Science, Secularism and Saturn – Ashish Dhar

Shaneshwar at Shingnapur

Ashish Dhar“Most Indians are deeply religious in temperament and therefore, many laws that are derived from a secular constitution find few instinctively eager takers. This dichotomy, though, is brushed aside by deracinated, elitist intellectuals appealing to the authority of reason, which is deemed sacrosanct.” – Ashish Dhar

Rationality is an extremely useful state of mind. Alas, it is not the only state of mind. Somewhere between rational enquiry and irrational mumbo-jumbo lies the non-rational world of art, poetry, music, mythology and much else. Of course, the non-rational does have rational as well as irrational building blocks, the concept of harmony in music and skilful exaggerations or logical contradictions in story-telling for instance, but as a cognitive phenomenon, non-rationality refuses to be tied down to either rationality or its opposing binary.

In other words, the pleasant experience of listening to music or reading poetry has little to do with our knowledge of sound waves or neuroscience. In contrast, rationality becomes indispensable in scientific enquiry and in societal matters, where forming explicit consensus over issues of importance is unavoidable. Hence it finds an extraordinary, if not supreme, place in our collective imagination.

However, as proposed above, rationality ought to have its reasonable limits and not just in the fields of aesthetics or art but also when we ascribe meaning to our everyday existence. The legendary propensity of human beings to interpret the infinite expressions of a limitless universe within the rigid constructs of reason makes us unrealistically optimistic about the success of this hopeless endeavour. On a more grounded, less speculative note, the reliance on reason alone as our sole moral compass is sure to lead to disastrous navigation in social life. It is worth considering that psychopaths mostly self-identify as impeccable rationalists. The “Rationalist Delusion“, with its fair share of caveats (pdf), is an accurate description of the belief system of a large and diverse section of humanity, one that worships reason as a panacea for all moral ills whereas evidence indicates that the reasoning faculty actually evolved to help us Rene Descarteswin arguments and rationalize our choices in hindsight rather than arriving at some higher objective truth.

The sacred privilege granted to rationality in contemporary society can be traced back to the European scientific revolution, when long-held beliefs of an entire civilization were brutally humiliated under the penetrating gaze of reason and science, subsequently liberating the whole populace from the stifling grip of religious superstition and prejudice. Descartes famously proclaimed, “I think, therefore I am” directly undermining the legitimacy of emotional and spiritual states of being.

Ironically, this apparently radical statement was an inadvertent rehash of the ideas of Plato and other Greek philosophers, who made a name out of deifying reason, long before Christianity had come about. In terms of the philosophy of science, the privileging of rationality became the basis for positivism and empiricism, which hold that any knowledge must ultimately derive its authority from reason.

Predictably, the triumph of rationality had a massive political impact culminating in the French Revolution, with its celebration of liberty, equality and fraternity. Earlier, the growing trust in rationality had gone hand in hand with the Protestant Reformation and had witnessed a rift between the Church and the State, giving currency to the concept of secularism, the formal separation of religion and state.

Cross Crossed-OutBy the 20th century, as the authority of Christianity was taking a nosedive in many parts of the West, blind faith in Jesus gave way to an unlikely alternative, blind faith in reason, marked by the rise of ideologies like Communism and Atheism, which are essentially Godless versions of Christianity in their obsessive urge to reduce all of history to a handful of simplistic ideas and the promise of “deliverance” from aeons of oppression. Another feature that these secular creeds inherited from Christianity is a compulsive need to define an enemy, a secular Satan.

Communists profess hatred for the bourgeois, capitalists abhor communists, atheists blame religion for all evils and so on. In the middle of the same century, India ceased to be a British colony and in the true spirit of a colonized people, the country adopted a secular constitution inspired by the cherished values of the colonizer, which would not necessarily be a bad thing if only enough number of citizens subscribed to those values.

To come to an understanding of the schism between what the Indian Constitution upholds and what various sections of the society believe in, let us first take a rudimentary look at the religious demographics in India. Hindus form the majority, Muslims are the largest minority and Christians are a distant third, followed by numerous other groups, some organically connected with Hinduism and others not.

Hindus themselves are an incredibly diverse polylith that allows for decentralization of customs, rites and rituals, often based on local geography and environmental constraints. Regardless of which religion they currently belong to, as a consequence of their dharmic past, most Indians are deeply religious in temperament and therefore, many laws that are derived from a secular constitution find few instinctively eager takers. This dichotomy, though, is brushed aside by deracinated, elitist intellectuals appealing to the authority of reason, which is deemed sacrosanct.

Constitution of IndiaNevertheless, in the real world of action, it creates irresolvable conflicts in legislation and law enforcement. Imagine the emotional turmoil faced by a devout Sikh cop being asked to supervise the demolition of a gurudwara to make space for a flyover. To be fair to the Constitution, it is not a static document and has been amended nearly a hundred times since independence already but in an adversarial political environment where an elected government cannot pass regular, non-controversial bills in the parliament, expecting serious constitutional amendments that can have political consequences is asking for the moon. Thus, in practice, Indians are condemned to live with whatever has been thrust upon them by their colonial past.

It could be argued that given the mind-boggling plurality of Indian society, to which modern secularism can make no claims of contribution, it would be impossible to work out a common minimum program that functions equally well for all sections and therefore, a code has to be enforced “from the outside” with or without the consent of the masses. In their defence, the secularists declare that in time, such laws would trickle down into the consciousness of people and within a few generations, their primitive religious intuition would be replaced by a humane and rational outlook. This hope, other than being a product of the rationalist delusion mentioned above, also turns out to be a non starter for Indian society, which has a by and large successful history of resisting such attempts of acculturation by the powers that be, the Islamic invader, the colonial empire or the modern state. For the people don’t identify with the events of another time and place—read reformation in Europe—in which their own ancestry had absolutely no role to play.

This resentment is further accentuated by the glaring historical facts that point to a remarkably more harmonious social order in their own civilization. So, a relevant question to ask in this context is, if Hindu society never faced conflicts between the ruling class and the clergy, obviously due to its non-Iain T. Bensonecclesiastical make up, why should it accept a false consciousness imposed via hazy platitudes of secularist discourse? The most common answer is that Indian society is not entirely Hindu and it has to fulfil the aspirations of the minorities as well and secularism ensures that. Never mind the self referential circularity of secularist logic, let us now examine how secularism indeed provides a breath of fresh air to the minorities by effectively suffocating the majority.

A secular state can choose to interact with religion(s) in the following ways as defined by Iain Benson, a Canadian-British legal philosopher:

  1. Neutral secular: No support to any religion in any way
  2. Positive secular: State creates general conditions favourable to all religions without favouring beliefs of anyone
  3. Negative secular: State not competent in religious matters but does not inhibit religious manifestations
  4. Inclusive secular: State not controlled by a single religion but works in the widest interest of different faith groups including non religious

It would be interesting to find out which of the above is the accepted definition of secularism in India. As the word was added to the preamble hastily at the time of 1975 emergency, it is unlikely that Mrs. Gandhi or her colleagues would’ve had the time to delve into such intricacies. But it is never too late to get to the bottom of a conundrum that is an inexhaustible source of sensationalism for the Indian media. From the above definitions, it is clear that in the Indian experience, putting a finger on one of the four variations turns out to be a near impossibility. It appears that our secularism is a “contextual” secularism that changes its function as per political convenience.

The state turns positive in relation to Hajj subsidies and negative regarding issues such as large-scale conversion by Christian missionaries. When it comes to Hindu issues, it becomes a neutral secular state, expressly suppressing facts through proxies and poking its nose into issues it has no business to be worried about. In states like West Bengal, the state adopts another form of secularism, that is, criminal secularism because it refuses to link appalling acts of crime to a “particular religion”.

The BJPs Secularism!Evidently, secularism in India is a false construct that only applies to the majority religion, whether it is in the form of the government control of temples or an unwarranted interference in educational institutions run by the majority community. This contextual secularism has serious repercussions for the Hindu society as it reopens the wounds that it has endured under a thousand years of largely exploitative rule by outsiders and alienates its various sections into becoming self loathing anglophiles, hardliner reactionaries or indifferent, apolitical and uninformed bystanders.

Hindus, under the influence of the dominant secularist discourse, are fast forgetting the art of speaking of their own dharma on their own terms and it is getting increasingly common to find well-meaning Hindus getting embroiled in inane debates about the “right” to worship according to rules created in 16th century Europe.

Shingnapur, a relatively unknown village of Maharashtra, was dragged into one such duel between reason and “superstition”, when a group of self-proclaimed feminists declared their intent to offer oil to the murti of Shanidev (Saturn) at the temple, a practice traditionally restricted to only males. Keeping with the arrogant trend of rationalist interventions, it was decreed that the practice was an expression of deep-seated patriarchy prevalent in Hindu society and how such discriminatory practices must end.

