History Centrism vs. Non-History-Centrism
#13
(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. ......

.....
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.

It is difficult to give credence to this line of argument that one can just drop the word "Hindu" from public discourse and still talk about Vedas, etc. The vedas may be universal in their appeal, but no other tradition traces the bulk of its practices to them the way (what is commonly understood as) Hinduism does.

Leaving aside the highly debatable point that Hinduism is a "virulent label", one can remember that we live in a world where "Religion" is a strong category in all acceptable social fora, Govt, NGO, educational, etc. There are huge social science organizations dedicated to figuring out the global population's "religious identity", or the opinions of a certain "religious group" regarding hot-button social issues of the day.

Under such circumstances, what are the majority of India's population; who haven't converted to foreign "religions" like Christianity & Islam, or home grown responses like Sikhism; to do? If they're not Jains or Buddhists, they for the most part have accepted to being called by the label "Hindu". Granted, this label may be a bit more fuzzy than the clear cut labels of Abrahamic religions like Islam & Christianity who basically have hogged the definition of this category of "religion". But "Hindu thought" based on the Vedic corpus & practices is no less a claimant to being a solution to humanity's deepest questions & problems etc.

So I'd say, rather than leave the bulk of Indian traditions (which, although different from Abrahamic faiths in many ways, have a highly coherent structure of thought & practice based on Vedic practice) out in the cold in a 'label-less limbo' we allow them the dignity of being called "Hindu".
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#14
Quote: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.

No disagreement that we are disagree. The problem is that you then go on to talk about things that have nothing to do with my argument. Of course, we can have a debate on those things at some other point, but my specific argument is unrelated to points 1, 2 and 3. I was not writing a critique of your article, if you observe, I was merely responding to the points made by the person who posted your article here. So let me start with the first thing that we actually disagree on.

Quote:"The other point I disagree with is Ajita's statement that prior to the arrival of Islam and Christianity, there was no dharma identity."

This is a straw man. I didn't say anything about "dharma identity". What I said was the modern religion called Hinduism did not exist as a compilation of all the myths and philosophies of ancient India until the arrival of Islam and Christianity drove the in-group/out-group evolution of Hinduism.

Quote:"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."

Of courser, and this was NOT Hinduism in the modern sense as a religious identity. The thing that you do not realize is that religion is the modern sense is very different from the sort of thing that the philosphers and mystics of yore were involved in. Of course there were belief systems that you could call religions, but these were not as completely self-contained as you'd like to think, but were rather loosely linked and actually quite opposed to each other in many cases. For example, while today Carvaka is considered a materialistic Hindu phillosophy, the practitioners of this system of belief were clearly opposed to the religious ideas of the day. This makes clear the revisionist appropriation of Carvaka (and similar ideas from Indian history) by those who subscribe to the Hindu identity today.

Quote:"While today's Hindu identity is indeed of recent formation, that does NOT imply that there was no prior dharmic identity at all."

And as stated, this is a straw man, because no one is claiming the latter. So in fact, you agree with me that the Hindu identity is modern.

Quote:"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."

Firstly, there was no self-contained 'Hindu' religious identity before Islam and Christianity came to India, as has been clearly established. Secondly, what "western academy" are you talking about? This is just a wanton slur thrown to make it seem as though my ideas are "western" and therefore to be rejected. It is a logical fallacy called 'poisoning the well".

The rest of the the argument is along the same vein, talking about "dharmic identity" and interchanging it when convenient with the modern religious identity called 'Hinduism'. Essentially, this is placing one straw man after another and constructing an argument that ignores the topic under discussion.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#15
Quote:"It is difficult to give credence to this line of argument that one can just drop the word "Hindu" from public discourse and still talk about Vedas, etc."

I'm sure you find it difficult since you subscribe to the 'Hindu' label, but it's really not that hard to talk about the Vedas, an ancient work from India, without associating it with a modern religion called Hinduism that did not exist when the Vedas were written.

Quote:"The vedas may be universal in their appeal, but no other tradition traces the bulk of its practices to them the way (what is commonly understood as) Hinduism does."

Firstly, it is not true that the Vedas are universal in their appeal. Secondly, duh! Hindus have appropriated the Vedas, and the fact that no other religion has appropriated this piece of Indian history is uncontested.

Quote:"Leaving aside the highly debatable point that Hinduism is a "virulent label", one can remember that we live in a world where "Religion" is a strong category in all acceptable social fora, Govt, NGO, educational, etc."

Firstly, let's have the debate and not leave it aside, because that is a core point. I submit that Hinduism is a virulent label, and the evidence for this is in your defense of the label (you are not defending any particular philosophical idea, but the label itself). The reason 'Hindu' is a virulent label is that it infects the minds of its followers and has them spread the meme, the way you are doing. Of course, "Religion" is a "strong category" in the modern world, but the essence of my argument is that it is a category that provides a defense of superstition and repression in the name of tradition.

