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David19
June 19th, 2009, 08:34 PM
Has anyone heard of Sri Ram Swarup (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Swarup), and, if so, what are your thoughts on him and/or his writings?, I've only just heard of him, and I've checked out some of his works on this site, http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books.html.

I've started to read a bit of his 'Defence of Hindu Society' (http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books/hindusoc/) and 'Holy Vedas And Holy Bibles - A Comparative Study' by Kanayalal M. Talreja (http://voiceofdharma.org/books/hvhb/), which is availabe on the site (which is the organisation he started), a lot of the works seem to take a lot of issues with Christianity and Islam, and it seems to diverge away from the work of people like Swami Vivekananda (who I seriously recommend, read his Complete Works here (http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda), I'm still on his work on 'Karma Yoga'), who promoted unity amongst religions. Maybe I'm just naive, but, I always thought Hinduism was about seeing no path as "wrong" or "evil", but, the works I'm reading, while maybe not directly saying that, do seem to point in that direction.

I think I've read Ram Swarup was a big player in the Indian/Hindu Nationalism movement, which may explain things (nationalism tends to make bigotry crop up, look at what happened in 1930s Germany to the Jews), and, I can understand some of the problems that are reported, like the Christian Proselytizers that go to India, or have a go at Hinduism, or the Muslim extremists, but, IMO, the way of Swami Vivekananda, of Ghandi, of Buddha, etc were the way to go, not greeting bigotry with even more bigotry, hate only begets hate, we need more religious dialogue in this world, like Swami Vivekananda seemed to understand, and many others, where we can understand each other, and respect each religious tradition, and, I think, many Pagans could benefit from that lesson as well (for example, the writer of this blog (http://egregores.blogspot.com/) seems to be on the same plane of thought as he seems to blame all evils on Christianity, or seems to think, under ancient "paganism", the world was more "perfect" (I suggest he reads 'The Lucifer Principle' by Howard Bloom, there's no evidence of any utopia like existence in any time period, and never will be either), and he also seems to ignore the sufferings of the Jews that were inflicted upon them by various groups in the ancient world)).

Anyway, has anyone heard of Swarup?, some of his writings seem interesting, but, I'd really like other opinions on him too, positive or negative.

Thanks :).

David.

BenSt
June 24th, 2009, 11:58 PM
Before I tackle the main point of Sri Ram Swarup, I think it best to comment first on the state of affairs of Hindu Nationalism in India. It's a story that sometimes has little reliable information and is a very complex issue. The main players being the BJP party, Shiv Sena, and Sangh Parivar. I am definitly not an expert on these, as while studying Hinduism I've tried to remain as neutral and separate in regards to Indian politics... I do know that Hindutva has brought about a lot of bloodshed.

The dangers of Hindu Nationalism is that it appeals to symbols and an idealized view of the world amongst people who may feel powerless... the young, while at the same time maintaining caste and cultural distinctions and priveleges. They scapegoat social problems as evils created by rival groups (mainly Muslims and Christians) and espouse the belief that India is and has always been a Hindu state and all non-Hindus are merely visitors and shouyld have very little power. It also has the danger of redefining and recreating concepts and categories to fit into their worldview. For example, Jains and Sikhs have always maintained their independence from Hinduism. Hindu nationalism would subvert the independance of these religions in the public mind by co-opting their symbols and reinterpreting (and blatantly rewriting) these groups histories. Last year I took a course on Sikhism at University, and the professor showed us a few examples of media and other BJP orchestrated information. One had Ganesha sat outside the Akal Takt. Another had a Hindu OM surrounded by the Sikh Gurus. The whole point of Sikhism's main 'five Ks' was to separate and create an identity for Sikhs to identify them as not Muslim or Hindu.

The ignorance demonstrated towards Christians, Jews and especially Muslims has been horrible. The recent media attention on the Muslim identity of the attackers in Mumbai. As well as the genocide of Muslims in Gujarat and Maharashtra are examples of this. I also think that it should be noted that often times the BJP, the nationalist party and it's affiliate Shiv Sena has also tried to enact laws when they were in power to limit freedom of expression and rights of Muslims. At the same time, behind scenes decisions also created distrust for Hindu film makers... like Deepa Mehta, who had to move the set of her film 'Water' to Sri Lanka because rioters destroyed her sets in India. The BJP is also very anti-Gandhi because he wanted to go against the status quo. Now the story of Christianity spreading is one sided, because although negetive evangelical groups are going into India, the other side of the story is that the majority of converts are Dalits, who the BJP wish to remain as low caste.

Now, as I said...I don't know of Swarup's writings and beliefs but I think that anyone who is open to criticize and defame other religions has to be questioned. Now that being said, certainly since the english were ruling British India, racial and religious problems were created and events did occur (it;s how the British maintained power, by pitting and creating different groups against each other.) I've had a chance to read extracts of 'Defence of Hindu Society' and just from a brief look, what he writes would seem to be credible, and I'm not going to attempt to discredit it. However, something that is striking is how flawed some of the part are. Like his conversation with a Sufi. I have to question the way he wrote it, because the way he portrayed the event was very much as if he was the learned man and he othered the Muslims. (Stating things like, 'he was learned in his own way... he was a great devotee of what passed for mysticism in Islam). I found the entire story very well written, but very much written for a particular audience.

In Holy Vedas, and Holy Bibles... the first image of the scales is a little... well. The four vedas outweighing the Bible. Now I can agree that the Bible is not for everyone, and a lot of people on Mysticwicks discredit it or just ingore it. I think that to write a book on justifying the Vedas against the Bible is firstly problematic because the question I ask is... if the Vedas are authoritative, why do they need to be justified? The language is also very much one sided, with words like doctrine and wrathful being applied to Christianity... while Hinduism is seen in the best possible light.

He further goes on to take out stories from the Bible while making allusions to Hindu stories as being good and innocent. But, like any religion, the mythology that Hinduism is founded on is as violent or if not more than Jewish and Christian mythology. Shiva destroyed his son's head, Ram ordered Sita to sit on a burning pyre to prove her innocence, and Krishna aided Arjuna in defeating and destroying his family! But... the point here is that all of these stories were contextual. Shiva didn't know that Ganesha was his son, Ram was pressured by the society he found himself in, and Krishna was fulfilling and teaching the socially expected role of the ruler to Arjuna. Just as the stories presented in these books are contextual to the time period they came from.

