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Musings on Rajiv Malhotra’s THE BATTLE FOR SANSKRIT. Part 4: FAQ

A few observations.

  1. What is wrong with the picture of a professor at XYZ university, apparently well-read and even literate in Sanskrit albeit clueless in Samskrtam, Samskaram and Sanskriti, and his South Asia gang of Euro-Indologists, all using their pompously-titled positions to inter(fer/ven)e in Indian politics and society to Improve The Lot Of Women and Dalits, and Protect Them From the Domineering Hindu Right?

It is silly, for starters. The whole stereotype of Phineas Fogg (the Bilayati playboy of “Around the World in 80 Days” fame) rushing in with his walking stick to chase away dem savages and rescue the lovely Princess from the Hindoo evil of Sati, said Princess then becoming his Loyal Slave, no doubt appeals to Americans, Englanders, Pakistanis and Indians brought up on a diet of Mother India, Arundhati Roy, Jungle Book, Masterpiece Theater, Pankaj Mishra and ‘Gungi Dan’ complementing the weekly thunder of White-Shoes Preacher sermons on “AND HWHAI DOOO THE HEEEEAATHAIN RAGE ?”

It is also utterly uncalled-for. India is a free nation, with an elected government, and a free  (but often bought-and-paid-for, incompetent and irresponsible these days) press that basically apes Western news outlets. India has a 50% Reservation (Affirmative Action) system for public-sector education and jobs, special privileges for minority educational institutions that are unimaginable anywhere else in the world, and tough laws with practically a presumption of guilt where the accuser is a woman or minority member and the accused is not. Indians do not need Sanskrit Professor PhineasFogg-ul-Manhattani & Co. to save them from India.

Thirdly, the picture provides strong grounds to suspect malicious intent. Let us subject this to the simple Solomon Test as well as the Hippocratic Oath Test. For the benefit of South Asia Furniture, the latter would be “Primum non nocere”. For mere mortals, “First of all, Do No Harm”. These tests are particularly necessary since the first reaction of these Authorities when exposed/critiqued is that of Colonel Rostov in War and Peace:

“What! They are shooting at ME! ME! Whom everyone loves!”

The second reaction, paraphrasing RM’s book,  is along the lines of

“How can I, who have made a career in Sanskrit, be accused of doing something to harm a language that I LOVE?

Someone with the knowledge and power of such faculty, could easily choose to use their positions for good instead of evil. Were they honestly endowed with hallowed American Liberalism and true Christian Compassion,  or even with real Marxist caring for the “Adhvanikkunna Thozilali” and wanted to Liberate the Huddled Masses From Oppression like the Statue of Liberty, they could easily quote from our Scriptures, and point out that the real intent there, deep down, has always been to treat everyone alike, ensure social justice and compassion. There is absolutely no shortage of verses in the Bhagavad Gita for instance, that demand all those from anyone who has any plans to ascend to Moksha.  Argue that the abuses rationalized by reference to Scriptures were utter misinterpretations, as they are in all streams of Faith. Yeso Christo did not tell anyone to go murder 300,000 Muslims in one French City, nor did He command the Inquisition tortures in South America and Portuguese India, nor the slave trade from Africa. Yet all these were done In the Name of Our Lawd Gawd, and the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, hain?

Pointing to the strong message for compassion and social justice, with the authority of literacy and scholarship, is the obvious way to bring about real reform, driving away the charlatans, not by driving wedges and spreading hate. Surely these professors have enough intelligence to figure that out for themselves. That they choose the opposite approach, in my humble layman’s opinion, proves their true intent.

Sad, but Q.E.D.

2. Shouldn’t esteemed Professors steeped in literacy on Sanskrit, be allowed to come out with observations connecting to, say, events in Europe, and point to Indian influence? For instance, in ascribing Nazi genocidal tendencies to their sudden acquisition of Sanskrit grammar? Perhaps Sanskrit has a strange nonlinear effect on Bavarians, Manhattanians etc: whereas it makes us see the Sacred and the Infinite, it makes them want to go out and mug people in Central Park, or, in Germany, Poland and Ukraine, line their neighbors naked and freezing into poison gas chambers and machine-gun them into pits?

Flashback to 1096. The First Crusades, led by none other than His Holiness the Pope. Quoting from Wikipedia, the Great Wiki-Puranas of modern America:

“According to David Nirenberg, the events of 1096 in the Rhineland “occupy a significant place in modern Jewish historiography and are often presented as the first instance of an antisemitism that would henceforth never be forgotten and whose climax was the Holocaust.”

Do you see above why I say that these Sanskrit== Violence theories are mischievous if not malicious? Q.E.D. again. 

3. Isn’t it awesome that these South Asia Furniture have learned enough to converse in Samskrtam, and read so much of our ancient scriptures?

Smart people have been learning about Santana Dharma and indeed Samskrtam scriptures long before there were South Asia Chairs in the United States. Oppenheimer, the nuclear scientist, Jewish by birth and tradition, is said to have recited a verse from the Bhagavad Gita in awe when he saw the fireball rising from the first nuclear explosion at Alamogordo, New Mexico.Seventy years later, most Americans would not be able to tell Samskrtam from Arabic, and were Dr. Oppenheimer to mutter anything of the sort on an American airline flight, the friendly fair woman sitting in the next seat would whisper in the ear of the flight attendant, and Oppenheimer would find himself under three 300-lb Air Marshals before being dragged off the airplane in short order, for “muttering in one of dem terrorist languages” (as happened to a Malayalee film star). The South Asia Chairs have brought very little real understanding of South Asia to the American public or the world; they have succeeded in amplifying the ignorance and bigotry by several decibels, and since that appears to be their main occupation, one must commend them on their success.

4. But.. they have taken the trouble to become Panditas in Sanskrit! Surely that denotes love and dedication to Sanskrit? 

Shri Malhotra quotes a very important sloka: to the effect that the true Pandita is seen through his/her actions.

If practical linguistic expertise is what Indians want to admire, the right place to admire is the CIA. Central Intelligence Agency, not these college furniture. They have people with outstanding credentials specializing in every imaginable language, and I am sure Samskrtam is way up on their list to decode. They have to grasp not only grammar and syntax, but some context as well – otherwise how does one figure out from all the intercepted messages that the National Reconnaissance Office provides, what someone is transmitting? So perhaps a lot of the funding and impetus for the translation work comes from the US taxpayer through such agencies 🙂 A comforting thought no doubt, for Marxist ‘Liberals’. If they are not funded by the CIA, well, the CIA is the prime beneficiary of their work, and probably one of the prime employers of their graduates. Of course, for ordinary (i.e., non-Marxist, non-SouthAsia Faculty) Americans, the CIA is a source of justifiable pride and an object of respect if not awe.

5. Won’t Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma survive a few obscure writings by hostile faculty, having survived for 1,732,000 years of natural and anthropogenic cataclysms and more gradual erosions? Hinduism today is stronger than ever before: well over a billion people spread out all over the world profess the faith, and it is being accepted. What yaar, even White House celebrates Diwali, no?

This is an utterly lazy and incompetent position. So did the Yazidis survive for thousands of years in Iraq before the ISIS came a-calling, like the “Gatlin Boys” in the inspirational American song: “Coward of the County”.

Perhaps Hinduism will survive, but a great many innocents may be tortured, humiliated, enslaved and die violent deaths, millions will be reduced to misery and tears, all because we did not act when it was our time and our Dharma to act. Those anthropogenic cataclysms were each stoppable/preventable with timely preparation. Our ancestors failed, and it set our people back thousands of years. Must we keep being (never mind)?

Have we ever faced so technologically advanced, sophisticated, utterly antipathic, well-funded and determined an assault? Watch the movie “Independence Day” to get an idea. Especially watch the segment where the President of the US asks the Alien Scholar”

“What do you want us to do?”

“DIE!!!!”

Please take a moment to google the story of the California Textbook Atrocity, later called the California Donkey Trials after the State of California’s Board of Education ended up forking over millions in settlements and fees to their overpaid ambulance-chasers as a result of the violations of due process and civil rights caused by allowing  a gang of ‘100 Leading Indologists’ led by Harvard Wales Professor of Sanskrit and Leading Linguist Michael Witzel and his able assistant Steve ‘I’ve started to learn Sanskrit a month ago’ Farmer. Or just see my initial summary of the issues there: The Scholarship of Equine Posteriors. This is what these people do – send out grand letters listing their even more grandiose titles such as ‘Masked Man-Eating Mauler’ of Georgia World Championship fame, under their blood-colored Harvard Crusader Shield letterhead – or the blue one with the Crown of England sporting the crosses. Direct lineage from Sir Richard The LionHeart, Lord of All Christendom, Slayer of Seven At One Blow. (Oops! 7@ 1 blo actually swatted mosquitos, as I recall) Wouldn’t you be scared if you got one of those?

The victims are little children in elementary school, made to feel like worms. Sixth graders asked why they don’t have tails. College students forced to watch Communal Riots for grades.  Maybe yours, if you are located in the US, or if you plan to send them to the US.  College students who go berserk from the continuous stress of such hate-propaganda (yes, I am speaking of an example). Others who may commit suicide. People attacked in the streets because their appearance reminds some nutcase of the propaganda booklet put out by the friendly neighborhood church. Scholars whose publications and grant applications are rejected because they don’t parrot the Leading Furniture in hating their own culture. Assistant Professors denied promotion and tenure for the same reason. Full professors who are reduced to penury because their clear logical arguments go against the Conclusions ordained by the Leading Furniture. Adults who read the Atlanta Journal, Constitution & Fishwrap by accident. So spare me the line that the South Asia Faculty’s hate propaganda is without adverse consequence. What these entities are doing is blatantly against the Constitution of the United States too.

6. Aren’t the South Asia Faculty ranks filled with dedicated Indian-named people who have been desperately seeking some external support to project the cause of their own Matrubhoomi? Isn’t this Furniture donation the result of long and arduous campaigning by them? Wouldn’t any Indian have reason to be happy that a Hindu organization endorses such fundraising?

