Can one have faith in the Almighty and yet be scientifically minded? – Maria Wirh

Religion vs. Science

Maria WirthDogmatic religions never fostered science. What sadder example can there be than the burning of the great Nalanda university library by Islamic invaders in 1193 AD. The collected treasure of the best minds was turned into ash and thousands of students were brutally killed. Voltaire rightly said, “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Maria Wirth

Yes, and it is even natural. One only needs to deeply reflect on what is meant by the Almighty.

If somebody grew up as a Christian or Muslim, he needs, however, to get rid of some notions about the Almighty which can never be proven and are in all likelihood not true—for example that He favours those who believe in a specific book (Bible, Quran) and sends all others to eternal hell and that he is a superhuman (male) creator, separate from humans, and that he made his will known only recently, not even 2000 years ago, and that the jury is still out (because two religions stake claim to it), to whom he has spoken the last world of the “only truth”.

But Vedic wisdom can help to correct one’s view, as it had already long before Christianity and Islam appeared, a highly mature understanding of the “Almighty”:

The Rishis claim that everything in this creation including ourselves is permeated by the same great intelligence, like waves are permeated by the same ocean. The waves may be convinced that they are separate from the ocean as they have a distinct form and name. But ultimately all waves are nothing but the one great ocean and nothing is lost when their form is lost. Similarly, though we may consider our person as separate from others, in truth we are the one consciousness and nothing of substance is lost when form and name are lost.

Further, Indian rishis claim that the apparent reality is not really real. It is a sense deception (maya), in a similar way, as at dusk a rope is mistaken to be a snake, even though in reality there is only a rope. Truly true is our inner being—atman—that permeates everything. It means that in our essence, we are infinite, spread out all over as it were, eternal.

Now this ocean analogy sounds almost like modern physics. How come? Did the scientists discover that all is one energy independently or were their theories inspired by the Vedas? Had the scientists reflected on the profound insights of the Indian rishis?

Indeed this had been the case. The scientists who were responsible for replacing Newton’s paradigm of a universe full of separate things with an interconnected, homogeneous Whole were inspired by Vedanta: Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Pauli, Einstein, Oppenheimer, Tesla and others, all knew about and reflected on India’s ancient wisdom.

In contrast, dogmatic religions never fostered science. What sadder example can there be than the burning of the great Nalanda university library in present day Bihar by Islamic invaders in 1193 AD. The collected treasure of the best minds was turned into ash and thousands of students were brutally killed. Voltaire rightly said, “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Yet times are changing. The awareness that we would be better off without blind belief in irrational dogmas is growing. Christianity is losing its hold over its followers in the West. I just read that in Berlin, the capital of Germany, only 25 per cent of the inhabitants are still Christians. And Islam, though seemingly still on an upswing, is being scrutinised, too. The recent wide-spread protests in Iran point to the fact that not all believe what they are told to believe and even risk their lives for freedom.

So to come back to the question: belief in an Almighty Presence is not an obstacle to being a scientifically minded person, but rather a help. It can help to even expand science. Here is why:

Science is defined as knowledge gained from observation and experimentation. The rishis, however, added one more method—knowledge gained from inner exploration. This inner exploration or meditation lifts Vedic wisdom above science and inspires it.

Scientists have discovered the oneness of all, but for them the oneness is dead, without life. The Rishis have discovered the oneness of all many thousand years earlier, and they “saw” or realised that this oneness is alive and knows itself.

The truth is not something abstract, cold, and theoretical. It is the conscious, loving, intelligent essence in all from where thoughts emerge. True inspiration and intuition come from this level. Srinivasan Ramanujan, the great mathematician, would have touched this level from where he received amazing mathematical insights . He related to it as Devi Namagiri.

Many great scientists acknowledge an almighty intelligence as the cause for—or essence of—this universe. Einstein, too, acknowledged it. In a letter to a school girl, who asked him if scientists pray, he wrote: “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man.”

This spirit level (Indians called it atman) is within all of us. It is the Almighty and we are definitely better off if we acknowledge its presence and trust it. The rishis advocate complete trust—after all, it is Almighty…. – Maria Wirth, 2 February 2018

» Maria Wirth is a German author and psychologist who lives in Uttarakhand. 

Albert Einstein Quote

Advertisements

Can a Hindu be an atheist? – Devdutt Pattanaik

Sri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead

Dr Devdutt PattanaikWhen Hindus use the word God, it is not the God of Abraham. God in Hinduism can be masculine or feminine, singular or plural, and limitless or limited by space and time. … The Hindu idea of God does not speak so much about rejecting false gods as it does about understanding infinite forms of God. – Dr Devdutt Pattanaik

Since no one can actually define Hinduism, the simple answer is: yes. Politicians and supremacists who try to define, and homogenise, Hinduism, may disagree and insist Hinduism is theist. The problem is with how we define God.

When people around the world use words like religion, they refer mostly to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. When they use the word God (singular, capitalised, masculine), they are in all probability referring to the God of Abraham, that informs Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This is God who is outside humanity, and outside creation, who creates the world and humanity, loves humanity, and gives instructions through prophets on how humans should live. This God has cast down humanity to the world because they broke his rule in the perfect Eden. He gives humans one chance to live, to prove their love for him. In Judaic mythology, he punishes those who do not listen to him. In Christian mythology, he sacrifices his own son Jesus for the sins of humanity. In Islamic mythology, he appoints Prophet Muhammad as the last of his prophets. The most important aspect of these dominant religions is the idea of “covenant” or contract with God, expressed through the rite of baptism in Christianity, and circumcision in Judaism and Islam. These Abrahamic mythologies are strongly influenced by Zoroastrian mythology of ancient Persia, from where came ideas such as Devil, Heaven and Hell, and Archangels. In Abrahamic mythology, there is one God. So the concept of many gods is false.

It is important to clarify that when Hindus use the word God, it is not the God of Abraham. God in Hinduism can be masculine or feminine, singular or plural, and limitless or limited by space and time. Limitless divine is spelt with capitalisation; limited divine is spelt without capitalisation. Thus we can have Gods, Goddesses, gods and goddesses. All are manifestations of the divine. There is no concept of Devil. Most important, Hinduism is rooted in the idea of rebirth (karma). There is no concept of Eden, Original Sin, commandments or one life. The Hindu idea of God does not speak so much about rejecting false gods as it does about understanding infinite forms of God.

Hindu mythology assumes the material world to be self-sustaining and self-created, but dependent on a spiritual principle (atma), non-material more accurately, described variously as consciousness, soul, awareness, essentially non-measurable. This is explained in various ways, using various frameworks, in Vedanta, Tantra, Puranas, and Agamas. Details vary in different sampradayas and paramparas. Details have changed over history (details in pre-Buddhist era are different from colonial era), and they vary over geography (details in Odia traditions are very different from Rajasthani ones).