What I find really interesting though is how many western sources and quotes he uses. I mean it's certainly nice and interesting to see western philosophers, poets, skeptics etc,. being engaged with... which makes me not want to write Swarup off. But, I think the central questions returns in who is he writing this for? The works presented rely heavily also on personal experiences... and although this can be a powerful tool for conveying messages, it can also be flawed because often personal experiences are not logical. If you try to say "Muslims are bad because I met a bad muslim"... well that statement doesn't stand against logic and is weak. I think this can be an interesting parralel with certain christian writers in america who also just similar techniques to convey a similar message of both justifying their own beliefs while defaming others... *coughts*Pat Robertson*cough*.


Maybe I'm just naive, but, I always thought Hinduism was about seeing no path as "wrong" or "evil", but, the works I'm reading, while maybe not directly saying that, do seem to point in that direction.


Ofcourse they do. Although Swarup may not have been directly linked with major Nationalist Hindutva espousing groups... Hindu nationalism in general teaches this philosophy. I recently read a really powerful short called "Reaching Bombay Central," which, although is a story is a true depiction of Muslim life in India. In it, the main character talks about how when she was approaching a Polling station... she was reluctant to give her name because automatically she would have been identified as a Muslim. She is approached by two young men who have small red scarves around their necks. These two men are BJP party volunteers who are helping out at the polling station. So she give her name and for a split second the two men look at her, and then continue to help her... but the look, she describes, was that of shock and also distaste. It's a great read!

It's what they build their political base on, because otherwise if there was not conflict, they could not built support. Its a very common line, we see it with right wing Christian, Jewish and to some extent Secular groups. Any group that has held privilege and power in a society can easily come back and try to stop society from changing with the words: "we are in danger of disappearing."


but, IMO, the way of Swami Vivekananda, of Ghandi, of Buddha, etc were the way to go, not greeting bigotry with even more bigotry, hate only begets hate, we need more religious dialogue in this world, like Swami Vivekananda seemed to understand, and many others, where we can understand each other, and respect each religious tradition, and, I think, many Pagans could benefit from that lesson as well

You touch on a few things here and I agree with you. But I would suggest that there are problems even in the ones you mentioned. Buddhism is a direct defiance against Brahmanical Hinduism and many of the concepts that Hinduism is founded upon. Gandhi was a great man, but he certainly had his issues and there is a lot of criticism of Gandhi on many levels (his view of the Dalits for example is always been a great thing, but when we look beneath he didn't want Dalit freedom, only tolerance of Dalits.) Ofcourse criticism and agreement can go both ways and anything can be criticized because nothing can be perfect.

I've come to realize that a philosophy can be as perfect and as powerful as we make it. Humans can define how a religion or an idea is taken up. Being Hindu doesn't make one peaceful, anymore than being Muslim makes one a terrorist, or a Gay person a slut. Hinduism is taken up mostly to be peaceful... but one problem with Hinduism is that it is so large and with so many different beliefs all intermingled there is a lot. What I find interesting is how Hinduism is in area like Nepal, which has historically been connected with Buddhism. Ofcourse, Hindu Nationalism tires as best it can to take away the status of religion to Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains and redefine these religions as merely offbranches of Hinduism.

I hope that kind of answers your question David :)

David19
June 26th, 2009, 06:51 PM
Before I tackle the main point of Sri Ram Swarup, I think it best to comment first on the state of affairs of Hindu Nationalism in India. It's a story that sometimes has little reliable information and is a very complex issue. The main players being the BJP party, Shiv Sena, and Sangh Parivar. I am definitly not an expert on these, as while studying Hinduism I've tried to remain as neutral and separate in regards to Indian politics... I do know that Hindutva has brought about a lot of bloodshed.

The dangers of Hindu Nationalism is that it appeals to symbols and an idealized view of the world amongst people who may feel powerless... the young, while at the same time maintaining caste and cultural distinctions and priveleges. They scapegoat social problems as evils created by rival groups (mainly Muslims and Christians) and espouse the belief that India is and has always been a Hindu state and all non-Hindus are merely visitors and shouyld have very little power. It also has the danger of redefining and recreating concepts and categories to fit into their worldview. For example, Jains and Sikhs have always maintained their independence from Hinduism. Hindu nationalism would subvert the independance of these religions in the public mind by co-opting their symbols and reinterpreting (and blatantly rewriting) these groups histories. Last year I took a course on Sikhism at University, and the professor showed us a few examples of media and other BJP orchestrated information. One had Ganesha sat outside the Akal Takt. Another had a Hindu OM surrounded by the Sikh Gurus. The whole point of Sikhism's main 'five Ks' was to separate and create an identity for Sikhs to identify them as not Muslim or Hindu.

Just so I understand, the BJP are an Hindu Nationalist party, and that's really bad that they are trying to twist other religions, like Jainism and Sikhism into just being "different versions" of Hinduism, from what I've read of Sri Ram Swarup, it seems like he, and others, are trying to say that too, that Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are all different branches of Hinduism, and he seems to be saying how tolerant and accepting Hinduism is, compared to Christianity and Islam (I may be wrong on this, so, please correct me if I'm wrong, but, haven't there been conflicts between Buddhists and Hindus in the past, maybe not in the recent past, but, I'm sure I've heard Buddhist's have been persecuted by Hindu Kings), now, I know Hinduism can be quite accepting, and that's something I like about it, and I like Swamis like Swami Vivekananda (http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/complete_works.htm), Paramahansa Yogananda (http://www.yogananda-srf.org/), etc, but, I think what Swarup and others are doing is trying to make Hindu India out to be something "great" and a "Light for the world to copy", when, IMO, there are some good things about India, but, there are also bad things too (e.g. the caste system, the poverty you find in the major cities, etc), just like every culture and religion - there's good and bad, and, neither is better than another.




