Moving Beyond Binaries

[This post is part of a roundtable discussion on the new book Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism by Rajiv Malhotra, now featured at the Patheos Book Club.]

Rajiv Malhotra lays some of the most crucial insights of Indian philosophy on our front step in Being Different: A Challenge to Western Universalism. In the package we find an invitation to the practice of purva paksha (49), a dialectical hallmark of the Dharma traditions, which requires one to suspend her own worldview and preconceptions in order to understand an alternative perspective as fully as possible before engaging in dialog or critique.

Readers are invited to take off their own “westernized” spectacles to get a glimpse of the neglected or misrepresented aspects of Dharmic thought such as embodied knowing, integral unity, comfort with chaos, and the cultural context of Sanskrit. All of these, claims Malhotra, could helpfully challenge (and perhaps reformulate) the unquestioned foundations of Western philosophy, politics, and culture.

As a scholar of Jainism—one of the four Dharma traditions—I couldn’t be happier to have another voice emphasizing the instructive precepts of Indic philosophy, among them the authority of individual experience over doctrines (56), the body as an instrument of knowledge (77), the anticipation of ongoing change in the world, and the interconnected unity among all life forms (105). Malhotra also provides a needed service by pointing out how Sanskrit terms like avatar, Brahman, and Vedas do not have accurate English equivalents and are thus often misused (Chapter 5). He reminds us that yoga, karma, and guru functioned as parts of a sophisticated, naturalized worldview long before they became pop culture slang.

As a scholar of Whiteheadian process philosophy (with its geographical, if not its theoretical, roots in the West), however, I found Malhotra’s critique of Western Universalism too universal. In his quest to divide the world into the binary of East and West, Malhotra seems to gloss over the unique contributions made by “Western” thinkers and artists. Many of these individuals have spent their lives challenging limitations and incorrect assumptions of Western theology and philosophy, and their work echoes perspectives on par with, or even influenced by, the best of Dharmic wisdom.

He dismisses post-colonial and postmodern authors as secular nihilists (331) or “useful pets” (332) to Western academic institutions. Those scholars of “Whiteheadian thought” are accused of  “repackaging their historical dogmas in science-compliant ways” (144).  In simplifying these rich and varied coalitions of thought, Malhotra misses an opportunity for collaboration, for philosophical cross-fertilization, and for partnership in common causes. He also fails to exercise the Indian logic of relativity he advocates that would show these thinkers to be hybrids, on the one hand shaped by Western influences, and on the other hand shaped by myriad other voices and concerns, some of which are still emerging. In concrete ways, many of these thinkers are purva paksha incarnate, living between nationalities, philosophical traditions, and epistemologies, trying to accept multiple tensions in order to address the most pressing problems of a globalizing world.

Further, he makes little mention of places in Indian thought that remain limited or exclusionary, permitting untoward behavior as “only a lack of knowledge,” or downplaying punishments for social nonconformity as “local and limited” (135). Though he points out the importance of the female energy in Indic philosophy (99), he is silent on the dearth of female Indian voices in Dharmic literature and scholarship, either currently or historically. His claim that “there is no gay taboo in dharma,” may be argued in theory, but ignores the many queer voices in Indian culture who claim otherwise (99).

These harsh polarities between the best of Indian philosophy and the totalizing limitations of the West brought to my mind excerpts from the New Atheist literature, in which all “religious” people are condemned as dangerous and irrational over and against the growing number of “reasonable” folk. Those few individuals or communities who, out of religious conviction, practice/d extraordinary acts of self-sacrifice, restraint, mutual aid, or costly resistance to the status quo are dismissed as anomalies. But this oppositional approach does not square with my understanding of Dharmic philosophy or practice. We don’t want to condemn the “Western” forest at the expense of the individual trees, especially since, as Malhotra rightly points out, Dharma asserts that truth exists in those trees, “resides as the indivisible Self within each person, animal, plant, and indeed each tiniest particle” (55).

As a scholar and activist, I have gravitated toward aspects of process thought, post-structuralism, Jain dharma, and feminism, specifically because each tradition asserts “irreducible difference” (29)—the refusal to reduce any life form down to universals—as the cornerstone for right perception and ethical action. Though its expression comes in different forms, I find comfort and inspiration that this shared insight is greater than cultural, political, and geographical boundaries. Those who share this commitment, wherever they make their embodied or intellectual home, reside on some common ground, and need not fear exploring their meaningful differences or participating in ongoing learning. But this shared commitment should not be downplayed either, as it provides a rare motivational engine for the collective reenchantment and revaluing—however transient and localized—of a dynamic world of living truths.

Brianne Donaldson is the Coordinator for the Dharma Traditions at Claremont Lincoln University in Claremont, California. She is currently finishing her Ph.D. in Process Studies with a focus on Critical Animal Studies, Poststructural thought, and Jainism.

 

 

 

 

  • Rajiv Malhotra

    I am well aware of Whiteheadian thought. But as my next book will demonstrate, Whiteheadian thought is a repackaging of abhidharma Buddhism. Hence it is a dharmic critique of the west, restated and branded as “western”.

    My UTurn theory shows that many such dharmic ideas have become repackaged as “Western” with a new line of “western pioneers” – whitehead being just one of many. Christian Yoga, Saussure’s structuralism, Teilhard de Chardin’s “world = body of christ”, Ramon Panikkar’s new Christianity, Jung’s reinterpretation of Bible, Ken Wilber’s repackaging of Sri Aurobindo onto a lineage of western thinkers, etc – these are a few more of the examples.

    Firstly, such critiques are dharmic imports, and being re-charcterized as coming from western pioneers does not alter the philosophical consistency with dharma and disconnect with western thought. So while the face might be whitehead’s, the ideas remain dharmic.

    Second, such new thinkers are yet to be accepted by the mainstream, and once they are, the “west” itself will cease to remain the “west”. When that happens, I will indeed be happy.

    So my work is in line with what whitehead attempts. Only I refer to the original dharma sources and not western substitutes.

  • Sanjay Sharma

    I am disappointed but not surprised that the reviewer is head of dharma studies at a major american university, while using that post to mine the dharma and turn it into championing whitehead.

    Too many western scholars of dharma are in fact on a mission to plagiarize and replace it with western equivalents.

    Malhotra calls this the digestion of dharma into western universalism.

    Brianne Donaldson’s review proves his point. She should be a case study in his uturn theory.

  • http://medhajournal.com karigar

    Brianne Donaldson is to be appreciated for giving both praise & forthright criticism to the book “Being Different”, and to Rajiv’s overall approach in “An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism.

    Regarding her critique, it seems to me, to boil down to a defence of Western scholars who have indeed questioned the status quo in Western thought and sought to make their unique contributions. While it may be fair to say there have been & are these types of thinkers/artists etc, she may be missing a crucial point of the book by focussing on the role of a few individuals, as opposed to the role of whole systems.

    The book painstakingly makes the case for the Dharmic system to be seen as an integral system with it’s own unique foundational premises that have functioned as such in societies over millennia. For the sake of clarity & analysis, this system is posited in comparison to the Western system, a system that is today given the default status of being the acme of Universalism.

    It is perhaps difficult for the Westerner to appreciate that their well meaning appropriations from Dharmic systems (as Ms Donalsdon seems to be doing with her mixed palette of Critical Animal Studies, Post Structural Thought, & Jainism) have a far higher chance of doing injustice to the Dharmic sources than to make any significant changes / accommodations possible to Western thought. There is a certain DNA to each system which works in recognizable ways, regardless of the intents & purposes of individuals. A key aspect here is the “Sameness” being deployed in favor of the Western system that makes the non-Western system vulnerable to the power-differential all to visible in today’s society.

    The thesis of Difference between the Integral Unity in the Dharmic systems, vs the Synthetic unity found in the Western systems is just that, a systems approach. The BD approach shows how the Western system is de-facto Universalizing itself at other systems’ expense, even as it appropriates everything that seems appealing from other systems into itself, no matter how incompatible it is at a deeper structural level. The book’s approach is not about judging & evaluating whether a particular western thinker “did the right thing” or not. It looks at the effect ON the Western & Dharmic systems of all the modern “cross-fertilizations” that have been going on.

    Westerners’ engagement with Dharmic systems & their integrality would have to move to a much deeper level before they begin to appreciate that there are fundamental issues of incompatibility in worldviews. And appropriation, no matter how well-meaning it seems, fails to factor in deeper level incompatibilities/differences that the book elucidates about.

    • ANKUR K.

      Good point made here. So, we first need to understand whether the views of these postmodern/postcolonial scholars are only a small section (exception to the mainstream view) or are they the mainstream views in the west.
      secondly, we need to examine how far these “new” western scholars are ready to deviate from the Judeo-Christian assumptions. This point is aptly put by Malhotra in BD (pages 342-344) – when he expains anticipated western responses.

      In fact, the above reaction by Briane falls neatly into one of these categories.

  • Dvija

    It is quite disappointing that there are so many westerners who are allowed to study Dharma. There is no such thing as western “scholar” of Dharma; never was, never is, and never will be.

    This is mainly because no person in the western hemisphere has achieved mOkSA (enlightenment) for the past 3000+ years. Thus, they do not speak from experience. They speak only in terms of intellectual jugglery. This is what western ‘philosophy’, using the word lightly, is. Therefore, there have NEVER been any westerner on par with Dharmic scholars because the latter spoke from a reference point of experience.

    Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs should ensure that no westerner is allowed to represent their faith since they are inherently incapable of doing so properly and without a jaundiced eye. Getting the perspective on Dharmic philosophy from westerners is like getting the “opinion” of Quantum Field Theory from Kalahari bushmen. At least to the credit of the bushmen, they don’t think they are superior to the actual quantum physicists! Something that cannot be said of these so-called “scholars” of Dharma in the west.

    Varnashrama should be followed to maintain order. I am glad that Hindus in the US are quickly recognizing the urgent need to realign and correct this terrible situation in western academia today. Only those from those traditions, only the dvIjA, should be allowed to teach (and practice IMO) Dharmic traditions. For mlecchas, mleccha dharma is there.

    • NotAChristian

      Well, its nice to see that racism is a universal quality…

  • ANKUR K.

    Let us consider one of Briane’s prominent view that :-
    “As a scholar of Whiteheadian process philosophy (with its geographical, if not its theoretical, roots in the West), however, I found Malhotra’s critique of Western Universalism too universal. In his quest to divide the world into the binary of East and West, Malhotra seems to gloss over the unique contributions made by “Western” thinkers and artists.”