Quote:"There are huge social science organizations dedicated to figuring out the global population's "religious identity", or the opinions of a certain "religious group" regarding hot-button social issues of the day."

So you are defending religion in general. The arguments against religion are many, but there are other venues to debate that. Perhaps you can start another thread in the religion section here.

"
Quote:Under such circumstances, what are the majority of India's population; who haven't converted to foreign "religions" like Christianity & Islam, or home grown responses like Sikhism; to do? If they're not Jains or Buddhists, they for the most part have accepted to being called by the label "Hindu"."

The problem is that you seem to be assuming that I am for the other religious identities. This is just plain silly. All religious identities need to go. My particular argument here is with pointing out that the Hindu identity has appropriated many aspects of ancient Indian culture.

Quote:"Granted, this label may be a bit more fuzzy than the clear cut labels of Abrahamic religions like Islam & Christianity who basically have hogged the definition of this category of "religion"."

You are misunderstanding my point about Hinduism. In the modern sense, Hinduism is indeed a religious identity, just as Islam and Christianity are. All I am saying is that it is a religious identity that has appropriated many aspects of ancient Indian culture.

Quote:"So I'd say, rather than leave the bulk of Indian traditions (which, although different from Abrahamic faiths in many ways, have a highly coherent structure of thought & practice based on Vedic practice) out in the cold in a 'label-less limbo' we allow them the dignity of being called "Hindu"."

You may think that you are defending the "bulk of Indian traditions", but you are wrong. Hinduism has actually led to the destruction of much of Indian tradition in mainstream academia, by the process of religious appropriation. What you are actually defending is the religious label 'Hinduism'. Such religious labels sully Indian philosophy, and do not offer the "dignity" you claim. Underlying your line of argument is a lack of confidence in the philosophies of our greatest thinkers, leading you to posit that a religious label is required to protect them. Much of what the Greeks are today acclaimed for is also found in the Indian tradition, and there is a lot more in our philosophy that the Greeks or any other philosophical tradition never understood, but because of the Hindu label (which is associated with wanton superstition) Indian philosophy has been sidelined in academia worldwide. Hinduism continues to destroy Indian culture by perpetuating superstition and by associating the great philosophies of India with this superstition. The 'Hindu' identity continues to be defended by people, as it continues to promote superstition while spreading itself through the actions of its hosts.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#16
I feel that Ajitha's refusal to admit the dharma into discussion serves to set up hinduism as straw man. if identity is the issue being discussed, then why are we required to discuss it in terms of modern hinduism only? why cant we say that prior to islam/christianity there are other indigenous identities faiths. Ajitha's argument is circular - she uses a western category of religion (as distinct from dharma) to eliminate dharma from the discussion because it is not a religion. Perhaps a better category would be "faith" or "worldview" as that subsumes all these. So restated in terms of worldview, the issue discussed should be about indigenous worldviews and/or faiths prior to islam/christianity.

as far as my reference to the western academy goes, its a well established category, including how its eurocentric in bias. somehow indians seem brainwashed to not see it at all. making it invisible keeps it from being examined.
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#17
(19-Jul-2010, 12:26 AM)RajivMalhotra Wrote: I feel that Ajitha's refusal to admit the dharma into discussion serves to set up hinduism as straw man. if identity is the issue being discussed, then why are we required to discuss it in terms of modern hinduism only?

I am only concerned with the modern interpretation of the notion of religion, because we live in the modern world. This is not a straw man, because I have clearly stated my premises.

Quote:"why cant we say that prior to islam/christianity there are other indigenous identities faiths."

This, on the other hand, is a straw man, because I never said there were no other no indigenous faiths in India prior to the invasion of the Abrahamic ones. I only refute the notion that the modern notion of Hinduism as a religious identity existed back then.

Quote:Ajitha's argument is circular - she uses a western category of religion (as distinct from dharma) to eliminate dharma from the discussion because it is not a religion.

Actually, you are the one using a circular argument, because you are using a definition for the word religion that has nothing to do with the way religions operate today, in order to then posit that your particular notion of Hinduism is truly representative. Nobody is "eliminating dharma", as I have made clear amply above. I am just saying that your interpretation is not an accurate representation of the nature of religion that Hinduism is in reality, today.