Good question. To answer this, look at what happened recently when the Dharma Foundation sought to fund a Chair at the University of California (Irvine, if I recall correctly, but it does not matter). That is a public institution, subject to far more controls and Constitutional obligations than a private institution such as Emory, Harvard or Columbia. The same deal: the university would set up a committee, and they would select candidates. The donors would give the money and shut up. But there, the Committee could not be stacked against Hindus, for whatever reason (I haven’t read up on that). All I know is that a shrill campaign was launched by the SAME South Asia Scholar Gang, PROTESTING the donation and demanding that the university not accept it.

I happen to know a little bit about the recent history of this Dharma Foundation. When I was a second-year graduate student, I was searching the library in the usual panic induced by a fabulous Thesis Advisor (no Chair, just a fantastic Regents Professor, who taught me most of what is good and decent about America that I did not learn from my equally fabulous old landlady) who kindly suggested that I take on a problem for which there has still (decades later) been no other solution than what I developed in that panic. One of the best resources I found early on was a NASA Technical Report authored by a researcher called P. Uberoi. The name intrigued me, I thought it was some scion of the famous hotel chain, and wondered why someone like that would take on so arduous a line of work.

A few years ago, Professor Uberoi passed away. He had spent his career as a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado. He left a nice bequest to be administered by his loving nieces in India, his only living relatives, who kindly implemented his wishes: they linked up with people in America whom they entrusted to fund endeavors that would promote nonviolence, inter-faith understanding and amity. He did believe strongly that what he had learned of Sanatana Dharma was ultimately congruent with scientific thought and the advancement of civilization. A superb thinker, a brilliant researcher, a top-notch scientist and a quiet, affectionate teacher.If I can find it, I will post what I wrote at the time about him, but you can Google his whole life without my help. I at least could not find any trace of any political leanings on his part, either in the USA where he spent his life, or in India.

This was at least the seed funding, perhaps more than that, behind what rose in profile as the Dharma Foundation. Of course the Foundation is administered by competent people who also share Professor Uberoi’s respect for Sanatana Dharma.

Unfortunately, the above credentials are EXACTLY what the South Asia Faculty gangs fear, hate and despise. The man could read and write. Count. Solve differential equations. Use (indeed he built!) sophisticated probes and measuring instruments. Read Hinze’s book on Turbulence, horror of horrors, and mastered Schlichting’s Boundary Layer Theory. Real books, I mean. Use his brain too. Shocking!

They screamed out loud that this Chair was being funded by the people who (paraphrasing for brevity here) disembowel pregnant women, condemn Dalits to a life as scavengers, and toss gas cylinders into businesses and homes owned by Muslims. IOW, not insanely opposed to the present Prime Minister of India, whom they are used to tarring and feathering likewise with not a shred of evidence and despite complete failure through a decade and a half of specific putdowns by the Supreme Courts of India, let alone the voters.

They had very powerful backers. What is not recognized by most desis is the real reason why the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom got the State Department to deny a visa to the elected Chief Minister of Gujarat, had **NOTHING** to do with Muslims. It had everything to do with the fact that Gujarat led Indian states in bravery to enforce the law of the land against predatory Conversionist scams, the main business of the sponsors behind much of that now-widely-exposed Commission. Apparently the word has been slowly seeping even into the Indian Consulates around the US – no more are the blatant websites run by the Jubilee Baptist Missions instructing their recruits on how to lie on the visa form, and which Consulate to get a tourist visa for their conversionist business campaigns in the tribal areas of India, guarantees of success. Oppressive!  Dare to enforce INDIAN laws in India? Read the U. Chicago Furniture’s  latest whines at the Chronicles of Higher Education about Indian Courts daring to order her ‘scholarly’ works pulped as being nothing but low-class hate trash.

Being a public university (more on that below), the University of California’s leadership is subject to political pressures. The Letters and Petitions from the South Asia gang came with the usual long list of Furniture Titles to fill in for their total lack of evidence, logic or humanity.

I did suggest meekly to the Dharma Foundation that they should withdraw the endowment offer, hold the endowment in trust, and give out the proceeds each year to carefully selected people, none of this trusting to university committees etc, given how ungrateful they were even at the outset. See Part 1 where I advance this again in the present case. Of course they ignored my advice though one of their netas sent me a nice emailed “thx 4 ur input, v wl get bk 2 u” type form reply. IOW, ‘go away!’  Well, I did, but the noisemakers did not. The whole university system was bullied into REJECTING any donations from the Dharma Foundation!!! So much for the tolerance, much less acceptance or empathy, let alone sympathy, for Sanatana Dharma in the contemporary (I wouldn’t use the word ‘modern’)  American South Asian Academy.

7. The South Asian furniture generally write books and publish their voluminous papers in esteemed Top Journals such as those of the American Institute of Religion. Books in the Oxford (England) Press. Penguin Publishers. Why don’t these unwashed Hindoo extremists get THEIR papers published in these Top Journals if they want?

Aha! Good question. I do have some small experience in that line of endeavor, as well as in the more modern option of the Internet, so let me comment. Look carefully at the two publications that I linked under Part 3. One was from a JNU Professor of English. But it was an Opinion Piece in the Business Standard, a newspaper, not a Peer-Reviewed Journal. It did have to get past an Editor, that’s it. The other was from a German professor, and it had a whole list of references, etc etc. Where was it published? It was an Open Access Journal, administered by Springer Inc, a reputed worldwide publisher, one of the very few still located outside the People’s Republic of China. Nothing bad or low-class about it, it is the modern option that is opening up worldwide.

How likely is it that lines of argument favorably inclined to Sanatana Dharma would be published in the Journal of the American Institute of Religion? I hear that it does snow in Kolkatta, with much greater likelihood. You see, this is all about Controlling the Narratives. Suppressing Free Speech, and indeed all Free Thinking.

Other cultures would not allow their most treasured traditions to be so tarred. Try this against, ah, Judaism and you will be out of a job in short order. Try it against Islam and you will be minus a head, or perhaps experience the Peace that comes after an encounter with detonation or an AK-47. Try it against Protestantism and you will have a cross burned on your lawn and be further warmed by a firebomb through your children’s bedroom window.

Do it against Sanatana Dharma and a hundred thousand  Hindu avatars of Einstein will come to hear your sermons next time you visit India. Arre, Amrika mein Endavad Kursi hain! Wah Wah! How he is talking in Sanskrit onlee yaaar! Wall street billionaires will rush to fund you with their cash.

Reminds me of Padma’s story about all the village matrons rushing out to the Girija Theatre to see “Lanka Dahanam”, in their best temple-going attire. Seeing this episode from the Ramayana would give them beaucoup points towards Moksha. She says what they were saying on their return trip was as loud a Movie Review as it was unprintable – the South Asian director had used this catchy title for a piece of utter garbage on some contemporary Kerala romance-gone-bad / domestic squabble theme with the usual show of hi-cholesterol flesh far beyond the tolerance of the respectable village matrons.

8. Why devote a whole book to critique the guy who is merely the head of the Search Committee for a faculty position at some university? People are generally appointed Head of the Search Committee to make sure they don’t try to grab the post for themselves, after all. The eventual appointee who warms this furniture may be a nice gal/guy, hain? A True Scholar? Why not be optimistic? Don’t worry, be happy!!

See above re: Snowstorms in Kolkatta. You already saw what happened with the Dharma Foundation – apparently a non-partisan Selection Committee in a public university would be entirely unacceptable to the South Asian Academy. Why would you think a Committee headed by one of them  in a private university would be objective or fair?

9. What do people of other cultures/ethnicities do?

If you followed the recent tamasha at U. Ilinois you might get a better feel for this, away from South Asia. The Head of the Search Committee is usually a front/flunky for much more extreme agendas in the background. If allowed to do so, (and at Illinois there WERE powerful entities in the background – see e.g. POTUS) – they are going to make ABSOLUTELY sure that the committee is stacked with enough entities who will do whatever they are told (or already know what they are not told). There will be usual token this or that to provide entertainment and be ignored.

In Illinois, the Search Committee dug far and wide and deep like the Search For a Real Princess – and came up with someone whom ‘they’ wanted. He is a famous Palestinian-American. His theme was to relate the history and plight of Palestinians to that of Native Americans. You can think through the rest of that – who the targets were, etc etc.

Well, in that case the targets did not sit around muttering:

“Bhavitavyam Bhaved Eva! All is Maya! It is after all Kali Yuga, the Khadgi will come by and make things all right!”

They ran what might gently be called a loud, persistent, vicious, rabid and rapidly expanding campaign. Major donors who weren’t stupid enough to have given ALL their money away yet, started pulling out. The university was forced into the untenable position of having to withdraw the offer made to the candidate, AFTER he had resigned his prior position. Predictably, this led to a lawsuit, with the American Association of University Professors weighing in on the side of the dissed candidate. University royalty were forced to resign. I saw all this in the course of other entertainment at the AAUP site provided by the South Asia Faculty in yet another  ill-advised Wile E. Coyote /Roadrunner Show episode, but that is for another time. I don’t know what came out of that case.

So why did those people raise such a ruckus? Because they have learned from their history, not to sit around in la-la land and rationalize and procrastinate as those who are out to destroy them, organize and prepare. And if you read Rajiv Malhotra’s book, the evidence is crystal clear, and you will be left in no doubt that the South Asia Faculty in US Academia are out to destroy Hinduism and Hindus. Maybe not destroy. After all, we work hard and deliver much better value per kilogram of oxygen consumed than most others. Enslave us again?