God in Hinduism is often explained by modern gurus as cosmic consciousness (param-atma) who is located in every living creature (jiva-atma). Limitless forms of param-atma are Vishnu and Shiva and Devi, as well as Ganesha and Kartikeya [Murugan]. Limited forms of param-atma are Ram, Krishna and Ganga, for example, as they are located on earth and so experience mortality. However, things are not so simple: Ram and Krishna can be God and god simultaneously. Hanuman transforms from god to God in the Ramayana. Trees, animals, rocks and even sages, can be seen as gods, or Gods. Gods take mortal forms to enable the god-within-us to become God, move from the world of limitations to the world of limitlessness. Limited forms entrap us in the world of ego, hunger, fear, death. Limitless liberates us, we merge with the cosmic, and are eternally tranquil.

It is significant to note that Buddhism and Jainism, which also believe in rebirth, and have many overlapping concepts, have no concept of God, who created the world, who rewards or punishes humanity for their actions. Buddhism rejects the idea of atma. Jains reject the concept of param-atma, but not jiva-atma. Both value teachers, sages who have attained infinite wisdom (kaivalya), hence called bhagavan.

In Hinduism, bhagavan and ishwar are terms used for limitless divine. The difference is that bhagavan engages with the material world more than ishwar who is distant and aloof. Vishnu is often called bhagavan and Shiva is often called ishwar. But like everything Hindu, these definitions and nomenclatures are relatively fluid.

More than believing in an external all-powerful God, Hinduism is about discovering God-ness in ourselves, by reflecting on God outside us, hearing God’s stories and venerating his, or her, images. One can say that a Hindu theist is subscribing to the Hindu definition of God while a Hindu atheist is rejecting the Abrahamic definition of God. – Daily-O, 15 April 2017

» Devdutt Pattanaik is an author, leadership consultant, and mythicist.

Brahman & Atman

India’s own sacred ecology – Michel Danino

Peepal Tree

Prof Michel DaninoThe notion of a creator apart from his creation, superior to it, more often cursing than loving it, is a wedge that Judaism and its two daughter religions vertically drove into a hitherto seamless cosmos. – Prof Michel Danino

We saw in the previous article (Decoding the idea of India) how the creation of a sacred geography for India was a major instrument of her cultural integration. Not only the countless teerthas, but also the mountains, seas, rivers, forests, trees and other plants, animals big and small, were imbued with divinity. Of course, most pre-Judeo-Christian cultures shared this worldview: from the Nile to Mount Olympus, from Yggdrasil, the cosmic tree of Norse mythology, to the phoenix, that universe was crowded with living symbols drawn from nature. The notion of a creator apart from his creation, superior to it, more often cursing than loving it, is a wedge that Judaism and its two daughter religions vertically drove into a hitherto seamless cosmos.

In the Rig Veda, India’s earliest text, earth and heaven are addressed as a single being (dyavaprithivi); they are “father and mother” but also the “twins”; together, they “keep all creatures safe”. India’s Yggdrasil is the ashvattha (the pipal or Boddhi tree) which the Gita turned upside down: the cosmic tree, the origin of India’s tree-worshipping traditions, has its roots above and branches below—a transparent symbol for this creation, which can be represented by a cosmic cow, the source of all food. Indeed symbols endlessly multiply, from celestial rivers to the gods’ vahanas. More importantly, the Upanishadic precept that “all creatures are impelled by consciousness” unites us to the humblest plant or animal.

Dr Meera NandaIs this the origin of the Buddhist and Jain doctrine of ahimsa or the concept of wildlife sanctuary in Ashoka’s edicts as in Kautilya’s Arthashastra, perhaps a “world first”? If so, this tradition is more than just idyllic. Not everyone agrees. Meera Nanda, for instance, a self-styled historian of science whom I had occasion to critique in earlier articles, condemns this “Dharmic ecology”, which she defines as “an unabashedly Hindu supremacist, nationalistic version of the same religious environmentalism that the anti-Enlightenment left has been preaching and practicing.”

Nanda sees this worldview as a dangerous weapon in Hindutva’s arsenal: “Dharmic ecology of Hindutva right is emerging as the hub of a new neo-pagan International. Neopaganism in Europe and America has deep and historic ties with Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups,” and, as we know, there is a “long history of the Nazi and neo-Nazi involvement with occult and paganism.” Thus the syllogism works as follows: Indic traditions of sacred ecology (as I prefer to call it) are pagan; Nazism was involved with paganism; the said Indic traditions are thus obscurantist and dangerous.

The fallacy of it is glaring: the premise is incorrect; Hindu beliefs behind sacred ecology are not just “pagan”, a term of contempt created by medieval Christianity; they are founded on a philosophy and a spiritual experience of the “nature of nature”. And the association with Nazism is a vicious case of reductio ad Hitlerism. (to put it crudely: if you wear boots, you may be accused of a link with Nazism, since Hitler wore boots too). It has indeed become a fashion among certain intellectuals to “reveal” hidden connections between Hinduism and Nazism. Nanda’s more serious criticism is that there is no evidence that India’s sacred ecology “encourages wise use of nature”.

Instead, she advocates “secular environmentalism” as a “source of secularism and a class-based collective action”. It may be true that today’s Indians have by and large poor environmental awareness, wantonly contributing to the destruction of forests, the disappearance of wildlife and the spiralling pollution. But perhaps that is because Indian society has hardly had any transition between tradition and modernity. From the rich ethno-botanical traditions of the Bishnois, Bhils, Warlis, Santhals or Todas to the current urbanite disaster, there has been almost no time to adapt. – The New Indian Express, 5 December 2016

Pilgrim offering a lamp to Ganga Devi at the Kumbha Mela 2013

Interview given to a student of religious studies – Koenraad Elst

Koenraad ElstThis is an interview given to a student of Religious Studies collecting material for her dissertation – Dr Koenraad Elst

Q : You have written that a Hindu simply is an Indian pagan. This raises the question: What is a pagan, exactly? Or what is paganism?

A : Strictly a “rustic”, “peasant” or “village bumpkin”, as opposed to the Christians in the Roman Empire, who were at first mostly city-dwellers. The textbook definition since the 4th century is “a non-Christian”. After Islam became more familiar in Europe, it often came to mean a non-Abrahamist, or better, anyone who does not subscribe to prophetic monotheism. The category “Pagan” strictly includes both atheists and polytheists, but mostly it is only used for a type of religious people, excluding non-religious atheists and agnostics.

