History Centrism vs. Non-History-Centrism
#1
Recently, I came across an article by Rajiv Malhotra that classifies the world's religions into "history-centric religions" and "non-history-centric religions". Here's a basic summary of the points he makes:
  • Both Islam and Christianity claim to be the result of divine revelation, and are therefore heavily dependent on the historicity of certain events in the lives of their founders.
  • The Vedas are the result of inquiry by sages, and their validity is completely independent of the lives of their authors. Therefore, arguing about whether Rama really existed is a moot point.
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#2
(15-Jul-2010, 04:17 AM)TTCUSM Wrote: Recently, I came across an article by Rajiv Malhotra that classifies the world's religions into "history-centric religions" and "non-history-centric religions". Here's a basic summary of the points he makes:
  • Both Islam and Christianity claim to be the result of divine revelation, and are therefore heavily dependent on the historicity of certain events in the lives of their founders.
  • The Vedas are the result of inquiry by sages, and their validity is completely independent of the lives of their authors. Therefore, arguing about whether Rama really existed is a moot point.

Okay so is this the same Rajiv Malhotra who was defending Nityananda recently by doing an interview?
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#3
(15-Jul-2010, 04:17 AM)TTCUSM Wrote:
  • Both Islam and Christianity claim to be the result of divine revelation, and are therefore heavily dependent on the historicity of certain events in the lives of their founders.
  • The Vedas are the result of inquiry by sages, and their validity is completely independent of the lives of their authors. Therefore, arguing about whether Rama really existed is a moot point.
In the article, Malhotra is actually saying that this particular interpretation of Hinduism works for him. There are, however, other interpretations of Hinduism.
Here is a quote from Malhotra's article:
Quote:There is a movement to focus Hinduism in terms of God's interventions in Indian history, most commonly associated with Avatar Ram's history and the related geography. Such a version of Hinduism is History-Centric.

This runs counter to the idea that Hinduism is non-history centric. There are actually many aspects of Hinduism that are extremely history-centric to many people in India who spend a considerable amount of time every year commemorating these often supposedly historical events. In addition, it must be remembered there are many Christians, for instance, who do not believe in a literal version of their faith-many million Christians for whom Christianity is not history-centric.

Here are three important points:

1. Hinduism is whatever anyone claims it to be. It is the label that defines the religion, not any particular belief (except beliefs that belong to other religious meme-complexes). Malhotra cherry picks what he wants Hinduism to be. The problem is, there is no consensus and there never will be, because the label itself thrives on creating a cacophony of conflicting beliefs that allow rampant superstition to fester underneath.

2. The Vedas indeed contain some of the splendid philosophy and mathematics of India's great ancient thinkers, but who gave Malhotra the right to stamp the 'Hindu' label on them?

3. If Malhotra is so keen on promoting his beliefs, why does he need the label 'Hindu'? Are his beliefs incapable of standing up against modern science and philosophy? I am proud of Indian philosophy and will match it with the rest of the world's philosophy any day, so that each great idea of our ancestors can compete in the marketplace of ideas, and the best of the lot can change the world for good.

In essence, Malhotra sees a clean line where there is none whatsoever in nature of the religions. This is just confirmation bias. Malhotra chooses the version of religion he wants, just as moderate Muslims defend the terrorists when they say Islam is a religion of peace. We need labels for many things, but religious labels just get in the way. They allow dangerous ideas to become legitimate. Hinduism does not have a proprietary claim on the Vedas. When Malhotra appropriates the Vedas, the Hindu religious label gains an important means by which to continue providing an intellectual excuse for all the superstition spread in its name.

Hinduism is also this:
[Image: 437426-md.jpg]
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#4
SAUSAGE FEST!
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#5
(15-Jul-2010, 08:06 PM)palaeo Wrote: SAUSAGE FEST!

Laugh This gives new meaning to the term!
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#6
(15-Jul-2010, 08:06 PM)palaeo Wrote: SAUSAGE FEST!

ROTFL
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#7
(15-Jul-2010, 01:53 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote: 2. The Vedas indeed contain some of the splendid philosophy and mathematics of India's great ancient thinkers, but who gave Malhotra the right to stamp the 'Hindu' label on them?

Wait a minute-- did you just say that the Vedas aren't part of Hinduism?
The Encyclopedia Britannica disagrees with you. This is what their article on Hinduism has to say:

Quote:Vedic literature ranges from the Rigveda (c. 1500 bce) to the Upanishads (c. 1000–600 bce) and provides the primary documentation for Indian religion before Buddhism and the early texts of classical Hinduism. The most important texts are the four collections (Samhitas) known as the Veda or Vedas: the Rigveda (“Wisdom of the Verses”), the Yajurveda (“Wisdom of the Sacrificial Formulas”), the Samaveda (“Wisdom of the Chants”), and the Atharvaveda (“Wisdom of the Atharvan Priests”). Of these, the Rigveda is the oldest.