 

 

Musings on Rajiv Malhotra’s THE BATTLE FOR SANSKRIT, Part 3:The $200K Missile vs. $2 Hut Conundrum

In Part 1, we considered the overall problem: Is the usage of a language far from the shores of its origin, ‘stealing’? ‘Hijacking’? Is there something wrong in, say, Indians, the largest and most devoted population of English-speakers in the world today, virtually the only people on the planet who can spell English any more, celebrating the death of William Shakespeare? (sorry, that didn’t come out the way it was intended, but u know what I mean). So why are Rajiv Malhotra, and a host of others who are slowly waking up, so panicked at the prospect of someone with money to burn, funding an Adi Sankara Chair in Sanskrit Studies at New York’s Columbia University, in the name of the Sringeri Sharada Ashram? With a Selection Committee headed by  the (note the name of his endowment) Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies.  For those who may be unaware, Sringeri was the southern point of the 4 (always 4 when it is something in Sanatana Dharma!) centers of study established by Adi  Sankara. Each is headed by a Sankaracharya, and each Sankaracharya is as close to being a recognized Authority on Sanatana Dharma as we SDs recognize. Should we not celebrate the virtual establishment of another Sankara Ashrama, this time far, far west of Dwaraka and well north of Badri? Shouldn’t we perhaps be clamoring instead to establish one in the Falkland Islands as a Southern outpost, one in Fiji and perhaps one on Bear Island? Perhaps endow one on the International Space Station?  Mars? The Moon? Pluto? We work in 4s, remember?

From an Outsider’s point of view, this whole ‘debate’ appears rather trivial: Some desis got together to donate enough cash to endow a Chair at Columbia. They got approval from some of the big Ayatollahs of their cult to use the name of some dead wandering swami. Then these other desis all started jumping up and down to STOP this endeavor. Petty jealosy? Usual Desi Lobster Mentality? YAWN!!!! Back to munching my fat-burger!

I was curious about this. Well, for a second or two until  the usual connotation of the term “South Asia Studies” resonated in the space between my ears, and the TubeLight came on.

For starters, one would be well served in these things by remembering the old saying, modified from its original by Joseph Heller, the creator of “Catch-22”, to the more fashionable quote from an American General:

JUST ‘COZ YORE  PARANOID DON’T MEAN THEY AIN’T ALL OUT 2 GET YA! d715fb57-2f55-45ce-94cf-1c0dbf000c40

Remember, while I have not done a hundredth of the deep research that RM has done on these folks, I HAVE spent a couple of thousand hours poring through the hilarious ‘scholarly discussions’ of the RISA (Religion in South Asia), FOIL (Forum of  “Inquilabi” since they abhor the term “Indian” Leftists), the Harvard Witzel-Farmer Indo Eura(cist/sian) Research Yahoo! group, the Marxist-ISIS IndiaUnity Yahoo! group set up to do something TO, not FOR, Indian Unity, etc etc. And I have actually READ (Yes! Holding my nose, smelling a lemon, but READ) Professor Paul  Courtright’s masterpiece, “Ganesa, Lord of Obstacles” and his “Limp Phaullus” psycho-analysis (last pulped by Motilal BanarasaiDas and Sons, in horror after realizing what their JNU/South Asia -graduated illiterate Editors had accepted). Most of their ‘scholarship’ brings to mind the old Malayalam proverb that starts out with

Pantheerandu kuzhalilittuzhinjalum… 

If you can’t translate that and don’t know the rest of it, well, take heart, you could be an Endowed Chair in South Asian Studies, a Linguist specializing in Malloostani. Basically, their thinking, if one can call it that, is entirely predictable in theme, though their particular tactics and strategies would put The Coyote in the Roadrunner Show to shame. So let’s get back to what Rajiv Malhotra writes, and related thoughts.

****************************************************************

The entire book delicately balances an incisive debunking reminescent of the Russian Air Force’s precision bombing of the ISIS,  with a super debater’s skill of expressing deep the personal respect, bordering on awe, for an adversary (and I use the term deliberately).  The adversary, however, has shown no sign of any such civilization beyond a couple of emails inviting RM to chai-biscoot at the Columbia cafeteria or, honor of honors, the Faculty Lounge (see my prior post on Nikolai’s Roof). Likewise, he sets out with the deepest expressions of awe, of the Vedic Scholarship at the present-day Sringeri Sharada Ashram. No comment from me on that, thank you – though there have been quite a few informal ones regarding their discipline as exhibited by the “due diligence” before getting all set to sign contracts. My bridge-selling enterprise cited below perked up at this thought – could I not sell a couple to them, I wonder? But  I come from one rail station away from where Adi Sankara was born, and I have prayed often before his emblem of the Shank and Chakra – ultimate symbol of Unity, Advaita. Sringeri was Adi Sankara’s ultimate worship of Sharada, the Avatara of Sarasvati. Knowledge, learning. No way would I do anything to disrespect his name, other than the obvious imperative of spending my evenings and weekends trying to undo the damage already done, and the imminent catastrophe of selling off His name, the deeply unifying philosophy of Advaita, and the worship of Sarasvati Devi to the Atheists and Marxists, acting as agents of the Temple Destroyers.

In Chapters 3 and 4, Shri Malhotra has pulled out all the stops. He delves deep into his understanding of Sanatana Dharma, and the historical record of evolution in philosophy. He goes into the origin of Bhakti, and the branching out into the arts – and the sciences – as expressions of Bhakti. He points out how a certain  professor ignores the contributions of the entire literature base on these aspects, and focuses on  (predictable RISA/FOIL) Marxist philosophy of seeing all organized faith (except in the Politburo) as being Tools of Oppression Of The Masses.

Repeat: Schools of Divinity vs. Schools of South Asia/Religion Studies

The one aspect of the ‘scholarship’ of this entity that RM does not touch, perhaps intentionally, is whether said entity has any clue about Bhakti. For this you must perhaps read my blog (available on this site, titled “Protestant Pedagogues Peeved..” where I try to explain the difference between Schools of Divinity versus Schools of Religion Studies. The former are set up to teach about Western Religion, i.e., Christianity, typically Protestantism with some nod to Catholicism. Plus an obligatory sprinkling of courses on Judaism to keep the donations from Jewish businesses coming in, and ward off the lawsuits. These courses are generally respectful, and taught by deep Believers in those religions. Well worth a chunk of your $69K fees, I am sure.

The Others are covered with courses  in the School of Religion Studies, usually tied in with Middle Eastern Studies and – drumroll!  South Asia Studies. These courses have a very definite objective, that one must look carefully to discern in the case of courses on Islam and Buddhism, but is blatant in the case of Hinduism. Example: Professor Paul Courtright’s multimedia course at Emory University, Atlanta on Hinduism Viewed Through Cinema Scenes of Communal Riots. No kidding – that may not have been in the course title, but it sure was a big part of the content, per alumni. They are set up to to show the obvious (to Them) inferiority, violent nature (as opposed to the utter peacefulness of Abrahamic religious history) and general lack of civilization. Dehumanize. Demonize. Rationalize the genocides and tortures of the Inquisition. And point to Christianity as the only Salvation. Convert all the Sheep. Bring them into the Fold. Save their Souls! Mind you, these days, as opposed to not so long ago, this is done with great polish and refinement. Those doing these are experts at Objective Research. They even call it Scientific, though Scientologic is a better word. Being Marxist is an excellent alibi against the shallow charges of bigotry that might come from shocked adherents of these Faiths. What! We Bigots? We Are Objective Scholars!  The most vicious attacks against Indian and Dharmic traditions come not from explicit bigots, (that’s for entities such as the ISIS or Professor Hafeez Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Toiba), but from dyed-in-the-wool  Scholars. Rationalists. Linguists. Psycho-Analysts. Agnostics. Atheists. Marxists. Look at U. Chicago, or Harvard, for instance. So now you may begin to see what RM is up against.

There is another saying in my zones of awareness:  “If u find urself using $200K missiles carried by $60M fighter planes 200 miles out from $6B aircraft carriers, all to hit a $2 hut, u r losing da war”. 

I wonder how much of RM’s numerous pages of intricate debate based on his readings of the spewings of certain South Asia faculty, would even be read by said entities whom he respectfully tries to ‘debate’.

So this is my objection to this whole business. Generally speaking, and with no particular individuals in mind, this is what I see happening all too frequently. Some bigoted jerk or arrogant atheist makes a career out of writing communist/terrorist hate literature, trying to incite hate against law-abiding, decent folks going about minding their own business. Powerful organizations that have a business plan to make hundreds of billions of dollars, hire such people and put them in positions where they can do a lot of damage in their chosen profession of hate-inciting.

Losers everywhere, use this sewage to fill their own intra-cranial spaces and rationalize hate-crimes against innocents. The ultimate victims of this are the leprosy-afflicted patients at the Kushta Nivaran Sangh, the orphans and battered women at the Vatsalya Trust Orphanage, the 6th-grade kids in California where the textbook asks the teacher to recite: Turn around and look at your classmates. Does one sport a tail? That must be a Hindu. In the first two cases we stepped in and prevented the damage, in the 3rd, what we did is recently being undone by the next wave of organized attacks.

Other drunken losers go around beating up women who wear a red dot on the forehead, declaring themselves to be “Dotbusters”. Others lynch a Sikh commuter. One pushes a Hindu commuter onto the rails as a New York train approaches and says she did it because the Lawd Gawd commanded her to do that.

A German professor woman in Leipzig, Germany, home to some of the worst gangs of Neo-Nazis, and not far from the train stations where they recently had all those attacks on women, rejects an internship application from an Indian undergraduate kid, claiming that all Indian men must be rapists (her university, paragons of German honesty, of course ended up blaming the kid, yawn!)