When the Muslim invaders brought the Persian geographical term “Hindu” (“Indian”) into India, it came to mean “Indian by birth and by religion”, excluding those who were non-Indian or who were Indian but followed a non-Indian religion. In those days, people remained conscious of their original nationality for very long. When in the wake of the British, some Indian Zoroastrians settled in South Africa, they called themselves “Persians” though their families had lived in India for a thousand years. By the same token, the Syrian Christians counted as Syrians; but even if they counted as Indians, they would still not be Hindus, for they followed a non-Indian religion.

By contrast, all Indians without foreign links are Hindus: Brahmins, upper castes, middle castes, downtrodden, tribals, Buddhists (“clean-shaven Brahmins” according to the 8th-century Muslim chronicle Chach Nama), Jains. By implication even sects that did not exist yet, were Hindu upon birth: Lingayats, Sikhs, Arya Samaj, RK Mission, ISKCON. Today, “Hindu” is a dirty word, so they all try to weasel out of it and declare themselves non-Hindu, also to enjoy the legal benefits of being a minority. (Indeed, under the prevailing anti-secular Constitution, non-Hindus are privileged above Hindus.) They see Hinduism as a sinking ship, and being rats, they leave it. But I am not impressed by this. People should simply grow up and face facts: they satisfy the definition of “Hindu”, so they are Hindus, Indian Pagans. I don’t care what elephants think of being called elephants; since they satisfy the definition of “elephant”, they are elephants, period.

Since roughly 1980, the RSS family of Hindu nationalist organizations have tried to water this clear historical definition down by saying that “Hindu” simply means “Indian”. That would have been the pre-invasion usage, when Persian and Arabic were not tainted by Islam yet. But when the word was brought into India, it immediately differed from “Indian” by its religious dimension. Muslims and Christians are by definition not Hindu. But because the contemporary Hindutva leaders are not clear-headed (or not brave) enough to face difference, they try to spirit the difference between Hinduism and Islam away by calling the Indian Muslims “Mohammedi Hindus”. And likewise, “Christi Hindus”. I think that is the summum of cowardice.

Look, I don’t claim to be brave. I just sit behind my computer screen. Writing articles that displease some people doesn’t require more courage than posting cheerful holiday messages on Facebook; it’s just words. It is nothing compared to a soldier on the battlefield running into enemy fire. Here in Flanders fields, we are presently commemorating every event that punctuated WWI, a hundred years ago. When you read about those events, you come across unspeakable acts of bravery. So, compared to that, scholarship is nothing, even when a bit controversial. But conversely, when even words can intimidate you, when even a purely logical application of the definition of “Hindu” is too much, when even a word of disapproval by the secularists is too much, that is really intolerable cowardice. To be sure, even the secularists approve of a difference between “Hindu” and “Indian”, but the so-called Hindutva people now try to out-secularize the secularists by even denying that there is a separate religious category “Hindu”, different from the secular-geographical term “Indian”. They have come a long way: from flattering themselves as being the “vanguard of Hindu society” to denying that there is even such a thing as a “Hindu Indian” different from a “non-Hindu Indian”.

Q : You have criticized both Christianity and Islam for being basically a set of superstitious beliefs. Yet many would claim to the contrary that there is a lot more superstition in Hinduism. For instance, while Christianity and Islam at least have a historical basis to many of their most important stories, this is less the case for the Hindu stories about various gods and goddesses, which are more akin to the stories about Greek or Egyptian gods. Furthermore, the practice of image- or idol-worship could itself be considered superstitious, since it leads the worshipper to fetishize the idol as a source of magical powers, or as a divine being in itself. What is your response to this?

A : The core beliefs of Christianity and Islam are superstitious. Or without bringing in any psychologizing jargon like “superstitious”, they are, more simply, untrue. It is not true that Mohammed had a direct telephone line with God, and that the Quran is simply a collection of divine messages. It is simply not true that Jesus rose from the dead; just like all deceased people, he is not part of this world anymore. Much less is it true that he thereby freed mankind from sin (and thereby also of mortality, the punishment that befell Adam and Eve after their fall into sinfulness); levels of sinfulness or of human mortality have not appreciably changed in 33 AD. Yes, it is claimed by believers as a historical that Jesus resurrected or that Mohammed received revelations, but apart from the fact that the date given is realistic, the event is definitely not. And I don’t even go into the theories that Jesus or Mohammed never existed. Believing something that is flatly untrue, and moreover as the basis of your worldview, that is simply not the case with Hinduism.

As it happens, Hinduism is not one definite worldview. It is not based on one untrue statement, like Christianity or Islam. It is not necessarily based on a true statement either. Within the Hindu big tent, there are many traditions with their own doctrines. They have an awe for the sacred in common, but what counts as sacred is conceived in many ways. As the Rig Veda says: the wise ones call the one reality by many names. Among these traditions, the Upanishadic ones converge on an insight that is not historical but true, just as the Law of Gravity is not historical (its date and place of discovery happen to be known but are immaterial, as it is valid everywhere and forever). It is the Atmavad or doctrine of the Self, summed up in Great Sayings like Aham Brahmasmi, I am Brahma. That is the monist or Vedanta view, in parallel you have the dualist or Sankhya view, still within the Hindu big tent, the basis of Patañjali’s yoga. It is both rational and spiritual; Christianity and Islam cannot boast of anything parallel. But I agree that this is only the spiritual backbone of Hinduism, and that many of the beliefs and practices around it are not so rational. However, these don’t have the status that the core beliefs of Christianity [and] Islam have. You can safely discard them and still be a Hindu.

Q : You have questioned the conventional view that Siddhartha Gautama broke away from Hinduism and founded a new religion. Yet did he not deny the authority of the Vedas? And did he not reject the caste system, saying (variously quoted): “By birth one is not an outcaste, by birth one is not a Brahmin; by deeds alone one is an outcaste, by deeds alone one is a Brahmin”?

A : He did not go out of his way to deny the Vedas, and if he did, it only followed the latter part of the Veda itself. The Jnanakanda part (knowledge), the Upanishads, is explicit in declaring the Karmakanda part (ritualism), the Brahmanas, as outdated. Shankara lambasts the Sankhya-Yoga school for never quoting the Veda. It was part (not the whole, but part) of Hinduism to ignore the Veda.

He did not bother about the caste system, which Buddhists in Lanka and Tibet also practised. Buddhism never changed the social system in China, Japan or Thailand, because it had a spiritual agenda incompatible with a social reform agenda. If pursuing your own desires is already incompatible with pursuing Enlightenment, this counts even more for the immense job of structurally changing society. Either you do that, or you become a monk practising the spiritual path, but you cannot do both.

