The place of Mahatma Gandhi – Sita Ram Goel

M. K. Gandhi

Sita Ram GoelWhat is relevant in Mahatma Gandhi … is not his failure in solving the Muslim problem but his success in re-affirming the language of Sanatana Dharma which had been revived during the Swadeshi Movement. – Sita Ram Goel

Introduction

The language of British and Christian imperialism had stood fully exposed for what they were in essence by the time the Swadeshi Movement swept forward after the Partition of Bengal in 1905. The language of Islamic imperialism had revived but was not resounding enough as yet to ring bells in the minds of national leaders. And the language of Communist imperialism had not yet appeared on the scene.

The last two languages came into their own by the end of the twenties. The freedom movement had to feel their full blast by the middle of the thirties. The leader who had emerged in complete command of the freedom movement by that time was Mahatma Gandhi. And his role vis-a-vis these two languages has been a matter of controversy.

Mahatma Gandhi showed the same understanding of the languages of British and Christian imperialism as had been shown earlier by the leaders of the Swadeshi Movement. There were indications in his writings and statements that he suspected the language of Communist imperialism as something sinister, though he started faltering when this language became the language of Leftism in the mouths of Pandit Nehru and the Congress Socialists. But his response to the language of Islamic imperialism was not at all what could be expected from a man of his instinctive perceptions.

His failure vis-a-vis the language of Islamic imperialism can be explained in various ways. But the fact remains that this failure made the Muslims more and more aggressive and created a lot of resentment in a section of Indian nationalists. These anti-Gandhi nationalists have not been able to get reconciled to his role even after his death in very tragic circumstances. On the other hand, all sorts of Hindu-baiters have been invoking his name and fame to put Hindu society in the wrong.

Mahatma Gandhi in hostile lands

The Leftists had no use for Mahatma Gandhi during his life time. They had hurled their choicest swear words at him. But the Mahatma dead seems to have become an asset for them. Not that they have revised their estimate of his role in the past or acquired any respect for him in the present. They are only using him as a stick to beat Hindu society into shame.

Muslims, too, have staged a similar volte-face. They had opposed him tooth and nail during his life-time. The language which their press had used for him provides a study in pornography. But after his death, they have been holding him up in order to harangue Hindu society. Not that they have changed their opinion about him or imbibed any of his teachings. They are only using him as a device to put Hindu society on the defensive.

The Gandhians present a very curious case. They claim to have inherited the message of the Mahatma. But the only people with whom they feel at home are Hindu-baiters. They avoid all those who are not ashamed of being Hindus or who take pride in Hindu history and heritage. They suspect that “Hindu communalism” has been and remains India’s major malady. The only point to which they never refer is that Mahatma Gandhi was a proud Hindu with a profound faith in Sanatana Dharma and that a reawakening and rejuvenation of Hindu society was his most important preoccupation.

The Hindu-baiters highlight the fact that the Mahatma was murdered by a Hindu. But they hide the fact that it was the Hindus who had always rallied round Mahatma Gandhi, who had adored him throughout his life, who had followed him as their leader and who had stood by him through thick and thin. It is tantamount to insinuating that Hindus have done nothing in the whole of their history except murdering the Mahatma. The only parallel is provided by the Catholic Church which has known the Jews only as murderers of Jesus.

This exercise in employing the name of a great Hindu to malign Hindu society has succeeded because whatever nationalists have come forward to lead Hindu society in the post-independence period have chosen to ignore all facets of the Mahatma’s life and teachings except one, namely, his handling of the Muslim problem. They have meditated, one must say rather morbidly, on the one mistake he made in his life, namely, his understanding of Islam. They have never taken into account the sterling services he rendered to Hinduism and Hindu society in so many spheres. The only thing they remember with resentment is his failure in one field, namely, his final inability to prevent partition.

Two significant facts

The anti-Gandhi nationalists have never tried honestly to face the fact that it was he and not they who had stirred the minds and hearts of Hindu masses. It was he and not they who had mobilized Hindu society to make sacrifices in the service of the motherland. Nor have the denunciations of anti-Gandhi nationalists succeeded in doing the slightest damage to his stature. In fact, his stature has risen higher with the passing of time. He continues to be cherished by Hindu masses as one of the greatest in their history. Reverence for him in the world at large has also continued to grow. He is now regarded as a profound thinker on problems created by an industrial civilisation and a hedonistic culture. Hinduism has gained abroad because Gandhi is known as a great Hindu.

On the other hand, it must be admitted that the failure which the Mahatma met vis-a-vis the Muslims was truly of startling proportions. Hindu-Muslim unity was a goal which he had pursued with great dedication throughout his life. He had paid high tributes to Islam, its prophet, its caliphs and its scriptures. He had espoused the cause of Khilafat in order to win Muslim hearts. He had befriended even questionable characters like Mohammad Ali {Jinnah] because the latter enjoyed the confidence of Muslim masses. He had gone out of his way to humour Jinnah who was always cold and quite often nasty in his manners. He had ignored the invectives that were hurled at him by the Muslim press and politicians. He had even advised the British to hand over power to Muslims and quit. he had always frowned at all efforts to organise Hindus in order to call the Muslim bluff. In short, his policy towards Muslims had been full of appeasement at the cost of Hindu society. But nothing had helped. Muslims had continued to grow more and more hostile.

If we put these two facts together, we can perhaps draw some worthwhile conclusions. First, it follows that Hindu society responds only to a call which is deeply religious and cultural. Anti-Gandhi nationalists have failed to move Hindu masses because their appeal has been purely political. These nationalists have drawn most of their inspiration from the modern West and not from India’s own great past. Secondly, there must be something very hard in the heart of Islam so that even a man of an oceanic goodwill like Mahatma Gandhi failed to move it. He succeeded with the British by making them feel morally in the wrong. He succeeded with such sections of Hindu society as had nourished some grievances of their own and had tried to turn away from the freedom movement. It was only the Muslims with whom he failed miserably.

In justice to Mahatma Gandhi

There is no doubt that Mahatma Gandhi’s failure vis-a-vis Muslims was great and has had grievous consequences. But the failure can be attributed to him only in so for as he was at the helm of affairs during that particular period of Indian history. It is highly doubtful if Hindu society would have been able to prevent partition even if there had been no Mahatma Gandhi. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that Hindu society would have failed in any case. In fact, the seeds of that failure had been sown long before Mahatma Gandhi appeared on the scene.

The first thing to be done in this context is to put straight the record of the freedom movement and find out how Hindu leaders who preceded Mahatma Gandhi had functioned vis-a-vis the Muslim problem. For, although the Mahatma dominated the freedom movement for more than twenty-five years, he had appeared on the scene when thirty-five years had already passed since the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was the first leader to start sabre-rattling on behalf of his community. That was a year or two after the Congress came into existence. There is no evidence that any Hindu leader called his bluff at that time or at a subsequent stage. On the other hand, there is ample evidence of how Hindu leaders tried to appease the bully. To top it all, Hindus contributed quite a lot of money towards the establishment of his Anglo-Oriental Mohammedan College at Aligarh which was to become the main seat of Muslim separatism at a subsequent stage. Mahatma Gandhi was nowhere near the scene.

The Swadeshi Movement was the next step in the struggle for freedom. It was immediately followed by the founding of the Muslim League. Muslims not only boycotted the movement but also let loose an orgy of riots which were particularly violent and beastly in Bengal. But there is no record of Hindu leaders coming forward to beat back the aggression. The only Hindu response to this Muslim mayhem was to hail Siraj ud-Daulah, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan as national heroes. Again, Mahatma Gandhi was not on the scene.

Then came the Lucknow Pact of 1916. Muslim leaders had made no secret that pan-Islamic causes rather than patriotism had made them move towards a joint front with the Congress. But no Hindu leader cared to look into the motivation of Muslims. Only a slight gesture from the Muslim League was enough to elicit an enthusiastic response from the Congress. Hindu leaders conceded not only separate electorates to Muslims but also one-third representation in the Central Assembly to a less than one-fourth of the total Indian population. It was Lokmanya Tilak and not Mahatma Gandhi who was the leader of the Congress at that time.

Once the legitimacy of the pan-Islamic cause was recognised by the national leadership, it was only a short step to the Khilafat agitation. The meeting that was held on June 1, 1920, under the auspices of the Central Khilafat Committee, in order to solicit Congress support for the Sultan of Turkey, was not attended by Mahatma Gandhi alone. Leaving aside Motilal Nehru. Tej Bahadur Sapru and Jawaharlal Nehru, whose support for all Islamic causes was always a bygone conclusion, the others who sat by the side of Mahatma Gandhi in that crucial meeting were Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Satyamurti, C. Rajagopalachari, and Chintamani. The proceedings of that meeting exist in cold print. Some of these Hindu leaders did oppose the proposal for a Non-Cooperation Movement to be launched simultaneously with the Khilafat agitation. But no one pointed out that the national movement should have nothing to do with a pan-Islamic platform. The same story was repeated at the Special Session of the Congress at Calcutta in September that year and at its Annual Session at Nagpur in December. Later on, Swami Shraddhananda was to be lionised for lambasting the British Government from the steps of the Jama Masjid at Delhi. He was speaking in support of the Khilafat agitation.

The Congress and the Muslim League never came together again at an all-Indian level after this brief period of six years which ended with the suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement in February 1922. Muslims made no secret of their belief that they had been betrayed by Mahatma Gandhi. They let loose another orgy of riots all over the country. It was in the midst of this bloodshed, and while Mahatma Gandhi was behind prison bars that Deshbandhu C.R. Das led the Bengal Provincial Congress into signing a Hindu-Muslim Pact which permitted Muslims to kill cows during their festivals but forbade Hindus from playing music before the mosques!

Justice demands that anti-Gandhi nationalists review Hindu history vis-a-vis Islam and lay the blame where it belongs. They will soon find out that Mahatma Gandhi was neither the first nor the last to accord the status of a religion to Islam, the dignity of a deity to Allah, the aura of an avatar to Muhammad, the sanctity of a scripture to the Quran, the holiness of saints to the Sufis, the majesty of a place of worship to the mosque and the rights of a minority to the Muslim millat. Most Hindus are still chanting sarva dharma sama bhava vis-a-vis Islam in the face of Muslim fanaticism, though over three decades have passed since the death of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Mahatma’s Failure: A failure of Hindu society

There is ample evidence in the Mahatma’s writings that he could see quite clearly the pattern of perverse behaviour on the part of Muslims. That was at the back of his statement repeated several times, that an average Muslim was a bully and an average Hindu a coward. But he refused to believe that this pattern was derived directly from the teachings of the prophet.

That, however, is the story of Hindu society in its centuries-old encounter with Islam. Hindu society has always viewed Islam through the eyes of its own spirituality. Islam had shown its full face to Hindu society quite early not only in the devil dance of its swordsmen but also in the pronouncements and prolific writings of its mullahs, sufis and historians. But Hindu society had all along failed to draw the right conclusions. It had continued to regard Islam as a religion. The folly has persisted till the present time.

Modern Hindu and Sikh scholars have done something worse. They have presented Islam not only as a superior religion but also as a superior social system. This is obvious in hundreds of books written by them about the nirguna saints like Kabir and Nanak. These saints alone had the courage to question the exclusive claims of Islam while they sang in the advaitic tunes set by ancient Hindu spirituality. Islam had no impact on their teachings. But modern scholars have paraded these saints as monotheists who were in revolt against the multiplicity of Hindu gods and goddesses, as iconoclasts who were against image worship in Hindu temples and as social reformers who denounced the so-called caste system under the “influence of an equalitarian Muslim society.” The saints have thus been turned into tawdry social reformers. Falsehood can go no farther.

The relevant in Mahatma Gandhi

Sri Aurobindo has said in his Uttarpara Speech that India rises with the rise of Sanatana Dharma. Mahatma Gandhi proved the aptness of this observation. What is relevant in Mahatma Gandhi, therefore, is not his failure in solving the Muslim problem but his success in re-affirming the language of Sanatana Dharma which had been revived during the Swadeshi Movement. I give below a few specimens.

“The English have taught us that we were not one nation before and that it will require centuries before we become one nation. This is without foundation. We were one nation before they came to India. One thought inspired us. Our mode of life was the same. It was because we were one nation that they were able to establish one kingdom.” (Hind Swaraj, Chapter IX)

“I believe that the civilisation India has evolved is not to be beaten in the world. Nothing can equal the seeds sown by our ancestry. Rome went; Greece shared the same fate; the might of the Pharaohs was broken; Japan has become westernised; of China nothing can be said; but India is still, somehow or other, sound at the foundation.” (Ibid., Chapter XIII)

“Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after truth and if today it has become moribund, inactive, irresponsive to growth, it is because we are fatigued. As soon as the fatigue is over, Hinduism will burst forth upon the world with a brilliance perhaps never known before.” (Young India, 24-4-1924)

“What the divine author of the Mahabharata said of his great creation is equally true of Hinduism. Whatever of substance is contained in any other religion is always to be found in Hinduism, and what is not contained in it is insubstantial or unnecessary.” (Ibid., 27-9-1925)

“Hinduism is like the Ganga, pure and unsullied at its source but taking in its course the impurities in the way. Even like the Ganga it is beneficent in its total effect. It takes a provincial form in every province, but the inner substance is retained everywhere.” (Ibid., 8-4-1926)

“Our sages have taught us to learn one thing: ‘As in the Self, so in the Universe.’ It is not possible to scan the universe as it is to scan the self. Know the self and you know the universe.” (Ibid.)

“Now when we talk of brotherhood of men, we stop there and feel that all other life is there for man to exploit for his own purposes. But Hinduism excludes all exploitation.” (Ibid., 26-12-1926)

“Hinduism insists on the brotherhood of not only all mankind but of all that lives.” (Harijan, 28-3-1936).

Such sayings of Mahatma Gandhi about Hinduism can be multiplied. He affirmed, again, and again not only the fundamentals of Hindu spirituality but also the framework of Hindu culture and social life. He valued “the spirit behind idol worship” and declared his determination “to defend with my life the thousands of holy temples which sanctify this land of ours.” For him cow protection was “the dearest possession of the Hindu heart” and “no one who does not believe in cow protection can possibly be a Hindu.” The sacred thread had a deep meaning for him because it was “the sign of the second birth, that is spiritual.” He believed that varnashrama was “inherent in human nature, and Hinduism had simply reduced it to a science.” He wrote several articles in defence of the “much-maligned Brahmin” and had not a shadow of doubt in his mind that “if Brahmanism does not revive, Hinduism must perish.” There was no symbol of Sanatana Dharma which did not stir him to the depths and which he did not trace back to its inner and eternal spirit.

And he served Hinduism not by words alone. His whole life was an uninterrupted hymn to Hinduism. He rendered many sterling services to Hindu society. He staked his life in order to free Hindu society from the stigma of untouchability. He wanted the Hindus to shed fear and be brave. By all accounts, his place should be secure in the mainstream of Indian nationalism.

There was no lack of Hindu leaders during the Mahatma’s life-time who appealed in the name of political patriotism. They left Hindu society cold and unresponsive. Nor has a purely political approach to Hindu society succeeded after the passing away of the Mahatma. The one lesson we learn from the freedom movement as a whole is that a religious and cultural awakening in Hindu society has to precede political awakening. The language of Indian nationalism has to be the language of Sanatana Dharma before it can challenge and defeat the various languages of imperialism. The more clearly Hindu society sees the universal truth of Hindu spirituality and culture, the more readily it will reject political ideologies masquerading as religion or promising a paradise on this earth.

Mahatma Gandhi stands squarely with Maharshi Dayananda, Bankim Chandra, Swami Vivekananda, Lokamanya Tilak and Sri Aurobindo in developing the language of Indian nationalism. His mistake about Islam does not diminish the lustre of that language which he spoke with full faith and confidence. On the contrary, his mistake carries a message of its own. – Pragyata, 1 October 2019

This excerpt is taken from Perversion of India’s Political Parlance by Sita Ram Goel 

M.K. Gandhi Quote

 

Ganesha: An enigma for Christians, a celebration for Hindus – Aravindan Neelakandan

Ganesha

Aravindan NeelakandanThroughout our history and culture, Ganesha represents the deepest spiritual reality and the height of Hindu civilisation. Naturally, He attracts attacks of the enemies of this civilisation. But He endures and protects. – Aravindan Neelakandan

The year was 1944. With the Quit India Movement and the Indian National Army (INA), the Indian struggle for Independence had achieved a new momentum.

That year, Winston Churchill, who through the Bengal Famine, had wiped out three million people the previous year, was deeply moved by a newly published book.

The book was Verdict on India written by a Beverley Nichols, and was an argument against giving Hindus, specifically Hindus, freedom.

Pakistan was fine. But giving freedom to Indians with Hindus as a majority was wrong, it argued.

In his book, “by way of foreword”, Nichols had trained his guns on an interesting target to prove the “civilisational superiority of Christendom over the Hindus”—Ganesha:

“I shall never forget my first visit to a Ganesh temple. It was in Bangalore. … The sun shone on a tiny building of crumbling brick, and inside this building, the monster squatted awaiting us. He was carved from a single hulk of black shining stone, and his trunk and his misshapen limbs were contorted like angry serpents. The forgotten sculptor who had evoked this creature from the rock, so many centuries ago, was a genius, but he was—I felt—an evil genius, a man possessed. For this Ganesh was imbued with a malevolent life; in the fading light his limbs seemed to twitch, as though impelled by ancient lusts. He would escape if he wanted; a flick of that sinuous trunk, a gesture of those twisted arms, and the walls would crumble, and he would walk abroad in the darkness.”

A true Christian and a colonialist, Nichols was scandalised that Hindus not only defend this “monster” but even continue to worship it.

To show how Hindus defend Ganesha, he quoted C. Rajagopalachari, “ex-President of Congress and one of Gandhi’s closest friends”. Rajaji had said:

“People of the West might not find beauty in Ganesh and might say that the figure was funny and that at best it was a mascot. But to the Hindus, Ganesh represents the sense of universal unity … beauty and ugliness are combined to make one ineffable beauty in Him. He has the body of a fat man and the head of an elephant, with a mouse as His vehicle. He is fond of good eating but He is not stupid as a Westerner might suggest. We are a curious people, let us continue to be curious, that is my prayer.”

If anything, this explanation by Rajaji angered him even more. If it was a “strange thing when a man must apologise for his God”, it was “an even stranger thing when, having apologised, he continues to worship”.

It may not be a coincidence that every Hindu-hater, from Beverley Nichols with his fanatic Christian supremacist convictions to E.V. Ramasamy with his pseudo-rationalism as well as Dravidian racism, to Paul Courtright with his pretensions of Freudian deconstruction, loves to hate Ganesha.

The reason may be that Ganesha embodies in Him the core civilisational ethos of this culture so boldly and vibrantly that the hatred for His form is instantaneous.

What are those core values?

In 1941, Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati of Kanchi Math was at the port town of Nagapattinam for his Chaturmasya Virata. He narrates an interesting event that happened then.

They were breaking coconuts in front of Ganesha (who is called in Tamil Nadu as Pillayar—pillai meaning child. Pointing it as “a custom peculiar to the Tamil province”, Swamigal explains:

“The people of the Math tried to regulate the mob of children, fearing they might fall on the Swami. So they shouted at the children not to mob and move away. A boy among those children looked at the person who shouted and said in a very clear voice: “After breaking coconut to Pillayar, only we children have the right to the pieces. Then you do not have the right to tell us not to come.” It was seeing the strength of truth in the voice of the child that I got fully convinced that the right of coconuts broken for Ganesha completely belong to the children (emphasis added).” – Deivathin Kural

Thus, Ganesha infuses even in our children the right to food and then, it is no wonder that the cohort of Churchill who engineered the Bengal famine developed an innate hatred for the form of Ganesha.

He also destroys the false distinctions between the divine, the human and the non-human forms of life. He at once combines the non-human animal, the human form and the divine form (in the form of four hands).

For those civilisations which have thrived on the bifurcation of the divine and the human as well as human and the non-human as unbridgeable categories, what can be more shocking?

And this shock can only increase when Darwinian science also blurs the boundaries between the human and the non-human.

Today, the origin of Ganesha, the elephant-headed God of Hindu Dharma, is widely limited to one particular Puranic version. In this, Parvati creates Ganesha to protect her privacy and Shiva, infuriated by Ganesha challenging his right to enter Parvati’s mansion, beheads him.

Later realising what he has done, Shiva gets the head of an elephant and attaches it to the body of the boy, creating the beloved form of the deity whom Hindus love so much.

In 2014, in a jovial way, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of this as the first plastic surgery and the “righteous indignation brigade” went into hyper-action. “Mixing mythology and science” got essentialised as the RSS way of looking at history or rather pseudo-history.

As late as August 2019, almost after five years, this casual remark by the PM was dug out by a columnist who explained seriously its impossibility pointing out “a large human neck’s circumference would be around 48cm, while the smallest baby elephant’s neck would be around 120cm”.

Then he went on to declare in a pompous manner that “if Ganesh was not a human who needed plastic surgery, the plastic surgeon had to be a senior god who created junior gods”.

What Prime Minister made was not a policy statement. It was stated more in a lighter vein than in any seriousness that Ganesha should have been the first person to have undergone plastic surgery.

That being said, one need not think of it as literal but that the poets who sang the Puranas could conceive of an animal organ being transplanted to a human body is in itself a leap for human imagination.

So one wonders who is really against scientific temper—the PM or the columnists and outrage brigade which cling on to an off-the-cuff remark as if it has become the policy statement of the government.

Yet these are worrying times, particularly when it comes to the Puranas. Everywhere in the world including the so-called Abrahamic religions, even history-specific narratives are being turned into poetic metaphors.

In the West, the rationalist secular human movements have played a great role in that transformation. Of course, there is a fundamentalist backlash which is a different story.

In India, the situation is tragically different.

As this writer has often pointed out, the so-called rationalists here take a literal, fundamentalist view of the Puranas here and the so-called believers—for that is a wrong word for Hindus—often take a view of their deities as symbolic realities at another level.

The belief that the constant, high-voltage propaganda over the elephant-headed deity is nothing but a vile superstition brought by the Brahmins is in a way yielding results.

Spurred by inferiority complex, there are Hindus who look to explain their deities using terms such as “ancient aliens”. Not long ago, a famous guru was recycling the decapitation of Ganesha by Shiva, with a liberal ascription of “alien technologies” to his disciples.

But it cannot be emphasised enough that the decapitation story is only one of the many in the Puranas. And in South India, where Ganesha worship has a tremendous influence, there are other Puranic origins which do not need either ancient plastic surgery or alien technology to explain the elephant-headed God.

In Tamil tradition, the story of Ganesha’s origin that is emphasised is different. Thirumurga Krupananda Vaariyar narrates this thus:

“In Kailasha is the famous hall of 70 million mantric paintings. One day, Siva and Parvati visited this hall. They both looked at two representations of the Pranava mantra—Vyashti Pranava and the Samashti Pranava. When Siva and Parvati looked at them, they both merged and came out as the elephant-headed God Vinayaka.” – Pillayar Perumai

That Ganesha arose from the gaze of the Goddess is also stated in Sri Lalita Sahasranama (names 76 and 77). S.V. Radhakrishna Shastri, in his commentary based on that of the famous commentator Bhaskararaya, describes:

“Because of the power structures of delusion created by the demonic forces, the Devas lost their fighting ability. Laziness, sleep, depression, loss of vigour, feeling inferior, delusion and loss of self-respect—all these eight characteristics developed in the army of the Devas. Even the generals of the army of the Goddess could not enthuse their warriors. When the Goddess was informed of this, She looked at the face of Siva who was seated next to Her as Kameswara and from His face emerged the elephant headed Ganesha embracing His consort Vallabai. He had 10 hands (along with the trunk 11) and in them He had the pomegranate, mace, bow made of sugarcane, Trident, discus, conch, binding rope, Nymphaeaceae flower, rice grains, His own tusk and a pot made of precious gems.” – Sri Lalitha Sahasranama Stotram with Commentary

Then, Ganesha destroyed the delusional power structures created by the demonic forces and thus freed the army of the Goddess from the sense of defeatism, inferiority and loss of self-respect.