Yes, I do realize that many of the popular expressions of Hinduism have very little to do with the Vedas or Upanishads. But still...
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#8
(16-Jul-2010, 04:41 AM)TTCUSM Wrote: Wait a minute-- did you just say that the Vedas aren't part of Hinduism?
The Encyclopedia Britannica disagrees with you. This is what their article on Hinduism has to say:

No, I did not say that "the Vedas aren't part of Hinduism". But since you are making a point of it, let me be clear. Certain people who subscribe to a virulent identity called 'Hinduism' have appropriated the Vedas from all Indians.

My entire line of argument has been ignored to focus on a trivial non-issue that has actually been addressed by the core of my argument- that is, the label 'Hindu' is a meaningless identity moniker that has been slapped on many aspects of ancient Indian culture. These aspects of ancient Indian culture were never part of one self-contained religion called Hinduism, but were part of a multitude of belief systems that have traditionally been debated and challenged as part of a greater philosophical tradition.

The important thing is, it is the modern proponents of the Hindu identity who are appropriating the Vedas. The authors of the Vedas were not Hindu, simply because Hinduism was not a religion until sometime around the 14th century. Of course, Indian philosophy and mythology existed for many centuries before that, but not the modern religion of Hinduism.

Instead of just saying that some source of authority agrees with you, let us talk about the methodology that went into that determination. Why exactly does the EB say that the Vedas are part of Hinduism?

Of course dictionaries and text books written by those who subscribe to religious labels about others who subscribe to other such labels will reflect religious propaganda. Hinduism is a proper noun, and determining what it signifies is neither a matter of linguistics nor a matter of scientific inquiry. It is simply a matter of opinion. If the majority of people who subscribe to the religious label stand by the appropriation of a piece of Indian history by a virulent label, why would the editors of the EB give a shit? Most Indians don't care that their history is being re-told through a revisionist sieve, so of course most people in the West buy into the distortion of Indian history. If there was an Encyclopedia Britannia that reflected what Indians in the 1st century believed, the word Hindu would be missing, but the Vedas would be very well represented. 'Hinduism' or 'Santana Dharma' or whatever you want to label it was never a religion in the modern sense of the word until Islam and Christianity drove the in-group/ out-group evolution of the Hindu identity.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#9
(16-Jul-2010, 08:30 AM)Ajita Kamal Wrote:
(16-Jul-2010, 04:41 AM)TTCUSM Wrote: Wait a minute-- did you just say that the Vedas aren't part of Hinduism?
The Encyclopedia Britannica disagrees with you. This is what their article on Hinduism has to say:

No, I did not say that "the Vedas aren't part of Hinduism". But since you are making a point of it, let me be clear. Certain people who subscribe to a virulent identity called 'Hinduism' have appropriated the Vedas from all Indians.

My entire line of argument has been ignored to focus on a trivial non-issue that has actually been addressed by the core of my argument- that is, the label 'Hindu' is a meaningless identity moniker that has been slapped on many aspects of ancient Indian culture. These aspects of ancient Indian culture were never part of one self-contained religion called Hinduism, but were part of a multitude of belief systems that have traditionally been debated and challenged as part of a greater philosophical tradition.

The important thing is, it is the modern proponents of the Hindu identity who are appropriating the Vedas. The authors of the Vedas were not Hindu, simply because Hinduism was not a religion until sometime around the 14th century. Of course, Indian philosophy and mythology existed for many centuries before that, but not the modern religion of Hinduism.

Instead of just saying that some source of authority agrees with you, let us talk about the methodology that went into that determination. Why exactly does the EB say that the Vedas are part of Hinduism?

Of course dictionaries and text books written by those who subscribe to religious labels about others who subscribe to other such labels will reflect religious propaganda. Hinduism is a proper noun, and determining what it signifies is neither a matter of linguistics nor a matter of scientific inquiry. It is simply a matter of opinion. If the majority of people who subscribe to the religious label stand by the appropriation of a piece of Indian history by a virulent label, why would the editors of the EB give a shit? Most Indians don't care that their history is being re-told through a revisionist sieve, so of course most people in the West buy into the distortion of Indian history. If there was an Encyclopedia Britannia that reflected what Indians in the 1st century believed, the word Hindu would be missing, but the Vedas would be very well represented. 'Hinduism' or 'Santana Dharma' or whatever you want to label it was never a religion in the modern sense of the word until Islam and Christianity drove the in-group/ out-group evolution of the Hindu identity.