It simply accepted the social structures it found. Check the Buddha’s own life. Once his friend Prasenajit discovered that his queen was not a true Kshatriya, only on her father’s side, so he repudiated her and their common son. The Buddha persuaded him to take them back, pleading for the older conception of the caste system, which was purely in the paternal line (same caste as father, mother’s caste can be any). Now, if he had been a caste revolutionary, as all Indian schoolkids are taught nowadays, this incident would have been the occasion par excellence to lambast and ridicule the caste system. But he does no such thing, he upholds one version (the older one, for far from being a revolutionary, he was a conservative) of the caste system.

Or consider the distribution of his ashes after his cremation. They are divided in eight and given to eight cities for keeping them as a relic in a stupa. The ruling elites of those cities had staked their claim exclusively and purely in casteist terms, though this was a Buddhist context par excellence. After 45 yeas of Buddhism, they say: “He was a Kshatriya, we are Kshatriyas, so we are entitled to his ashes.” If Buddhism had been anti-casteist, then as bad pupils they still might have thought in casteist terms, but they would have used a non-casteist wording. Instead, they have no compunction at all in using casteist terms.

I have more examples, but to sum up: the Buddha was an elite figure par excellence, he mainly recruited his novices among the elite, and all the later Buddhist thinkers were Brahmins, as would be the Maitreya, the next Buddha. He was not an egalitarian at all, witness his initial refusal to ordain women, and when he relented on this, he ordered that even the seniormost nun would be subservient to the juniormost monk. So, the secularist-cum-Ambedkarite attempt to appropriate the Buddha for modern socialist causes is totally false. It is bad history par excellence.

Q : Regarding Islam, it seems that one of your foremost critiques of this religion is the Qur’an itself, which you view as (if I understand your position correctly) irredeemably fanatical and intolerant. Yet as you are surely aware, the Qur’an is a complex work which takes on different qualities depending on how the verses are interpreted, which verses are emphasized, whether a verse is considered as universal or contextual, and so on. Thus there are many Islamic scholars who claim, for instance, that armed jihad is only permitted in self-defense, seeing that militant verses are often accompanied by verses preaching restraint and forgiveness. So does the Qur’an really have to be problematic in itself? Is it not rather certain traditions (mostly Salafi) of interpreting the Qur’an which are a problem?

A : Let me clarify first that my fairly elaborate answers to your questions on Islam do not mean that I am especially interested in Islam. The Salman Rushie and the Ayodhya affairs forced me to study it more closely, but since the 1990s, I have only returned to it when current affairs dragged me back to it. As a subject, it has lost my interest because it is quite straightforward and all the important answers have already been given. The only meaningful debate that remains, is on which policy vis-à-vis Islam will deliver both Muslims and non-Muslims from it, as painlessly as possible.

Now, your very common position that “source text good, tradition bad”, or “founder good, followers bad”, or “prophet full of good intentions, followers misunderstood him”. (It is equally used in the case of Christianity: “freeing Christ from Churchianity”, and all that.) Only by not reading the Qur’an, and especially the life events of the Prophet, can you say that. The magic wand of “interpretation” does not impress me. What interpretation do you know of that turns qatala, “slaughter”, into “restraint and forgiveness”? Moreover, Muslims and their sympathizers have had decades to “reinterpret” their scriptures, and what is the result? The prophet’s biography (Sirat Rasul Allah), of which the authoritative translation by Alfred Guillaume is very literal and has been published in Karachi under Islamic supervision, is used by Muslims worldwide (their Quranic Arabic is usually not that fluent either), unaltered. Thomas Cleary’s Islamophile “translation” of the Qur’an does not meaningfully “reinterpret” the Qur’an, but simply leaves out the embarrassing parts; similarly a Dutch selective translation of the Sira that was recently published. The most-used English translations of the Qur’an are by Muslims, yet they faithfully translate that “war will reign between us until ye believe in Allah alone”. There, we are fortunate that their great respect for the prophet’s every word prevents them from imposing their own false interpretations instead of it.

Jihad only permitted in self-defence? Pray, why did Mohammed order a (failed) invasion of the Byzantine Empire? Why did he attack the Meccan caravans, who went about their business peacefully? When the Muslim army was defeated in central France by Charles the Hammer in 731, what was it doing there, thousands of miles from Arabia? Defending itself? These are just silly sop-stories. As an intellectual spectacle, it is amusing to see the acrobatics of “enlightened” Islamophiles in exculpation of Islam.

The solution is simply to grow up. It is not so hard to outgrow childhood beliefs, though it does take an intellectual and social transition, especially in the intermediate period when you have to co-exist with relatives who still shy away from taking this step. But then, I am asking no one to make changes in his life and outlook that I haven’t been through myself. I had the exceptional good fortune of being in the middle of a nation-wide (largely Europe-wide, in fact) religious conversion. I was born in Catholic Flanders, a frontline of the Roman Church against Anglican England, Calvinist Holland, Lutheran Germany and secular-Masonic France. In the 1950s, society was still deeply penetrated by the Church’s all-seeing eyes. Everyone in my primary school went to church on Sundays, was baptized, had a Catholic saint’s name, etc. In the 1960s, this edifice started crumbling, with Vatican II as both cause and consequence. By the 1980s, this became the dominant narrative, and the conformists who had earlier gone to church because everyone did, now stayed away because everyone did. Today, practising Catholics are a small minority. The ex-Catholics are now the dominant group, until the next generation takes over, because they are not even “ex”, they simply have no memory of Catholicism. And all this without bloodshed, without destruction of the admittedly wonderful artistic heritage of the Church. (I still sing Gregorian plainchant under the shower.)

So, that is what I wish for my Muslim friends too. Make Islam un-cool. Outgrow it. And take it from me: there is life after apostasy.

Q : I would also like to ask the same question regarding Muhammad ibn Abdullah, the prophet of Islam. There are many hadiths attributed to Muhammad which certainly seem to us to set a bad example, but there are also many hadiths to the contrary. Is it not again simply a matter of emphasis and interpretation? For instance, consider this opinion by the scholar Hamza Yusuf, who was traditionally educated in the Maliki madhhab. Do you consider his understanding of what Muhammad stood for as somehow Islamically illegitimate? (Pardon the flawed subtitles!)