And someone claims originality with volumes and volumes of sewage declaring that the Sanskrit (illiterate description of Samskrtam) language with its beautifully structured organization refined over millennia, was all set up to dominate, exclude, exploit and terrorize people, first all over south-east Asia where Sanatana Dharma spread with no sign of military conquest, and then, of all places, IN RACIST NAZI GERMANY!! Oh! The Germans from the time of the Huns’ ancestors swinging by their tails from one tree to another in the Black Forest, have been so inclusive, peaceful, gentle people! Until evil ‘Sans krit’ turned them into monsters that suddenly lined up and machine-gunned 30,000 people at Babi Yar, and herded 6 million of their own Jewish compatriots, Russian prisoners of war, Gypsies (i.e., Indian descendants in Europe), and pretty much everyone else into gas chambers to Purify Europe. Yup! All because of Indian (oh, they mean Indo-European) Sanskrit!

Really? DID anyone peddle such garbage? Don’t look at me, I watch the comics on TV when I need a laugh. But there are people who do read these things. Professor Makarand R. Paranjpe, Professor of English at the Jawaharlal Nehru University apparently does make it his job to read. He cites the original quotes, and goes on to cite the debunking of those by the German professor Reinhold Grünendahl.

In any serious field of endeavor, such nutcase theories would be laughed off. In South Asia Studies in America, it is considered to be the height of Scholarship. It is because of those examples of crimes against those least able to defend themselves, that people like Rajiv Malhotra drive themselves beyond human abilities to fight what was at the start a lone battle. And why they are not fooled by the next antics from the South Asia cartel and their powerful sponsors.

Completely unrelated to my rant above, let us take a moment to look at the logo of Columbia University. I learned that it is not located in Colombia, which managed to spell the name of gphotoeographically-sign-challenged Cristoforo Colombo a bit better. What’s that gizmo? It looks like the CROWN OF ENGLAND! A symbol that should be greatly admired all over India, and particularly in the Sringeri Ashrama.

Apparently Columbia University was originally KING’s College, established by Royal Charter of King George II, (using loot from India of course – you can almost see the Kohinoor Diamond in the hatband!) in 1754. In 1776, being the King’s anything became a bit unfashionable in the United States of America, so they renamed it to Columbia. To be precise in my deep knowledge of Latin, “Universitas Columbiae Neo Eboracensis” (per WikiPedia, of course). Their motto is: In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen, meaning, again per WP, “In Thy light shall we see light (Psalms 36:9)”. When they write about OUR religion, we should accept that they are being completely objective, not at all related to any faith or belief. And I have these 7 bridges over the Chattahoochee river to sell you, One Owner, Cheap-Cheap, Won’t Last At These Prices. The name Columbia is the female personification of America, per the same source. Sort of like Bharat Mata in connotation. Oops!  I mean Mohterma South Asia, of course. To be fair, Columbia University’s religious connections are quite universal: they are affiliated with the Union Theological Seminary, with joint undergraduate programs available through the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. There u go! They treat all REAL RELIGIONS AND FAITHS equally. Why do the Heathen rage, what-what?

This is something that has bothered me a lot. Why do institutions such as Methodist Emory University, Theologically established Harvard and Princeton, etc. hire and foster Marxist types whose primary skill is hate-mongering? Its a plain “Duh!” once one delves a bit deeper. In one stroke it gives them an aura of Tolerance, and allows these types to do their attacks from the sheltered ivory towers behind the moats and power of a $9B endowment. Like the ISIS raping people, protected under sheets strung across the roads of Al Raqqa to hide from the Russian cameras flying overhead, and Stinger Surface To Air missiles supplied from our tax dollars courtesy of Al Obama to shoot at the Russians. Academic Freedom, as the Dean of the Emory College rather arrogantly informed us petty peasants, protecting his university’s peddling of child-p*rnography in the guise of “Psycho Analysis Scholarship” until, ahem, “we” sort-of educated them right back on the subject.

So back to the issue here: These guys get paid $300,000 a year salaries plus a $100K/yr Endowment proceeds, to chew the cud and put out these hate writings, and host conferences and (South Asian) Visiting Researchers whom they can buy with their pocket change. People like Rajiv Malhotra scramble to spend 24, 36, 48 hours a day trying to educate people on what is wrong with the hate propaganda that they put out. And for every one step he climbs, other desis, who supposedly grew up eating rice and hence should have some brains, pull him down 10 steps by rushing to give another $3M  to add to that $9.368943 B endowment so they can get invited to football games and pretend to be important.

Spending so much time fighting this is simply not sustainable. Until more desis learn to read and THINK. No danger of their reading this far of course, it wouldn’t show up on their AMOLED Smart Phones with the diamond-studded pouches.

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Cited References

Makarand R. Paranjpe, “The Deepest Orientalist”. The Business Standard, April 29, 2016. http://wap.business-standard.com/article/opinion/makarand-r-paranjape-the-deepest-orientalist-116042901513_1.html

Reinhold Grünendahl, History in the Making: On Sheldon Pollock’s “NS Indology” and Vishwa Adluri’s “Pride and Prejudice”DOI 10.1007/s11407-012-9115-1, International Journal of Hindu Studies, 16, 2: 189–257, 2012. 

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Note: My serious views, and the very limited scope of my understanding on Religion are explained in my role as co-author of “Sanatana Dharma: Introduction to Hinduism”. Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Sanatana-Dharma-Introduction-Narayanan-Komerath-ebook/dp/B00XDN83V4

 

 

Musings on Rajiv Malhotra’s “THE BATTLE FOR SANSKRIT”, Part 2: Did WhatsApp precede Twitter or vice versa?

In this second part, I muse on Rajiv Malhotra’s warnings about ceding control and authority on ancient traditions, to ‘outsiders’. He defines outsiders very carefully, not based on race, color, gender or national origin, but somewhat on inimical belief, inimical faith or atheistic arrogance, lack of immersion in tradition and very much on political antipathy towards the ancient traditions of India and their practitioners. There are certainly examples in my view and I am sure RM recognizes these too, of thousands of people born with no connection to India, who have become devout practitioners and believers in our traditions!!

One of the themes running through the book is his hard-earned certainty from decades of reading, watching and debating  (with which I agree 100%)  that far too many of the “outsiders” purporting to be deeply interested in studying ancient Indian traditions do so not out of love and devotion, but for the express purposes of enriching themselves at the expense of Indian tradition, while simultaneously destroying the traditions. They study the traditions of Sanatana Dharma as the ISIS studied the Yazidis of Iraq or the Christians of Syria. If you have any doubts on this account, or consider the above to be an extreme analogy, please take the time to read about, if not through (which is beyond the nausea-immunity of most decent people), the works of Professor Paul  Courtright of Emory University of “Limp Phaullus” fame, or Professor Wendy Doniger of U. Chicago (latest work ordered pulped by the Courts in India for violating hate-crime law), or their ilk. The writings of Harvard University Sanskrit Professor and Linguist Michael Witzel and his sidekick Steve Farmer at their “Indo-Eura(cist/sian) Research Forum on, say, Indian dance traditions and on young Indian women practising classical dance. Yes, there is a reason they hurl the hate-moniker of “Hindu Right” at any of us who dare stand up and protest these atrocities. That reason is that we are indeed Right, and they are Wrong. Hilariously if not hatefully wrong.

Now this is not to agree that particular faculty researching Indian traditions should be subjected to sweeping generalizations based on guilt by association – although that is, to make a sweeping generalization, exactly what they do to us – sweeping generalizations. I know enough to sense why Rajiv Malhotra set out to write this book. I have not read the book enough to see if there is enough damning evidence inside this particular book to prove the case about the specific entities about which he set out to report.

To give an example of a similar situation, we are sure that it is a crime against Humanity to deliver weapons and dollars to terrorist groups operating inside Syria and Iraq. But that is not to say that we have specific knowledge of the specific actions or the specific mental makeup of every terrorist who might be receiving such misguided largesse. Not, of course, to imply that there is any connection between American university furniture and terrorist groups operating in Syria or Iraq.

In other words, I am only up to page 32. 🙂

Samskrtam, not ‘Sans krit’!

The values of my tradition connect straight back to the Vamana and Parasurama Avataras. Our idolized and ideal King of the Malayalees was not born Kshatriya or Brahmana, He was just one heck of a ruler. He ruled by self-sacrifice (on his part, not the type that corporate and university bosses exhort these days), not by sacrificing his subjects. He ruled by fairness and kindness, not the sword and the chain and the whip. Our other hero Parasurama nearly annihilated the entire Kshatriya line through his military prowess, before he invented the term “buried the hatchet” in the ocean, creating my native land. These in no way detract from our devotion to Sanatana Dharma. So much for the Pollock/PRC Fallacies.

So I will state my small peeve with Shri Malhotra’s nomenclature in all due humility, though I completely understand the pressures that forced him to adopt it. The word is Samskrtam. The truncated ending preferred by newbies such as Hindiwallahs, is not the original. As Shri Rajiv points out accurately, the language known as Hindi derived from Samskrtam, corrupted (some would say ‘enriched’ which is often the same thing) by Persian influence. Why was Hindi called Hindi? Because it was associated with “Hind” the illiterate foreigners’ version of Sindhu, from Sapta Sindhu. The fashionable but uncivilized “Sans-Krit” means nothing. From here on I will call it Samskrtam, as it has been called in our society since long before the South Asian Faculty’s Martial Aryans came clanking down the Khyber Pass in their horse-drawn Portoilets and supposedly drove my ancestors down to our mountain-walled perch in the deep South. But I digress.

The Importance of the Non-Translatables

Reading on, a big concern is that ‘western’ or ‘outsider’ dabblers refuse to recognize the oral traditions of Sanatana Dharma and hence of Samskrtam. Malhotra refers repeatedly to the knowledge that only exists as “vibrations”, a non-translatable series of knowledge communication protocols that are nevertheless an utterly vital part of Samskrtam and our entire line of knowledge. There are non-translatable words denoting cultural concepts that  have no equivalent in English, and there are non-translatables that are simply not translatable into any language.