Darandale Shivajirao AnnasahebThe Shani Shingnapur Temple technically belongs to the Shri Shaneshwar Devasthan Trust and more broadly to the residents of this village, whose many generations have adored and worshipped the deity in a particular way. Further, there is no evidence of these unique customs originating from social compulsions or tyranny of any kind. They belong to the realm of the esoteric and must be spared the jibes of secular rationality. Most importantly, the arrangement works for the locals, whose faith in the power of the deity’s presence inspires them to do away with doors for their houses and locks for their valuables, an ideal worth emulating for outsiders.

In Hindu mythology, Saturn is easily the most difficult planet to propitiate. It symbolizes death, disease, poverty and all that we abhor in life. It brings about great hindrance in self-expression and self-manifestation but only through these finite obstacles does it offer a gateway to infinite potential. The state of Hindu society for the last one thousand years also seems to have been strongly afflicted by Saturn, characterized by widespread poverty, subjugation, self-pity and exploitation by external forces beyond its control.

Reasoning (yukti) has been a phenomenal asset for the Indian civilization, yet it has never been worshipped or put on a holy pedestal. Experience (anubhava) has always superseded reason as far as its proximity to the truth is concerned. Saturn is the planet that grants us anubhava. Let us not permit petty political reasons to overrule the spiritual experience of our diverse communities, who’re anyway suffering the tyranny of secularization for no fault of theirs. Let Saturn be our guide to self discovery, in Shingnapur and elsewhere.- IndiaFacts, 4 February 2016

» Ashish Dhar, a mechanical engineer and an entrepreneur, lives in New Delhi. He is co-founder of www.pragyata.com, an e-learning portal dedicated to Indic knowledge systems.


Secularism of Congress

See also

Stormtroopers at Shani Shingnapur – Mayuresh Didolkar

Shaneshwar of Shingnapur

Mayuresh Didolkar“The Stormtroopers … will come, breach centuries old tradition and go on fighting other causes—an agitation against armpit shaving perhaps—while the priests who have cared for the temple for generations will be left to care for it once again, only this time with the knowledge that the temple they have devoted their entire life to has accorded them no privileges to practice religion as they see fit.” – Mayuresh Didolkar

Devendra Fadnavis & Trupti DesaiThe famous British mountaineer George Mallory is supposed to have replied the question “why did you want to climb Mt Everest?” with a cryptic “because it’s there”. Unfortunately the attitude that symbolized human spirit and never say die attitude in a mountaineer is quickly becoming bane of the civilised society in the 21st century. The group of women set to “storm”—helicopter on standby—the Shani Shingnapur Temple are the latest example of this excessive behaviour.

Before I being discussing the issue at hand, I am going to give a large concession to the feminists agitating against the temple administration—and public at large. The said concession being, there are really only parts of the temple that women are forbidden to enter, and men are. If my twitter feed is anything to go by, even that part is murky but since I feel it has no effect on the outcome of my arguments, I am going to get it out of the way. See, I am a reasonable guy.

Having given that concession, there is no disputing that the Stormtrooper—hehe … go on! sue me!—ladies are making this attempt today due to the following factors.

  1. Attacking Hindu religion is a sure-fire ticket to fame considering the largely Leftist media’s hostile attitude towards the Hindus, especially since Mr Modi took office in 2014.
  2. They are sure of the support of law and order since the state in question is ruled by BJP, a law and order party.
  3. None of them have to fear for blow-backs of this misadventure since they are offending people from the most peaceful religion

This stunt has that “heads I win, tails you lose” feel to it, since if the women are successful in storming the temple, they—and their backers, make no mistake about it, they have backers whose only interest is humiliating Hindus—would have the satisfaction of having humiliated Hindus once more. If they are not successful, and indeed stopped by police from entering the temple, they can go on perpetuating the right-wing thugs/patriarchy/police state narrative that their other NGO/Left wing buddies can use when it suits them. Like Gary Sinise tells Nick Cage towards the end of Snake Eyes: “Its snake eyes kiddo, the house wins.”

Now let’s discuss why this stunt has neither religious nor moral standing.

The first argument extended by these Stormtroopers is “equality before law” which sounds very pragmatic and obvious—and hence supported by a few centre of rightists—but has a fundamental flaw when you examine it up close. The “equality before law” argument implies, that religion is subjugated to law, at all times. Let me repeat the last three words. At all times. Now when a tenet of religion results in harm to an individual or a group, or if it keeps an opportunity of advancement away from the aforementioned group or individual then by all means law should step in. We are not after all a theocratic state that throws gay people from towers or allow pregnant women to die rather than give them an abortion. We are liberated and we must feel proud of it.

However, even the biggest supporter of this protest will struggle to explain to me what danger this temple entry restriction places women into. Or what opportunities—other than the one to offer prayers, an opportunity that has no socio-economic value in its strictest sense—it denies them. All it does is to place a restriction on them, in a place outside their own homes. To deny religion this freedom to place restrictions on individuals or groups in such limited manners is effectively subjugating entire religion to law. This kind of legal authoritarianism is a hallmark of regimes like China—where they forbade Muslims from fasting and men from growing beards. I am not sure I want to live in a police state like this.

The second argument is of course the slippery slope argument, that says if you allow this then what is to stop religions from forbidding entries to women from all temples or placing restrictions based on caste/religion etc. Unfortunately this is only an academic argument. It is sort of like saying if you allow gay people to marry each other, it may lead to a man marrying his dog next. While taking a decision based on a future risk, one must make a realistic assessment about how clear and present the risk is. In a Mahad Satyagrahacountry of literally millions of temples if there are fewer than a hundred—I am being generous here, I only know two such temples—places with such restrictions and no new place with similar restriction has come up in say last two hundred years or so, then the slippery slope argument is purely hypothetical and hence does not merit consideration.

It is also important to separate these nihilistic Stormtroopers from the leaders of past who agitated against unfair restrictions placed by traditions. Like—most famous case from my state—the Chavdar Tale Satyagraha (also known as Mahad Satyagraha) by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. Two important distinctions needed to be made here.

  1. In Chavdar Tale, the commodity being denied, viz water, is a life necessity. Keeping a class of people away from it based on their birth was not just by any means.
  2. This restriction placed on the Dalits was not acceptable to all Dalits. Hence thousands of people gathered on 20th March 1927 with Dr Ambedkar at Mahad.

Contrast this with the case in hand. The commodity being denied—if it is indeed being denied—is entry in a temple. Come on folks, some sense of perspective please. Not entering the temple is not going to kill you. All that is at risk is your own ego.

Equally importantly, the restriction put on women is not only acceptable but actively endorsed by a majority of women. These women are natives of the place as well as  highly educated, abroad living urban women whose egos are not so fragile that any restriction placed by religion is immediately seen as a sign of good ol’ patriarchy at work. Again my faith in religion’s absoluteness forbids me from making this suggestion but if indeed a referendum is held on this issue, I am confident that more women will vote against it.

Also not to put too fine a point to it, folks who drank water from the Mahad tank kept drawing from it for the rest of their lives, since it was an essential commodity for them. The Stormtroopers in this case will come, breach centuries old tradition and go on fighting other causes—an agitation against armpit shaving perhaps—while the priests who have cared for the temple for generations will be left to care for it once again, only this time with the knowledge that the temple they have devoted their entire life to has accorded them no privileges to practice religion as they see fit. If there is anything more sickening and more disgusting than abusing a person of his faith and then make him go on living like nothing has happened, I don’t know what it is. We have all heard of tales of Hindu women force-fed beef during partition riots. This is the less violent version of it.

The last—and most laughable—argument extended by these Stormtroopers—when cornered with the question about atrocities against women in other religion—is, “I am going to care for my religion, why should I worry about other religion?”

Well ladies, when Flavia Agnes quoted in an interview with Avni Choksi, “But after independence, the same women realised that it is important to bring changes for Hindu women as they lagged behind their Muslim and Christian counterparts,” she has also put forth the argument why it is perfectly OK for Christian or Muslim women’s right advocates to agitate on behalf of Hindu women.

And since none of you protested against Flavia’s stance then (this interview was published in last August) I am just going to assume that this argument was acceptable to you. Now why you have reversed this argument is what is tripping me.

Women in IndiaAgain—I am being generous here, I already told you—even if you decide to accept this argument for some reason, let me ask you this: Is this the biggest problem Hindu women are facing today? A 17-year-old girl in Jharkhand committed suicide yesterday because she did not have a toilet inside her house. An estimated 65% women folks do not have access to feminine hygiene products, one out of four girls from rural India drops out of high school after attaining puberty because she does not have adequate protection during her menses. An estimated million women have gone to jail or have faced harassment at the hands of police due to the rampant misuse of the 498a section of the IPC and you went with entry into a temple? Good call ladies.