A : I have toughed it out to listen through the Shaykh’s special pleading, but I really knew enough after the first sentence, where he names Karen Armstrong as his main inspiration. Hers is a rare extreme of special pleading, distorting everything of Islamic history to fit modern values. The rest of his narrative is the usual idealization of the person Mohammed, as in his very special courtship with the widow Khadija (but with the false allegation that women before Islam had no inheritance rights, just when Khadija’s case proves the opposite). It is the basic conjurer’s trick: directing the audience’s focus to a few nice episodes in Mohammed’s life and keeping the rest out of view. That is why Muslims are more properly called “Mohammedans”: they are far more punctual followers of Mohammed than Christians are of Christ.

To be sure, Mohammed may well have had some positive traits. He was known as very reliable, and I have no quarrel with that. Whether Khadija chose him because of those traits, as amply argued here, is another matter: he was a good young toyboy for this mature lady, and like his poverty (he worked as a shepherd in the service of the Meccan townspeople), his age made him her inferior and thus less likely to claim lordship over the wealth she had inherited or augmented by her entrepreneurial skills. But even if it was a marriage made in heaven, with all manner of perfections accruing to the bridegroom, that doesn’t make him God’s spokesman. Shaykh may pontificate as much as he wants about Mohammed’s claimed virtues, that still does not make him more than the next man. He was neither the Son of God (as Muslims rightly hold against the Christians) nor a prophet with a private telephone line with God (as Muslims believe; it is the heart of their religion).

Let’s cut short all the circumlocutions, let us cut out all the modern propaganda, and look at what the primary sources say. We can summarize Mohammed’s life story in a single sentence: he destroyed an existing pluralistic society—Polytheists, Sabians, Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews and Hanifs—and replaced it with a monolithic Islamic dictatorship. That is what the Islamic source texts themselves say. It is the height of ridiculousness that the multiculturalists in Europe, like their “secularist” counterparts in India, hobnob with Mohammed’s followers.

A lot also becomes clear when we know that most Arabs shook off Islam after Mohammed’s death and defeated the Muslim army. Unfortunately, they demobilized after that, the Muslim army came back and this time they securely imposed Islam. But the Arabs were the first victims of Islam. Mohammed practised robbery, extortion, abduction for ransom, rape, enslavement, slave-trade, and the murder of his critics and of a resistant Jewish tribe. All those data are in the primary sources of Islam. There is no way that an Islamic court can declare them un-Islamic—short of saying that “Mohammed was a bad Muslim”.

It follows that I am skeptical of Muslims who call themselves “moderate”. First of all, the distinction between moderate and extremist Muslims is an invention by non-Muslim soft-brains, unknown in Islam, and firmly rejected both by ex-Muslims and by leading Muslims such as Turkish president Erdoğan. He calls it insulting to Islam to make such a distinction. At any rate, I will accept Shaykh’s interpretation as moderate the day I hear him say: “Mohammed was wrong. Don’t follow Mohammed.” If, by contrast, he still recommends following Mohammed, as every Muslim is expected to do, he is in fact telling us: do practise abduction, robbery, rape, slave-taking, beheading, stoning, for those are all things he actually did, not just displaying his charms to win Khadija in marriage, as you might think after hearing Shaykh’s narrative. Until he takes this distance from Mohammed’s precedent behaviour, he is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Q : Finally, I haven been impressed by many of your writings, which always allow the reader to follow transparently your train of thought—more than can be said about much academic literature in my opinion—and which offer some thought-provoking conclusions on diverse subjects. I am not always in agreement with your viewpoints (and sometimes I simply don’t know), but all the same your method strikes me as a very refreshing example of how the history of religions can actually be studied. This is all the more interesting since you are, if I understand correctly, unaffiliated with any university and basically carrying out your research on your own. So my final question is: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue the same path? What type of literature would you recommend; how does one work with the primary sources; how many languages does one need to master? How many languages do you know yourself?

A : To start at the end: I have studied mother tongue Dutch, other Belgian national languages French and German, and English; these I read and speak fluently. Afrikaans is really simplified Dutch, so I can also follow it effortlessly. Because of my studies, I can get around in Mandarin and Hindi, but claim no fluency. Persian I have largely forgotten. I also know a smattering of Spanish, and in my young days, I also browsed through the Teach Yourself books of the Celtic, Scandinavian, the main Uralic languages (Finnish, Hungarian), Serbo-Croatian and Turkish. I totally forgot about those, though I can still decipher written Scandinavian because of the closeness to my mother tongue, Dutch. But knowing something of the structure of the languages has proved useful in comparative linguistics and studies of the Indo-European language family. Among classical languages, my Latin was always good, my study of Wenyan (classical Chinese) and Sanskrit was thorough but I claim no fluency, alas no time to go deeply into them lately. I also studied Greek for two years, some Biblical Hebrew, and a smattering of Quranic Arabic, Sumerian and Sangam Tamil. The net result is that I know plenty of political and philosophical terminology and can place the concepts in their proper contexts, but I rarely use those languages as language. Thus, when I need to look something up in the Vedas or the Mahabharata, I scroll through the English text, and only when I come to the passage I was looking for, I switch to reading the original. Life is short, and languages only interest me as entry to a world of thought. I am a historian and more and more a philosopher; philology has been a good basis but only as an instrument.

For born Indians, it ought to be a feasible minimum to familiarize yourself with Sanskrit. For doing Indian history or philosophy, it is simply necessary. For medieval history, you need to know Persian, and Arabic is a plus. In the US, they did a test: of two equally gifted groups of pupils, one took 8 hours of English, and one 4 hours of English and 4 hours of Latin. After a few years, the second group not only knew Latin, unlike the other group, but also had a better knowledge of English. Similarly, your knowledge of your Indian mother tongue will increase if you take out time to study the supposedly useless Sanskrit. It also promotes national unity, the convergence between the vernaculars, and also the phasing out of English, which you and me may find practical, but which to Indians is an anti-democratic imposition by the Nehruvian elite.

Whenever possible, you should go back to the primary sources. Thus, I am presently working on the history of early Buddhism, and I was initially surprised by the world of difference between the usual narrative peddled nowadays in schoolbooks and popular introductions, and the narrative revealed by the primary sources. Apart from the many errors that have crept into the modern narrative (mostly showing a strong anti-Hindu bias; see for example what I told you above about caste), the over-all conceptual mistake is the cardinal sin in history: the projection of modern concerns onto ancient developments. History is all about difference, the fact that “the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”.

My being outside academe was not a matter of choice, but of being boycotted. Thus, my very first Indological conference was the International Ramayana Conference 1990 at my own university, Leuven, and I defended the existence of a Hindu temple forcibly replaced by Babar’s mosque. One-third of the professors there were privately in support but publicly silent; one-third were furious at my daring to violate their safe space of rationality with such a silly and politically tainted claim; and the last one-third just didn’t have an opinion but were embarrassed at the commotion. The following years, I was boycotted and bad-mouthed throughout academe. But the fact is: I was right all along, as recent excavations and a court verdict have confirmed, and all those big-time professors were wrong.

