Agehananda Bharati (was: beef)

Robert J. Zydenbos zydenbos at
Fri Feb 14 10:52:50 UTC 1997

Srini about Agehananda Bharati:

sp> He sounds irritatingly like a recent convert and an original intent
sp> fanatic on such issues... insisting on something from the Vedas and
sp> then insisting on the same jumping all the way to modern times...
sp> wifully suspending all historical developments in between.
sp> Now, this is OK in traditional Indian dialectic ;-) and has always
sp> been a very useful didactic device... but Bharati has these
sp> critical/modern compulsions too, you see. Hence, somehow, it
sp> doesn't jive.

I perfectly agree with you that Bh.'s style of writing at times is quite
aggravating, and in this particular book he spends a lot of energy on
flogging dead horses over and over (cf. his remarks on Gandhi,
Vivekananda etc.).

But I think I disagree with you in your understanding of Bh.'s
historical stance. He does not advocate a 'return to the Vedas' or
something, as far as I can see, and he accuses Indian pundits and
religious leaders of ignoring history altogether (i.e. in his view, it
is they who suspend history). He does advocate a going back to something
when he is convinced that the old thing in question is superior to the
later development; i.e. not merely because the old thing is old. His
scathing attacks on modern Indian puritanism and prudishness are an
example  of this.

The question is not whether beef-eating (and several other such matters
are discussed in the book, e.g. one's attitude to the mind-body
question) in itself is good or not: rather, Bh. condemns the attitude
which says that nothing has ever changed in India (and that nothing
should change, or change back, either), because this attitude is
anti-intellectual, gets in the way of a coherent understanding of Indian
culture  and blocks all serious discussion. Here I agree with him
completely. In this context the "beef issue" is potentially liberating,
and esp. Yaajnavalkya's tongue-in-cheek remark in the that he eats cow's meat while at the same time
saying that it is not so good (after all that we have seen in the
Samhitaas) is something I will remember the next time I get into the
ever-recurring discussion on the relative merits of indigenous and
Western modes of study with a pundit here in India. (Of course only if
the discussion is private and with a reasonable person - in public, in
our present age, people will throw rocks at me if I bring this up.)


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