No wonder then that Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak used Ganesha to shatter the tamasic tendencies engulfing the nation and rouse it to fight against the forces of colonialism.

It is to the credit of Saiva Siddhanta in Tamil Nadu that the inner significance of Ganesha worship has been turned into a very popular one.

Here, Ganesha represents the very basis of Hindu Dharma—unity and diversity—the One becoming the many and the many grounding their essence in the One. He is also Pranava Swarupaor the very form of the Omkara.

Saiva Siddhanta scholar Vidwan Arunai Vadivelu Mudaliyar explains:

“In the auspicious form of Vinayaka, the four-handed form shows the Deva nature while the elephant-ears, trunk as well as the tusks show the animal nature; the big pot belly and the small legs show the Bhuta nature. The asymmetry of tusks with its absence in the right side shows the feminine and the masculine forms united in Him. The different categories we see namely ‘ahirinai’ (non-human intelligence) and ‘uyarthinai’ (human and supra-human intelligence), male and female, the celestials, the animals and goblins etc. in all these the Ganesha exists as the inner essence and He is in fact all these diverse forms, is well illustrated by His very adorable form.” – Vinayagar Vazhipadu Nool

Most Western indologists and their brown-skinned clones have often concentrated on the speculative ethnic origins of this elephant-headed deity. In Tamil Nadu, the Dravidianists routinely call Him as a Brahminical alien deity brought in to enslave Tamils.

When that could not get enough traction, it was claimed that the decapitation and attachment of an elephant head was symbolic of crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. However, Tamil Nadu used Ganesha to disseminate the highest spiritual wisdom of Hindu civilisation through a hymn to Ganesha.

Vinayakar Akaval (a hymn in praise of Vinayaka in peacock-sound genre) is a composition by Avvaiyar—a poetess who probably lived around 10th century. The hymn, today famous throughout Tamil Nadu, particularly memorised by children at a very early age, is an exposition of the deepest Yogic path—combining both bhakti and yoga in an ingeniously harmonious way.

Thus, throughout history and culture, Ganesha represents the deepest spiritual reality and the height of Hindu civilisation. Naturally, He attracts attacks of the enemies of this civilisation. But He endures and protects.

With his elephant head, fat body, four arms and a mouse as vehicle, He is loved by all. He is especially dear to children. We grow up to love this form filled with paradoxes and it—for the inwardly oriented ones—becomes an eternal koan for meditation.

He who harmonises all opposing categories makes us embrace differences with respect and love. For the seekers of material prosperity, he is a deity who removes obstacles to prosperity. He also teaches us to fight against the aggressor, like he did with his very own tusk.

Ganesha is thus a quintessential universal deity who embodies in him the complete biological and spiritual evolution of this entire planet. – Swarajya, 2 September 2019

Aravindan Neelakandan is an author, psychology and economics major, and contributing editor at Swarajya.


The historical roots of our ecological crisis – Lynn White

Lynn Townsend White Jr

Science MagazineProf Lynn Townsend White was a historian of medieval Christianity who conjectured that Christian influence in the Middle Ages was the root cause of the ecological crisis in the 20th century. He gave a lecture on December 26, 1966, called “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” at the Washington meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, that was later published in the journal Science. White’s article was based on the premise that “all forms of life modify their context,” that is, we all create change in our environment. His ideas were considered by some to be a direct attack on Christianity and set off an extended debate about the role of religion in creating and sustaining the West’s destructive attitude towards—and exploitation of—the natural world. — Editor

The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis

A conversation with Aldous Huxley not infrequently put one at the receiving end of an unforgettable monologue. About a year before his lamented death he was discoursing on a favorite topic: Man’s unnatural treatment of nature and its sad results. To illustrate his point he told how, during the previous summer, he had returned to a little valley in England where he had spent many happy months as a child. Once it had been composed of delightful grassy glades; now it was becoming overgrown with unsightly brush because the rabbits that formerly kept such growth under control had largely succumbed to a disease, myxomatosis, that was deliberately introduced by the local farmers to reduce the rabbits’ destruction of crops. Being something of a Philistine, I could be silent no longer, even in the interests of great rhetoric. I interrupted to point out that the rabbit itself had been brought as a domestic animal to England in 1176, presumably to improve the protein diet of the peasantry.

All forms of life modify their contexts. The most spectacular and benign instance is doubtless the coral polyp. By serving its own ends, it has created a vast undersea world favorable to thousands of other kinds of animals and plants. Ever since man became a numerous species he has affected his environment notably. The hypothesis that his fire-drive method of hunting created the world’s great grasslands and helped to exterminate the monster mammals of the Pleistocene from much of the globe is plausible, if not proved. For 6 millennia at least, the banks of the lower Nile have been a human artifact rather than the swampy African jungle which nature, apart from man, would have made it. The Aswan Dam, flooding 5000 square miles, is only the latest stage in a long process. In many regions terracing or irrigation, overgrazing, the cutting of forests by Romans to build ships to fight Carthaginians or by Crusaders to solve the logistics problems of their expeditions, have profoundly changed some ecologies. Observation that the French landscape falls into two basic types, the open fields of the north and the bocage of the south and west, inspired Marc Bloch to undertake his classic study of medieval agricultural methods. Quite unintentionally, changes in human ways often affect nonhuman nature. It has been noted, for example, that the advent of the automobile eliminated huge flocks of sparrows that once fed on the horse manure littering every street.

The history of ecologic change is still so rudimentary that we know little about what really happened, or what the results were. The extinction of the European aurochs as late as 1627 would seem to have been a simple case of overenthusiastic hunting. On more intricate matters it often is impossible to find solid information. For a thousand years or more the Frisians and Hollanders have been pushing back the North Sea, and the process is culminating in our own time in the reclamation of the Zuider Zee. What, if any, species of animals, birds, fish, shore life, or plants have died out in the process? In their epic combat with Neptune have the Netherlanders overlooked ecological values in such a way that the quality of human life in the Netherlands has suffered? I cannot discover that the questions have ever been asked, much less answered.

People, then, have often been a dynamic element in their own environment, but in the present state of historical scholarship we usually do not know exactly when, where, or with what effects man-induced changes came. As we enter the last third of the 20th century, however, concern for the problem of ecologic backlash is mounting feverishly. Natural science, conceived as the effort to understand the nature of things, had flourished in several eras and among several peoples. Similarly there had been an age-old accumulation of technological skills, sometimes growing rapidly, sometimes slowly. But it was not until about four generations ago that Western Europe and North America arranged a marriage between science and technology, a union of the theoretical and the empirical approaches to our natural environment. The emergence in widespread practice of the Baconian creed that scientific knowledge means technological power over nature can scarcely be dated before about 1850, save in the chemical industries, where it is anticipated in the 18th century. Its acceptance as a normal pattern of action may mark the greatest event in human history since the invention of agriculture, and perhaps in nonhuman terrestrial history as well.

Almost at once the new situation forced the crystallization of the novel concept of ecology; indeed, the word ecology first appeared in the English language in 1873. Today, less than a century later, the impact of our race upon the environment has so increased in force that it has changed in essence. When the first cannons were fired, in the early 14th century, they affected ecology by sending workers scrambling to the forests and mountains for more potash, sulphur, iron ore, and charcoal, with some resulting erosion and deforestation. Hydrogen bombs are of a different order: a war fought with them might alter the genetics of all life on this planet. By 1285 London had a smog problem arising from the burning of soft coal, but our present combustion of fossil fuels threatens to change the chemistry of the globe’s atmosphere as a whole, with consequences which we are only beginning to guess. With the population explosion, the carcinoma of planless urbanism, the now geological deposits of sewage and garbage, surely no creature other than man has ever managed to foul its nest in such short order.

There are many calls to action, but specific proposals, however worthy as individual items, seem too partial, palliative, negative: ban the bomb, tear down the billboards, give the Hindus contraceptives and tell them to eat their sacred cows. The simplest solution to any suspect change is, of course, to stop it, or better yet, to revert to a romanticized past: make those ugly gasoline stations look like Anne Hathaway’s cottage or (in the Far West) like ghost-town saloons. The “wilderness area” mentality invariably advocates deep-freezing an ecology, whether San Gimignano or the High Sierra, as it was before the first Kleenex was dropped. But neither atavism nor prettification will cope with the ecologic crisis of our time.

What shall we do? No one yet knows. Unless we think about fundamentals, our specific measures may produce new backlashes more serious than those they are designed to remedy.

As a beginning we should try to clarify our thinking by looking, in some historical depth, at the presuppositions that underlie modern technology and science. Science was traditionally aristocratic, speculative, intellectual in intent; technology was lower-class, empirical, action-oriented. The quite sudden fusion of these two, towards the middle of the 19th century, is surely related to the slightly prior and contemporary democratic revolutions which, by reducing social barriers, tended to assert a functional unity of brain and hand. Our ecologic crisis is the product of an emerging, entirely novel, democratic culture. The issue is whether a democratized world can survive its own implications. Presumably we cannot unless we rethink our axioms.

The Western Traditions of Technology and Science

One thing is so certain that it seems stupid to verbalize it: both modern technology and modern science are distinctively Occidental. Our technology has absorbed elements from all over the world, notably from China; yet everywhere today, whether in Japan or in Nigeria, successful technology is Western. Our science is the heir to all the sciences of the past, especially perhaps to the work of the great Islamic scientists of the Middle Ages, who so often outdid the ancient Greeks in skill and perspicacity: Al-Razi in medicine, for example; or Ibn-al-Haytham in optics; or Omar Khayyam in mathematics. Indeed, not a few works of such geniuses seem to have vanished in the original Arabic and to survive only in medieval Latin translations that helped to lay the foundations for later Western developments. Today, around the globe, all significant science is Western in style and method, whatever the pigmentation or language of the scientists.

A second pair of facts is less well recognized because they result from quite recent historical scholarship. The leadership of the West, both in technology and in science, is far older than the so-called Scientific Revolution of the 17th century or the so-called Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. These terms are in fact outmoded and obscure the true nature of what they try to describe—significant stages in two long and separate developments. By A.D. 1000 at the latest—and perhaps, feebly, as much as 200 years earlier—the West began to apply water power to industrial processes other than milling grain. This was followed in the late 12th century by the harnessing of wind power. From simple beginnings, but with remarkable consistency of style, the West rapidly expanded its skills in the development of power machinery, labor-saving devices, and automation. Those who doubt should contemplate that most monumental achievement in the history of automation: the weight-driven mechanical clock, which appeared in two forms in the early 14th century. Not in craftsmanship but in basic technological capacity, the Latin West of the later Middle Ages far outstripped its elaborate, sophisticated, and esthetically magnificent sister cultures, Byzantium and Islam. In 1444 a great Greek ecclesiastic, Bessarion, who had gone to Italy, wrote a letter to a prince in Greece. He is amazed by the superiority of Western ships, arms, textiles, glass. But above all he is astonished by the spectacle of waterwheels sawing timbers and pumping the bellows of blast furnaces. Clearly, he had seen nothing of the sort in the Near East.

By the end of the 15th century the technological superiority of Europe was such that its small, mutually hostile nations could spill out over all the rest of the world, conquering, looting, and colonizing. The symbol of this technological superiority is the fact that Portugal, one of the weakest states of the Occident, was able to become, and to remain for a century, mistress of the East Indies. And we must remember that the technology of Vasco da Gama and Albuquerque was built by pure empiricism, drawing remarkably little support or inspiration from science.

In the present-day vernacular understanding, modern science is supposed to have begun in 1543, when both Copernicus and Vesalius published their great works. It is no derogation of their accomplishments, however, to point out that such structures as the Fabrica and the De revolutionibus do not appear overnight. The distinctive Western tradition of science, in fact, began in the late 11th century with a massive movement of translation of Arabic and Greek scientific works into Latin. A few notable books—Theophrastus, for example—escaped the West’s avid new appetite for science, but within less than 200 years effectively the entire corpus of Greek and Muslim science was available in Latin, and was being eagerly read and criticized in the new European universities. Out of criticism arose new observation, speculation, and increasing distrust of ancient authorities. By the late 13th century Europe had seized global scientific leadership from the faltering hands of Islam. It would be as absurd to deny the profound originality of Newton, Galileo, or Copernicus as to deny that of the 14th century scholastic scientists like Buridan or Oresme on whose work they built. Before the 11th century, science scarcely existed in the Latin West, even in Roman times. From the 11th century onward, the scientific sector of Occidental culture has increased in a steady crescendo.

Since both our technological and our scientific movements got their start, acquired their character, and achieved world dominance in the Middle Ages, it would seem that we cannot understand their nature or their present impact upon ecology without examining fundamental medieval assumptions and developments.

Medieval View of Man and Nature

Until recently, agriculture has been the chief occupation even in “advanced” societies; hence, any change in methods of tillage has much importance. Early plows, drawn by two oxen, did not normally turn the sod but merely scratched it. Thus, cross- plowing was needed and fields tended to be squarish. In the fairly light soils and semiarid climates of the Near East and Mediterranean, this worked well. But such a plow was inappropriate to the wet climate and often sticky soils of northern Europe. By the latter part of the 7th century after Christ, however, following obscure beginnings, certain northern peasants were using an entirely new kind of plow, equipped with a vertical knife to cut the line of the furrow, a horizontal share to slice under the sod, and a moldboard to turn it over. The friction of this plow with the soil was so great that it normally required not two but eight oxen. It attacked the land with such violence that cross-plowing was not needed, and fields tended to be shaped in long strips.

In the days of the scratch-plow, fields were distributed generally in units capable of supporting a single family. Subsistence farming was the presupposition. But no peasant owned eight oxen: to use the new and more efficient plow, peasants pooled their oxen to form large plow-teams, originally receiving (it would appear) plowed strips in proportion to their contribution. Thus, distribution of land was based no longer on the needs of a family but, rather, on the capacity of a power machine to till the earth. Man’s relation to the soil was profoundly changed. Formerly man had been part of nature; now he was the exploiter of nature. Nowhere else in the world did farmers develop any analogous agricultural implement. Is it coincidence that modern technology, with its ruthlessness toward nature, has so largely been produced by descendants of these peasants of northern Europe?

This same exploitive attitude appears slightly before A.D. 830 in Western illustrated calendars. In older calendars the months were shown as passive personifications. The new Frankish calendars, which set the style for the Middle Ages, are very different: they show men coercing the world around them—plowing, harvesting, chopping trees, butchering pigs. Man and nature are two things, and man is master.

These novelties seem to be in harmony with larger intellectual patterns. What people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them. Human ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny—that is, by religion. To Western eyes this is very evident in, say, India or Ceylon. It is equally true of ourselves and of our medieval ancestors.

The victory of Christianity over Paganism was the greatest psychic revolution in the history of our culture. It has become fashionable today to say that, for better or worse, we live in the “post-Christian age.” Certainly the forms of our thinking and language have largely ceased to be Christian, but to my eye the substance often remains amazingly akin to that of the past. Our daily habits of action, for example, are dominated by an implicit faith in perpetual progress which was unknown either to Greco-Roman antiquity or to the Orient. It is rooted in, and is indefensible apart from, Judeo-Christian theology. The fact that Communists share it merely helps to show what can be demonstrated on many other grounds: that Marxism, like Islam, is a Judeo-Christian heresy. We continue today to live, as we have lived for about 1700 years, very largely in a context of Christian axioms.

What did Christianity tell people about their relations with the environment? While many of the world’s mythologies provide stories of creation, Greco-Roman mythology was singularly incoherent in this respect. Like Aristotle, the intellectuals of the ancient West denied that the visible world had a beginning. Indeed, the idea of a beginning was impossible in the framework of their cyclical notion of time. In sharp contrast, Christianity inherited from Judaism not only a concept of time as nonrepetitive and linear but also a striking story of creation. By gradual stages a loving and all- powerful God had created light and darkness, the heavenly bodies, the earth and all its plants, animals, birds, and fishes. Finally, God had created Adam and, as an afterthought, Eve to keep man from being lonely. Man named all the animals, thus establishing his dominance over them. God planned all of this explicitly for man’s benefit and rule: no item in the physical creation had any purpose save to serve man’s purposes. And, although man’s body is made of clay, he is not simply part of nature: he is made in God’s image.

Especially in its Western form, Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen. As early as the 2nd century both Tertullian and Saint Irenaeus of Lyons were insisting that when God shaped Adam he was foreshadowing the image of the incarnate Christ, the Second Adam. Man shares, in great measure, God’s transcendence of nature. Christianity, in absolute contrast to ancient Paganism and Asia’s religions (except, perhaps, Zorastrianism), not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends.

At the level of the common people this worked out in an interesting way. In Antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit. These spirits were accessible to men, but were very unlike men; centaurs, fauns, and mermaids show their ambivalence. Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated. By destroying Pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.

It is often said that for animism the Church substituted the cult of saints. True; but the cult of saints is functionally quite different from animism. The saint is not in natural objects; he may have special shrines, but his citizenship is in heaven. Moreover, a saint is entirely a man; he can be approached in human terms. In addition to saints, Christianity of course also had angels and demons inherited from Judaism and perhaps, at one remove, from Zoroastrianism. But these were all as mobile as the saints themselves. The spirits in natural objects, which formerly had protected nature from man, evaporated. Man’s effective monopoly on spirit in this world was confirmed, and the old inhibitions to the exploitation of nature crumbled.

When one speaks in such sweeping terms, a note of caution is in order. Christianity is a complex faith, and its consequences differ in differing contexts. What I have said may well apply to the medieval West, where in fact technology made spectacular advances. But the Greek East, a highly civilized realm of equal Christian devotion, seems to have produced no marked technological innovation after the late 7th century, when Greek fire was invented. The key to the contrast may perhaps be found in a difference in the tonality of piety and thought which students of comparative theology find between the Greek and the Latin Churches. The Greeks believed that sin was intellectual blindness, and that salvation was found in illumination, orthodoxy—that is, clear thinking. The Latins, on the other hand, felt that sin was moral evil, and that salvation was to be found in right conduct. Eastern theology has been intellectualist. Western theology has been voluntarist. The Greek saint contemplates; the Western saint acts. The implications of Christianity for the conquest of nature would emerge more easily in the Western atmosphere.

The Christian dogma of creation, which is found in the first clause of all the Creeds, has another meaning for our comprehension of today’s ecologic crisis. By revelation, God had given man the Bible, the Book of Scripture. But since God had made nature, nature also must reveal the divine mentality. The religious study of nature for the better understanding of God was known as natural theology. In the early Church, and always in the Greek East, nature was conceived primarily as a symbolic system through which God speaks to men: the ant is a sermon to sluggards; rising flames are the symbol of the soul’s aspiration. The view of nature was essentially artistic rather than scientific. While Byzantium preserved and copied great numbers of ancient Greek scientific texts, science as we conceive it could scarcely flourish in such an ambience.

However, in the Latin West by the early 13th century natural theology was following a very different bent. It was ceasing to be the decoding of the physical symbols of God’s communication with man and was becoming the effort to understand God’s mind by discovering how his creation operates. The rainbow was no longer simply a symbol of hope first sent to Noah after the Deluge: Robert Grosseteste, Friar Roger Bacon, and Theodoric of Freiberg produced startlingly sophisticated work on the optics of the rainbow, but they did it as a venture in religious understanding. From the 13th century onward, up to and including Leitnitz and Newton, every major scientist, in effect, explained his motivations in religious terms. Indeed, if Galileo had not been so expert an amateur theologian he would have got into far less trouble: the professionals resented his intrusion. And Newton seems to have regarded himself more as a theologian than as a scientist. It was not until the late 18th century that the hypothesis of God became unnecessary to many scientists.

It is often hard for the historian to judge, when men explain why they are doing what they want to do, whether they are offering real reasons or merely culturally acceptable reasons. The consistency with which scientists during the long formative centuries of Western science said that the task and the reward of the scientist was “to think God’s thoughts after him” leads one to believe that this was their real motivation. If so, then modern Western science was cast in a matrix of Christian theology. The dynamism of religious devotion shaped by the Judeo-Christian dogma of creation, gave it impetus.

An Alternative Christian View

We would seem to be headed toward conclusions unpalatable to many Christians. Since both science and technology are blessed words in our contemporary vocabulary, some may be happy at the notions, first, that viewed historically, modern science is an extrapolation of natural theology and, second, that modern technology is at least partly to be explained as an Occidental, voluntarist realization of the Christian dogma of man’s transcendence of, and rightful master over, nature. But, as we now recognize, somewhat over a century ago science and technology—hitherto quite separate activities—joined to give mankind powers which, to judge by many of the ecologic effects, are out of control. If so, Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt.

I personally doubt that disastrous ecologic backlash can be avoided simply by applying to our problems more science and more technology. Our science and technology have grown out of Christian attitudes toward man’s relation to nature which are almost universally held not only by Christians and neo-Christians but also by those who fondly regard themselves as post-Christians. Despite Copernicus, all the cosmos rotates around our little globe. Despite Darwin, we are not, in our hearts, part of the natural process. We are superior to nature, contemptuous of it, willing to use it for our slightest whim. The newly elected Governor of California, like myself a churchman but less troubled than I, spoke for the Christian tradition when he said (as is alleged), “when you’ve seen one redwood tree, you’ve seen them all.” To a Christian a tree can be no more than a physical fact. The whole concept of the sacred grove is alien to Christianity and to the ethos of the West. For nearly two millennia Christian missionaries have been chopping down sacred groves, which are idolatrous because they assume spirit in nature.

What we do about ecology depends on our ideas of the man-nature relationship. More science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present ecologic crisis until we find a new religion, or rethink our old one. The beatniks, who are the basic revolutionaries of our time, show a sound instinct in their affinity for Zen Buddhism, which conceives of the man-nature relationship as very nearly the mirror image of the Christian view. Zen, however, is as deeply conditioned by Asian history as Christianity is by the experience of the West, and I am dubious of its viability among us.

Possibly we should ponder the greatest radical in Christian history since Christ: Saint Francis of Assisi. The prime miracle of Saint Francis is the fact that he did not end at the stake, as many of his left-wing followers did. He was so clearly heretical that a General of the Franciscan Order, Saint Bonaventura, a great and perceptive Christian, tried to suppress the early accounts of Franciscanism. The key to an understanding of Francis is his belief in the virtue of humility—not merely for the individual but for man as a species. Francis tried to depose man from his monarchy over creation and set up a democracy of all God’s creatures. With him the ant is no longer simply a homily for the lazy, flames a sign of the thrust of the soul toward union with God; now they are Brother Ant and Sister Fire, praising the Creator in their own ways as Brother Man does in his.

Later commentators have said that Francis preached to the birds as a rebuke to men who would not listen. The records do not read so: he urged the little birds to praise God, and in spiritual ecstasy they flapped their wings and chirped rejoicing. Legends of saints, especially the Irish saints, had long told of their dealings with animals but always, I believe, to show their human dominance over creatures. With Francis it is different. The land around Gubbio in the Apennines was ravaged by a fierce wolf. Saint Francis, says the legend, talked to the wolf and persuaded him of the error of his ways. The wolf repented, died in the odor of sanctity, and was buried in consecrated ground.

