Sunday, 29 March 2015

Response to an article by Lord Meghnath Desail "Being a Hindu"

This is a response to an article by Lord Meghnath Desail "Being a Hindu" that appeared in the Indian Express on 29/March/2014 The criticism of Indian society for some prejudices between communities is well known and Indian's themselves are at the fore front of highlighting it. It is also true that 'datil' communities have been and perhaps continue to be discriminated against today and is well acknowledged.

Having acknowledged that I would just like to point towards some misconceptions that we have. Starting with the question of jati(samaj) and varna. I would not use the term caste because it is a foreign term and does not really describe the social phenomenon that really exists.If we look at our selves from imported constructs then we will only see what the foreigner sees rather than knowing the nuances which our own perspective brings.

The first writer/thinker I would like to mention is late Dharampal. He is often described as a Gandhian. He wrote several books. Many of which are available for free in electronic format.In 'Indian Science and Technology in the Eighteenth Century: Some Contemporary European Accounts' he shows how Indian science and technology was at quite an advanced stage when the Europeans came to India. Several other books have been written on this subject for instance Mr C K Raju has written about how Indian Ganita was of much advanced stage than anything that Europe had and how is was transmitted to Europe via the Arabs and the Jesuits who came to Kerala. He gives example of Calculus which was clearly developed in India and was taken to Europe by the Jesuits. 

Aryabhatta who is credited with trigonometric discoveries, proposing that the earth is round, calculated circumference of earth and also proposed that earth revolves on its axis, was not a Brahmin as his name itself makes clear with the 'bhatt' suffix. He also wrote in Sanskrit. The point I am making without going into to much details here is that while it may be true that reciting of vedas was limited to Brahmins because of the discipline & practice that was required to learn the vedas from a very young age which then became a way of life; knowledge was not exclusive domain of the the Brahmins. The shipbuilders, engineers, surgeons, doctors, architects, sculptors, artists, mathematicians, astronomers, metallurgists, weavers(including technology) of ancient India were clearly not Brahmins. These are all fields of knowledge also and these were with the communities who used this knowledge for productive use. Pursuit of knowledge is and was the primary objective of our civilization that I am convinced of; through practical experience of our values and through reading the works of these authors like Dharmpal, C K Raju,Banwari, and many others. Sanskrit was not an exclusive domain of the Brahmins it should be clear because many of the books on practical sciences used by non Brahmins were also in Sanskrit.

Dharampal has written another book of note 'The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century'. Quoting from the records of the British civil servants he brings to our attention some facts which will forever change our perspective on what the British really did to our education. Noting the kind of education that existed in India before British intervention and before the heavy taxation that the British introduced on our economy he mentions the following in his book:-

William Adam in his first report observed that there exist about 1,00,000 village schools in Bengal and Bihar around the 1830s. Men like Thomas Munro observed in Madras  residency that ‘every village had a school. For areas of the newly extended Presidency of Bombay around 1820, senior officials like G.L. Prendergast noted ‘that there is hardly a village, great or small, throughout our territories, in which there is not at least one school, and in larger villages more.’34 Observations made by Dr G.W. Leitner in 1882 show that the spread of education in the Punjab around 1850 was of a similar extent.   

We had much higher penetration of education than even what existed in England at the time. Regarding the composition of students studying in these pre-British Indian schools this education was not limited to just the Brahmins and Vayshya. In fact the majority of students and also teachers were from other varna's and communities. This is from British records:

For example in tamil-speaking areas the twice-born ranged between 13% in South Arcot to some 23% in Madras, the Muslims form less than 3% in South Arcot and Chingleput to
10% in Salem, while the Soodras and the other castes ranged from about 70% in Salem and Tinnevelly to over 84% in South Arcot. 

I would now like to come to the question of Varna in our dharma shastra. Mr Desai has quoted the Bhagwata Gita. Many people have attacked Gita saying that is justifies the supposed 'caste system'. Although I believe that first there is no Caste(its and imported term) and second there is no System(no one brainstormed and made it). I have read the verses Mr Deais has mentioned. It clearly and repeatedly mentions Svabhava(ones own nature) and Gunah(three modes of material nature Tamas, Rajas, Satva) distinguishing Brahmanas, Khyatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras.