Stripped of all its civil rights and gender equality cloak, this movement can only have two implications. One will show these Stormtroopers in an unfavourable light. Other will show them as actively evil. I am leaving the choice to readers.

  1. Attacking Hindu religion is a sure-fire ticket to fame considering the largely Leftist media’s hostile attitude towards the Hindus, especially since Mr Modi took office in 2014.
  2. They are sure of the support of law and order since the state in question is ruled by BJP, a law and order party.
  3. None of them have to fear for blow-backs of this misadventure since they are offending people from the most peaceful religion

So why fight them?

Because it matters, not only to peace-loving Hindus, but to women of all religions. Today’s public discourse has short memory and even shorter bandwidth. Each cause gets its limited bandwidth, and if women’s rights bandwidth gets used by Stormtroopers planning to jump on top of temples, then girls committing suicide due to lack of sanitation tend to get neglected. And we can’t allow that to happen.

And also it matters because we are proud to be member of a peace-loving religion and when peace-loving, law-abiding citizens like you and me and the townsfolk of Shani Shingnapur get bullied out of the social discourse by these pantywaist fascists who will not listen to reason, the fanatics amongst us tell us, “OK guys you had your turn at the bat and you failed to protect us. Now step aside and let our clubs and swords do the talking,”—again don’t take it literally, you miserable, no good bunch of liberal word Nazis.

When America allowed the Left bullies to stifle all those sane rational folks who wanted to recognize the threat of Islamic extremism, the solution to come out of conservative woodwork was “let’s ban all Muslims”.  One thing regressive Lefties do not own up to is that they are the main reason why an almost dead extreme wing Right has risen again.

Oh and ladies, that helicopter you have on standby today? The women stranded in Chennai floods less than two months back could have really used that—you know what I am saying? – India Facts, 28 January 2016

» Mayuresh Didolkar runs a financial advisory business in Pune and is an avid marathon runner and reader.

Trupti Desai, Chief of the Bhumati Brigade invading Shingnapur

Shani Shingnapur

Shingnapur Shani Temple

Nicholas Notovitch and the Jesus-in-India tale – D.M. Murdock

Issa and the Giant's Skull (1932) Nicholas Roerich

D. M. Murdock“Despite the popularity of the Jesus-in-India tale, the claim is not accepted by mainstream authorities, either Christian or secular. The tale’s proponents assert that scholars reject Jesus in India because of Western imperialism and the inability to accept that Christ could have been influenced by Buddhism. In the case of mythicists, however, the reason Jesus is denied as having gone to India is because he is a pagan sun god remade into a Jewish “human” messiah.” – D. M. Murdock

Jesus with wife Mary Magdalene and KidsThe Myth of the Lost Years

Over the centuries, the claim has repeatedly been made that Jesus Christ not only walked the earth but also spent his early and post-crucifixion years in a variety of places, including Egypt, India, Great Britain, Japan and America. Indeed, traditions maintain that Jesus, the great godman of the West, lived, learned, loved and died in such places. Popular modern literature also purports that Jesus sired children, who then became the ancestors of various royal families of Europe, including France and/or elsewhere, depending on the author.

The allegation of Christ being a kingly progenitor is extremely convenient and useful for European royal families, obviously. Unfortunately for the European claimants, however, India also has a tradition that Jesus went there and likewise fathered children. So too does Shingo, Japan, allege that Jesus ended up there after the crucifixion, having children with a Japanese wife. Other tales depict Jesus “walking the Americas” or bopping about Glastonbury, England, with his “uncle,” Joseph of Arimathea. Not all of these tales can be true, obviously, unless Jesus is polymorphous and phantasmagoric, a perspective that in reality represents that of the mythologist or mythicist. To wit, regardless of these fables, or, rather, because of them, the most reasonable conclusion regarding Jesus and where he may or may not have been is that he is a mythical character, not a historical personage who trotted the globe.

Jesus the YogiThe Groovy Guru

According to legend, Jesus, the great Jewish sage, spent his “lost years,” from between the ages of around 12 to 28 or 30, in India, where, per another tradition, he also escaped after surviving the crucifixion. The Jesus-was-a-guru tale was popularized over a century ago by the Russian traveler Nicolas Notovitch. Notovitch asserted that in 1887, while at the secluded Hemis or Himis monastery in Ladakh/Tibet, he was shown a manuscript which discussed the “unknown life” of Jesus, or “Issa,” as he was supposedly called in the East. This “Issa” text, translated for Notovitch from Tibetan by a monk/lama, alleged that during his “lost years” Jesus was educated by yogis in India, Nepal and “the Himalaya Mountains.”

Stating that he felt the manuscript to be “true and genuine,” Notovich maintained its contents were written “immediately after the Resurrection,” while the manuscript itself purportedly dated from the third century of the Common Era. Notovitch related that the “two manuscripts” he was shown at Himis were “compiled from diverse copies written in the Thibetan tongue, translated from rolls belonging to the Lassa library and brought from India, Nepal, and Maghada 200 years after Christ.” (Notovitch, 44)

Notovitch’s story was challenged by a number of people, which served to popularize it further. Noted Sanskrit scholar Max Müller came down hard on Notovitch, concluding that either the Russian had never gone to Tibet in the first place, and had concocted the Jesus story, or that waggish Buddhist monks had played a trick on Notovitch, as Indian priests had done in a notorious instance concerning the Asiatic Research Society’s Colonel Wilford. Others subsequently journeyed to Himis/Hemis and witnessed repeated denial by the lamas that Notovitch had ever been there or that any such manuscript existed. In 1922, Indian scholar and swami Abhedananda eventually determined for himself by visiting Himis, gaining the confidence of the lamas and having the manuscript revealed to him. Other visitors to Himis, such as mystic Nicholas Roerich, verified the same story. Aspects of Notovitch’s story checked out, and he apparently did indeed stay at Himis and was shown a manuscript relating to “Issa.”

Notovitch claimed that Indian merchants brought the account of “Jesus” to Himis, and that they had actually witnessed the crucifixion. Indeed, the text begins with “This is what is related on this subject by the merchants who come from Israel,” reflecting not that “Jesus” lived in India but that the Jesus tradition was brought to India and Tibet. (Notovitch, 32) Notovitch’s text also did not state that Jesus was specifically at Himis: In fact, the lama stated that the Issa scrolls “were brought from India to Nepal, and from Nepal to Thibet.” Yet, upon returning to Himis through later visitors, the story eventually became morphed into “Your Jesus was here,” meaning at Himis itself. The “one book” or “two manuscripts” became “three books,” which were displayed for the later visitors, with the implication that there was more to the tale.

Nicolas NotovichAlthough subsequent visitors were presented such texts, none but Nicholas Roerich’s son, George, could read them. By his translation, Roerich was evidently shown the same text as Notovitch. Thus, it appears that there was only one text at Himis, and that it did not state that Issa himself was ever at the monastery. Furthermore, that one text is based on hearsay provided by passing merchants and does not at all represent an “eyewitness” account of “Jesus” in India and Tibet, although the impression is given that this and other texts do constitute such records.

Also, Notovitch asked if “Issa” was reputed to be a saint, and was informed that “the people ignore his very existence” and that the lamas who have studied the scrolls “alone know of him.” These remarks are a far cry from Roerich’s claim that the tale of “Christ” in India and other parts of Asia was to be found widespread. They also contradict the Tibetan text’s own assertion that Issa’s “fame spread everywhere” and that Persia and surrounding countries “resounded with prophecies” of Issa, thus causing the Persian priesthood to be terrified of him. This latter element sounds like typical myth-making, especially since there were similar prophecies of godmen for centuries, if not millennia, prior to Christ’s purported advent, particularly in India.

Moreover, the “originals” of the scrolls housed at the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, were composed in Pali, while the Himis library contained one copy in Tibetan. Yet, the Tibetan alphabet was developed by the king who “reigned in the days of Mohammed”; hence, nothing could have been written in Tibetan prior to the 7th century. Although older texts were composed in Sanskrit or Pali, it is clear that the actual physical manuscript revealed to Notovitch could not have existed before the 7th century. In fact, it would appear that very few Tibetan texts date to before the 9th century. In any event, the manuscript itself certainly did not date from the third century, although it could represent tradition transmitted over the centuries.

While Notovitch claimed the Issa story dated to shortly after “the Resurrection,” in it there is no mention of the resurrection, and the tale ends with Issa’s death. In this regard, the text depicts the “Jews,” whom it calls “Israelites,” in a favorable light, and is “the only [manuscript] ever to charge the Romans [“pagans”] solely for Jesus’ execution.” Unlike others, this account does not have Jesus being resuscitated and then returning to India, to father children and live a long life.