What Sir Steven Runciman calls “the Franciscan doctrine of the animal soul” was quickly stamped out. Quite possibly it was in part inspired, consciously or unconsciously, by the belief in reincarnation held by the Cathar heretics who at that time teemed in Italy and  southern France, and who presumably had got it originally from India. It is significant that at just the same moment, about 1200, traces of metempsychosis are found also in western Judaism, in the Provencal Cabbala. But Francis held neither to transmigration of souls nor to pantheism. His view of nature and of man rested on a unique sort of panpsychism of all things animate and inanimate, designed for the glorification of their transcendent Creator, who, in the ultimate gesture of cosmic humility, assumed flesh, lay helpless in a manger, and hung dying on a scaffold.

I am not suggesting that many contemporary Americans who are concerned about our ecologic crisis will be either able or willing to counsel with wolves or exhort birds. However, the present increasing disruption of the global environment is the product of a dynamic technology and science which were originating in the Western medieval world against which Saint Francis was rebelling in so original a way. Their growth cannot be understood historically apart from distinctive attitudes toward nature which are deeply grounded in Christian dogma. The fact that most people do not think of these attitudes as Christian is irrelevant. No new set of basic values has been accepted in our society to displace those of Christianity. Hence we shall continue to have a worsening ecologic  crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.

The greatest spiritual revolutionary in Western history, Saint Francis, proposed what he thought was an alternative Christian view of nature and man’s relation to it; he tried to substitute the idea of the equality of all creatures, including man, for the idea of man’s limitless rule of creation. He failed. Both our present science and our present technology are so tinctured with orthodox Christian arrogance toward nature that no solution for our ecologic crisis can be expected from them alone. Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious, whether we call it that or not. We must rethink and refeel our nature and destiny. The profoundly religious, but heretical, sense of the primitive Franciscans for the spiritual autonomy of all parts of nature may point a direction. I propose Francis as a patron saint for ecologists. —  Science Magazine, 1967

» Download the essay here (pdf)

» Prof Lynn Townsend White, Jr. (April 29, 1907–March 30, 1987) was a professor of medieval Christian history at Princeton and Stanford universities. He was the son of a Calvinist professor of Christian Ethics and had himself earned a master’s degree at Union Theological Seminary. 

Lynn Townsend White


 

Buddha was every inch a Hindu – Koenraad Elst

Gautama Buddha

Both Nehru and Ambedkar believed by implication that at some point in his life, the Hindu-born renunciate Gautama had broken away from Hinduism and adopted a new religion, Buddhism. This notion is now omnipresent, and through school textbooks most Indians have lapped this up and don’t know any better. However, none of the believers in this story have ever told us at what moment in his life the Buddha broke way from Hinduism. When did he revolt against it? Very many Indians repeat the Nehruvian account, but so far, never has any of them been able to pinpoint an event in the Buddha’s life which constituted a break with Hinduism.” – Dr. Koenraad Elst

When did the Buddha break away from Hinduism?

Orientalists had started treating Buddhism as a separate religion because they discovered it outside India, without any conspicuous link with India, where Buddhism was not in evidence. At first, they didn’t even know that the Buddha had been an Indian. It had at any rate gone through centuries of development unrelated to anything happening in India at the same time. Therefore, it is understandable that Buddhism was already the object of a separate discipline even before any connection with Hinduism could be made.

Buddhism in modern India

In India, all kinds of invention, somewhat logically connected to this status of separate religion, were then added. Especially the Ambedkarite movement, springing from the conversion of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in 1956, was very driven in retro-actively producing an anti-Hindu programme for the Buddha. Conversion itself, not just the embracing of a new tradition (which any Hindu is free to do, all while staying a Hindu) but the renouncing of one’s previous religion, as the Hindu-born politician Ambedkar did, is a typically Christian concept. The model event was the conversion of the Frankish king Clovis, possibly in 496, who “burned what he had worshipped and worshipped what he had burnt”. (Let it pass for now that the Christian chroniclers slandered their victims by positing a false symmetry: the Heathens hadn’t been in the business of destroying Christian symbols.) So, in his understanding of the history of Bauddha Dharma (Buddhism), Ambedkar was less than reliable, in spite of his sterling contributions regarding the history of Islam and some parts of the history of caste. But where he was a bit right and a bit mistaken, his later followers have gone all the way and made nothing but a gross caricature of history, and especially about the place of Buddhism in Hindu history.

The Ambedkarite world view has ultimately only radicalized the moderately anti-Hindu version of the reigning Nehruvians. Under Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, Buddhism was turned into the unofficial state religion of India, adopting the “lion pillar” of the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka as state symbol and putting the 24-spoked cakravarti wheel in the national flag. Essentially, Nehru’s knowledge of Indian history was limited to two spiritual figures, viz. the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, and three political leaders: Ashoka, Akbar and himself. The concept of cakravarti (“wheel-turner”, universal ruler) was in fact much older than Ashoka, and the 24-spoked wheel can also be read in other senses, e.g. the Sankhya philosophy’s world view  with the central Purusha/Subject and the 24 elements of Prakrti/ Nature. The anglicized Nehru, “India’s last Viceroy”, prided himself on his illiteracy in Hindu culture, so he didn’t know any of this, but was satisfied that these symbols could glorify Ashoka and belittle Hinduism, deemed a separate religion from which Ashoka had broken away by accepting Buddhism. More broadly, he thought that everything of value in India was a gift of Buddhism (and Islam) to the undeserving Hindus. Thus, the fabled Hindu tolerance was according to him a value borrowed from Buddhism. In reality, the Buddha had been a beneficiary of an already established Hindu tradition of pluralism. In a Muslim country, he would never have preached his doctrine in peace and comfort for 45 years, but in Hindu society, this was a matter of course. There were some attempts on his life, but they emanated not from “Hindus” but from jealous disciples within his own monastic order.

So, both Nehru and Ambedkar, as well as their followers, believed by implication that at some point in his life, the Hindu-born renunciate Buddha had broken away from Hinduism and adopted a new religion, Buddhism. This notion is now omnipresent, and through school textbooks, most Indians have lapped this up and don’t know any better. However, numerous though they are, none of the believers in this story have ever told us at what moment in his life the Buddha broke way from Hinduism. When did he revolt against it? Very many Indians repeat the Nehruvian account, but so far, never has any of them been able to pinpoint an event in the Buddha’s life which constituted a break with Hinduism.

The term ‘Hinduism’

Their first line of defence, when put on the spot, is sure to be: “Actually, Hinduism did not yet exist at the time.” So, their position really is: Hinduism did not exist yet, but somehow the Buddha broke away from it. Yeah, the secular position is that he was a miracle-worker.

Let us correct that: the word “Hinduism” did not exist yet. When Darius of the Achaemenid Persians, a near-contemporary of the Buddha, used the word “Hindu”, it was purely in a geographical sense: anyone from inside or beyond the Indus region. When the medieval Muslim invaders brought the term into India, they used it to mean: any Indian except for the Indian Muslims, Christians or Jews. It did not have a specific doctrinal content except “non-Abrahamic”, a negative definition. It meant every Indian Pagan, including the Brahmins, Buddhists (“clean-shaven Brahmins”), Jains, other ascetics, low-castes, intermediate castes, tribals, and by implication also the as yet unborn Lingayats, Sikhs, Hare Krishnas, Arya Samajis, Ramakrishnaites, secularists and others who nowadays reject the label “Hindu”. This definition was essentially also adopted by V.D. Savarkar in his book Hindutva (1923) and by the Hindu Marriage Act (1955). By this historical definition, which also has the advantages of primacy and of not being thought up by the wily Brahmins, the Buddha and all his Indian followers are unquestionably Hindus. In that sense, Savarkar was right when he called Ambedkar’s taking refuge in Buddhism “a sure jump into the Hindu fold”.

But the word “Hindu” is a favourite object of manipulation. Thus, secularists say that all kinds of groups (Dravidians, low-castes, Sikhs etc.) are “not Hindu”, yet when Hindus complain of the self-righteousness and aggression of the minorities, secularists laugh at this concern: “How can the Hindus feel threatened? They are more than 80%!” The missionaries call the tribals “not Hindus”, but when the tribals riot against the Christians who have murdered their Swami, we read about “Hindu rioters”. In the Buddha’s case, “Hindu” is often narrowed down to “Vedic” when convenient, then restored to its wider meaning when expedient.

One meaning which the word “Hindu” definitely does not have, and did not have when it was introduced, is “Vedic”. Shankara holds it against Patanjali and the Sankhya school (just like the Buddha) that they don’t bother to cite the Vedas, yet they have a place in every history of Hindu thought. Hinduism includes a lot of elements which have only a thin Vedic veneer, and numerous ones which are not Vedic at all. Scholars say that it consists of a “Great Tradition” and many “Little Traditions”, local cults allowed to subsist under the aegis of the prestigious Vedic line. However, if we want to classify the Buddha in these terms, he should rather be included in the Great Tradition.

Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha was a Kshatriya, a scion of the Solar or Ikshvaku dynasty, a descendant of Manu, a self-described reincarnation of Rama, the son of the Raja (president-for-life) of the Shakya tribe, a member of its Senate, and belonging to the Gautama gotra (roughly “clan”). Though monks are often known by their monastic name, Buddhists prefer to name the Buddha after his descent group, viz. the Shakyamuni, “renunciate of the Shakya tribe”. This tribe was as Hindu as could be, consisting according to its own belief of the progeny of the eldest children of patriarch Manu, who were repudiated at the insistence of his later, younger wife. The Buddha is not known to have rejected this name, not even at the end of his life when the Shakyas had earned the wrath of king Vidudabha of Kosala and were massacred. The doctrine that he was one in a line of incarnations which also included Rama is not a deceitful Brahmin Puranic invention but was launched by the Buddha himself, who claimed Rama as an earlier incarnation of his. The numerous scholars who like to explain every Hindu idea or custom as “borrowed from Buddhism” could well counter Ambedkar’s rejection of this “Hindu” doctrine by pointing out very aptly that it was “borrowed from Buddhism”.

Career

At 29, he renounced society, but not Hinduism. Indeed, it is a typical thing among Hindus to exit from society, laying off your caste marks including your civil name. The Rigveda already describes the munis as having matted hair and going about sky-clad: such are what we now know as Naga sadhus. Asceticism was a recognized practice in Vedic society long before the Buddha. Yajnavalkya, the Upanishadic originator of the notion of Self, renounced life in society after a successful career as court priest and an equally happy family life with two wives. By leaving his family and renouncing his future in politics, the Buddha followed an existing tradition within Hindu society. He didn’t practice Vedic rituals anymore, which is normal for a Vedic renunciate (though Zen Buddhists still recite the Heart Sutra in the Vedic fashion, ending with “sowaka”, i.e. svaha). He was a late follower of a movement very much in evidence in the Upanishads, viz. of spurning rituals (karmakanda) in favour of knowledge (jnanakanda). After he had done the Hindu thing by going to the forest, he tried several methods, including the techniques he learned from two masters and which did not fully satisfy him, — but nonetheless enough to include them in his own and the Buddhist curriculum. Among other techniques, he practised Anapanasati, “attention to the breathing process”, the archetypal yoga practice popular in practically all yoga schools till today. For a while he also practised an extreme form of asceticism, still existing in the Hindu sect of Jainism. He exercised his Hindu freedom to join a sect devoted to certain techniques, and later the freedom to leave it, remaining a Hindu at every stage.

He then added a technique of his own, or at least that is what the Buddhist sources tell us, for in the paucity of reliable information, we don’t know for sure that he hadn’t learned the Vipassana (“mindfulness”) technique elsewhere. Unless evidence of the contrary comes to the surface, we assume that he invented this technique all by himself, as a Hindu is free to do. He then achieved bodhi, the “awakening”. By his own admission, he was by no means the first to do so. Instead, he had only walked the same path of other awakened beings before him.

At the bidding of the Vedic gods Brahma and Indra, he left his self-contained state of Awakening and started teaching his way to others. When he “set in motion the wheel of the Law” (dharma-cakra-pravartana, Chinese falun gong), he gave no indication whatsoever of breaking with an existing system. On the contrary, by his use of existing Vedic and Upanishadic terminology (Arya, “Vedically civilized”, Dharma), he confirmed his Vedic roots and implied that his system was a restoration of the Vedic ideal which had become degenerate. He taught his techniques and his analysis of the human condition to his disciples, promising them to achieve the same awakening if they practised these diligently.

Caste

On caste, we find him is full cooperation with existing caste society. Being an elitist, he mainly recruited among the upper castes, with over 40% Brahmins. These would later furnish all the great philosophers who made Buddhism synonymous with conceptual sophistication. Conversely, the Buddhist universities trained well-known non-Buddhist scientists such as the astronomer Aryabhata. Lest the impression be created that universities are a gift of Buddhism to India, it may be pointed out that the Buddha’s friends Bandhula and Prasenadi (and, according to a speculation, maybe the young Siddhartha himself) had studied at the university of Takshashila, clearly established before there were any Buddhists around to do so. Instead, the Buddhists greatly developed an institution which they had inherited from Hindu society.

The kings and magnates of the eastern Ganga plain treated the Buddha as one of their own (because that is what he was) and gladly patronized his fast-growing monastic order, commanding their servants and subjects to build a network of monasteries for it. He predicted the coming of a future awakened leader like himself, the Maitreya (“the one practising friendship/charity”), and specified that he would be born in a Brahmin family. When king Prasenadi discovered that his wife was not a Shakya princess but the daughter of the Shakya ruler by a maid-servant, he repudiated her and their son; but his friend the Buddha made him take them back.

Did he achieve this by saying that birth is unimportant, that “caste is bad” or that “caste doesn’t matter”, as the Ambedkarites claim? No, he reminded the king of the old view (then apparently in the process of being replaced with a stricter view) that caste was passed on exclusively in the paternal line. Among hybrids of horses and donkeys, the progeny of a horse stallion and a donkey mare whinnies, like its father, while the progeny of a donkey stallion and a horse mare brays, also like its father. So, in the oldest Upanishad, Satyakama Jabala is accepted by his Brahmins-only teacher because his father is deduced to be a Brahmin, regardless of his mother being a maid-servant. And similarly, king Prasenadi should accept his son as a Kshatriya, even though his mother was not a full-blooded Shakya Kshatriya.

When he died, the elites of eight cities made a successful bid for his ashes on the plea: “We are Kshatriyas, he was a Kshatriya, therefore we have a right to his ashes”. After almost half a century, his disciples didn’t mind being seen in public as still observing caste in a context which was par excellence Buddhist. The reason is that the Buddha in his many teachings never had told them to give up caste, e.g. to give their daughters in marriage to men of other castes. This was perfectly logical: as a man with a spiritual message, the Buddha wanted to lose as little time as possible on social matters. If satisfying your own miserable desires is difficult enough, satisfying the desire for an egalitarian society provides an endless distraction from your spiritual practice.

The Seven Rules

There never was a separate non-Hindu Buddhist society. Most Hindus worship various gods and teachers, adding and sometimes removing one or more pictures or statues to their house altar. This way, there were some lay worshippers of the Buddha, but they were not a society separate from the worshippers of other gods or awakened masters. This box-type division of society in different sects is another Christian prejudice infused into modern Hindu society by Nehruvian secularism. There were only Hindus, members of Hindu castes, some of whom had a veneration for the Buddha among others.

Buddhist buildings in India often follow the designs of Vedic habitat ecology or Vastu Shastra. Buddhist temple conventions follow an established Hindu pattern. Buddhist mantras, also outside India, follow the pattern of Vedic mantras. When Buddhism spread to China and Japan, Buddhist monks took the Vedic gods (e.g. the twelve Adityas) with them and built temples for them. In Japan, every town has a temple for the river-goddess Benzaiten, i.e. “Saraswati Devi”, the goddess Saraswati. She was not introduced there by wily Brahmins, but by Buddhists.

At the fag-end of his long life, the Buddha described the seven principles by which a society does not perish (which Sita Ram Goel has given more body in his historical novel Sapta Shila, in Hindi), and among them are included: respecting and maintaining the existing festivals, pilgrimages and rituals; and revering the holy men. These festivals, etc. were mainly “Vedic”, of course, like the pilgrimage to the Saraswati which Balaram made in the Mahabharata, or the pilgrimage to the Ganga which the elderly Pandava brothers made. Far from being a revolutionary, the Buddha emphatically outed himself as a conservative, both in social and in religious matters. He was not a rebel or a revolutionary, but wanted the existing customs to continue. The Buddha was every inch a Hindu.

» Dr. Koenraad Elst is a Belgian scholar and orientalist. He has authored many English language books on topics related to Indian politics and communalism, and is one of the few western writers to actively defend the Hindutva ideology.

Gautama Buddha & B.R. Ambedkar

The Twenty-Two Pledges of a Neo-Buddhist

  1. I will not accept Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh as God and will not worship them.
  2. I will not accept Rama and Krishna as God and will not worship them.
  3. I will not accept Gauri, Ganpati, etc. belonging to Hindu canon, as God / Goddesses and will not worship them.
  4. I do not have any faith in divine incarnation.
  5. That the Buddha is the incarnation of Vishnu is a mischievous and false propaganda. I do not believe in it.
  6. I will not perform Shraddha Paksh or Pinda Pradaana (rituals to respect the dead).
  7. I will not act contrary to principles and teachings of Buddhism.
  8. I will not get any function performed in which the Brahmin is officiating as a priest.
  9. I believe that all human beings are equal.
  10. I will strive to establish equality.
  11. I will follow the Eightfold Path prescribed by the Buddha.
  12. I will abide by the Ten Paramitas prescribed by the Buddha.
  13. I will show loving kindness to all animals and look after them.
  14. I will not commit theft.
  15. I will not commit adultery.
  16. I will not speak lies.
  17. I will not indulge in liquor drinking.
  18. I will live my life by relating pradnya (knowledge), sheel (purity of action) and karuna (compassion).
  19. I renounce Hinduism which has proved detrimental to progress and prosperity of my predecessors and which has regarded human beings as unequal and despicable; and embrace Buddhism.
  20. I have ascertained that Buddhism is saddamma (pure way of life).
  21. I believe that this (embracing Buddhism) is my new birth.
  22. I take the Pledge that hereafter I shall live / behave as per the teaching of the Buddha.

See also

 

Sabarimala: BJP government’s gross miscalculation in Kerala – Rajeev Srinivasan

Narendra Modi & Pinarayi Vijayan

Rajeev SrinivasanThe courts and the Kerala government may be demonising and humiliating Hindus as a way of taking pot-shots at the BJP government, which they view as Hindu-friendly. What is bitterly ironic is that the BJP government has done absolutely nothing to save the Hindus of Kerala, but stood by, apparently either helpless or uncaring. – Rajeev Srinivasan

The Sabarimala issue is one in which there are no winners, but many losers. Most of all, the losers are the faithful, especially Kerala Hindu women, who have had their beliefs trampled underfoot by an uncaring state. Almost nobody comes out of it smelling of roses, and it has been a disastrous series of events, the real import of which we don’t yet understand. However, it feels very much like a tipping point, although which way things will go is not yet clear.

While the proximate cause of the problems is the Supreme Court ruling on 28 September, there is a preponderant cause and a root cause, too. We can also think in terms of three different stakeholders, none of whom exactly covered themselves in glory: the Supreme Court, the Communist Kerala government, and the BJP union government.

The Supreme Court

The proximate cause is the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that the Court unwisely admitted: because those filing the case had no obvious locus standi. None of them were Kerala Hindus, or pious Ayyappa devotee women, who might have had a legitimate desire to visit the temple in their child-bearing years between 10 and 50. Instead, it was filed by several Delhi lawyers (four out of five of them later changed their mind once they understood the situation, but the Court would not let them withdraw the petition, perhaps for technical reasons, perhaps because of the virtue-signalling opportunity).

There are plenty of concerns about the entire PIL process, wherein a fashionable cause can be brought to the Supreme Court directly: a situation unique to India. Comparable class-action suits in the US, for instance, have to wend their way for several years through lower courts, courts of appeal, etc, before the Supreme Court accepts it only if it is a constitutional matter. In India, on the other hand, anybody with an axe to grind and lots of money can hire a famous lawyer, get the case listed straight as a PIL in the SC, and have the Court rule in their favour in a few months, damn the impact on society at large. It really isn’t in the “public interest” after all, just a pet cause for the litigants.

The simplest thing regarding Sabarimala would have been for the Supreme Court to maintain the status quo ante. However, based on a narrow reading of their ambit, and influenced no doubt by current fads and the media, the Court chose to impose a ruling that is the very opposite of Solomonic: instead of being harsh but even-handed, it is harsh but one-sided, and doesn’t take the ground situation into account.

This is the most glaring proximate cause; on reflection, the Court should have rejected this PIL, but it was positioned as a “gender rights” issue, and presumably in the wake of #MeToo, judges too are eager to show how politically correct they are with respect to this latest fashion.

The Supreme Court, in a rambling verdict, ruled on 28 September said that all women should be allowed free entry, regardless of consequences. The simple-minded focus on gender equality shows two things: a) the baleful influence of Western fads and causes on the courts, b) the possibility that the Court had made up its mind even before any arguments were heard.

The latter possibility is buttressed by two observations. There was an immediate uproar, and thousands of ordinary Kerala Hindu women, the purported “victims” being given succour by the ruling, took to the streets in massive protests, because they felt their faith and traditions were under attack by outsiders. They were #ReadyToWait till they were 50, they said. The sight of thousands of ordinary middle-class mothers and grandmothers out on the streets should have been instructive.

But the Court choose to ignore them, and set the hearing for the clutch of review petitions on 13 November, aware that the temple would open for Diwali on 5 and 6 November. If the process were fair, the hearing of the review petition should have been before Diwali, because once a single young woman entered, there would be a fait accompli, and the tradition would have been violated, to the chagrin of the faithful.

Indeed, there were startling battle scenes on the days the temple was open in October and earlier this month with large numbers of policemen in riot gear protecting certain female activists who were obviously not pilgrims, or driven by any need to pray. They were there to make a point. This prospect caused serious angst among the devotees, leading to scenes of unprecedented protests. There was chaos.

These law and order problems and the sentiments of the protesting women did not sway the Court, and when they accepted the review petitions in camera on 13 November, the Court did not stay their earlier judgment, which they could have while analysing the situation on the ground. On the contrary, they postponed the hearing of the review petitions to 22 January, which is after the Sabarimala season is over. They explicitly said there was no stay on the 28 September ruling. In other words, they were signalling the Kerala government that the latter should go ahead with its plans to bring in women activists, and perhaps that the review petitions would be thrown out.

The impartial observer is forced to ask whether there is a pattern in the Supreme Court’s rulings in the recent past, generally in the wake of dubious PILs. There was the jallikattu ban, the dahihandi ban, the Diwali cracker ban—all of which were based on no scientific evidence, but all of which had the result of demeaning Hindu practices. The impression one gets is that court is simply sniping at the Narendra Modi government, possibly with a political agenda. Hindu sentiments are the collateral damage.

Kerala Government

There is a preponderant cause, which is the hostility of successive Kerala governments towards Hindus (and only Hindus) and in particular against the Sabarimala Temple. Let us recall how in the 1950’s, the temple (which was then seldom visited) was set on fire by Christians seeking to grab the forest around it. The response of C. Kesavan, the then-CM and Congress leader, was instructive: “Good. One more house of superstition burned down”.