Gita in fact lays out a very difficult tasks and expectation of service to society for the Kshatriya and Brahmana by laying out the qualities needed in them like generosity, courage in battle, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance. We all know that Brahmins were the poorest in terms of wealth in our society. Knowledge and high standards of virtue being their only wealth. For Shudra question our society is much maligned. But where does the Gita say that Shudra are lost.It does say that one born with natural tendency of service is Shudra. Now one might say this work is better than the other but is it not the nature of any society(even the western model) today don't we value scientist, scholars, soldiers, entrepreneur etc. So why do we condemn the values of an ancient society for the ills of today. Gita in fact speaks of dignity of labour when it says one should work as per ones natural tendency which is better than imitating what is not your natural tendency. I don't see anything in Gita justifying a class structure that a Brahmin's son has to be a Brahmin and a Shudra's child has to be a Shudra. It says no such thing; that is just an interpretation that modern scholars have done either out of ignorance or deliberately to malign.

Dharmpal in his book Bharatiya Chitta, Manas va Kala gives an explanation of the hierarchy possibly came into being in our society as a result of more value being given to para-vidya (pursued by a Brahman) than to apara-vidya(pursued by a Sudra). Para is knowledge of the sacred and Apara is knowledge of the practical/mundane. I have heard other scholars maintain that there is no hierarchy between Para and Apara. Dharampal does mention that a hierarchy has been formed in our society pertaining to these vidyas and hence lower and higher status of the varnas has developed. 

Below explanation from his book is worth reproducing as is:-
The Purusha Sukta indeed states that the Sudras appeared from the feet of Brahman, the Vaisyas from the thighs, the Kshatriyas from the arms and the Brahmanas from the head. But this does not necessarily define a hierarchy between the Varnas. The Sukta is a statement of the identity of the microcosm and the macrocosm. It presents the world as an extension of the body of Brahman. In its cryptic Vedic style the Sukta informs us that the creation is a manifestation of Brahman, it is His extension, His play. The Sukta also probably recounts the variety of tasks that have to be performed in the world that Brahman creates. But nowhere in the Purusha Sukta is it said that some of these tasks, and consequently the performers of those tasks, are better than others. That the functions of the head are higher than those of the feet could only be a matter of a somewhat literal interpretation that came later. At another time such interpretations can even get reversed. After all it is only on his feet that a man stands securely on earth. It is only when the feet are stable that the head and hands play their parts. When the feet are not securely placed on the earth, nothing else remains secure either. Incidentally, the Purusha Sukta does not even imply that all four Varnas came into existence simultaneously at the beginning of creation. The Sukta does not give the story of creation and its unfolding; it only explains, through the analogy of the body of Brahman, an already manifest and differentiated Universe. In fact, as we have seen earlier, the Pauranic texts seem to suggest that at the beginning there was only one Varna, and it is only later as the need for newer and newer human capacities started arising that the Varnas divided, first into two and then into three and four.

Dharmapal also quotes from the puranas rishi Vedavyasa saying in exuberance 'blessed are the Shudra, blessed are the women because the Kaliyuga is the age of women and shudra.'

Finally I would like to come the reason which prompted Mr Desai to write this article. The RSS Awadh representative's statement about untouchability bias driving people to Christianity & Islam  in the context of his drive of making people aware that these biases should be removed. No doubt people have converted because of discrimination they have faced, that is not the only reason though and if we look at Ambedkar then he did not convert. He adopted Buddhist tradition but he did not convert out of Dharma; consciously knowing the dangers of such conversions to the integrity of our civilization. Dharma traditions are not exclusive you need not convert into only one tradition and be completely removed from the other. In Japan for instance people remain Buddhist and Shinto at the same time. Mazhabi traditions are exclusive, have a truth claim and consider other traditions as false. That perspective and monism gives them imperialistic tendencies. Other cultures are seen as inherently evil worthy of being removed and replaced with Mazhabi tradition. Their holy books also explicitly call out other traditions especially the practices of Dharma tradition as 'demonic'. This is factual. No such thing can be found in any of the Dharma texts, such hate does not exist in Dharma traditions, there is no proselytizing zeal either. This makes Dharma vulnerable to missionary propaganda since there is a rallying call in Mazhab and no such rallying call in other traditions which respect all ways a leading to truth.

Mazhabi tradition's fundamentalism is exploited by extremists all too often. The very real threat that Indian civilization faces today is from right wing western evangelist(baptist/ lutheran etc). They openly preach hate for Hindus and have a concerted aim of Christianizing India., World Vision, India Gospel League, Samaritan's Purse, Harvest India and innumerable such churches and NGOs have joined hands in the this project. People like Billy Graham known as America's Pastor, his son & others like him have envisioned such projects which have a stated aim to 'demolish Hinduism' and bring true biblical God to 'satan's land'. These efforts are not to be taken lightly. Some people have also written about how US government is perhaps knowingly or unknowingly funding conversions in India.A report appeared in First post recently Uncle Sam funding conversion. Iain Buchanan in his book The Armies of God: Study of militant Christianity has written about this too. Here is his speech describing the result of his research at a university conference in Malaysia. The definition of religious freedom itself is skewed as Sankrant Sanu argues well in his article Re-imagininig Religious Freedom.

