Rajaram's bull

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann reimann at UCLINK4.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Aug 4 05:57:19 UTC 2000

In reply to some of Vidyasankar's comments:

>>has pointed out).  Books by Rajaram & Co. do have a wide audience even in
>>the U.S., where there is a large South Asian community.

>Most expatriate South Asians are very technologically savvy.

Yes, of course.  I am fully aware of that.  Some weeks ago I attended a
talk by S. Kak at the UC, Berkeley campus and one of the most interesting
things was to hear South Asian students from the sciences (biology,
computing, engineering) questioning many of his assumptions after his
exposition of the so-called "new paradigm."
But it is also true that many of them are exposed to all sorts of ideas
from relatives (who read Rajaram et al), and in some cases they don't have
access to scholarly information on the subject unless they enroll in a
South Asia course.  This is, in large part, due to the grandiose claims and
wide diffusion of many of these ideas which seem to have taken some
Indologists by surprise.

>It hardly helps, for example, to keep snubbing people with
>scientific backgrounds, as has often happened.

A scientific background can definitely be very good, but for some areas it
needs to be combined with some training in the humanities. A positive
example of this kind of combination is Anthony Aveni (one of the principal
voices for the discipline of Archaeoastronomy) who has a solid background
in both astronomy and anthropology.
There have been too many western scientists (physicists and the like) who
have naively accepted many spectacular claims about the Vedas without any
research.  Witness many of the followers of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
This might help you understand where these comments about hard scientists
and Indology are coming from.

>>Much of the current attack on "Western" Indology seems to be part of a
>>strategy that aims at defending Brahminical traditions and institutions
>>this foreign "threat" comes mainly from the discipline of Indology,
>>inasmuch as it does not align itself with some current nationalist ideas
>>about indigenous aryanism and the definition of what is or is >not "Hindu."

>I beg to differ. The Hindutva-vAdi definition of what is "Hindu"
>is neither very Brahminical nor traditional. Nor is the real goal
>one of defending Brahminical traditions or institutions.

Well, it is certainly dressed in the garb of defending "tradition," even if
it is not expressly said to be brahminical.  The problem, as usual, is:
what is tradition?
> From Vivekananda to Aurobindo you hear of the need to restore "true
brahminhood."  It is not easy to de-brahmanize claims that the Vedas  (or
the SmRtis and the PurANas) are supra-human texts.  But although I agree
that it is not a purely brahminical phenomenon, it is clear that some
perceive indological ideas as an attack on brahmins.  (See, for instance,
the quotes in Palaniappan's message to this list on Thu, 13 Jul 2000
12:27:22 EDT).

 What is
>being attempted is a redefinition of tradition, but then, list
>members should be the first to realize that the new gods can only
>win by killing the old titans.

Or by marrying them, or by stating that they follow orders from, or are
simply manifestations of the new ones.  Killing them has generally not been
the procedure in Indian traditions.

>were in power. For example, there was a judge who ruled that the
>Vedas are not the sole property of the Hindus, so that the sAvitrI
>mantra could be printed on government issued greeting cards. What
>would a professional Indologist do with a statement that the Vedas
>are not just Hindu, but universal, scripture?

Why the question?  Should an Indologist do something with the statement?
It is interesting, of course, and it indicates in which direction ideas are
moving today, but the origins of the SAvitR mantra are still Vedic (not

>judgements and case law? The root problem is not one of Hindutva
>vs. secularism. It is the crisis of identity that has gripped India
>for a long time that is the real issue.

Yes, I agree, an identity crisis is at the root of the problem, but those
going through the crisis will usually be the more traditional conservative
ones.  Most of the modern day movements that are referred to as
fundamentalist are reactions to perceived or real threats to "traditional"
ideas and values.

>Note that the dominant voice that expresses concerns about
>varNasaMkara in the epic is that of a kshatriya - Arjuna.

I was referring to the MArkaNDeya episode in the Vanaparvan (MBh 3.186,
188; Cr.Ed.).  It is not Arjuna but the sage MArkaNDeya that describes
yugAnta.  This section has little to do with the rest of the narrative.

>So long as one is talking of varNAzrama-dharma, Kalki's role is
>very much that of a kshatriya, not that of a brAhmaNa.

Yes, when I first prepared my previous message I wrote "a Brahmin who
behaves like a kSatriya" but then I took the second part out in order to
simplify the sentence.
It is, of course, noteworthy that Buddha, MahAvIra, RAma and KRSNa were all
kSatriyas, whereas Kalkin is a brahmin.

>for a brAhmaNa. Indeed, the kshatriya-dharma is predominant in the
>avatAras of vishNu - rAma, kRshNa, balarAma.

Well, ParazurAma's role was to make it clear that kSatriyas must respect
brahmins.  As for the MahAbhArata and the RAmAyaNa, although kSatriya
dharma is fundamental to both, so is the need to respect brahmins,
especially in the Mbh.

>seem like a quibble with respect to what is "Brahminical", but if
>Indologists keep silent about the kshatriya side of the equation,
>they risk both misunderstanding India and being misunderstood by Indians,
>whether in India or elsewhere.

The relationship between kSatriyas and brahmins as reflected in the
literature (Vedas, Epics, etc.) is a very important indological topic.
Please bear in mind that my post was not meant as a detailed analysis, I
merely wanted to draw attention to what I consider to be an interesting

Best regards,

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann

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