Just this morning I was studying a paper written by someone from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army on how to use millimeter waves focused on someone’s throat to detect and decode what they were saying. Speech decoding by vibration analysis. Come to think of it, that was 94 GigaHertz, a frequency that gets absorbed in the skin and causes extreme pain. So the subjects of that research, whose speech – probably screaming or 400% Voluntary Confessions – was recorded, may have been Tibetan Splittists or other Bourgeoise Revisionist Camp Followers of the Paper Tigers of Capitalist Imperialism, whom the PLA fights with its might to protect good People’s Politburo Members and their small trillion-dollar sweatshops in the Gobi Desert Re-Education and Rock-Breaking Resorts. Then again, I remember some of my friends who ventured out to see if the Vaimanika Sastra indeed contained detailed instructions on how to cut titanium and build hypersonic, VTOL amphibious transatmospheric  vehicles light and pretty enough to be called a Pushpaka Vimana, starting with dog-eared Xerox copies of Samskrtam verses.

All futile endeavors. The learning, what little we can achieve is in the studying and practice. Great minds regardless of geography, race, religion or epoch, have understood this.

“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”

as Alfred Tennyson imagined the dying King Arthur telling his grieving ale-sodden Crusader buddies.

This is the Faith part. The knowledge that each ancient sloka and rk  and oth convey is not necessarily in the words, nor indeed in acoustic signatures for translation. It is probably in the nonlinear system-level interactions that these have with the minds and bodies and the genes and the whole inner being of those transmitting and receiving them. Do you understand the psuedo-techno-gibberish I just wrote? It sounds good but I don’t. 🙂 And unfortunately, in my field, editors don’t publish papers unless reviewers can understand them 😦

I have tried to discuss what I can, from the 10 percent of my limited brain that I am supposedly able to use, to explain this concept, in the introductory book mentioned at the end of this post, so I will not belabor the point here.

While the great minds have understood this, inflated egos and university furniture are not necessarily in that category, their gifted minds are too clouded by pomp and power and pelf.

This sacred knowledge, as much as I can understand, is the crux of the ‘sruti’, entrusted from long before there were humans, through myriad generations and mutations and evolutions, to be transferred and preserved for posterity. As science advances, and human brains perhaps improve, perhaps those who follow us might make sense of more and more of this. Remember that the succinct Vedas, and particularly the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, were the devices to spread at least parts of the knowledge as far and wide as possible among humans, rendering it difficult for the Rakshasas to steal, hide and monopolize it. This is an exceptionally important point, very little appreciated by most of us because we take it so much for granted. But if you look at the first 2 or 3 Avataras, they were all about incessant struggles, wars, fought over thousands of years to recover and protect the knowledge base from the Rakshasas. A point that, with all veneration and humility, I would commend and emphasize to Their Holinesses at Sringeri and all other centers of study on Sanatana Dharma.

Malhotra points out accurately that entrusting translation and decoding of such traditions to outsiders is as smart as (my analogy, not RM’s: giving your AMOLED-screened Smartphone to very highly trained ourangutans to translate). Dear, energetic and intelligent creatures that they are cannot be expected to see much beyond the colors on the screen, send a few text messages, and that not for long before they smash it and move on to something new to mess up.

SOP

In particular, it is easy to understand the fundamental incompetence of the Marxist-influenced PRC and their fundamentalist counterparts in places such as Emory or U. Chicago or Princeton Seminary, in grasping or respecting our oral traditions. The Fundamentalists, the Marxists and the ISIS all go by The Book: either The Book (aka Bible or Holy Quran) or Das Kapital. All reduce everything to WRITTEN commandments. Let me paint a picture, with deep apologies for any sentiments I may offend unintentionally, but with a need to state a succinct point:

Moses came down from Mt. Sinai carrying a set of heavy stone tablets, not pieces of palm leaves with papyrus reed scrawls on them. Understandable. Had those instructions been oral, or scrawled, the Commandments might have got a bit confused. Imagine!

Moses, ol’ buddy, r u sure He didn’t say “Thou shalt Love Thy Neighbor/ Covet His Wife as Thine Own?” Did He say “Thou Shalt, or Shan’t Commit Adultery?” “Do or Don’t Take in Vain the Name of Thy Lord”?

No wonder those had to be written in stone. Fixed. Non-negotiable. Slam-dunk. Standard Operating Procedure. No thinking or debate tolerated. Duh! Soon after, the Christians started writing down their Testament, branching out from the Chronicles then available in the Middle East. The later belief system of Islam, likewise, got things written down in their Book, the Holy Quran. One is not allowed to post quotes from that gentle Religion of Peace, so I won’t.

So did Karl Marx, much admired at the PRC, come to think of it, write down precise procedures. To paraphrase and avoid morbid phrases:

“The Idol-Worshipping Capitalists Will Send Us the Donations With Which To Destroy Their Own Traditions”.

Did this solve their problems and get them to actually observe these Written SOP? Search Google with terms such as “Crusades”. “Inquisition”. “South American Genocide”. “Native American Genocide”. “African Slavery”. “Sir Francis Drake, Pirate”. “Bolshevik Revolution”. “Gulag”. “Shia-Sunni”. “Armenian Genocide”. “Tartar Invasions”. “Vijayanagaram”. “Mohammed of Ghazni”. “Islamic Invasions”. Oops! Now corrected in California’s textbooks, by the kind intervention of the South Asia Faculty, staunch supporters of the PRC and co-Petition-Signors of Dr. Sheldon Pollock to “Gentle expansions of influence into India”.

HD 4K or bust!

If you think a bit, you see that this was the natural progression of technology. My esteemed niece’s generation, for instance, abhors paper books, and believes nothing unless it is on Facebook, or sent as SMS, now via WhatsUp. A few years from now, with most ‘hardcopy’ libraries demolished or turned into video game arcades, their Great Historical Debates will be on whether WhatsApp came first, or Twitter. They will accept nothing that is not rendered in HD 4K, 3D. Paper books? Bah-Humbug!

So those brought up in Book-dictated, latter-day belief systems such as the Furniture at the PRC, cannot be expected to have any aptitude for accepting oral traditions. Q.E.D.

Stay tuned… I’m beginning to get the gist of this book…

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Note: My serious views, and the very limited scope of my understanding on Religion are explained in my role as co-author of “Sanatana Dharma: Introduction to Hinduism”. Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Sanatana-Dharma-Introduction-Narayanan-Komerath-ebook/dp/B00XDN83V4

On the other hand, I HAVE learned Catholicism from a Catholic Convent, St. Joseph’s of Gampola, Sri Lanka, nationalized in bloody riots the day I ended kindergarten and was passed harmlessly over the locked gates by the rival mobs who took a ceasefire to do that. I learned Islam for 5 years in an Islamic College, the #1 Ranked College in Gampola. And I have attended enough sermons in the Protestant Churches in America to know the difference in standards of religious understanding and acceptance: y’all in yore hi-falutin’  collegiate furniture and yore Vasco Da Gama costumes with dem frilled sleeves and powdered wigs, cyaint hold a candle to the gentle, civilized people of Gampola or Trissur of decades ago.

Thanks!

 

Musings on Rajiv Malhotra’s THE BATTLE FOR SANSKRIT. Part 1: Starting 2 Read

Preface & Disclaimer: No one paid me to write this Review. No one sent me the book: I bought it of my own accord, paying my money, straight from the Infinity Foundation. I have never written a book review before, and no one in their right mind would ask me to – please read on 2 c y. So this is certainly not a crisp, concise Review full of brilliant constructs and deep perspective. It is a rambling monologue. But that is my style of book reviewing, as I have just discovered.

 

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My niece 199y giggled on the phone that a (namesake of urs truly) from Oxford, England, gave a lecture the other day at her Catholic-Church run college on the occasion of the 400th something of Shakespeare. Located in Atlanta, GA, I would not have heard that Sheikh Bill bin Speare was that old. But I knew enough about the history of Robert Clive starting his genocidal scams, and of Her Imperial Majesty ordering the fingers of North Indian silk weavers cut off to subsidize Sheffield and Birmingham products, to realize that 2016 had to be the death not birth centenary of the Sheikh. But let us ponder that for a moment, braving the shudders as I remember reading of P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster giving an Inspiring Lecture at a girls’ school. Obviously the College places much value on learning English literature and celebrating the lives of English writers – in fact an alumna neighbor famously asked decades ago “Why should one even converse in (her native) Tamil once one knows English?”

Is there anything wrong with the College’s emphasis? Compare it to New York colleges that even give out degrees to the semi-literate offspring of political leaders, or to the people who write for The Hindu. Parents scramble to get their daughters into this college for a superlative if somewhat West-gazing education. I can point to a galaxy of alumnae whose lives attest to the quality of that education. Are these alumnae somehow not quite Indian patriots? Were I to suggest that, I would be run off Facebook, besides the Fatwas flying at me next time I venture into my ancestral neighborhood.

I presume that I can point to numerous Indian colleges where there are Furnitured Professors delving into arcane aspects of Shakespearean or Dickensian literature. My own late grandmother, a pioneering post-graduate of the Madras Presidency College, used to reel off quotes, which is where I learned to sing the praises of so-called South Asian Faculty (‘When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning or in rain?”) So, would Her Majesty the Namesake of the Sheikh’s Patron, and the guardians of The Queen’s English, harrumph and snort at the atrocity of Indians in post-colonial “Injya” ‘stealing’ their precious language? Would they declare a Battle For English to be in progress? After all, today in the world, the majority of English speakers are of Indian origin, and this ‘normal’ English is what we speak: the others have strange and quaint accents: Bilayati, Scotch, Irish, Welsh, MidWest-American, Southern, New Yorkish, Australian, South African, French, North European, or Carribbean. The King’s English is dead, ta-ta. Hasn’t English been hijacked, what-what, I say?