"Meaningless identity moniker". Superbly said, Ajita. I wish I could write like you.
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#10
I am glad that my article has sparked discussion, which is what I always hope for. However, I must disagree with certain statements made by Ajita, with all due respects. The issue I examined in my history-centrism article is deeper than Hinduism, so let's start there and then return to Hinduism. The issue is HOW (by what methods) can humans attain spiritual truths that the ordinary rational mind cannot ever get. In other words, (1) is there truth beyond what the ordinary mind can ever reach, and if so, (2) is it accessible to humans under certain circumstances, and if it is possible (3) then by what means is it accessible?
Atheists would say that either there is no such truth, or, even if it is, it is simply unattainable by humans (such as Kant's nuomen). The reason why an atheist response to #2 must be negative is that for #2 to get a positive response one either needs a God who intervenes (as in the case of prophetic religions) or humans need to attain higher states of consciousness (as in the dharma traditions). Both these are denied by atheists. So religions across the board, by their very nature, must say yes to both #1 and #2, otherwise they turn atheistic. (Note, I use the term atheism more broadly than disbelief in a personal God; I am aware that even Buddhism, Jainism and many branches of Sanatana Dharma do not subscribe to a personal God. Atheism as I use it denies any transcendence beyond ordinary human limits, hence denies higher states of consciousness.)
Now I can move on to #3, and address those who say yes to #1 and #2. In other words, my thesis does not even apply to those who give a negative response to #1 and #2, as I imagine Ajita does. The issue of HOW a higher truth may be accessed does not arise if there is no such thing possible in the first place. The atheist's rejection is more sweeping than simply a rejection of dharma.
Once someone is in the space of #3, THEN (and only then) my thesis comes into play. This is where I have claimed that Abrahamic religions cannot compromise their history-centrism. After over a decade long series of discussions with Judeo-Christian theologians, including some here at Princeton where I reside, I have found support among them on this point. In fact, the whole idea of the Nicean Creed is to affirm history-centrism as the defining criteria for being a Christian. All non-Abrahamic religions tend to be more flexible on history-centrism, and certainly the dharma traditions (Sanatana Dharma, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism) are not history-centric.
The other point I disagree with is Ajita's statement that prior to the arrival of Islam and Christianity, there was no dharma identity. There was certainly a millennium of intense debates between Sanatana Dharma and Buddhism which implies identity based on philosophical position - a different notion of identity than joining a history-centric club. There were debates between various sampradayas internal to each of these, and the sampradayas provided identity. While today's Hindu identity is indeed of recent formation, that does NOT imply that there was no prior dharmic identity at all. That is the erroneous position fashionable these days in the western academy and it is being fed to Indian students - namely, that there was no Hinduism prior to foreign interventions in India. I have read the key works making that claim and find that they SIMPLY IGNORE the earlier classical period of Sanatana Dharma when they make their case. They start with things happening in recent centuries to show change among the public leaders of dharma. Hence they refute modern Hinduism's antiquity, but do not have anything to say about earlier periods. This way they (disingenuously) conclude that there NEVER was dharmic identity. The result they hope to attain is that Hindus today should be made to feel that what they practice is all imported, anyway. Hence there is nothing to defend! Note that the Dravidian movement is now heavily appropriated by Christianity, and the latest bandwagon is that St. Thomas brought into India what later got known as South Indian or Tamil based Shaivism. Either it was the Aryans who brought everything concerning dharma. If not everything, then it was St. Thomas who inspired many so-called Hindu ideas. Those elements that cannot be established this way, came later with the Mughals (along with chicken tikka and tabla), and this was topped off by the colonialists (along with cricket and English) who compelled Indian nationalists to fabricate Hinduism. Of course, the present-day Hindu nationalists are simply continuing this construction job! This is the grand narrative into which all the South Asian Studies scholarship is pressured to fit. (The second part of the grand narrative is that all this Hinduism hocus-pocus is abusive stuff, so not only is it inauthentic, it is also dangerous!)
Many elements of this Hinduism fabrication thesis are indeed true, contrary to the complaints by Hindu puritans (who I feel are themselves becoming history-centric).
What is true is that dharma has ALWAYS been reconstructed for every era and context. It changed many times before (as did Christianity and Judaism during their histories, which is seen as "progress"). In response to Buddhism, through internal debates, in the rise of tantra strains outside the Vedic authority, etc. - those were among the periods of transformation to move with the times. This is the strength of being free from history-centrism, i.e. that one does not need the arrival of a new prophet to make changes and adapt. The whole separation of smriti from shruti is about this flexibility, unlike the "one book" of each Abrahamic religion where shruti and smriti get collapsed and hence become unchangeable forever. Thus, to understand the nature of evolution and change within dharma, one has to see it as smritis being rewritten for every era. This does not fit the either/or binary categories of the west under which something must be either frozen in time or completely lack continuity with the past. Dharma does NOT fit the commonly touted periods of history as premodern, modern, postmodern, etc - a very Eurocentric construct based on their own history that has become projected as universal history.
I do agree with Ajita that Hinduism was never a religion in the modern sense, except that it would be better for her so say in the Abrahamic sense. This means that the real discussion called for is to compare and differentiate between dharma and religion, and to quit applying terms and categories of one to the other. This is what my new book is about, now almost finished. It is 500 pages, requires serious time to go through. In it, I have organized my 15 years of research into these philosophical matters. I invite anyone interested to seriously read the draft and give me critical feedback and suggestions to please email me privately at: rajivmalhotra2007@gmail.com.
Thanks for hosting an important discussion. I hope it stays civilized and respectful of opposing voices, unlike too many such discussions that lose all dignity once there is disagreement.
One last point: What got me down this path of inquiry in the mid 1990s, was the discovery that western science has recently appropriated the practices and theories from dharma that relate to attaining higher states of consciousness. These have become renamed with new western pioneers and "discoverers" announced for them and this is rapidly entering the American mainstream in philosophy of science, cognitive science, neuroscience, alternative healing, as well in popular culture. So I realized 15 years ago the contradiction and hypocrisy of, on the one had such a massive scale appropriation and distortion to make it fit into Judeo-Christianity, and on the other hand a simultaneous abuse of the source traditions. The dharma sources for these appropriations are a combination of: (i) they never existed in antiquity; (ii) they were deficient compared to what the modern American appropriators have published; and (iii) they were abusive and are best forgotten. I discovered that at the center of this movement were many westerners who had earlier studied under Indian gurus with respect, but later did what I have formulated as a U-Turn. This is why there is frenzy of mis-education of Indian youth into this anti-dharmic posture, all in the name of "progress' - so the thieves can go running all the way to the bank.
I plan to put out about seven volumes on U-Turns after my first volumes mentioned above comes out to set the foundation.
Rajiv
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#11
(16-Jul-2010, 05:41 PM)RajivMalhotra Wrote: Atheists would say that either there is no such truth, or, even if it is, it is simply unattainable by humans (such as Kant's nuomen). The reason why an atheist response to #2 must be negative is that for #2 to get a positive response one either needs a God who intervenes (as in the case of prophetic religions) or humans need to attain higher states of consciousness (as in the dharma traditions). Both these are denied by atheists. So religions across the board, by their very nature, must say yes to both #1 and #2, otherwise they turn atheistic. (Note, I use the term atheism more broadly than disbelief in a personal God; I am aware that even Buddhism, Jainism and many branches of Sanatana Dharma do not subscribe to a personal God. Atheism as I use it denies any transcendence beyond ordinary human limits, hence denies higher states of consciousness.)