The ignorance demonstrated towards Christians, Jews and especially Muslims has been horrible. The recent media attention on the Muslim identity of the attackers in Mumbai. As well as the genocide of Muslims in Gujarat and Maharashtra are examples of this. I also think that it should be noted that often times the BJP, the nationalist party and it's affiliate Shiv Sena has also tried to enact laws when they were in power to limit freedom of expression and rights of Muslims. At the same time, behind scenes decisions also created distrust for Hindu film makers... like Deepa Mehta, who had to move the set of her film 'Water' to Sri Lanka because rioters destroyed her sets in India. The BJP is also very anti-Gandhi because he wanted to go against the status quo. Now the story of Christianity spreading is one sided, because although negetive evangelical groups are going into India, the other side of the story is that the majority of converts are Dalits, who the BJP wish to remain as low caste.

I don't know much about the media attention towards Muslims, have they tried to portray all Muslims as being terrorists or something?. I always thought Jews in India haven't faced any persecution, have groups like the BJP or others targetted Jews too?.

I've read accounts of Evangelicals going into India, and I don't like their tactics and can agree with people who criticise them like Swarup, David Frawley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Frawley) (you can read another article by him on their converstion tactics (http://mail.sarai.net/pipermail/test1/2008-September/015272.html)), but, I'm sure it's not as one-sided as they make it out (e.g. the evil Christians going in to "reap and gather souls"). I haven't heard of the Dalits, but, I'm assuming they're seen as a "low caste", maybe people like the BJP, Frawley and others who criticise the Evangelical tactics and Hindus converting to Christianity should really focus their criticisms on the status quo, on working to eliminate the Caste system or, at the least, greatly reform it, so, that people who are oppressed don't feel the need to convert. One of the reasons why Christianity became greatly popular in the ancient world, like Rome, Egypt, and other places, was 'cause it offered hope to the poor, who were treated like shit (and, in Egypt, especially, people saw it as offering an afterlife which was quite similar to the ancient Egyptian one, but, free of Romans and taxes, from what I've read and been told by more knowledgable people, the Romans did treat the Egyptians like shit, and, while Alexandria may have been a melting pot and great capital, the rest of Egypt wasn't doing so great).



Now, as I said...I don't know of Swarup's writings and beliefs but I think that anyone who is open to criticize and defame other religions has to be questioned. Now that being said, certainly since the english were ruling British India, racial and religious problems were created and events did occur (it;s how the British maintained power, by pitting and creating different groups against each other.) I've had a chance to read extracts of 'Defence of Hindu Society' and just from a brief look, what he writes would seem to be credible, and I'm not going to attempt to discredit it. However, something that is striking is how flawed some of the part are. Like his conversation with a Sufi. I have to question the way he wrote it, because the way he portrayed the event was very much as if he was the learned man and he othered the Muslims. (Stating things like, 'he was learned in his own way... he was a great devotee of what passed for mysticism in Islam). I found the entire story very well written, but very much written for a particular audience.

That's what I didn't like, and, also, he seemed to say "we have to rescue Christian Mysticism and Sufism from Islam and Christianity", it's like he wants to take the positive things out of their religions, and doesn't want to enter into dialogue with Christianity or Islam.

There's another article on the Voice of the Dharma site I linked too that I didn't like either, it's called 'Paki Come Home' (http://koenraadelst.voiceofdharma.com/articles/misc/PakiComeHome.html), which seems to be just be very racist, and it seems to confuse politics (the conflict between India and Pakistan) with religion, which, IMO, they should remain seperate.


In Holy Vedas, and Holy Bibles... the first image of the scales is a little... well. The four vedas outweighing the Bible. Now I can agree that the Bible is not for everyone, and a lot of people on Mysticwicks discredit it or just ingore it. I think that to write a book on justifying the Vedas against the Bible is firstly problematic because the question I ask is... if the Vedas are authoritative, why do they need to be justified? The language is also very much one sided, with words like doctrine and wrathful being applied to Christianity... while Hinduism is seen in the best possible light.

QFT, and, also, if the Vedas are more authoritative than the Bible or Koran, why is that?, what makes the Vedas so special?, maybe Buddhist Scriptures can be considered greater and more Holy?.

I also like what Swami Vivekananda said about the Vedas (http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_1/vol_1_frame.htm):


The Hindus have received their religion through revelation, the Vedas. They hold that the Vedas are without beginning and without end. It may sound ludicrous to this audience, how a book can be without beginning or end. But by the Vedas no books are meant. They mean the accumulated treasury of spiritual laws discovered by different persons in different times. Just as the law of gravitation existed before its discovery, and would exist if all humanity forgot it, so is it with the laws that govern the spiritual world. The moral, ethical, and spiritual relations between soul and soul and between individual spirits and the Father of all spirits, were there before their discovery, and would remain even if we forgot them.

To me, this seems to parallel the Jewish teaching of the Invisible Torah, which is something that all peoples have tapped into, he doesn't seem to be limiting the Vedas to some books that were written by people in India thousands of years ago, but, all Holy Works which were discovered by people in all lands, from the Jews, to Christians, Muslims, Ba'hai, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Jains, ancient Egyptians, Greeks, etc.


He further goes on to take out stories from the Bible while making allusions to Hindu stories as being good and innocent. But, like any religion, the mythology that Hinduism is founded on is as violent or if not more than Jewish and Christian mythology. Shiva destroyed his son's head, Ram ordered Sita to sit on a burning pyre to prove her innocence, and Krishna aided Arjuna in defeating and destroying his family! But... the point here is that all of these stories were contextual. Shiva didn't know that Ganesha was his son, Ram was pressured by the society he found himself in, and Krishna was fulfilling and teaching the socially expected role of the ruler to Arjuna. Just as the stories presented in these books are contextual to the time period they came from.

Very true, many Christians, Jews, and Muslims don't take the stories literally, but, even if they did, there's no more violence in their Holy Works than any other Mythology either (Horus chopped off Aset's, his mother, head, Set raped Horus, his nephew, etc).


What I find really interesting though is how many western sources and quotes he uses. I mean it's certainly nice and interesting to see western philosophers, poets, skeptics etc,. being engaged with... which makes me not want to write Swarup off. But, I think the central questions returns in who is he writing this for? The works presented rely heavily also on personal experiences... and although this can be a powerful tool for conveying messages, it can also be flawed because often personal experiences are not logical. If you try to say "Muslims are bad because I met a bad muslim"... well that statement doesn't stand against logic and is weak. I think this can be an interesting parralel with certain christian writers in america who also just similar techniques to convey a similar message of both justifying their own beliefs while defaming others... *coughts*Pat Robertson*cough*.

