By Harmeet Singh
In his book, Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism, Rajiv Malhotra attempts to “rebut” Western Universalism — the view that all societies should adopt western values — by arguing that the moral truths of west can’t be used for moral assessment of “Indian Civilization” which is based on the divine and sacred principles of “Dharma” beyond West’s moral discernment. Dharma, according to author is too sacred to be translated or defined as such.
The “Dharmic Civilization” of India as such exists beyond the morality of mankind. In his approach, the author provides cosmological sanctity to India in which India becomes a cosmic order of Universe — the one in which cosmos is working towards maintaining India in its natural sacredness beyond the disapproval of rationality, history, science and morality. Malhotra therefore, concludes “Indian civilization” is in an “integral unity” with cosmos and itself while the West in absence of this divine connection exists in “synthetic unity.”
The description of a civilization completely escapes the chapters of the book. Did it not make proper sense to the author to define what a civilization is while comparing two civilizations — to see if the comparison is valid? The more the author transgresses reason and facts and the more internal contradictions he creates, the more sacred India becomes.
The moral truths that a civilization is an institution of humanity (and not of cosmos) based on moral worth of mankind in equality, freedom and justice are entirely annihilated in the cosmological “Dharmic Civilization”.
Under this cosmo-centric approach, the author’s pandering against the western philosophy is an uncredible attack. In addressing the “stereotypes” by the West against Hindus being morally neutral, nowhere the author credibly shows the reader the moral system of Hinduism and in fact denies connection of “Hindu morality” with reason. The author’s depiction of the West as racist and imperialistic is stereotypical. In doing so, he himself does the same he accuses the West of doing. This is hypocrisy and deceit but this is what it seems to make sense to the author.
Readers can infer that no sooner the mythical assumption of author land him in fundamental conflict with facts that India itself is a creation of Western Imperialism and not of God or Cosmos, the author doesn’t consider it necessary to explain his own internal contradictions.
Since the author calls this elusive approach “Purva Paksha” or reversing the gaze, it turns out to be really reversing of the truth.
“Purva Paksha”, the author describes is an approach to rebut “an opponent” in order to establish one’s own view point. The approach is seriously flawed as author seeks to disprove “an opponent” simply on the assumption that his own view is disprovable.
Through this elusive approach, the author provides Hindu India a divine security against moral disapproval of history. It doesn’t become too far for a reader to conclude that the “opponent” in the case of a “Purva Paksha” is not just the West but morality and reason that needs to be annihilated in order to establish the Dharma.
It is worth mentioning that author quite elaborately mentions that in Hinduism moral compliance to reason is not required. Hinduism therefore, allows moral flexibility for the spiritual growth of a Hindu. In “reversing the gaze”, reversing the
morality of mankind becomes a sacred act.
The author as such restores to bland assertions, contrasting symbolism, anecdotes, internal contradictions, metaphors and mythical contrasts to conceal distortion and depict Western philosophy in these stereotypes. The unpalatable terminologies and sacred word salad used for this psychological manipulation in book leaves away one with a feeling of swallowing onto something which is not present in mouth.
The author’s subversion against science and reason on claims of attaining the spiritual wisdom is pathological and disturbing.
In describing the “Hindu cosmology”, Mr. Malhotra calls the spiritual system of Hinduism as “inner sciences” and claims that the knowledge gained as such through these “inner-sciences” becomes “embodied-knowledge” which is beyond the rational and objective verification. Interestingly, at the same time also he claims that these “inner sciences” are empirical because they are experienced by the Yogis and Tantrics, however he provides no evidence for their empiricism whatsoever.
The book is ridden with glaring internal contradictions and more the author contradicts science and rationality the more sacredness he achieves. However, having contradictions is not a concern for Mr. Malhotra, because a Hindu according to the book doesn’t need rational, objective or moral explanations in order claim “ultimate truth” and “oneness.”
According to the author, since the whole world is functioning in cosmological sanctimoniousness of “oneness” to a Hindu; there can be be no conflict between Dharma and Science and therefore, Yoga is a Science. Mr. Malhotra’s compulsive attempt to claim the spiritual practices of Hinduism as Science on basis of cosmological sanctimoniousness of Hindus and Hinduism is not just fallacious but chronically pathological.