Notovitch’s modern editor, Frank Muccie, relates that the manuscript states, “Pilate is responsible for removing Jesus’ body from the tomb,” noting that this development somehow does not “mean the resurrection hope is invalid.” He then says:

“By the third century A.D., there were no fewer than 25 different versions of Jesus’ death and resurrection! Some have him not being put to death at all, some have him revived back to life, and some have Jesus living on to old age and dying in Egypt!” (Notovitch, 6)

Obviously, not all of these 25 or more accounts can be “true and genuine,” and such a development casts doubt on the historicity of one and all.

Rozabal TombThe Rozabal Tomb

Moreover, it is interesting that Notovitch spent six days in the “Vale of Kashmir,” in its capital, Srinagar, “city of the sun,” where the purported tomb of “Jesus,” the wandering prophet Yuz Asaf, is shown to tourists. Yet, the Russian traveler apparently never heard of the tomb, known as the “Roza Bal” or “Rauzabal” shrine, as he does not mention it in his writings concerning the Tibetan text, where its inclusion certainly would have been judicious in demonstrating that Jesus lived in India! Perhaps, however, as a believing Christian Notovitch ignored this tale, much as the devout do today and much as skeptics may do with other fables concerning Christ.

Possessing the priestly touch of sculpted footprints “with nail marks” over the grave, the Roza Bal shrine may seem convincing to the uninitiated, who are unaware of the world’s well-developed priest-craft. This “artifact” is another in a long line of so-called relics, like the 20+ shrouds or the multiple foreskins of Christ. In reality, there were many “footprints of the gods” in ancient times—and a number of Indian gods are depicted with nail holes in their feet.

Also, “Yuz Asaf” is not equivalent to “Jesus” but to “Joseph,” which was often a title of a priest and not a name. In fact, Eastern scholars such as Dr. S. Radhakrishnan state that the name “Joseph” or “Joasaph” is “derived from Bodhisattva, the technical name for one destined to obtain the dignity of a Buddha.” (Prajnanananda, 107) Thus, this tomb of a Bodhisattva could belong to any of thousands of such holy men. In like regard, the purported graves of “Jesus” and “his brother” in Japan are in reality those of a 16th-century Christian missionary and his brother.

The legends regarding Jesus’s tomb in Srinagar, and that of the Virgin Mary in Kashgar, are apparently of Islamic origin, emanating largely from the “heretical” Ahmadiyya sect. Such a creation would serve a couple of purposes: 1. That, as asserted in the Koran, Jesus was not the “son of God” but a mortal prophet, whose body was buried in Kashmir; and 2. that some presumably Moslem people are his descendants.

Proponents of the Jesus-in-India theory hold up a number of other texts and artifacts they maintain “prove” not only Jesus’s existence on Earth but also his presence in India. When such texts and artifacts are closely examined, they serve as no evidence at all, except of priest-craft. With one or two possible exceptions originating to a few centuries earlier, the Eastern texts regarding “Issa” seem to be late writings, some dating to the 15th and 18th centuries, based on traditions, not eyewitness accounts. Some of the “documents” are obviously fictitious, and others are downright ridiculous, such as the Bhavishya Mahapurana. A number of these texts merely relate the basic gospel story with embellishments depending on what the storyteller is attempting to accomplish.

Tibetan monk holding scrollsBuddhist Propaganda or Christian Proselytizing?

Although some of the writings appear to be of Hindu origin, the attack by “Issa” on the Vedas and Brahmans, as in the Notovitch text, represents Buddhist propaganda. It appears that Buddhists were trying to demonstrate that Jesus, the great wise man of the West, was influenced by Buddhism, even having been taught by “Buddha,” an eternal disincarnate entity. In this regard, the Notovitch text states, “Six years later, Issa, whom the Buddha had chosen to spread his holy word, could perfectly explain the sacred rolls.” (Notovitch, 35) In this way, Buddha usurps Jesus, becoming the Jewish teacher’s guru.

That the text has been used as propaganda to raise Buddha and Buddhism over Christ and Christianity is further validated by Notovitch’s foreword, in which he related that the lama told him, “The only error of the Christians is that after adopting the great doctrine of Buddha, they, at the very outset, completed separated themselves from him and created another Dalai-Lama….” This “Dalai-Lama,” the monk subsequently informed the Russian, is the Pope. Concerning Christ, the lama continued, “Buddha did, indeed, incarnate himself with his intelligence in the sacred person of Issa, who, without the aid of fire and sword, went forth to propagate our great and true religion through the entire world.” (Notovitch, 20) Hence, Eastern traditions regarding Jesus are designed to show that Jesus is Buddha and that Christianity is an offshoot of ancient Eastern wisdom.

Nevertheless, the Notovitch text itself may have been composed originally by proselytizing Christians who attempted to use the natives’ belief in Buddha in order to increase Christ’s stature. These missionaries may have been appealing to women to follow “Issa,” as the text puts great emphasis on women, whose status in India and elsewhere has been abysmally low. The text would also appeal to the Sudras or Pariahs, since it has Issa preaching on their behalf. These groups are targeted to this day by Christian missionaries in India.

Considering that many missionaries, travelers and scholars have been keenly aware of the numerous and profound similarities between the Tibetan and Catholic religions, it would not be surprising if this Issa fable were created in order to show that the Tibetan religion is merely a foreign derivative of the “true universal religion,” i.e., Catholicism. The resemblances between various Indian sects and Christianity likewise led to tales about the Christian missionaries Thomas, Bartholomew and Pantaenus also proselytizing in India. Like the Jesus-in-India myth, there are other explanations for the resemblances, which are addressed in detail in my book Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled. In short, the major explanation is that the “Christian” religion and savior were already in India long before the alleged advent of Jesus.

Lord ShivaIs “Issa” Jesus—or Shiva?

By calling Issa “Jesus” or “Christ,” modern writers have cemented in the readers’ minds that the correlation is absolute, an erroneous conclusion. In reality, the name “Issa,” “Isa” or “Isha” is a title and simply means “lord,” “god” or “master,” often referring to the Indian god Lord Shiva: “‘Isha’ or ‘the Lord’ is another name of Siva…” (Prajnanananda, 19) Furthermore, Prof. Nunos de Santos says, “… a god variously named Issa, Isha, Ichtos, Iesus, Ieshuah, Joshuah, Jesus, etc., is indisputably originally from India.” He also states, “Ishvara (Ishwar) is widely worshipped in the Far East, being also called Isha (or Ishana) in India, Issara in Pali, Isuan in Thai, Jizu (or Jizai) in Japanese, and so on.”

“Isa” is likewise another name for Chandra, the Indian moon god, as well as for Shiva’s Egyptian counterpart, the soli-lunar god Osiris, also called Iswara in India:

“Iswara, or Isa, and Isani, or Isisi, are … unquestionably the Osiris and Isis of Egypt. Iswara, Siva, or Hara (for these are his names among nearly a thousand more) united with Isi, represent the secondary causes, whatever they may be, of natural phenomena; and principally those of temporary destruction and regeneration.” (Moor, 151)

Numerous ancient legends, recorded for example in the writings of Diodorus Siculus during the first century BCE, depict Osiris as traveling all over the East, as well as the rest of the world, during the millennia when he reigned as Egypt’s favorite deity. Osiris, or Isa, it should be noted, was put to death and resurrected, among many other correspondences to the Christ myth. Osiris/Isa too had a number of tombs in various places, especially in Egypt but likely also in India. However, Osiris was not a “real person” but a fertility and sun god. What mythologists recognize is that it was not a “historical Osiris” but his myth that made it to India and diverse places. As in the case of Osiris, the same phenomenon occurred regarding “Jesus,” who is, in the end, a remake of Osiris, among others.

The title “Isa” or “Issa” could apply to others, and is a common name even today. Indeed, some part of these Jesus-in-India tales may revolve around the famed Greek sage Apollonius of Tyana. Not a few persons over the centuries have noted the similarities between the lives of Apollonius and Christ, and even in ancient times Christians were accused of plagiarizing the Apollonius legend.