Successive Congress and Communist governments have continued their step-motherly treatment of the temple. It became a cash cow for them, as the number of pilgrims grew exponentially in the 1980s and later, now reaching some 40 million a year, quite possibly the largest pilgrimage in the world. The governments simply siphoned off the entire revenue of donations by the faithful. And they did nothing to whatsoever improve the facilities.

It is unbelievable how much has been looted from pilgrims—hundreds of crores per year—without a paisa being spent on improving amenities for them. There is absolutely no organisation unlike in Tirupati: pilgrims are not able to purchase passes to enter at a given time and many end up spending 10-12 hours waiting in line for a glimpse of the sanctum; there are far too few toilets and bathrooms; there is not enough shelter from the sun and rain (the November-January season is relatively cold and the northeast monsoon is active).

There are feral pigs rooting in the muck, with fierce fangs; the whole area is a mess with mud, pig droppings, plastic, flowers, and human waste. There were photographs of young children sleeping propped up against garbage bins, others sleeping next to rooting pigs. These are people who have come from far and near, after 41 days of penance, have been overcharged for everything, been forced to walk 20 kilometres from the Nilakkal station to Pamba, then climb steep hills for 4-5 km to arrive at the sanctum. Only in India are pilgrims treated with such contempt.

And indeed, the temple area has exceeded its carrying capacity because of no investment whatsoever for decades. Frankly, the emotion it induces is not bhakti but bibhatsa: the fortitude of the pilgrims who brave all this is astonishing.

None of this is beyond fixing: but it needs money, and more importantly, will. The money is there: the government commingling pilgrim offerings with government funds. The will is missing. It is ironic that this year, when the Pinarayi Vijayan government wanted to control the crowds for their own purposes, they have been able to create some kind of system of reducing the crush at the Sannidhanam. Why couldn’t they do crowd-control all these years?

It’s not just the Communists who are hostile, but so are their alter-egos, the Congress. In Kerala, the Congress reflects Christian interests, which include the conversion of Western Ghats forest land to privately-owned Christian assets, especially plantations and resorts. There was the instance where the previous Congress chief minister said that he didn’t support a proposed rail link to Sabarimala because it would mean the loss of Christian land for the project!

The actions of the Kerala government after 17 November, when the shrine reopened for the season, have been nothing short of extraordinary. They ordered the police to wear their boots in the Sannidhanam, hitherto a holy area around the sanctum sanctorum; there were startling photos of the police drying their rain coats on a clothesline erected just in front of the sanctum sanctorum. A Section 144 prohibitory order was issued, which forced all pilgrims to vacate the waiting sheds. They hosed down the entire area so that nobody could lay down a sheet and lie down.

Furthermore, in an act that could only have been intended to provoke, there were photographs of policemen standing on the hitherto sacrosanct 18 steps, with their back to the deity, hosing down the surroundings. So far as I know, the only person who had ever been entitled to climb the steps without the traditional irumudi (offerings) is the officiating tantri (priest). These are startling violations of tradition.

They started arresting pilgrims who had come after all the traditional penances: firebrand Hindu Aikya Vedi leader Sasikala and Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Surendran. Many pilgrims were arrested and summarily removed, their sentiments ignored. At least one pilgrim has been reportedly injured when police kicked him. The pilgrims who were merely chanting Ayyappa stuthis were set upon by the police.

On the other hand, a local airport was turned into a sea of khaki to protect a known rabble-rouser woman who had arrived from Mumbai. There was no question where the government’s sympathies lay. Meanwhile, they are treating pilgrims as criminals and terrorists (a Communist minister, with a Christian name, actually called the pilgrims, terrorists).

This has all the signs of a simple agenda: desacralisation of the shrine. The Kerala government is planning to remove all sanctity, violate every rule there, and reduce it to an object no longer of reverence, but of disdain. It is as though they would like to turn the temple into an empty shell, devoid of sacredness, and kill off this religious tradition and pilgrimage. It is like a medieval attack of one religion on another: pious Communists want to wipe out Hindus.

That would be quite natural for a Communist government to do, but it is also a violation of the fundamental right to worship unmolested. The fact is that there appears to be no appeal against this assault: there is nobody the distressed pilgrims can turn to for help, as the courts are hostile. In these circumstances, it is quite possible that a few agents provocateurs can come into the picture. The idea may be to create a Bluestar-like situation, with violence used as an excuse for physically destroying the shrine using, possibly, military equipment.

I have never seen a religious shrine treated with such contempt as Sabarimala. It is unbelievable in a democratic country. The entire might of the state has been brought to bear against an old temple, with its pious, unarmed, peaceable pilgrims being treated inhumanely. It is clear that the Kerala government will stop at nothing to force the entry of young women into the temple, come what may. Their contempt for the Hindu citizens of Kerala, who are protesting peacefully against unjust laws, much like Gandhi did Salt Satyagraha, could not be clearer. The words “apartheid” and “pogrom” spring to mind.

It is possible that both the courts and the Kerala government may be demonising and humiliating Hindus as a way of taking pot-shots at the BJP government, which they view as Hindu-friendly. What is bitterly ironic is that the BJP government has done absolutely nothing to save the Hindus of Kerala, but stood by, apparently either helpless or uncaring, nishprabha.

There were several things that the central government could have done. First and foremost, there is the history of Article 356, which was first used in Kerala by Jawaharlal Nehru against the then-Communist government of E.M.S. Namboodiripad in 1959. President’s rule was imposed based on a “breakdown in law and order”, which was probably no worse than what is being unleashed now on pilgrims by the current Communist government under Pinarayi Vijayan.

I read in a tweet from @trramesh, a lawyer, that even Article 356 was not necessary: the Center could use Article 356 (a)(1) to just take over the Travancore Devaswom Board and Pathanamthitta District where the shrine lies, and administer it directly to prevent further chaos and problems. I don’t know if this is feasible, to have a federally administered enclave in a state, but it could be explored.

In fact, it is incumbent on the Centre to act in such manner, because the issue goes beyond state boundaries: it is not a Kerala issue, and thus, by definition, it becomes a Central issue, because the affected pilgrims are from all over the south. Thus the state governments of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka (and Maharashtra, and Delhi, and so on) are all parties to the matter because their residents’ fundamental right to religious freedom, guaranteed in the Constitution, is affected.

Secondly, the Centre could have brought out an ordinance, or executive order, as they did in the jallikattu case, which would have stayed the court order at least till the time came to vote on it in Parliament. That probably would have taken care of this year’s pilgrim season without any ill effect. I am not sure if there are any legal obstacles to this as it is a constitutional issue, but then, I assume, so was the jallikattu case.

Thirdly, it could have just spoken out. There was stunning silence from the Centre. This betrays either incomprehension about what’s going on in Sabarimala, or cynical calculation, or both. The Home Minister, and especially the Prime Minister, did not say a word about Sabarimala. Amit Shah, the president of the BJP, did make strong statements, but he is a politician, not the inspirational leader that Narendra Modi is, and so his statements—which were also not backed up by any visible action—did not have the same impact.

I heard Arun Jaitley speak about the issue, but he did it in a very general, vague, “lawyerly” way without mentioning the name “Sabarimala” even once. I heard Yogi Adityanath speak, but what he said was the following: “if the Supreme Court could make a quick decision about Sabarimala, why was it dithering on Ayodhya?” These were not the most satisfying responses, and it’s clear that the Vijayan government is not particularly bothered about them.

This brings us back to the other possibility: of a long game being played. It is clear that there is a demographic wall against the BJP in Kerala. I have long ago explained this by what I see on the ground: Kerala is (approximately) 30 per cent Muslim, 30 per cent Christian (including those who have converted but retain their Hindu names for various reasons), 30 per cent Communists and only 10 per cent actual Hindus.

My conjecture was more or less proved in the 2016 assembly elections in Kerala. The BJP, under Kummanam Rajasekharan, a soft-spoken veteran, ran a very good campaign based on Hindu unity. They made unity the centrepiece of the campaign, invoking Sri Narayana Guru (Ezhava), Chattampki Swamikal (Nair), and Mahatma Ayyankali (SC/ST), representing the three biggest groups of Hindus.

And Hindus responded. In alliance with the BDJS, an Ezhava party, the BJP won 15 per cent of the vote. I could argue that, in effect, every Hindu in Kerala voted for the BJP and BDJS. (Remember, there are large numbers of people with Hindu names who are Christian or Communist, and they don’t count.) In other words, the Hindus of Kerala delivered what they could for the BJP.

There may be a feeling among some BJP people that Kerala voted against them, so that they did not win any parliament seats, and only one assembly seat. (This is a specious argument anyway, because the PM is responsible for the welfare of even people who didn’t vote for him.) But the fact is that the minority Hindus are powerless: on their own, they can never give the BJP victory. On the other hand, the Congress, with its vote-banks of Christians and in many cases Muslims, pretty much are assured of victory. At best the minority Hindus can only act as spoilers.

The only feasible way around this is to “convert” some of the Communists bearing Hindu names back to Hinduism. The backbone of the Communists is the Ezhava community, an OBC (Other Backward Caste) group. In conversations with Ezhavas, I have come to the conclusion that many are committed Communists, brainwashed with a victimhood narrative, wherein their poverty is attributed to FC (Forward Caste) malice, along with manufactured “atrocity literature” (an excellent example is the story of nineteenth century Nangeli who ripped off her breast in protest against a breast tax, a story that was fabricated by a hardcore bigot around 2010 but it is now widely circulated and believed).

What is ironic is that while it is true there were many atrocities against Ezhavas by Nairs and Namboodiris before 1947, those two groups are themselves powerless now, and it is increasingly non-Hindus who are putting Ezhavas down. Furthermore, the Communists themselves have exploited them. After the first Communist government in 1957, it took an astonishing 50 years for an Ezhava to become Communist chief minister. Communists are infamous for casteism.

I have the feeling that there is a cynical school of thought among the BJP leadership that the Sabarimala issue is what can erode Ezhava support for the Communists. In other words, the womenfolk of the Communists will force their men to withdraw their support for the Communists.

I think this is far-fetched. The brainwashing is so deep and so thorough that many Communists see nothing wrong with the destruction of the shrine. They echo what C. Kesavan (himself an Ezhava) said about the setting on fire of Sabarimala—a reduction in superstition. There is no way that hard-core Communists are going to abandon the party. Ironically, in a strange way, their triumphalist notions about the superiority of the “rational, logical” Communists may have been more damaged if their government were overthrown and President’s rule imposed.

On the other hand, the Congress has managed its dog-whistle signalling quite well. They made a faux pas earlier this year when their cadres publicly slaughtered a cow, with the intent of opposing anti-beef sentiment, and pandering to their non-Hindu vote-banks. But they realised that this might boomerang on them, so they were very careful to make soothing noises in the Sabarimala case: they trod a fine line, vaguely supporting the pilgrims, and at the same time being careful to mouth platitudes about women’s rights.

In other words, nothing to upset their vote-banks, but faint praise for the pilgrims, just in case they could gain a few Hindu votes from their arch-foes the Communists. The stunning silence of Shashi Tharoor, their loquacious MP from Trivandrum, was an example of this: for the longest time, Tharoor said nothing about it, leading me to wonder if I had finally discovered the one word not in his vast vocabulary.

In other words, the obituary of the Communists in Kerala has been written too soon. If the BJP in effect sacrificed Sabarimala expecting that it would be the tipping point against the Communists, it is a gross miscalculation. I think the BJP brass is getting terrible advice regarding Kerala. For instance, the only Minister of State at the Center from Kerala is K.J. Alphons, a Christian. I would be astonished if the BJP were to get more than about 100 Christian votes: anecdotal evidence suggests that Christians (rightly) view the Congress as their party. A far more productive exercise might have been to give an Ezhava that lone ministry as a signal.

Thus the BJP has comprehensively mismanaged the Sabarimala issue. They have sacrificed the biggest bulwark of Hinduism in the south against conversion—why do you think 40 million pilgrims come there braving all the inconvenience?—in a vain attempt to win a political battle against the Communists.

Root Cause

Sabarimala shows Hindus yet again that they have no future in the “Idea of India” as defined today. That is the root cause: endemic hostility and discrimination against Hindus, which turns them into second-class citizens in their own country. I wrote about this in 2002, and I reproduce it below; alas, things have only gotten worse in the meantime. Hindus are oppressed:

  • By looting Hindu temples through control of their finances (and only theirs; while providing largesse for others);
  • By declaring open season for conversion, which is violence against Hindus because they are only victimised and are never the proselytisers;
  • By discriminating against them by only allowing non-Hindus to run educational institutions;
  • By delegitimising and destroying Sanskrit and Indological studies;
  • By creating and cultivating a negative Marxist interpretation of Hinduism and making it the state-supported official view;
  • By continuously insulting Hindu tradition by labelling it primitive and superstitious, whereas it is in fact highly rational and scientific;
  • By negating Hindu history itself and brushing under the carpet massive Islamic and Christian damage done to it;
  • By ignoring all human rights violations against Hindus;
  • By propagating as state ideology something called “secularism”, which in essence means oppression of Hindus.

This goes all the way to the Constitution. I am hard pressed to think of many other constitutions where there is explicit inequality built in based on religion. Usually constitutions proclaim equality before the law as a cardinal principle. There are, perhaps, some countries where the dominant religion gets special privileges. But surely India is the only country where the numerically dominant religion is explicitly given fewer privileges, as in Articles 25 to 30, embellished by the provisions of the Right to Education Act, and its related constitutional amendment which cemented the inequality.

This is the root cause behind the troubles in Sabarimala. Can you imagine, by the wildest stretch of your imagination, a similar battle scene in a site holy to Christians in one of their countries? Say at St Paul’s Cathedral in London? Of course not. Sabarimala is the symptom. The disease is endemic anti-Hinduism built into the Constitution, and used by the courts and bureaucracy for its own sake. – Swarajya, 21 November 2018

» Rajeev Srinivasan focuses on strategy and innovation. He has worked at Bell Labs and in Silicon Valley, and has taught innovation at several IIMs. An IIT Madras and Stanford Business School grad, he has also been a conservative columnist for twenty years.

Police and female pilgrim at Sabarimala

Nehru & Patel: Serious differences over China’s invasion of Tibet – Claude Arpi

Sardar Patel

Claude ApriSenior Congress leaders, led by Patel, violently opposed Nehru’s suicidal policy of appeasement with China, which led India to lose a peaceful border. – Claude Arpi

On October 31, the world’s tallest statue, the Statue of Unity dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The work on the 182-metre tall statue has been completed after round the clock work by 3,400 labourers and 250 engineers at Sadhu Bet island on Narmada river in Gujarat. Sadhu Bet, located some 3.5 km away from the Narmada Dam, is linked by a 250-metre-long long bridge.

Unfortunately, for several reasons, scarce scholarly research has been done on the internal history of the Congress; the main cause is probably that a section of the party would prefer to keep history under wraps. Take the acute differences of opinion between Sardar Patel, the deputy prime minister, and “Panditji”, as Nehru was then called by Congressmen. In the last weeks of Patel’s life (he passed away on December 15, 1950), there was a deep split between the two leaders, leading to unilateral decisions for the PM, for which India had to pay the heaviest price.

The most serious cause of discord was the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese “Liberation Army” in October 1950. In the course of recent researches in Indian archives, I discovered several new facts. Not only did several senior Congress leaders, led by Patel, violently oppose Nehru’s suicidal policy, but many senior bureaucrats too did not agree with the Prime Minister’s decisions and objected to his policy of appeasement with China, which led India to lose a peaceful border.

On November 11, 1950, the deputy prime minister of India addressed a meeting organised by the Central Aryan Association to commemorate the 67th death anniversary of Swami Dayanand Saraswati. It was to be his last speech. What did he say? The Sardar spoke of the potential dangers arising from what was happening in Tibet and Nepal, and he exhorted his countrymen: “It was incumbent on the people to rise above party squabbles and unitedly defend their newly won freedom.” He cited the example of Gandhi and Swami Dayanand.

Sardar Patel then criticised the Chinese intervention in Tibet; he asserted that to use the “sword” against the traditionally peace-loving Tibetan people was unjustified: “No other country in the world was as peace-loving as Tibet. India did not believe, therefore, that the Chinese government would actually use force in settling the Tibetan question.” He observed that the Chinese government did not listen to India’s advice to settle the Tibetan issue peacefully: “They marched their armies into Tibet and explained this action by talking of foreign interests intriguing in Tibet against China.” The deputy prime minster added that this fear was unfounded; no outsider was interested in Tibet. The Sardar continued by saying that “nobody could say what the outcome of Chinese action would be. But the use of force ultimately created more fear and tension. It was possible that when a country got drunk with its own military strength and power, it did not think calmly over all issues.” He strongly asserted that the use of arms was wrong: “In the present state of the world, such events might easily touch off a new world war, which would mean disaster for mankind.”

Did he know that it was his last message? “Do not let cowardice cripple you. Do not run away from danger. The three year-old freedom of the country has to be fully protected. India today is surrounded by all sorts of dangers and it is for the people today to remember the teachings of the two great saints and face fearlessly all dangers.”

The deputy prime minister concluded: “In this Kalyug we shall return ahimsa for ahimsa. But if anybody resorted to force against us we shall meet it with force.” He ended his speech citing Swami Dayananda: “People should also remember that Swamiji did not get a foreign education. He was the product of Indian culture. Although it was true that they in India had to borrow whatever was good and useful from other countries, it was right and proper that Indian culture was accorded its due place.” Who is ready to listen to this, even today?

Days earlier, Patel had written a “prophetic” letter to Nehru, detailing the implications for India of Tibet’s invasion. In fact, Patel used a draft done by Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, the secretary-general of the Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations. However, Nehru decided to ignore Patel’s letter.

Witnessing the nefarious influence of K.M. Panikkar, the Indian ambassador to China, who ceaselessly defended China’s interests, Bajpai, the most seasoned Indian diplomat, had lost his cool. On October 31, in an internal note, he detailed the sequence of events which followed Tibet’s invasion and the role of Panikkar, whose attitude was compared to Sir Neville Chamberlain’s towards Hitler.

Bajpai’s anger demonstrates the frustration of many senior officers; the account starts on July 15, when the governor of Assam informed Delhi that, according to the information received by the local intelligence bureau, Chinese troops, “in unknown strength, had been moving towards Tibet from three directions.” Not only was Panikkar unable to get any confirmation, but he virtually justified Beijing’s military action by writing: “In view of frustration in regard to Formosa, the Tibetan move was not unlikely.” During the next three months, the Indian ambassador would systematically take the Chinese side.

After receiving Bajpai’s note, Patel wrote back: “I need hardly say that I have read it with a great deal of interest and profit to myself and it has resulted in a much better understanding of the points at issue and general, though serious, nature of the problem. The Chinese advance into Tibet upsets all our security calculations. … I entirely agree with you that a reconsideration of our military position and a redisposition of our forces are inescapable.”

Some more details of the seriousness of the situation filters through Inside Story of Sardar Patel: The Diary of Maniben Patel, the daughter of the Sardar. In an entry on November 2, 1950, Maniben wrote: “Rajaji and Jawaharlal had a heated altercation about the Tibet policy. Rajaji does not at all appreciate this policy. Rajaji very unhappy—Bapu (Patel) did not speak at all.”

Later in the afternoon, “Munshi complained about Tibet policy. The question concerns the whole nation—said he had written a personal letter to Panditji on Tibet.”

Later, Patel told K.M. Munshi: “Rajaji, you (Munshi), I (Patel), Baldev Singh, (C.D.) Deshmukh, Jagjivan Ram and even Sri Prakash are on one side, while Gopalaswami, Rafi, Maulana (Azad) are on his side.” There was a vertical split in the Cabinet; and it was not only about Tibet. The situation would deteriorate further during the following weeks.

On December 12, Patel was divested on his portfolios. Nehru wrote: “In view of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s ill-health it is absolutely necessary that he should have complete rest and freedom from worry, so as to be able to recuperate as rapidly as possible. … No work should be sent to him and no references made to him in regard to the work of these ministries.”

Gopalaswami Ayyangar, from the “other side”, was allotted the Ministry of States and Nehru kept the Ministry of Home. The Sardar was only informed after the changes were made. He was a dejected man. Three days later he passed away. – Deccan Chronicle, 8 November 2018

» Claude Arpi is a French-born author, journalist, historian and tibetologist. He is the director of the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture at Auroville, Tamil Nadu.

Patel & Nehru


The Rajiv Malhotra Interview – R. Jagannathan

Rajiv Malhotra

R. JagannathanRajiv Malhotra, author and Hindu intellectual, is the man who developed the “breaking India” theory in his eponymous 2011 book. Malhotra has written prolifically in opposition to the academic study of Indian history and society, especially Hinduism, as it is conducted by scholars and university faculty of the West, which, he maintains, undermines the interests of India “by encouraging the paradigms that oppose its unity and integrity”.

In an interview with R. Jagannathan, he speaks about the dangers that Indian and Hindu nationhood face today.

Excerpts:

• Can you give us a brief history of how you developed the “breaking India” theory? 

The “breaking India” thesis is not something I came up with overnight. It is not a matter of merely coining a term; it is the product of my lived experience in the US for over 45 years. I have been collecting a whole lot of experiences and organising them into a thesis that makes coherent sense. A theory is like an algorithm to make sense of your experiences. I was trying to figure out an algorithm for who is doing what to India. There were some major events in this journey. I found some African-Americans returning from India and talking about an Afro-Dalit movement that they were part of. I came across Marxists, including many Indians, aligned with Maoist forces in India. I came across Christian missionaries sending huge sums of money to India claiming it was about social work.

A few persons in India who studied this were simply tracking isolated data points concerning foreign interventions by Islam, Marxism or Christianity, but nobody was tracking end-to-end into a comprehensive view of these foreign forces. I invested many years chasing data about the forces at work. Then I hired a Tamil speaker in India to translate many of the works being funded by foreign sources, and eventually he became my co-author, (Aravindan Neelakandan, for the book Breaking India). So my project did not start in India. This is how it is different from others. It was a project started in the US to uncover who supported such nefarious NGOs, what agenda was driving them from their home country, whether they were linked to institutions such as CIA, how they were linked to academic people and think tanks, and their links to churches. I found all these links to be present.

I looked at various so-called friends of India in the US, Britain and the EU, and tracking their flow of money to India, tracking how they train leaders in India, how they export ideology to India, how they have conferences in India and abroad to train their sepoys in India. After tracking all this, I realised that there is a huge story that has never been told before. Around the year 2000, I was invited to give a talk at the IISc, Bangalore. But it was very difficult to get my topic selected because these forces were unknown and the term “breaking India” was considered too radical and provocative. In 2005, I was invited to India International Centre, Delhi, to give a talk on two consecutive nights—on “Where is India in the eagle’s eye”—the eagle being the American eagle. This was accepted as a safe and politically correct title, and I used the opportunity. Those two lectures, about 1.5 hours each, are on YouTube, and they are among the most thorough ones on the subject. It gives the whole theory at that point of time.

Then I was invited to deliver the Hegde Memorial Lecture in Delhi, on “Where is India in the clash of Civilisations?” (a term spelt out by Samuel Huntington in a book). This is when I laid out the case that in the “clash of civilisations”, breaking India forces were not local within India; they were global with a footprint in India. I showed that the clash between Islam, Christianity and Left-wing Marxist ideologies was a global one, and India was in their crosshairs. Yet the Indian people didn’t know it. That is why I started the whole project of “breaking India”—to explain such activities that were in the global arena. I connected activities that appeared isolated and local but were part of the global kurukshetra. That was the big breakthrough—bridging the global and the local and bringing the three global forces and their activities in India where Hindu dharma, Indian civilisation and the Indian nation-state has become their common enemy.

