Yet Another Opinion on CNN, Believers, and Reza Aslan

I have been uncertain what to say about this situation. If you aren’t inundated with information about this like I am, CNN just came out with an episode of their show Believers in which Reza Aslan (an expert on Islam and Christianity) showcases various unusual beliefs around the world that featured a very unusual aspect of Hinduism.

He visited Hindus called Aghori who practice some very strange things having to do with death including cannibalism.

So of course this show is about sensationalism and strange, exotic, unusual things. They’re looking for views and they want to say, “Wow, how strange is this?”

A lot of mainstream Hindus are very concerned that this is airing to a big audience of people who know absolutely nothing about Hinduism. Even though it’s only showing a small sect of Hindus, it might be the only thing someone hears about Hindus. A big concern is that Hindu children in the west might be ridiculed for assumptions about their beliefs and practices.

I’ve been asked to boycott CNN and sign petitions to ban the show. And I do not feel comfortable doing that. I am very uncomfortable with censorship.

But I do think it is in very poor taste to come out with a show like this at a time when Hindus’ lives are in danger because so little is known about us that we are frequently mistaken for Muslims. Americans need to know more about Hinduism, but to start with the very strangest aspects is an upsetting decision.

Unfortunately all this fuss and anger is basically free publicity and letting way more people know about this show than would have before. So CNN has no incentive not to do this.

One of my white American friends on Facebook shared an article about the controversy that was basically making fun of Hindus for being all worked up about a show. And I was surprised because he’s someone who is usually all about social justice, caring for others, preventing offense, etc. When I told him my concerns about it he said, “But it’s really clear this is only a small group.”

To which I replied, “Don’t worry, scared white Americans, not all Hindus are cannibals.”

Aghori_baba_(4101921853)By Christopher Michelaghori baba, CC BY 2.0, Link

I think that got through to him.

What I think we should do about this situation and others like it is to be a louder voice. Not to tell people not to like something or not to watch something, but to talk about mainstream Hinduism louder than others are talking about weird parts. I think focusing on taking a positive step is more effective than framing the negative. In other words, saying “look at this cool thing” is better than “stop looking at that person’s thing.”

I think we need to flood the West with information and stories about Hinduism and all its beautiful variety.

Make our own shows, pitch tv stations, write articles…be a voice to share what Hinduism is really about to the people who right now know nothing about it and are ready to learn.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ch Billy

    Apart from the fact that people don’t know much about Hinduism and Aghoris are the first they will learn about Hindus, he made some outrageous statements in the video:

    1) Although he clarified later that this show is about Aghoris, in the video he clearly specifies that this show is about Hinduism.

    2) He says caste system is a result of Hindu obsession with purity and no pollution and for this, Hindus created caste system with Brahmins placed at the top and untouchables placed at the bottom of the hierarchy. He did not mention anything about division of labor.

    3) He said Aghoris are rebels of Brahmin concept of purity and no pollution. He did not mention that Aghoris live the concept of Advaita that says everything is divine but in an extreme way as they consider human waste, filth and human corpse also divine.

    4) He said karma and reincarnation are the reason for caste system and untouchability. This is colonial misinterpretation that insults Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs along with Hindus.

    5) He called Ganga a giant toilet. I agree that Ganga is very polluted in Varanasi and downstream. But in Rishikesh and Haridwar the river is as serene as any river can be. Desecrating a sacred religious symbol of this sort is outrageously racist.

    Most of these are in Rajiv malhotra’s video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vB9JqlUiYUk

    This is not the first incident where Hindus were openly insulted with little or no consequences. In this video Rajan Zed was shouted at Congressman and women for being invited to invoke a Hindu prayer in Congress:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ9To30Hz7A

    I am deeply disappointed that this happens in a country that prides for its secular values.

    • HARRY

      I think you are mistaken regarding secular values, because it’s no such thing in USA . I think it’s laughable issue if you think USA is secular now or in past.