According to the author, the West due to the absence of these “inner sciences”, “embodied-knowledge” and presence of outwardly pursuit for fulfillment with need of “order” has restored to aggressive projects of Domination.
According to author, since the time of Platonic order of forms, West has inextricably linked truth, beauty and goodness to order not only to define racial and ethnic typologies but also to create a world order. A Hindu on the other hand stays in comfort in disorder, according to the author. Disorder to a Hindu is not subjected to the moral assessment of truth, beauty and goodness.
The author writes:
“Chaos is entrenched in the Vedas, the Puranas and Hinduism in general for a reason: its role is to counterbalance and dilute any absolutist tendencies as well as provide creative dynamism through ambiguity and uncertainty” (Chapter 4).
The question that aptly needs to be asked is if disorder and chaos evoke “creative tendencies” in a Hindu then isn’t it also true that chaos in a Hindu mind evokes the creative comfort? And, the more chaotic and disordered a Hindu is, the more he is counterbalanced?
In undermining reason, the author writes:
“Unlike Western philosophy, which deploys reason without demanding any inner transformation of consciousness through yoga or meditation, Indian philosophical systems are inextricably interwoven with adhyatmika practice.” (Chapter 2)
A reader may be knocked out in listening to sacred word salad like “inner transformation of consciousness” with “adhyatmika practice” that make no scientific sense but from what it seems clear, the inner transformation of consciousness of a Hindu mind happens by overcoming his own moral ability to reason as a practice to reach “ultimate truth”.
With the “embodied-knowledge’, a Hindu can transgress all Laws including the Law of Excluded Middle and is therefore encouraged to have contradictory experience to obtain “ultimate truth”.
Hinduism as such increases the spiritual flexibility of an individual, according to the author, whereas, reason becomes unpalatable to the spirituality a Hindu.
The book is further riddled with Aryanized view of Sanskrit. Sanskrit, according to author is a sacred language and not only carries varying meanings beyond Western morality but also represents “cosmic pulse” — something which is missing in western lexicon. Sanskrit, according to author is in-translatable and its translation or even conceptualization of its constructs violates the sacredness of Sanskrit.
The Hindu construct of “Dharma” according to the author therefore, can’t be assessed with any moral and ethical standards. However, are these “divine attributes” beyond the facts about Sanskrit?
The author fails to disclose if the experience present in Sanskrit is verified, let alone validated because of its in-existence as a spoken language in history. It further being a fact that without ever been a spoken language, Sanskrit has remained morally and verbally handicapped to express reason and conceptualization making moral and empirical translability of human experience being universal aspect of humanity completely absent in Sanskrit- which is attributed as divine characteristic of Sanskrit.
This is precisely why Hindu constructs can’t be conceptualized or de-mythologized — and hardly because of divine attributions — as they exist in an pre-conceptualized state of mind without ever becoming a moral or verbal discipline, which as the author would agree is anathema to Hindus but still valid for spirituality of a Hindu.
In order to protect sacred integrity of Sanskrit, the author purposes stopping the “digestion” of Sanskrit through its conceptualization or translation by importing the words of Sanskrit “as such” in the western lexicon for the cultural development of the West.
This is impossible. Apart from Sanskrit being unswallowable and inedible for human “digestion”, this suggestion is fundamentally incompatible.
An amphibian characteristic can’t be joined with a human.
Caste: The Hindu Blood Order
Strikingly, the author who is an upper-caste Hindu nowhere in the book tells readers about the order of society in India which is essential for comparison any two civilizations. The reality of Hindu society governed by Caste has been completely concealed in which roughly 80% of Indians living in perpetual slavery of Hinduism are just riding their “cycles of birth and death” to pay off the debt of Karma.
In providing the Hindu caste the sacredness, the author states that the Hindu Varna system despite the fact having the Blood Determination in it cannot be translated as caste system on basis of Sanskrit’s cosmic sanctimoniousness.
The book thus becomes a burgeoning attempt of modern Hinduism to collude perverse intellectual and amoral legitimacy with its Blood order of society. Whereas, the response of modern revival of Islam against Western Universalism has been primarily towards re-establishment of Islamic institutions that primarily includes Ummah, Caliphate and Sharia in order to increase the community feeling and to restore the Islamic order of society, the response of modern Hinduism has been no different in its kind which is to subjugate everything under its sacred Hindu blood hierarchy.