Again, QFT, some of Swarup writings are quite great and I can understand his criticism of Evangelical's, I feel that way too, but, he's not going to win any friends, by writing off all Christians or Muslims, like the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey, he should try and reach out to Christians and Muslims, so that they can fight against the Evangelicals (David Frawley doesn't seem to think reaching out will do any good, and says even Liberal Christians can't really be trusted).


Ofcourse they do. Although Swarup may not have been directly linked with major Nationalist Hindutva espousing groups... Hindu nationalism in general teaches this philosophy. I recently read a really powerful short called "Reaching Bombay Central," which, although is a story is a true depiction of Muslim life in India. In it, the main character talks about how when she was approaching a Polling station... she was reluctant to give her name because automatically she would have been identified as a Muslim. She is approached by two young men who have small red scarves around their necks. These two men are BJP party volunteers who are helping out at the polling station. So she give her name and for a split second the two men look at her, and then continue to help her... but the look, she describes, was that of shock and also distaste. It's a great read!

I might try and read that, it sounds quite cool, and that's horrible the way Hindu Nationalists are abusing their religion to treat Muslims so badly.


It's what they build their political base on, because otherwise if there was not conflict, they could not built support. Its a very common line, we see it with right wing Christian, Jewish and to some extent Secular groups. Any group that has held privilege and power in a society can easily come back and try to stop society from changing with the words: "we are in danger of disappearing."

QFT.


You touch on a few things here and I agree with you. But I would suggest that there are problems even in the ones you mentioned. Buddhism is a direct defiance against Brahmanical Hinduism and many of the concepts that Hinduism is founded upon. Gandhi was a great man, but he certainly had his issues and there is a lot of criticism of Gandhi on many levels (his view of the Dalits for example is always been a great thing, but when we look beneath he didn't want Dalit freedom, only tolerance of Dalits.) Ofcourse criticism and agreement can go both ways and anything can be criticized because nothing can be perfect.

I'll admit, I actually don't know too much about Ghandi, just the basics, so, I recognise that he had his faults, and, I wonder, if Buddhist objections to Hindu culture was brought up, would the Nationalists, like Swarup, and others, turn on Buddhists too?.



I've come to realize that a philosophy can be as perfect and as powerful as we make it. Humans can define how a religion or an idea is taken up. Being Hindu doesn't make one peaceful, anymore than being Muslim makes one a terrorist, or a Gay person a slut. Hinduism is taken up mostly to be peaceful... but one problem with Hinduism is that it is so large and with so many different beliefs all intermingled there is a lot. What I find interesting is how Hinduism is in area like Nepal, which has historically been connected with Buddhism. Ofcourse, Hindu Nationalism tires as best it can to take away the status of religion to Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains and redefine these religions as merely offbranches of Hinduism.

QFT, and I agree, I don't think someone is automatically peaceful 'cause they happen to be a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or whatever, it depends on a combination of factors. Also, thanks for telling me about what Hindu Nationalists try to do to other religions, like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, etc, and redefine them as only "branches" of Hinduism.

BenSt
June 27th, 2009, 01:05 AM
Just so I understand, the BJP are an Hindu Nationalist party, and that's really bad that they are trying to twist other religions, like Jainism and Sikhism into just being "different versions" of Hinduism, from what I've read of Sri Ram Swarup, it seems like he, and others, are trying to say that too, that Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are all different branches of Hinduism, and he seems to be saying how tolerant and accepting Hinduism is, compared to Christianity and Islam

Yes the Bharatiya Janata Part (BJP) (http://www.bjp.org/) is a right wing Nationalist party currently sitting in opposition in the Lok Sabha. They once held political office as majority at Country wide Government, and I believe they still hold majorities in several State governments but I could be wrong. I'm still trying to wrap my head around Indian politics, so I'm not sure of their full extent, but they are one of a group of political organizations that espouse Hindutva.

You're right, it IS bad... and it's a very common tactic of divide and conquer. By attempting to convince society that Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains are Hindus... they create a fundamentalness of what it is to be Indian. If you are not a Hindu (as defined by them including Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists) then you are not a true Indian and shouldn't have rights. While also simultaneously having the same affect of assimilation on Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. If you can convince everyone that these groups are Hindus, then socially they will be looked at as being eqaul. Ofcourse this is a dangerous because the special rights afforded to these groups by virtue of them being minority groups will be taken away... and thus you have assimilated a rival, special interest group both socially and politically.

If you look at their own description of what Hindutva is (http://www.bjp.org/content/view/2646/473/) you'll see that they define it not as a religious or theocratic way of life but as a cultural and social philosophy. But, the difficulty with saying that is that religion and social culture simply cannot be seperated in the South Asian context at all. Almost everything in general Hindu culture, if one can say there is a general Hindu culture, comes from religion or history based off of religion. Although by definition a theocracy is where a ruling Priesthood or religious leader is in control... many BJP members are themselves, Brahmins. And although they may not perform religious rites or teach religion as members of that Caste, they are still part of that upper class.l A very covert social aspect.



(I may be wrong on this, so, please correct me if I'm wrong, but, haven't there been conflicts between Buddhists and Hindus in the past, maybe not in the recent past, but, I'm sure I've heard Buddhist's have been persecuted by Hindu Kings),

Ofcourse, and Hindus have been persecuted by Buddhist Kings. Very little has happened in South Asia that could not be linked in some way to religion... but I think in those situations some of them were not religion focussed. Just like say, the crusades was not about Muslims vs. Christians, and more about political power of a strategic area of land (and the trade routes that came with it).



now, I know Hinduism can be quite accepting, and that's something I like about it, and I like Swamis like Swami Vivekananda (http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/complete_works.htm), Paramahansa Yogananda (http://www.yogananda-srf.org/), etc, but, I think what Swarup and others are doing is trying to make Hindu India out to be something "great" and a "Light for the world to copy", when, IMO, there are some good things about India, but, there are also bad things too (e.g. the caste system, the poverty you find in the major cities, etc), just like every culture and religion - there's good and bad, and, neither is better than another.


