SV: Crushing Defeat of Hindutva attempts to saffronize Californian textbooks

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at CHELLO.NO
Fri Mar 10 16:58:12 UTC 2006


This is an interesting question. Wouldn't the answer depend upon whether you
refer to "Hinduism" as a collective term for Indian religions, or to
Vaishnavism, Shaivism etc. separately? And as for Buddhism, although the
religion in principle is atheistic, there is plenty of room for gods at
various levels of the universe. Vedic religion was to my mind certainly
polytheistic, so there would seem to be little scope for assuming that India
was "always" monotheistic, if that is what our Hindutva friends are

Whether Christianity is monotheistic or polytheistic would to me seem a
matter of definition. The arguments concerning the trinity are as far as I
can see rather murky, but then an elementary particle can be both a wave and
a particle, so maybe it is just a quirk of language. 

Part of the problem with the Hindutvavadis is that they project modern
understanding and interpretation into the hoary past. But so do our own
theologians and quite a few other academics, as far as I can see. The
difference between "us" and "them" may not always be as great as we think. 

Lars Martin

From: Lars Martin Fosse 
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> -----Opprinnelig melding-----
> Fra: Indology [mailto:INDOLOGY at] På vegne av 
> Jan E.M. Houben
> Sendt: 10. mars 2006 17:10
> Til: INDOLOGY at
> Emne: Re: Crushing Defeat of Hindutva attempts to saffronize 
> Californian textbooks
> Dear Michael,
> I am probably not the only one to have now become very much 
> interested to see this "balanced depiction of life in ancient 
> India" and enjoy its "historical accuracy" ... Where can this 
> California textbook be seen / ordered? On many points the new 
> description must be better than the earlier HEF-VF version. 
> However, I do have some doubts on ancient India's 
> "polytheism" (your previous message) which seems to be not 
> less a one-sided (and hence inclomplete and incorrect) 
> description of the situation than exclusive monotheism. 
> If I am not mistaken some sophisticated
> 'theistic' systems with a single highest god (or
> God) (various brands of theistic Vedanta, ancient ;Saiva and 
> ancient Vai.s.nava sects) have been around in India for 
> centuries and perhaps millennia, apart from polytheistic and 
> even atheistic systems (anii;svara Saamkhya). Don't even 
> Christianity, Judaism and Islam have their angels / powers 
> apart from their "highest God"
> without becoming polytheisms ? The term
> 'polytheism' has anyway its own specific history (the 
> hellenized Jew Philo of Alexandria used it to refer 
> polemically to the non-Jewish religions of antiquity) which 
> may not make it the most suitable term to describe Hinduism 
> (or even only ancient Hinduism, Brahmanism or Vedism).  
> Jan Houben
> Jan E.M. Houben,
> Directeur d'Etudes,
> Sources et Histoire de la Tradition Sanskrite Ecole Pratique 
> des Hautes Etudes, A la Sorbonne, 45-47, rue des Ecoles,
> 75005 Paris -- France. 
> J_E_M_Houben at
> Homepage:
> Website:
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