The good thing about being on my own is that I don’t feel pressured to conform to the received wisdom. Thus, on Buddhism, practically all academics concerned swear by the paradigm “Hinduism bad, Buddhism good”. If I had been part of their circuit, I would probably have conformed to some extent to their view, at least to accept the narrative of “Hinduism and Buddhism”, as if these were two distinct entities on the same footing. Today I can just ignore their fairy-tale and state: the Buddha was 100% a Hindu.

I don’t advise anyone to take the path I stumbled upon. But if somehow it happens, at least you should enjoy its good side. Meanwhile, I keep hoping against hope that the present supposedly Hindu government will come to its senses and invest in scholarship, rather than parroting the narratives that several generations of secularist control over culture and education have established. In that endeavour, they will not only have to deconstruct all the harm done by the Nehruvians, but also the hare-brained alternatives presented by traditionalist Hindu “history rewriters”, who think history means quoting from the Puranas. The last half-century, a gap in Hindu scholarship has grown that will require energetic initiatives to fill. – Koenraad Elst Blog, 15 August 2016

Samugarh 1658, not Plassey 1757, was the tipping point that fixed the subcontinent’s future course – Murad Ali Baig

Prince Dara Shikoh translating the Upanishads.

Murad Ali BaigTwo great Mughal armies, led by Shah Jahan’s eldest son Dara Shikoh and his third son Aurangzeb, clashed on a dusty plain 20 km southeast of Agra. It was not only a battle for the Mughal throne, but a battle for the very soul of India. – Murad Ali Baig

On May 29, 1658, India’s history changed forever. Aurangzeb’s victory over his brother Dara Shikoh marked the beginning of Islamic bigotry in India that not only alienated Hindus but the much more moderate Sufis and Shias as well. Aurangzeb’s narrow Sunni beliefs were to make India the hotbed of Muslim fundamentalists, long before the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia sponsored the fanatics of Taliban and Islamic State.

Two great Mughal armies, led by Shah Jahan’s eldest son Dara Shikoh and his third son Aurangzeb, clashed on a dusty plain 20 km southeast of Agra. It was not only a battle for the Mughal throne, but a battle for the very soul of India.

It pitted Dara, an eclectic scholar who respected all religions, against Aurangzeb who was an orthodox Sunni Muslim. Dara had translated the Bhagwad Gita and Upanishads from Sanskrit into Persian, to make them known to the public for the first time. The fact that he had been a Sanskrit scholar shows that there had been considerable Hindu-Muslim amity in the time of Shah Jahan.

Mogul Emperor AurangzebBut Dara had been a pampered prince who faced a smaller battle-hardened army that Aurangzeb had marched up from the Deccan, after defeating an Imperial army at Dharmat near Indore. Blocked at the Chambal River, Aurangzeb quietly slipped behind Dara’s lines to reach a secret ford across the Chambal by non-stop double marches over two days.

Dara now realised that Aurangzeb’s armies had outflanked his army and come very close to Agra, so he had to rush east without most of his cannons. The two armies met on a flat dusty plain east of a village called Samugarh, on an unbelievably hot day with the sun like a furnace in a cloudless sky. There was not enough water so many soldiers and horses collapsed of heat and sun stroke.

The battle was more than just a contest between Dara and his rebel brother. It was becoming a religious war with the Hindus supporting Dara and many Muslim nobles supporting Aurangzeb.

Dara was on the brink of victory when he was betrayed by one of his commanders, Khalil Ullah Khan. He then retreated to Lahore and then down the Indus. Eventually, he was brought to Delhi and put on trial.

He had written a book called the The Mingling of the Two Oceans [PDF] showing the many similarities between the Quran and the Brahma Shastras. At the trial the imperial Qazi asked Dara to hand him the jade thumb ring that was still on his left hand. He is reported to have turned it over and asked why the green stone was inscribed with the words ‘Allah’ on one side and ‘Prabhu’ on the other.

Dara ShikohDara evidently replied that the creator was known by many names and called God, Allah, Prabhu, Jehova, Ahura Mazda and many more names by devout people in many different lands. He added that it is written in the Quran that Allah had sent down 1,24,000 messengers to show all the people of the world the way of righteousness and he believed that these messengers had been sent not only to Muslims but to all the people of the world in every age. Aurangzeb casually signed the order of execution after the Qazis found Dara guilty of heresy.

Aurangzeb’s inflexible religious bigotry made him lose the support of his influential Shia subjects as well as his many Hindu and Rajput followers. By persecuting his own Rajput followers he cut off his arms and weakened his military power. The Maratha leader Shivaji initially had no anti-Muslim sentiment and had been quite willing to become a Mughal Amir. Aurangzeb’s obstinate pride however alienated him and gave him a weapon to turn a purely political war against the Mughals into a religious war.

If Dara had won at Samugarh his rule might have promoted harmony between India’s turbulent peoples. A united Mughal empire may have prevented India from becoming so easily colonised by European powers. Samugarh marked the beginning of Islamic bigotry that led over the centuries to the Partition of India, the creation of Pakistan and the backlash of radical Hinduism. Samugarh was a tipping point in India’s history. – The Times of India, 28 May 2016

» Murad Ali Baig subscribes to Sankhya philosophy and writes about Indian history and religion.

Prince Dara Shikoh paraded in public before being executed by his younger brother Aurangzeb.

Dara Shikoh's book "The Mingling of the Two Oceans"

The Architecture Of Hinduism – Sanjeev Sanyal

Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism has long suffered from a very basic problem—the difficulty of defining it. One can describe a particular sect, or philosophy, but it is not easy to explain the whole. Thus, it is not uncommon for people to ultimately fall back on saying that it is a “way of life”. Unfortunately, such a definition is neither a meaningful description nor of analytical value. If anything, it causes a great deal of confusion by suggesting that Hindu religion is identical to Indic culture—the two are obviously linked but not exactly the same. The purpose of this article is to investigate the systemic logic of Sanatan Dharma as a whole and the process by which it evolves. It is not concerned here with the philosophical content or daily practice of any of the constituent sects, traditions and philosophies.