I got serious opposition from those who have now joined the bandwagon and like to go around giving talks on breaking India forces. Many people working for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), many people in Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) America, many people in the US Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, and many other custodians of Hindu dharma at that time were opposed to what I was saying. They did not want to be a part of it, because it was too controversial. They thought everything was going well for Hinduism worldwide, and that I was sensationalising things.

So, this was my lone battle for more than two decades, and finally I decided that I was going to turn this into a book. But the book could not get a mainstream publisher and I had to work very hard. The big mainstream publishers did not want to touch it. Finally, I got Amaryllis—because the editor was the same editor at Rupa who had edited my earlier book Invading the Sacred. She agreed to do this book because she knew me. And it became an instant best-seller. They refused to put the cover image of a broken India even though I explained that I found it in the office of an African-American professor in Princeton, who was part of the Afro-Dalit movement. They found it too provocative.

• How do you define a “breaking India force”?

Breaking India forces are centrifugal forces, making things fall apart. Centripetal forces would be those that bring people together. Centripetal (in India’s context) would be things like a positive grand narrative of India, a good economy bringing people together, a good sense of collective identity of who we are, a good sense of who our enemies (outside) are, such as China, Pakistan, and so on. Forces that bind us, like common problems of economy, hunger, etc, are also centripetal. So, centrifugal forces are breaking India forces. The big idea I brought into the limelight was that these forces are not local, they are global.

So, there are global breaking India forces and their local footprints exist in the form of sepoys and NGOs and so on. The local and the global are connected ideologically in terms of funding. The interesting thing is that globally there may be a war between Christianity and Islam, but locally they have been aligned because they both fight against a common enemy. So, imagine two predators that are fighting each other, but they are collaborating to kill an elephant since this brings food for both. Until they have killed the elephant, finished him off, they are collaborating to kill a common prey. Only after they have finished it off will they fight each other. This has happened in many parts of the world where two global predators work against a local opponent and destroy him. When they have finished off the local opponent, once the food is gone, they turn against each other for increased territory. That is what breaking India forces are like.

• Is there anything common between one kind of breaking India force and another? After all, the Kashmiri separatist is not the same as the evangelical church activist in South India or the jihadis in Kerala or West Bengal?

Many breaking India forces seem independent of each other. But a person could have many diseases that may be independent of one another; yet they have the collective effect of killing the person. Let’s say a person has cancer, and he has fallen down the stairs, and the two causes are independent. He may have been attacked from the outside, which is a third force, and he may be starving as he has no food to eat. Each of these forces challenges his vitality. All these forces that are breaking the person’s life may not be aligned with each other, they may not all be from a common cause.

Similarly, if there are Islamist breaking India forces, Christian breaking India forces and Marxist breaking India forces, they may all be independent of each other. But they tend to make practical alliances. These may not be strategic alliances, and merely tactical alignments for local projects. So, in the Maoist belt in India, ISI is helping local Islamist forces undermine the Indian state. There is collaboration between radical Islam with a Pakistani nexus, and radicalised Maoists, some of them with a nexus based in Nepal, some in China, and some who may just be supported by Marxists worldwide. Radical Islam and the radical Left are in alliance even though you may wonder why the Left should support Islam which is hardly a Marxist ideology. Rival predators will often make tactical alliances and so we must think of them as breaking India forces.

The important insight your question raises is that patriotic Indians should exploit the conflicts between these rival predators. We should exploit the conflicts between Christianity and Islam and Maoism among their global headquarters. Globally they are fighting each other, and we are not even aware of that. Our people are not taking advantage of the fault lines on the enemy side. Even though in India they seem aligned, globally they are at war with each other.

• To reverse the idea, are not violent forces like gau rakshaks, who sometimes lynch people, and Karni Sena, which has vandalised film sets, also not some kind of breaking India forces?

Yes, you are right. All violent forces in India that are undermining the Indian state, the unity of the Indian people, are in fact playing into the hands of breaking India forces. One of the things breaking India forces want to do is divide and conquer. They want to pit Indian people against each other, be it along the lines of caste, religion, class, or north versus south. Whoever is creating divisiveness is facilitating breaking India activities. They should be called breaking India forces.

The problem with a lot of Hindus, a lot of nationalists, is that they do micro-optimisation, which means a very localised optimisation of some interest that they have—it could be a political interest, an ethnic interest. They are optimising (their local interests) in a way that compromises the macro interests of India. So the interests of India as a macro entity are often being undermined by people with a narrow-minded view; they don’t have a wide-angle lens. They have narrow, tunnel visions. Through this lens they can see certain things that they should do from a very narrow short-sighted (perspective). In doing so they are undermining the bigger interests of India. So, yes, you do have breaking India forces which think they are actually helping to build India. But they are not.

• What is the common ground between breaking India forces based in India and the western democracies?

India is the world largest territory, both geographically and by population, that is up for grabs by the expansionist, predatory ideological movements in the world. By that I mean pan-Islam, right-wing expansionist Christianity, and left-wing forces which include post-modernism, Marxism and “liberalism”. These predators are expansionist and they want a global footprint. India is where the “clash of civilisations” is going to play out. The western democracies have interests of various kinds in other countries; there are government/state interests which want a footprint in several countries; there are churches acting autonomously in their own separate interest; there may be the imams and mosques that have interests separate from their own governments; and then there are these intellectuals and pseudo intellectuals, and extreme left intellectuals. They have their own funding and NGOs. If you look at ideological camps within the US, Britain and Germany, there are multiple competing ideological perspectives. These are often fighting each other. There are many different points of view fighting in their own countries. In India they want their own sepoys, so the Left will create its sepoys, the Christians their sepoys, and Muslims their own. These sepoys will sometimes collaborate because they realise they have a common interest in fighting against India.

What we must do is make the India-based Muslim, Christian and radical Leftist understand that in their HQ they are at war with one another. Only in terms of exporting their ideologies in India are they in a tactical alliance.

• In the US, the Left and Right are at daggers drawn on matters of religion and bigotry. But on India and Hinduism they seem to have united. Your comment?

In the US, the Left and Right are bitter enemies, and I have addressed this issue in my book.

• There also seems to be a nexus between the Indian Lutyens elite and US academics who control many of our historical narratives. How is this nexus nourished, and why do Indians think they are better served by aligning with foreign universities?

The Indian elites often go overseas for patronage, funding, prestige and political funding from private agencies, governments, CIA, all kinds of things. This is a very old game and has been happening since British times when an Indian raja or leader would seek British help to fight his fellow Indian rival. Sometimes, this is an Indian initiative, and they will seek a travel grant or a position in a university. Sometimes it is initiated by western agencies. The Lutyens elite is a term applicable not only to people in Lutyens Delhi; you find them all over India. I find them in Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, everywhere. They are mercenaries for sale at the right price.

I say that India is for sale by its own elites. There is a global market that wants positioning in India for vote banks of the future, consumer marketing, as well as leverage over separatist movements so they can chip off parts of India like Nagaland for Christian Baptists and Kashmir for Islamists in Pakistan.

There are huge business opportunities in such anti-India global-local collaborations. These global-local activities are very dangerous.

• Even though there are many Hindu organisations, from the RSS to Baba Ramdev to Sri Sri to Ramakrishna Mission, and even individual groups are doing various things like fighting the case of temples in courts, why is it that these efforts seem uncoordinated, and they are often found fighting among ourselves?

Well, the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, which was started by Swami Dayananda Saraswati, was to bring together various Hindu groups. It was doing a great job during Swamyji’s life; he made a huge amount of progress. Unfortunately, after Swamyji left, his successors have lost momentum. I don’t want to be judgmental but what I can tell you is that the new leaders of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha have compromised the momentum that Swamyji built so carefully. This is partly because the stature that Swamyji had is not there among his successors, and so they don’t command the same respect. The different Hindu organisations thus don’t look up to them as they looked up to Swamyji. This is one of the reasons why a whole lot of activities among Hindu groups are falling apart in terms of collaboration.

There is not enough civic leadership, or spiritual leadership. There is not competent kshatriyata to create a strong Hindu coalition.

You could say that a Hindu government ought to do this, but the Hindu government is also busy trying to establish its secular credentials. So, you really have a vacuum at the top of the Hindu renaissance movement.

• There is a charge that “Hindu” is different from “Hindutva”, and that “genuine” Hinduism is different from Hindutva, even if it is not violent. Your comment?

Well, within the Hindu sanatan dharma tradition, as recorded in its shastras, there is definitely a political dimension. There is a political dimension in the Mahabharata and in the Ramayana. You must take on enemies, both external and internal. In the case of the Ramayana, there was the external enemy in a separate geographical area. In the Mahabharata, there was the internal enemy, your own cousins.

So, this business of having to fight adharma as a political kind of activity is not something non-Hindu. It is at the centre of Hindu itihaas. So, Hindutva could be considered as a modern version of political Hinduism and you can’t say political Hinduism is not Hindu. If you say Hinduism must be non-political, you will also be distancing yourself and denouncing itihaas, which is full of political activity.

But there is also bhakti Hinduism, there is yoga-meditation Hinduism, there is Hinduism of the type I’ll-do-my-karma-helping-neighbours-helping-poor-people. Non-political karma is also Hinduism. There are many margas  in Hinduism, and you don’t have to be political, but there is a need for and legitimacy in political Hinduism. This has been forgotten because of 1,000 years of slavery. The masters told the slaves to stop being political because politicised slaves are very dangerous—they will learn to work together, they will undermine their master, they will bring him down, disrupt him. Politically awakened slaves can be dangerous. Obedient slaves are better, as they keep to themselves, they mind their own business. They are given space, do their little puja, do their yoga and meditation. They can thrive below the glass ceiling as long as they mind their own business and stay below the glass ceiling.

This business of assertive Hinduism is about a Hinduism that is combative against its enemies. Let’s forget the brand name Hindutva, for a moment, since that brings up a particular political party, and use terms like political Hinduism, assertive Hinduism. Assertive and political Hinduism are very much a part of Hinduism. They are necessary, and they have always been there. Just the coinage of the term Hindutva is new and is seen as something owned by a particular political party. I don’t necessarily use the term, Hindutva. I prefer to call it political Hinduism, assertive Hinduism, kshtriyata to show that this is important for Hindu dharma. It always has been.

• There is also a suggestion that the more radical Hindu groups are trying to make Hinduism take on an Abrahamic character. Is this charge correct?

I don’t think that assertive Hinduism should be denounced as having an Abrahamic character. After all, would you say that the kshatriya in our ancient texts is Abrahamic? By saying that you are telling Hindus that you should not be a kshatriya, you must get rid of all kshatriyata. That is a way to keep us as slaves, keep us weak, keep us dependent. I don’t buy that.

Abrahamic metaphysics is incompatible with dharma though it has its own rationale and basis for assertiveness and aggression. But dharma definitely has its rationale and basis for political assertiveness.

The best way to understand the nature of kshatriyata is illustrated in the Mahabharata. These are people fighting for dharma, and that is about using assertiveness. It has nothing to do with Abrahamism.

The difference between Abrahamic and Dharmic is not a difference between assertiveness and passivity. The real difference is explained in my book Being Different. It has to do with the metaphysics of history-centrism versus the metaphysics of embodied knowing. Each of the six chapters gives you a major area of difference between the Abrahamic system and the dharmic system and there is nothing like aggressive versus passive as a difference. We are not supposed to be slaves sucking up to some masters, sitting passively at their feet. The Mahabharata shows how to be very active and assertive, and this is something we need to reignite in our people. Those who say that by reigniting that you are being Abrahamic are actually doing a disservice to our people.

• Hinduism has traditionally been difficult to define. We are Hindu largely by self-definition. Various Hindu denominations are also difficult to categorise as one distinct religion, and some are seeking separate status (like Lingayats in Karnataka). Is it time to agree on putting together come common elements so that this gap is bridged?

In my book Being Different, I give half a dozen major ways in which dharmic systems are aligned with each other through sheer commonality and (this is) very different from non-dharma systems.

Dharmic unity is determined by the common elements we have and these elements are different from the Abrahamic systems. Further, in my book Indra’s Net, I discuss the idea of Hinduism’s open architecture and how it is open enough to accommodate a whole lot of the diversity. At the same time, there are minimum principles of compliance. I give the example of the Internet. The Internet has an open architecture and allows a lot of diversity, but at the same time it will not tolerate people who are subverting it by bringing viruses. They have mechanisms like the anti-virus to keep it clean, keep it from being subverted.

Hinduism needs a balance. The open architecture is very inviting and new forms can come and take root in Hinduism. At the same time it needs an anti-virus against those who are projecting exclusivity and being subversive. By projecting exclusivity they are not giving space to other parts of the open architecture. They are trying to hijack the open architecture and make it closed. This has been important part of my work, to show the unity and diversity of Hinduism in a manner that is responsible, that is dynamic and vibrant and stays competitive. It is not passive.

• You yourself have written that some poison pills need inserting into Hinduism to prevent hijacking of cultural properties. Is this not another way of trying to Abrahamise Hinduism? In any event, is there anything wrong in Abrahamising Hinduism, if that is what is needed today?

Poison pills do not change the character of Hinduism. Inserting poison pills mean taking the quintessential qualities of Hinduism and demanding that the other person must accept them as part of appropriating from our tradition. If someone wants to appropriate yoga, you have to tell them that the Samkhya system of yoga, karma and reincarnation is also necessary. There are constructs required for understanding how yoga works beyond a superficial level. So, when you are saying karma and reincarnation are a poison pill, you are not Abrahamising Hinduism at all but doing just the opposite. The whole purpose of a poison pill is that when the Abrahamic swallows it to get the benefit of yoga, if he swallows the poison pill along with it, he cannot be Abrahamic any more. He will have created a contradiction in his own metabolism.

A poison pill is that which is necessary for Hinduism and which is not digestible into an Abrahamic stomach. When you couple it with what is delicious and tasty in Hinduism like yoga, so when they swallow yoga, they are also swallowing the karma and reincarnation poison pill along with it.

The poison pill will gradually dismantle the metabolism of the Abrahamic system. That is how it works.

• Between predatory jihadi Islam and aggressive evangelism and conversion practices, which is a greater threat to India?

I feel that radical Islam and radical evangelical Christianity are both equally dangerous. One invites the other. One weakens, and the weakened body is then vulnerable to the other. Which is why the two of them in combination are a deadly thing for India, and Indians haven’t realised this. Most Indians, even Hindus, aren’t even clear in their thinking in this matter. If you align with western Christian forces to fight radical Islam, it may look very good in the short-term, but note my prediction—such an alliance will very soon lead to a radical Christianisation of India, a radical digestion of Hinduism into Christianity, and make us a second-class, second-tier, below-the-glass-ceiling kind of Christian colony. Hinduism will become a Christian colony and tolerated and allowed to live there. But it will be gradually sucked dry, with each generation being made more Christian.

And some foolish Hindu gurus will love it. They are so confused. They are marketing sameness already, and they will get a lot of marketing opportunities; they will be given more support by the west to expand their ideas because these ideas are softening Hinduism, weakening it. An outright alliance with the West is to be discouraged. India should have a tactical alliance with the Christian West, tactical in the sense that we should know we have our own selfhood to protect. We cannot let our defences down, we can’t let our guard down with these guys, but outwardly we should be friends with them, we want to be in alliance with them against a common enemy, which is radical Islam. This is the solution: join forces with the Christian West to fight radical Islam but, at the same time, don’t succumb to them. Make it very clear as part of our negotiation that they need us as much as we need them, and one of the conditions for us to collaborate with them is that they have to end this aggressive evangelism that they are doing currently. We need that kind of alliance.

I have talked to some of the important leaders on the right-wing side in the US, and I can convince them. It is the Indian government that hasn’t made its move. I am able to convince them that if they were to stop radical, aggressive Christianising in India, we can help them in their fight against radical Islam. They think they need us, but it is for our government to show some leadership with intellectual clarity.

• Many people have pointed out that Hinduism’s historical faultlines—caste, anti-SC/ST feeling—are as much a problem as anti-India forces, since the latter are simply trying to fish in troubled waters. Your comment?

Yes, it is true that our fault lines, whether it is caste, or north-south divide, are being exploited. For us to take control of these, we have to admit we have some fault lines, which the orthodoxy has not done. We need new smritis. The shrutis (the Vedas) are eternal and permanent, but the smritis have to be changed and can evolve. For example, we need a new social science and sociological smriti on families in this modern era, when different members can geographically be thousands of miles away from each other and you can’t have a joint family kitchen or living under one roof. We need smritis on the whole relationship between citizenry and government, on diversity—how the different varnas and communities have to come together, how we have to respect all the languages and the different sub-cultures in different parts of India even as we come together under the broader rubric and fabric of a unified Bharatiya sanskriti. How all this has to happen requires an amazing amount of new smritis. I do not see pro-dharma competent think-tanks that are being funded. I see old, stodgy, fossilised, orthodox, and incompetent old guard of Hinduism being encouraged and funded, given jobs, prominence, awards and promotions.

I do not see evidence of a new kind of thinking within Hinduism being encouraged. In fact, a literal revival of the old is not something that’s going to do us any good. We need a lot of changes, a lot of new thinking, a lot of refurbishment, that is what smritis are for. Smritis, throughout our history, have always been very radical, very dramatic, and we need new 21st century smritis and the government has yet to step up to enable this.

• What do Hindus—and non-Hindus—need to do to tackle breaking India forces? Or is this the job only of Hindus—to seal the internal cracks through some kind of social reforms, which can take decades?

There is a disconnect and mismatch between Hindu leaders who have talent, insight and vision, on the one hand, and other Hindu institutions that have resources, land, ashrams, billions of dollars, and brand value. In other words, if you look at the large Hindu establishments under the hands of the big gurus or politicians, they are not avant-garde, fighting the intellectual battles. They are only looking after their own corporate interests, maximising their own particular venture, and not Hinduism at large. Yet there are individuals, intellectuals who are out there without any support, without all that funding, without all that kind of corporate assets, who in their own personal capacity are trying to fight. Similarly, the government has huge resources. Look at the ministry of culture or HRD. With all their resources they haven’t done one major thing of a strategic kind to help. Having a music performance here and a dance performance there and some sammelan where some guys come and talk of the same old stuff—this is not enough. It hardly has any impact. It is some kind of show-and-tell and personal brand building for a few individuals; but they lack strategic planning, strategic thought. I would say that at the government level and the level of the large ashrams and gurus we do not today have the kind leadership we need. The academics are already sold out, and they are on the wrong side. The Hindus who are in academics tend to be very weak; they are not only politically weak but also intellectually weak. They are not the sharpest people. There are a few good ones, but not in large numbers.

If the leadership of Hinduism is not going to come from the current generation of academics, it has to come from the gurus or the government. I don’t see either of them doing it. The industrialists who are Hindus are privately Hindus, but they are very careful in who they fund and who they support. Ultimately, they are looking out for themselves, and calculating what will this do for their brand, what would be bad for their brand. They don’t want to be too controversial; who knows if the government changes tomorrow. They are also sitting on the fence. This is the problem we face as Hindus—lack of altruism, selfless leadership where people stick their necks out and put all they have got—their tan, man, dhan—on the line … for the sake of dharma. That is what the current need is. – Swarajya,  9 March 2010

» Jagannathan is Editorial Director of Swarajya. 

Academic Hinduphobia

The ‘secular’ solution for the Ramjanmabhumi dispute – Michel Danino

Secularism
Prof Michel DaninoTeesta Setalvad’s petition in the Supreme Court, which tries to dispute the massive archaeological, epigraphic and literary evidence supporting the existence of a Hindu temple beneath the Babri Masjid, makes no mention of repeated pleas by smaller Muslim groups to hand over the site to Hindus, since it has no particular religious value for Islam. – Prof Michel Danino

The long dispute between claimants to the site of Ram Janmabhumi and the erstwhile Babri Masjid in Ayodhya seems to be inching towards a conclusion in India’s Supreme Court. How far the litigants will be satisfied by a final judgment on the ownership of the crucial plot of land remains unclear. Meantime, did the Chief Justice of India on February 8 miss a golden opportunity to resolve the conflict innovatively, when he refused to hear a petition filed on behalf of the NGO “Citizens of Peace and Justice” by 32 “public-spirited citizens” such as Teesta Setalvad, Shyam Benegal, Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy and John Dayal?

What was the gist of the petition? Actually an old argument: the Ayodhya developments have posed such “a serious threat to the secular fabric of the country” that the dispute cannot be regarded as an ordinary land issue. To save the country from a communal conflagration, the Court is asked to “direct that the disputed site be used for a non-religious public use.” However, while brushing the petition aside for the moment, the Chief Justice said he wanted the dispute to be treated “as a land issue,” hinting that it would be solely decided on the merits of the title to the disputed plot.But what if the petition were to be taken seriously? Let us consider the implications.

There is enormous historical evidence—from Islamic chronicles, inscriptions and archaeological remains—that thousands of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples were destroyed by Islamic invaders from the 11th century onward. Delhi’s Qutub Complex, for instance, was built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak out of the remains of 27 destroyed Hindu and Jain temples. Varanasi’s Gyanvapi Mosque erected by Aurangzeb sits on the erstwhile Kashi Vishvanath Temple, remains of which are still visible (the 19th-century Orientalist James Prinsep left a fine lithograph of them).

Aurangzeb also had Mathura’s Krishna Janmabhumi Complex destroyed, with the Shahi-Eidgah Mosque built over parts of its remains. And so on. Let us assume that in the name of secular wisdom Ayodhya’s disputed site is indeed turned into a public space. Very likely, Hindutva organisations would go back to their list of potential hotspots (starting with Varanasi and Mathura) and launch fresh agitations. All would depend on whether those were sufficiently sustained and intense. If they pass the test, Ayodhya’s “secular solution” would serve as a very useful precedent: should not the newly disputed mosques be converted to hospitals, schools or such like? One after another, thousands of mosques across India could thus experience the delights of secularisation. Hindutva organisations would not recover the underlying temples, but the public would considerably benefit in terms of public health and education, a prospect every progressive Muslim should rejoice in.

But why stop at mosques? Ananda Ranga Pillai in his Diary recorded the destruction in 1748 of Pondicherry’s large Vedapuri Iswaran Temple; at Goa, the historian A. K. Priolkar listed the destruction of 34 temples, some later overbuilt with churches; there have been persistent arguments that Chennai’s Santhome Cathedral stands over Mylapore’s original Kapaleeshwara Temple. Should some of the churches become candidates to secularisation too?

And why stop at India? Christendom is replete with churches built over destroyed Pagan sites. In the late first millennium, Muslims conquering Spain erected mosques over churches; Christians promptly reconverted them after their reconquest. (Although Spanish Muslims have asked the Roman Catholic Church to let them pray at Córdoba’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, earlier known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba, the Vatican seems in no mood to grant their request!) And what if orthodox Jews started agitating for the removal or reconversion of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock Mosque? Its location was that of the Jewish Second Temple, which the Romans destroyed to erect a temple of their own; later, one or several churches were built over it, before Islam swept by. Perhaps orthodox Jews should demand thorough excavations, and, were their claim to be established, could ask the building to be put to some “secular” use.