One can define religion in many ways, but what we must strive for is an objective and scientific definition. Here is mine. Lastly, you are repeating the "western" slur, which as I have pointed out is baseless and meant to sully the other side as having been influenced by pardesis. This is just cheap. Moreover, it denies to Indians the merits of science, reason and logic, as though those are attributes that are not inherent in the Indian tradition. The eurocentric bias that exists today in science and philosophy is furthered by the sort of revisionism of Indian culture that you resort to. You are, in fact, the one who is belittling Indian culture and tradition by placing all objective thinking in the "western" category.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#18
Fair enough, you want to limit the discussion to modern religion. But we must expand the 'religion' category so that indigenous faiths do not get eliminated because of semantics of what is religion and what is not. If the discussion is on modern faiths, then we should ask what indigenous faiths exist today apart from "modern Hinduism." Assuming modern Hinduism to be a recent construction, did it take over all indiegenous faiths? I think not. So the earlier dharma traditions also exist today apart from this "modern Hinduism." Why are these excluded in the discussion? If you look at the research books by Inden, Richard King, Pennington on this topic of modern hinduism, they are silent on indigenous dharmic traditions that are alive today, which enables them to use modern hinduism as the strawman for all indigenous faiths.

Even this "modern Hinduism" needs to be defined by you as to when it got started and what it consists of. I would like to see analysis rather than opinions.

Regarding slurs, I find your dismissal of modern Hinduism to be a slur. You have not substantiated why it is such a demonic force. Have you done a comparative study with modern Islam, Christianity, Maoism/Marxism (even though the later are not religions)? If so, may we please see that analysis?
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#19
I do not limit the indigenous traditions to spirituality. Nor do I grant the west a monopoly on objectivity. If I said so , please remind me where. A decade ago, I started the largest initiative in recent times to research and publish 20 volumes on Indian science and technology. We are late in the delivery because each volume takes at least 3 years. Please visit: http://www.indianscience.org/ At this point 5 volumes are out and another 3 with the publisher. If you are serious about this subject, I would be glad to ship you a set of these five volumes as a gift to any address in the continental USA. I think you might be making a naive assumption that defense of traditional faith is mutually exclusive with defense of rationality. That sacred/profane dualism of Augustine, and later Descartes never haunted Indian thought. These are not contradictory domains at all.
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#20
Quote:"Fair enough, you want to limit the discussion to modern religion. But we must expand the 'religion' category so that indigenous faiths do not get eliminated because of semantics of what is religion and what is not."

We are not talking about specific beliefs or "religious faiths", but about religious identities - identity memes- that infect people and provide cover to a wide range of dangerous, pseudoscientific and repressive beliefs. Religious faiths of all kinds are simply redundant, offering nothing that reason and compassion cannot, but bringing with them a vast array of evils. I am simply not interested in making religion work, because reason and logic dictate that there are better ways of organizing societies than such primitive and authoritarian systems as religious beliefs. But if you want to have a different conversation, we can have it another time and another place. In this thread I want to keep the conversation on the topic of Hinduism as a modern religious identity, because that is all I need from a rational point of view to make my point that Hinduism, like all other religions, must go. Perhaps the reason why you are so keen on changing the topic is because you are uncomfortably aware that I am right, at least in so far as being logically sound.

Quote:"Even this "modern Hinduism" needs to be defined by you as to when it got started and what it consists of. I would like to see analysis rather than opinions."

I feel that you are not reading what I am saying. Please see the article that I linked to in my previous post. I have clearly defined Hinduism as a religious identity in the article, as I mentioned when I posted the link to it in my previous post. You reply to a post in which I link to an article containing my attempt at defining religion and modern Hinduism, and say that I need to do exactly what I said I have. Strange.

While you're at it, read this article as well.

Quote:"Regarding slurs, I find your dismissal of modern Hinduism to be a slur."

It's meant not as a slur but as a reasoned critique positing that Hinduism is an extremely damaging religious meme-complex for India today (read the articles I posted and you'll see that I consider Islam more dangerous in general). You dismissed an objective analysis by saying it was "fed to Indian students" by the "western academy", thereby saying that it could not possibly be from an Indian perspective. This baseless accusation comes from the "if its not Hindu, its not Indian" school of bigotry. For your information, I don't give a rats ass what people in the West say about Hinduism. I think I know more than almost all of them about how the beliefs and superstitions that are part of that repressive identity are responsible for so much human suffering in India. Your baseless accusation was the slur, not my reasoned criticism of a repressive label.

Quote:"You have not substantiated why it is such a demonic force."

I have. Right in my first post I said this:

"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."

A little later, I said this:

"I submit that Hinduism is a virulent label, and the evidence for this is in your defense of the label (you are not defending any particular philosophical idea, but the label itself). The reason 'Hindu' is a virulent label is that it infects the minds of its followers and has them spread the meme, the way you are doing. Of course, "Religion" is a "strong category" in the modern world, but the essence of my argument is that it is a category that provides a defense of superstition and repression in the name of tradition."