      • Ambaa

        U.S. *should* be secular. Or rather, we do value separation of religion and state. Not promoting one religion over another. In practice it is sadly lacking

  • HARRY

    What difference does it make to you what other people think about your faith. It really doesn’t matter. I don’t think you will make any difference to what Americans thinks. I have one question, are you ashamed of being Hindu, if no, then I would not be worried. Because they already have that perceived images of Hinduism.

    • Ch Billy

      I like your attitude. Even though it is a little difficult to be this detached in this age of Kali, it is what everyone should strive towards and what Shastra recommends.

      • HARRY

        Dharma only needs defending in extreme circumstance according to the Shastra any other time you should ignore it like you ignore puddles of water in the street if it doesn’t hurt anyone.

        You can not fill a cup that is already full or either half full because it’s not possible to have two separate drinks in one cup, therefore if they have perceived perception regarding your faith then they will never change it until it effects them directly .

        This is why I don’t think they will charge no matter what you write and or what you do. This is why You should leave them to their own perceived perception.

        You should always put more effort into your own Dharma and achieve your Moksa.

        Although I do admire Ambaa’ s efforts , but this is similar to holding the waves of the ocean.
        You just have to learn to let it go sometimes and that’s the best way forward.

  • Tara Srirangachar

    See how Reza Azlam reacts when his religion is rightly criticized.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm91dxbzdyw&t=633s

  • Sanjeev Maheshwari

    When the muslims invaded india the nagas sect became fiercely militant to fight them. these are the naked ash smeared ones who come to kumbh mela and are feared and respected. They come to Kumbh Mela and they are NOT aghoris.

    initially the ancient PASHUPATA sect ( since antiquity ) practised the left handed path of hinduism. they worshipped shiva in the pashupati form.

    punch into google search –
    TANTRA LEFT HANDED PATH OF HINDUISM FORBIDDEN VAMACHARA VADAKAYIL

    from this sect a branch called KAPALIKAS got ex-communicated because they ate meat , drank alcohol and were traditionally doms who did the cremation jobs in burning ghats.

    in the 7th century chinese traveller Hieun-Tsang had written about kapalikas ” the dress and ornaments worn by non believers are varied and mixed. Some wear peacock’s feathers; some wear as ornaments,necklace made of skull bones ….. have no clothing but go naked …. some wear leaf or dark garments, some pull out their hair and cut off their mustache; other have bushy whiskers and their hair braided on the top of their heads. The custom is not uniform, and the colour, whether red or white, not constant”

    AGHORIS under the leadership of a Kina Ram broke away from the kapalikas at the end of the 18th century — but this sect was a creation of the white christian man.

    as a reward this stupid man was resurrected as an avatar of shiva ( bhairava )

    so aghoris worshipped bhaiarava.

    the aghoris received incentives to pretend that they ate shit , drank piss and bloating rotting corpses fished out from the ganges.

    this is one of the reasons why the whole world sees hinduism in VERY poor light.

    mind you, even today the aghoris do this only for the white man’s cameras.
    Aghoris have NIL powers ,they are NOT sages or sanits — they are NOT even hindus. they are NOT allowed to come to kumbh mela.

    Kina Ram’s samadhi is a centre of piligrimage for Aghoris and Aghori devotees. Here Kina Ram is buried in a tomb or samadhi .

    The main centre of Aghoris is Kina Ram’s hermitage or ashram in Ravindrapuri, Varanasi Kinaram’s ashram is not far from Harishchandra ghat. You can walk the distance.

    Get a photo shoot opportunity with naked people covered with ashes and a skull as a drinking pot. you can watch them , they only pretend to eat dead bodies when the white man’s camera is on them.

    there is money to be made. the aghoris have even made a POPE type leader – since 1978 the aghori pope is Baba Siddharth Gautam Ram. he will tell you that he is an incarnation of the venerable Baba Kinaram himself..

    as per wikipedia –” By eating shit and dead bodies they have scientific approach in trying to discover how matter converts from one form to another” TEE HEEEEE !.