    Let us now analyse this view :-

    I think BD’s approach to this issue is pretty clear. On pages 331-333, Malhotra credits the post-colonial thinkers with having “written devastating critiques of the west” and “often with a good understanding of what is at stake politically and culturally”. However, he notes “the problem is they stop at exactly the point where western cosmology would have to be fundamentally abandoned.”
    Malhotra further explains that “though this is not the intention (of postmodern/postcolonial scholars), the result of these critiques is often similar to the ‘sameness’ response. In other words, after deconstructing …………., nothing is left to put in place”.
    A case in point is the postcolonial critique of ‘developmental economics’ in the west – which has been explained brilliantly in K.L.Kedia’s book (Genetic Assumptions of Development Theories). I shall consistently quote from her book.
    Since the 1950s, several economists have realized the limitations of western economic model. After, the western scholars saw multi-dimensional crises – discontent, disillusionment, ecological crises and Third World Countries dying under the weight of huge debt-burden –there was a flood of seminal works casting a shadow of doubt on the wisdom of conventional economic thinking in the west .
    Many scholars including Phelps Brown, Leontiff, Joan Robinson and Dudely Seers brutally criticized the then prevailing western model, some even going to the extent of saying that “this body knowledge is not merely irrelevant for our problems, but it is down and out ‘unrealistic’.”
    However, they failed to reach the heart of the problem because they could not challenge their assumptions and even if they did, they could not find an alternative in place. As Kedia Ji points out “One of the surest signs of their misperception is their faith that ‘growth’ and ‘development’ can take place throughout the planet earth.” Another assumption that remains unchallenged is that “economic growth is the function of savings and capital investment” and that “investment is the magic key which unlocks the growth potentialities”. Kedia ji further notes that “Almost all critics are prisoners of their own paradigm, a fact they may not be themselves conscious of. ”

    One can cite here many more examples of postmodern scholars who have begun the process of self-questioning, but landed instead in ‘nihilism’ as Malhotra aptly describes in BD.

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  • http://www.tattvaanveshanam.org मानस-प्रकाश

    I must commend the reviewer for a very clever packaging of “sameness”. She uses Malhotra’s well argued and finely demonstrated thesis of difference as the “cornerstone” of sameness.

    Though its expression comes in different forms, I find comfort and inspiration that this shared insight is greater than cultural, political, and geographical boundaries.

    But once the veneer of “difference as sameness” is peeled off, I feel compelled to ask. Shared insight in whose interest? As Malhotra has aptly demonstrated in his book, the propounding of shared interest hardly serves the dharma traditions. One one hand, it is used to tie down the dharma practitioners using the smokescreen of sameness. On the other hand, the philosophical pirates actively mine dhArmika transcendental fruits while mapping them to a (Judeo-)Christian framework and at the same time undermining their rightful place in the original dharma source traditions. Not to mention de-contextualizing and even disparaging the original dharma source traditions once the unscrupulous mining effort has gained some traction. There are numerous examples of such chicanery since the time of early European colonizers landing on Indian shores with their mission of “civilizing” the native heathens. Ultimately, no matter what the claims are, even “secular”, “liberal” institutions in the West, deriving their mores from/as (Judeo-)Christian memetic mutations, fuel their own interests. Not those of the dharma traditions. The sooner dharma practitioners unequivocally realize this, the better it is for dharma and for India. Malhotra’s work is a much needed contribution in the direction.

  • स्त्री शक्ति

    “In his quest to divide the world into the binary of East and West, Malhotra seems to gloss over the unique contributions made by “Western” thinkers and artists.”

    Many Indian Hindus I’ve met, both in India and abroad, operate on this binary model of “Mera Bharata Mahan and the West completely sucks” all the while standing in long lines at American, Canadian, insert whatever “western” country that comes to mind Embassies so they can leave Mahan Bharat and live in El Sucko West.

    Go figure.

    “In simplifying these rich and varied coalitions of thought, Malhotra misses an opportunity for collaboration, for philosophical cross-fertilization, and for partnership in common causes.”

    For many Indian Hindus its not about collaboration but getting the much sought after pat on the back from Westerners (mlecchas?) that “yeah, you rule, we suck. We are only mlecchas afterall so please bestow upon us your great cultural heritage that you yourself want to immigrate away from all the while expecting us ‘mlecchas’ to somehow become patriotic to the country you yourself left”.

    Can you say “confused”?

    “In concrete ways, many of these thinkers are purva paksha incarnate, living between nationalities, philosophical traditions, and epistemologies, trying to accept multiple tensions in order to address the most pressing problems of a globalizing world.”

    Many Indian Hindus are not comfortable with multiple tensions. They can’t figure out how a new country with no ancient advanced civilization can become a world “Super Power” and how their great country (mera Bharat mahan!), with its ancient and advanced civilization is in the condition its in. It seems like a great metaphysical injustice to them and results in an obvious inferiority complex which “gets mapped onto” this incredibly pompous, arrogant, class and status-obsessed superiority complex.

    “Further, he makes little mention of places in Indian thought that remain limited or exclusionary, permitting untoward behavior as “only a lack of knowledge,” or downplaying punishments for social nonconformity as “local and limited” ”

    For an example see the Dwija’s comment above where s/he writes;

    “This is mainly because no person in the western hemisphere has achieved mOkSA (enlightenment) for the past 3000+ years……Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs should ensure that no westerner is allowed to represent their faith …..
    Varnashrama should be followed to maintain order. …. Only those from those traditions, only the dvIjA, should be allowed to teach (and practice IMO) Dharmic traditions. For mlecchas, mleccha dharma is there.”

    Dwija means “twice-born” and that status is conferred upon only Brahmins, Ksyatriyas and Vaisyas. Therefore even Indian Shudras would be excluded from practicing “dharmic traditions” if this commenter had his/her way.

    “Though he points out the importance of the female energy in Indic philosophy, he is silent on the dearth of female Indian voices in Dharmic literature and scholarship, either currently or historically.”

    Hello!

    “His claim that “there is no gay taboo in dharma,” may be argued in theory, but ignores the many queer voices in Indian culture who claim otherwise”

    LOL!
    Keeping homosexual tendencies on the downlow certainly was and still is accepted, however where in Hindu history do we see same sex marriages and the adoption of children in order to form a family? We don’t. This is a recent phenomena and one in which there is a BIG taboo in India, as elsewhere. Previously thoughout world history homosexuals were expected to either supress it and get married to opposite sex partners or at the most keep their homosexual dalliances on the downlow while simultaneously maintaining a heteronormative family and public life. Or they were expected to remain unmarried altogether.

    “These harsh polarities between the best of Indian philosophy and the totalizing limitations of the West brought to my mind excerpts from the New Atheist literature, in which all “religious” people are condemned as dangerous and irrational over and against the growing number of “reasonable” folk.”

    Yep!
    There’s a tendency for human beings to compare the best to the worst, not the best to the best, or the worst to the worst. This way idealized fantasies can be kept unblemished in the mind-life of those individuals whose brains function only in binary models at the expense of nuance.

    • Vritas

      Regarding your last point, Rajiv (as he makes it very clear in BD) was comparing the mainstream Dharmic and Abrahamic systems as they stand ; he was not comparing the best with the worst.

    • champaklal

      —– स्त्री शक्ति (girl power gone wild) says:
      “Many Indian Hindus I’ve met, both in India and abroad, operate on this binary model of “Mera Bharata Mahan and the West completely sucks” all the while standing in long lines at American, Canadian, insert whatever “western” country that comes to mind Embassies so they can leave Mahan Bharat and live in El Sucko West”

      Many of those Hindus great-grandparents were minding their own business in their own land, merrily trading with El Sucko west and the arabs. Then they came to our shores bearing gifts. Rest, as they say, is history.

      —– स्त्री शक्ति says:
      “Many Indian Hindus are not comfortable with multiple tensions. They can’t figure out how a new country with no ancient advanced civilization can become a world “Super Power” and how their great country (mera Bharat mahan!), with its ancient and advanced civilization is in the condition its in.”

      No British imperialism in India and no western drug trade in China, no Industrial revolution in west. No genocide of natives in NA, then no “Super Power” status for deluded post-modern “scholars”.

      —– स्त्री शक्ति says:
      “What’s with this christian obsession many Desis have?”

      See above.
      What’s with this obsession that post-modern western “scholars”, who are funded(well nigh weaponised) by western dogma, have with the heathens/pagans?

  • http://dogmatoxin.wordpress.com DogmaToxin

    Brianne,

    You make an important point here:

    this oppositional approach does not square with my understanding of Dharmic philosophy or practice

    True, based on our understanding, we expect dharmic people to be passive and obliging. It feels very uncomfortable when dharmic people “reverse their gaze” and study us. We are just not used to it.

    You also rightly point out Rajiv Malhotra’s:

    quest to divide the world into the binary of East and West

    It is certainly more beneficial for “humanity at large” to accept a forced unity on western terms, now that we have an upper hand in everything. Although Rajiv clearly explains Hegel’s role in creating the West’s ego-identity, I think it is fair to say that easterners trying to create a competing “East” identity is problematic – for the West that is.

    Once East agrees to this forced unity, everything positive and valuable in its philosophy and practice can properly be owned by the West (i.e. humanity). Everything negative, real or perceived, about the East (your 6th paragraph)

    Indian thought that remain limited or exclusionary, permitting untoward behavior … punishments for social nonconformity … dearth of female Indian voices in Dharmic literature and scholarship … queer voices in Indian culture

    can just stay with them (our missionaries are eager to take care of it like they have done all over the world).

    In your opening, you seem to pretend to understand what this book is about:

    Being Different … an invitation to the practice of purva paksha, a dialectical hallmark of the Dharma traditions, which requires one to suspend her own worldview and preconceptions in order to understand an alternative perspective as fully as possible before engaging in dialog or critique.

    and then, in the rest of your review, you prove that it is very difficult for westerner to accept this invitation.

    Let us go one step at a time into purva paksha, if you sincerely wish to. So, first how about explaining if you fully understand “Embodied Wisdom -vs- History-Centric Dogma”. What is Embodied Knowing? What is known, about what, who wants to know?

    • Jithu

      Thats a great reply!!

  • स्त्री शक्ति

    “our missionaries are eager to take care of it like they have done all over the world”

    What’s with this christian obsession many Desis have? I remember many times Indians asking me “whats your christian name?” Huh? I dont’ have a “christian name”.

    Does it have something to do with the belief that people are “born into” religions instead of actively choosing a religion for oneself once one attains the cognition to do so?

    The possiblity of other religions, or no religion at all, existing for “westerners” seems to allude them.

