Indian Pursuit of Scientific Temper: The dumbing down of Hindu civilization – Rajiv Varma

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil Online“A word of caution. We [must] all stop thinking and articulating in speech and writing words and phrases like ‘false realm of mythology.’ It is absolutely Romilla Thapar. Mythology like pagan is [a] derogatory description of non-Abrahamic worship, cultures and worldview. As tho Jesus alone or Mohammed alone are historical while Hindu devas and devis are all mythology” – Radha Rajan

Rajiv VarmaIt is good to see resistance is offered to this idea. I will extend this to put this resistance in a certain framework. Indians who find “science” in Vedas or historicize Ramayana or Mahabharata or Puranas, actually end up demeaning our culture and civilization. It is akin to dumbing down a horse to the level of a donkey, so that the horse can fit into a herd of donkeys.

In their classical definitions – “Science” and “History” are disciplines that are contextual to the Western civilization. The evolution of classical “Science” in the West is not an intrinsic development, it is in response to the Abrahamic colonization of the West that began with Emperor Constantine. After 17 centuries, this colonization has been internalized no doubt, and now the then colonized have became the “new” colonizers, but it is colonization nevertheless.

Thus the Science/Philosophy/Knowledge development during Graeco-Roman-Hellenestic pre-Christian era has a certain philosophical disconnect with Renaissance and post-Renaissance “Science”. While the Graeco-Roman knowledge development had a natural rhythm, the post-Renaissance science evolved in the backdrop of earlier Dark Ages that was a direct consequence of Christian colonization of the West.

While it may be true that Renaissance thinkers did rely, inter alia, on (for example) Cicero’s De Natura Deorum for inspiration in their quest for new knowledge, they never did escape the outer orbit of Christianity. Thus, it explains the formation of now discredited “sciences” such as craniometery, which became the basis of racism and genocide later. There is a certain amount of “irrationality” (or I call it unnaturalness) in the Western “scientific rationalism or temper”. That is – “it” is limited to the cartesian plane – and it is not allowed to look beyond it – transcend it, because the Christian God is waiting on the other side, to save the souls.

The efforts like the so-called Noetic Sciences are still disjoint in their conceptualization. Western Science can make giant strides, but it cannot do one thing – it cannot see beyond the “Edge of the Universe” – it does not have the means to – and most importantly it does not have the will to do so. The limitation is provided by the Christian worldview. One can see that the notion of secularism, protects Christianity, God and Jesus business from scrutiny.

On the other hand Vedic Rishis have no such handicap. The material and non-material transcend. Hence the sciences that evolved in Ancient India were in tune with the natural rhythm of human civilizational development. The Vedic epistemology established the scope for a Rishi to explore the worlds beyond the “Edge of the Universe” if his/her inquest pointed in that direction. The system never posed any problem in this regard. A student of civilizations can see that harmful sciences like craniometery would have had no chance of forming in a naturally inquisitive culture like India. Thus, Vedic knowledge system is much more comprehensive than Post-Renaissance “officially secular but Christian-nevertheless sciences.”

Therefore, finding such (Christian-European) “science” in Vedas is demeaning to the Vedic culture.

It is the colonized Indian mind that sees the (Christian-European) “science” as virtuous, and due to its deep-seated inferiority complex, seeks validation from the West

Ditto with “history”. Again, post-Renaissance academic discipline of “History” is also a false benchmark to aspire to for Indians. Western discipline of History also exists in Christian framework, whose evidentiary parameters are limited to a set that disables a researcher and an academician to go prior to the dates of Genesis. It is made to sound rational, but in essence it is highly irrational. If Indians were to re-write their history based on Christian parameters, all they would get is a molehill and never discover the mountain that they have.

Then, there is another problem that is even more severe. The authors of Ramayana and Mahabharata and the Puranas never intended to tell legends for the purpose of “modernist” historical validation. The purpose of this corpus of literature is adhyatmic (spiritual). These are tools for a human to know his larger Self (capital S). Valmiki never intended for the shrota of Ramayana to start digging graves to find cartesian evidence of existence of Rama or Sita. Ramayana serves only one purpose – viz. spiritual empowerment for the purposes of upholding Dharma. Ramayana serves as a living kernel of the Indic/Hindu civilization. Not a cartesian history book.

I am not against finding historical evidences for the Indian past. But that needs to be a separate discipline. I am not for dumbing down Ramayana and Mahabharata to “fall” to a pseudo-benchmark that our colonialist has set for us.

Ultimately, Western Science will self-destruct and will become extinct, just like the Neo-neanderthal man, because of its own limitation. Graeco-Roman-Hellenestic, Chinese and Vedic Knowledge Systems have a better chance of survival and growth, because of their natural rhythm.