    Dattatreya was NOT the first aghori, as the internet says. Aghorism and the graveyard stuff with cadaver eaters came to life only after the white Christian invader came to India.

    Aghor tradition believes that Jagadguru Dattatreya propounded the tradition of Aghor.

    The word Aghor literally means “that which is not difficult or terrible.” There are a number of Dattatreya temples in Maharastra.

    Theoretically these people don’t attach themselves to anything mortal—that does NOT mean they eat corpses..

  • Lokesh

    Aghori literally means Non-Gore, Non-cruel. they eat dead meat including humans , for killing an animal, any animal is more violent than eating a dead human. That is a beautiful concept, people are stuck in their own small wells, social conditioning playing its part.

  • Sanjeev Maheshwari

    Why are you deleting my comments

    • Ambaa

      Oh dear. I haven’t been deleting any comments but they may have gotten automatically sorted for some reason. I’ll check the spam folder and see if they are there. Sorry about that!

  • Raghu Copywrite

    “What I think we should do about this situation and others like it is
    to be a louder voice. Not to tell people not to like something or not to
    watch something, but to talk about mainstream Hinduism louder than
    others are talking about weird parts. I think focusing on taking a
    positive step is more effective than framing the negative. In other
    words, saying “look at this cool thing” is better than “stop looking at
    that person’s thing.”

    I think we need to flood the West with information and stories about Hinduism and all its beautiful variety.

    Make our own shows, pitch tv stations, write articles…be a voice to share
    what Hinduism is really about to the people who right now know nothing
    about it and are ready to learn.”

    Couldn’t agree more.

    I feel, the only way to fight bad is to promote good excessively.

    We are not Muslims to chop that finger which points at us LOL, we encourage dialogue, debates, Hindus follow Sanathana Dharma which was founded by Jagadguru Adi Shankara Acharya by debating and discussing various principles, beliefs, etc. We accept criticism.

    The same show, “Believer” has shown modern Aghoras in a positive light, as those who offer housing, shelter, food to orphans, etc. lets highlight that side.

    Hinduism in itself is a MAGNET, without any hardcore marketing, promotion, like Christianity, or terrorizing to convert like Islam, Hinduism spreads purely on the basis of its merits.

    I am pleasantly surprised to see worldwide recognition to Hindu concepts such as Karma, yoga, etc.

    If Hinduism can have such a strong influence (Alfred Bush Ford, Julia Roberts, Miley Cyrus, Russell Brand, The Beatles, Steve Jobs, and many more have either been influenced or embraced Hinduism)without any promotion, it would have a more profound influence with promotion.

    • Ambaa

      Beautifully said!

      • Raghu Copywrite

        Well, I shall do my bit, start a blog like you doing LOL May be you should videos on performing Ganesha pooja, and celebrating Diwali etc:)

        Hinduism has many beautiful concepts that offer solutions to many problems past and present and we need to enlighten ourselves and our friends and future generations.

        I am glad you saw the entire episode of the believer and you must have seen how aghoras have been given a new meaning by the baba, and how these modern aghoras are helping orphans, and other under privileged people. The good thing about Hinduism unlike other religions is that we can debate, introspect, accept our mistakes and work for better.

        I enjoy reading your blog, thanks for your work!

  • Simba

    Apart from the fact that Reza Aslan is a cunning chap,a few facts need to be mentioned.There si a definite attempt among the U.S. academicians to denigrate hinduism,something they can’t do to Islam.The reason is that Hinduism is not understood by Hindus themselves and there is no staunch followers as in Islam.Their Quran tells them–this is insulting,and you must punish the one who insults.Hindus have been tolerant.The Bhagwad Gita has a verse where Krishna( our conscience and not some God,Krishna means black-the colour of sky-suggesting vastness and omnipresence of Energy/consciousness as also the primordial darkness after which “fiat lux’ happened.) tells Arjun–I have told you the greatest of secrets,now ponder that and DO AS YOU DESIRE.Now this advice is taken literally by all Hindus and one serious fallout is –lack of unity and cohesion.