The potential unleashed by our 32 self-appointed guardians of secularism appears limitless. Should we rejoice at this formula? And if not, why reserve it for Ayodhya? All the above examples—not even the tip of a global iceberg—are inherent to the history of aggressive, conquering religions. Unsurprisingly, that history has more often than not been sanitized or swept under the carpet—a mistake in my view, as we stand to benefit hugely from an honest look at the unvarnished past and its darker chapters.

Strangely, the petition in the Supreme Court, which clumsily tries to dispute the massive archaeological, epigraphic and literary evidence supporting the existence of a large Hindu temple beneath the Babri Masjid, makes no mention of repeated pleas by smaller Muslim groups to hand over the site to Hindus, since it has no particular religious value for Islam. Or of last November’s proposal by Uttar Pradesh’s Shia Central Waqf Board chairman Waseem Rizvi to let a “grand Ram temple” be built at the disputed site, in exchange for a mosque at Lucknow. Such formulas, coupled with a goodwill agreement that there would be no future claims to other sites, would be a far more promising road to a final solution for this centuries-old conflict and to true reconciliation.

Since, meanwhile, the petition is loud on India’s “secular and tolerant ethos,” which it sees under threat from Hindu activism (and no other), we need to cast a critical look at the concept and practice of secularism in India, both in the polity and in education. – The New Indian Express, 26 March 2018

» Michel Danino is a guest professor at IIT Gandhinagar and a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple Ruins by James Prinsep (1834)

What value is ‘genetic evidence’ for Aryan Invasion Theory vs. Out-of-India Theory? – Shrikant G. Talageri

Rigveda

Shrikant G. TalageriThe Rigveda proves incontrovertibly that the oldest parts of the text hark back to a period around 3000 BCE, and certainly long before 2000 BCE, and that the Vedic beginnings were in Haryana. – Shrikant G. Talageri

Every few months, in the last few years, different groups of “scientists” announce “results” of some “new genetic/genomic study”, “proving” the old colonial theory of an Aryan invasion of India. It is often cloaked in ambiguous terms, but not ambiguous enough for its target audience — political and academic groups committed to the theory that India was invaded by a race of people, popularly known as “Aryans”, who brought the Indo-European languages into India.

The latest study, “The genomic formation of South and Central Asia”, co-directed by Dr David Reich and an “international team of geneticists” is the latest in this series, which has enthused supporters of the Aryan Invasion of India Theory (AIT) and galvanised them into action in the media and social media in India. This latest paper echoes and substantiates with military precision the exact points enunciated by AIT scholars and activists since two centuries, especially on the chronological angle.

The very concept of an “Aryan” people—even as an entity, let alone as an invading race from outside India—arose from the revolutionary discovery by colonial scholars that Sanskrit and the languages of northern India and the languages of Europe, Iran and Central Asia, are related to each other and given the name “Indo-European” (formerly also “Aryan”). This led to the academic quest for the “Original Homeland” of this family of languages.

This was a question which arose solely from a linguistic fact (the linguistic relationship between all these languages), and three fields or disciplines of academic study have been involved for over two centuries in the elucidation of this problem: linguistics, archaeology and textual/inscriptional data (mainly the Rigveda and the oldest recorded Indo-European language inscriptions and documents from West Asia). The latest entrant in this field is genetics/genomics. The central factor in the debate is the date of the Rigveda, a text which the invading people are supposed to have composed in their first settlements in the northwest:

1. The Rigveda is the oldest recorded major text in any Indo-European language. As Ralph T. H. Griffith puts it in the preface to the first edition of his translation of the Rigveda: “in its original language we see the roots and shoots of the languages of Greek and Latin, of Kelt, Teuton and Slavonian, so the deities, the myths, and the religious beliefs and practices of the Veda throw a flood of light upon the religions of all European countries before the introduction of Christianity.”

2. It shows absolutely no extra-territorial memories and shows ancestral attachment to the geographical area extending from Haryana to southern Afghanistan, and particularly and originally to Haryana.

3. It does not refer to any linguistically “non-Indo-European” entities at all.

4. Even the rivers and animals in this area have purely Indo-Aryan (Indo-European) Sanskrit names, which is unparalleled in world history in respect of any conquered or invaded area.

The AIT scholars are compelled to locate the Rigveda between two known dates: a) The linguistically determined date of 3000 BCE, which was the date when all the 12 Indo-European branches were together in their Original Homeland (which was assumed to be South Russia) and started dispersing around that time. b) The Buddhist period in Bihar from around 600 BCE, when it is definitely recorded that the whole of northern India was covered mainly by speakers of Indo-Aryan languages, and which definitely followed the periods of composition not only of the Rigveda but also of the three other Vedic Samhitas, the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads and Sutras.

Therefore it is a life-and-death requirement for the AIT to date the Rigveda between 3000 BCE and 600 BCE, ideally around and after 1500 BCE.

If the Rigveda is proved to go beyond 2500 BCE or even 2000 BCE, the entire AIT structure collapses like a pack of cards. The archaeological consensus in western academia is totally against the AIT.

The text proves incontrovertibly that the oldest parts of the Rigveda hark back to a period around 3000 BCE, and certainly long before 2000 BCE, and that the Vedic beginnings were in Haryana in the east.

The unchallengeable evidence for this is given in the full version of this article on my blog. I challenge anyone to disprove this date, which is based on the Mitanni data, found in securely dated records in West Asia, and can be exactly dated: the Mitanni kingdom flourished from around 1500 BCE onwards in Syria and Iraq, and the Mitanni (and a related people, the Kassites), who were descendants of the Rigvedic Aryans, are found in West Asian records from around 1750 BCE.

In this circumstance, what is the value of these “genomic” claims by “scientists” who speak of an “expansion of pastoralist[s …] from the Steppe to Turan in the Middle Bronze Age (2300-1500 BCE)” and claim that these “Steppe communities integrated farther south throughout the 2nd millennium BCE” leading to “the formation of present-day South Asians” and identify these genomic ghosts with “the populations that almost certainly were responsible for spreading Indo-European languages across much of Eurasia”? By trying to fit in their “genomic” data into the now completely discredited chronology of outdated Indologists, this “genomic” evidence stands totally exposed.

Human beings have been migrating from every conceivable area. Certain areas, indeed, like Central Asia, are seething hotbeds of ethnic migrations. India has seen countless migrations and invasions in the last many thousand years: we have Scythians, Greeks, Kushanas, Hunas, Arabs, Turks, Afghans, Ethiopian slave-soldiers and Persians invading, and other Persians and Syrian Christians taking refuge in India, and none of them retained their language, all of them adopted the local languages, but their foreign genes remain in the genetic record.

The “scientists” have only released preliminary trailers of their “report”. The full report is yet to come. And it will be answered in full by the appropriate people. However, many new strands of different foreign “genes” are discovered to be embedded in the genetic structure of different sections of Indians. All this has nothing to do with the question of the “Aryan languages” in India, and of the Original Homeland and the migrations of the ancient Indo-European tribes, since all this has already been answered: the Original Homeland of the Indo-European languages was in northern India, and the migrations of the other eleven branches of Indo-European languages from India is a matter of recorded history. – The Asian Age, 22 April 2018

» Shrikant G. Talageri lives and works in Mumbai. He is a meticulous researcher of the Vedas and has authored four books to date: Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism, Aryan Invasion Theory: A Reappraisal, Rigveda: A Historical Analysis and Rigveda and Avesta the Final Evidence.

The spiritual deceits of Jules Monchanin, Henri Le Saux and Bede Griffiths – Aravindan Neelakandan

Saccidananda Ashram aka Shantivanam
Aravindan NeelakandanChristian missionaries usurp Hindu spiritual and cultural heritage and call it “cultural inclusiveness”. In reality, it is a specious theology of aggressive spiritual deceit. – Aravindan Neelakandan

Recently the Outlook magazine came out with the feature article on inculturation attempts of the Christian denominations in Tamil Nadu particularly by the Catholic Church. “This has emanated from the popular devotion of the faithful”, the article quoted Joe Varghese, a Catholic priest of a famous church of Marian cult in Chennai. Many theologians featured in the article presented the inculturation-evangelical project as “cultural inclusiveness”. Are they merely a spontaneous expression of popular devotion and cultural inclusiveness as claimed by the Christian evangelists or is there more to it than what meets the eye?

Let us start from the article itself. In the article, the Christian appropriation of the name “Periyanayagi” by Constanzo Besci, an eighteenth century Catholic missionary in Tamil Nadu, is explained by a Catholic theologian as “cultural inclusiveness”. In Tamil Hindu tradition, Periyanayagi is the name of the consort of Shiva. She is a goddess in her own right and is part and parcel of the vital aspect of Shiva. She is primordial and independently divine. She is Brahman. On the other hand, Mary in Christian theology is not even part of the Holy Trinity. She is only a saint—a rank well below the male deity in Christianity. Saints in Christian theology are sort of divine brokers between the devotee and the Christian deity seeking the mercy of the deity for the devout. Thus, when the Catholic Church allows the use of the name of a Hindu goddess for Mary, it not only appropriates the name of the deity but also downgrades the name in view of the Christian theological context. It is not inclusive culture. It is theology of aggressive spiritual deceit.

The pattern can be seen continuously in all Christian manoeuvres of the inculturation process and it has a long history. It was the Hindu scholar Sita Ram Goel (1921-2003) who made the first major and systematic study of this Christian phenomenon when he published in 1988 the book Catholic Ashrams. In 1994, an enlarged edition came out. Goel had collected the letters from the promoters and proponents of the inculturation projects as well as its critics—particularly Swami Devananda and Ram Swaroop from the Hindu side and Wayne Teasdale and Fr Bede Griffiths from the other side. This work so far remains the best documented work from the Hindu side on this movement. With the inculturation movement today steadily acquiring a popular and theo-political colour it is time we look deep into the theology that forms the basis of the inculturation movement—particularly in Tamil Nadu.

Fr Jules Monchanin (alias Swami Paramarubyananda)

Jules Monchanin

In 1950, Jules Monchanin, a 40-year-old French Catholic missionary, who had been till then “unexceptionally” working in India, succeeded in persuading his Church superiors to allow him to establish a Christian institution with a Hindu sounding name at the village of Kulithalai near Trichy. In establishing the institution, he had declared that his aim was “nothing less than the assumption into the Church of the age-old Indian sannyasa [life of total renunciation] itself.” The mission plan was stated thus:

We would like to crystallize and transubstantiate the search of the Hindu sannyasi. Advaita and praise of the Trinity are our only aim…. This means that we must grasp the authentic Hindu search for God in order to Christianize it. — (J. G. Weber, In Quest of the Absolute: The Life and Work of Jules Monchanin, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, p.73) 

The Hindu label is only for the Indian evangelical market. Within the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church it would be listed as a Benedictine monastery. While securing permission from the Church, Monchanin had help from French Benedictine monk, Henri Le Saux. The latter in turn got interested in the project and wrote to Monchanin about active collaboration:

We can begin together. I will initiate into life in India, and you will initiate me into Benedictine life, for I strongly agree with you, that [Saint Benedict,] the Patriarch of the West must also, in the plan of God, become the Patriarch of the East. — (Jules Monchanin quoted in Iona Misquitta, An Ashram in India under the rule of Saint Benedict: Jules Monchanin (1895-1957) as seen from East and West, Vol. II, Saccidananda Ashram/ISPCK, Delhi 2001, p.76)

Monchanin and Henri Le Saux now gave themselves Hindu names. Monchanin became Swami Parama Arubi Anandam (ultimate, formless happiness) and Henri Le Saux, Swami Abhishiktananda (bliss of the anointed one).

The official name of the institution, inaugurated on 21 March 1950, the feast day of Benedict, was Saccidananda Ashram, which they translated as Hermitage of the Most Holy Trinity. James Stuart, the hagiographer of Herni Le Saux explains the well thought strategy behind the adaptation of the name:

Saccidananda i.e. Sat (being), cit (awareness), ananda (bliss) is one of the deepest Hindu insights concerning God, with Trinitarian overtones which are drawn out in Abhishiktananda’s book of the same name. — (James Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda: His life told through his letters, ISPCK, Delhi 2000, p.35)

However, such appropriations of Hindu names—[the hermitage is also known as Shantivanam]—in no way diminished the innate aversion towards Hinduism for the missionary in Monchanin. To him, Indian religion was tainted with errors and made vain attempts for salvation. His aim was humbling of Hinduism before Christianity. Making a comparison between pagan Greece and present day India he wrote:

Unfortunately Indian wisdom is tainted with the erroneous tendencies and looks as if it has not yet found its own equilibrium. So was the Greek wisdom before Greece humbly received the Paschal message of the Risen Christ … we hope that India, once baptized to the fullness of her body and soul, and to the depth of her age-long quest for Brahman will reject her pantheistic tendencies and discovering in the splendors of Holy Ghost, the true mysticism and finding a long last the vainly longed for philosophical and theological equilibrium…. India has to receive humbly from the Church the sound and basic principles of true contemplation, to keep them faithfully, to stamp her own seal, and develop through them along with the other members of the Church. — (Jules Monchanin, Contemplation: The essential vocation of the Church and of India in Swami Parama Arubi Anandam (Fr. J. Monchanin), 1895-1957: A Memorial, Saccidananda Ashram 2007, p.125) 

Monchanin simultaneously criticised and tried to appropriate yoga. In 1952, writing on the theme of “Christian yoga”, he underlined four “perils” (in upper case) of yoga—“physiological, psychological, moral and spiritual”. Catholic scholar Thomas Matus details Monchanin’s view of yoga thus:

The greatest dangers are of a moral and spiritual order; in both cases, an underlying “Pelagianism” in the various Hindu and Buddhist schools (Monchanin allows very few exceptions to this blanket judgment) seems to subtract yogi from grace; under the illusion that the isolated ego is the Higher Self, the yogi falls prey to the seduction of a monism that allows no room for agapic love. — (Thomas Matus, Jules Monchanin and Yoga in Jules Monchanin (1895-1957) as seen from East and West, Vol. II, Saccidananda Ashram / ISPCK, Delhi 2001, p.113)

Despite all these “dangers” and “perils”, he does not lose sight of the importance of “Christianising yoga” to the evangelical mission as “(Yoga’s) non-Christianisation would be tantamount to refusing to Christianise India itself”. So to achieve this, Monchanin made a tactful adjustment. Matus explains:

At this point Monchanin makes an important distinction: Yoga does not pertain to the essence of Indian civilization but to its form…. Yoga as a ‘method’ not ‘doctrine’ as ‘form-manifestation’ not ‘essence’ would seem to guarantee considerable freedom in a Christian theologian’s assessment of the Yoga component in the various Indian schools, while also guaranteeing a Christian contemplative’s use of yogic forms of meditation.

According to him yoga in its original form excluded grace. Yet Monchanin hoped:

In spite of this accumulation of obstacles, the need remains urgent: if Yoga is not Christianized, an essential aspect of India … will forever remain outside the pleroma of the Mystical Body.

As the inculturation project progressed, important differences started emerging between him and his collaborator Henri Le Saux. The latter wanted to extend Christianising to Advaitic experience also. Towards this end Henri Le Saux took extensive tours to Hindu places of pilgrimage and started practising meditation. Monchanin strongly disapproved of this and warned against going to Rishikesh, which he said was “a place where sadhus, real or supposedly so (both kinds no doubt) devote themselves to delusive exercises verging on mirage”.

Monchanin dreaded and detested the non-dualist experience more than anything. This hatred reached new heights as his life neared its end. He wrote:

It seems to me more and more doubtful that the essence of Christianity can be found by going through Advaita (the non-dualism of Sankara). Advaita like yoga and more than yoga is an abyss. Whoever dizzily plunges into it cannot know what he will find in its depths. I fear it may be himself rather than the living triune God.

It is for harbouring this Advaitic vision that Hinduism should die:

In this mystery, Hinduism (and especially Advaita) must die to rise up again Christian. Any theory which does not fully take into account this necessity constitutes a lack of loyalty both to Christianity—which we cannot mutilate from its essence—and to Hinduism—from which we cannot hide its fundamental error and its essential divergence from Christianity. Meanwhile our task is to keep all doors open, to wait with patience and theological hope for the hour of the advent of India into the Church…. Hinduism must reject its atman-brahman equation, if it is to enter into Christ. — (Jules Monchanin, quoted in Harry Oldmeadow, A Christian Pilgrim in India: The Spiritual Journey of Swami Abhishiktananda, World Wisdom Inc, 2008)

Harry Oldmeadow, a sympathetic biographer of Henri Le Saux reveals how this drift was creating some bitterness among the crusaders running the appropriation project:

In later years Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux’s Indian alias) himself referred to Monchanin’s skepticism about any reconciliation of Christianity and Vedanta and spoke of Monchanin’s fear that his Christian faith might be overwhelmed by Vedanta as it had nearly been earlier by Greek rationalism. Some hard words on these subjects were exchanged at Shantivanam but their mutual respect and deep affection withstood the strain imposed by these disagreements.

Grave of Jules Monchanin

In 1957 Monchanin died and Henri Le Saux took over the “ashram”. Even the burial structure over his dead body serves his mission of appropriation. One finds here a verse from Manikkavacagar a ninth century Saivaite mystic poet and one of the four seers venerated by Tamil Saivism. The verse written on the grave of Monchanin is the verse in which Manikkavacagar speaks of the greatness of Shiva coming as his own guru. The verse when written over the grave of a Christian priest evokes two ambiguous meanings both of which belittle the original Saivaite context.

If one is to take the verse to mean Monchanin himself (by his disciples) then that is a downgrading statement on Shiva to a Christian missionary. If the statement is made as a reference to Jesus then again there is a problem. In Saivism, Siva comes in human form when the disciple has obtained a critical mass of inner preparedness. This human form in which Shiva appears is according to Saivism, is neither an avatar nor does it have a human birth. It is only a form that appears, initiates the disciple and disappears. Hence if the statement of Manikkavacagar is applied to Jesus then it is an intentional distortion of the original verse.

Since his death, his project has been safeguarded and nourished. At times his successors had to gloss over his real motives. Bede Griffiths who was the third head of this Catholic institution, positioned himself often as an eclectic Christian who respected Hinduism genuinely. Nevertheless he was as fanatical and scheming but more deceptive than Monchanin. When a knowledgeable Hindu monk Devananda questioned Bede Griffith’s motives vis-a-vis Monchanin, Griffiths was quick to distance himself and the organisation Monchanin established from the writings of Monchanin:

Thank you for your letter and the enclosure about Father Monchanin. Of course, if I held the same view as Father Monchanin, you would be justified in suspecting me of deception. But you must remember that Father Monchanin was writing forty years ago and immense changes have taken place in the Church since then. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter to Swami Devananda dated 31.8.1987, in Sita Ram Goel, Catholic Ashrams: Sannyasins or Swindlers, Voice of India 1988 &1994, p.135)

One can note that in the letter Griffiths tactfully accepted that Monchanin was indulging in deception. And also one can see that the supposed distancing from the deception of Monchanin was attributed by Griffiths, not to any ethical change of heart but rather changes in the establishment of the Church. Even this statement by Griffiths is not completely true. The mission of Monchanin still remains very much integral to and is at the heart of Shantivanam movement as evidenced by the fact that the Golden String, the bulletin of the Bede Griffiths Trust in its winter 1997-8 issue hailed Monchanin’s quote to “grasp the authentic Hindu search for God in order to Christianize it” as “prophetic”.

Today, the strategy of “Christianisation” of yoga has become even stronger. The seemingly paradoxical stand of Monchanin in outlining the “perils” of yoga while at the same time taking efforts to Christianise it is reflected in the stand taken by the Church at large in India today. Catholic educational institutions do have their own form of yoga curriculum in their schools and campuses. At the same time they oppose any attempt by Indian Government to bring yoga into the school curriculum.

When the present government announced the draft for the National Education Policy in 2016, there was a protest led by Bishop of Coimbatore Diocese L. Thomas Aquinas, Superintendent of Roman Catholic Schools, Coimbatore Diocese, A. Maria Joseph and other high officials of the Catholic Church, teachers, non-teaching staff and members of the management of Christian-run education institutions in and around Coimbatore. Among other things the Catholic priests protested against “promoting yoga”, which they declared “was not a panacea for all ills”. The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) in its “report of the national education consultation” held on 24 and 25 October 2017 in New Delhi, announced that introduction of yoga as also part of “gradual saffronisation”.

In other words, here we see how the seemingly abstract theological strategy of Monchanin in Christianising yoga taking concrete political steps in the national discourse. With yoga curriculum decoupled from any state support in the educational system and with the huge network of Catholic institutions free to teach their own versions of yoga, they can soon become the only cost-effective channel for an average Indian child to learn yoga—which of course will initially be merely “the form” devoid of the authentic spirit of yoga and later acquire a Christian spirit—or Christian yoga. — Swarajya, 23 November 2017

Fr Henri Le Saux (alias Swami Abhishiktananda)

Henri Le Saux

Catholic missionary J. Monchanin (1895-1957) had established the “Saccidananda Ashram” in 1950 and had started an elaborate mission to “Christianise” Hindu spirituality. He wanted Hinduism to die, shed Vedanta and get resurrected in Christianity. In 1957, he died and was succeeded by another French Catholic missionary Henri Le Saux (1910-1973). Henri Le Saux assumed the Hindu name “Swami” Abhishiktananda as part of his mission strategy.

When Henri Le Saux first came to India, Monchanin took him to Sri Ramakrishna Tapovan so that the former could observe first hand a Hindu ashram. At the same time Monchanin was also observing Henri Le Saux to see what effect the place was having on him. Monchanin made the following observation:

(Henri Le Saux) senses quite independently of me, the human impossibility of the conversion of a Hindu who is truly a Hindu (…): the more spiritual a Hindu becomes, the further in a sense he distances himself from Christianity. — (James Stuart, Swami Abhishiktananda: His life told through his letters, ISPCK, Delhi 2000, p.28)

Henri Le Saux hence decided to understand and dismantle the Hindu spirituality so that it could be Christianised. So as part of the project, he started visiting Hindu pilgrim places in South India. Wearing the saffron robes of a Hindu sannyasin he visited the temples of Chidambaram, Kumbakkonam and Thanjavur enjoying the hospitality of gullible Hindus who welcomed him into their temples. He recounts in a letter of this experience in Chidambaram—the great Saivite temple:

… [At Chidambaram] they were very liberal and showed us every thing. They even wanted to give rice and cakes presented to the images. You can understand that all the same our devotion could not go as far as that! — (Henri Le Saux’s letter dated 9.11.1949)

At Srirangam—the great Vaishnavite centre he purportedly violated the explicit notice at the entrance that non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple. He went into the inner corridor. His hagiographer James Stuart admiringly writes how “clad in kavi (saffron robes) he followed a group of children into the inner sanctuary of the temple at Srirangam carefully averting his eyes from the notice which prohibits entry to all non-Hindus.”

Nevertheless, standing right before the sacred statue of Vishnu he refused with derision to accept the aarti. In his words:

… and the priest took up a tray containing camphor, … set it alight, recounted the glories of Sri Rangam Nathar [i.e., Vishnu], and began to offer a puja in my honour. … I have never had such good treatment but, all the same it was nothing doing, for I should have had to make the anjali, prostrate spread my hands over the flame and bring them to my eyes, put the ashes on my forehead etc. … I protested—horror indignation! — (Henri Le Saux’s letter dated 26.02.1950)

One place that particularly interested him was Arunachala—another great Saivite centre where the mountain itself is considered as a form of Shiva. It was also where Sri Ramana Maharishi experienced Advaitic state of the Self. In 1953, in his letter to his family, Henri Le Saux expressed his desire regarding Arunachala, “When will Arunachala be inhabited by Christian monks?”