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  • Mahan

    The problem is India ancient as well as modern never had a patent system of the process, product, thought, theory and anything original as a royalty of a person or institution. The western idea of patenting is new to India. Now it is the responsibility of modern Indians to compile and bring together everything Indian as a compendium. They seers always preached that knowledge grows if you give it or share it. It is the only wealth that is not divided among brothers and sisters as a property and the king or govt. cannot tax it and the thieves cannot steal it. Being different to enhance the canvas of the world should not only be encouraged but be sustained and enriched. The rainbow is more beautiful than the single white light. When people say kalidasa is the shakespere of india or telugu is the italian of the east. its OK for comparison when you try to tell a westerner about Kalidasa or the Telugu language. But they are different inherently.

  • JK

    The reviewer Brianne Donaldson is commenting on a narrow portion of a several-hundred page book.

    Winning and Dominating are important for the West. Dharma is too subtle and is not encumbered by such needs. Openness, friendliness, originality and expertise by dharma practitioners have been exploited in well-honed and subtle ways. On the other extreme, Universities in India are out of touch of indigenous thought and engaged in mimicry of the West. Genuine ashrams in India which represent the tenor of age-old discourses, techniques and knowledge embodiments are neither funded by the State nor by corporations nor by universities. These ashrams and their living practitioners live and die on a daily basis without much ado. So who is to protect such time-tested critical knowledge-bases?

    Rajiv isn’t advocating cessation of dialog or collaborations. Rajiv is merely stating motivations and intentions in Western Scholarship and collaborations and demonstrating that with real data. Nothing should stop Claremont Lincoln University from pursuing what they do. Cross-fertilization is between equals. Dharma has a long way to go until it gains as stature equal to the West. Until then, it will only be a good “subject” to study, dharma will be ‘cool’.

    Reviewer Brianne is concerned about some perceived social inadequacies in India [“gay taboo”, “dearth of female Indian voices”]. This is based on a flawed logic that social problems in a country are a direct result of its religious or spiritual worldviews. However, addressing India’s social or cultural problems is not Rajiv thesis. Another implication of this stated concern is that the West either appoints itself as the solver of social problems in other countries, or has the authority to hold accountable speakers from those countries for those problems. Do US school shootings, drug abuse, or teenage pregnancies invalidate the Principle of Liberty? The West has done a superb job of separating abhorrent practices (like slavery) from Religion or State by stating them as “topical” problems.

    Practitioners of Dharma religions aren’t as suave and are not aware of their own conditionings. On top of that, they tend to condemn themselves for problems they did not create. Thanks to Colonization Projects, this is a deep-rooted syndrome. Under this backdrop, Rajiv’s work throws fresh perspectives which should create rather than suppress dialog as the reviewer claims.

    There is no denying that Rajiv Malhotra’s Being Different raises questions that can make many uncomfortable. For example:

    Is a Sannyasi same as a Saint? Is Iswara same as God? Is itihasa same has history? Is lack of well-chronicled linear history same as lack of definiteness of discourse or continuity and originality of thought? Can a History of the ‘Other’ written by the West be considered as True History? Does an assertion self-identity by other traditions imply cessation of dialog and cross-pollination? Can a “scholar” of Jainism (regardless of nationality) be the same as a Jain? Does a Professor of Asia Studies have the same authority to speak for Hinduism as a Hindu Sannyasi? Is an article written by a Christian about Hinduism appearing in high school text books same as a similar article written by a Hindu? Does a Western scientist studying the mind of Buddhist have the same authority to speak about advanced states of consciousness as the Buddhist “subject” himself or herself? Is the Whitehead Research Project in reality another Dharma Mining Project? What are the criteria that must be satisfied in order for a Dharma Traditions Initiative in a US University to work in favor of those same traditions? Who should control discourse – the perceiver or the perceived? Some answers are clear, while others may take some time to develop.

    In fact, Western response to Rajiv’s thesis can be used as a barometer of the power of Rajiv’s works. The more vested the West is in dominating discourse, the more ruffled feathers we can expect. And that should not stop the natives (of any country) to stand up and speak for themselves. Too many civilizations have disappeared for humanity’s good.

    I am surprised that the reviewer saw in Rajiv’s book a ‘quest to divide the world into … West and East’. Even if this were true, what’s wrong with that? Aren’t strange colors, looks, practices and thought processes justification enough? In any case, the credit for separating the world into Developed, under-developed, developing, Third World, etc. already belongs to the West.

    I found the title of Brianne’s review interesting. Can the West wear any less of its Westernized spectacles than Indians any less their Indianized spectacles? It would be an ideal world where none of us had spectacles. The problem is that even the Indian wears Westernized Spectacles making the scales very tilted! This is where Rajiv’s work has its greatest impact.

    Perhaps in the Reviewer is an earnest struggle to connect the West with a more holistic dharma world-view. I’ve noticed and I do applaud the reviewer Brianne Donaldson for her active non-violent championing of animal rights – such sensitivity is expected of Jains and those who claim to represent dharma traditions. I hope comments on this website will serve to improve her dissertation.

  • Kartik M.

    Brianne Donaldson:
    “He dismisses post-colonial and postmodern authors as secular nihilists (331) or “useful pets” (332) to Western academic institutions. Those scholars of “Whiteheadian thought” are accused of “repackaging their historical dogmas in science-compliant ways” (144). In simplifying these rich and varied coalitions of thought, Malhotra misses an opportunity for collaboration, for philosophical cross-fertilization, and for partnership in common causes. He also fails to exercise the Indian logic of relativity he advocates that would show these thinkers to be hybrids, on the one hand shaped by Western influences, and on the other hand shaped by myriad other voices and concerns, some of which are still emerging. In concrete ways, many of these thinkers are purva paksha incarnate, living between nationalities, philosophical traditions, and epistemologies, trying to accept multiple tensions in order to address the most pressing problems of a globalizing world.”

    Purva Paksha incarnate? Hardly. To perform Purva Paksha, one must be rooted firmly in a particular tradition, and employ its terms of reference and hermeneutics in the exhaustive analysis of another tradition. Post-colonialists and postmodern authors do nothing of the kind when gazing on India; the categories and terms of reference they apply are unfailingly Western, and such dharmic memes as they incorporate have been thoroughly digested and mapped onto Western frameworks of thought.

    These ideas are endowed with philosophical vitality by the Dharmic tradition that evolved them; this is leached away through vain attempts to transplant them and redefine them in Western terms. A climate-controlled hothouse is a sterile, inadequate substitute that will never provide the evolutionary stimuli of the thriving jungle whence these specimens were purloined.

    Post-colonialists and postmodernists may be living “between nationalities, philosophical traditions and epistemologies,” but they earn that living in the financial and intellectual currency of the West. As Malhotra himself says, such scholars have often produced devastating critiques of the West, using the Western categories they are trained to employ. However, their critiques of India unfailingly (if unconsciously) privilege the Western perspective as universal, because they persist in applying these same Western categories to India.

    The Indian “logic of relativity” should not be confused with an endless, amorphous tyranny of values-relativism. Comfort with chaos and the welcoming of difference does not imply a complete lack of discernment. The universe as we see it is characterized by an integral unity; we do not privilege any particular historical narrative as supreme, and we may not reject ideas out of hand as blasphemous or aberrantly evil, but we certainly recognize the human capacity for ignorance.

    “Further, he makes little mention of places in Indian thought that remain limited or exclusionary, permitting untoward behavior as “only a lack of knowledge,” or downplaying punishments for social nonconformity as “local and limited” (135). Though he points out the importance of the female energy in Indic philosophy (99), he is silent on the dearth of female Indian voices in Dharmic literature and scholarship, either currently or historically. His claim that “there is no gay taboo in dharma,” may be argued in theory, but ignores the many queer voices in Indian culture who claim otherwise (99).”

    Quite a trifecta of Western universalist superimpositions there by Ms. Donaldson
    .
    A) a “lack of knowledge” does not imply a permissive outlook in the Dharmic context. Just because untoward behaviour is seen to arise from a “lack of knowledge” rather than an arbitrarily-defined notion of “sinfulness”, that does not make the behaviour it characterizes acceptable.

    B) on the subject of “female Indian voices in Dharmic literature and scholarship:” two things.

    Firstly, the colonial experiences of Islamic rule and British overlordship left their scars on Indian society by fostering a desperate and cloistered patriarchy, from which women are only beginning to emerge into the public sphere today. This is not to deny that Dharmic society itself may have been inherently patriarchical, to whatever extent, in the context of its contemporary civilizations; but to point out that the overall dearth of women in Indian intellectual life is the product of centuries’ worth of trauma that can hardly be laid at the door of Dharmic tradition alone.

    Secondly… and this is something few who persist in applying Western categories to their analysis of India recognize… Dharmic scholarship itself remains a subaltern discourse in India today. Its practitioners are under assault and marginalized by the dominant voices in the Indian academe; secular leftists who apply their favourite invective of “chauvinist”, “revanchist”, “obscurantist”, “fundamentalist” etc. to anyone approaching Indian cultural studies from an explicitly and avowedly Dharmic perspective.

    Thus the yoginis who practice Dharmic Inner Science… Amritanandamayi, Karunamayi and so on… are hardly regarded as peers by their Oxbridge-educated contemporaries in the air-conditioned halls of “religious studies” departments at Indian universities. Would Ms. Donaldson count these ladies as “voices in Dharmic scholarship”? Or are they at best “informants” to be given a good scrubbing and then boiled down to pabulum for easy digestion by the West’s spiritual dilletantes?

    And yet, even in terms of the type of “scholarship” that may be more readily recognizable to Ms. Donaldson, there have been women exponents of Dharmic thought… Iravati Karve and Jaya Row among them.

    C) ” His claim that “there is no gay taboo in dharma,” may be argued in theory, but ignores the many queer voices in Indian culture who claim otherwise.”

    The thing to recognize here is that “queer” itself is a starkly Western categorization of homosexuals and transgender persons that has no mooring whatsoever in Dharmic civilization.

    The highly problematic nature of this assertion by Ms. Donaldson has been made apparent by another comment on this thread:

    ” Keeping homosexual tendencies on the downlow certainly was and still is accepted, however where in Hindu history do we see same sex marriages and the adoption of children in order to form a family? We don’t. This is a recent phenomena and one in which there is a BIG taboo in India, as elsewhere.”
    “Same sex marriages” and “the adoption of children” are nothing but attempts by Western gay folk, or “queers”, to legitimize their own adoption of behaviours that were… and still are… tyrannically heteronormative in the Western context. What a fine illustration of Western universalism we see, when this scam is transformed into a yardstick of “gay tolerance” in all cultures.