    Thais makes Hindus vulnerable to attacks which are regular in many American Universities and in a sustained deliberate campaign.Wendy Doniger is just one person who is derisive.

    This said,this Aghoris began with an esoteric concept,which was expressed in Sandhya Bhasha( Twilight Language) which is a coded language.It also is evident in –I have meat to eat that ye know not of( John 4:32).

    This is missed by all.No Hindu( supposedly since those who thought of Vedas,Upanishads never called themselves Hindus) scriptures can be understood in their true essence unless one KNOWS Sandhya Bhasha.It’s not taught in any ” prestigious university” but is learnt in thee proximity of a realized soul.

    Reza Aslan is married to a Christian.He is showing how secular he is but the children are converted to Islam( now apologists say-we are all Muslims but converted by parents to other faiths—note the deception).He has got respectability in the U.S. due to this and academic achievement-which any one can achieve.He also has a huge group of people supporting him from the channel as well as academics and politicians.No Hindu has been able to achieve this smartness.This is abuse of freedom of expression and not freedom of expression of thought.

    Caste system as clearly mentioned in God Talks To Arjun -by Yogananda as not just division of labour but something based on one’s natural inclination to behave,think in a particular way and it has sufficient mobility vertically and laterally.One who is spiritual is Brahman,one who is fighting one’s negative traits and attempting to reach a spiritual state of mind,Vaishya is one who barters with God,( God give me this I will fast for 40days and does charity as well),Shudra is one who only cares for material achievements( thus all stingy rich are shudras)

  • Simba

    I forgot to mention but am sure all will understand what I meant here.Sandhya Bhasha is not understood and is thus distorted by all.Aghoris(today’s) being illiterate,distort and practice the concepts.Human flesh means desires.Eating the same means sublimating desires.Animal sacrifices meant eliminating those negative traits within our mind represented by those animals,e.g.anger is represented by a ram.Remove anger do not kill the actual ram is what is meant.Also,Go (cow) meant not just cow but tongue.Eating the cow meant practising the Khechari Mudra where tongue is turned up and backwards to block the naso pharynx.That is what John meant in 4:32.

    I sincerely apologize for lengthy replies but it will take volumes to understand the esoteric concepts and how they were unwittingly distorted.There is no book available on Vedic or Tantric symbolism but some by Satyananda Saraswati and Usharbuddh Arya do give some idea.God Talks To Arjuna and The Second Coning Of Christ by Yogananda Paramahansa give quite a lot.

    Once these concepts are understood no one will be able to ridicule Hindu concepts and there won’t be any fights.

    • Ambaa

      I’m so glad to have your in-depth understanding! Thank you for sharing so much information!

      • Simba

        Thanks,Ambaa.

        I wish there was a book on Sandhya Bhasha.I picked up these snippets from various books.

  • Jay

    …that featured a very unusual aspect of Hinduism, yes, but CNN did not say that this was very unusual and that’s what matters, because it leaves a very wrong impression about Hinduism. Your opinion is acceptable as well as the reflections of thousands. This insidious ways of presenting Hindu phobia should be challenged and negated with all the power.

  • Raghu Copywrite

    To which I replied, “Don’t worry, scared white Americans, not all Hindus are cannibals.”

    Well, Hindus in India are a Billion people, plus those in Nepal and the world over, so we are more than a Billion Hindus, Reza should have given the number of Aghori population, and that ratio to overall Hindus, and similar numbers in Islam, the ratio of Muslims who promote, propagate, instigate, preach non violence, Jihad and stuff to their total population. (Had neighbors of San Bernadino tipped the Police, the massacre would not have happened, so Muslims are all Jihadist You know thats a soft word for…, Without doubt). Shame on you REZA for making a fuzz about a small, negligible group of harmless people and when questioned about the large majority of harmful blood thirsty idiots in your religion, what answers do you give, I wonder.