Well, there certainly are fundamentalist Hindus and moderate Hindus. Swamis who appear and are present in the west tend to be those religious leaders who were from more moderate traditions. You've got to remember that Hinduism is a religion of more than a billion people, and Dharmic religions in general constitute almost 2 Billion people in the world. Hinduism is also comprised of hundreds of different traditions and beliefs... and this all culminates into a social system that is sometimes very regionalized sometimes very generalized. But that being said, every major politician and patriot will do the same thing with their country. In every country you will have people trying to do that, and succeeding. The truth is, there are a lot of things about India that Indians have to be proud of. That being said, there are still a lot of things that can be done. But India is not a Hindu nation, and this is the major point. Although Hindus make up almost 90 percent of the population, if not more... India is a nation of different regions and all of these different regions are different and have different social systems. We have to also add modernity and the rise of capitalism and secularism into this mix until what we see emerge is a country and region that is composed of a multitude of different complex elements. As an insider, Swarup has the benefit of being brought up in that social complexity... and he is writing as a person who undoubtedly has social blinds on. Just as you and I are blind to social aspects of our culture. I mean British culture has a horrible tendency to produce some interesting characteristics (a British sense of humour being among them) that may not be seen as problematic to us but may to say a North American.



I don't know much about the media attention towards Muslims, have they tried to portray all Muslims as being terrorists or something?. I always thought Jews in India haven't faced any persecution, have groups like the BJP or others targetted Jews too?.

Well Jews are a very very very very small minority and they havn't faced as large a threat of persecution as other Jewish groups around the world, but certainly as non-Hindus they are probably looked down upon by followers of Hindutva. The question of Muslims and Islam in current day India is sensitive. In some areas Indian muslims are an accepted component of society. In another way, when looking at statistics they are horribly marginlized. Muslims tend not to get seats at nation wide universities or technical colleges, they are paid or have lower incomes than their Hindu counter parts, they have less political representation in both state and countrywide governments, and they also have a lot of stigmatations placed on them. For example, a friend of mine who lives in Dubai but her parents are from Mumbai said to me once that Indian girls know not to marry a Muslim guy, even if the parents allow it, because Muslim men will mistreat you. Now she certainly seemed to question this, but she also stated it as a fact. The reality is Muslims have been ever since partition looked down upon by elements of society, and there is undoubtedly a problem... but what that problem is still has yet to be determined. Racism and islamophobia is probably at the core, as well as a history of animosity (and the British raj element in here of playing off of the existing history to make it even worse). Before 1947, Hindus and Muslims lived in the same villages relatively peacefully. When partition hit and Pakistan and India were formed, animosity stirred or was just created and suddenly you have the situation of marginalization of Muslims in India. The question of what to do and how to approach the situation is on a lot of sociologists, political scientists and social workers in India right now.




I've read accounts of Evangelicals going into India, and I don't like their tactics and can agree with people who criticize them like Swarup, David Frawley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Frawley) (you can read another article by him on their converstion tactics (http://mail.sarai.net/pipermail/test1/2008-September/015272.html)), but, I'm sure it's not as one-sided as they make it out (e.g. the evil Christians going in to "reap and gather souls").


Well, Certain Christian groups go into many countries and provide social relief work in exchange for community conversion. I think that it is a problem because quite often these christian groups will play off of the ill affects of capitalism and entire small community culture is destroyed or lost, or worse fundamentalism grows and they do more harm than good. At the same time, freedom of religion must be respected... and so the argument can be made that an alternative religion is being offered. Its certainly a complex issue. But it should be noted that the major anti-conversion Laws introduced in India came from the BJP.



I haven't heard of the Dalits, but, I'm assuming they're seen as a "low caste", maybe people like the BJP, Frawley and others who criticise the Evangelical tactics and Hindus converting to Christianity should really focus their criticisms on the status quo, on working to eliminate the Caste system or, at the least, greatly reform it, so, that people who are oppressed don't feel the need to convert. One of the reasons why Christianity became greatly popular in the ancient world, like Rome, Egypt, and other places, was 'cause it offered hope to the poor, who were treated like shit (and, in Egypt, especially, people saw it as offering an afterlife which was quite similar to the ancient Egyptian one, but, free of Romans and taxes, from what I've read and been told by more knowledgable people, the Romans did treat the Egyptians like shit, and, while Alexandria may have been a melting pot and great capital, the rest of Egypt wasn't doing so great).


This is a good point, but I don't think they will. Caste is an interesting and weird part of Hinduism (and at the same time not a part of Hinduism at all). It's a social thing not a religious institution... and many people benefit on what caste brings. The BJP probably will not look at caste, because they are trying to defend the status quo. Secularism in India has tried to and at some point failed to eliminate caste discrimination. But think of it this way, if most of the party leaders are Kshatriya or Brahmin, then they are already on the top. They are not fighting to help, it could be argued that they are fighting to maintain their own powerbase and privelege base. Ofcourse the intricacies of caste is something that even I am trying to still discover. Caste is something that even if plans are made to eliminate it, there are so many people who want to keep it and reform it or keep it as part of it's tradition that it would get a lot of defense. At the same time it is also something that is so ingrained in society to the point that even the very last name that you have gives away what caste you belong to, and what subcaste. Its a very intricate and delivate thing because it's like a web connected to every other complex piece to the puzzle.

I'll give you another example. Gandhi and a man named Ambedkar. Now Gandhi was very pro-Dalits, to the point that he called them the Children of God. But he was reluctant to get rid of the entire system because his efforts were towards freeing India from colonial rule. Another man by the name of Ambedkar, who was dalit himself, suggested that the only way for a free and unified India was to get rid of the oppression of caste, in which Gandhi replied to him that a country that has no freedom cannot give freedom to another oppressed group. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism in a huge public ceremony in order to be freed from caste. Ambedkar was the man who eventually wrote the constitution of India, and one of Mahatma Gandhi's chief political critics. You can read more here, very interesting: http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/mmt/ambedkar/



That's what I didn't like, and, also, he seemed to say "we have to rescue Christian Mysticism and Sufism from Islam and Christianity", it's like he wants to take the positive things out of their religions, and doesn't want to enter into dialogue with Christianity or Islam.

