I read Rajiv Malhotra's article in India abroad magazine long back as I am in his mailing list and twitter or perhaps from some FB group . He is doing a great service on his part.
The problem fundamentally is India must become an economic power; it must create its won Harvard type of institutions; it must have its own BBC type of channels; it must have its own Mossad type of intelligence agencies; its own CIA type of spies and intruders etc. I think these are sufficient and India is capable of doing all these money wise and educated manpower wise but it needs the will and Governmental encouragement .
We need not ape the west in any religious matter because all their religions are institution based to propagate, preserve and promote a particular fossilized ideology but our religion is fundamentally a free flowing river of experience and processes geared towards enlightenment through multiple and ever changing ideas, philosophies, concepts for both survival and living aspects of life. Our spectrum is too wide and we must not reduce it to accommodate or fit into others' definitions or labels. Sanathana Dharma does not require a religion it requires only people to live life ,enjoy it and love it and create situations for the whole of humanity to do so. It gives freedom to all the believers in Divinity to follow whichever path suits them.
Swami vivekananda shook the west from its slumber but still it needed a continued follow up. Swami Vivekananda also felt the necessity to gather good-hearted people to serve the society and therefore RK mutts and even their intention was never to propagate any brand of religion but to serve humanity and enlighten everyone. It was followed by the discovery by the west of Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharishi's philosophical inquiry into the self propagated through Paul Brunton.
Way back in 1979 when I used to sit at the Madras University library and read the books of scholars like Taylor books about Socrates and Aristotle, Dagobert Runes esp his works on philosophies of the world etc I was surprised that though it was such a wonderful encyclopedic work there was not even an iota of reference to any Indian texts and in many other western encyclopedias Hinduism was referred to as way of pagan or heathen religious practices followed by people living in India.
It was then from the 60s started the various type of Sanathana Dharmic principles,philosophies and physical practices like yoga which started storming the west like Hare krishna moments, Maharishi mahesh yogi's TM, Osho's philosophical discourses, Yogananda's magic spell, Sachidhananda swamy's in- depth analysis, sri Aurobindu's philosophy as propounded by The Mother of Pondycherry, Swami Chinamaya Nanda's expositions of Bhagawad Geetha's concepts, JK's philosophy, B.S.Iyergar's yoga to Maa Amrithananda Mayi simple message of love, Sri Sri ravishankar and Juggi Vasudev etc . The impacts that these souls and their movements created have created in so many sane souls in the West , that the West is doing its bit to restrain people from getting spiritually enlightened and philosophically inquiring fearing such activities may shake the very foundations of their belief systems. So they resort to multiple ways starting from unleashing the dot busters in the early 70s to intimidating with abusive texts a la Wendy style to funding dubious NGOs engaging in dirty activities with hidden agenda etc.
They do this even to their own people who have had real vision and communion with the universal spirit like in the case of Neale Donald Walsch [ the church abuses him]
But the beauty is the more they do these there will be more souls drifting towards truth which does not require any organized army to protect or propagate itself. This is a philosophical stand but on a practical note we need to empower ourselves in areas which the West wants namely economic power. Then the west will stoop to any level to do anything as they are doing with the petrol rich funding countries which are literally sustaining Harvard financially.
Even from the west we have neglected the writings of great historians who recorded truth like Will Durant and instead preferred to dote out in our text books the lies perpetrated by the colonial asses.
We have many government funded departments but yet till date we have not produced any encyclopedic village wise all India guide to traditions, cultural practices etc we do not have district wise topographic guides, we do not have even have a detailed book on the geographical splendors of India [ I am not referring to tourist destinations]. Unfortunately we are indifferent to everything that makes this country great.
The well meaning few are ill fated to struggle for their economic survival that they do not have either the time or energy or resources to do what they want to.
Even now our much paraded economic growth is largely dependent on serving the western needs in IT industry.
 India Abroad Magazine, February 21, 2014
Pages A14, A15 and A17
‘I basically lit the fire’
Rajiv Malhotra, one of Wendy
Doniger’s most vociferous
critics, speaks to Arthur J Pais
Rajiv Malhotra, a constant critic of Wendy Doniger and what he calls her Chicago school of writers and thinkers, retired’ at age 44 some 20 years ago and put his money into the Infinity Foundation, an one-man think tank. The Indian-American writer of books on India has devoted himself, for more than a decade-and-a-half, he says, “clarifying the many misperceptions about Indic traditions in America and amongst Indians.”