Nicholas RoerichThe Nestorians

The Issa myth apparently represents a Christianization of legends regarding Osiris, Shiva, Apollonius and other gods and “Bodhisattvas,” by the Nestorians, an early Christian sect who lived in India and elsewhere, and may well have spread the syncretistic fable to other Asian ports of call. Indeed, Nicholas Roerich himself surmised that the ancient Nestorian sect spread the tales in the East:

“We heard several versions of this legend which has spread widely through Ladak, Sinkiang and Mongolia, but all versions agree on one point, that during His absence, Christ was in India and Asia…. Perhaps [this legend] is of Nestorian origin.” (Prophet, 261)

Roerich also stated, “Whoever doubts too completely that such legends about the Christ life exist in Asia, probably does not realize what an immense influence the Nestorians have had in all parts of Asia and how many so-called Apocryphal legends they spread in the most ancient times.” (Roerich, 89) In addition, George Roerich even proposed that there was a “floating colony” of Nestorians in Ladakh itself “during the eighth to tenth centuries,” which could well be when the Notovitch text was composed. Roerich, one of the main writers whose works have led to the Jesus-in-India theory, almost invariably and misleadingly substitutes “Jesus” or “Christ” for “Issa,” when Issa could be a number of individuals, mythical and historical.

In his account of Jesus in India, Roerich declared, “The teachings of India were famed far and wide; let us even recall the description of the life of Appolonius [sic] of Tyana and his visits to Hindu sages.” (Roerich, 119) Again, one likely scenario regarding “Issa” (“Lord” or “Master”) is that, whatever part of his tale is “historical,” it possibly refers to Apollonius.

Muziris on the Roman Tabula PeutingerianaPre-Christian Indo-European Interaction

As is well-known, Apollonius was not alone in his journeys to the East. Decades and centuries prior to the Christian era, there was much intercourse between India and the West, including the famous journey by Pythagoras and the Alexandrian incursion. As another pertinent example, one of the seats of Mandeanism, a Christian baptist sect, was Maisan, a Mesopotamian city colonized by Indians. As Dr. Rudolph Otto relates:

“… Indian caravans passed through Maisan and likewise Nabatea. Indian merchants, wherever they went, were importers and missionaries of Indian ideas. There need be no surprise therefore if direct Indian imports are found in the syncretistic medley of Mandean Gnosis”. (Prajnanananda, 41)

Space does not permit us to recount the numerous authorities who are in agreement as to the westward spread of Indian and Buddhist concepts centuries before and into the Christian era. A number of them may be found in Prajnanananda’s book, including a “Mr. Cust,” who evinced that trade between India and Yemen “was established not later than 1000 B.C.” Yemen is very close to Israel, and by the first century CE there were plenty of Indians in the Roman Empire.

Despite the popularity of the Jesus-in-India tale, the claim is not accepted by mainstream authorities, either Christian or secular. The tale’s proponents assert that scholars reject Jesus in India because of Western imperialism and the inability to accept that Christ could have been influenced by Buddhism. In the case of mythicists, however, the reason Jesus is denied as having gone to India is because he is a pagan sun god remade into a Jewish “human” messiah. Thus, it is not a question of a “historical Jesus” being in India and the East but of a variety of solar cults that worshipped a similar deity with similar rituals, doctrines and myths.

Mithras / Sol InvictusThe “Lost Years” Are Astrotheological

Over the centuries Jesus’s so-called “lost years” and post-crucifixion life have provided much fodder for the fertile human imagination, leading to speculation, legends, traditions and myths that the great godman and sage lived and studied in a variety of places. Once the fable of Christ became popular, numerous towns, villages, cities and nations wished to establish some sort of connection. Instead of recognizing that such a significant omission as Jesus’s “lost years” is an indication of the mythical nature of the tale, individuals using typical priest-craft have come up with countless extraordinary adventures of the “historical Jesus.” Unfortunately for the believers, however, not only is the gospel story itself but so too are these Jesus-the-Globetrotter tales mere deluding smoke and mirrors, and the reason for the gap in Jesus’s biography is because he was not a “real person” but a pagan sun god turned into a Jewish messiah. In the mythos revolving around the sun god, there need be no accounting for “lost years,” as the “age” of 12 represents the sun at high noon, while the 28 or 30 represents the days of the lunar or solar months, respectively.

When religions are investigated with a profound knowledge of mythology, the correspondences are clearly revealed, and it becomes evident that it is not the case that this miracle-worker or that godman traveled to this place or that, as has been rumored to have occurred with just about every god or goddess. In actuality, it is the legends, traditions and myths concerning these gods, godmen or gurus that have been spread far and wide by their proponents, priests and propagandists. As was the case with the missionary and his brother in Japan, who were taken for the object of worship they were proselytizing, so has it developed in other parts of the world over the millennia concerning not only Jesus but also many other deities, such as the virgin-born, crucified Mexican god Quetzalcoatl, whose similar “life” and religion led to claims that “Jesus” was in America. The reason for the similarities, however, is because both Jesus and Quetzalcoatl are sun gods with the same attendant holidays and practices.

Jesus in the Zodiac (11th century)In the final analysis, it is not possible that Jesus could have lived years after the crucifixion, fathered children and died in several different places, as legends represent. The past explanation for such discrepancies has been metaphysical, deeming Jesus to be multidimensional and capable of simultaneous incarnations in various locations. Such an explanation, of course, will not satisfy the skeptic and scientist. Or the mythologist, who simply knows better, because she or he has studied in depth the products of the human mind. Because the basic story of Christ revolves around the sun, which was highly esteemed the world over beginning many millennia ago, the myth is likewise found around the globe. To the basic mythos and ritual were added various embellishments according to the place and era, and for a variety of reasons. In the end, Jesus the Globetrotter is a not a historical personage who magically appeared all over the world, bi-locating and flying on the backs of birds. “Jesus Christ” is mythical creature, to be found globally only between the pages of a book. – Truth Be Known, 1995

Sources

  1. Capt, E. Raymond, The Traditions of Glastonbury, Artisan, 1983
  2. Ellis, Peter B., “Our Druid Cousins,” http://www.hinduism-today.com/2000/2/2000-2-16.html
  3. Huc, M. L’Abbé, Christianity in China, Tartary, and Thibet, I, London, Longman & Co., 1857
  4. Moor, Edward, Simpson, ed., The Hindu Pantheon, Indological Book House, India, 1968
  5. Notovitch, Nicholas, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, Tree of Life Publications, CA, 1980
  6. Nunos de Santos, Arysio, “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ–Comments,” www.rickrichards.com/jc/JesusComment2.html
  7. Prajnanananda, Swami, Christ the Saviour and the Christ Myth, Calcutta, 1984
  8. Prophet, Elizabeth Clare, The Lost Years of Jesus, Summit University Press, 1984
  9. Roerich, Nicholas, Altai-Himalaya, Adventures Unlimited, 2001
» D. M. Murdock, also known as Acharya S., is an American author and classical scholar of religion. She is a proponent of the Christ myth theory and administers a website called Truth be Known. She argues that Christianity is founded on earlier myths and the characters depicted in Christianity are based upon Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Iranian and Indian mythology.

Persian Sun God Mithra

Mithras the Pagan Christ

About the ungodlike Abrahamic god – Michel Danino

Moses & Yahweh

Prof Michel Danino“I find it highly symbolic that Judaism should have been born in blood and fear, not out of love for its founding deity. As Sri Aurobindo put it, “The Jew invented the God-fearing man; India the God-knower and God-lover.” It probably took centuries for the old cults to disappear altogether, and a stream of prophets who sought to strike terror into the hearts of the Israelites. It was a radical, unprecedented departure from the ancient world cultures. Naturally, it did not stop there and went unto find more fertile soils in Christianity and Islam.” – Michael Danino

Torah / Tanakh: The original Jewish holy book that generated both the Christian Bible and the Muslim Koran.Our first task … is to examine the Abrahamic concept of God at the root of the three monotheistic religions: Yahweh (later Jehovah) or Allah. I do not refer here to more ancient Greek, Norse or Celtic gods since, as we know, they lost the war against God with a capital “G”. (Some of them are now striving to revive, but even if they partly succeed, they will be little more than pale replicas of their original selves.)

The first thing that strikes the discerning Indian reader of the Old Testament, especially the Exodus, in which Jehovah first introduces himself to Moses under that name, is his ungodlike character. Jehovah is admittedly jealous: the second of the Ten Commandments reads, “You shall have no other gods before me,” while the third explicitly forbids the making and worship of any idols, “for I am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers”. Jehovah does speak as often of punishment as he does of sin, and periodically goes into a state of “fierce anger”, promising the most complete devastation of the Hebrews who reject him. Not content with cursing his reluctant followers, he also curses nation after nation, and finally the earth itself, which, as I pointed out earlier, he holds responsible for man’s sins: “The day of the Lord is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it”. (Isaiah, 13:9). In fact, he is so obsessed with sin that one looks in vain in his oppressive berating and legislating for any hint of a higher spirituality, such as we find in the Upanishads or the Gita. Contrast his jealousy with Krshna’s insistence on spiritual freedom: “Whatever form of me any devotee with faith desires to worship, I make that faith of his firm and undeviating’ (Gita, 7.21), or again: “Others … worship me in my oneness and in every separate being and in all my million universal faces” (9:15). But the god of the Bible and the Koran will have none of this catholicity.