Henri La Saux at Tiruvannamalai

Sri Ramana Maharishi was having a great influence on the seekers of the West. This had to be countered. Henri Le Saux had a plan. He revealed this to a fellow Catholic priest:

We have to work out a Christian advaita, and you know what that means; we shall not come to that by exploding advaita at the outset on the ground of its incompatibility. We have to strive to be faithful to advaita to the end. Only a heroic fidelity will make it possible in God’s own time to transcend it. … Not mutilation but sublimation. — (Henri Le Saux’s letter dated 12.01.1954)

By 1955, he was grooming a young Christian boy of 20 years to become a Christian Ramana, which however could not materialise (James Stuart, p.79). In 1957, following the death of Monchanin, Henri Le Saux then in charge of Shantivanam, soon developed the “fulfillment theology” to “Christianise” Advaitic experience.

The “fulfillment theology” was one of the prominent and strong weapons in the theological arsenal of Christianity.

Fulfillment theology was prominently employed in the study of Hinduism by a Scottish educational missionary John Nicol Farquhar then working in the YMCA (1902-23). His book Crown of Hinduism published by prestigious Oxford University became popular both in Indology circles as well as with Protestant missionaries. Fulfillment theology in the Hindu context as put forth by Farquhar states:

Christ provides the fulfillment of each of the highest aspirations and aims of Hinduism…. In Him is focused every ray of light that shines in Hinduism. He is the crown of the faith of India. — (John Nicol Farquhar, The Crown of Hinduism, Oxford University Press, 1913, pp.485-6)

Like Roman Catholic Monchanin did decades after him, Protestant Farquhar also declared that Hinduism should die in Christianity: “Hinduism must die in order to live. It must die into Christianity.”

Catholic counterpart of Farquhar was Pierre Johanns a Jesuit missionary. Johanns made the claim that “almost all elements of Christian religion … are to be found among them [the Hindus] in a higher form than they were ever known among the Greeks.” Both Johanns and Farquhar paid special attention to Vedanta. Farquhar wrote:

The Vedanta is not Christian and never will be—simply as Vedanta: but very definite preparation for it…. It is our belief that the living Christ will sanctify and make complete the religious thought of India.

In the 1920s, Johanns was publishing a periodical entitled The Light of the East where he serialised articles under the title “To Christ through the Vedanta” over a period of 20 years. According to Harry Oldmeadow, the biographer of Henri Le Saux, “fulfillment theology” had an abiding presence in the work of both Monchanin and Henri Le Saux.

As the head of the institution, Henri Saux set to work. In 1962 he finished a 100-page draft. Elaborately titled The Experience of Saccidananda: Advaitin Experience and its Trinitarian Fulfillment the text would become an important document in the appropriation project. According to James Stuart the book brought “together Advaitic experience and Christian faith … through the adoption of a ‘theology of fulfillment’”. In the book, Henri Saux explained the need to Christianise Advaitic Vedanta:

… the integration of the advaitic experience into his own faith is for the Christian a necessary task. Christianity presents itself to the world as the supreme message from God to mankind, as possessing the definitive word in which God has revealed all that can be told of the divine life and love. If the Church’s claim is true, then it follows that whatever men have found that is true, beautiful and good, both can and should be integrated into Christian experience. — (Henri Le Saux, Sacchindananda: A Christian Approach to Advaitic Experience, ISPCK, Delhi 1974, p.47)

Henri Le Saux wrote that Hinduism belongs to a category called the religions of the “cosmic covenant” which means all religious traditions outside the Biblical revelation. Of these non-Biblical cosmic revelations he called Hinduism in general and Advaita in particular as “the acme of man’s spiritual in the cosmic religions”. However he stressed that though “the cosmic covenant and Christ’s revelation are not opposed to one other”, they are not the same. On the contrary “it is that the first prepares the way for the second”. In the case of Advaita, it is the primeval evil that entered the Garden of Eden that is stopping this fulfillment of Hindu Advaita in Christian Divinity:

There is nothing true, beautiful or good that does not bear the mark of the Spirit. Evil only emerges when what is true, beautiful or good stops short at itself claiming to be the All, the final plenitude, and refuses the role in the history of salvation which is the very purpose of its creation. This was the temptation of the cherub in the Garden of Eden.

Even as he was undertaking these efforts, Henri Le Saux harboured serious doubts whether through fulfillment theology he could really Christianise Advaita. When the draft appeared as the book he had dropped the subtitle “Vedanta to Trinity”. In a letter to Raimundo Panikkar, another fulfillment theologian, he confessed: “… whatever we do is it not a qualified visishta advaita?—and advaita is lost as soon as there is qualification?” Such doubts and confusions never made him lose sight of his ultimate goal which he explained this in one of his letters thus:

“Without this recollection in [Jesus], the Indian Church will never be capable of transforming Hindu India into Christian India.” — (Henri Le Saux’s letter dated 10.10.1963)

In his worldview, the spiritual traditions outside the Church exist only because God conserves them for the Christian to bring them into the Church. After a spiritual tradition is appropriated by the Church it ceases the need to exist outside the Church.

The prayer “for the heathen” ought to turn into a prayer that the Christians may at last gather in the spiritual riches of the Gentiles, so that God might finally have no more need to conserve them outside the Church, precisely in order to prevent these riches from being lost. — (Henri Le Saux’s letter dated 12.04.1965, quoted in James Stuart, 2000, p.171)

Unlike Monchanin who worked mostly within the confines of Shantivanam, Henri Le Saux took the appropriation crusade right into Hindu holy places. He always made it a point to go to the most venerated places of Hindus and conduct a Christian mass while unsuspecting Hindus would take the saffron clad missionary for a Western Hindu sannyasin.

It started as early as 1955 when he visited the Elephanta caves. He claimed it for Jesus by conducting a Mass before the famous Mahadeva statue:

Yesterday evening we came here to Elephanta. Here Hindu temples cut out of the rock, only one well preserved. I was thunderstruck! I am more Hindu than Buddhist. You know the Shiva with three heads, incorrectly called Trimurti.… When I saw it, I simply had to hold on to a pillar for support…. This morning we said our Mass immediately in front of it. There is nothing pagan here. — (Henri Le Saux’s letter dated 18.07.1955)

Later a three-headed Jesus would adorn the entrance of his Catholic monastery at Shantivanam [see image at top of this article].

In January of 1965, he climbed to the summit of Arunachala—the sacred hill worshipped by Hindus and conducted a Christian mass there. While at Uttarkashi, another highly esteemed place of Hindu pilgrimage, while enjoying the hospitality of a Hindu ashram, he went into “the crypt of a small temple besides Ganges” where “sitting cross-legged” he conducted the Christian ritual alone with “the bread and wine after the order and rite of Melchizedech. …” and then “declared this act as ‘a prophetic sign’”. ( James Stuart, 2000, p.172) It was at Uttarkashi, which he visited once again, he started experimenting an Indian liturgy with a Sanskrit base. He wrote:

In the loft fitted up in my hut I offer Masseach morning seated like a brahmin priest, with ceremonies of offering water, incense, fire. I read the gospel in Sanskrit and also sing the Our father in Sanskrit…. My Upanishadic rite takes shape day by day. [Details follow] But all that is very Hindu…. — (Henri Le Saux’s letter dated 29.7.1965 and 28.8.1965)

He now started fashioning his masses based on fulfillment theology. Christmas eve celebrations of 1965 started with the reading of Hindu texts followed by the prophets and then Christian Gospel—thus Hindu texts becoming the preparation for the advent of Christianity. He called mantras as short prayer phrases which could be related to Christian devotion. In his work Prayer he drew parallels between the Hindu Om and Sacchidananda and the Christian Abba, the prayer of Jesus. The mechanism for creating a Christian mantra, which Henri Le Saux called as “mantra sandwich” was later consolidated in Shantivanam. Here a traditional Indic mantra venerated and practised for thousands of years like Om Nama Sivaya or Om Namo Bhagavathe Vasudevaya or Om Mani Padme Hum are taken. Then the Hindu or Buddhist spiritual principle (deity’s name or symbol) is removed and Christian name is slipped in between.

Thus Om Nama Shivaya or Om Namo Narayana becomes Om Namo Christaya, Aum Sri Yesu Bhagavathe Namaha. Om Mani Padme Hum became Om Yesu Christa Hum. Ringu Tulku and Mullen in their paper Buddhist use of Compassionate Imagery (2004) trace the Christian appropriation of Buddhist mantras to the Shantivanam project and justify it through the fulfillment theology: “A strong connection between Om Mani Padme Hum, as a universal expression into human heart and the spirit of Jesus has already been made in Buddhist circles.”

In 1968, Henri Le Saux left Shantivanam handing over the charge to new occupants. On parting, he gave a four-fold advice to a Jesuit priest who had founded a Christian centre for dialogue with Hindus. In that advice, Henri Le Saux suggested that Christians should take up the celebration of Hindu festivals such as Deepavali as a joyful expression of their own faith and also use aarti or deepa puja in Christian churches giving it their own Christian interpretation.

There is an interesting twist in the life story of Henri Le Saux. Leaving Shantivanam and living by the banks of Ganges, there seemed to have happened in him some genuine transformation. According to Wayne Teasdale, a Catholic theologian, Henri Le Saux “seemed to lapse into purely monistic Advaita”. Abhishiktananda declared that it was the Advaitic experience and realisation that is important and everything else need to be dropped:

Jesus may be useful in awakening the soul—as is the guru—but is never essential and, like the guru, he himself must in the end lose all his personal characteristics. No one really needs him. … Whoever, in his personal experience … has discovered the Self, has no need of faith in Christ, of prayer, of the communion of the Church. — (Henri Le Saux’s diary entry dated 10.7.1969, Ascent to the Depth of the Heart: The Spiritual Diary (1948-73) of Swami Abhishiktananda (Dom Henri Le Saux), ISPCK 1998, p. 217)

He also got critical about the Church though he offered Mass till his death. He felt the Church’s insistence of Christ was as an obstacle to final spiritual liberation:

Christ’s namarupa necessarily explodes, but the Church wants to keep us virtually at the level of the namarupa. — (Henri Le Saux’s diary entry dated 24.4.1972)

In another diary entry he again criticised the Church—this time quoting a verse from the Upanishad:

Christianity believes that salvation comes from the outside, through thoughts rites, “sacraments”. The level of namarupa. Nothing comes from the outside, nothing that is made, krita, leads to what is un-made, akrita! (MU I:2:12) — (Henri Le Saux’s diary entry dated 28.5.72)

He died on 7 December 1973. Meanwhile, Shantivanam itself had passed into the hands of a more virulent Hindu-phobic theologian who also would become more aggressive in appropriating Hindu spirituality and culture for evangelism. – Swarajya, 24 November 2018

Jesus

So Far

Suddenly a “folk” Christianity has exploded prominently in the public conscience of Tamil Nadu. It is claimed that it is a spontaneous movement of the people who are expressing their Christian devotion through local cultural forms. However, an investigation shows that it is more a result of a well-prepared strategy that goes back decades in the past. The Church has been working silently and very systematically in creating these Hindu-like “folk” expressions.

In Tamil Nadu, it started with a French Catholic priest Jules Monchanin (1895-1957), who wanted to “kill” Hinduism while appropriating the key Hindu elements into Christianity. He had observed that the more a Hindu becomes spiritual the more it becomes impossible to convert him to Christianity. He founded the “Saccidananda Ashram”, which is actually a Benedictine monastery. After his death, Henri Le Saux (1910-1973) took over the institution. He undertook fieldwork by visiting Hindu holy places and conducting clandestine Christian masses in the sacred spaces of Hindus. He wanted to create what he called “Christian Advaita”; he even had a project for creating a “Catholic Ramana”.

However, before his death he started criticising the exclusive nature of the Church and even questioned the necessity of Jesus for a real spiritual pursuit. Nevertheless, he produced some of the most important manuals for appropriation of Hindu culture and dilution of its spirituality. After his death, the appropriation project was taken over by his successor Bede Griffiths.

Fr Bede Griffiths

Bede Griffiths

Griffiths who gave himself the name Swami Dayananda, just like Henri Le Saux, started visiting various Hindu holy places. Wearing saffron robes and donning the Hindu name, which he used less frequently, he made friends with Hindus, who took him into the temple interiors. Witnessing Hindu credulity first hand, he was optimistic that soon Hinduism would die. He wrote:

I am gradually clarifying my views on Hinduism. I feel it is passing away. However strong it may be at the moment, it cannot survive the impact of modern thought which is undermining it on all sides. What is necessary is that its essential holiness should be preserved. … Its mythology – however beautiful cannot stand. It must come to recognize Christ as the unique historic manifestation of God and only then can its essential values be preserved. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 5.8.1955. From Adrian B. Rance, Falling in love with India: From the letters of Bede Griffiths, Saccidananda Ashram, 2006)

Theology of Colonialism as Christian Love

Griffiths was an apologist for colonialism. His colonialism was theological. In any negative incident he observed in Indian context, he was ready to stereotype and essentialise Indian culture. When a Syrian Catholic inmate was found stealing and having affairs with women, Griffiths blamed it on both Hinduism as well as the general Indian nature:

There was also as I believe you would find in a typical Hindu, a vivid sense of the presence of God in nature and a spontaneous piety. But with all this there goes almost complete absence of moral principle, and I am afraid this is terribly typical of India. I have found that it is almost impossible to trust anyone’s word. Lying, cheating, stealing, swindling seems to be in the blood and in his case at least (I don’t know how much of this is general) sexual promiscuity. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 25.3.1956)

The racial and colonial prejudice almost bordering a hatred towards Indians and Hinduism is a constant factor one sees throughout the writings of Griffiths. What is astonishing is that he was able to pen down these views after his own West had seen what such prejudices and hatred could do as in the case of Nazi Germany. However, Griffiths was able to always camouflage his hatred as “Christian love” which wanted to rectify the innate Hindu deficiency. He explained in a letter in what sense really he loved Indians:

Of course I love these Indians as my brothers. … But I assure you I have no illusions about them. I see the virtues of the British very clearly – they are honest, straightforward just and reliable – while Indians are lacking in these qualities. Of course India owes almost everything as a modern nation to the British…. But the British had a fatal defect—they could not accept the Indians as their equals—they always imagined themselves to be a superior race. There is good reason for this—we are superior in certain ways—but the Indians have qualities of religion and virtue and affection. … They need us and (we) can help them and they are deeply thankful for all we have given them—but they could not accept (us) as superiors—that is why we had to go. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 6.6.1959)

The letter is important because in a way Griffiths brings out the mindset of most of the post-colonial Western Indologists as well. As we will see, the world-view of Griffiths and his works prefigure the works of Western religious scholars like Wendy Doniger and Jeffrey Kripal studying Hinduism. His colonial prejudice of Indians and his faith in the lack of morality in Indian psyche was so deep-rooted that he treated even Indian Catholics close to him with suspicion. For example, a Gandhian Catholic named Stephen was attracted by this saffron-clad westerner. About him Griffiths writes:

I have been trying to form a group of oblates here … two or three young Indian Catholics. One of these is called Stephen—he has become a very close friend of mine. He calls me his “guru” and I act as his director. He is working in Vinoba Bhave’s Sarvodaya movement. … Stephen is heart and soul in this movement and is doing wonderful work…. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 21.03.1960)

The “guru” was finding the “Indian” nature of his “disciple” unpredictable. (“Like all Indians he needs watching—you never quite know what they will do next!”) Nevertheless, he was very happy that the “disciple” was “very faithful to us” and “had taken a private vow of obedience”. However, soon Griffiths discovered Stephen‘s behaviour not very satisfactory. So the “guru” blamed the disciple in a letter—it was of course Hinduism which had to be blamed.

But Stephen is a queer mixture. I am afraid that he is very unbalanced. He had wonderful ideas but was quite incapable of carrying them out…. All these are of course problems of the unconscious, which is still find it difficult to fathom. … This gives wonderful spontaneity, but it leaves one terribly exposed to the forces of emotions and the imagination. That is why I find people here so unreliable—they are carried away by their feelings and imagination (Stephen is very much this type)  and you can never rely on them. They may also be exposed to the deeper forces of the unconscious – the gods and demons. This is evident in Hinduism generally.… — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 27.08.1960)

As one can see the shallow stereotyped analysis of defects in a human individual as a result of the unconscious forces of his culture and reducing the sacred in another culture to “deeper forces of unconscious”, have all been done already by Griffiths. So when a Wendy Doniger or a Paul Courtright does similar “analysis” of Hinduism, what is essentially being carried out, intentionally or unknowingly, is a crypto-colonial project which embeds in its core theo-racism.

Coming back to his own project in India, of all the three, Griffiths shows remarkable consistency in his approach to Hinduism. He too was an advocate of fulfillment theology. In 1956, he wrote that India needed the “moral force” of Christianity outlining how to present Jesus as the fulfillment of Bhagavad Gita:

Christ must be seen as the fulfillment of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita: Krishna is not sufficient to receive the devotion he asks for, he is not serious enough. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 8.4.1956)

Using Hindu Universalism for Christian Exclusiveness

Griffiths also decided to use one important aspect of Hinduism as an evangelical tool—its universal inclusiveness.

My idea is that Hinduism is valid as far as it goes but it is incomplete and needs Christ to fulfill its true purpose. If a man goes far enough in Hinduism with a sincere desire for truth, he will eventually come to Christ…. I find that most of these [Hindu] boys know something of Christ and no Hindu finds any difficulty in acknowledging him as a son of God, an avatar (like the Buddha). But to realize how Christ is the son of God, how he fulfills all religion, how he delivers from sin and incorporate all mankind in himself, how he introduces us into inner life of the Trinity—all this is beyond them at present, and can only come in time. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 27.5.1956)

While he saw the Hindu boys accepting Jesus as one of the avatars like Buddha as a stepping stone towards evangelising them to Christianity, he vehemently opposed any Western / Christian author adopting a similar syncretic inclusive vision of all spiritual traditions. Thus he rejected the thesis of Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998) thus:

I have been reading Schuon’s latest book Sentier de Gnose (Footpaths of Gnosis (Knowledge)). I see more clearly than I have ever done how fundamentally false is his whole position. … Everything he writes of Christianity is false in this sense—it is fundamentally perverted. It is nothing but a form of Gnosticism, the ancient heresy. … Schuon is more subtle, because he knows the whole oriental tradition and attempts to assimilate Christianity, a form of Gnosis—an esoteric wisdom which places it on a level with Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam…. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 23.6.1957)

So what is useful and valid for evangelism in Hindu mindset, when it accepts Jesus as divine similar to an avatar, becomes “fundamentally false” and “fundamentally perverted” when a Christian / Western author tries to place Christianity “on a level” with other religions!

What is important is that these theological studies are not abstract entities residing only in the papers. They get translated into concrete evangelical entities.

In Sandhya Vandhana, the prayer book that is in use in Shantivanam, the popular Hindu bhajans in every major Indian language are distorted to Christianise them. The famous Ragupathi Ragava Raja Ram used by Mahatma Gandhi declares Hindu universalism and aims to promote communal harmony. In the Hindi section of bhajans present in the ashram handbook, the verses are twisted to proclaim the superior exclusiveness of Jesus and Christianity:

Sab bole Prabhu Yesu nam Patita pavana Yesu nam. … Sab se accha Yesu Nam Papa nivarana Yesu nam [The name of Jesus is better than other names]. — (Sandhya Vandana, Saccidananda Ashram, Shantivanam, pp. 41:2)

Fritjof Schunon to Gandhi bhajan, the Hindu universalism becomes a doorway to proclaim Christian exclusiveness.

Sita Ram Goel

Hindu Seers—Belittled Inside but Praised Outside

What was true for Hinduism and Indian culture was also true for the great seers of Hinduism. Thus Sri Ramakrishna was no more holy than Ramana Maharishi and could come only just nearer to St Francis of Assisi, and could not even be his equals. To Griffiths the life of Ramakrishna also showed what Hinduism lacked with respect to Christianity. He wrote:

By the way Bernard Kelly sent me the Gospel of Ramakrishna. It is the most wonderful book. … I don’t think he is more holy than Ramana Maharishi, but his character is much more rich. His was the way of bhakti and he was carried away in ecstasy of love.… He is perhaps nearer to St Francis of Assisi than anyone. … I don’t think that anything gives a better idea of the real heart of Hindu religion. One can also see what it lacks in comparison with Christianity. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 22.7.1956)

Belittling Hindu seers by comparing them to Jesus or Christian saints is another consistent feature of Griffith’s writing. Almost a decade after writing the above lines, he wrote again about these two remarkable self-realised saints of recent times:

I mentioned Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharishi with their triumph over pain and their capacity to live in God above the whole state of the body. But I don’t honestly believe that this is the highest state. Christ accepted pain—he really suffered, physically and mentally, as they did not and through his suffering he came to the total surrender to God. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 12.6.1966)

Regarding the disciples of Swami Sivananda addressing him as bhagawan, he called that as “a weakness of Hinduism”. Though he thought Swami Sivananda as one with great powers and one having done much good, he found the atmosphere “not pleasant”. Swami Sivananda was “very fat and rather sickly man … conducted to coach and laid out as if in bed by devout females” many of whom were “Germans of a theosophical kind”. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 22.4.1964)

Despite all these reservations and criticism against Hindu saints, which he was free to have as a devout Christian, he would not hesitate to indulge in deception by uttering the names of very same Sri Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharishi as his guides, when confronted by Hindu scholars and seers. When a Hindu sannyasi Swami Devananda questioned the right of a Christian missionary to appropriate Aum, he accused the Hindu of being “a sectarian” and wrote:

I am concerned with the universal essence of Hinduism, as found in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Gita and in modern masters like Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Ramana Maharishi and Mahatma Gandhi. These have always been my guides. — (Bede Griffiths to Swami Devananda, letter dated 16.10.1987, in Sita Ram Goel, Catholic Ashrams: Sannyasins or Swindlers, Voice of India, 1988 & 1994, p.143)

Even before he took over, while staying at Shantivanam, he took many scouting visits to the great Hindu temples of South India—particularly Chidambaram, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur and Srirangam—very similar to his predecessor Henri Le Saux. Mixing with Hindus, projecting himself as an admirer of Hinduism and hiding his Christian identity, he could gain access to the inner sanctum of the temples where only Hindus are allowed. From these visits he conjectured that it was the darkness of the unconscious that the Hindu temples represented and this was their attraction:

The whole effect is very strange—the Brahmin priests naked to the waist wearing the sacred thread and with heads half shaven, the weird primitive music with beating of drums and the scent of incense—the crowds of people. Yet I felt through it all intense appeal to the unconscious … this great world of unconscious which is the real Hindu temple—architecture, music, sculpture, the shrine half hidden in darkness—all belong to the world of unconscious, and it is this symbolism of the unconscious that draws the millions of India to the temples. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 22.12.1956)

After seeing Thanjavur big temple, his visit ended with Srirangam—the greatest of the Vaishnavite shrines. Now he wrote decisively:

I have never seen anything so sublime, not even in a Romanesque church. But at the same time one feels the limitation of his [Hindu] religion. It is a religion of nature and never rising above nature. I came away with the sense of oppression. I feel that this is essentially a primitive religion which must be transcended. A time must come when Christ takes the place of all the worship which is offered to these gods of nature. As education grows people will not be content with the myths of Siva and Vishnu; they will want the truth and only Christ can answer this need of the soul. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 22.12.1956)

Like Henri Le Saux, Griffiths also visited Elephanta caves. He also wrote about it later:

When I landed at Bombay I went to see the Elephanta caves and the great statue of Siva there left a lasting impression on me. Here at the threshold of India I found graven in stone that profound spirit of contemplation which has given inner meaning…. — (Bede Griffiths, Christ in India: Essays Towards a Hindu-Christian Dialogue, Bangalore 1967 & 1984, p.20)

In the same book he also makes it clear that Shiva is nothing more than “shadow of the mystery of Christ” (p.100).