    Let’s look at the very institution of “marriage”, shall we? “Marriage” has been used as an instrument of social control by privileged groups in the West ever since it was invested with legal status, and deemed necessary to sanctify under Judeo-Christian religious authority . African slaves in America were not allowed to “marry” at all, and later were forbidden from inter-marriage or “miscegenation” with other races.

    In India, a masterful tool of colonial exploitation called the Doctrine of Lapse precluded Indian kings from nominating heirs who were not the issue of their “legal marriages” as defined by the British. (The kingdom, conveniently, “lapsed” to British possession in the event that the king could not produce a suitable heir.) Of course, it is the same British (i.e., Western) definitions of “marriage” that persist in the Indian civil code of today, as a legacy of colonial times.

    Today the carrot of “legal marriage” is dangled before people who define themselves as “queer” in the West, in a manner that simply ends up reinforcing the power structure; the privileged classes may play liberal “good cop” by posturing in favour of extending gay people the “right to marry”, or conservative “bad cop” by agitating for the “defense of marriage” against an alleged subversion. Ultimately it is only through the largesse of a privileged mainstream that “queer” people will be (if at all) granted this right. The net effect is to preserve the machinery of discrimination that has always privileged the heteronormative mainstream; “queer” will always remain a subaltern identity to be either “repressed” or “tolerated” depending on what side of the bed the mainstream got out of that morning.

    Indian homosexuals who see themselves as “queer” quite obviously buy into this uniquely Western category that has nothing to do with Dharmic civilization; their criticism of Dharmic civilization is about as legitimate as the rootless bellyaching of post-colonialist writers applying Marxist, secularist or post-modern deconstructionist categories to their vapid analyses of India.

    How does a person who sees himself or herself as “queer” presume to characterize homosexual and transgender issues in a civilization where the notion of “queer” is nonexistent? In a tradition where some worship Krishna for his willingness to transform into the female aspect of Mohini and marry Ahiravan; where the transgender sects of Bahuchara Mata, Yellamma, and Ardha-nari Ishwar are considered expressions of spirituality every bit as legitimate, and as deserving of mutual respect, as more heteronormative forms?

    I congratulate Ms. Donaldson for her willingness to move beyond binaries, but judging from some aspects of this review, she has a long way yet to travel.

  • स्त्री शक्ति

    Basically Kartik wrote a lot of jibberish that basically boils down to: yeah, homosexual relationships are taboo in India and always were.

    “How does a person who sees himself or herself as “queer” presume to characterize homosexual and transgender issues in a civilization where the notion of “queer” is nonexistent? In a tradition where some worship Krishna for his willingness to transform into the female aspect of Mohini and marry Ahiravan; where the transgender sects of Bahuchara Mata, Yellamma, and Ardha-nari Ishwar are considered expressions of spirituality every bit as legitimate, and as deserving of mutual respect, as more heteronormative forms? ”

    Appearantly he hasn’t yet got the memo that many Desi homosexuals don’t want to be relegated to “transgender sects” and “expressions of spirituality” but just want to live normal, every day mainstream lives just like all of his own married uncles and aunties, BUT WITH THEIR SAME-SEX PARTNERS and possibly children.

    But when even expressions of heterosexuality are seen as taboo (hello Operation Majnun Meerut), then what to speak of homosexuality?

  • Kartik M.

    It’s funny how स्त्री शक्ति first derides my post as “jibberish”, but in the very same sentence, miraculously divines a convenient interpretation of what I’ve said “basically boils down to.” Nice little Judeo-Christian parlour trick there; something akin to “transubstantiation” perhaps?

    Still, giving स्त्री शक्ति ‘s veneer of sincerity the benefit of the doubt, here’s another attempt at making this really simple.

    Rajiv Malhotra says: there is no gay taboo in Dharmic tradition.

    स्त्री शक्ति tries to refute this by pointing out that homosexuals (“queers” is apparently the preferred term in the West) cannot get legally married, or legally adopt children, in India.

    It is true that homosexuals cannot marry each other, or adopt children, in present-day India.

    The inconvenient part of this truth is that it has nothing to do with Dharmic tradition. People in India (including my aunties and uncles,) get married or adopt children under an Indian civil code that has no basis at all in Dharmic tradition. It derives, instead, from the British legal system we inherited from our colonial experience. That legal system evolved out of British morality, and is steeped in Victorian notions of right and wrong.

    The British, as it happens, were not Dharmic. They were Judeo-Christian, and to them, homosexuality was degenerate, aberrant and wrong.

    In fact, part of the problem with India today is that much of the English-speaking elite continue to suffer from a colonization of the mind. In the name of “secularism”, they reject all that is explicitly Dharmic, or that derives from their own heritage. However, they are quite happy to accept the norms of Western morality as good for all mankind. They confuse this persistent colonization of their minds with a readiness to embrace modernity, progress and rationalism.

    That is one of many reasons why Rajiv Malhotra’s book is as important, and as necessary, as it is.

    There is a deeper problem with what स्त्री शक्ति has alleged. However, to understand it is a little more involved and challenging than writing an “India Studies” term paper with Wikipedia and Bollywood as one’s primary sources.
    The problem is स्त्री शक्ति ‘s assumption that the aspirations of homosexuals in the West (“queers”) are universally applicable to homosexuals everywhere, in every tradition.

    स्त्री शक्ति claims: “many Desi homosexuals don’t want to be relegated to “transgender sects” and “expressions of spirituality” but just want to live normal, every day mainstream lives just like all of his own married uncles and aunties, BUT WITH THEIR SAME-SEX PARTNERS and possibly children.”

    I wonder if स्त्री शक्ति has poll data to establish that this is indeed the aspiration of “many” Desi homosexuals. What it is, in fact, is an aspiration of Western homosexuals… to live exactly as “straight” people live (in the West), except that one’s legally married partner is of the same sex as oneself. That aspiration is directly related to the identity Western homosexuals have designated for themselves: “queer”.

    How did this aspiration of Western homosexuals come about? It evolved from the way that homosexuals have been treated in the West, and discriminated against in Judeo-Christian tradition. It is Judeo-Christian morality that reviles homosexuals as “sinful.” It is the Judeo-Christian mainstream that exiles them outside the norm of “acceptable social behaviour.”

    As a reaction to this, “queer” people in the West want their identity validated. They aspire to be given the same legal rights as mainstream heterosexuals, the same access to the institutions of marriage and child adoption as mainstream heterosexuals, PRECISELY because Judeo-Christian tradition has been all about repressing their identities THROUGH denial of mainstream acceptance.

    This form of reaction, itself, is entirely without meaning in the context of a Dharmic civilization where homosexual identities have never been repressed, but accepted as being different.

    It’s in this context that I mention various homosexual and transgender expressions of Dharmic spirituality in my previous post. In Judeo-Christian society, “marriage” is seen as an institution to be “defended” against homosexuals; in Dharmic society, the blessings of hijras are considered most auspicious for a marriage!

    Homosexuals have NEVER had a place in Judeo-Christian society… therefore, in response, they call themselves “queer” and demand EXACTLY the same status, defined in the same terms, as the heterosexual mainstream (access to marriage, children etc.)

    In contrast, homosexuals have ALWAYS had a place in Dharmic society. They have always had an identity of their own, one that never needed to be defined in heterosexual terms (marriage, children etc.) in the first place. So the question of marginalizing them by denying them access to those institutions, simply does not arise.

    So when a handful of homosexual Indians today style themselves as “queer”, they are only assuming an identity borrowed from the West, and adopting the aspirations of that Western identity, evolved in response to Judeo-Christian repression.

    When they gauge the gay-tolerance of Indian society by its willingness to grant them the right to marry or have children, they are reacting to the oppression of a Judeo-Christian (British) legal and ethical system… not a Dharmic one.

    When some of these homosexual Indians misdirect their anger at Judeo-Christian repression towards fictitious notions of Dharmic repression, they are simply suffering from the same confused malaise as so many heterosexual Indians of the English-speaking elite: a colonization of the mind. After all, it would hardly be “secular” and “progressive” of them to lay the blame only and exactly where it belongs.

    And when Westerners like स्त्री शक्ति make general pronouncements on behalf of “Desi homosexuals”, presuming to know what “Desi homosexuals” want… they are imposing a foreign, “queer” identity (with all its aspirations) onto a group of people that has nothing to do with it, and shares no experience of history with it beyond the colonial period. They are engaging in Western Universalism. And that’s what Rajiv Malhotra’s book is all about pointing out.

    • स्त्री शक्ति

      “Nice little Judeo-Christian parlour trick there”

      Its cool you’ve picked up a new term from Rajiv’s book, but I’m neither Jew nor Christian. Try again.

      “It’s in this context that I mention various homosexual and transgender expressions of Dharmic spirituality in my previous post. In Judeo-Christian society, “marriage” is seen as an institution to be “defended” against homosexuals; in Dharmic society, the blessings of hijras are considered most auspicious for a marriage! ”

      Oh boy, hijras! Really? That’s all you got? Using every cliche and stereotype about what you call “queer” Desis, is it? Next you’ll be citing the sakhi-bekhis of Bengal and U.P.

      So, in your mind a gay Desi can either;

      1. adopt Mohini as her/his ishta-devata (Mohini’s not gay by the way)
      2. join what you call a “transgender sex” or
      3. board the Shatabdi Express at Agra Cant and clap and dance her/his way to New Delhi for a few ruppess while Vikram and Munna hide behind their ToI papers in an effort to avoid eye contact and shelling out a few bucks

      I remember being told to hide under the bed and pretend no ones home when the hijras came knocking. You know they’re not satisfied with a just 50 ruppee note and a sari anymore.

      Let me ask you this, amongst the gay people in your family or social circle what happens when their parents start pressuring them to marry (the opposite sex of course)?

      We discussed a bit about this in the comments here;

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/takeandread/2012/03/an-indian-renaissance/

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/takeandread/2012/03/an-indian-renaissance/

      • स्त्री शक्ति

        edit: “transgender sex” should read “transgender sect”

        and there’s a difference between gay and transgender, by the way

    • स्त्री शक्ति

      “Nice little Judeo-Christian parlour trick there”

      Its cool you’ve picked up a new term from Rajiv’s book, but I’m neither Jew nor Christian. Try again.