When did the fight against the book start? How did it go through?
My involvement with this started in the year 2000. My kids went to Princeton Day School and one day the teacher asked me for information on Vedanta, (Swami) Vivekananda and Ramakrishna (Paramahamsa) because in their teaching of world religions, they wanted to have knowledge of Hinduism.
One of the teachers told me that he has been advised by some American scholar not to teach Vivekananda and Ramakrishna because the parents would object to this. When I asked why the parents would object, he said it has been declared that Ramakrishna had a relationship with Vivekananda.
I have never heard of such a thing. We started investigating this and asked which scholar had said this and that is how I discovered a whole genre of scholarship which has this kind of view that Wendy Doniger and her students came up with. They used Freudian psychoanalysis to psychoanalyze (Hinduism).
Which book has talked about Vivekananda and Ramakrishna Parahamsa?
A book called Kali’s Child by Jeffrey J Kripal. Then I found Paul Courtright, one of Wendy’s students, had a similar book called Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings. They had this very vulgar kind of view.
I tried to take this around to the religious, Hindu community and they did not want to touch it. Many of the Hindu leaders in this country may be were too arrogant, too cocky, or too embarrassed or too scared to talk about it. They did not think it important to take any action.
So I took it upon myself to start writing articles expressing that these are not correct interpretations…
This issue has nothing to do with Christianity versus Hinduism, because most of these people are Jewish, anyway. They are using a Marxist lens, a Leftist lens, a Freudian lens. The kind of theories they are using are completely inapplicable to the Indian way of life.
Then, I started attending the conferences of religion to see why this is happening. It was very strange. All religions had
people represented from within.
You would see rabbis from Judaism, Buddhist monks, Imams talking about Islam. In the case of Hinduism, there
was hardly any practicing Hindu speaking for it. It was entirely non-Hindus who felt that they have understood the text, learnt Sanskrit and they were able to interpret it. So, I felt that this is a huge untold story.
I started writing articles. These articles created a huge stir. And, so this is the situation with these people. We compiled
these arguments in the book called Invading the Sacred that came out in 2007, and since then I have come out with three more books that are not on Wendy but other issues related to Indian civilization and Indian philosophy and thought and so on.
I personally moved on, beyond Wendy Doniger. But I have created a huge awareness and awakening among the Diaspora and among people in India. So many other groups started getting immersed and started taking my cause and they are the ones who started litigating on Doniger and her book and so on in India.
The person who filed the case is a woman called Monika Arora. She is a very reputed Supreme Court lawyer in Delhi. She filed this case.
There has been quite a bit of criticism against the group
that filed the case against Doniger’s book.
Some people are trying to portray the Hindus involved in this case as some kind of savages, violent people and all of that.
The point is that the Hindus who filed this case used the rule of law, they used the courts. There is no hint of any violence. They are very cultured, sophisticated people. They went to the court and filed a case.
The case has been going on for over two years. There was never hint of any violence or anything indecent. It was a let’s go to the court and fight.
So, the Hindu site put out a petition in the court citing many, many instances of errors in the book, sighting page numbers.
Some of these are not matters of interpretation, but factual errors and these are available online.
There is a petition that lists many, many pages of errors and so the opposing side of Penguin gave Wendy Doniger’s point by point response. This went back and forth several times. It was not like it was an uncivilized mob. It was a very civilized legal due process going on.
I’m not privy to what was the thought process of the Penguin side. But they must have concluded that they have the risk of losing. So, they reached an out-of-court settlement to withdraw the book.
Now, somehow, the Western scholars are making it sound like some kind of a Hindu mob pushed them and forced them with violence. There is no evidence of such thing; on the contrary, the entire evidence is that it was a legal due process by which a civilized country manages disputes.
Were you part of the litigation?
I deliberately decided that this should run its course through the legal system. I do not want any part of it. I’m available as a scholar. My criticisms of the writings are very publicly available. I’ve always said anybody can quote them freely, but I don’t want to be drawn into a legal matter myself.
The reason being that Wendy is one of the issues that I have raised, you know, Wendy and her whole lineage. But I’m a scholar with many things to write about. That is not the only thing I’m concerned about.
I’m writing about the Indian history of science and technology; I’m writing about comparative philosophy; I’m writing about India as a nation and what are its narratives. I’m writing on many topics and I don’t want to get stuck into one issue that will exhaust me. So, I realized that I should not personally get involved and I therefore decided to stay behind.
How else did you support the case?