As an atheist, I agree with you. But I deny those things in the same manner that I deny the existence of Middle Earth.

Quote:One last point: What got me down this path of inquiry in the mid 1990s, was the discovery that western science has recently appropriated the practices and theories from dharma that relate to attaining higher states of consciousness.

IMO the term "western science" is meaningless. By using the term "western" are you implying that there are other types of science given that science is what conforms to the scientific method?

Quote:These have become renamed with new western pioneers and "discoverers" announced for them and this is rapidly entering the American mainstream in philosophy of science, cognitive science, neuroscience, alternative healing, as well in popular culture.

I would really like to know how non-Indian scientists have plagiarized discoveries made by Indian scientists. (Though I wouldn't put alternative healing under science).
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#12
"I would really like to know how non-Indian scientists have plagiarized discoveries made by Indian scientists. (Though I wouldn't put alternative healing under science)."

For a short answer: Please search cognitive science/neuroscience and buddhism for the world of cutting edge science that is based on appropriations from dharma in the 1970-90 time frame. People like Francisco Varela, Alan Wallace are among the top names. In the case of healing paradigms that are now formally recognized by the US National Institute of Health (hence "science" according to them), see the works of so-called pioneers like Harvard's Herb Benson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Stephen Laberge, etc. Visit the Mind-Life Institute and Templeton Foundation to dig deeper into their sources. For material sciences, a good example is the discovery of radio waves by JC Bose before Marconi - there as an article in Scientific American in the 1990s that substantiated this. Also see the recent work by C.K. Raju on the European appropriations of infinite series, infinitesimals and other related mathematics that was necessary for the development of calculus. Now many Europeans accept this finding, but a new fight has started - Raju's findings have become appropriated by some famous Brits who claim to have made this finding. An interesting litigating is proceeding on this plagiarism.

For a longer term more detailed answer: I am writing extensively on this but my work takes time to get out.
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