Let us not dumb down our horses to the level of donkeys.

When the term “scientific temper” was inserted in the Indian Constitution, good ole Panditji had no clue that the West had hoodwinked him into a herd of donkeys.

See also

19 Responses

  1. Rajiv,

    I don’t have the time to write a well thought out response to this project and your critique thereof. Though I would welcome a literary, sociological and historical critique of Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Vedas, I would retain my right to review such critique from my adhyatmic ( spiritual/translogical) and dharmic ( ethical/dialogical) standpoint.

    ​I agree with your idea of a critique of modern science from the perspectives of Graeco-Roman-Sinic-Vedic worldviews, which are more organic and holistic. But I also find that the spirit of modern science and idea of progress is irreversible and Judeo-Christian historicity and specialness will continue to play dialectical roles in the evolution of human consciousness (as part of the unfoldment of absolute consciousness). This calls for a secular space (ahimsa) that accommodates such tensions and mediates negotiated outcomes. In the process we may redefine and deepen the meaning of history and science.

    Therefore I would encourage the efforts to historically and scientifically anchor the narratives of Ramayana, MB and the Vedas, not as the ultimate word, but as another perspective.

    But I enjoyed your vigorous rejoinder.

    • Swamiji,

      Completely appreciate your stance, and fully comprehend where your perspective comes from. We have known our differential in ideation for some time now, so variance in perspectives is explained well by that differential. However, let me hasten to add that true Indic/Hindu tradition calls for transcending this differential and moving beyond. Our intellectual traditions call for infinitesimal resolution of differences – regardless of time and effort it takes. We have to move forward in this process.

      You are taking a position in “synthesis” paradigm, and you cite Advaita Vedanta as a basis of this paradigm. Hence your position that Christianity and other assorted dogmas can all be folded in a larger human consciousness, and consequently the whole humanity shall be one big happy family. This is such a romantic vision that I feel like a villain in putting a spanner in this.

      But then I must.

      Only because I build my position in a “natural human developmental” paradigm (just another phrase to designate Sanatana Dharma in the Queen’s language – but expressed at a higher level of abstraction). I hold that humans are by and large same everywhere. “To know” and “To seek the unknown” are normal human endeavors. The whole edifice of Sanatana Dharma rests on this basic human desire. Every natural human civilization is normally pursuing this path – degrees are different – but the path is same nevertheless. In Ancient India, this pursuit attained sophisticated levels, which explains our hoary past. As in Ancient India, was the case with Graeco-Roman, Sinic, Mayan, Native African, Shinto etc., And then the Dogma based systems intervened to disturb the natural rhythm of human civilizational development. This disturbance of natural rhythm wiped out all natural human civilizations except that of India, China and Japan.

      The question is why the system of dogma disturbs the natural human rhythm? Dogmatic systems enforce a set of commands from up above. When a dogma is enforced from up above, it is in direct conflict with the natural human desire to know and to seek. These two approaches are the basis of much of the human conflict today. The desire to know and to seek can reconcile and rationalize any human difference, BUT it is rendered helpless when faced with a self-righteous set of commandments, that is not amenable to the human approach to pursuit of knowledge and Truth.

      With that as a backdrop, I will take issue with this statement of yours:

      But I also find that the spirit of modern science and idea of progress is irreversible and Judeo-Christian historicity and specialness will continue to play dialectical roles in the evolution of human consciousness (as part of the unfoldment of absolute consciousness).

      I do not doubt about the intent of the spirit of modern science and idea of progress, but then the nobility of intention does not meet the sincerity of action. I have already pointed out the fundamental lacuna in this regard. Unless the Western (modern) scientists start looking at the prospect of exploring Knowledge beyond the “Edge of the Universe” (not limited to Time and Space), their actions will always be questioned.

      Why does the Western Scientist draw a line at this “Edge of the Universe”? I have already said that this line is drawn to comply with the Christian dogma (which has established a certain all knowing God, which sits on the other side of the “Edge of the Universe”). The moment the Western Scientist dares to transcend the “Edge of the Universe”, he becomes the apostate/murtaad. After all the tall talk of openness and liberalism, the Western Scientist is not willing to transcend this line at the “Edge of the Universe”. Why? What else could explain this resistance?

      Now to your point of “Judeo-Christian-(Islamic) historicity and specialness will continue to play dialectical roles in the evolution of human consciousness (as part of the unfoldment of absolute consciousness)” [I added Islamic to Judeo-Christian to complete the Abrahamic dogma].