On the other hand, I doubt that I would go to an American university to study Japanese literature and history. Or Chinese literature. Spanish in Brazil? German, or French literature in Moscow?* Argentina to learn Arabic? Or Beijing to learn Latin literature? I presume that better courses, better archives, better scholars and better authorities on each of these are found in the nations of origin of these languages.*To be fair, the owner of “Nikolai’s Roof”, the most expensive Russian restaurant in Atlanta, famously responded when cornered on the lack of Russian items on his menu: “The Tsar Nikolai preferred French cuisine!” Never mind, I couldn’t afford a glass of Bordeaux there, let alone Truffles a Vladivostok avec les Escargots Writhinges.

Let me stretch that thought. Would I seek to learn Authoritative Islamic literature at Donald Trump University rather than, say, in Riyadh or Mecca? Or Catholicism in Islamabad? Or in the Baptist Deep South of the USA? Protestantism in Rio? Judaism in Jakarta? Vegetarianism in Papua-New Guinea? Why then would one seek to learn Sanskrit, the language of Sanatana Dharma, in New York?

Ah! But the Quality of the Institution, you say. Let us subject that to some objective criteria. The US News &World Report, published from New York, staffed mostly with graduates from the Columbia University School of Journalism, ranks Columbia University #4 among the universities that they know. I doubt that many of them could get into an IIT IIM or NIT, let alone my niece’s College. In the days when I lived in my hometown, I too ranked the 4 Colleges in/around  my hometown within a radius similar to the distance from Manhattan to Boston, as the Best 4 In The Whole Known Dunia. Just like “The Masked Monster” was Ranked Number 1 in the (Georgia) World Championship Wrestling conducted every day at the Atlanta Omni Dome. My roommate in graduate school, now an anti-ballistic missile genius in the stratospheric layers of the DRDO or whatever, never missed a showing of that on Channel 17. If they manage to shoot down the next hydrogen bomb coming in over New Delhi, remember to thank me for not aiming a ballistic bowl of Narayanan’s Haute Cuisine Macaroni avec le Fromage  through that TV set.

But from the point of view of rich and successful desis in the US, fixated as most desis are on external Rankings and Accolades, it would be a coup de les coups to have Columbia University establish Adi Sankara Furniture in Sanskrit Studies. With no less than the most famous Sanskrit Professor in America, after Witzel and Doniger, hand-picking the chair-warmer from a well-lobotomized cohort of South Asia graduates from the above 3 entities. Ultimate recognition of authority and excellence, no, yaar? Naxal Ram would gush in The Hindu about how Hinduism had finally Arrived, best coup since Vivekananda spread his pearls of wisdom before a bunch of illiterate bigots wallowing at the Chicago World Parliament of Religions (run by predecessors of those who run Georgia World Championship Wresting, but that’s another matter). Gushing interview with Sheila Bhatt of India Abroad. Another slam at the unwashed Hindu Right on OutLook. Another exclusive to Tehelka slamming the Modi Government’s Genocide against JNU terrorist-admirers. Even a footnote on Page 23 of The Noo Yoik Crimes!

What is wrong with that? You won’t find the answer in the New York Times. You will find it in Rajiv Malhotra’s book. I was sufficiently intrigued to go and spend my own money, a well-spent $20 + shipping at the Infinity Foundation website for a 480-page hard-bound tome, surprisingly light and safe to read in bed with no danger of having one’s nose smashed. I have started reading it, but I read real slow. Stay tuned!

Update:

Apparently some desis decided that it would be a great idea to give a ton of money to Columbia U. to set up an Adi Sankara line of Furniture. Teach Sanskrit and make American students Sanskrit, meaning cultured. Might work wonders for the Protectors of the Proletariat at the People’s Republic of Columbia (PRC), as the University is lovingly described in America. And to head the Committee to pick the occupant to warm said Furniture, with the Donors being completely shut out of the process, the PRC appointed a certain professor who can read Sanskrit, himself warming some other Furniture. The name seems familiar – it may be because a former student of his – (which means a PRC alum?) was involved in some slimy deal where some fundamentalist cleric tried to accuse Rajiv Malhotra of ‘plagiarism’, trying to posture as a Princeton Professor, and after due investigation, was laughed off the Internet. Hmmm!!! Not a great endorsement for the PRC, that.

Mr. Malhotra appears to have reacted like my pet cat Snowy used to do when the neighbor’s mutt came by – and rightfully so. He seems to have got the Sringeri establishment to maybe half open an eye from their deep meditation, and pay a bit of attention before it was too late.

Having stated these things up front, Mr. Mahotra advises the reader to read the Conclusions before venturing deeper into the book. Suits me fine, this is exactly how I “read” technical papers. So far I have not been able to find any pictures in the book.

Now let us ponder for a moment whether there were/are good alternatives to this business of Setting Up a Chair and donating millions of dollars and lending an honored Name to a specific person at a specific university. Indians and Indian-Americans have discovered this great idea – the Stamp of High Society adopted by various super-rich Americans in the past.

What exactly is a University Chair?

Most universities provide a reasonably comfortable chair for each of their faculty offices. In some places, the Chair has to be purchased through the State Purchasing entity, where the boss may or may not have struck a deal with some local fly-by-nite outfit to provide lo-lo-quality at hi-hi-prices. The best deals, in  my limited experience, are the hand-me-downs through State Surplus where the State Government Administrators dump REAL high-quality chairs after a year or 2. In my office, I have the Komerath Chair. Back in 1991 or so, my old Navy Surplus chair developed a habit of leaving its castors behind when I tried to move. I conveyed this sad fact to the School Director (now they call that entity a Chair too), and he generously donated the nice, high-back leather chair that he had just discarded, with only a few tears where the hi-quality cotton stuffing can be visually and posteriorously experienced. I still have it. I put my 20-lb bookbag and rain jacket on it.

But I digress.

A few years ago I read in the Chennai newspaper about the Chancellor of a new Self-Financed Engineering College in Chennai. “My mother would be so proud of me!” His Excellency gushed. “For the first time in my life I am running a business that is legitimate!”

Besides being a legal way of making money, a private university is also a great way to, say, launder a name. Leland Stanford made his money, and his name, as a Railroad (some add “Robber” but I wouldn’t) Baron. Perhaps he had the ghosts of a few hundred Chinese and Indian workers haunting his home on the rare occasions when he spared a thought for that human cost of hammering a railroad through the Sierra Nevada or Rockies, building those dizzy viaducts and trellises, and carving ledges around terrifying cliffs. To be fair, the historical accounts now found at Stanford university claim that Chinese railroad workers were paid the same as Caucasian ones – as long as they survived. They just had to work about twice as long and hard, to pay the various baksheesh demands of the (Caucasian) supervisors etc. and maybe do some of the most dangerous work. There were Indian (I mean East Indian) workers there too, but I can’t find any writeup on them by the South Asia Furniture. Mr. Stanford then paid to build a university – and who can deny that this has done an immense amount of good? The key was, eventually, to hand over the key to trustworthy, super-able people to hire people who would turn into fabulous Star scholars – and not mess with the day-to-day administration and petty pompous griping of said Stars. “Spare me that!” He prayed. Leave that to the Deans whom I pay far more generously than I paid those workers, he wisely decided.

This is the well-honed American tradition of Endowing University Resources. Get the university/stadium/building/auditorium/classroom/faculty Chair named after you – or someone who will tell everyone that it is actually you who donated. And then sign that agreement saying that you cannot be sued when whoever was hired, was denied tenure or otherwise sued the university. The best deal would be an Anonymous Donor status – perhaps helps a lot with not unduly alerting the IRS, SEC and FINCEN as well.

What does the Chair do? The business plan is that you donate – starting price for a Full Professor Chair at a well-known university, rather than an Associate Professor Bench or an Assistant Processor Stool is $3M, up from $2M about a decade ago, but I have heard of Chairs as high as $7M. You take your tax writeoff. The university invests through its Foundation, buying stock in, say, BlackWater Security or Halliburton Reconstructions, or ENRON or American Airlines or Marlboro Cigarettes or Johny Walker Whisky, and, perhaps, your own company. The Chair is guaranteed, say, 2 percent on the investment ( in old days, it was 6 percent but now interest rates are dismal). The rest goes into the Foundation to fund worthy causes such as business-class travel and office renovations for the new Associate VP for Fundraising.

The above income from the Chair to the individual School makes its way at least in part to the control, not the wallet, of the person warming the Chair, to use as s(he) pleases, within the laws of the State. In public universities, that would pay for trips to conferences that externally-sponsored research grants would not fund (political conferences, for starters unless one’s grant is in politics). Host visitors from India for a short trip to discuss further funding. Etc etc. In private universities (I believe Columbia is one such), much of the faculty salary also comes from this income. That is the Self-Financed University model in the US. $69,048 per year in fees per undergraduate student doesn’t even begin to cover the expenses of a University in Manhattan, you know…

In public universities, the deal is simple: they use the carrot of a Chair to get someone to move there, and the Expectation is also very simple: the same as Endowing a Chair on the Lower Propulsion Deck of a Roman Galleon. Row, row, row, row! Bring in 10 to 100 times the money in external grants that the Chair gives you. Build up programs, visibility, or we will kick you out. The Endowers of the Chair are a distant memory in the daily grind.

What does this buy, as far as, say, the name of Adi Sankara? I don’t think Adi Sankara cares much any more, but some of us might, because He is such an important part of our tradition. Let’s muse on that. Papers on The Achievements of Adi Sankara? A conference on The True Meaning of Advaita? Maybe, though highly unlikely – they don’t sound Scholarly. BUT.. perhaps as RM hints, not to put words into his word processor, also “innovative” papers such as The Role of Hindu Propaganda in Suppressing the Rights of Dalits. Petitions to Ban the Chief Minister of Gujarat from Visiting the USA. Petitions to Deny Funding to the Kushta Nivaran Sangh (Leprosy Relief Organization) or the Vatsalya Trust Orphanage. Petitions to Condemn the Indian Government for Denying the Fundamental Right of JNU students to celebrate the Birth Anniversary of executed terrorists who murdered 6 Delhi Police personnel defending India’s Parliament. A book like “Ganesa, Lord of Obstacles” the obscene hate creation of Phaullus * Courtright, the (Endowed Chair) professor from Emory University. The hate-filled Nazi-like Indo-Eurasian Research Forum hosted by/for Michael Witzel, the Wales (endowed chair) Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University, the hate literature of (Endowed Chair) Professor Wendy Doniger of U. Chicago.