If Jehovah had stopped there we might have found him to be simply a foul-tempered and libidinous god; after all, some Puranic gods too have such defects, although they usually retain a sense of their limits and compassion of which Jehovah is spotlessly guiltless. But he has a plan, he means business and knows that coercion alone can establish his rule: when the Hebrews over whom he is so keen to hold sway go back to their former worship of a “golden calf”, he orders through Moses that each of the faithful should “kill his brother and friend and neighbor” (Exodus 32:37). Instructions which were promptly complied with, for we are informed that 3,000 were killed on that fateful day; to crown his punishment, Jehovah “struck the people with a plague.”

Sri AurobindoI find it highly symbolic that Judaism should have been born in blood and fear, not out of love for its founding deity. As Sri Aurobindo put it, “The Jew invented the God-fearing man; India the God-knower and God-lover.” It probably took centuries for the old cults to disappear altogether, and a stream of prophets who sought to strike terror into the hearts of the Israelites. It was a radical, unprecedented departure from the ancient world cultures. Naturally, it did not stop there and went unto find more fertile soils in Christianity and Islam: earlier, Jehovah was content with being the god of the Hebrews alone; now, reborn in the new creeds, his ambition extended to the whole earth.

Increasingly aware of this cruel, irritable, egocentric and exclusivist character of Jehovah, many Western thinkers, specially from the eighteenth century onwards, rejected his claim to be the supreme and only god. Voltaire, one of the first to expose the countless inconsistencies in the Bible, could hardly disguise how it filled him with “horror and indignation at every page”. In particular, he found the plethora of laws dictated by Jehovah “barbaric and ridiculous”. The U.S. revolutionary leader and thinker Thomas Paine wrote of the Old Testament in his Age of Reason:

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon that the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served  to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.

Because a few intellectuals had the courage to state the obvious, the power of Christianity was greatly reduced in the West. Yet I have always marveled that Indians should learn about Christianity neither from those bold Western thinkers nor from their own inquiry, but from bigots who continue to pretend that the Age of Enlightenment never happened.With the growth of materialistic science, in particular Darwinian evolution, such views which were revolutionary at the time of Voltaire, became widespread. Bernard Shaw, for example, described the Bible god as “a thundering, earthquaking, famine striking, pestilence launching, blinding, deafening, killing, destructively omnipotent Bogey Man.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the courageous U.S. pioneer of woman rights movement, wrote in 1898, “Surely the writers [of the Old Testament] had a very low idea of the nature of their God. They make Him not only anthropomorphic , but of the very lowest type, jealous and revengeful, loving violence rather than mercy. I know of no other books which so fully teach the subjection and degradation of woman.”  Mark Twain put it in his own way: “Our Bible reveals to us the character of our god with minute and remorseless exactness. The portrait is substantially that of a man—if one can imagine a man charged and overcharged with evil impulses far beyond the human limit…. It is perhaps the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere. It makes Nero an angel of light and leading by contrast.”  On another occasion he added, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Freud, seeing in Jehovah an all too human creation, subjected him to psychoanalysis—a dream of a subject for a psychoanalyst. Aldous Huxley called the Old Testament “a treasure trove of barbarous stupidity [full of] justifications for every crime and folly.” In fact,  Huxley traced the “wholesale massacres” perpetrated by Christianity to Jehovah’s “wrathful, jealous, vindictive character, just as he attributed “the wholesale slaughter” of Buddhists and Hindus by invading Muslims to their devotion for a “despotic person”. Albert Einstein said, “I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own—a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty.”

Hiranyakashipu with his son PrahladaBut is that all there is to the Abrahamic god? Are we simply faced with a man-made demon or the product of some fevered brain?  If you look at Jehovah in the light of Indian experience, it is striking that he has all the characteristic of an asura. Recall for a moment a being such as Hiranyakashipu: did he not, too, forbid all other cults? Did he not order that he alone should be worshiped as the supreme god? Did he not use fear and violence to try and coerce Prahlada? That he was stopped by a Divine manifestation, like many other asuras eager to possess this world, is another story; the point is that we find here the same seed of pride and cruelty as in Jehovah.

Now, to pinpoint Jehovah’s identity we must remember that he himself explains how “Yahweh” is a new name to the Hebrews: “By that name I did not make myself known to them” (Exodus 3:14 – 15, 6:3). But in the Old Testament Jehovah does not reveal his earlier name; it is only the early Christian Gnostic tradition, which was brutally suppressed by the growing orthodox school, that provides us with an answer—or rather two. In the Gnostic Gospels which survived centuries of persecution Jehovah is named either Samael, which means (appropriately) “the god of the blind”, or Ialdabaoth, “the son of chaos”. Thus one of the texts contain this revealing passage:

Ialdabaoth became arrogant in spirit, boasted himself over all those who were below him, and explained, “I am father, and God, and above me there is no one.”  His mother, hearing him speak thus, cried out against him, “Do not lie, Ialdabaoth; for the father of all, the primal Anthropos, is above you.

So not only was Jehovah not the Supreme God, but he also had a mother! For the Gnostics, like the Indians, refused to portray God as male only; God has to be equally female—and ultimately everything.

Another text , in the Secret Book of John, asks pertinently:

By announcing [that he is a jealous God] he indicated that another God does exist; for if there were no other one, of whom he be jealous?

In fact Jehovah is viewed in the Gnostic Gospels as no more than a demiurge or a subordinate deity—exactly and asuras are in Indian tradition. The French novelist Anatole France made use of apocryphal Gospels (rather the new fragments known in his time, for he wrote a few decades before the Nag Hammadi finds). In his perceptive novel The Revolt of the Angels, one of the rebellious angels depicts Jehovah thus:

I no longer think he is the one and only God; for a long time he himself did not believe so: he was a polytheist at first. Later on; his pride and flattery of his followers turned him into a monotheist…. And in fact, rather than a god he is a vain and ignorant demiurge. Those who, like me, know his true nature, call him “Ialdabaoth”…. Having seized a miniscule fragment of the universe, he has sown it with pain and death.

Now contrast this notion of God as tyrannical ruler wholly separate from his creation with the Indian notion of an all-encompassing, all-pervasive, all-loving Divine essence. In the language of the Upanishads:

He is the secret Self in all existence…. Eternal, pervading in all things and impalpable, that which is Imperishable … the Truth of things…. All this is Brahman alone, all this magnificent Universe.

If Jehovah depicts a radical departure from the ancient worships, it is in that he is “wholly other”, as Huxley puts it. Because of the unbridgeable gulf between him and his creation, no Jew or Christian would dare to declare, “I am Jehovah”, no  Muslim would dream of saying, “I am Allah.” But to the Hindu, so’ham asmi, “He am I”, or tat twam asi, “You are That”, is the most natural thing in the world—it is, in truth, the very first fact of the world. Again, can Christian parents christen their son “Jehovah” or Muslim parents name theirs “Allah” in the way a Hindu child can be called “Maheshwari”, “Purushottama” or “Parameshwara”?

YahwehClearly, thus, if we use a single word—“God”—for such widely dissimilar concepts, we will land ourselves in total confusion. “God is one”, is perhaps, in the Vedantic sense that all is ultimately one, because all is ultimately Divine, and yet Hindu inquiry always discerned a whole hierarchy of beings, not all equally true or luminous:  a rakshasa, for instance, cannot be equated with a Krishna. Some may object to calling the Biblical or Koranic god an asura, but I use the word in the original sense of a mighty god who comes to his fall owing to ambition or pride. Moreover, the Indian approach has always claimed absolute freedom to inquire into every aspect of Divinity, from the most personal to the most transcendental: if the Abrahamic god happens to have the attributes of an asura rather than those of a supreme Reality, why should be look away from that essential difference? — Excerpt from Michel Danino’s book Indian Culture and India’s Future, via IndiaFacts, 17 December 2015

Bible vs Quran: Test your knowledge of who deserves death in which religion – Valerie Tarico

Three Holy Books

Dr Valerie Tarico“Is the Quran more violent than the Bible as most Americans believe? The question is hard to answer. A tally at the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible counts 842 violent or cruel passages in the Bible as compared to 333 in the Quran. That said, the Bible is a much thicker tome, and even though the New Testament endorses and adds to the violence in the Old, when percentages are compared, the Quran comes out ahead.” – Dr Valerie Tarico

Abrahamic ReligionsThe world has watched in horror while members of ISIS justify the next mass murder or icy execution with words from the Quran, followed by shouts of Allahu Akbar—God is the greatest! If beliefs have any power whatsoever to drive behaviour—and as a psychologist I think they do—there can be little doubt that the Quran’s many endorsements of violence play a role in how exactly ISIS has chosen to pursue religious and political dominion.

