Friday, 04/15/16 – JFH attends a special talk by pro-Hindu scholar Rajiv Malhotra at Columbia University. The event was hosted by the Hindu charity organization Sewa International as well as the Hindu Students Council. The talk highlighted the general issues which can be found throughout Malhotra’s books, such as his newly released “Battle For Sanskrit” which focuses on the movements by Western and Leftist academics to de-link the Sanskrit language from Hindu spirituality while simultaneously attempting to paint Sanskrit as a language of social oppression.
Malhotra began his discussion by citing the tendency of major universities to boil Hindu studies down to “caste, cows and curry”, propagating stereotypes and misrepresenting the extremely pluralistic faith. According to Malhotra, the West/Left uses the genre of “atrocity literature” to demonize other cultures, religions and races so as to justify intervention. This atrocity literature technique was used against the natives of the Americas, the animists of Africa and is now being used against Hindus.
Malhotra’s Infinity Foundation has made several attempts to work with universities in the United States to create a more balanced and inclusive study of Hinduism, but these attempts and even six figure grants have been routinely rejected. Because of the hostility found within academia against Hinduism, Malhotra has taken his battle outside the establishment. Malhotra began his struggle to change how Hinduism is taught in academia beginning in the 1990’s when he and his group began activist work to rectify misconceptions and/or a general lack of information about Hinduism in school textbooks.
Malhota discussed issues facing Hindus outside of schools and universities as well, such as the misappropriation of yoga. Westerners often like to practice yoga and even read yoga texts, but rarely do they give credit to the original source, Hinduism. Some have even gone so far as to repackage yoga as “Christian Yoga” or “Secular Yoga” and re-import these manufactured movement back into India or other areas to compete with traditional Hinduism. This is an example of what Malhotra calls “digestion”, the breaking down of Hinduism into its components and assimilating them into a host culture, strengthening the host while weakening Hinduism.
Malhotra explained that Western attacks on Hinduism are nothing new and began in the British colonial era. Starting in the 1600’s and lasting until the mid 20th century, the British had two main lenses by which they viewed India and Hinduism. The first was the lense of evangelism, the systematic breaking down and categorizing Hinduism along its socio-religious components (texts, places of worship, customs) so that the religion could be effectively countered and replaced with Christianity. The second lense was that of mercantilism, the analysis of Hindu society so that it could be cultivated and refined for financial and cultural exploitation. Evangelical and mercantile subversion of Hindu society served as the informant for similar practices happening today.
While Malhotra believes that the evangelical and mercantile abrogation of Hinduism continues, they are now accompanied by the new critical lense of Marxism which did not rise until the late 1800’s. Marxists today has found new ways to infiltrate and disintegrate Hindus society by trying to pigeonhole Hinduism as being inherently “right-wing”, elitist, sexist ect. Marxists tend to only focus on certain strains of the pluralistic faith which they believe will fit their narrative of Hinduism being “oppressive”, while ignoring the more egalitarian “Bhakit Movements” and the goddess worship found in Shaktism. While many leftists and western academics are concerned about overgeneralizing Islam and “Islamophobia”, they have no such conscious about demonizing Hinduism and engaging in Hinduphobia, failing to notice the breadth, diversity and historical examples of the faith.
Malhotra stated that it is his hope that Hindus will not only find a way to change academic discourse on Hinduism, but also create Hindu media and news outlets which can provide a proper perspective on these issues with an air of respectability. What is needed is Hindu think tanks and news organization which can draw from the best Hindus have to offer in scholarship, public relations and technical expertise. The defense and rise of Hinduism can only come from outside the established powers, it cannot be done from within.