I did not support them in any tangible way, but they have my ideas. They are pretty self-sufficient in how they have funded it; the group has funded it, got the lawyers, and done the whole thing on their own.
I basically lit the fire in the beginning by highlighting that these are issues.
I also hope to create a process in which Hinduism is properly interpreted and presented not only to Hindus, but to
anyone. The thing is that every religion gets criticized. But other religions are where they are producing people who are very qualified to represent their own religions and therefore these seminary products become scholars and they get launched in different universities for support. For Hindus, they never set up a seminary.
I am a kind-of-a one-man show. I can only do so much. Given the number of Hindus in the world, there are a thousand
people like me who are standing there to study this, represent it, debate it, going and argue and be available to the media.
But, right now, there aren’t that many Hindus who are really well read, highly sophisticated and being able to represent
because we don’t have seminaries. So, the real solution to all this is that Hindus should use seminaries which can produce high caliber of leaders and then these leaders can go out there to take a stand.
Your children are no more at Princeton Day School, but are you in touch with the school?
The people who teach world religions in Princeton Day School are entirely on my wavelength.
There is a very good teacher. During the spring break, he takes 20, 25 American students to India to visit all the sites of different religions and he also supports me that the bias against Hinduism in the school system is not good for anybody because these American students will grow up and they will be dealing with India in some capacity.
A good education system should respect A good education system should respect the non-Western culture, be it India, China, Japan, the Middle East, — whoever. They should respect those people because Americans will be trading with them, having partnerships with them, having different relationships with them.
It will be good for America to train the next generation of Americans to be really appreciative of various cultures.
What kind of education did you have in India?
I went to Catholic school from kindergarten to the end of high school. I went to St Columbus school, a Catholic school, and I got a very good education from there. I have many Christian friends and now some of my closest friends are Christians.
I just went to Delhi and we had a reunion of the school alumni. Then, I went to St Stephens’s college, which is
also a Christian college.
I feel that the Western mischief of intervening and creating disruption inside India is a sad thing because Indians have had a long history of being able to get along in a very pluralistic society…
When these Westerners get in and start making fun of the gods and goddesses – all these vulgar writings about gods and goddess, all the vulgar writings about many of the symbols, the festivals, making fun of the gurus — obviously, they are instigating trouble.
I see it in that way. I see it as a very sophisticated form of intervention that causes internal problems in India and then they can blame it on Indians, as the British used to do.
Have you tried to engage with American scholars?
I have always told the American Academy that for each religion, you should always have certain people who are insiders at the table.
The American Academy of Religion has 12,000 members at their annual conference. You go to the panel on Hinduism, they should have a few Hindus able to represent their faith: Teachers, preachers, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, there are people from the Ramakrishna Mission, the wellknown
When they are describing something about Hinduism, they can bring many kinds of people. But right now they do not bring outsiders of the academy. They only bring people who are qualified academics. These qualified academics have very Western training and have a very narrow point of view on other religions because they are relying only on the texts.
Hinduism is not a religion of the book where you can learn everything by reading a text. You have to also understand how it is practiced and how the people who practice it, see it and interpret it.
The proper way to learn Hinduism is not only to read the text as seen by outsiders, but also what is the insider practitioners’ perspective. So, I’ve suggested to them that every time they are four speakers, three of them could be the normal American academic types; but one of them could be a practitioner who is brought as a voice of the Hindu community — who will kind of represent their point of view. But they have never accepted this.
There is a kind of a power, arrogance and a sense of ‘we know more than you guys know about your own religion.’ This kind of colonial hangover continues. I think these are problems that we are now noticing are examples of things getting out of hand because people feel very insulted.
So many Hindu parents complain that when their kids go to school, they are made fun of because they are asked all these kinds of questions: Do you worship a monkey, why do you have this dot on your head, and so on. So these kids are vulnerable and are embarrassed.
I’ve become the kind of clearing house for these Hindus. People bring their problems to me and I refer them to somebody who can help. I get approached for advice by Indian students in colleges who write to me that they are facing a certain issue and then I get involved. But one man cannot do this. This should not just be my job. So I organize this representation of people who are interested in this.
Was there any other way to deal with the Doniger book instead of asking for its withdrawal?
If Penguin had said that we are going to issue a new edition, thank you for telling us, sometimes books have an error issue, I think that would have made things OK.
But my feeling is that Wendy Doniger, as a matter of principle and arrogance, did not want to change a single word. Her books have been printed and stored in airport shops. Some Indian group in Mumbai also gave her awards. These awards were given by businessmen and industrialists who do not know anything about religion. They do not have knowledge, they are not qualified.
