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta have been taken over by various movements in the West without adequate credit given to the original tradition that these come from. Some Hindus now want to take back Yoga, for example, which they find that many people in the West are regarding as a tradition only accidentally or superficially connected to Hinduism.

Crisis in the Hindu Renaissance

The Hindu renaissance for all of its wonderful gains, whether in spreading Hindu teachings, or aiding in India’s independence and resurgence, has suffered from the lack of a clear articulation of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma as a whole. In spite of the great Hindu renaissance in India and the spread of Hindu gurus and their teachings globally over the last two centuries, there remains a crisis of identity in the Hindu tradition and among Hindus themselves.

Hindus as a whole don’t know who they are, what in particular they follow or why. Some Hindu groups have defined their tradition in such a universal and vague manner that it has lost any structure. They are unable to articulate a cogent Hindu point of view on the pressing issues of our times even where traditional Hindu and Vedic texts have a tremendous amount to offer.

While different Hindu teachings have spread worldwide, an understanding and appreciation for Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma or the universal tradition has not kept pace with this. Meanwhile the different modern Hindu sects that have gone global lack a broader perspective to defend themselves from the challenges of the world around them. Some western Yoga groups – who have avoided any direct association with Hinduism – when attacked as ‘cults’ have been forced to call themselves Hindus in order to gain credibility at a legal level. It remains to be seen how many generations their particular sects or movements will last without the broader Hindu tradition to defend and support it.

We note a kind of opposite type of imbalance in how Hinduism has developed in the India context versus the global context, two extremes that need to be brought back into harmony. In the India context, Hinduism has remained trapped in an Indian identity with political limitations on how that can express itself or what it appears to be. This can make Hinduism appear backward and unprogressive even to Hindus.

In the global context, Hindu teachers have largely abandoned any Hindu identity and gone universal, ignoring or hiding their roots in Sanatana Dharma, even though it is the Hindu based teachings of Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta that have given them their appeal. It is the same problem behind both instances: a failure to articulate Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma in a clear, coherent, comprehensive and consistent manner.

We can contrast this with how Buddhism has presented itself. Buddhist teachers in the West have not denied their Buddhist backgrounds and have tried to give their followers some sense of what this is above and beyond the particular Buddhist sect that they may follow. Perhaps this is because Buddhism is stronger in more than one country and not so linked with one country’s affairs. But it is also because Buddhists have been more willing to take up the intellectual challenge and to recognize a common dharma in the process.

Ram SwarupThe Place of Ram Swarup

The result of this lack of intellectual articulation and self-defense is that Hinduism all around has remained under attack from conversion seeking religions, political interests, the commercial media, and foreign powers, with little to defend much less promote itself. Hindu society has been misguided, confused and unclear as to how to handle the situation. Even most Hindu gurus have not wanted to address the anti-Hindu propaganda out of fear of exposing themselves to the resultant criticism or the label of being called a Hindu. Hindus have hoped these problems would go away if they ignored them, but have only found that their identity has become increasingly a target of distortion, if not denigration. It is relative to this complex and compromised background that Ram Swarup arose, steadily addressed all the issues and brought about a revolution in Hindu thought which, if followed, can correct this difficult condition.

Ram Swarup provides a compelling intellectual and spiritual defense as well as a universal projection of Hinduism that articulates Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma as a whole, and can help put the Hindu renaissance back on track. He is a unique thinker who has addressed all the main issues of Hindu dharma and has charted a way forward through all potential limitations and distortions. He was willing to stand up and make his voice heard as early as the nineteen fifties, facing the Marxists who then were the darlings of the Indian media, when no individual or group seemed to understand the gravity of the situation or how to deal with it.

Ram Swarup has first of all reclaimed Hinduism as a positive term through his consistent articulation of Hindu thought. Even many Hindus today object to the term Hindu, though they don’t seem to have a better name for their great tradition. Ram Swarup has shown that the term Hindu needs to be honored and redefined as Sanatana Dharma or the universal tradition that has always been its real meaning. Though Hinduism as a term still has many negative connotations, largely of a missionary and Marxist nature, terms like Hindu thought, Hindu mind and Hindu Yoga are coming out in a positive way to a great extent because of his influence.

Ram Swarup developed redefinition of Hinduism that has inspired such an important spiritual movement as the Hinduism Today magazine in the West. Following the inspiration of Ram Swarup, Sivaya Subramuniya Swami of Hinduism Today magazine boldly proclaimed, “Hinduism is unique among the world’s religions. I boldly proclaim it the greatest religion in the world.” The great Swami, with the spiritual confidence of another Vivekananda, goes on to explain all that Hinduism has to offer in terms of mystical teachings and profound Yoga practices that cannot be found actively expressed or represented in any other religion in the world today. He lauds Hinduism for its diversity and abundance of deities, temples, festivals, teachings, gurus, monks and practices. His words are not a sectarian call or a political statement but a sincere appreciation of the greatness of Sanatana Dharma that many people will feel once they understand the overall tradition and its universality that is not limited to a book, savior, prophet, chosen people or dogma.

