|ately Hinduism and Hindi language teaching has found its way in US schools. That is a good development which makes us proud. But there are certain vested interests, which under the cover of Religion In South Asia (RISA) study degrade Hinduism by describing it as inferior religion which involves practices of animism. Hindu gods and goddesses are described as sex symbols. Saints are called homosexuals. Tantra is described as not a legitimate spiritual process but a mask hiding the true character as pornography ,Abhinavgupta the doyen of Kashmir Shivism did not know tantra , and Bhagwadgita is called as a book of war. Examine some of the writings:
1) Kripal,Jaffrey J, in his book Kali’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and teachings of Ramakrishna . A summary of his book in his own words reads as follows:
“Ramakrishna was a conflicted, unwilling, homoerotic Tantrika……Tantra’s heterosexual assumptions seriously violated the structure of his own homosexual desires. ………He remained a lover not of sexually aggressive women or even of older men but of young, beautiful boys “ Among the boys Swamy Vivekananda is identified as one .
The book is based on PhD dissertation of the author and won the First prize award from the American Academy of Religion (AAR).He is the head of Hindu studies in Rice University. Encyclopedia Britannica has listed the book as a top choice for learning about Ramakrishna .
2) Paul B. Courtright’s book –Ganesha: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings. The book is based on PhD thesis of author. The author is professor in the Department of Religion at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia USA . The book received a national award in 1985 by the committee on History of Religions of the American Council of Learned Societies based in Chicago .The book was reprinted by Oxford University Press in 2003 . A reprint of the book in India was made by the leading Indology publisher Motilal Banarasidass in 2003 . An excerpt from the book:
“Ganeshas’ trunk is the displaced phallus, a caricature of Siva’s linga. It poses no threat because it is too large, flaccid and in the wrong place to be used for sexual purpose
“He (Ganesha) remains celibate so as not to compete erotically with his father ,a notorious womanizer, either incestuously for his mother or for any other woman for that matter.”
“Both in his behavior and iconographic form Ganesha resembles in some aspects the figure of a eunuch…….Ganesha is like a eunuch guarding the women of the harem.”
“Feeding Ganesha copious quantities of modaka satisfying his oral/erotic desires ,also keeps him from becoming genetically erotic like his father “
“Ganesha’s broken tusk ,his guardian staff ,and displaced head can be interpreted as symbols of castration”
3) Professor David Gordon White’ book: Kiss of the Yogin: tantric Sex in its South Asian Context .
Tantra is a ritual in which body fluids –sexual or menstrual discharge are swallowed as transformative “power substance” to achieve magical powers …… Abhinav Gupta of Kashmir in the eleventh century made an attempt to transform kaula sexual practice into a simple by- product of a higher goal: the cultivation of a divine state of higher consciousness ……. The visarga sound of ha ( used as a mantra )is the sound a woman makes while enjoying the sexual intercourse …….” In other words the ‘ha’ sound of the visarga is the semnticization of sex in Abhinav Gupta’s system “……..Bindu on forehead is a physical drop of menstrual blood .
4) Doniger Wendy Professor of Hinduism at Chicago University , a leading indologist and widely respected in USA ,who has authored several books on Hinduism . Her views about Bhagwad gita, published in Philadelphia Inquirer :
“The Bhagwad Gita is not a nice book ……….Throughout the Mahabharata …….Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war ….The Gita is a dishonest book ; It justifies war “
These are some of the broad observations about interpretation of Hinduism in the academic circles in the USA . There are other research papers which describe Hinduism in the same way as shown above. Since these books have been authored by academic scholars they have been accepted as reference books in schools and colleges and also in some museums where idols of Hindu gods are displayed .Even Microsoft encyclopedia – Encarta used these books for describing Hinduism . One may wonder what is the source of information for these writers and with what objectivity in mind have they written these books. Let us examine it.
a) These authors have spent several years studying Hindu literature in India and for some of them this forms dissertation for their PHD. Hindu literature is vast and oldest. It developed over vast period of time perhaps five thousand years. Different people did write differently in the early stages of the development of a religious philosophy .After all Hinduism is known as Sanatana Dharma –path of righteousness. It welcomes all thoughts .The centrality of Hindu thought is: Ekam Sat Vipraha Bahuda Vadanti (Truth is one but the learned ones’ call it by different names). Our Puranic literature is full of intellectual wars over the supremacy of their chosen gods over others who are downgraded by various accusations. This is not uncommon in other religions as well.
b) Sanskrit is an archaic language which has its own history of development .Same words are interpreted differently ,which makes their translation difficult. One has to translate a passage in the context of the centrality of the thought , which otherwise will lead into erroneous conclusions .
c) The authors have made use of psychoanalysis as used by Freud in the study of arts, culture and religion .
d) Using interviews with Hindus who do not have through knowledge about the facts .
Hinduism has been the subject of study by a number of Western scholars who have praised it abundantly .Even some of the authors under study have written books in praise of Hinduism. Description of Hindu gods and tantra is not the way any we describe it. But if one has predisposition in his mind it is not difficult to find material for that. One can easily notice this predisposition in these writings. Various reasons for this could be:
i) Emergence of Hindus as a well to do community in the West including USA, which may be cause of jealousy
ii) Secret challenge from Christian missionaries who use this type of literature for conversion of tribals in India into their faith.AAR ,which has a huge presence of Christians mainly catholics.
iii) The authors have taken advantage of the fact that study of religion in India is not taught at the university level and hence any challenge from religious bodies such as ashrams ,matts etc. could be met with easily as non scholar criticism.