I know she has a good lobby firm. She gets her students to promote her work worldwide: in the US and the Indian press. She has all of us who have given her a privileged position where she is beyond criticism.
And so what has happened is because she enjoys this high prestige, it is not acceptable to her that all of a sudden — in the last 10 years — a lot of Hindus start complaining about her.
But this is the reality of the Internet. And what I have done and what Hindus are now doing about this was only possible because of the Internet.
On the Internet, because of social media, people creating blogs, people tweeting.
In the last 24 hours, I’ve been tweeting, a lot of people have been re-tweeting and it has become a huge thing. So, if it had not been for the Internet, they would have simply ignored us and continued and said who are you, we won’t bother about you. Now, they cannot ignore. So, I think that is a big part of it.
Several people from Princeton and elsewhere in America, including devout Hindus, said they like the book.
I personally am not in favor of banning any book. I have never called for a book ban in my life. I will never do that. I’m more interested that my counter position should get an equal voice. And my complaint is that they have banned me from all academic forums.
The same Western people when discussing religions of South Asia, they do not include me in their reviews, in their panels, in their conferences. The academic presses will not publish me; the literary festivals in India are so controlled by Wendy Doniger’s wavelength and fan club that people like me who represent an alternative point of view are not allowed.
So, there is a frustration that one side controls the forums. Their people control: They are on the editorial boards, they are on the selection committees, and their particular point of view gets in and the opposing voice does not.
It’s not a free market of ideas. It’s a market controlled by certain monopolistic ideas and the opposing ideas are not given a fair share…
I can write and sell to my Hindu followers. But they will not allow my books into the academy; they will not allow my books
to be read in the courses and even in the mainstream media.
So what is happening is that as a matter of practical reality, one side is being represented in the mainstream channels of communication and the other side is blocked.
Argument is an open-minded faith and so are Hindus. It doesn’t reflect well on the Hindus.
Gandhi was also using satyagraha against a big empire because they had too much control and power. He was disrupting them and bringing them down. I consider what I’m doing a kind of satyagraha against a very corrupt system of knowledge because it is misrepresenting knowledge: They control the printing presses, they control the academic presses, they control the journals, their friends are running the media.
So their ideology is the one that gets in and therefore that is a kind of monopoly that has to be broken. If there was a similar monopoly in business, it would be an antitrust case… In the business of the humanities and knowledge, you can (have) a monopoly and there’s no anti-trust law that covers that. So, that is an issue.
In theory, yes, Hindus are very open. I’m one of them. I’ve coined the phrase ‘open architecture.’ I fully support it. My new
book is called Hindu Open Architecture. It says it’s an open architecture, people are welcome to join, all kinds of different points of view are invited, we can criticize one another, we are evolving, we are not fixed in time, all that is fine.
But I think the Wendy Doniger group is not allowing the open architecture. They are closing this architecture. They are bringing a point of view in such a heavy handed way that it tends to dominate and it tends to suppress the alternative points of view. So some kind of counteraction is necessary and using the law is a decent thing to do.
Could the withdrawal of the book create more demand for it? People could be reading it for the first time.
Yes, I think that is always the case. But both sides will get something out of it. The people on the other side will play victim that the Hindus are bad people, they banned us, they are bad guys, so they will try to get some sympathy.
On the other hand, the Hindus’ side will also get mileage by saying we know our fight… We can win. It will give more publicity. More people now want to reprint my books because they want to understand what exactly was the criticism about Wendy Doniger. So, people on both sides will be interested in the published materials.
Some people will get interested in what Wendy Doniger is about because she is controversial; she always was. More people will also be interested in what I have to say. I keep getting calls from people in the last 48 hours wanting to get more of my stuff out.
It is more a matter of principle; we’re trying to make a statement. I don’t think that they’re expecting that the book will disappear because certainly you can buy it as an e-book. The point is that the book has been out for so many years, a lot of people have bought it and it has done very well.
Penguin has made it into a bestseller. To bring the book down is more of a moral victory. It’s not a victory in a practical sense that will make a difference. It makes a moral statement that we have a point against this very iconic author and we are able to make this point in a legal forum.
And, we are able to make it so effectively that even the publisher agrees with that.
Rajiv Malhotra's website: http://rajivmalhotra.com/
Rajiv Malhotra's books: http://rajivmalhotra.com/