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How Hinduism is Interpreted by Western Indologists: David Frawley. Wendy Doniger. Koenraad Elst

Western philosophy is a mainstream academic field, but pursuing Eastern philosophy is a rare choice that individuals make

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Hinduism. Wikimedia
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August 23, 2017: Hindu civilization, the oldest civilization of the world has been the hub of spirituality. Long before the conquests and colonization, travelers would come to India from all over the world to experience this spirituality and Hindu way of life. The Europeans especially have been fascinated by India.

Western philosophy is a mainstream academic field, but pursuing Eastern philosophy is an unusual choice that individuals make. Imagine how hard it is for a non-Hindu to comprehend and become well versed in the tough and robust literature of the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures.

ALSO READ: Dr. David Frawley: To respect Hinduism is to respect our ancient spiritual roots

Many white people do make a choice, and some of them excel. Names like David Frawley, Wendy Doniger, Sheldon Pollock, and Koenraad Elst are popular Western Indologists in the Hindu literature.

However, the arrival of these westerners into Hindu literature and interpretations have further divided the study of Hinduism in two distinct fields.

For instance, Wendy Doniger’s sexual take upon reading Hinduism and interpreting a perverse storyline of it frustrated many followers of Hindutva. Even Sheldon Pollock’s claim that Sanskrit, once a dominant language for Hindus, is a dead language led to outrage among many Hinduism supporters.

Wendy Doniger: Doniger’s masterpiece work is titled ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History.’ She claims that Hinduism is a diverse religion developed over the many years with different sources of influence. It shows the violent interpretation of Hinduism. She talks about how the Brahmin men have been more privileged than other communities through out the Hindu history. Doniger portrays the Puranas as a hint of authoritarian Hinduism that is challenged by pacifist Buddhism. Wendy Doniger leans towards the left and her writings exhibit that. Looking through the victim-oppressor lens, Doniger tries to show the unfairness embedded in the religion. Needless to explain why Doniger inspires the leftists to a whole new level. She places the casteist truth above spiritual pursuit.

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Wendy Doniger. Wikimedia

David Frawley: David Frawley is an American Indologist. Frawley’s greatest work is the ‘Gods, Kings, and Sages: Vedic Secret of Ancient Civilization’ which is an honest display of ancient Hindu teachings. So much so, David Frawley converted to Hinduism and brands himself a Hindu. Frawley applauds that Hinduism is the oldest and hence it is original. Further, David Frawley acknowledges that India has given the world a beautiful language called Sanskrit, along with Ayurveda, i.e., medicine. Frawley rejects a scientific analysis (which is also biased) of Hinduism and glorifies the authoritative, yet original nature of it. Frawley has many followers from the Hindutva ideology, and rightly so. His understanding of the fact that science is inadequate for the Vedas has been proven correct on quite a few occasions. David Frawley has also emphasized that geography is dominant to Hinduism and it is only in India that gave civilization to this planet.

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David Frawley. Wikimedia

Koenraad Elst: Elst is especially popular among ardent Hindu followers because of his strong arguments that a Hindu Temple once stood where Babri Masjid had been built later on. Elst main area of study has been the Ayodhya. Elst agrees with Frawley that India was the origin point for language (Sanskrit) and civilization. But going away from Frawley, Elst does not call himself a Hindu. Rather, he insists that conversion to Hindu is not possible since the Hindu way of life is innate by birth and linked to geography.

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Koenraad Elst. Wikimedia

– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394


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Spiritual Ideas Sore At The World Hindu Congress

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new -- when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

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At its best, speeches at the recently concluded World Hindu Congress echoed the soaring spiritual ideals evoked by Swami Vivekananda in Chicago 125 years ago.

Even Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsangchanalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), focused essentially on the need for unity and patience among Hindus while fighting obstacles, of which, he said, there would be many. The burden of excavating implied accusations in Bhagwat’s speech fell to his critics.

At the plenary session, the moderator requested speakers to address issues of conflict without naming the speakers or their organisations in the interest of harmony. Other speakers sought to unite the followers of all the great religions that took birth in India — Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Some of the speakers from Bhagwat to Swami Swaroopananda of the Chinmaya Mission, framed the issues before Hinduism in a moral paradigm. Ashwin Adhin, the Vice President of the Republic of Suriname, began his speech in chaste Hindi, later quoting cognitive scientist George Lakoff: “Facts matter immensely. But to be meaningful they have to be framed in terms of their moral importance.”