      I know from our past discussions you cite Advaita Vedanta as the framework which can be used for unfoldment of absolute human consciousness. In short, the dogmas of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and also that of Modern Science, will somehow melt into the pot of Advaita Vedanta.

      Let us see.

      First, this presupposes that the custodians of Abrahamic dogmas are willing to melt themselves into the melting pot of Advaita Vedanta. It takes two to tango. But let us assume for hypothesis sake that all the custodians of Abrahamic dogmas will line up at the door of Advaita Vedanta, to be melted into its pot.

      But could Advaita Vedanta itself accept the melting of dogmas into its pot?

      The problem is that Vedanta itself is a culmination of a long processes of unfoldment of human consciousness by the process of Self-discovery , where “earlier” darsanas have had to make way for it, not because of rejection of their wordviews, but because Advaita Vedanta offered a higher degree of that unfoldment. In the process, Samkhya or Yoga or Nyaya or Vaisheshika or Purva Mimnsa plus Bauddha and Jaina, were not rejected, but lost out because they were found “not good enough”. In other words all of them were taking part in the same race or competition, where Advaita Vedanta may have won the gold medal. The nature of dialectic between any of the Bharatiya darsanas including the naastika and aastika, is not destructive. It is aggregative. All of them are preoccupied with “unfolding of the human consciousness” by their own methods, practice and experience (anubhava).

      A Vedantist would tell a Mimanska that – ‘look fella you might have done “it” but I have done “it” better than you’ – this is unlike a dogma like Islam that renders anything before it as Jahiliya.

      The issue with Abrahamic dogmas is that they will not take part in any such race or competition. For them their Yahweh/God/Allah has already given them their Gold Medal. All they are doing is enforcement of the belief system that they have the Gold Medal. And they will enforce their belief with both Diplomacy (West/Christian) and Guns (Islamic).

      I truly appreciate your thesis to present Advaita Vedanta is a framework that can be the melting pot of all the differing ideologies in the world today. This has the noblest of intentions and desire to accommodate. But this will fail based on structural incongruity alone.

      I would be more than happy to be proved wrong.

      • respected rajiv varma ,

        i must quote a few of your lines :

        “……..assorted dogmas can all be folded in a larger human consciousness………. the whole humanity shall be one big happy family…….is such a romantic vision….”

        ” The issue with Abrahamic dogmas is that they will not take part in any such race or competition. For them their Yahweh/God/Allah has already given them their Gold Medal. All they are doing is enforcement of the belief system…….”

        100% true ;
        the dogmas may stay ( which is also doubtful ) ;
        but they would never assimilate ;
        if i remember correctly , IS once said that the followers have to abandon the dogmas , but the faith systems themselves are not amenable to change ;

    • 1. Swami Bodhananda was speaking about historical/scientfic method as it has evolved. To reject it is to fly in the face of facts. Indic scholars in the last thirty plus years have used this method to produce outstanding works of scholarship.

      2. Again, Swami Bodhananda is right. Advaita’s Sat Chit Ananda describes ultimate reality.

      This is not to be confused with the Hegelian Absolute Idea, derived from Hegel’s reading of Judaeo Christian tradition. His Philosophy of History (published posthumously from his notes by students and scholars in 1837) outlines his limited view of history as starting with the Judaeo Christian tradition, then the East, then Graeco Roman and finally the Christian West.

      His famous work The Philosophy of Right (1820) is specifically about the modern Christian state, the high point of human political evolution.

      Sat Chit Ananda is timeless. And human history takes place in space-time. The evolution that the Swami is talking about is the spiritual journey that humans undertake to realise that they are also the Self, the Upanishadic Atman-Brahman identification. Presumably, then, space time etc. are then viewed as a limitation. . . .

      In that sense Rajiv Varma is also correct. It is a natural organic process.

      2. The Rishi Vision is there in the Veda and cannot be rejected. Its interpretation depends on the Yuga in which we live. In that sense it is new, new to our present Yuga.

      • This is a great article by Rajiv. I know that he is not arguing for Vēdānta to be the gold standard. However, I still wanted to sound a note of caution. I personally don’t think that Vēdānta (all of its variants) is correct or anywhere as rigorous as other systems such as Nyāya, Vaiśēṣika, Yöga, Mīmāṁsa, Lökāyata, etc. No doubt that Vēdānta is worthy of a lot of respect and is certainly part of the dharma landscape. I would like to see it preserved and studied. It is just that I am convinced that the future of Hinduism would be contingent upon our willingness to explore and preserve the other systems mentioned.