Ram Swarup’s Critique of Religion

Ram Swarup pioneered a new Hindu examination of other religions, notably Christianity and Islam, that is balanced, clear and rational, based upon higher ideals and insights. He aims towards a universal truth, higher consciousness and yogic values that all religions need to honor. He points out differences between the teachings of Hinduism and Vedanta and those of current Christian and Islamic theology, which inevitably take their followers in different directions. He does much of this by simply contrasting their actual teachings with those of Hinduism, whether in regard to karma and rebirth, higher consciousness, or an understanding of the nature of Atman and Brahman, the higher Self and the Absolute.

If we put the teachings of different religions as their followers commonly know them to be side by side, the distinctions become obvious. All religions are not the same and don’t teach the same thing. We need to be as discriminating about religious and spiritual teachings as we are about food, work, relationship, culture or any other major part of life. Ram Swarup has brought that profound yogic discrimination or viveka back into Hindu thought and into the Hindu examination of religious teachings. He uses yogic psychology to examine the religious experience. In the process he exposes the biases behind conversion based monotheism and shows its idea of deity to be tainted by human prejudices, not a truly spiritual formulation of unity or universality.

His discriminating insight is particularly important in exposing how Christians in India will use Hindu teachings, ideas or images to promote their conversion efforts. Even when liberal Christians in India talk of oneness and Advaita, they will not accept karma and rebirth, much less make any Hindu teacher equal to Christ, or try to stop the conversion of Hindus. Their non-duality, though borrowed from Hindu teachings, is not a unity of truth beyond religious identities but an effort to make Christianity more appealing to the Hindu mind so as to facilitate the conversion process. It is an effort to Christianize Hindu ideas not to take us to a unity beyond all conversion, which is a denial of the sacred nature of the Atman or true Self.

Such a Hindu critique of other religions is necessary and helpful and can serve to balance the criticism of Hindu dharma, most of which is unfounded, that is already out there. It can promote the mystical side of other traditions and help people who want to go beyond the limitations of belief based approaches to an inner experiential yogic spirituality.

Different religions, like different philosophies, will take those who embrace them in specific directions according to their specific prescriptions. We need to be honest with people about that, not sugar coat religious differences in an aim to create social harmony. Social harmony should be based upon free thinking and an acceptance of religious differences — including atheists and agnostics – not an effort to pretend that religious differences do not matter or do not exist.

A mature society can allow religious differences just as it does differences in science, art or culture. A social order that cannot accept religious differences, but must pretend they are not real, must remain limited, artificial and stifling to the spirit. Hinduism is a religion can find unity in diversity, which is a unity of truth beyond the boundaries of all beliefs and organizations. In this way any free thinker can find a place within it. Ram Swarup reveals this pluralistic understanding behind the Hindu sense of unity, which is the real meaning of the harmony of all dharmas.

No one criticizes a Christian or a Muslim for praising their particular religion. It is only the modern Hindu who seems to have lost that self-respect, even though his tradition is far more grandiose and comprehensive. Christians and Muslims are not expected to accommodate Hindu beliefs, whether they live in India or elsewhere in the world, while expressing their views. Yet Hindus are often afraid or perhaps unable to explain what Hinduism is relative to the other religions, which they seldom study or analyze according to the tenets of Hindu thought.

Ram Swarup was a very gentle, kind and soft spoken person, yet he did not compromise the truth or seek favor by trying to please everyone around him. He has shown that Hindus can be tolerant and respectful of others and yet do not have to give up their own critical voice or compromise their own identity in the process. Hindus must learn to hold to the inner truth of their tradition even when relating to people of contrary views that they must seek to counter in order to defend the higher dharma in the global arena.

Perhaps because Ram Swarup was not trying to promote a particular guru or become one himself, he has not fallen into the trap of making his own teachings supreme and distancing himself from the greater Hindu tradition. At the same time, he has always emphasized the flexibility of Hindu thought to provide the vision to discover new solutions to all human problems. He has not simply repeated the old formulas of the past that refer to a time and culture that is no more. He has brought back the Hindu mind and its deeper timeless intelligence, not just promoted old books or old interpretations of them. He has shown how Hindus can reform their own community by a return to the teachings of Sanatana Dharma.

Ram Swarup has provided a new voice to the Hindu mind that brings back its earlier inspiration both for India and for the world as a whole. Yet in the process, he has not merely rubber stamped Hinduism or particular Hindu groups but has recommended both reform and revitalization in reclaiming and expressing the greater Hindu heritage that even many Hindus have forgotten.