I think it's blatantly clear that he doesn't want to enter into a dialogue with Islam or Christianity. Although I'm sure he would be polite and civil, his works don't make him seem to be a big fan of these two religions.



There's another article on the Voice of the Dharma site I linked too that I didn't like either, it's called 'Paki Come Home' (http://koenraadelst.voiceofdharma.com/articles/misc/PakiComeHome.html), which seems to be just be very racist, and it seems to confuse politics (the conflict between India and Pakistan) with religion, which, IMO, they should remain seperate.


They can't remain separate though. They just can't, because one of the main reasons that Partition was pushed for was because of religion. Pakistan as a purely Muslim state. Although it started out as a secular republic, it has become an Islamic republic. I think that the context of that history and the social web created by these two countries, religion cannot be taken and separated. Ofcourse, is it surprising that the article was blatantly racist?



QFT, and, also, if the Vedas are more authoritative than the Bible or Koran, why is that?, what makes the Vedas so special?, maybe Buddhist Scriptures can be considered greater and more Holy?.

Well, this is like Hinduism 101. It is greatly viewed generally as a foundational block connecting all Hindu darshanas. The Vedas are viewed to be, whether in practice or not, centrally authoritative. Just as the Koran is the final authoritative word of God on Earth. Most Hindus, whether they are religious or not, will agree with this.



I also like what Swami Vivekananda said about the Vedas (http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_1/vol_1_frame.htm):

To me, this seems to parallel the Jewish teaching of the Invisible Torah, which is something that all peoples have tapped into, he doesn't seem to be limiting the Vedas to some books that were written by people in India thousands of years ago, but, all Holy Works which were discovered by people in all lands, from the Jews, to Christians, Muslims, Ba'hai, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Jains, ancient Egyptians, Greeks, etc.


Ooo, I like that. We can see this parralel in south asia as well, as many times all religions have been shared and sacred knowledge been given. In Sikhism, the idea that earlier Sants like Ravidas and Kabir held Sikh beliefs or had ideas complementary to later Sikhism is kind of like this. I have heard this before about the Invisiable Torah, and it's fascinating!



Very true, many Christians, Jews, and Muslims don't take the stories literally, but, even if they did, there's no more violence in their Holy Works than any other Mythology either (Horus chopped off Aset's, his mother, head, Set raped Horus, his nephew, etc).

QFT. And I think that this can possibly go back to your mythology thread. The place of mythology can sometimes be seen literally, historically or metaphorically. By the sound of it, Swarup is using a literil interpretation of the story as some kind of proof of the wickedness of the Christian God.



Again, QFT, some of Swarup writings are quite great and I can understand his criticism of Evangelical's, I feel that way too, but, he's not going to win any friends, by writing off all Christians or Muslims, like the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey, he should try and reach out to Christians and Muslims, so that they can fight against the Evangelicals (David Frawley doesn't seem to think reaching out will do any good, and says even Liberal Christians can't really be trusted).

I don't think he wanted Christian or Muslim friends lol, and rememebr this comes back to who he is writing these books for. If he is writing this for primarily Hindu readers, then the existing ineqaulities or resentments will be used and played off of. The danger here is that these will interact with people's passions and feelings and twist them. Be very careful and critical of any fundamentalist or nationalist material and read between the lines... because often times linkages will be made between a special minority group, a social problem, and a feeling of powerlessness by the everyday citizen.



I might try and read that, it sounds quite cool, and that's horrible the way Hindu Nationalists are abusing their religion to treat Muslims so badly.

If you have a chance to study or look more into the issue, you'll understand why. I recently watched a program called 'Mad Cow, Sacred Cow" and it had to do with the origins of beef products and the increasing corporatization farming around the world... and there was a segment in India about a group of people who go and save Cows from being salughtered illegally, and an amazing analysis was done by several Indian social commentators about how this centre (who goes out and saves these cows) are funded by the BJP, and scapegoat Muslim 'meat eaters' as causing the issue...when India is one of the largest beef exporters in the world. here's the website, very good documentary! http://www.karmafilm.ca/mad-cow-sacred-cow/




I'll admit, I actually don't know too much about Ghandi, just the basics, so, I recognise that he had his faults, and, I wonder, if Buddhist objections to Hindu culture was brought up, would the Nationalists, like Swarup, and others, turn on Buddhists too?.

Well, I don't think it would make much difference. Buddhism has been around for 2000 years and has evolved from a reaction against Hinduism to being something entirely on it's own. That and the fact that Indian Buddhism is very very small, and the majority of Buddhists in India are actually from other places lol. But I don't think that it would serve their purposes, and I don't think that it really works that way. The reasons that Hindutva exists is to maintain the status quo of Hinduism and social spheres that are connected to it. After all, Hinduism is not just a religion... it's a culture. Buddhism has been a naturalized part of south asian culture for more than 2000 years... and it tolerates Hinduism, even syncretizes with it in some places. So I am reluctant to say what the BJP would do.



QFT, and I agree, I don't think someone is automatically peaceful 'cause they happen to be a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or whatever, it depends on a combination of factors. Also, thanks for telling me about what Hindu Nationalists try to do to other religions, like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, etc, and redefine them as only "branches" of Hinduism.

hehe you're very welcome, although I don't think it's something that is overtly stated. It really is something that is done through subtle and covert ways. I don't think that it's a plot, but more a mindset.

David19
June 27th, 2009, 08:16 PM
Yes the Bharatiya Janata Part (BJP) (http://www.bjp.org/) is a right wing Nationalist party currently sitting in opposition in the Lok Sabha. They once held political office as majority at Country wide Government, and I believe they still hold majorities in several State governments but I could be wrong. I'm still trying to wrap my head around Indian politics, so I'm not sure of their full extent, but they are one of a group of political organizations that espouse Hindutva.

Thanks for the info about them, since I don't know too much about them, can I just ask, do you think they could be compared to the BNP over here, or aren't they as bad as that?.


You're right, it IS bad... and it's a very common tactic of divide and conquer. By attempting to convince society that Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains are Hindus... they create a fundamentalness of what it is to be Indian. If you are not a Hindu (as defined by them including Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists) then you are not a true Indian and shouldn't have rights. While also simultaneously having the same affect of assimilation on Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. If you can convince everyone that these groups are Hindus, then socially they will be looked at as being eqaul. Ofcourse this is a dangerous because the special rights afforded to these groups by virtue of them being minority groups will be taken away... and thus you have assimilated a rival, special interest group both socially and politically.