        • These would be 2 different discussions. The question on the table is whether Advaita Vedanta could be that melting pot where all human consciousness could unfold into, including Abrahamic theologies such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam – a position held by respected Swami ji. The gist of my response is whether the Abrahamics want to get melted into the melting pot of Advaita Vedanta or not, it is the nature of Advaita Vedanta itself that will disallow any kind of dogma to be unfolded unto it. I have given my reasons.

          But now that you have opened up a Intra-Hindu issue of assessment of Vedanta itself, until we factor in impact of colonialism during the long colonial period, we will not be able to make a correct assessment. The Advaita Vedanta of 700 / 800 / 900 CE is NOT THE SAME as Vedanta of R.K. Mission, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sai Baba. There are multiple lines of demarcation. Indian intellectual tradition went into a deep state of coma round about 1000 – 1100 CE or so. Cannot pinpoint the exact date. Perhaps post-Medhatithi (?). There are several alibis that are offered – Islamic invasions is one of them. But these alibis seem more like excuses. Islamic invasions by itself can be divided into multiple time periods. The first one was 646 CE – naval expedition of the Caliph at Thane. The first successful one was of 718 CE in Sindh. What is forgotten that it took almost 6 long centuries for the invaders to make it to Delhi culminating in the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in 1208. The same armies of the Caliph had made mince meat out of Iran in just 16 years. This is what is missed by historians and scholars (so called). Indians were able to withstand, and actually fought back for almost 6 centuries before giving up. If this timescale is juxtaposed with what was going in the Indic intellectual world, there is indeed a pattern that emerges, which points that it is only after the Indic intellectual traditions took a deep nose dive, the impact percolated to the strategic and political levels, and that’s when the will to repulse the invaders seems to have died. If all these facts corroborate, then the obvious inference is that it is not the Islamic invasions that caused the deterioration in intellectual standards, but the stasis in the intellectual world that allowed Islamic invasions to succeed. [Sita Ram Goel points this out in his crisp ‘Heroic Hindu Resistance‘.]

          The relevance of this historical derivation is that Vedanta of Shankara and Vedanta of Ramakrishna may have a disconnect that nees to be studied. A tree is known by its fruit. What we see today are a number of Christian-congregation like organizations peddling something like Vedanta. Most of these started as serving the Western clientale, but later they took foothold in the soil of India. What is seen as Vedanta today is definitely not classical Vedanta. This neo-Vedanta has produced a set of caricatures that is alien to the classical Hindu ethos. This has led to a condition of spiritual colonization that is self-inflicted. This spiritual colonization has led to “religionification” and “congregationalism” – two of the many attributes of Christianity/Abrahamic meme. Hindus feel good about the business empires that modern gurus have setup, but this is an illusion. Since the days of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, a gradual absorption of Abrahamism is under way in the body of Hindu-dom, which is making it slip further into the grip of colonialism.

          Neo-Vedanta is nothing more than an instrument of neo-colonization.

          • Sita Ram Goel told this editor in 1992 that Vedanta had destroyed Hindu Dharma. It was understood that he was referring to Vivekananda’s Neo-Vedanta, not classical Vedanta.

  2. Much of the terminology used by Hindus to describe themselves and their practices are products of a colonial past and Euro-centric world view. Particularly, common place terms such as idol worship, mythology, to describe murthi puja and ithihaasa are unfortunate since these terms are not neutral; they are in fact meant to denigrate Hinduism and Hindus. The fact that many Hindus in the public sphere uses these terms and don’t recognize that these terms are not neutral but loaded either speaks to their ignorance or malfeasance.

    What we really need is a news channel which articulates the Hindu world view and approaches news items from a dharmic perspective. There is really no space in the current media set up for articulate Hindus who embrace both their civilizational and religious heritage as well as value free speech and democracy, to express their opinions. Even the PK and MSG controversy was given a strange twist. The message that one cannot have one set of rules in dealing with Islamic sensitivity and another while dealing with Hindu sentiments was totally lost.

    • The most inappropriate term used in the media is ‘christen’ or ‘christening’ for a name-giving ceremony. The term means to ‘make Christian’ by giving a Christian name to a new convert (when the convert is baptised). Media editors and reporters have been told many times that the term is specifically Christian and not appropriate to Hindu or Jain name-giving ceremonies. But they continue to use it (partly because there are Christian copy editors working in Indian newspaper offices).

      Another inappropriate term used by the media is ‘Good Samaritan’ for a person who helps others. Probably the editors are not even aware of the meaning of the term or that it is sourced from a Jesus parable in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10:29–37. But if they are aware, they do not seem care about the correct use of terms in the Indian context.

      No American newspaper would dare to use the term ‘christen’ for a name-giving ceremony because the editors are aware of its limitations in a multi-religious society.