Critiques challenge and Response
Despite the shortcomings as stated above, Hindu scholars, Indian as well non Indians and activists, all over the world reacted strongly to these writings:
a) Rajiv Malhotra ,president of Infinity Foundation Princeton New Jersery USA (www.infinityfoundation.com) raised the banner against these and other similar writings in 2002 by writing an article entitled “RISA Lila-I Windy’s Child Syndrome”(WCS) which was put on sulekha.com. This generated a hu ge dialogue between the writers and critiques. Mr. Malhotra wrote another article RISA -II which was a challenge to the arguments presented by the RISA lobby( WCS).
b) RamaKrishna Mission, after initial hesitation, presented their rebuttal through a 130 page, point by point, of the conclusions drawn by the author, by a scholar monk Swami Tyagananda. He pointed out the mistranslations of Bengali language done by the author of book Kali’s Child by Kripal . The author has not replied to this ,nor has he agreed to include a summary of Tyaganands rebuttal at the end of new edition of his book .
c) Hindu Students Council (HSC) at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette started an on line petition criticizing the writings about Lord Ganesha and Shiva by Courtright in his book about Ganesha .About 7000 signatures were collected within a few days . The campaign failed because some anonymous signatories took advantage of the privacy that internet offered them and posted death threats to author on the petition.The HSC members took it off the website before situation got out of control.
d) Two US based Hindus Vishal Agarwal and Kalavani Venkat wrote down a detailed review of Courtrites book on Ganesha challenging misrepresentation of his sources and wrong translations .This was taken up by other writers. This has put the controversial book on hot spot . In India Motolal Banarasidass withdrew the publication of this book from the market with an apology.
e) Professor Somnath Bhattachatyya former head of the Psychology Department at Calcutta University wrote a 12000 word article “ Kali’s Child : Psychological and Hermeneutical Problems (Published on sulekha.com). He thoroughly exposed the irrelevance of psychological interpretations of Freud as applied to religious studies .
f) Sankrant sanu- An independent scholar who working with Microsoft wrote a rejoinder about Hindu Studies as given in Microsoft’s Encarta (widely used reference by school children). This resulted in withdrawing the references about Hinduism based on RISA Scholars interpretation which were substituted by the one written by Professor Arvind Sharma from McGill University in Montreal in 2004
g) A comprehensive description of the writings and counter defence made by RISA scholars is given in a book: Invading The Sacred written by KrishnanRamaswamy, Antonio de Nicolas and Aditi Banerjee Published by Rupa and Co in India
The object of this write has been to awaken Hindu community about the challenges we face in the Western world especially USA . One may argue that it is a miniscule community of writers whose writings cannot and do not effect the overall respect that Hinduism enjoys worldwide. That may be true but we are concerned what is taught to a 10-15 year student at school . Our children may develop a complex if our gods are introduced to them as sex symbols with cravings for sex . The relationship between Swami Ramakrishna and Vivekananda defined as homosexual .We must guard against such writings and bring it in to the notice of community ( use sulekha.com) to fight against such misrepresentation of our culture .
|* Piyaray Raina was born in Srinagar Kashmir in1936.He is Geologist by profession . He received initiation into spiritual fold at an early age. Married to Krishna . He has a son Dijjotam ,who lives in Atlanta and a daughter Jyoti ,who lives in London .He is the author of “ Socio Religious and Cultural Traditions of Kashmiri Pandits.” He writes for various community journals. Mr. Raina lives USA with his son and in Gurgaon India . He is President of Samarpan Public Charitable Trust ( Regd) which is engaged in various social , cultural and educational activities. Raina family has set up a children school Crystal Children Centre in DLF Gurgaon .
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A very well written and researched article. All these so called authors that Mr Raina has pointed out obviously have their own agendas and want to jump start the sales of their books. Hence the interpretations. There should be some kind of accountability for these so called respected authors of phony books.
Added By Geetanjali Dhar
What is this world coming to! Hinduism is one of the worlds' oldest and probably the most inclusive religions. We do not need these ill informed people telling us what our religion is as it is too vast and complex for their small minds to comprehend. People will only see what they want to see and obviously the west is obsessed with the erotic aspects which are just a tiny drop in the vast ocean that is Hinduism.
Added By Sonal Sher
Denigration Hindu deities & ethos is not new.It is witnessed even in India. Remember recent ranting "was Rama a civil engineer " over Ram sethu issue or 'different ramayanas' paper that evoked harsh criticism recently in India. Guru Teg Bahadur's martyrdom for the sake of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits continues to be disputed by the ideologically oriented historians. And the truth is that the ethos & the philosophy have survived inspite of the centuries of onslaught against the faith.
Added By Lalit Ambardar
Hinduism is so engulfing and been subjected to onslaught for centuries - but still flourishes owing to its own openness and capabilities to undertake and survive this kind of unnecessary pin-pricking. The depth of hinduism has the capability to engulf and tide over these kind of comments.
Added By Munindra Misra