Most world religions, particularly those of Abrahamic origin, are based on a clearly defined set of beliefs—a single god, a holy book, a prophet and so on. These are articles of faith or axioms from which each of these religions is derived. This why the terms religion, belief and faith can be used interchangeably in these cases. In contrast, it is perfectly acceptable in Hinduism to be a polytheist, monotheist, monist, pantheist, agnostic, atheist, animist or any combination thereof. Thus Hinduism is a religion but not a faith, although constituent sects or philosophies can be termed faiths or beliefs. Instead, it should be thought of as an organic, evolving ecosystem of interrelated and interdependent elements that are constantly interacting with each other (and with the outside world).

There are many systems that fit the above description—financial markets, economies, cities, the English language, ecological systems and so on. These are all examples of “complex adaptive systems”. Note the contrast between the organic and evolving dynamics of such systems and the static laws of Newtonian mechanics. In turn, this has important implications for how we understand Hinduism and manage it.

Not the sum of its parts

One of the most obvious differences between complex adaptive systems and Newtonian mechanical systems is that the former is not the sum of its parts. A mechanical system like a car is the sum total of all its parts as put together to an “intelligent design”. In contrast, a city is more than the sum of all the buildings and a biological ecosystem is not just the sum of all the plants and animals. This is why complex adaptive systems cannot be described neatly from any one perspective. Thus, English language cannot be defined through even the most detailed description of its grammar. Similarly, the most detailed description of the Taj Mahal would not define the city of Agra. Yet, speakers of English and the citizens of Agra have little difficultly identifying and using the language and city respectively. The same is true of Hindus—their seeming difficulty in defining Sanatan Dharma poses no problem in recognizing and practicing their religion.

Moreover, the evolving and mutating nature of complex, adaptive systems implies that even the most detailed description is not just insufficient but fundamentally wrong over time. For instance, given the constant absorption of words and usages into English, an exclusive reliance on Wren and Martin’s grammar to understand the language would miss the point. This is also true of Hinduism where even the most detailed reading of Dharma Shastras and Smritis would not give you the correct picture of the lived experience of the religion over time.

Lakshman, Rama & SitaHistory dependent but not reversible

One of the common characteristics of complex adaptive systems is that they are path dependent i.e. they carry the imprint of their historical evolution. Thus, most cities, biological ecosystems and living languages will show the layer-by-layer accumulation of their history. Readers will no doubt recognize how this applies to Hinduism. Notice how this is distinct from Newtonian mechanics. Two identical footballs, in identical conditions, will behave in exactly the same way if exactly the same force is applied to them. There is no historical memory in the system, and it does not matter what was done with the two balls before we subjected them to this experiment.

Complex adaptive systems, however, have an additional property—irreversibility. This means that the system will not reverse to its origin even if all historical events were reversed. Thus, reversing history will not take English back to Old Saxon but to some other language. Reversing the events of human evolutionary history will not take us back to our ape-like ancestors but to a new species. Similarly, reversing urban history will not take a city back to the original village settlement. More likely one will get a deserted city like Detroit or a museum city like Venice. Again notice the difference with Newtonian mechanics where a perfect reversal of factors will take the system back exactly to its origin.

An implication of these characteristics is that Hinduism carries its history within it but cannot return to a pure origin or “Golden Age”. It is necessarily about constantly evolving and moving forward even as it draws inspiration and ideas from its past. The holy books, traditions, customs and tenets of Hinduism should not be seen as a path to an ideal “Kingdom of God” or “Caliphate” to which everyone must revert. Rather they are the accumulation of knowledge and experience. Critics may argue that idea of “Ram Rajya” contradicts this point but this is a misunderstanding. Hindus draw inspiration from the idea of Ram Rajya as a time of prosperity and rule-of-law, but it is not vision for a return to the Iron Age.

No equilibrium state

Yet another characteristic of complex adaptive systems is that they do not have an equilibrium or steady state in the long run. Again, note the contrast with Newton’s laws. Thus, the English language will keep adding words and usages with no tendency to stop. Similarly, successful cities will keep changing and/or expanding. However, a corollary is that if the system begins to contract, it can keep contracting with no tendency to self-equilibrate. Thus, a city like Detroit kept declining even though theory would suggest that falling real estate prices would attract back people. Financial markets too behave in this way—they will keep rising past what people think is a “fair value” and then fall back well below—hardly spending any time at the so-called equilibrium.

This behavior has important implications for how to manage complex adaptive systems. First, it means that managers should not attempt to hold the system at some preconceived steady state. Rather they need to accommodate the fact that the system is characterized by “increasing returns to scale” which can push the system into spiraling expansions or contractions. This does not mean that one should not attempt to manage such ecosystems—far from it, financial markets, cities and even ecological systems can benefit from active management. However, the management should allow for constant movement. A city mayor or a financial market regulator who insists on holding the system to a static equilibrium will either fail or effectively suffocate the system.

Although Hinduism does not have a centralized leadership, the above characteristics have many implications for how Hindus think about their religion and manage its future. For instance, they suggest that Hindu leaders refrain from being too prescriptive of where Hinduism should go in the long run. Much better that they focus on continuously updating and reforming the system on an ongoing basis while taking care to maintain internal diversity. The lack of uniformity may seem like a disadvantage in the short-run but is a big advantage when dealing with an unpredictable long-term future. This is analogous to a species maintaining genetic diversity as a bulwark against epidemics and other shocks.

Another possible implication of this intellectual framework may be that one needs to be less enthusiastic about “anti-conversion laws”. These have been proposed by some activists as a way to “protect” Hinduism in some Indian states but these laws are based on an idea of static equilibrium. Our analysis, however, suggests that such laws will have little benefit if the Hindu community is shrinking for whatever reason. In other words, a defensive tactic cannot work if the community is in a downward spiral in a particular area. It would be far better to focus on expansionary strategies to re-inflate the system. These could include intellectual and cultural innovation, social and missionary work, building alliances with other like-minded religious traditions and so on. Some of these efforts can be derived from the past, but it is perfectly alright to use completely new strategies.

Adi ShankaraThe importance of flexibility

One of the learnings from the study of complex, adaptive systems is that flexibility will always triumph over brute strength in the long run. Indeed, inflexible systems can sometime disintegrate very suddenly even if they look outwardly strong. Take, for instance, the evolutionary history of life on earth. The dinosaurs were big and strong, and dominated the planet for millions of years. Yet, they suddenly disappeared as they could not adapt to changed circumstances—except for a few species who adapted to become birds! Similarly, the Soviet empire, for all its nuclear warheads, simply collapsed overnight because it could not adapt. China adapted and thrived. A similar story can be told of cities. Once great cities like Birmingham, Detroit and Kolkata were unable to adapt to deindustrialization. In contrast, by repeatedly reinventing itself, London has not only survived deindustrialization and the loss of Empire, but had been able to retain its place as the world’s financial capital.