  3. Tell this to the IHRC which wishes to demonstrate the historicity of the Ramayana is its most urgent priority! And so much work on the ‘Muslim’ period remains to be undertaken!

    By the way, the term myth is an inappropriate modernist repudiation of a complex social phenomenon, but the ‘truth claims’ it represents are in fact part of the moral order (argued in one of the most important works of 20C Marxism, the Dialectic of Enlightenment by Adorno and Horkheimer,1944! They correctly identify the disaster of instrumental reason and their underlying argument resonates well with ancient sanatan dharma alternatives. But it took the death camps and the Stalinist experiment to prompt a searching re-think. But of course only goes so far.

    • You no doubt mean ICHR. But there is nothing to stop us from doing work on our own—with writings and lectures. Bodies like the ICHR should be abolished. This was my recommendation when I was nominated to the ICHR.

  4. What we need are programs for teachers and students that get these ideas across.

    We need a program in comparative religion from a Hindu perspecive—at least a course in that direction to begin with.

    How about teaching a course out of Ram Swarup’s Hindu View of Christianity and Islam.

    • most apt suggestion , resp. sir !

      at least , we should be spreading these ideas among our friends , relatives , children etc.,

      i often share such things even with fellow passengers , albeit with caution ;

    • Not a structured course, but I have been making the attached presentation to primarily Western audiences – local high schools, colleges, churches etc. Since I speak extempore, I do not have any notes or prepared text. This may not be at the level of a course, but works smoothly to explain Hinduism to non-Hindu (western) audiences.

      Slide 14 would perhaps earn dagger looks from ISCKONites and Aryasamajis. But then someone has to point the “Christian” in them.🙂

      I have used terms such as “Integral Sciences” and “Integral Education” – these are no more than presenting ancient terms in a modern idiom. The former is a well established term, but with a differing connotation. Explaining the latter, viz. “Integral Education” clarifies the framework to a western audience – because I tell them that Upasana of a Devi or Devata is part and parcel of such an Integral Education, and that the functional equivalent of a Hindu Mandir would be a Primary School (but never a Church or a Mosque).

      I also use the term “Integral Health” or “Integral Wellness” for Ayurveda (not shown in this presentation). That is a separate presentation for the medical community.

      Abrahamic Vs. Dharmic Systems: Unique Characteristics & Comparative Analysis – Rajiv Varma (PDF Presentation)

  5. The problem is that the Hindu organizations and people who are most vociferous and vocal are often the most unintellectual. The true intellectuals who can articulate, as this author does, rarely seem to come on to the media or any public platform. Recently there was a tv debate on the preacher government official in Tamil Nadu and the sole Hindu voice (Rahul Eshwar), instead of pointing out the essential hatefilled rhetoric that is the Bible, tried to say that that was not “true” Christianity. Even when John Dayal said that the preacher was true to the message of Jesus, Eshwar denied it. Why don’t Hindu organizations have more articulate spokespersons?

    The greatness of our stories is that even though they happened long ago, they capture the human condition so eloquently. The values Rama embodies are still values we as a society and as a planet value. Honesty, compassion, filial affection are all still valued today. So it is still relevant. Incidentally, while we look on Krishna and Rama as myths, and we have tv anchors who still talk of the “gospel truth” (this is truly weird but I guess a product of a convent education), there are departments of religion in many US universities which concede that Krishna was most likely a historical figure and treat the Mahabharata a somewhat historical document (just as they think that the Illiad probably refers to a historical war).

  6. i quote from the article :

    ” Valmiki never intended for the s’rota of Ramayana to start digging graves to find cartesian evidence of existence of Rama or Sita. Ramayana serves only one purpose – viz. spiritual empowerment for the purposes of upholding Dharma.”

    how true …

    Ramayana is for our re-living in the present ;
    not for looking back into the past ….

    i quote again :

    “…..Western Science will self-destruct and will become extinct……….”

    jaatasya hi dhruvo mr.tyu: ……

    that which is not born can not die ;

    • I think the translation is not quite right. It is” for that which is born death is certain, for that which dies rebirth is certain. You may be referring to ii-20, “Na jayate mriyate va kadachinnayam—-“

      • no , i was not referring to “Na jayate mriyate va ….”

        i was referring to what i mentioned : ” jaatasya hi dhruvo mr.tyu:..”

        it is not a translation that i gave in the last line ;
        it is the converse of “jaatasya hi dhruvo mr.tyu:…”

        Sanatana Dharma is not a born ‘entity’ ;
        and thus , no death for it ;

        that was what i meant ;

        “jaatasya hi dhruvo mr.tyu:..” points to western science ;

        i am sorry if i gave room for improper understanding ;

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