With Hinduism as bio-centric religion subversion against science and rationality becomes a sacred Hindu practice for maintaining the “cosmological integrity” and “order” of Hindu India. The repression over non-Hindus and lower-castes in India too becomes a sacred act for maintaining the cosmological integrity of Hindu India. This is what is exactly seems in book in case of author’s presentation of Sikhism. The caste-free Sikhism defining the moral worth of man in equality is subverted with caste-ridden Hinduism to create the “ultimate truth”.
Contrary to Hinduism, the West is based on moral worth of an individual and reason. Therefore, rationality can question the West however; this is not true in case of Hindu India which can’t be questioned by rationality or reason or disapproval of history.
A westerner is free to condemn or break away from the Biblical spirituality or “Western Imperialism” as such without any moral or cosmological impediment. This is not true in case of a Hindu. A Hindu doesn’t has the moral will to deny the imposed spirituality of cosmological fatalism in which he was born into and be free from it. A Hindu is deprived of his own moral worth which is to be determined by the cosmocentric caste system. An Untouchable(Pariah) born in slavery of Hinduism has no free will to break away from enslavement of upper-castes regardless of whether he becomes a Doctor, President or even a “Westerner” — an Untouchable remains an Untouchable in Hinduism. The “ultimate truth” thus being that the moral will of Man MUST be subjugated to maintain the cosmologically integrated blood-hierarchy becoming “oneness”.
With the absence of ideas of justice, human equality, humanity, freedom, rationality and human rights in “cosmic oneness” (let alone words),a genuine civilization with the moral worth of man in fact becomes a threat to the spirituality of Hinduism and therefore must be subverted or to put in author’s words “creatively integrated into Hinduism”.
All humanity including politics, philosophy, sciences, reason including individual moral worth and moral rationality under modern Hinduism, therefore is subjugated to reflect an “integral unity” with its “oneness” nurturing its cosmological blood hierarchy.
In its most cynical and misanthropic form, the moral underdevelopment of the Hindu society ridden with “souls” paying their debt of Karma and others reaping rewards of Karma as the Upper-castes, the resurgent mass violence, social contradictions, blood-ridden inequality and complete degradation of human life become a “cosmological union” providing comfort to a Hindu.
The thought of fairness, equality and justice therefore, evoke a riled disturbance to a Hindu mind- who on the path to gain spiritual consciousness considers them as spiritual impediments. A caste Hindu is not only absolved from reason or morality; he is MUST transgress them to attain spiritual wisdom. A Hindu therefore, receives inherent comfort in creating morally transgressent institutions like Caste that for him define his cosmological essence with divine. A caste society is a necessary connection with cosmos for the sustenance of salvation of a Hindu.
In his quest for spiritual attainment, a Hindu transgressing humanity and its “moral impediments”, therefore achieves moral immunity. Without any moral impediment to reason, a Hindu has the cosmological sanctity to subjugate moral rationality and moral worth of man. This can be verified from the Hindu scriptures itself. Hindu scriptures provide moral immunity to inflict heinous cruelty on others to gain spiritual strength. Thus, even the experience of raping a woman becomes a sacred spiritual experience of gaining strength for a Hindu as mentioned in the Brhadarankyaka Upanishad:
“Surely, a woman who has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period is the most auspicious of women. When she has changed her clothes at the end of her menstrual period, therefore, one should approach that splendid woman and invite her to have sex. Should she refuse to consent, he should bribe her. If she still refuses, he should beat her with a stick or with his fists and overpower her, saying: “I take away the splendor from you with my virility and splendor”. (Brhadarankyaka Upanishad 6.4.9,21)
The more a Hindu has the right to transgress humanity, the more united he seems to be with the cosmos and more sacred he becomes. As also seen in perfect example of Gandhi who forced his own nieces to sleep naked with him to test his own sexual strength became more spiritual and sacred. The promotion of slaughter of Blacks and racism in Africa by Gandhi makes him even more “Mahatma” with more sacred accomplishments transgressing morality.
With the Gandhian ideal of “Ahimsa” being morally immune to rationality, the more Hindu India achieves moral immunity by transgressing morality with mass violence and ongoing massacres against millions, the more sacred India becomes to a Hindu.
This article has been slightly revised and updated by the author. This article was submitted by the author, and as such the opinions expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author.
Harmeet Singh is a Scientist and resides in Chicago, IL