But if you want to know what my full arguments against the repressivbe identity called 'Hinduism' are, please read the articles linked above. Here's a tiny excerpt:

"The Hindu label provides cover to all those things that we rationalists are concerned with. It would take many pages to simply list all the regressive aspects of Indian culture for which the ‘Hindu’ label provides protection against criticism. The lack of criticism that results from this protection allows malignant beliefs to fester and erode Indian culture from within."

This is just a small excerpt, so do read. Much of your criticism has already been answered.

Quote:"A decade ago, I started the largest initiative in recent times to research and publish 20 volumes on Indian science and technology."

Sounds like a worthy enterprise. However, its irrelevant here.

"
Quote:I think you might be making a naive assumption that defense of traditional faith is mutually exclusive with defense of rationality."

I am not taking about "traditional faith", whatever that is, but about religious identities. But yes, I may have been naive. Naive in thinking that you might actually have something interesting to say.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#21
Questions for Rajiv Malhotra :
Are you a theist? Do you worship hindu gods?

And also is this you interviewing Nityananda?



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#22
Dear Rajiv,

You talk about (or imply that) the various "dharmic traditions" and diverse philosophies within the fold of Hinduism that try to explore the spiritual side of things, or try to find "spiritual truths that the ordinary rational mind cannot every get".

There is, for one, your reduction of having a rational mind as "ordinary". So I am to presume you prefer the alternative - the irrational mind - and hold it at a higher pedestal?

Do you try to imply that, for some reason, being "rational" is being "close-minded" to the possibilities of the supernatural and other woo woo? If you hold this assertion, than you must watch the following video, that adequately answers this fallacious argument (replace "ghost" and "god" for "supernatural"):



Then comes the general question about what proportion of Hindus are a part of such "dharmic" or "spiritual" traditions, quite unlike the idol worshiping, superstition believing majority? I ask out of genuine ignorance about the figures.

An overwhelming majority of the Hindus I have (and everyone I know has) interacted with are simply the latter - the kind who believe any nonsense spewed out from a man in a saffron robe without any thinking.

Also, why should anyone insist upon (religious) labels in the first place? Isn't the identity of being a human - an insignificant one that - enough for us? Labels divide us. Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.

Quote:Regarding slurs, I find your dismissal of modern Hinduism to be a slur. You have not substantiated why it is such a demonic force.

While this is addressed to Ajita and he has replied, let me give you one tiny example why modern Hinduism (nay, even ancient Hinduism) is regressive and downright evil. Pick up the Sunday matrimonial section of any newspaper in India and browse through it. Notice how divided we are? Please don't claim - not for a second - that casteism is not a result of philosophy and tradition that has its roots in Hinduism. In case you are of the view that this (the caste factor in matrimonials) is only a harmless practice - let me mention that nothing can be further than the truth. This is a symptom of the reality of a system/structure that prevails in the Hindu society which leads to violence and inhuman degradation of people on the basis of caste. Hinduism is responsible in its creation and propagation. Every single day, literally hundreds of people are injured and many killed in the name of caste. Individuals are denied basic human freedoms and rights. You probably have no idea how broken a dalit feels as a human being at every turn of his or her life in rural India.

Did you know that literally every sewer cleaning work done in India today is done by a dalit? No person from any other caste is willing to do it. That in villages, the only work that a dalit is can ever hope to get in his or her lifetime in a village involves manual handling of human waste? Imagine how dehumanizing that is.
[Image: 20090116260110801.jpg]

There next two photographs are so disgusting, that I do not want to post it here, for you might be eating food. But have a look to see what many dalits have to do to eat once or twice a day:
1. http://moinansari.files.wordpress.com/20...ndia-2.gif
2. http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/WORLD/....waste.jpg

There are literally hundreds - maybe thousands - of caste based murders ever year in our country. It's a different matter that our national elite media doesn't report this. What about any of this doesn't make modern Hinduism a slur?

And casteism is just one aspect of Hinduism in practice.

Why is there such a willful denial of how the religion is played out in reality, and such an insistence of how or what it is in philosophy? This is nothing short of outrageous.

I strongly believe that to get rid of the perverse aspects of religion, we will have to get rid of religion itself. Talks about "spirituality" etc only legitimizes the structure. Only when freethought and reason prevails, can we have a equal, peaceful and progressive society. Additionally, if people are to "find higher truths", it can only be made possible in a non-regressive society free from religious dogma (not that I believe there is supernatural).

Anyone in the world is free to try to "reach a higher state of consciousness" or try to find a "higher reality". But if in the process a regressive system or structure such as Hinduism (or any other religion for that matter) is justified or promoted, be sure that I will speak out against it. In the name of spirituality, this monstrous system is being promoted, deluding and dividing the people in the name of something that doesn't exist or something they will never achieve.

If a private company ever tried to sell a product that doesn't exist or will never be delivered, they would be sued and made to shut down. When people do so in the name of religion, they get tax benefits.
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