Hinduism is not able to respond to this challenge for multiple reasons.
1)  Primarily because it does not believe in proselytizing and does not bad mouth other traditions.
2) Finances being deployed by the global church are huge $50 billion of liquid assets at disposal as per Iain Buchanan.
3) Hindu temples are in government control with the funds being appropriated by the government and not spent on Dharma related activities.Estimated number is 4.5 Lakh all India with 40,000 in Tamil Nadu itself.
4) Dharma has suffered a degradation because of foreign invasion and rule.
5) Some of the clearly biased government policies like the hue and cry for Gharwapsi which is presumed to be forced and people are arrested charges slapped, while conversions of thousands goes on without any check even when they use clearly illegal practices like faith healing, exorcism, fraud, preaching children schools, making Hindu students studying history of Christianity and Christ in schools, bringing up Hindu children in orphanages as Christian even when their parents religion is clearly known. 

This list is long I will not go into this subject further. I would like to say in the end it is not just about the Jati and Varna and it is not merely about discrimination of certain communities. There is discrimination in Christians(closed congregation churches, separate Black/Hispanic/Indian churches,Dalit Christians even buried separately) and Muslims(Ashraf/Ajlaf, Saudi Muslim racism, Shia Sunni fight) also. That is no justification what so ever for religious conversion just because Mazhabi books direct the followers to convert others and bring an end of the world apocalypse once everyone is converted.

Matthew 24:14 

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Response to Mr Kancha Ilaiha on his views on Cow Slaughter

This is my response to an interview of Mr Kancha Ilaiha which appeared in Quartz. says-most-hindus-never-had- any-beef-with-beef

1) It is definitely a cultural imposition— particularly on indigenous groups, such as tribals and Dalits. The question of cultural imposition on Muslims and Christians comes later.
Reply > Cultural value of saving life becomes cultural imperialism? How warped his thinking can be? True fact which we know is that by killing cows the invaders have deliberately undermined one of the cores values of our civilization. The question of calling vanvasis as tribal and calling dalit indigenous is all rehash of the Aryan invasion/immigration mindset. His understanding of history is wrong. The cultural imposition if at all is killing of cows which we have suffered.

2)  Ilaiah-ji speaks about history of Brahmins killing cows, food scarcity. He introduces stories about his own personal experiences
Reply> Concocted history about beef eating by Brahmins is complete nonsense. He is engaging in propaganda of some obscure, doubtful, fringe historical references when the overwhelming facts point otherwise. The vedic view as explained by Srila Prabhupada in an interview was that there are 7 mothers. Adi-mata(original mother), Guru-Patni, Brahman-Patni, Raja's patni, Dhratri(Nurse/Foster mother/wet nurse), Dhenu, Prtihvi. Cow is mother because we drink cows milk. Killing mother is sin. Is that difficult to understand in terms of cultural values? 
The history of massive famines and food scarcity I know of was during the British period when they increased the tax on land from the usual 15% to 75%+. That caused land to go out of production. Why he is insists on saying that 'Dalits' don't consider cow as mother too? All his assumptions rest on his theory that Brahmins are invading Aryans which is as flawed as Nazis conception of Aryans.

3) Muslims/Christians being consumers of beef. 
Reply> Today yes. Historically no. Dharampal had written a book on this. The figures he gave is that before the British perhaps 20000 cattle were killed in an year mostly during Eid. British were primarily responsible for killing cows in large number figure is 30000 per day. The book talks about "India-wide anti-kine-killing movement against the British, between 1880-1894"..  "many prominent Muslims as well as the Parsis and Sikhs actively participated in the movement. The fact that the movement was directed against the British and not against the Muslims, as commonly believed, was very clear to Queen Victoria and her high-ranking officers".

He speaks of choice as if there was no other food left to eat even for meat eater. More and more people realize that beef is bad for health and bad for the environment. It is also bad for our cultural value of not harming nature that provides us sustenance.