That's also very dangerous, it creates a situation of us vs. them, meaning Muslims (and Christians), and, whenever rights are taken away from a minority group, it never works out well (think of what happened in Nazi Germany to the Jews, in Rwanda, what's happening in Darfur right now, or Tibet, etc).


If you look at their own description of what Hindutva is (http://www.bjp.org/content/view/2646/473/) you'll see that they define it not as a religious or theocratic way of life but as a cultural and social philosophy. But, the difficulty with saying that is that religion and social culture simply cannot be seperated in the South Asian context at all. Almost everything in general Hindu culture, if one can say there is a general Hindu culture, comes from religion or history based off of religion. Although by definition a theocracy is where a ruling Priesthood or religious leader is in control... many BJP members are themselves, Brahmins. And although they may not perform religious rites or teach religion as members of that Caste, they are still part of that upper class.l A very covert social aspect.

That's very convieniant for them!, so, are the BJP not really that religious?.




Ofcourse, and Hindus have been persecuted by Buddhist Kings. Very little has happened in South Asia that could not be linked in some way to religion... but I think in those situations some of them were not religion focussed. Just like say, the crusades was not about Muslims vs. Christians, and more about political power of a strategic area of land (and the trade routes that came with it).

That's what I've heard too, although I don't think there's been any conflict between the 2 groups for quite awhile, though (have there?, Buddhist and Hindu history is definitely not my strongpoint).


Well, there certainly are fundamentalist Hindus and moderate Hindus. Swamis who appear and are present in the west tend to be those religious leaders who were from more moderate traditions. You've got to remember that Hinduism is a religion of more than a billion people, and Dharmic religions in general constitute almost 2 Billion people in the world. Hinduism is also comprised of hundreds of different traditions and beliefs... and this all culminates into a social system that is sometimes very regionalized sometimes very generalized. But that being said, every major politician and patriot will do the same thing with their country. In every country you will have people trying to do that, and succeeding. The truth is, there are a lot of things about India that Indians have to be proud of. That being said, there are still a lot of things that can be done. But India is not a Hindu nation, and this is the major point. Although Hindus make up almost 90 percent of the population, if not more... India is a nation of different regions and all of these different regions are different and have different social systems. We have to also add modernity and the rise of capitalism and secularism into this mix until what we see emerge is a country and region that is composed of a multitude of different complex elements. As an insider, Swarup has the benefit of being brought up in that social complexity... and he is writing as a person who undoubtedly has social blinds on. Just as you and I are blind to social aspects of our culture. I mean British culture has a horrible tendency to produce some interesting characteristics (a British sense of humour being among them) that may not be seen as problematic to us but may to say a North American.

True, and I understand that there are billions of Hindus in India (not to mention the world), so, I understand there will be different perspectives, I can understand why Swarup might be more hostile, he seems to be influenced by more nationalistic tendancies, and fighting against colonialism or post-colonialism, and I can understand his POV, I can understand why he might feel the need to save Hindu culture, and why he's proud of a lot of things, there's a lot, like you said, to be proud of, but, I just don't like the way he goes about it, like the way Muslims, Christians, etc get treated.


Well Jews are a very very very very small minority and they havn't faced as large a threat of persecution as other Jewish groups around the world, but certainly as non-Hindus they are probably looked down upon by followers of Hindutva. The question of Muslims and Islam in current day India is sensitive. In some areas Indian muslims are an accepted component of society. In another way, when looking at statistics they are horribly marginlized. Muslims tend not to get seats at nation wide universities or technical colleges, they are paid or have lower incomes than their Hindu counter parts, they have less political representation in both state and countrywide governments, and they also have a lot of stigmatations placed on them. For example, a friend of mine who lives in Dubai but her parents are from Mumbai said to me once that Indian girls know not to marry a Muslim guy, even if the parents allow it, because Muslim men will mistreat you. Now she certainly seemed to question this, but she also stated it as a fact. The reality is Muslims have been ever since partition looked down upon by elements of society, and there is undoubtedly a problem... but what that problem is still has yet to be determined. Racism and islamophobia is probably at the core, as well as a history of animosity (and the British raj element in here of playing off of the existing history to make it even worse). Before 1947, Hindus and Muslims lived in the same villages relatively peacefully. When partition hit and Pakistan and India were formed, animosity stirred or was just created and suddenly you have the situation of marginalization of Muslims in India. The question of what to do and how to approach the situation is on a lot of sociologists, political scientists and social workers in India right now.

Again, thanks for the info, so, do followers of the Hindutva movement look down upon all non-Hindu or Hindu-derived religions (e.g. would they look down upon Western religions such as Wicca and other religions, as well as other Eastern religions, like Taoism/Daoism?). Also, do you know how Zoroastrians are seen?, I know that India is where a lot of Zoroastrian's live now after they fled Iran/Persia, but, would they be looked down upon or are they seen in a similar manner to Jews (maybe looked down upon, but, not as much as a "threat" as Muslims)?.

Personally, I hope something can be done to end the conflict between the 2 groups, I think it was Garm (a fellow MW member) who mentioned in a thread that the conflict between Pakistan and India is actually quite a bit worse than the Israel/Palestinian conflict.



Well, Certain Christian groups go into many countries and provide social relief work in exchange for community conversion. I think that it is a problem because quite often these christian groups will play off of the ill affects of capitalism and entire small community culture is destroyed or lost, or worse fundamentalism grows and they do more harm than good. At the same time, freedom of religion must be respected... and so the argument can be made that an alternative religion is being offered. Its certainly a complex issue. But it should be noted that the major anti-conversion Laws introduced in India came from the BJP.

Does that mean the BJP forbid conversion to other religions?, or that other religions aren't allowed to seek converts in India?.