      “It’s in this context that I mention various homosexual and transgender expressions of Dharmic spirituality in my previous post. In Judeo-Christian society, “marriage” is seen as an institution to be “defended” against homosexuals; in Dharmic society, the blessings of hijras are considered most auspicious for a marriage! ”

      Oh boy, hijras! Really? That’s all you got? Using every cliche and stereotype about what you call “queer” Desis, is it? Next you’ll be citing the sakhi-bekhis of Bengal and U.P.

      So, in your mind a gay Desi can either;

      1. adopt Mohini as her/his ishta-devata (Mohini’s not gay by the way)
      2. join what you call a “transgender sex” or
      3. board the Shatabdi Express at Agra Cant and clap and dance her/his way to New Delhi for a few ruppess while Vikram and Munna hide behind their ToI papers in an effort to avoid eye contact and shelling out a few bucks

      I remember being told to hide under the bed and pretend no ones home when the hijras came knocking. You know they’re not satisfied with a just 50 ruppee note and a sari anymore.

      To beginwith, there is a difference between gay and transgender. I suggest you learn what that difference is before you ship off your possibly gay or bi-sexual daughter or son to Koovagam.

      Let me ask you this, amongst the gay people in your family or social circle what happens when their parents start pressuring them to marry (the opposite sex of course)?

      We discussed a bit about this in the comments here at this website under the article about “Indian Renaissance”.

  • Surya

    Brianne Donaldson wrote: “In concrete ways, many of these thinkers are purva paksha incarnate, living between nationalities, philosophical traditions, and epistemologies, trying to accept multiple tensions in order to address the most pressing problems of a globalizing world.”

    Purvapaksha incarnate?  More like Duplicity incarnate. 

    These are the people who took Dharmic ideas and repackaged under a Western garb.   This is patent in how they drop references to sources along the way.  The reason they deal with multiple tensions is that they want to tie together into a bundle concepts that do not gel together.  This is one example of what Rajiv Malhotra calls “synthetic unity” in “Being Different”.  

    A prominent example is Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.
    —————————————————————————-

    Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910),  founder of the Christian Science Movement, published “Science and Health With a Key to the Scriptures” in 1875. She was greatly influenced by writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry D. Thoreau who in turn were greatly influenced by Dharmic knowledge and this influence was widely seen through books, magazines and newspaper articles that they wrote.   We find in as late as the 33rd edition of her book, excerpts from Sir Edwin Arnold’s translation of Bhagavad Gita.  

    So far, so good?  Going forward, in future versions of Mary Baker Eddy’s book, ideas were implicitly presented as Christian Science.  No more references to Bhagavad Gita.

    This is what Rajiv Malhotra calls “Digestion” – as in, you digest the content and wipeout the identity of the source. 

    Am I being unfair in this portrayal?  But may be she is purvapaksha incarnate, trying to move beyond identities of sources in a pure quest to solve pressing problems of the globalizing world?

    Well, not quite.  In fact, the exact opposite.  Her intention in dropping references is because she repackaged those ideas into “Christian Science”.

    In her own words, Mar Baker Eddy says “… There was, is, and never can be but one God, one Christ, one Jesus of Nazareth” (Pulpit and Press, p. 74-5). 

    Why then did she read Bhagavad Gita?

    Here is an excerpt from the home page of ChristianScience.com: There are many inspiring references like this in the Bible, and from them, Christian Science derives a definition of God as “The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence” (Science and Health, p.587).

    A Christian view of God influenced by a reading of Gita?

     

  • Brianne Donaldson

    Hello all,

    I’ve given much thought to the various comments here over the last days. In this particular type of impersonal forum, I can only offer some personal words.

    First, I want to express gratitude for those who’ve shared their thoughts. These posts have reminded me again of the complexity of the issues at hand, the depth of feeling touched by notions of identity and tradition, and the scars left by colonizing violence, whether past or present, intentional or not.

    Second, I’ve never felt quite at home in any category, be it “Western” or “Dharmic,” “Christian” or “feminist”, “process” or “poststructural,” “American” or “human,” or any “ism” for that matter. I have gratefully benefited from particular insights, works, and relationships in each of these categories without feeling beholden to any of them. I have seen the limitations of each of these categories without needing to rid myself of their influence. This multiplicity is my home, and though at times I wish I had something more defined that I could name and belong to, that I could explore and defend, I do not. So I explore the multiplicity and its changing unity within me. And I know in my flesh that this multiplicity is not relativism. It demands an affirmation of its innumerable facets.

    Primarily, I have been sensitive from a young age to the suffering of others, especially those deemed “animal.” This has become the lens through which I view and measure all talk, actions, philosophies, and power structures, including my own. And it is in solidarity, however limited, with these creaturely bodies that I take my liberty to search for work and words (especially because they come from diverse contexts and sources) that support the value of so-called “non-human” life, that advocate for the freedom of bodies, and that warn against the consequences of violence to our planetary brethren.

    Dharmic thought does indeed advocate for these bodies in key ways. In other ways, the many written records of Dharmic philosophy elevate the pursuits of human enlightenment at the expense (physical and conceptual) of the dynamic natural world. Nearly every philosophical or theological system offers voices that speak for our planetary nest and neighbors and voices that devalue it. I draw upon and interrogate these diverse sources, in all their inconsistencies and cultural specificities, to construct new ways of approaching fellow creatures. My intention is to impact and (hopefully) witness a change to detrimental policies and attitudes flourishing in my own context, which is both local, and yet increasingly global.

    I believe that many souls in history have had a personal experience of the relationality at the heart of the universe. Such insights were expressed long before the recorded history of Vedic traditions or the Judeo-Christian canon, and I hope they will continue in epochs to come. More still, I believe these insights are evident in the bodies and plants around us who have neither need for recorded texts, nor need for an identity based in the confining discourses of theory, politics, religion, economics, or nationalism. I desire a day when embodied respect for planetary life is mainstream and felt, and I will work with anyone who desires the same, however marginalized they may currently be, however different they are from me.

    The Dharma traditions each offer a sophisticated, internally diverse, and contextual expression of a relational naturalistic worldview and tools for its empirical practice. I feel fortunate to have been befriended by my many Jain mentors and friends, who have invited me to understand more about their experience of the world, the tradition and cultural milieu that informs them, and the practices that emerge because of it. Each of these people are unique expressions of Dharmic thought, as distinct as the tulips coming up in my garden–related and yet radically particular.

    Because I did not choose where I was born, the color of my skin, nor the contours of my gender or inherited economic status, I must accept the limitations and gifts of that heritage humbly since I did nothing to earn the merit nor did I personally perpetuate the violence of my genetic/cultural forebears. Power has been used in every time and place for building and destroying–and sometimes the two are difficult to discern. Religious, nationalistic, racial, and species identities have been used to perpetuate counter-cultural kindnesses, unexpected bonds, as well as acts of disenfranchisement and cruelty. I contribute to both life and death and navigating the evolution of this phenomenon–which is only partly in my conscious control–is both frightening and awe inspiring.

    For my small and limited part (and with a growing awareness of my own histories), I want to endeavor to encounter bodies on their own terms–and let them instruct me–in words and/or with movements about who they are, how they are becoming, what they care about, what they fear, and what they want from me, if anything. I will always be limited in representing any tradition, much less, any person or body or phenomenon. I am even limited in explaining the the many-sidedness and biological plurality that is my body and mind. And yet, here I type some semblance of a unified thought and send it through a mystifying network of electric impulses onto a screen for strangers to receive.

    So I must vacillate between silence and informed words, confusion and clarity, respect and critique, desire and control, sharing information and subjective limitations, listening and speaking, vulnerability and assertion, always seeking the complexity beyond the linguistic simplifications, always looking for those not at the table–especially those who lay outside the bounds of our humanist institutions, debates, languages, and truths.

    • स्त्री शक्ति

      Brianne, I have a comment held up in moderation, possibly because I have a link in it.

  • Kartik M.

    स्त्री शक्ति says:
    “Its cool you’ve picked up a new term from Rajiv’s book, but I’m neither Jew nor Christian. Try again.”

    It hardly matters what you are. When you apply Western categories to an analysis of any issue in India, whether homosexuality or anything else… you are superimposing ideas and perspectives that come from a Judeo-Christian worldview, and have no relevance to India. This is not simply erroneous, but reinforces the Judeo-Christian narrative at the expense of the Dharmic one.

    Try to look beyond buzzwords and catch-phrases and you might actually learn something from Rajiv’s book.

    स्त्री शक्ति says:
    “Oh boy, hijras! Really? That’s all you got? Using every cliche and stereotype about what you call “queer” Desis, is it? Next you’ll be citing the sakhi-bekhis of Bengal and U.P.”

    One mention of Hijras in my two posts, and you ask if it’s “all I’ve got?” No, but apparently it’s all you managed to read. I suppose everyone else but you is to blame for your tunnel vision.

    Besides, I’m not the one stereotyping Indian homosexuals as “queer”. That is a characterization Ms. Donaldson has applied in her review; one that you have taken further by pretending that the Western gay identity of “queer”, and the aspirations of Western “queers”, are somehow relevant to Indian homosexuals or to Dharmic tradition.

    That’s what most of my previous post addresses, but evidently you find it easier to respond to your own imaginings of my position than to my actual arguments.

    Hijras are certainly not the only Indian identity outside the heterosexual norm; but as an illustration of Dharmic respect and acceptance of identities outside the heterosexual norm, they are certainly a case in point.

    स्त्री शक्ति says:
    “So, in your mind a gay Desi can either;
    1. adopt Mohini as her/his ishta-devata (Mohini’s not gay by the way)
    2. join what you call a “transgender sex” or
    3. board the Shatabdi Express at Agra Cant and clap and dance her/his way to New Delhi for a few ruppess while Vikram and Munna hide behind their ToI papers in an effort to avoid eye contact and shelling out a few bucks”

    Thanks, but you can keep your strawman. In my mind a gay Desi can realize his or her identity in many ways, both traditional and otherwise. Such suppression as exists of gay identity in modern India, comes entirely from laws and social norms birthed by the legal and educational systems of British colonial rule: the products of Judeo-Christian ethics.

    स्त्री शक्ति says:
    “I remember being told to hide under the bed and pretend no ones home when the hijras came knocking. You know they’re not satisfied with a just 50 ruppee note and a sari anymore.”

    I’m sorry for your excruciating trauma. I hope your Western professors were duly impressed, and passed around the Kleenex, when you narrated this incident in a classroom discussion.

    Yes, Hijras are able to embarrass and intimidate Westernized Desis, who still struggle with the colonization of their minds and the recent impress of Judeo-Christian homophobia left by the British Raj experience.

