Last weekend I attended a 2-day conference titled Dharma & Ethics – VIII: Revisiting Swami Vivekananda. It was conducted by Prof S . N. Balagangadhara’s research group at Alva’s Engineering College, Mudabidri, Karnataka. I presented a paper titled Swami Vivekananda’s Ideas on Hindu Reform. It’s been available for free download on this site for years now: just check the right sidebar. I believe we’ll have a video of my presentation soon.
You probably know that I’ve previously criticized some of the output coming out of this group, including Prof. Balu’s thesis that there’s no religion in India. So what’s going on?
Just this: I read his Heathen in His Blindness with a keen eye, I realized that he has hit upon a goldmine inasmuch as the social sciences are concerned. The book sheds a lot of light on how cultural differences played out when the Europeans set foot on India. Specifically, I agree with Balu, now, that there’s no religion in India and that Hinduism cannot be called a religion.
This doesn’t mean I agree with everything the group has published or publishes. Wholesale agreeing or disagreeing is for the weak of mind. (The conference itself proved that this group is actually quite heterogeneous. It agrees on some things and disagrees on some. For those who can’t wait to hear, I think it can be safely stated that most of the papers presented in the conference were critical of Vivekananda. I didn’t see any of the usual mindless prostration.)
I have a long list of discussions and arguments I’ve had over several years with the people in Balu’s group, including Prof. Rajaram Hegde of Kuvempu University.
At one point of time, I had pointed out an error in Prof Hegde’s reading of the Apashudradhikarana section of the Brahma Sutras, specifically in the commentary by Adi Shankara. This was on nilume.net – a site which I painfully decided to stop contributing to after being ill-treated for speaking the truth.
However, the episode only brought me closer to Prof. Hegde who actually agreed with me and like a true seeker of truth, told me that he stands corrected. I met him twice afterwards, including at last weekend’s conference. I was there because of him.
It’s not just nilume.net that I ‘quit’. I also quit the group’s email discussion group on yahoo, again because actual discussion had slowly become impossible. But then I met the members of the group in real life last week: Prof. Shanmukha, Dunkin Jalki, Marianne Keppens, Prof. Jakob de Roover, etc., etc.. The experience was totally different. Actual discussions happened, and I’m glad I went to the conference.
When I wrote my book, The Pyramid of Corruption, I hadn’t read Balu. Therefore, I do call Hinduism a religion in it – like everyone else. However, I do add the following qualifier:
[S]ome people question whether there is any single entity called Hinduism at all, but I use the word as a collective noun for all the religious systems that have taken birth on the Indian subcontinent.
I criticize the caste angle to this Hinduism, and I continue to do so. Balu has unleashed a storm by showing that this Hinduism is different from what the Europeans called as Hinduism. Most people have the European definition in mind, and that’s what makes Balu’s thesis very important.
In any case, as a result of what I’ve learnt from Balu, I’m willing to remove all references to “Hinduism” and “religion” in my book. That will take away nothing from my thesis. My criticism of caste will remain, and so will the idea of the pyramid of corruption. What will go away is any suggestion (I can’t recall any) that the pyramid is deified by a nonexistent religion. In fact, I’ve explicitly stated that the pyramid wasn’t a proactive creation:
I don’t want to give the impression that the Aryan Pyramid of corruption was a perfectly executed ‘project’ with some sort of strict central control.
In the words of Balu’s group, the words “with some sort of strict central control” would change to “with religious sanction”. Balu points at the absence of this central control, more specifically via a “holy book”, when he says there’s no religion in India.
My book remains as relevant as before, but I’m willing to rewrite it in the new language I’ve learnt from Balu. I’m saying “willing to rewrite” because I no longer want to proactively go out and publish it myself. As the dismal sales of my book have proved, and as the drop in hits to this website have proved, I don’t think anyone has time for philosophical matters affecting society. There’s no time left after going through all the bullshit pouring into newsfeeds.
Besides, The Truth is not something I’m willing – any longer – to try and insert into newsfeeds or even the old-school email inbox. While I’ve already stopped broadcasting on facebook and twitter because of the low return on investment and high pain, even emails have proved equally useless. 80% of people who got this essay in their inboxes didn’t even open the email. Most of those who opened it didn’t care to read even the first paragraph fully. If you’ve read every sentence till here, you belong to a statistically insignificant group. Most who read this just jumped to this paragraph without reading in sequence (like reading should be).
So why not just keep The Truth to myself, maybe just murmur it to myself here on the website? Shouldn’t the thirsty should go to the well, like I went to the conference? Vice versa is a waste of time and energy, useless. So if at all I have something to say, I’ll say it on my website and be done with it. I’m stopping all sorts of distribution right away.