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Buddhism relates sins to the characteristics one adopts. Pixabay

The dissonances, between the spiritual and the mundane, were to emerge later on the fringes of the seminars which were part of the Congress. Many of the delegates appropriated to themselves the mantle of a culture besieged by proselytising faiths. There were speakers who urged Hindus to have more children to combat their ‘dwindling population’. Posters warned Hindus of the dangers from ‘love jihad’ (Muslim men ‘enticing’ Hindu women).

In one of the sessions on the media, filmmaker Amit Khanna noted that religion had always played a prominent part in Indian cinema, starting with the earliest mythologicals. “Raja Harishchandra”, the first silent film, he said, was made by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. He sought to reassure the audience on the future of Hinduism. “Over 80 percent of Indians are Hindus,” he said adding: “Hinduism has survived many upheavals for thousands of years. Hinduism has never been endangered.”

Other speakers, lacking spiritual and academic pedigrees, drew on an arsenal of simulated anguish and simmering indignation.

The nuances of history pass lightly over the ferociously devout and it took little effort to pander to an aggravated sense of historical aggrievement.

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Swami Vivekananda used to stress upon the universal brotherhood and self-awakening. Wikimedia Commons

At one of the debates, the mere mention of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, elicited sniggers and boos. The speaker hinted at ‘Nehruvian socialism’ which had made the Indian economy a non-starter. He concluded with a coup de grace, to a standing ovation: “Nehru did not like anything Indian.”

The poet Rabindranath Tagore, who composed the Indian national anthem, had spoken of his vision of a country where the “clear stream of reason had not lost its way”. At some of the discussions, even the most indulgent observer would have been hard put to discern the stream of reason.

The image of a once great civilisation suppressed by a century of British rule and repeated plunder by invaders captured the imagination of many in the audience. Hanging above it all, like a disembodied spirit, was the so-called malfeasance of Nehru, the leader who had won the trust of Hindus only to betray them in the vilest manner.

These tortured souls would have been well advised to adopt a more holistic approach to Hinduism, and history, looking no further than Swami Vivekananda, who once said: “The singleness of attachment (Nishtha) to a loved object, without which no genuine love can grow, is very often also the cause of denunciation of everything else.”

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The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Historians have informed us that Nehru preferred his father’s intellect over his mother’s tradition but he was never contemptuous of religion. While he undoubtedly felt that organised religion had its flaws, he opined that it supplied a deeply felt inner need of human nature while also giving a set of values to human life.

In private conversations some delegates spoke of how their America-born children had helped persuade them to drop their pathological aversion to gays and lesbians. Despite their acute wariness of perceived cultural subjugation, the irony was obviously lost on them that Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code,(which criminalises gay sex) recently overturned by the Indian Supreme Court, is a hangover from the Victorian British era-embodied in the Buggery Act of 1533.

In the face of the upcoming elections in the US, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s decision to speak at the conference was a political risk. With a newly energised political Left, even the perception of being linked with “fascist” or sectarian forces could be political suicide in the critical November elections. Despite vociferous appeals to disassociate himself from the Congress, Krishnamoorthi chose to attend.

“I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I have ever known and been taught — namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people, and accepts all people, regardless of their faith. I reject all other forms. In short, I reaffirm the teaching of Swami Vivekananda,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Given the almost pervasive abhorrence of anything remotely Nehruvian among a section of the delegates, it was a revelation to hear the opinion of Dattatrey Hosable, the joint general secretary and second-in-command in the RSS hierarchy. Speaking on the promise of a newly-resurgent India, Hosable said in an interview to Mayank Chhaya, a local journalist-author-filmmaker: “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new — when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

Also Read: Triple Talaq Now Banned in India

The quote is from Nehru’s famous Tryst with Destiny speech delivered to the Indian Constituent Assembly on the midnight of August 14, 1947 — proof, if any is needed, that the force of Nehru’s ideas can transcend one’s disdain of him. (IANS)