  • Note: As I found out from my Palestinian and Iranian classmates long ago, “Palestine” is an anglicized corruption of what real Middle Easterners call it: “Philistine”. Likewise, the name “Paul” is, from my deep psycho-linguistic analysis, an Anglicized corruption of the Roman Paulus, from the Greek-corrupted Paulose, from the original Middle Easter corrupted Ango-Roman corruption of the original Middle Eastern “Phaullus”. Thus psycho-analysis for once, convincingly gives a rationale behind the obsessive focus of research of some people.

And there is not a blessed thing that the Sringeri people can do about that, once they have signed over the name of Adi Sankara. Which is RM’s point.

Now are there other ways that generous Indian-Americans could support scholarship on our traditions? Absolutely, and they are smart enough to figure that out with no help from me. For instance, they could give out an ANNUAL award for excellence in scholarship, carefully selecting the recipient using a Panel that they establish, hand-pick (and monitor). This would bring His name to the front every year, and encourage real scholarship. Scholarships named after him, to a set of talented youngsters to pursue knowledge in the spirit and tradition of Adi Sankara, at various universities. The difference is that in all of these, the fundamental tenet is conveyed:

“Thou shalt not bite the hand that fed thee”

RM maintains that given the overwhelming dominance of entities inimical to Sanatana Dharma in the US academic establishment, funding a Chair at Columbia U. is as bad as airdropping anti-tank rocket launchers in Syria – in a region where the ISIS is bound to grab them. It matters little that the airdrop shipment says in big letters:

“To Be Used to Fight Against the ISIS Onlee Yaaar!”

I agree 100% with that concern.

********************************************************************

Note: My serious views, and the very limited scope of my understanding on Religion are explained in my role as co-author of “Sanatana Dharma: Introduction to Hinduism”. Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Sanatana-Dharma-Introduction-Narayanan-Komerath-ebook/dp/B00XDN83V4

Thanks! n.k.

What They Teach At The Theological Seminary. Part 2: Teaching Religious Intolerance

Many of us are brought up learning to respect all religions – at least I was. We hesitate to believe anything bad about those neatly-dressed, soft-spoken, authoritative-looking, sometimes scraggly-bearded Men of The Cloth. We are making the same mistake that millions have made before to their disastrous cost. Hundreds of thousands of young lives have been utterly and brutally destroyed in the process.

In Part 1, I just laid out some examples and excerpts from Methodist Emory University’s Professor Paul (“Phaullus”) Courtright, and the antics of his tribe of Emory faculty. Until their Religion Studies Department was revamped under the glare of public exposure as a bunch of p0rn-peddlers, probably even criminal child-p0rn peddlers. The “South Asia” part of Religion Studies was absorbed into the Languages department, hidden under the direction of an Indian-born English teacher and Member of the Emory President’s Panel, who, shocked by what she could no longer deny, told the administration that she could in no way support those sorts of obscene activities. Since then, Emory University has been relatively well-behaved, going on to hire Salman Rushdie and the Dalai Lama, and perhaps irritate the Islamists and the PRC’s Communists instead. We heard that a very senior dignitary visiting from India  asked the Emory administration flat-out what had happened with the obscenity-peddling enterprise, and they begged him not to raise the issue, as they were still traumatized by the experience. :LOL  Anyway, we as citizens of the Atlanta Community, have seen no reason to bother Emory University since then. Emory’s Medical School, Law School and Business School, as well as their joint BioMedical / Engineering school, are all highly respected. A few p0rn-peddling losers should not be allowed to pull down a great institution, as their President seems to have realized back in 2004.

***************************

So we get back to the root of the issue: What do these Seminaries and Divinity Schools teach, to make their faculty and alumni so so so filthy bad?

Here I am just going to direct the reader to a thoughtful article written by a good Christian: Frances Patterson. At “Rethinking Schools.org”. Perhaps this article will give us a better understanding that just using words like “causus belli” does not make anyone civilized.

http://www.rethinkingschools.org/special_reports/voucher_report/v_into162.shtml

\begin{quotes}”

By Frances Patterson

Christian fundamentalist textbooks display a breathtakingly arrogant attitude toward other religions. ” \end{quotes}”

Just a couple of excerpts, PLEASE read the whole article: I cannot very well copy the whole thing here!  It looks at each region of the world separately. This plague is everywhere, perhaps even in Antarctica.

\begin{quotes}”In looking at the treatment of religion, I again studied three major textbook publishers for fundamentalist Christian schools and home-schoolers: A Beka Press, Bob Jones University Press, and School of Tomorrow/Accelerated Christian Education. I drew on a wider range of the textbooks and materials than in my discussion of politics and included substantially more material from world history and geography textbooks and, in some instances, from English literature texts.

Materials from the three publishers have a recurring theme: that the lack of material progress in various Third World countries and among indigenous peoples can be attributed to their religious beliefs. The publishers also share a tremendous emphasis on conservative Protestant missionary activity; approving passages abound about individual missionaries and Christian converts and the need for both historical and contemporary evangelism.

In one textbook’s discussion of India, for example, students are asked how Hinduism contributed “to this country’s sad fate.” Students are then encouraged to contrast India with the United States and told, “If we refused to kill disease-carrying insects, allowed filthy animals to roam around in public places, and refused to eat meat for nourishment, do you think we would be as prosperous as we are?” 3“\end{quotes}

… And let me post the final comments from Frances Patterson:

\begin{quotes}”

COMMENTS

The materials’ attitude toward Roman Catholicism and non-Western religions raises serious issues that should be part of the public debate over the use of public funding for sectarian education. Two of the many questions raised:

  • How much respect for the rights of members of minority religions could ordinary citizens, elected representatives, and government employees, including judges, have if their educational background included a school curriculum based on these textbooks?
  • Is it fair to use the coercive power of the state to collect tax revenues that are then used to support educational institutions that malign the religion of the taxpayer? It is one thing to say, “This is what I believe.” It is something else to say, “Your religion is in error.”

It is surely far removed from the spirit of religious tolerance, however imperfectly applied in our nation, to make statements that encourage American children to despise the religion of their fellow citizens.”\end{quotes}

P.S. This blog post is dedicated to the eminent historian from the Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. Richard Fox Young. Without his dedicated, tireless and hilarious struggles on Twitter, The Caravan and The Seminar(y) we would not have had an opportunity to revive these important issues from over a decade ago, and cast the bright light of reason and investigation into the recesses where fundamentalist abuses and abusers, and their obscene enterprises thrive.

Finally, let us note that Dr. Young continues to see absolutely nothing wrong with the writings of Courtright and Doniger and their ilk. Perhaps this is a case of one not being able to smell the fragrance because it blends so well with the ambience of one’s own base – the Princeton Theological Seminary?  Q.E.D.

Princeton Presbyterian (Still!!) Peeved At Protests Against Pr0testant P0rn-Peddling

A Presbyterian Crusado-Twitter at Princeton Seminary has been showing great excitement about the so-called “Atlanta Community” that was invited to a fact-exchange with a Panel appointed by Emory University’s President, back in 2004. From his fulminations onTwitter, we gather that he endorses the kiddie-p0rn writings that characterized Emory University’s Hinduism Studies, until the Religion Studies department was disbanded after the meeting with the Community.

The Princeton Seminary entity seems upset, claiming that the Atlanta citizens’ group “harassed” Courtright of Emory, or “tried to get him fired”. False on both counts, but that is not unusual for that Twitter account. We most certainly DID NOT ask for any job action against Courtright (come on! look how much fun it has been that students searching the web for Emory find out about these things!) We did ask that his practice of ‘teaching’ Hinduism by presenting videos of communal riots and p0rnography, stop forthwith. Emory did see the sense of that, within the first 10 minutes. The Panel’s white faces looked either red or deathly pale.

On the other hand, we specifically asked that Courtright **NOT** be present at this meeting. There is a simple reason for that. Common decency. Dean Paul (a Biblical name, as I learned from religious psycho-analysis, derived from the Romanized ‘Paulus’ version of the original Middle Eastern “Phaullus”) was a portly individual of ‘otherwise ascetic disposition’ (see below). Emory’s hospitality included sweets, cookies being provided. Put those facts together and imagine what might have happened otherwise if Courtright had seen the Dean showing an “insatiable appetite for sweets’!!! We were just trying to maintain a modicum of decorum.

But again, many today may not be aware of the facts from 11 years ago. So let me oblige them by presenting more of the news from back then: it is a different version of the journal article published at Swaveda in May 2004.

(Reproduced by the author’s permission and kindness of publishers from http://www.iVARTA.com who archived it for over a decade)

Protestant Pedagogues Peeved at Protest Against P0rn-Peddling

By: Narayanan Komerath
(Indic Journalists’ Association International)
narayanan@att.net
June 01, 2004

Here’s a test. If the following sample from Emory University Professor Paul Courtright’s book: Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings” offends your sensibilities, you are “illiterate or worse” according to his friend, University of Chicago Professor Wendy Doniger.

“Although there seem to be no myths or folktales in which Ganesa explicitly performs oral sex, his insatiable appetite for sweets may be interpreted as an effort to satisfy a hunger that seems inappropriate in an otherwise ascetic disposition, a hunger having clear erotic overtones. “

Unlike Doniger’s colleagues in the “Religion in South Asia” (RISA) internet group, you cannot see why that constitutes “brilliant scholarship”. You wonder whether publishing conclusions sans data constitutes legitimate research. You point to the definitions of child p0rnography and pedophilia. The professors consider all that to be utterly “uncivil” of you – and claim to the media that you are a terrorist.