    In modern India, there is certainly a stigma associated with having a family member who is transgender and becomes a Hijra; there are also reports that indicate police harassment and even violence against Hijras. Yet, even these reports acknowledge, for example, that “The roots of contemporary violence against the Hijra community can in fact be traced back to the historical form that modern law in colonial India has taken. It took the form of the enactment of the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, which was an extraordinary legislation that even departed from the principles on which the Indian Penal Code was based.” (From: Human Rights Violations against the Transgender Community, a report by the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties- Karnataka, September 2003.)

    The fact remains that the blessings of Hijras are even today sought at Hindu weddings in India, and their presence (and dancing) is considered auspicious there. This gives us some indication of the place of honour accorded to transgender members of society by Dharmic tradition… before the imposition of institutional homophobia by such Judeo-Christian colonial constructs as the “Criminal Tribes Act” of 1871.

    स्त्री शक्ति says:
    ” Let me ask you this, amongst the gay people in your family or social circle what happens when their parents start pressuring them to marry (the opposite sex of course)?”

    Since you ask: I personally know three gay people in Mumbai, two from Hindu families, one from a Muslim family, who are completely “out”. Two of these individuals co-habit with their long-term same sex partners. One doesn’t have a long-term partner at this point. All of them get along with their families. They may have been pressured to marry at some point, but they’ve worked through it with their families just as many gay people in the West do. None of them has ever expressed (to me) a desire to raise children, and one of them thinks the idea of gay adoption is ridiculous.

    So let me ask you this, in turn: how is your question relevant to your allegation that Rajiv is wrong about there being no gay taboo in Dharma?

    स्त्री शक्ति says:
    “To beginwith, there is a difference between gay and transgender. I suggest you learn what that difference is before you ship off your possibly gay or bi-sexual daughter or son to Koovagam.”

    Pas de merde, Sherlock! In terms of Western categories, “gay” is an issue of orientation while “transgender” is an issue of gender identity. No one on this thread has alleged that they were the same thing, but congratulations on bringing up this non-sequitur nonetheless.

    The fact remains that Western categories are sadly inadequate when addressing identities outside the heterosexual norm, even in the West. If a man lives as bi, then transitions to a woman who is lesbian, what are you going to call her? Can you conveniently separate the gender identity and orientation issues there?

    No, you can’t: because like many Western classifications, these epithets of “gay”, “queer”, “lesbian”, “bi”, “twink”, “butch”, “boi”, “transgender”, “third-gendered” etc. are simply vain attempts to deal with the “Other” by reducing it to disparate and atomistic Categories. This is a symptom of what Rajiv calls “Difference Anxiety” in his book.

    Western social science applies this same treatment, not only to issues of sexual identity outside the heterosexual norm, but to anything and everything that the Judeo-Christian mainstream finds to be too unlike its own restrictive parameters of self-definition … Dharmic civilization included. It comes out of a discomfort with Difference, and an unwillingness to extend mutual respect to anything that is Different by any imaginable yardstick.

    This is what makes it patently ridiculous when you apply a uniquely Western category, “queer”, to describe gay people in India; when you insist that the only way gay Indians can realize themselves is to blindly ape the aspirations of the “queer” movement in the West; and, most absurdly at all, when you suggest that discrimination against homosexuals in modern India derives from an alleged “gay taboo” in Dharma.

  • स्त्री शक्ति

    “Besides, I’m not the one stereotyping Indian homosexuals as “queer”. That is a characterization Ms. Donaldson has applied in her review; one that you have taken further by pretending that the Western gay identity of “queer”, and the aspirations of Western “queers”, are somehow relevant to Indian homosexuals or to Dharmic tradition. ”

    You were the one to bring up the word “queer” in our dialogue. I’ve never used that word in my entire life. Until now, in this paragraph right here that I just typed.

    “This is what makes it patently ridiculous when you apply a uniquely Western category, “queer”, to describe gay people in India; when you insist that the only way gay Indians can realize themselves is to blindly ape the aspirations of the “queer” movement in the West;”

    Ditto. I never in my life categorized anyone as queer. The word “queer” is queer to me.

    “I’m sorry for your excruciating trauma. I hope your Western professors were duly impressed, and passed around the Kleenex, when you narrated this incident in a classroom discussion.”

    Never went to university either.

    “when you suggest that discrimination against homosexuals in modern India derives from an alleged “gay taboo” in Dharma.”

    What does the Bhagavat Purana say about it?

  • Kartik M.

    स्त्री शक्ति says:
    “You were the one to bring up the word “queer” in our dialogue. I’ve never used that word in my entire life. Until now, in this paragraph right here that I just typed.”

    This isn’t a dialogue, it’s a discussion forum in response to a review of Rajiv’s book by Ms. Donaldson. She has, indeed, used the term “queer” to refer to homosexuals in India. As I’ve pointed out, this is erroneous, because “queer” is a category by which Western gay people define themselves, and transferring it to Indian homosexuals is a form of Western universalism.

    I’m sure you’ve never used that word in your entire life. Yet, from your very first response to Ms. Donaldson’s review (March 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm) it is apparent that you know exactly what the term means; and that you have no hesitation in applying that (Western) identity, and its associated aspirations, to Indian homosexuals. I therefore stand by my assertion; if not in name then by definition, you characterize Indian homosexuals by the commonly understood Western category of “queer”.

    स्त्री शक्ति says:
    “What does the Bhagavat Purana say about it?”

    Finally, a hint of something substantive. Why don’t you tell us? With citations, please. If you aren’t going to post the original Sanskrit, please include the translator and date of translation.

    As far as I know, the (alleged) references to homosexuality in the Bhagavat Purana consist of the following:

    1) “Lord Brahma then gave birth to the demons from his buttocks, and they were very fond of sex. Because they were too lustful, they approached him for copulation. (3.20.23)”

    This has been used by some hand-waving “scholars” to suggest that the Bhagavat Purana characterizes homosexuality as “demonic,” and is therefore homophobic. Not true, as we shall see:

    From an essay by Amara Das Wilhelm, 2008:

    “In his essay, Vaishnava Moral Theology and Its Application on the Issue of Homosexuality (2005), Hridayananda Goswami presents a thorough analysis of this verse in its entire context (3.20.23-37), referring to commentaries from well-known Vaishnava acaryas such as Sridhara Swami, Vira Raghavacarya and Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. All three acaryas agree that the demons were in fact lusty after women, as described at the end of the narration, and do not mention them as homosexual by nature. Hridayananda Goswami writes: “The godless demons who chased Brahma for sex were apparently attracted to the specific part of his body that manifests female beauty. Both in the Bhagavatam text itself, and in the commentaries of the great Acaryas, we find unanimous evidence that these demons were actually lusting after women…Therefore, it is clear that the demons had a strong heterosexual appetite, as well as an ambiguous attraction to a lusty female aspect of Lord Brahma.” It can also be noted that third-gender terms such as kliba, napumsaka, etc. appear nowhere in this narration. Thus, the demonic men of Srimad Bhagavatam 3.20.23 have nothing to do with the third sex or people born with exclusive homosexual orientation.”

    Ergo, the “demons” were straight. No homophobia there.

    2) A possible reference to bisexual behavior as a symptom of Kali Yuga appears in the Twelfth Canto of the Bhagavata Purana (12.3.37), wherein it is stated that men will reject their relatives and friends to instead “associate with the sisters and brothers of their wives.” According to most commentators, the word samvadah or “associating regularly” in this connection refers to having sexual relations.

    Characterizing this highly oblique and ambiguous reference as representative of a “gay taboo in Dharma” would indeed be a reach.

    In addition, Wilhelm mentions that:

    “Many Hindu scholars have pondered over the lack of specific statements on homosexuality in the most popular and commonly read Vedic scriptures. While homosexual desire and behavior are clearly described in less familiar texts such as the Sushruta Samhita, Narada-smriti, Kama Sutra, Kamatantra, Smriti-ratnavali and so on, the more widely-read scriptures seem to ignore the topic completely.”

    ” Nevertheless, it is true that people with exclusive homosexual orientation are not specifically addressed in any of the most important Vaishnava scriptures. The Bhagavad Gita, for instance, does not mention homosexual behavior or the Vedic third sex at all. Hindu scholars sometimes cite verse 7.11 as a condemnation of homosexuality (“I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles…”) but this verse simply exalts religious sexuality as the highest representation of Lord Krsna. Krsna also states in the Gita (10.31), “of fishes I am the shark,” but this does not mean that all other species of fish are therefore condemned and useless. The Lord Himself does not dismiss people falling short of religious principles but instead encourages them to remain in the fold by working for Him (12.10). Furthermore, the key criteria of irreligiosity and social degradation cited in the Bhagavad Gita (1.40-43) are the exploitation of women and subsequent unwanted progeny—elements having nothing at all to do with homosexuality.”

    So yes, please share what the Bhagavat Purana says about homosexuality, in your opinion.

    Also, since I’ve answered your question about the gay people in my social circle in my previous post, perhaps you could do the courtesy of answering the question I posed? To repeat: “how is your question relevant to your allegation that Rajiv is wrong about there being no gay taboo in Dharma?”

    • स्त्री शक्ति

      ” I therefore stand by my assertion; if not in name then by definition, you characterize Indian homosexuals by the commonly understood Western category of “queer”.

      Your assertion is wrong.

      Funny that you use Hridayananda (Howie Resnik) as an example whereas on the other thread where I linked to references that turned out to be from him, another Desi laughed at it and asserted he was bogus and therefore my examples were too. Don’t know if he was trying to “prove” that “Dharmic traditions” were pro or anti gay or, er, what his point exactly was because he disappeared once talk about ISKCON’s founder-acharya surfaced.

      You put “scholars” in qoutation marks. Referring to AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prahupada? He’s the one wielding a heavy dharmic hand against sexuality. What to speak of homosexuality, he categorizes all sex outside of hetero marriage and even within marriage for any reason other than procreation as “illicit” and “sinful”. He’s very Indian, very Bengali and very, very “dharmic”.

      The truth is that there is a plethora of varied opinions amongst Indian dharmic people wrt to not only homosexuality, but sexuality in general. Many are of the opinion that even consensual sex amongst adults that are not married is “against dharma”. Many do not want to see a dating culture gain mainstream acceptance throughout India because they think even dating is “against dharma”. Many think to allow their own grown, legal adult children to choose their own spouse is “against dharma”. Some are of the opinion that a husband showing more affection for his wife than his mother is somehow “against dharma” and subversive to joint family unity.

      When there are popular views such as the one above where even normal, healthy expressions of heterosexuality between consenting adults of 18 years + are deemed “shameful” then what to speak of homosexuality.