This is a good point, but I don't think they will. Caste is an interesting and weird part of Hinduism (and at the same time not a part of Hinduism at all). It's a social thing not a religious institution... and many people benefit on what caste brings. The BJP probably will not look at caste, because they are trying to defend the status quo. Secularism in India has tried to and at some point failed to eliminate caste discrimination. But think of it this way, if most of the party leaders are Kshatriya or Brahmin, then they are already on the top. They are not fighting to help, it could be argued that they are fighting to maintain their own powerbase and privelege base. Ofcourse the intricacies of caste is something that even I am trying to still discover. Caste is something that even if plans are made to eliminate it, there are so many people who want to keep it and reform it or keep it as part of it's tradition that it would get a lot of defense. At the same time it is also something that is so ingrained in society to the point that even the very last name that you have gives away what caste you belong to, and what subcaste. Its a very intricate and delivate thing because it's like a web connected to every other complex piece to the puzzle.

The Caste system is something I don't understand at all, but, I'd like to learn, I can get how it's really ingrained into society and the psyches of people, that many people would fight to defend and keep it, although, I'm still not sure I agree with it (are there any positive aspects that have come about 'cause of it?).

I think one of the things I like about Buddhism, and The Buddha, is that it's/he's anti-Caste.



I'll give you another example. Gandhi and a man named Ambedkar. Now Gandhi was very pro-Dalits, to the point that he called them the Children of God. But he was reluctant to get rid of the entire system because his efforts were towards freeing India from colonial rule. Another man by the name of Ambedkar, who was dalit himself, suggested that the only way for a free and unified India was to get rid of the oppression of caste, in which Gandhi replied to him that a country that has no freedom cannot give freedom to another oppressed group. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism in a huge public ceremony in order to be freed from caste. Ambedkar was the man who eventually wrote the constitution of India, and one of Mahatma Gandhi's chief political critics. You can read more here, very interesting: http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/mmt/ambedkar/

Thanks for the link, it definitely looks very informative and thanks for the info about Ambedkar, like I told you, I don't know too much about Ghandi's life.


I think it's blatantly clear that he doesn't want to enter into a dialogue with Islam or Christianity. Although I'm sure he would be polite and civil, his works don't make him seem to be a big fan of these two religions.

True, unfortunately, personally, I think Swarup and others could learn/learnt (as Swarup is dead now, I believe) a lot from like Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda. I think religious dialogue can help solve more problems than simply demonizing them.


They can't remain separate though. They just can't, because one of the main reasons that Partition was pushed for was because of religion. Pakistan as a purely Muslim state. Although it started out as a secular republic, it has become an Islamic republic. I think that the context of that history and the social web created by these two countries, religion cannot be taken and separated. Ofcourse, is it surprising that the article was blatantly racist?

That's what I'm beginning to understand. I wonder where all the hatred started, I mean, have there been tensions between Muslims and Hindus since Muslims first arrived, or just since colonial times?.


Well, this is like Hinduism 101. It is greatly viewed generally as a foundational block connecting all Hindu darshanas. The Vedas are viewed to be, whether in practice or not, centrally authoritative. Just as the Koran is the final authoritative word of God on Earth. Most Hindus, whether they are religious or not, will agree with this.

Thanks for explaining that to me :).


Ooo, I like that. We can see this parralel in south asia as well, as many times all religions have been shared and sacred knowledge been given. In Sikhism, the idea that earlier Sants like Ravidas and Kabir held Sikh beliefs or had ideas complementary to later Sikhism is kind of like this. I have heard this before about the Invisiable Torah, and it's fascinating!

No problem, and it is a fascinating and quite cool idea, IMO.


QFT. And I think that this can possibly go back to your mythology thread. The place of mythology can sometimes be seen literally, historically or metaphorically. By the sound of it, Swarup is using a literil interpretation of the story as some kind of proof of the wickedness of the Christian God.

True, it probably fits his agenda, BTW, how do Hindus interpet their Myths, like, for example, with the Myths where Kali (I think it's Kali anyway?) slays demons and demon armies, how would that be seen, would it be seen as, sometime, in the distant past that did actually happen, or would it be seen more metaphorically/symbolically/allegorically or it took place, but in some other dimension, or some combination of all or more options?.


I don't think he wanted Christian or Muslim friends lol, and rememebr this comes back to who he is writing these books for. If he is writing this for primarily Hindu readers, then the existing ineqaulities or resentments will be used and played off of. The danger here is that these will interact with people's passions and feelings and twist them. Be very careful and critical of any fundamentalist or nationalist material and read between the lines... because often times linkages will be made between a special minority group, a social problem, and a feeling of powerlessness by the everyday citizen.

True, and I will definitely keep that advice in mind.


If you have a chance to study or look more into the issue, you'll understand why. I recently watched a program called 'Mad Cow, Sacred Cow" and it had to do with the origins of beef products and the increasing corporatization farming around the world... and there was a segment in India about a group of people who go and save Cows from being salughtered illegally, and an amazing analysis was done by several Indian social commentators about how this centre (who goes out and saves these cows) are funded by the BJP, and scapegoat Muslim 'meat eaters' as causing the issue...when India is one of the largest beef exporters in the world. here's the website, very good documentary! http://www.karmafilm.ca/mad-cow-sacred-cow/

That movie sounds quite interesting, I might have to check it out sometime, thanks for telling me about it :).



Well, I don't think it would make much difference. Buddhism has been around for 2000 years and has evolved from a reaction against Hinduism to being something entirely on it's own. That and the fact that Indian Buddhism is very very small, and the majority of Buddhists in India are actually from other places lol. But I don't think that it would serve their purposes, and I don't think that it really works that way. The reasons that Hindutva exists is to maintain the status quo of Hinduism and social spheres that are connected to it. After all, Hinduism is not just a religion... it's a culture. Buddhism has been a naturalized part of south asian culture for more than 2000 years... and it tolerates Hinduism, even syncretizes with it in some places. So I am reluctant to say what the BJP would do.

So, Hindutva wouldn't go after Buddhism, if Buddhists started to criticize Hinduism, 'cause it's seen as part of Hinduism?, so, Hindutva is more interested in only targetting foreign (or those seen as foreign) religions and cultures (such as Christianity, Islam, etc)?.



hehe you're very welcome, although I don't think it's something that is overtly stated. It really is something that is done through subtle and covert ways. I don't think that it's a plot, but more a mindset.

Thanks, and, just another question, if you know the answer, but, are the BJP still popular in India today?, or, are Hindu Indian's turning away from them? (I have no knowledge, or very, very little knowledge of Indian politics).