At the same time, it should be equally clear a sacred text filled with violence is insufficient to trigger mass brutality unless other conditions are present as well. Culture, empathy, education and empowerment—and other factors that scholars understand only in part—appear to have a protective influence, safeguarding even most fundamentalists against the worst teachings of their own tradition. We know this in part because the Bible contains commandments and stories that are as horrific as those being used to justify butchery in Iraq and Syria.

The following 30 violent exhortations are a mix, drawn from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures. The generic word God is used for all deity names, and names of places or people have been replaced with generic terms. How well do you know your Torah, Bible, or Quran and Hadith? Can you tell which is which?

[The source of the quotation has been added after the quote, as Hindu readers will not be knowing “their” Torah, Bible, Quran or Hadith very well. – Ed]

  1. Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the [holy man] who represents God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)
  2. I decided to order a man to lead the prayer and then take a flame to burn all those, who had not left their houses for the prayer, burning them alive inside their homes. (Bukhari 11:626)
  3. All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)
  4. Fight them until there is no more [disbelief or worshipping of other gods] and worship is for God alone. (Quran 2:193)
  5. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. (Matthew 10:34-35)
  6. Whoso fighteth in the way of God, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward. (Quran 4:74)
  7. Make ready to slaughter [the infidel’s] sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants. (Isaiah 14:21 NAB)
  8. [God’s messenger] … was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The [holy man] replied, “They [women and children] are from them [unbelievers].” (Bukhari 52:256)
  9. Then I heard God say to the other men, “Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all—old and young, girls and women and little children.” (Ezekiel 9:5 NLT)
  10. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them. (Quran 8:12)
  11. Keep [my holiday], for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die. (Exodus 31:12-15 NLT)
  12. The punishment of those who wage war against God and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement. (Quran 5:33)
  13. If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)
  14. It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he had made a great slaughter in the land…. (Quran 8:67)
  15. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers 31: 17-18 KJV)
  16. I shall terrorize the [heathens]. So wound their bodies and incapacitate them, because they oppose God and his apostle. (Quran 8:12)
  17. A [holy man’s] daughter who loses her honour by committing fornication and thereby dishonours her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)
  18. So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them. (Quran 9:5)
  19. Everyone who would not seek God was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)
  20. And when We wish to destroy a town, We send Our commandment to the people of it who lead easy lives, but they transgress therein; thus the word proves true against it, so We destroy it with utter destruction. (Quran 17:16)
  21. But if [a girl wasn’t a virgin on her wedding night] and evidence of the girls virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsman shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against God’s people by her unchasteness in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21 NAB)
  22. The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say.”O [believer]! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.” (Bukhari 52:177)
  23. If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)
  24. God’s Apostle said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but God.’” (Bukhari 8:387)
  25. Cursed be he who does God’s work remissly, cursed he who holds back his sword from blood (Jeremiah 48:10 NAB).
  26. God said, “A prophet must slaughter before collecting captives. A slaughtered enemy is driven from the land. [Prophet], you craved the desires of this world, its goods and the ransom captives would bring. But God desires killing them to manifest the religion.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 484)
  27. Anyone who blasphemes God’s name must be stoned to death by the whole community of [believers]. (Leviticus 24:16 NLT)
  28. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) [your religion]; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them.… If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them [a tax]. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek God’s help and fight them. (Muslim 19:4294)
  29. Anyone else who goes too near the [Holy Place] will be executed. (Numbers 1: 51 NLT)
  30. Killing unbelievers is a small matter to us. (Tabari 9:69)

Is the Quran more violent than the Bible as most Americans believe? The question is hard to answer. A tally at the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible counts 842 violent or cruel passages in the Bible as compared to 333 in the Quran. That said, the Bible is a much thicker tome, and even though the New Testament endorses and adds to the violence in the Old, when percentages are compared, the Quran comes out ahead. In addition, the kinds of cruelty and violence vary as do the perpetrator and victim and the extent to which any verse can be interpreted as divine sanction for the behaviour in question. Either way, endorsements of violence abound in both.

Bible and Quran believers who recognize verses in this list will no doubt protest that they have been taken out of context, as indeed they have. I think the appropriate response to such a complaint is a question: What context, exactly, would make these verses uplifting, inspiring or worthy of praise? In what context are passages like these some of the most important and holy guidance that the creator of the universe might think to impart to humankind? In what context is a book that contains these passages and many, many more like them the apogee of divine goodness and timeless wisdom?

Members of each Abrahamic tradition are quick to point out the rational and moral flaws in the others. I wonder sometimes, what this world might be like if they were as quick to examine the flaws in their own. –  ValerieTarico.com, 1 June 2013

» Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. 

Bible & Koran

Muslims must reject leaders who advocate quota in the name of religion and caste – Tufail Ahmad

Tufail Ahmad“Qualitatively, Indian Muslims do not qualify as a minority. Only women, Scheduled Castes and Tribes are India’s first sociological minorities because they are subjugated while Muslims conduct themselves as a politically vocal group, not a sign of subjugation. It is our criminal silence that Indian kids are begging at traffic lights while the nation’s debate is conducted in the name of religion.” – Tufail Ahmad

Hamid AnsariImagine this: I am a five-year-old girl, hungry since yesterday, wearing torn clothes, begging for a few coins at a traffic light. Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s motorcade stops; my hands stretch out to him and he asks: Are you a Muslim? I fumble: my religion, I am hungry. He does not respond; he proceeds to the 50th anniversary celebrations of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM), an Islamist organisation that has opposed reforms among Muslims. “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful,” wrote the Roman philosopher Seneca.

Having served as a diplomat in Muslim countries, Ansari understands Islam’s role in politics. Addressing the AIMMM, he praised Narendra Modi’s slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas (Together with all, development for all) but argued: “affirmative action” is a “pre-requisite” for Muslims’ progress. In other words, he advocated quota for Muslims. Like Asaduddin Owaisi, Ansari is unhappy that backward castes among Muslims already get reservation.

Before 1947, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was demanding separate territory for those who believed in Islam. Ansari wants quota for those who believe in Islam. For Jinnah and Ansari, Islam must become a criterion of politics and policy-making. Unfortunately for Ansari, when India was engulfed in the Partition’s religious bloodshed, the Indian Republic’s founders rose above religion and authored a Constitution that rejected any role for religion.

Any attempt by Ansari and others to insert Islam as a criterion of politics must be condemned. Keeping with the constitutional ideal, it is time India’s youth spoke outrageously against leaders who advocate quota in the name of religion and caste. Ansari’s concern might be Muslims, but youths’ concern should be the nation’s daughter at the traffic light.

In the 1857 war, Hindus and Muslims fought together. After that, Muslims — noted the late Muslim reformer Hamid Dalwai—missed historical opportunities for progress: Sir Syed’s renaissance movement among Muslims emerged in opposition to Hindus; Muslim leaders failed to align with Hindus during the freedom struggle. After 1947, this Muslim separatism was bolstered through riots-for-vote politics and the practice of secularism to keep Muslims in their cocoon. Instead of ending this vacuum, Ansari is using the quota politics to keep Muslims separated from mainstream.

There are about 40 lakh central government jobs. To Ansari: let’s assume all jobs are given to Muslims. Will that end the Muslim backwardness? Barack Obama became America’s first black president because he led all Americans, not just the blacks. India is yet to produce a Muslim who could present himself as the leader of all Indians.

Begging from cars at Mumbai intersections.At the AIMMM event, Ansari spoke as the leader of Muslims, not as the nation’s Vice-President. Indians are in search of a Muslim politician in the mould of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, not Hamid Ansari.

Some journalists noted that Ansari also urged Muslims to begin reform through ijtihad, consensus by reasoning. Ansari too could do ijtihad in his thinking and come out with a new politics in tune with the Constitution, not compliant with Islam. A numerical definition of ‘minority’ is inadequate to explain the Muslim situation. For example, the blacks were in majority during the Apartheid in South Africa, but practically a minority as they were subjugated.

Qualitatively, Indian Muslims do not qualify as a minority. Only women, Scheduled Castes and Tribes are India’s first sociological minorities because they are subjugated while Muslims conduct themselves as a politically vocal group, not a sign of subjugation. It is our criminal silence that Indian kids are begging at traffic lights while the nation’s debate is conducted in the name of religion.