4) Shankaracharya developing idea of banning cow slaughter. Buddhists were beef eaters. Shankaracharya turned Brahmins to beef eaters first in south then in north.
Reply> What a concoction. His lying through his teeth. Japan a Buddhist country did not kill cows till 150 years ago when Americans imposed this culture of beef eating to them. The first recorded cow killing was done by American Counsel General Townsend Harris and his Dutch interpreter Hendrick Heusken at the Gyokusen-ji temple in 1856. Hendrick Heusken was later killed by a Samurai. Did Shankaracharya visit Japan? Earlier in the interview he said Buddha banned beef eating then he says Shankaracharya banned it and Buddhist used to eat. Contradictions in the same interview.

6) RSS turning beef into Hindu Muslim issue. South Indian Brahmins remaining culturally embedded in their families so practice untouchability.
Reply> Politics of protecting cows is politics of allowing civilizations values to be respected. Does it unite Hindus, perhaps it does just as Baba Grakhnath did and created the Gorakha community. But why are you after the poor cow? Attack Brahmins and a good argument made because "Brahmins are evil" as the mazhabi preachers like Francis Xavier and the conquering invaders propagated. 

7) Racism in killing buffalo and saving cows. Because buffalo is black animal.
Reply> Save us from his rants. There are no black cows? Are cows not brown? I cant argue on this. His statement is absurd. Killing animals up to buffalo was tolerated for meat eaters that is true but how many Hindus eat buffalo? Cow has a special place in our culture and represents mother earth also he does not get it. 

8) Cows came to India with Aryans.
Reply> His entire life is stuck on the Aryan invasion history. Harappan bull seals and figurines seem to have lost to him even with his AIT this statement does not match.

9) Converting Dalits to Hinduism.
Reply> His work engages in dividing Indian communities against each other. If his kind of people are going to set the discourse then there will be no harmony between communities in India. Perpetual victim hood that the term 'Dalit' creates already makes the task of creating harmony and removing discrimination difficult. He is converting 'Dalits' out of Dharma not the other way round.

10) Cows in rural economy. Sick/old cows if not killed rural economy will suffer.
Reply> When poor cannot take care and let the cow stray, even then the community feeds the cow. In villages and small towns this is the norm. Hindus don't always send cattle to slaughter houses they are stolen by cattle thieves who sell them to slaughter houses. As per national crimes records bureau 8000~ cattle stolen in 2013 &  81000~ stolen in 12 years before that combined. These are just the reported & recorded cases.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Varna Vyavastha explained by Dharmpal

Every Indian knows of the Varna Vyavastha. Today the educated Indians speak of it in terms of Caste.After reading about the Varna Vyavasta in a diagram of Purusha where Shudra are shown in the feet, I like most Indian's was confused why it was so. It is mostly interpreted to mean that some how the Shudra were considered lower. Indeed this is how most contemporary social scientist describe it and that is common perception. I first came to question it after reading the book "Ashwamedha"  by Subhash Kak who gives an explanation that Man is created in the image of the Purusha so each person has all 4 aspects in him.I also could not help but notice that mother earth and Shudra who work in production on earth(in an agricultural society or even otherwise) both are shown as coming from the feet of Purusha. Arthashastra also mentions that when any new area was to be settled, say a cleared forest then Shudra were the first to go and settle. So all this should change the way we look at Varna Vyavastha. But an interesting and perhaps quite complete explanation is found in Dharampal's "Bhartiya Chitta Manas Aur Kaal"

"The Purusha Sukta indeed states that the Sudras appeared from the feet of Brahman, the Vaisyas from the thighs, the Kshatriyas from the arms and the Brahmanas from the head. But this does not necessarily define a hierarchy between the Varnas. The Sukta is a statement of the identity of the microcosm and the macrocosm. It presents the world as an extension of the body of Brahman. In its cryptic Vedic style the Sukta informs us that the creation is a manifestation of Brahman, it is His extension, His play. The Sukta also probably recounts the variety of tasks that have to be performed in the world that Brahman creates. But nowhere in the Purusha Sukta is it said that some of these tasks, and consequently the performers of those tasks, are better than others. That the functions of the head are higher than those of the feet could only be a matter of a somewhat literal interpretation that came later. At another time such interpretations can even get reversed. After all it is only on his feet that a man stands securely on earth. It is only when the feet are stable that the head and hands play their parts. When the feet are not securely placed on the earth, nothing else remains secure either.

