Hinduism: once was: RAJARAM EPISODE

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Oct 5 05:56:04 UTC 2000

> > should define themselves precisely, when he should really know
>Am I supposed to have said this ??  Where ?  It is not for me to say
>how contemporary Hindus should define themselves.   The problem for

If you remember, this thread was started off by a comment to this effect by
another. List discussions are always multi-centered conversations. And it is
not a question of how Hindus should define themselves. It is a question of
whether *anyone* can define Hinduism. And if contemporary Hindus do define
themselves in whatever fashion, it is a question of whether such definition
will be acceptable to those who study India academically. If an Asian/Indian
Jain or Buddhist has no objections to calling herself a Hindu, an objection
is raised against it. That presumes that there is a definition of "Hindu"
that excludes them, and that is academically acceptable. I would like to
know what that definition is.

>is when the term is applied retroactively to an era centuries before
>it was first coined -- hence my reply to the posting by Ven Tantra.

What about the name given to the people of India in the earliest Greek
sources? Not far removed in time from Gautama the Buddha.

> > an Arya and to his teaching as Arya-dharma should also not go
>Understood by Buddhists in the sense of "noble" -- hence neither a
>racial nor linguistic title but spiritual.

Well, till Indology came along, non-Buddhists in India also understood the
word Arya to simply mean noble.

>So how are you defining "Hindu" here ?   An adherent of a particular
>set of religious views or an inhabitant of India ?   Some precision
>would help.  Since you say "*most* contemporary south Indians", who

I am *not* defining Hindu at all. My whole point is that precision is
impossible in this regard. Tough luck, if that causes problems for academic
studies. Besides, I was reacting to your contention that Gautama could not
be called a Hindu, because the Sakyas were not apparently Hindu, in whatever
sense of the term.

>are the exceptions ?  If I understand you correctly, you imply the

My point is that it is well nigh impossible to find exceptions. *If* the
Sakyas were not "Hindu", because they may not have been Indo-Aryan, *then*
the south Indian Dravidians were not "Hindu" either. Conversely, if the
Dravidians were "Hindu", pray what made the Sakyas "non-Hindu"? This
argument remains, irrespective of whether "Aryan" is a racial or a
linguistic or a socio-political-cultural category pertaining to the
Magadha-Kosala region in the 5th cent. BCE.

>religious sense.  If so, I rest my case:  Buddhists are not Hindus,
>although there is naturally some common ground.  BTW do Keralan
>Christians consider themselves Hindus in any sense of the word ?

Take a look at the matrimonial ads in Indian newspapers, where all sorts of
things are possible, including a category of "Brahmin Christians".

>Why bother to use words at all if they have nor fixed meaning ?  Or

That is a rather strange position for a Buddhist to take! I didn't suppose
that an inseparable relation between word and meaning was a feature of any
school of Buddhism.

By the way, I jumped upon the racial connotation of "Aryan" in your previous
post with alacrity, precisely to point out that words can be and are used in
very imprecise ways, and that they also change their meaning with time.

>are you advocating the
>"humpty-dumpty" approach to semantics ?   Do you mean "Hindu" as a

Not me. My point is simply that Indologists have to come to terms with the
very nebulous nature of the word "Hindu-ism" when they talk with
contemporary Indians who are usually called "Hindus". If anyone cares to
notice, no Indian source ever used the word Hindu, till first the Middle
East and then Europe impinged upon India in a big way. Some have
"humpty-dumpty-ness" thrust upon them.

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