Not only Hindus, but all those outside the Catholic Church, according to Griffiths, were just making “better use of lesser grace” and “fullness of grace and revelation” being present only within the Church, it becomes “our privilege and responsibility” to convert and bring all non-Catholics into the Church. Soon he was deconstructing Hindu symbols as well. The Hindu symbols were not only incomplete which had to be fulfilled by Jesus but left to themselves they would become evil and negative, he reasoned:

I believe that these symbols, the Golden Flower for instance or the Hindu temple can be a genuine revelation of God. But in so far as they are not redeemed—in other words do not belong to Christ—they have a daemonic aspect which can have a devastating power. … I see more and more clearly that Hinduism must be redeemed in order that it may reveal all is hidden power and beauty, otherwise it can devour the soul. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 23.6.1957)

Griffiths combined the traditionally implicit Christian anti-Semitism in the replacement theology with a Hindu-hatred in his fulfillment theology drawing parallels:

In the same way in so far as Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita reveals the way to ultimate goal of the Atman, he may be said to be a type of Christ. What Christianity brings is the fulfillment of this cosmic revelation. Christ is infinitely more than Krishna and the Kingdom of Heaven is infinitely (more) than Nirvana. But just as St. Thomas [Aquinas] holds that the knowledge of the Trinity and the Incarnation is implicit in primeval revelation, so I would say that the knowledge of Christ and Kingdom of Heaven is implicit in the experience of the Atman or of Nirvana. … They are the same supernatural reality but it is only in Christ that the fullness of this supernatural mystery is revealed. There is very close analogy with the Old Testament. Noah, Melchisedec and Job (who are pagans), Moses, David and Isaiah, all had true knowledge of God, but their knowledge was incomplete, and their experience therefore imperfect. Christ fulfills at once the Old Testament and the cosmic covenant. In this sense both Hinduism and Buddhism await their fulfillment in Him. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 21.3.1960)

Griffiths often descended into an attack on the Hindu deities declaring that they were ‘attractive’ but not ‘good’ and that they lacked morality.

The Infinite holy god of wonder and terror was also the God of infinite justice and moral goodness. In India idea of the holy is still overwhelmingly strong, but it is not particularly moral. Siva (with his lingam) is a holy God, at once terrible and lovely, but he is not particularly good! So also Krishna is holy—an object of worship and love and adoration. But he does not make any great demand on his devotees. I feel that this is what Hinduism lacks and why it needs Christ. He alone is  absolutely holy and absolutely good. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 19.10.1958) 

What is remarkable about Griffiths is the way such ideas about Hinduism become so fixed and rigid in his thought process. Despite his claims of “studying Hinduism” and being guided by its universal essence, etc. one finds the very same ideas expressed again in almost the very same words almost 17 years late in 1976:

What is more, he (Krishna) is morally ambivalent. He is a symbol of highest divinity, yet as a man he is shown to be a trickster, a deceiver who brings disaster on his people and is finally ignominiously slain…. [Siva] is the symbol of the purest love but this is in terms of gross sexuality. It is the same with Siva. He is the God of love, of infinite beauty and grace, whose nature is being, knowledge and bliss, the Father, the Saviour, the Friend. Yet his symbol is the lingam and like Krishna has many wives. — (Bede Griffiths, Return to the Centre, Collins, U.K. 1976, pp.76-7)

To him, Hinduism was nothing but descent into the darkness of unconscious with all its attractions and dangers and that to swim across it unharmed and reach real spiritual liberation one needed Jesus, as Hinduism was deficient:

…how I love Hinduism! Everything is there except Christ. I see more and more clearly that all we have to do is to place Christ in the centre of Hinduism. But how to do it? … I am sure that it is a question of coming to terms with the unconscious (the Hindu lives from the unconscious), … The unconscious is full of demons and daemonic powers which seek to ‘possess’ us as you say. … There is evil in Hinduism and in all Hindu society. … I believe that it is Christ alone who can set us free from the unconscious. … For me Hinduism seems to act as a means for regaining contact with the unconscious but it must be Hinduism transformed by Christ. Hinduism by itself will not do. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 23.7.1960)

The depiction of Hinduism as nothing but the unconscious or the “dark” or “negative” (as deemed by the Christian values) forces of the unconscious is so pervasive in the works of Griffiths. Today, they are very familiar in the Western academic circles studying Hinduism—particularly in Wendy Doniger-Jeffrey Kripal school. Doniger-Kripal school of course does not speak of Jesus but in the place of Jesus they place the superior Western academic discourse, which, of course, always has been unwittingly an aid for evangelism during both colonial centuries and post-colonial decades.

Despite all his seemingly adoring words to portray Hinduism, a small scratch on the surface—an intelligent criticism over his real motives would bring out torrents of the hatred he harboured against Hinduism. Almost 30 years after he wrote the above lines, in 1990 he wrote scathingly to Sita Ram Goel when he questioned the ethics of the methods and the theology underlying them:

I suggested to Mr. Goel that the Voice of India might well make a special study of the various aspects of Hinduism. I suggest as a beginning the history of human sacrifice and temple prostitution from the earliest times to the present day…. Another institution is the practice of sorcery and magic…. Above all there is the problem of untouchability. Surely one of the greatest crimes in the history of religion…. I love Hinduism, not only the Vedas and the Gita and Vedanta but popular Hindu piety and its cultured traditions but I try to get a balanced view of it. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 06.4.1990, from Sita Ram Goel 1988 &1994, pp.171-2)

Obsession with Marriage Syndrome

The second part of Griffiths’ autobiography is titled: The Marriage of East and West. In this he wrote:

I wanted to experience in my life the marriage of these two dimensions of human existence, the rational and intuitive, the conscious and unconscious, the masculine and feminine. I wanted to find the way to the marriage of East and West. — (Bede Griffiths, The Marriage of East and West, Templegate Publisher, 1982, p. 8)

This marriage notion of Griffiths has been often lauded by his followers as some sort of a deeper spiritual synthesis. A reviewer of a hagiographic video on Griffiths says:

The persistent theme throughout is of the union of opposites: East and West, Christianity and Hinduism (and other religions), right brain / left brain, masculine / feminine, rational / intuitive. — (Beatrice Bruteau, Film Review: “A Human Search: The Life of Father Bede Griffiths, The Golden String”, Bulletin of the Bede Griffiths Trust, Vol. I, No. I, Spring 1994, p.7)

However, a study of the origin of this theme in its formative stages in the works of Griffiths, reveals more colonial prejudice and personal pathos than any genuine spiritual need for the harmony of deeper opposites. To Griffiths, though Hinduism had “affection and natural grace” it lacked being “honest, straightforward, just and reliable” These qualities of Hinduism, he identified with the feminine and found the British element masculine. He wrote:

I feel in a sense they are our opposites—it is male versus female—conscious versus unconscious, and it is not easy to marry with them. Yet this is what we ought to have done for their own sake.… — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 6.6.1959)

He would reveal later that in seeking the feminine in India he was also resolving a personal crisis:

…I am sure that my problem is that of the anima. At school we were brought up in a totally masculine world. We scarcely even referred to a mother or sister and a mother was known as ‘the mater’. We never saw girls or women (except for the matron). … Unfortunately, there were not many feminine contacts at home either, so altogether I was starved…. That is why people like Cherian and Stephen attract me—and why India attracts me. People here all live from the anima.… Hence all the lying and cheating and stealing, and a lack of moral integrity. — (Bede Griffiths’ letter dated 15.10.1961) 

Repressed sex was also bothering him. After a stroke in the early 1990s he explained:

It is your flesh and your blood that this has to penetrate. It then moves down through the sex region. That is very important too, because that tends to be suppressed. In my own experience it was very much repressed. I am rediscovering the whole sexual dimension of life at the age of eighty-six, really. And that also means discovering the feminine. — (Bede Griffiths quoted in “Self-Surrender and Self-Realization in Bede Griffiths” by Bruno Barnhart, The Golden String Newsletter, Vol. 6,  No. 2)

One wonders if his attacks on Sri Krishna and Shiva as well as his stereotyping of Hindus and India as lacking moral sense, being dishonest, etc. were more the amalgamation of his own repressed sexuality combined with the colonial theology. He wrote that he was starved of the feminine. Was his conversion attempts then elaborate predatory rituals on the nation and culture perceived as the feminine prey? In fact in the current context one has to ask if these innate tendencies of Catholic Church are what making the priests turn predatory paedophiles on their own flock?

Is it time for Hindus to reverse the direction and do a fulfillment mission on Christianity? Perhaps what Christianity needs is the replacement of a crucified Christ by a dancing Siva or a Krishna whose melody can redeem the Church of its repressed sexuality?

Despite Griffiths and his acolytes claiming that the so-called “Christian Advaita” was deeper than Sankara’s Advaita, Cyprian Consiglio, another Catholic theologian, found him saying in his previous interviews that Griffiths thought Abhishiktananda “went too far”.

Appropriating the Vision of New Physics

Meanwhile, new developments were happening in physics which had theological consequences for Christianity. Griffiths was painfully aware that Hinduism even with no institutional mechanism like the Church was able to get itself into a constructive dialogue with the philosophical impacts of New Physics. Griffiths was equally aware of the deficiencies of his own Christian theology. He noted:

David Bohm speaks as a theoretical physicist, of unity and interconnectedness in what he calls the implicate order, prior to the world of separate entities which is our normal experience. The implicate order is constantly unfolding, giving rise to the explicate order of particular forms and structures. This is where the new scientific understanding of the universe meets with the non-dualist traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and so on. — (Bede Griffiths, “The New Consciousness” quoted in “New Age and New Science in Bede’s thought” by Everado Pedraza, The Golden String, Vol. 14, No. 1, Summer 2007)

He was acutely aware of the deficiency of Christianity to incorporate into it the holistic vision provided by New Physics and the parallels pointed out by physicists like Schrodinger, Capra, Bohm, etc. between the vision of New Physics and Indic systems of inner science. Quoting Teasdale, Everardo Pedraza, an admiring author of Griffiths writes:

Yet there was still the question of where and how Christianity and its mystical tradition fit into this interdisciplinary and interreligious dialogue. Indeed, “Father Bede was aware of this deficiency and sought in numerous lectures to show how Christianity and its mystical tradition fit in, primarily through the intuitions of Trinity, Godhead, and the Incarnation.” — (Everardo Pedraza, “New Age and New Science in Bede’s thought” in The Golden String, 2007)

To achieve this, he recruited Rupert Sheldrake—a British biologist advocating questionable pseudo-scientific vitalist theories—who also shared the colonial prejudices of Griffiths including the negative stereotyping of Indic traditions as fatalistic and uncaring towards human suffering.

To make Christian theology presentable as being in sync with the world-view emerging from New Physics, Griffiths did not hesitate to take Hindu darshanas and then give a little Christian tweak to them. How this is done by providing a Christian twist to an originally Hindu concept is unwittingly described by Catholic theologian Brian J. Pierce:

From there Fr. Bede makes his usual connections with the new physics, especially the theory of ‘implicate order’ proposed by David Bohm. ‘The whole physical universe today is understood as a vast field of energies vibrating at different frequencies,’ says Fr. Bede. He then likens these varied energy vibrations to whirlpools in a river, concluding that ‘my body is a particular whirlpool, and yours, and so on…. Christ is the new Adam in whom our dis-integrated human family is healed and so made one again (1 Cor 15:45ff). In the 1989 satsang he connects this image with the Hindu figure of the Purusha, a theme which he develops further in chapters six and seven of A New Vision of Reality. — (Brian J. Pierce, “This Is My Body—This Is That”, The Golden String, Vol. 4 No. 2, Winter 1997-98)

But all these borrowing from Hinduism to compensate the deficiencies of his own religion does not make him acknowledge this fact. Rather he went on pointing to what he perceived as the deficiencies of Hinduism. Apart from the lack of “moral” compass, Hinduism also lacked social conscience as Advaita made people withdraw from the world. Griffiths wrote:

I feel the danger of Hindu mysticism is to retire into an inner reality of infinite riches and beauty and so on, but it doesn’t relate you to others, and the danger of the sannyasi in India is he is not really concerned with other people. That’s why you can meet people dying in the streets of Calcutta and not worry much about it. It’s part of karma. — (Bede Griffiths in an interview dated September 1992, from the transcript of Exploring the Christian-Hindu Dialogue: A Visit with Bede Griffiths, Inner Explorations, USA)

In hindsight, the historical irony is cruel. In reality, it was a British Christian Winston Churchill who engineered one of the severest famines of that century in Bengal and countless people perished in the streets of Calcutta because of the inhuman Hindu-phobic attitude of Churchill to which his Christian upbringing also contributed in no small amount. It was Hindu nationalist Syama Prasad Mukherjee and Hindu volunteers who fought against the famine created by the British. The subsequent post-independent Calcutta scenario too was more because of the colonial impoverishment rather than the stereotyped Hindu apathy.

Thomas & Seeman

India a Xian Nation (Secessionist Propaganda)

Shantivanam, Aryan-Dravidian Racism and Evangelism in the Field

While Griffiths was not primarily interested in Aryan-Dravidian race theory, he did use them in his approach to Hinduism. And where he used them, he tried to show Hinduism as an Aryan development that integrated into itself a positive element of non-Aryan tribal tradition.

Thus Krishna worship, tantra, Shiva worship were all originally non-Hindu, tribal (for he considers tribal as non-Hindu and Aryan as Hindu) traditions integrated into Aryan Hinduism. When analysing the historical development of the Krishna worship and devotion in India, he suggested that “Krishna had been a non-Aryan deity absorbed into the Hindu pantheon through his identification with Vishnu”. With regard to tantra, Griffith speculated:

But in the third century C.E., this movement of Tantra came into Hinduism and Buddhism. It was a movement from below and must have come from pre-Aryan people. It’s not Aryan which is patriarchal, but pre-Aryan—it comes from the earth. (Bede Griffiths with Matthew Fox, The Other Half of My Soul: Bede Griffiths and the Hindu-Christian Dialogue, Quest Books, 1996,  p.328)

In an article that was published in the winter 2004-2005 issue of The Golden String, the bulletin of Bede Griffiths Trust, the writer appreciatively described the Griffiths perspective of grouping Indic spiritual traditions into racial binaries:

Bede marvelously traces how historically the Tantric texts, which first begin to appear in the third century CE, rise up out of the indigenous Dravidian Shaivism of south India, where devotion to God as mother is very strong, so the tendency is to assert the values of nature and of the body, of the senses and of sex. Many things which tended to be suppressed in the Aryan Vishnu tradition came to be reverenced by Tantra. — (Cyprian Consiglio, “Awaken and Surrender”, The Golden String, Bulletin of the Bede Griffiths Trust, Vol. 11, No. 2, Winter 2004-2005, p.1)

Again one can see here the framework that would also be used by David Gordon White—studying tantra through the Brahmin-non-Brahmin ethnic binary.

After assigning such non-Hindu roots to tribal spiritual traditions (which in reality are organically associated with Hindu Goddess traditions), Mary is introduced as the “dark mother of the oppressed”. Here is where the abstract theological conjectures and experimental structures fabricated in Shantivanam slowly enter the political space. Another Shantivanam product, Christian artist Jyoti Sahi, elaborates upon this idea of Griffiths thus:

Some years ago I was asked to make an image of the ‘Dalit ki Mata’, or the Mother of the Dalits. The word Dalit, coming from Dal, meaning the earth, or that which is broken, crushed, made me think of this image of the cave. Could the Mother of the Dalits be this primordial figure of the woman in the cave? But then what would this woman look like? Traditionally she has been pictured as dark-skinned, as in the figure of the ‘Black Madonna’ who was definitely a representation of ‘Our Lady of the Rocks’, who perhaps  was in ancient times worshiped in dark caves, where she was associated with the chthonic forces of the underworld. — (Jyoti Sahi, The Lady and the Cave, Reflections on the Meaning of the Black Madonna, United Theological College, Women’s Studies Department, Bangalore)

Interestingly, this again, the image of Mary as the mother of the oppressed seems to be for Indian evangelical market. Where Catholicism had triumphed, feminist theologian China Galland witnessed as late as 2000 in Brazil how Catholic priests exhorting people to be like Mary “obedient, reasonable, serene above all obedient”, writes:

Once again I see how the devotion to Mary … is also used by the Church to control people, especially women. — (The Black Madonna and the Limits of Light: Looking Underneath Christianity, A Teaching for Our Time in the Fabric of the Future: Women Visionaries of Today illuminate the Path to Tomorrow, ed. M. J. Ryan, Patrice Wynne, Conari, 2000)

One can find many icons of Mary clad in Indian dress placed in many areas at Shantivanam. The chapel entrance tower displays a Mary similar to a Hindu goddess donning a vermillion mark and performing abhaya hasta, seated below Jesus. Today, we find in select areas of Tamil Nadu such promotion of Indianised form of Mary—specifically to compete with and replace Mariamman—the mother goddess of the folk tradition, who was popularised during the freedom struggle by Tamil poet Subramania Bharathi. After strategically promoting such designed syncretism, the missionary scholars enter, do research and proclaim that there are similarities between worship of Mary and Mariamman. For example, in the book Christian Folk Traditions: An introductory study published from the Bishop House, Nagercoil, in 2007, Brigitte Sebastia had a paper “Maariyamman—Mariyamman: Catholic Practices and Image of Virgin in Velankanni”.

Shantivanam chapel itself is built in the style of Hindu symbols. For example, generally, Hindu temples of South India have in the four corners of the gopuram, an animal, which is the mount of the deity. In the case of goddess it is lion and in the case of Shiva it is the bull. The Shantivanam chapel features very similar bull, lion, eagle and they actually represent the evangelists Luke, Mark and John. Those recognised by the Catholic Church as officially saints are shown in the base tier of the gopuram—in Hindu saffron clothing—like mendicants or siddhas and above them Jesus is depicted in yogic postures. In Shiva temples usually on the southern side of the gopuram, Shiva is depicted as Dakshinamurthi. In the Shantivanam chapel, Jesus is depicted as Dakshinamurthi.

The inculturation attempt to Christianise Hindu sculptural and temple architectural elements cannot be seen in isolation. In parallel to what Shantivanam is doing, Christian missionaries are developing pseudo-historical narratives that it was the revolution of ancient Christianity brought by St Thomas to India that became all the Saivaite and Vishnu temples in South India, which were later appropriated by Aryan Brahmins. Thus a notorious Dravidianist—Christologist, Deivanayakam and his late daughter Devakala, both of whose works were promoted by Chennai Roman Catholic Diocese, claimed:

Though Saivism and Vaishnavism have nothing to do with the Vedas the Saivite and Vaishnavite figures came to be considered as Brahminical gods and goddesses. … The pantheon of the Hindu gods were given anthropomorphic form only in the later period. Saivism and Vaishnavism are the offshoots of early Indian Christianity and the sculptures of Saivism and Vaishnavism are actually the visual aids for the doctrine of Trinity, and the doctrine of incarnation or avatar. … This triune God is depicted as “three faced Siva” with one body. In Ellora and Elephanta the icons of Siva with three faces in one body are seen in large numbers. — (M. Deivanayagam & D. Devakala, Iconography of Hindu Religion)

Griffiths also gives Christian meaning to the most venerated Hindu symbols like the dance of Shiva and instructs Catholic missionaries how to Christianise Nataraja, the presiding deity of Chidambaram. Kim “Nataraja”, an acolyte of Shantivanam project explains:

When Fr. Bede visited Sr. Pascaline, a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at the Osage Monastery, Forest of Peace, in Oklahoma in 1978. He presented them with a statue of Nataraja, saying that Christians must begin to see Nataraja as the symbol of the risen Christ. It is easy to see why he felt this to be so. — (Kim Nataraja, “The Dancing Siva” in The Bede Griffiths Sangha Newsletter, Vol. 2, Is. 3, September 1999)

In the “evangelical manual” given to evangelical workers in Tamil Nadu, question number 193 is about Nataraja. The explanation given is that it in reality symbolises Jesus winning over death but the book claims that these meanings were distorted by the Aryan Brahmins.

Today, many such texts which claim India to be “a Christian nation” and provide evangelical guidelines based on inculturation and appropriation are available throughout Tamil Nadu in many Christian stores. These books are approved by Roman Catholic Diocese officials.

Sleeper Cells for Christianising Hinduism

Inside Shantivanam, one finds thus various forms of Jesus at experimental stage. These forms imitate popular Hindu sacred icons. Jesus sitting in the lotus position like a yogi with four forms of him sitting adjacent to each other in four directions looks typically Hindu. The aim is to increase the Hindu universal acceptance to a point where he or she will accept the Trojan of Jesus-exclusiveness presented in Indian garb.

There is a statue of Jesus in yoga pose under a five-headed serpent. Given the fact that Tamil Nadu waysides and the banks of village water bodies abound in the images of Hindu gods and goddesses seated under such five-headed serpents, eventual installation of such theo-plagiarised Christian statues can create considerable confusion in the minds of people while at the same time fulfilling the mission of the Shantivanam founders to replace the Hindu deities with the Christian deity at the centre of Hindu spiritual traditions.

They are at the experimental stage—waiting for the right time of launch—for Christianising Hindu institutions and spiritual traditions. The Shantivanam movement finds parallel for this kind of operation in the history of the Church—when it captured the [ancient Greek and Roman] pagan religious institutions, their celebrations and places of worship.

A commemorative issue in honour of Monchanin, its founder, published by Saccidananda Ashram explains:

When St. Gregory the Great sent the monk Augustine to the Angles, he directed him not to deprive them of their places of worship or customary festivities, but to transform their temples into Christian ones and to dedicate to the Saints their religious festivals. The Indian Church at least in the Tamil Nadu made at times wonderful use of these directives…. In short Shantivanam was only an attempt amongst others an effort to recapture a spirit and to prepare this spirit to find in due time its right outcome and Christian expression, in matters of cult, art, etc.

Today, the experiments done in the quite obscure corners of Tamil Nadu are being tested openly by the Church. For example, John Samule, a Christian zealot and director of Institute of Asian Studies spearheaded the “Murugan conferences”. He emphasised that his approach was more to approach Murugan as a historical figure than a deity. Though Saivism categorically states that Murugan has no human birth, this thesis was first put forward in the Murugan conferences.

Later, Seeman, a Christian born Tamil secessionist started vociferously stating that Murugan was just a deified ancestor of Tamils. Soon, St Thomas, who in a historically unattested story [was said to have been] martyred in Madras, was presented by the Church similar to Murugan with his spear, and his forehead adorned with holy ashes and vermillion in Hindu fashion.

Meanwhile, Shantivanam and many such institutions throughout India and abroad silently carry out their mission and operation, making full use of the Hindu ignorance of the preparations for a “war” against them. – Swarajya, 26 November 2017

» Aravindan Neelakandan is an economist, psychologist, author and contributing editor at Swarajya magazine. He is best known for the book Breaking India which he co-authored with Rajiv Malhotra.

Jesus images at Shantivanam Aum symbol crucified on a Benedictine cross at Shantivanam