Incidentally, the Purusha Sukta does not even imply that all four Varnas came into existence simultaneously at the beginning of creation. The Sukta does not give the story of creation and its unfolding; it only explains, through the analogy of the body of Brahman, an already manifest and differentiated Universe. In fact, as we have seen earlier, the Pauranic texts seem to suggest that at the beginning there was only one Varna, and it is only later as the need for newer and newer human capacities started arising that the Varnas divided, first into two and then into three and four."

Obama's Religious Freedom

Barak Obama President of the United States had during his recent trip to India given Indians a lecture on upholding religious tolerance. He showed us article 25 of our own constitution. For those of us who thought this was a one off comment he repeated his "concern" in the so called National Prayer Breakfast which was started by a Mormon Evangelist Abraham Vereide. He said "Michelle and I returned from India -- an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity -- but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs -- acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji [sic], the person who helped to liberate that nation". He did not single out any one faith at least not explicitly. But if anyone wants to know what he really meant in these two speeches one needs to read this press release(Feb 6, 2015) by United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The press release after quoting Obama's two speeches goes on to mention this "The President’s concerns come at a time of increasing abuses against India’s minority religious communities.  Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have assaulted these communities and forced community members to convert.  In just the last three months, five churches were attacked in Delhi; Hindu nationalists reportedly forcibly converted Christians and Muslims; and a mob of more than 5,000 people attacked the majority-Muslim village of Azizpur, Bihar, killing three Muslims and setting about 25 houses on fire.  In addition, on February 5, police detained hundreds of Christians demonstrating against attacks on churches in New Delhi, including John Dayal, a human rights activist, who testified on April 4, 2014 before the Tom Lantos Commission on 'The Plight of Religious Minorities in India.'"

So while Obama has not singled out any religious community this press release by USCIR which is also incidentally headed by a Mormon Katrina Lantos Swett makes it clear what it was all about. American right wing churches which do not want any breaks to be brought about in their evangelist activities, do single out Hindus, who they intend to convert. Any resistance is pre-empted by pointing out incidents some of which may not even be true to weave a story which is used as persecution propaganda. Indians need to be aware of how the west is an active participant in the religious discord in our country. Barak Obama's lecture to India on religious freedom squarely equates it with freedom to evangelize which is the real concern not religious "Bhai Chara".

1) To know about what really happened in Azizpur read this.
2) About the assault and forced conversion by RSS I don't know where this story came from. I presume it refers to the so called 'Ghar Wapsi'. A typical report condemning 'Ghar Wapsi' is here. It says "Clearly, the force involved in conversions across the religious spectrum, need not be physical. It can be psychological, social, and as is often the case, economic."
3) Minority commission of UP report on the 50 so called 'Ghar Wapasi" was covered by India today here. It talks about "lured". Not that luring is in anyway more respectable. But if the commissions recommendation were to be implemented that would put so many evangelists churches in the dock.
4) John Dayal is a more or less discredited figure who appears regularly to testify against India in such forums.

Friday, 2 January 2015

New York Time's version of religious intolerance in India

Recently an editorial appeared in the NYT signed the Editorial Board.

Here is my response to it which I am sure wont make it to the readers letters section.

This is in reference to the recent editorial published in NY Times regarding the religious conversion controversy in India. While I find that it correctly mentions several facts about the recent events. It does not cover the whole picture.

Hinduism being a non proselytising religion is under constant assault by western fundamentalist Christian churches which have a stated goal to Christianize India.

Organizations like JoshuaProject, Worldvision, Harvest India and innumerable other missionary churches have in past and at present continue to use allurements like superstitious faith healing, cash, medical services, education etc to "Harvest Souls" & save "poor Indians" from the "darkness" of their "false gods" & "evil spirits". Billions of dollars are directed each year to India for this purpose. Recently a case was registered in Kashmir against a Christian pastor trying to convert Muslim youths in Kashmir by allurement.

Christian missionaries are known to come to India on tourist visas and illegally engage in proselytism of children in their schools.

Christian churches are also known to support terrorist organizations that target local Hindus. Killing of Swami Lakshmanananda in 2008 by left wing extremists supported by Christian organizations which resulted in Kandhamal riots in Orissa and the recent killings of 80 Hindu Vanvasis by NDFB terrorists in Assam are a few examples. One of the stated demands of Christian NDFB terrorists is to replace the traditional Devanagari script of Bodo language with Roman alphabets.

So the issue is not as straightforward as NYTimes seems to suggest, that the so called oppressed Hindus convert to other faiths under their own volition.

I hope in future your paper carries a more balanced story on the real facts on the ground and calls the american churches by name which play a part in generating discord in India through their unethical practices backed by loads of US dollars.