This has very important lessons for Hinduism. Indeed, the religion has survived for so long because it was able to continuously evolve though internal reform, innovation and absorption. Sometimes it was the slow accumulation of small changes, sometimes it was a rapid shift led by a reformer like Adi Shankaracharya or Vivekananda. There were also many instances where Sanatan Dharma absorbed a foreign idea and made it its own—Hindu temples and idol worship is possibly inspired by Greek influence (Vedic Hindus only used fire alters).

Interestingly, Hinduism’s flexible, adaptive architecture may not have appeared entirely by chance but may have been deliberately set up by the ancient Rishis. Thus, Hindu scriptures are divided into Shruti and Smriti. The former are said to have been “heard” from the gods and consequently are canonical. Strictly speaking, only the first three Vedas—Rig, Sama, Yajur—are considered Shruti (although many would also include the Atharva Veda). All other sacred texts, including the much revered Bhagwata Gita, are considered Smriti. The Smriti are “remembered’ and therefore considered of human origin—the works of great thinkers, compilations of traditions, and so on. Some of them may be highly regarded but they are not canonical.

This architecture has had important implications for Hinduism. The Shruti texts may be canonical and provide general principles but they are wonderfully open-ended (just consider the Nasadiya Sukta or Creation Hymn in the Rig Veda to understand what I mean), whereas the Smriti texts are more specific but not canonical. This means that one can keep adding new texts and ideas forever, including texts that contradict previous Smriti texts. The much criticized Manu Smriti, by definition, can simply be replaced or revised if Hindus so wish.

To conclude, analyzing Hinduism as a complex adaptive system provides many important insights into the functional architecture of Sanatan Dharma. It shows that the key strength of Hinduism has been its ability to evolve, adapt and innovate. This ability needs to be actively enhanced and strategically deployed in order to keep Hinduism healthy. For instance, it may be time to revive the tradition of writing new Smriti texts, a practice that went into decline in medieval times. Some orthodox Hindus may consider this presumptuous but, as already discussed, it would be in keeping with the inherent logic of Sanatan Dharma.

This paper merely illustrates some of the possibilities presented by the systemic approach to understanding Hinduism. It is not meant as a comprehensive treatise but an attempt to initiate a new way of thinking about Sanatan Dharma. The author hopes that others will build on it. – Swarajya, 26 April 2016

» A version of this article will be published in “Probodhani”, a collection of essays on Hinduism edited by Saradindu Mukherji, published as part of the World Hindu Congress, New Delhi, 21-23 November 2014.

» Sanjeev Sanyal is an economist, urban theorist and best-selling author. A Rhodes Scholar and Eisenhower Fellow, he was named Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010.

Reincarnation

Shani Shingnapur Temple: What is this ‘right to pray’ nonsense? – Radha Rajan

Trupti Desai

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil Online“Our courts, not even the Supreme Court has the right to deny Agama which governs a temple’s religious rituals and practices. If the High Courts and Supreme Court want to do fairly by women than let them bring about parity in the number of women judges in the Supreme Court first.” – Radha Rajan

In Modi’s India some force is throwing up non-entities like Kanhaiya Kumar and Trupti Desai who become the talk of the media overnight on non-issues.

Kanhaiya KumarKanhaiya Kumar, like Sonia Gandhi is destined to self-destruct through his mouth. Every time he opens his mouth Kanhaiya Kumar is exposed and yes pun intended. For a man who even at 30 is still struggling to complete his Ph.D., Kanhaiya Kumar is dreaming big dreams. And a motivated group is egging him on to dream with his mouth.

Kanhaiya Kumar has barely shut his mouth and Trupti Desai has opened hers demanding right to enter the Shani Shingnapur Temple. And this is where the media, the English media is playing a dirty game. For people who know little about this temple, like me, I do not know if this temple denies women entry into the temple.

Arnab Goswami‘s campaign raising Trupti Desai as some kind of reformist has titled this campaign “Right to Pray”. I find this queer. Has this country denied this woman or any woman the right to pray? Trupti can pray to Shani Bhagwan even from outside the temple if prayer is what she wants.

My grandmother living 20 yards from the Srirangam Ranganatha Perumal Temple went to the temple maybe thrice or four times a year. No time. Mother of 13 children and keeping an open house—open to relatives from distant villages, she had no time to go the temple.

But she performed her pujas at home. My grandfather on the other hand went to the temple morning and evening. And me, I have never prayed in my life although my kuladevata and I have very lively conversations through the day. I talk, he listens.

So I don’t understand this right to pray nonsense. But is that what this lady Trupti wants or is it something ignoble and totally disruptive? Please enlighten me somebody. I hear she is not demanding right of entry, and that women are not barred entry into this temple, but she actually wants to enter the garba griha or the sanctum sanctorum

This woman like Kanhaiya Kumar is the chief dramatis personae in the “controlled chaos” geopolitical wargames the Generic Church is playing against us. Those who want to know what “controlled chaos” is read: ‘Controlled Chaos’ as an Instrument of Geopolitical Warfare and ‘Color Revolutions’ by Dr. Vladimir Prav

You need useful idiots like Trupti Desai and Kanhaiya Kumar to let loose “controlled chaos” simply to test the waters to see what brings people to the streets, on what issues and how many other useful idiots are ready to stir the spittle.

In Tamil Nadu as I am sure in several states, no one except the priest is allowed to enter the garba griha. No man, no woman here. Only the priest. Does Trupti think Bhagwan Shani is short-sighted or short of hearing that she has to enter the garba griha to “pray”? Seriously? And Times Now thinks this is some huge revolution?

Arnab GoswamiArnab should do a random sample and ask religious temple going women if they will enter the sanctum santorum of any temple simply to make a point? Arnab Goswami will be surprised.

One can ask all the questions one wants, break as many rules as you wish but to what end? If we are serving a larger good in the larger interest, by all means, but to seek some bogus equality when even men cannot enter the inner sanctum, then this is a non-issue which is blown up simply as “controlled chaos”.

Our courts, not even the Supreme Court has the right to deny Agama which governs a temple’s religious rituals and practices. If the High Courts and Supreme Court want to do fairly by women than let them bring about parity in the number of women judges in the Supreme Court first.

This country has placed only six women and one of them obnoxious in the Supreme Court as judges in 66 years after independence. Lets have equality there first before the courts presume to interfere in Hindu temple practices. When women can enter the temple and perform pujas, this is not “right to pray” but something else altogether and nothing good or noble about it either. An idle mind is a useful rent-a-cause idiot.

» Radha Rajan is an author, political analyst, and animal rights activist. She lives in Chennai.

Trupti Desai