The strategic objective of a growing segment of Western scholars, an objective that is usually not stated explicitly, is to show that classical Indian traditions lack coherence. The key word here is COHERENCE. Lacking coherence means there cannot be a legitimate civilization built on such a foundation. This is achieved in many ways by many scholars, including:
“There is no such thing as Hinduism. This was a modern construction by Brahmins as part of nationalism against the British.” This is a very common genre – starting with Brian Penington’s book “Was Hinduism Invented?” Peninngton will be one of three speakers at this years AAR in Chicago in a special panel to discuss BEING DIFFERENT. In the name of “diversity of dharma”, what many scholars are selling is the incoherence of dharma. They do it in such a manner that many Hindus find it to be a complement, failing to read between the lines. The goal is to emphasize how one dharma system refutes another, how one caste fights another, how one social organization commits violence against another. This internal fragmentation is emphasized as endemic and inherent in dharma, not as something caused by historical events that had nothing to do with dharma. Those who demonstrate the unity of dharma are accused of constructing homogeneity. Hence, they are totalitarian and this gets conflated with modern social violence as something they cause.My purpose in starting this thread is to educate the folks at a level deeper than what meets the eye. This particular western scholar might be a small fry today, but his candidness in speaking out is revealing (and hence useful in debate), whereas the more experienced ones are far more sly and can (and do) fool our people. Even in dealing with this scholar, I am told that the Sanskrit folks at JNU have no clue how to respond intelligently. Some go bombastic and emotional – an instant checkmate, and a bad example to students in class. Others join such incoherence theories, seeing some weird glory in them. Yet others prefer to tune out because they lack the skills of purva paksha of the West.
I have been through numerous such encounters for 20 years or longer. BD’s strategy was designed based on those encounters. Even those westerners who do lip service to the idea of reversing the gaze cannot tolerate it beyond a point. (There are some exceptions I know.)
The reason is that in BD the West is shown to lack coherence. It is a synthetic construct, the result of centuries of violence against others and digestion of others. It also shows that digestion is the process by which the west establishes its own coherence and simultaneously dismantles the coherence of its prey. So the civilizational discourse thus far has often been a war to establish which side is coherent and which side is not. My thesis is seen as outrageous and dangerous to Western Universalism. It has to be attacked.
Such attacks will come from some persons. But there are also many other Westerners who agree with BD’s approach and see it as taking the debate further than ever before on Indian terms. On the other hand, I constantly face Westernized Indian elites (including many who are very Hindu in their personal lives) who debate me from the Western camp. So stage-5 of the UTurn – in which WU gets re-exported back to India and planted there as the gospel truth – has been very successful.
Stay tuned. It is going to get more interesting…..
~ Rajiv Malhotra, Author of Breaking India & Being Different