Jupiter of SmyrnaHinduism’s Forgotten Friends

Ram Swarup projected a strong Hindu defense, not just of the Hindu tradition but of all related native, indigenous and pagan traditions which have similarly been denigrated by missionary and colonial influences. Most modern Hindu teachers in their rush to gain acceptance by the western monotheistic establishment have tried to make Hinduism appear monotheistic and have avoided any association with non-monotheistic traditions, much less any effort to defend them, though these are their true brothers and sisters facing the same daunting challenges. It is these indigenous and pagan traditions that most resemble Hinduism which itself is the largest pagan religion in the world. They are looking to Hinduism for help and guidance. Ram Swarup has been the main Hindu teacher to hear their call.

Ram Swarup inspired western pagan thinkers and shown that the same denigrations and distortions that are cast on Hinduism are cast on their religions as well (starting with the derogatory terms of pagan, polytheist and animist). He has provided an insight and a self-articulation that they can adapt. He has brought back the role of Hinduism as the defender of all native and consciousness based spiritual traditions that have been similarly attacked by missionary influences and exclusive, belief-oriented dogmas. This new alliance must be pursued and allowed to grow in a natural way. It can change the face of world religion for centuries to come because it can bring humanity back to the Divine presence hidden in nature and her formations of lands, plants, animals, clouds and stars — the sacred world of Brahman that both monotheistic religions and modern political ideologies rarely see or honor.

The Current Volume

This leads us to the current volume of Ram Swarup’s work, which is the largest collection of his writings yet published in a single book. It consists primarily of material not previously available in book form. It contains many short pieces done for various newspapers and magazines, including a number of important book reviews. It spans a period of more than four decades and covers a wide range of topics. It shows Ram Swarup’s critique of Christian and Islamic thought from a Hindu perspective. It shows his critique of Hinduism as well and how it can be brought back in harmony with its deeper aspirations.

The book is roughly divided into sections relative to Hinduism, Christianity and Islam but covers many topics in regard to each. The diversity of articles shows the breadth of his understanding of a variety of fields of thought spiritual, historical and social. Ram Swarup’s comments are of a civilizational nature, projecting the view of the Hindu mind in dealing with the issues facing humanity today. Through this volume we get a good view of all the facets of his thought and how he could shine a dharmic light on almost any issue.

Bharat MataConclusion

The coming decades are bound to bring critical challenges for the world and for India. The powers of materialism, consumerism and terrorism seem stronger than ever. In this context the message of Ram Swarup and the relevance of Hindu thought will become more crucial.

It is important for the Hindu movement to move forward and redefine itself based upon the many-sidedness of its vision. This involves taking a global approach, presenting Sanatana Dharma in the context of the greater Vedic and yogic sciences and culture. The connection of Hinduism with Indian politics that dominated both the independence movement and the post-independence era in both positive and negative ways needs to be put in a broader perspective, which is a greater need to promote Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma for the world overall.

While India will likely play a central role in that projection of the universal Dharma, the effort cannot be limited to the issues of India. At the same time, while Hindu Dharma has a universal vision, this cannot be owned or limited by any sect, teacher or person who uses, adapts or claims any of its teachings. It is Hinduism that is the universal tradition, not any of its ancient or modern offshoots that are but its expressions.

A true Hindu or Sanatana Dharma follower will always take a global view but adapted locally, wherever he or she may live. India is important for its having preserved the global Hindu heritage, not simply for what may occur outwardly in the country. The current Hindu movement in India tends to lose that global perspective and can appear narrow. Hindu teachings like Yoga outside of India are largely in denial of their common Hindu or Sanatana Dharma connections. However useful these approaches may have been at one time, they need to be adjusted today.

The universality that has been applied to various Hindu gurus and sects needs to be applied to and credited to Hinduism as a whole. There need to be a new examination of what Hinduism has been traditionally and what its relevance can be for the future, not by outside scholars but by Hindus themselves. We need new books on Hinduism, its teachings and its history, as well as new Hindu schools to promote Sanatana Dharma and its various branches, arts and sciences. Hindus cannot rely upon the non-Hindu world to do this. They must take the lead and bring the Hindu renaissance back to the forefront. The writings of Ram Swarup can provide the cornerstone for this effort. These should be available in every Hindu temple, ashram, school or institution, particularly where English is the dominant medium of expression.

Ram Swarup is a thinker than can help the Hindu movement go forward both with respect to India and the needs of the entire planet. This particular volume is an excellent place to begin the journey. We are all bound by a common Dharma that cannot be denied. It is time for that Sanatana Dharma to arise once more, not only in the Himalayas but on every mountain top!

SRG & RS


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