      So for Rajiv to say that there is “no taboo” in Dharmic traditions against homosexuality is disingenuous. There is a taboo even against adult hetero dating, pre-marital sex and choosing one’s own spouse amongst large sections of dharmic society, forget about adult gay dating and sex.

      • स्त्री शक्ति

        “A possible reference to bisexual behavior as a symptom of Kali Yuga appears in the Twelfth Canto of the Bhagavata Purana (12.3.37), wherein it is stated that men will reject their relatives and friends to instead “associate with the sisters and brothers of their wives.” According to most commentators, the word samvadah or “associating regularly” in this connection refers to having sexual relations.

        Characterizing this highly oblique and ambiguous reference as representative of a “gay taboo in Dharma” would indeed be a reach. ”

        I agree. In addition, its a “reach” to translate “samvadah” as having sexual relations. Whoever did so is either employing a vivid imagination, if familiar with Dharmic culture, OR is outside of the culture entirely and doesn’t know crap from christmas (or dung from diwali) about the joint family set up.

        In joint family culture the bride goes to live with her in-laws. Her habits, likes, dislikes, etc are meant to be subsumed into their’s. “Adjust karo, beti”. Vegetarian? If “married into” a non-veg family she will be expected to “adjust” to cooking meat. The love she has for her own kin is meant to be transferred to her new “family”.

        On the otherhand not much “adjusting” is expected of the groom. He will not be living with his in-laws afterall. In my area of India for a man to identify more with his wife’s family and social circle than with his own would endow him with the honorific title “Joru Ka Ghulam”.

      • Kartik M.

        स्त्री शक्ति says:
        “Your assertion is wrong.”
        Because you say so, no doubt.

        Meanwhile, I assume your sudden silence on the Bhagavat Purana’s alleged “homophobia” establishes that your little red herring came to nought?

        स्त्री शक्ति says:

        “You put “scholars” in qoutation marks. Referring to AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prahupada? He’s the one wielding a heavy dharmic hand against sexuality. What to speak of homosexuality, he categorizes all sex outside of hetero marriage and even within marriage for any reason other than procreation as “illicit” and “sinful”. He’s very Indian, very Bengali and very, very “dharmic”.”

        Swami Prabhupada has a right to his interpretation of dharmic precepts; there are many other interpretations at least equally valid. This is a key point of difference between Dharmic tradition and Judeo-Christianity… the latter’s insistence on “critical editions” of scripture and centralized, authoritarian primacy over interpretations of dogma.

        Meanwhile, how the opinion of one man born a hundred years ago is supposed to characterize a “gay taboo” in 5,000 year old Dharmic tradition is something you’ve failed to explain.

        स्त्री शक्ति says:

        “The truth is that there is a plethora of varied opinions amongst Indian dharmic people wrt to not only homosexuality, but sexuality in general. Many are of the opinion that even consensual sex amongst adults that are not married is “against dharma”. Many do not want to see a dating culture gain mainstream acceptance throughout India because they think even dating is “against dharma”. Many think to allow their own grown, legal adult children to choose their own spouse is “against dharma”. Some are of the opinion that a husband showing more affection for his wife than his mother is somehow “against dharma” and subversive to joint family unity.”

        In your view, it appears, “dharmic” and “Indian” are fully interchangeable terms. You assert that everything Indian people do or believe today can be ascribed to “dharmic traditions”… that’s not merely Western universalism, but a rather slovenly form of bigotry.

        Every one of the opinions you’ve described (against pre-marital sex and “arranged marriages”) derive from a conception of morality which characterizes a large section of Indian people today, following the experience of British and (before that) Turco-Afghan Islamic colonialism. These colonial experiences violently distorted indigenous social norms, and forcibly imposed foreign ideas of morality on a previously Dharmic society.

        To characterize any of modern India’s prejudices and taboos as having derived exclusively from “Dharmic traditions” is therefore entirely inaccurate; however, this doesn’t stop Western universalists and their fellow-travelers from maliciously implying that “Dharmic traditions” are to blame.

        Modern Indian society at large has inherited a besieged, traumatized system of moral precepts from its colonial past. Few individuals are capable of seeing through the Western universalist slander that these precepts represent an innately regressive “Dharmic tradition.”

        Fewer still are capable of seeing past Western universalist propaganda that the solution lies in abandoning Dharmic traditions and adopting Western mores wholesale. (As if dating and pre-marital sex have contributed so successfully to the stability of the family and society, or eradicated discrimination against women and gays in the West.)

        The fact is, social ills arising from obdurate prejudice characterize ALL societies. Every society goes through a continuous process of evolutionary reform in which undesirable norms are identified, confronted and weeded out.

        The West has a history of discrimination as brutal and widespread as any other tradition, if not worse; however, the West is comfortable with the notion that its innate mechanisms of evolutionary reform will deal with racism, sexism, homophobia and other problems in the long run. The flaws themselves are assumed to be fixable, reformable, and not intrinsic or fundamental to Western tradition.

        Yet, when it comes to India, the cure prescribed for social ills is the abandonment of Dharmic tradition, and the adoption of Western universalist values in its place! The blatant falsehood being propagated here is that India’s modern social ills have their roots in Dharmic tradition… a system that Western universalists characterize as fundamentally, instrinsically flawed, and hence as incapable of evolving its own reforms.

        It’s the same sort of propaganda that is exercised against women in the Islamic world, when they’re told that abandoning Islamic tradition is the only way for them to become “liberated”. Have Germaine Greer or Gloria Steinem ever argued that the recipe for emancipation was for Western women to abandon Western identity, culture and tradition? Yet, when it comes to non-Western cultures, the transplantation of a Western universalist worldview is heralded as the path to reform!

        Your own citation of “Prabhupada” as representing homophobia in “Dharmic tradition” is simply a rather feeble attempt at propagating this Western universalist falsehood.

        As for reform itself, I would argue that Dharmic traditions are indeed far more capable of achieving social reform and improvement than the history-centric, difference-anxious Abrahamic religions of the West. After all, when you exalt a historical narrative presented in scripture, and concentrate control over scriptural interpretation into a tightly organized and dogmatic ecclesiastical body… you’re hardly allowing evolution to take its course.

        In contrast to Abrahamic religions, Dharmic traditions do not make any claim to finality or closure of divine inspiration. Those things would bind our very identity to a privileged historical narrative. We have no taste for that sort of institutionalized insecurity, and prefer to leave room for evolution instead.

        • स्त्री शक्ति

          “Meanwhile, I assume your sudden silence on the Bhagavat Purana’s alleged “homophobia” establishes that your little red herring came to nought?”

          I never alleged any such thing. I asked you, “what does the Bhagavat Purana say about it?” and you answered.

          The rest we are in agreement on. There are varied opinions about both hetero and homosexuality in dharmic culture.

        • स्त्री शक्ति

          “It’s the same sort of propaganda that is exercised against women in the Islamic world, when they’re told that abandoning Islamic tradition is the only way for them to become “liberated”. Have Germaine Greer or Gloria Steinem ever argued that the recipe for emancipation was for Western women to abandon Western identity, culture and tradition? Yet, when it comes to non-Western cultures, the transplantation of a Western universalist worldview is heralded as the path to reform! ”

          Unfortunately many white western feminists are lefty liberals who are pro-multi-cultural (multi-kult) and suffer from “magical minority syndrome”. Its odd but they will even defend darth vardar style burka/niqab. In fact amongst some of them Islam is a sacred cow and Muslims the delicate baby calves that need to be protected at any cost. Its politically incorrect to point out any flaws in a “minority” coz you know, all those people are “special” and “magical” and have “culture” and all that uh, er, good stuff.

          They’ve backed themselves into a pretty indefensible corner if you ask me. Meanwhile women who are indigenous to Muslim countries are scratching their heads in disbelief. Where’s the “sisterhood” when they need it?

          • Kartik M

            I see. “Multi-culti” is bad… implying, of course, that “uni-culti” is the preferred alternative! One supreme culture (Western and Judeo-Christian) must hold the solutions for all of mankind’s problems. Talk about universalism incarnate.

            In your opinion a Western woman who dares to consider that Islamic societies may one day evolve solutions to their own problems, absent the influence of Western universalism, is guilty of “magic minority” syndrome.

            So what does a person who insists that dating, pre-marital sex and so on are somehow “desirable” in Indian society (just because these are Western behaviours) exhibit? Ann Coulter syndrome, it must be! She was the one whose prescription for the Muslim world was:
            “Convert ‘em all to Christianity and everything will be ok.”

          • Kartik M

            Speaking of women who are “indigenous to Muslim countries scratching their heads in disbelief”… ever hear of Leila Ahmed, a professor at U Mass Amherst? She was born and raised in Egypt. Here’s what she has to say about it:

            “”[Never] has it ever been argued, whether in Mary Wollstonecraft’s day, when European women had no rights, or in our own day and even by the most radical feminists, that because male domination and injustice to women have existed throughout the West’s recorded history, the only recourse for Western women is to abandon Western culture and find themselves some other culture. The idea seems absurd, and yet this is routinely how the matter of improving the status of women is posed with respect to women in Arab and other non-Western societies.”

          • स्त्री शक्ति

            ““”[Never] has it ever been argued, whether in Mary Wollstonecraft’s day, when European women had no rights, or in our own day and even by the most radical feminists, that because male domination and injustice to women have existed throughout the West’s recorded history, the only recourse for Western women is to abandon Western culture and find themselves some other culture. The idea seems absurd, and yet this is routinely how the matter of improving the status of women is posed with respect to women in Arab and other non-Western societies.”

            She obviously hasn’t met any multi-kulti, MMS and white-guilt-suffering lefty liberal feminists. I’m surprised. There’s so many of them out there and on the internet these days.

            They won’t stick up for my religion or Christianity, but they’ll sure go out of their way to defend Islam. Go figure. Probably because Arab guys are so hot. You can sleep with someone without agreeing with their religion/culture though so I still don’t get their Islamophilism/fetish.

            “So what does a person who insists that dating, pre-marital sex and so on are somehow “desirable” in Indian society ”

            Merely “desirable”? Come now. Remember, India is the place where transgender sectuality is celebrated and given divine status! Mere heterosexual dating and pre-marital sex is so last yuga!