Media sucks up to the political class, which loves to be sucked. People like Ansari may not understand this: India has tools to measure poverty; it could grant reservation to those holding BPL (below poverty line) cards. There are other ways. Under the Constitution, all children aged between 6-14 years must be in school, not begging at bus stops, but they wouldn’t be brought into television studios before journalists verify their religion. Ansari must keep in mind: the Sachar-like reports were produced to serve official secularism.

To Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind: you agitate for Muslim quota but when did Islam begin serving only Muslims? Why is it that Islam cannot speak for all? How is it that a poor Muslim deserves your voice, not a poor Hindu? A Muslim agenda could be: if Muslims are backward, you could advocate jobs for all. If Muslims are in jails, advocate justice for all. If Muslims lag behind, open a school for Hindus and Muslims alike, as Christians and Hindus do. On July 25, a Muslim girl refused to take a pre-medical examination because it required her to remove burqa: blame the burqa, not the government if she remains backward.

Ansari’s speech is troubling. Teaching Muslims, he said: “modernity has become a tainted expression” and added: “The instrumentality of adaptation to change, ijtihad, is frowned upon…. Forgotten is its purpose, defined by the late Sheikh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi as ‘the ability to cope with the ever-changing pattern of life’s requirements’. Equally relevant is Imam Al-Ghazali’s delineation of the ambit of maslaha—protection of religion, life, intellect, lineage and property.”

Al-GhazaliOf all, Al-Ghazali is the 11th century Islamic jurist who single-handedly shut the door of ijtihad by advocating unquestioning faith against reason, ending Islam’s golden age from 8-12th centuries during which Muslims were translating Aristotle and Plato. Hassan Al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, argued: “Muslims needed to rediscover the teachings of Al-Ghazali and proclaim themselves ‘holy warriors’ (jihadists) in the path of Allah.”

Maslaha, singular of masaleh, looks good when translated as pragmatism but its deeper meaning is: expedience. In October-December 2011, Aligarh-based journal Tahqeeqat-e-Islami argued: Islam is based on “expedience.” It quoted 14th century jurist Ibn Taymiyyah, the father of jihadists, as saying: “jurists are unanimous on the presence of prudence and expedience in the commandments of Shariah.” It quoted Prophet Muhammad as saying: one who leaves Islam should be killed as expedience to safeguard Islam. Ansari’s mention of Al-Ghazali and maslaha will gladden the hearts of Islamists and jihadists. – The New Indian Express, 12 September 2015

» Tufail Ahmad is Director  of South Asian Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute,  Washington D C. E-mail: tufailelif@yahoo.co.uk

Reservation for Muslims

See also

Understanding how the West looks at India – Koenraad Elst

Koenraad Elst“A serious drawback of this book is that it narrows its focus to the Sangh Parivar, all while announcing a treatment of the ‘Hindu Right’. Perhaps this was still passable in 2005, but anyone moderately informed about the ideological scene should know that it is not in 2015. At the mass level, scholars ought to have noticed that the Hindu self-defence network in West Bengal, Hindu Samhati, has been set up by  a dissatisfied ex-Swayamsevak because the RSS was just not living up to its promises. The Sangh’s enemies, such as the editors of this book, portray it as a formidable Hindu force, but insiders know better. It might have number, and today it might even hold office, but its commitment to Hindu victory is wobbly and lackadaisical.” – Dr Koenraad Elst

Pluralism and Democracy in India: Debating the Hindu RightHow does the West look at India? The Western public is completely, and the professional India-watchers largely, dependent on information filtered by a Delhi bottleneck under firm Nehruvian control. This is not a matter of “sepoy” intellectuals blackening India and Hinduism at the behest of an American conspiracy. It is a two-way influence, with Indians trying to live up to Western fashions and Westerners trying to align with Indian ideological norms.

An important new book exemplifies this American-Indian cooperation against any political mobilization in the name of Hinduism: Pluralism and Democracy in India: Debating the Hindu Right (OUP, New York 2015). It is a collection of twenty essays mostly based on updated versions of contributions to a 2005 conference in Chicago. The editors are religious historian Wendy Doniger and law scholar Martha Nussbaum, both from the top-ranking University of Chicago. Doniger’s name has gained some currency in India ever since her book The Hindus, an Alternative History, was withdrawn by the publisher under Hindu pressure. This way, a biased, flippant and error-ridden book, already exposed in detail in Vishal Agarwal’s counter-book, was given a false aura of martyrdom. The episode also confirmed her enmity for any Hindu self-assertion, as is obvious from the introduction she co-authored with Nussbaum.

About the outspokenly partisan perspective of the book, we can be brief because no attempt is made to hide it. Thus, if we are going to discuss “democracy in India”, it should be hard to leave the Emergency and the Sangh Parivar’s opposition to it unmentioned; yet these are carefully and completely hushed up. The year Zero of the book’s time horizon is explicitly said to be 2002, because of the Gujarat riots. On these, the old progressive party-line is still strictly observed, assuming “Modi’s complicity in the riots” (p. 14). Herewith, they consciously overrule the fact that “he has not been convicted in court” (p. 1), though not for want of trying. But if riots are deemed so important, surely attention is paid to the far larger killing of the Sikhs in 1984 by Congress secularists; or to the East Bengali massacre of Hindus in 1971 that dwarfed all Indian communal killings since Independence combined? No, this book only notices killings when Hindus are (or can be portrayed as) the perpetrators.

Dwarapala panel from Babri Masjid site in AyodhyaThe Ayodhya controversy is mentioned a number of times, but without the decisive information, quite new to the American target audience, that the temple claim has meanwhile proved historically correct. The whole lambasting of the centuries-old pro-temple consensus, challenged by the secularists in 1989 and rebaptized the “Hindu fundamentalist claim”, carried along all of American academe, yet it was wrong.  The paper specifically about “the road from Ayodhya” has 40 footnotes, all referring to partisan anti-Hindutva sources except for one in which BJP stalwart Ram Madhav provides some hard data. And that count is representative for most papers, but then Hindus should admit that they themselves have produced few intellectual works worth quoting.

The editors call Naredra Modi’s accession to power “ominous for India’s very future as a democracy” (p. 1). In American academe, the demand of objectivity, on which scholarly authority is based, is suspended in works about Hindu politics.

The subtitle could suggest that a debate with the so-called Hindu Right is being envisaged. That is not the case. The debate is in fact between different sections of the secularist Left (with its American extension), as exemplified by Amartya Sen’s response to Ramachandra Guha’s review of his The Argumentative Indian. The Hindu Right is only an object. The token contribution from Ved Nanda as former head of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (US section of the RSS) has no argumentative thrust, it merely details all the historical and numerical facts about Hinduism in the US.

Yet, many of the separate papers in this book are certainly worth reading. Most papers require a review in themselves, but to settle for one example, Mushirul Hasan’s paper on the BJP’s textbook’s reforms provides interesting data on the BJP’s intellectual agenda as seen by the secularists. Once you have accepted that this is not a scholarly account but a veteran’s memoir giving the view of one of the warring camps, it becomes a very worthy read. Incidentally, on p. 255, Hasan labels Hindu history-rewriting an “attempt to Talibanise India’s history”, thus holding up an Islamic movement as the level to which Hindus could stoop. Thereby, he implicitly admits that the ideologically streamlined textbooks which he fights in India are a routine fact of life in Pakistan.

RSS MembersA serious drawback of this book is that it narrows its focus to the Sangh Parivar, all while announcing a treatment of the “Hindu Right”. Perhaps this was still passable in 2005, but anyone moderately informed about the ideological scene should know that it is not in 2015. At the mass level, scholars ought to have noticed that the Hindu self-defence network in West Bengal, Hindu Samhati, has been set up by  a dissatisfied ex-Swayamsevak because the RSS was just not living up to its promises. The Sangh’s enemies, such as the editors of this book, portray it as a formidable Hindu force, but insiders know better. It might have number, and today it might even hold office, but its commitment to Hindu victory is wobbly and lackadaisical. More and more, Hindus are locally organizing outside the Sangh. They even continue to do so now that “their” side is in power in Delhi and proving to be no more than time-servers. Mostly they are happy that Modi is at the helm, but for an actual Hindu dimension to politics, more will be needed.

While this trend is still marginal, it is already very visible on the media front, where internet papers have become the arteries of new communities shedding the Sangh baggage and trying to serve the Hindu cause through new analyses: Vijayvaani, India Facts, Hindu Human Rights, Swarajya, Bharata Bharati, the India Inspires Foundation. These people have no power yet, but they do have ideas. More up-to-date and more aware of international trends in political thinking than the gerontocratic Sangh, their thought is far more interesting. It also is more rooted, more Hindu than the Hindutva current, which is stuck in the 1920s’ borrowed nationalist paradigm. If “debate” with the Hindu side is what you want, it is they who are the ones to talk to. – The Pioneer, 6 September 2015

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