            ;)

            By the way, send your bio-data. Maybe we can be old fashioned and go on a hetero date.

            xoxo
            :)

  • Sang

    Anything that happens in India is associated with Hinduism, specially the negative news. 99% of so called Hindus really don’t know what the Upanishads/Bhagavad Gita say about the purpose of Human Birth. How it needs to be utilized in correct way and not let this great opportunity slip away. All the problems one sees in India is precisely because of lack of education from such great scriptures. Starting from the word “Hindu” itself, the whole population from generations have been brain washed in wrong direction and then associated to Hinduism. Now a days all educated people feel ashamed to call themselves “Hindus” (Like I used to be, before accidently coming across the real teachings of Bhagavad Gita. Due this I also developed respect for all religious texts).
    I feel there is a spiritual science and material science. Material science have various sub groups like physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, etc. A physicist never discourages against learning chemistry or math. It actually aids or helps him knowing about these subjects. Similarly, in spiritual science we have various sub groups like Vedas, Bible, Koran, etc. Though one is a Vedantist, it can still help in some way or the other by knowing Bible, Koran, etc. At least one will know the truth rather than the rumors, if one studies as many scriptures as possible. One need not go deep but just being aware of the central core values in them will remove the chances of developing hatred-ism against them.
    Spiritual science and material science are like two wings of a plane. When both are healthy and sturdy only then a human being will soar to greater heights.
    I have never understood the logic of evangelism. If they believe in God, then don’t they think that it is God who decides, who should be born in which family and thus their religion too. When they oppose abortion claiming it to be against God’s will, then how come they artificially change the religion of a person against God’s will. Actually this act of evangelism says that “God is idiot to allow a person to be born in X religion. I am smarter than God and so I will convert this person into my religion”. The fundamental concept of evangelism is non-believing in God’s decision they are TRUE atheists.
    These people appose abortion saying it like killing a person and then they kill the doctors who do this. Right this act of killing someone defeats the principal of respect for life. What about killing of animals for consumption. Do they think the life in animals is different than that of human beings. The basic are so wrong that, it defies logic and sense.
    Some religious leaders kill or support killing of people, saying it is the will or mandate from God. Here I want to ask such people “Is your God dead or incapacitated, that He cannot punish the sinners by Himself?” If someone is sinner and you believe in your God, then leave the punishment to Him. And people act as if they have never done any sin or wrong.
    I feel evangelism is the greatest lie, crime and sin in this world. 90% of worlds trouble can be associated with this evangelism. Due to this infighting between various religious group, slowly more and more people are becoming non-believers or atheists.
    I find it very difficult to understand the separation or neutrality of government with respect to religion. This stance basically is like supporting atheism. Does any father/mother say that they will remain neutral to all children and stop feeding/nourishing them? Parents neutralism means, to nourish all with equal perspective, without any bias. If any child is sick then they will take some extra care for this child till he/she becomes normal. Similarly the government should nourish all the religious studies equally. It should be “inclusive” neutrality like parents and not “exclusive” neutrality so found in some developed nations (Most on paper are neutral, but are always supporting some chosen religion. This is different topic in its own.). If the kids are thought about their own birth religion + additional 4 or 5 more religions + atheism too, then the major hatred will vanish. This is the only way the wrong propaganda can be stopped and spiritual science can progress and aid the humanity in Real progress. The material science is reaching its dead end. Only spiritual science can carry humanity to next plain of discovery of Truth.
    I feel major religious leaders are leading the people to further darkness rather towards Real Light or Truth. They themselves have no belief in God. They utilize God’s name for their own prosperity at the expense of the poor people. Most religious leaders or good for nothing. They have no ability to earn for their livelihood by themselves. They are scoundrels like most politicians. They find this mush easier way to ensure food, shelter, wine, women and wealth. They don’t have to worry about job/job loss. One common thing between politicians and religious leaders is that they stroke fear, hatred-ism in people. Whenever I see any religious leader talking ill or spreading rumors about other religion(s), I know this person is a scoundrel.
    The basic dharma in transactional world should be “Do unto others what you would like to be done unto you” and “Don’t do unto others what you would not like to be done unto you”. Isn’t this mentioned in most of scriptures? Still this rule is blatantly not followed. Evangelism is against this very basic rule of dharma. Have anyone seen a Physic professor warning his/her students not to learn or follow chemistry/math. Has he/her ever converted a chemistry/math student by lying or bribing into physic classes? This is the reason why material science has progressed and spiritual science as become a curse. If all the spiritual people also coordinate and share their experiences like material scientist do, then the world will become a heaven in due time. When earth becomes most prosperous, peaceful and nature loving planet, even God will come down to earth and abandon His heaven.

    • स्त्री शक्ति

      “Anything that happens in India is associated with Hinduism, specially the negative news. ”

      Not always. My experience has been the opposite in fact. Westerners who have never been to India and hear about Devi worship, the plethora of goddesses and festivals celebrating them, will often assume India is a paradise for human women to live in, that we will be respected there like no other place on earth.

      Similarly, when they read about “transgender sects” they may also get ideas that India is a extremely open towards all forms of sexual expression and there is no prejudice whatsoever associated with any form of consensual adult sexuality.

      In fact, I would say that amongst people interested in Dharmic traditions but who have not yet been to India, this time of idealization of India and Indian culture is quite common.

      These are innocent assumptions made from a place of utopian naivety, and people who hold them can often end up in dangerous situations in India, especially if those people happen to be women.

      • Kartik M

        Yeah I know. In India we’re just queuing up at the airport for naive Western women to arrive so that we can marry them to Indian men, turn them into baby-factories and present their families with a hu-mongous bill for dowry. And then, of course, burn them alive when their husbands die.

        Very dangerous place for women and gays, that. Our carefully orchestrated propaganda about goddesses and transgender cults are only meant to lure them in.

        Beware the land of caste, cows and curry!

        • स्त्री शक्ति

          You don’t have to take it THAT far. Balance, my friend balance. Just tell them that they shouldn’t expect any greater respect as a human female simply because goddess worship is prelevant, and they should be as open and friendly with men there as in their own countries. A smile and a good-morning could be interpreted as an “invitation”. And to dress in non-weather appropriate clothing, such as covering the legs, no shorts even if its 50 degrees, no bikins on the beach, the one place you probably can get away with wearing long trunk style male shorts though, and tank tops, unless accompanied by a dupatta, are probably best kept for Mumbai and Bangalore only.

          You Desis are always so extreme, if its not caste, cows and curry on the one hand its the “celebration” of transgenderism on the other.

          Actually, India falls somewhere in between. I’m much more easier on Bharat Mata than you are.

          Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, just don’t smile at the men, and watch your back (and ass) on public transportation (carry a safety pin for that finger you can’t place with a face, and he’ll stop).

          • स्त्री शक्ति

            “and they should be as open and friendly with men there as in their own countries.”

            Should read “should NOT be as open …. ” but you shoulda already shoulda shoulda shoulda got that, uh, er.

            Bio-data, I’m waiting. Remember, arranged marriage and any sort of sexual taboo in India is left-over baggage from Islamic and British imperialism, as well as “judeo-christian” influence, right?

            So lets go on a date and get our dharmic freak on….whatcha say?

            ASL?

  • Kartik M

    स्त्री शक्ति says:”So lets go on a date and get our dharmic freak on….whatcha say?”

    That’s very sweet, but I’m spoken for already.

    Meanwhile, Patheos is hardly an ideal website to be trolling for dates on… you might want to try Craig’s List or something.

    • स्त्री शक्ति

      “Meanwhile, Patheos is hardly an ideal website to be trolling for dates on… you might want to try Craig’s List or something.”

      You’ve never heard of the Craig’s List Killer? Sites like Patheos ARE the place to troll for dates. The people who read and comment here are more than likely safe.

      • sang

        स्त्री शक्ति You have too much hatred lurking in your heart. It will destroy you and will not solve the problems of the world. So many God’s, saints have taken birth on earth. Nobody can solve all problems on the world. World is full of thorns. You can’t carpet the whole world to avoid the trouble. What we need to do is just wear good shoes and then your ready to tread the whole world. The value of light is known only due to darkness. If there was 24 hours daylight, we would not known its value. Good and Bad will always remain in the universe. What we want is the Good should be 50% + shareholder. It cannot be 100% shareholder. Good people become greater only when they have something to fight against and overcome it. Mahatma Gandhi would not have been great if British weren’t ruling India. Now this does not mean I support British Rule. Just accept things as they are. We have opportunity to improve the things on this world. We have a playground to show our skill in making a better world. First thing is we should first educate ourselves with the knowledge of scriptures. Understand it correctly and practice it correctly. All the issues you mention about India is not due to scriptures like Vedas/Bhagavad Gita. Go read and learn them under good schools like Ramakrishna Mission/Chinmaya Mission. Then you understand what you can do to make this world a little bit better than it was before.
        All your knowledge is distorted and full of hatred and prejudice. Unless a person spends a minimum of three years in studying the Upanishads, Bhagavad gita, etc, one will not have true understanding of Vedanta. It takes anywhere from 16-18 years for graduation. Give at least three years (recommended is 8-12 years of learning and practice) for such studies and then decide where the problem is? In the world or inside me? The world is a stage to use our skills and make it a better place. That is our Karma and not to just abuse or hate and finally do nothing.
        Remember “Be the change you want to see in the world” (M.K. Gandhi)
        You an opportunity to do something real good out there in the world. If you think you most knowledgeable, then start your teaching to people in India and correct their knowledge. You are too obsessed with transgender/lesbian/gay rights. Tomorrow people will ask for right to rape or have sex on demand with anyone, anytime and anywhere. They will say it my birth right to fulfill my sexual urge. It is nature driven urge. Will you support this right? One can rationalize anything using logic. There are people who rationalize Hitler even today!
        Unless you understand and practice dharmic way of living you will never get it right. You can keep rationalizing anything. Logically there is a cover over earth and it is called SKY. But that logic has no reality. Similarly we see everyday that sun rises and sets. One can rationalize that earth is stationary. You know what it is. Don’t get fooled by what you see externally. One needs to go deep inside and find the answers. That is what the study of scriptures will help you at.
        Good luck for your journey externally and internally.

        • स्त्री शक्ति

          “स्त्री शक्ति You have too much hatred lurking in your heart.”

          I see you’re jealous I asked Karthik out and not you. Thik hai. Send your pic and bio-data and we’ll talk, Jaan.

          ;)

          • Sang

            What qualities you have that I should be jealous of! I only see negative vibes and so was trying to help you. You have energy but it is misdirected. Change the direction and you will see better results. Out of so many sentences that I wrote, you were able to see only one!
            I am very happy man. I will treat you like a daughter. I will complete the tasks that your Dad forgot to do. You will understand when you grow old. I only wish you a very sincere good luck. May God bestow some sense on you.

          • स्त्री शक्ति

            What have I wrote that gives off a “negative vibe”?

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