This encapsulates the controversy which pits alarmed citizens against entrenched academia. Hindus worldwide (except so far in India) are shocked at how Protestant-dominated pedagogues in academia caricature Hinduism as part of proselytizing, and then stifle discussion. Citizens cite the effects of such abuse in increasing bigotry and hate attacks – a Baltimore museum adorns a Ganesha exhibit with “explanations” from Courtright’s phallus fantasies, for example. The academics – far from being civil themselves – bemoan how “uncivil discourse” is “silencing” “scholars” (i.e., themselves). They claim “academic freedom” to write abusive fantasies about religions other than their own.

Petitions, Threats, Boycotts and Mobs              

Last September, citizens requested Emory University to stop using such texts. They were sent a condescending letter declaring that Courtright’s  “psychoanalysis” methodology was appropriate, and taunting them to argue the matter through journals. The Head of Religion Studies petulantly warned that Emory might stop teaching Hinduism.

A group of Louisiana students burst the academic balloon by posting an Internet Petition giving verbatim quotes – asking the publisher to withdraw the book. Emory’s Public Relations department, citing “threats”, tried to suppress the Petition – but not before the publisher withdrew the book, apologizing in shock and dismay. RISA called for a boycott of the publisher.

RISA members went to the “DANAM” (Dharma Association of North America) conference in Atlanta in November, excited that they would “communicate only with the most reasonable and civil of the Hindu lay Leadership” and have a “debate on the fundamentals of Religious Studies—that of hermeneutics and methodology”, for, “only then can we have a genuine yet civil debate on “method” rather than an uncivil one on “motive.”  Apparently, the debate did not go happily for them. RISA returned to the security of  habit – personal abuse  against those who tried to post contrary views.

In January, another American “history” professor, James Laine of Macalester College, gained name recognition with the claim that Maratha hero Chattrapati Shivaji was not his father’s son. Challenged, Laine admitted that his claim was without basis- a “joke”. The Sambhaji Brigade of  Shivaji supporters –  no friends of any “Hindu Nationalists” – ransacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) in Pune. The Maharashtra Government won Mumbai High Court approval to investigate Laine and Oxford Books for criminal conspiracy to incite violence.

RISA’s boycott fervour seems to have been dampened by Oxford’s withdrawal of the Laine book. But Courtright, and Washington Post writer S. Vedantam, have blamed the BORI mob attack on “Hindus”. Courtright’s article in the “Academic Exchange” e-zine, run by Emory’s  Vice Provost for Academic Affairs,  claims victimhood as a “scholar” facing terrorism – by association with Laine. He claimed that India is an increasingly dangerous place for scholars to visit. This occurred even as the National Congress government of Maharashtra – associated with the Sambhaji Brigade – was feting the visiting Emory University tourist team that included Courtright’s Department Head, Laurie Patton. Patton, in India all winter, gave a running commentary on RISA about events in Pune. Critics ask about Emory’s links to the BORI violence – and point to Courtright’s own usage of communal riot scenes to teach “Hinduism through films” at Emory.

Out of Context – or Outlandish?

The academics have tried claiming that the offensive quotes are taken out of context. They claim to be “visitors” to fields such as Hinduism, free, unlike believers, to follow wherever objective research leads them. They cite their great love for India and Indian history – and blame the growing criticism on political efforts to distort Indian history – and on prejudice against non-native scholars.

Readers retort that the criticism is about specific abusive writings and point to excellent scholarship on Hinduism at European universities. They cite the context of the offensive quotes, and the intent of the nude picture on Courtright’s cover, used to emphasize child-p0rnographic content. The premise of Courtright’s book is a 15th century Portuguese invader’s revulsion towards Indian icons. Critics compare this to using Heinrich Himmler as starting point for an analysis of Judaism, or analyzing Native American history from General Custer’s views. As for “objective research”, they point to unsupported hypotheses, incompetent methodology and outright bigotry being acclaimed as “brilliant scholarship”.  For instance, Courtright builds his “psychoanalysis”  on the idea that an elephant’s trunk is “limp” – an absurdity aggravated by his confusion about elephant anatomy. Doniger claims that Ganesa dictated the Mahabharata to Vyasa.  Courtright, in the space of a few pages, calls Ganesa an oral sex fiend, a homosexual, a mother-f0rnicator – and a eunuch – the “dregs of society”,  – a scatter-brained diatribe of bigotry and abuse. Critics question the quality of peer reviews which ignore such glaring illogic. Others cite Courtright’s ignoring the deep meanings of the Ganesha icon in favor of obscene interpretations, as evidence of sloppy, if not less than honest, work.

Classroom Reward Scheme?  

Another egregious example is cited below, from page 124 of Courtright’s 2001 edition:

.. Ganesa’s mother.. Offers the prize of a mango to which of her sons can go around the world first. Ganesa wins by circumambulating her and eats the fruit and then gets beheaded. …. The mango is a vaginal symbol. Hence Ganesa’s eating the fruit is an act of incestuous possession of the mother for which he is punished by beheading, symbol of castration, and his celibacy is his punishment for acting out his incestuous desires”.

Critics ask why he chose that, when he knew the mainstream legend, which he clearly knew [page 126]:

““She said to them .. ‘Your father will decide who I will give it to.’’ When Skanda heard this, he quickly went on a pilgrimage through the triple world, mounted on a peacock, but the wise pot-bellied one circumambulated his two parents. Then he stood there happily in front of his two parents, saying: ‘Give it to me..!” .. Parvati smiled and said: “All the pilgrimages and sacrifices are not worth a sixteenth part of  the worship of one’s parents. Therefore this son (I.e., Ganesa) is worth more than a hundred sons having a hundred virtues”.

Readers point to this twisting of a beautiful legend, obviously used to instill respect for parents, and ask sarcastically whether his obscene “interpretation” is based on what Courtright’s Protestant teachers and colleagues at the Yale School of Divinity, Princeton and Emory do in classrooms.

Death Threats or Red Herrings?  

Observers argue that the “threats” and “dangers” are red herrings aimed to deflect attention from analysis of the psychodynamics of such writings. While Emory University, Courtright and Doniger have complained about “well-funded” campaigns to silence academic freedom, citizens point to Emory’s own campaigns to malign them. Comments on Emory’s edited, moderated Emory Wheel website have called the student authors of the internet petition, “KKK”, “Hitlerite” and other names. The editors’ failure to remove these abusive posts, despite the postors being shown to be bogus, reinforces suspicions, formed by the Public Relations department’s role in the saga, about the origins of the “threats” on the Petition site.

Doniger apparently enraged a London audience with a pornographic interpretations of Shri Ram and Sita of the Ramayana Epic – ideals of family values to hundreds of millions of Hindus.  An egg apparently missed her, but the meeting organizers are reported to have manhandled a woman psychologist who asked if Doniger had herself ever been psycho-analyzed.

Religion Studies or Hate Propaganda?

Critics point out that Methodist Emory University, and Baptist-origin University of Chicago use their Religion Studies programs or interdisciplinary centers – which are affiliated with the Law or other schools – to demonize other religions such as Hinduism. Meanwhile they keep their real studies about Christianity – and Judaism in the U.Chicago case – safe from malicious “interpretation” in Schools of Divinity or Theology. Thus, the scholars on Christianity in the Theology/ Divinity Schools are practising believers; the “scholars” in the Religion Studies Departments are, as Courtright describes himself, “visitors” interpreting these religions. Equal respect for all religions is unlikely to result from this arrangement.

Emory faculty and officials have repeatedly claimed that the controversy is due to some sudden dredging of a 19-year-old book. The Editor of the Academic Exchange, in conveying that protestors were being prudes about a toddler’s picture in the buff on Courtright’s 2001 cover, accidentally exposed this lie – and in the process, confirmed Courtright and Emory knowledge that the subject of his pornographic depictions is a child – a toddler. Most interestingly, Courtright continues to claim that his critics have not attempted to engage the “intellectual” basis of his book – when numerous published articles have done precisely that – with Courtright not attempting rebuttal.

Comparative Sensitivity

This February, Emory Dean Robert Paul, acting on President Wagner’s orders, met with concerned community representatives for a 2-hour discussion. Though he professed himself educated on why people are outraged, and offered deep regrets on behalf of himself and the university, he insisted that the university held academic freedom to be sacred. Citizens pointed to the double standards at Emory, where a chance remark by a Professor of Anthropology in September 2003 offended African-American listeners, and triggered extreme administrative concern. Meanwhile, their own concerns about blatant hate-p0rn peddling were dismissed. They also point to the Bellesiles case, where a conclusion based on data which the author could not reproduce, was seen as sufficient evidence of academic fraud to have a prize withdrawn and the professor induced to leave. Courtright’s attempts to associate the protests against his book with “terrorism” in his recent speeches and articles, with the claimed “support” of the Emory administration, has served to vitiate the atmosphere further. Citizens see this as a show of poor faith while efforts were underway to conduct reasoned dialog with Emory.  Matters were not improved by the appearance of a one-sided Washington Post article – nor by Courtright’s article in Emory’s “Academic Exchange”. The Academic Exchange failed to even acknowledge receipt of a rebuttal to Courtright’s article – just as Vedantam has failed to acknowledge requests to correct factual errors in his articles.

Age of Terror – or Abu Ghraib of Religion Studies?  

While Courtright and Doniger frame the issue as “scholarship in an age of terror”, their critics see it differently.  They state that the issue is not about the academic freedom to publish scholarly deductions based on evidence and competent, objective analysis. The issue is about a powerful university propagating vile fantasies – whose obvious and predictable effect is to demean and humiliate. They aim to see Hinduism taught and learned with competence and empathy, rather than with sneering tavern-tale “interpretations” and vile p0rnography. They cite the right of Hindus, like all other people, to be treated with elementary human decency, to worship as they please, and not be subjected to vicious bigotry and abuse.

They cite the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, where 21-year-old military jailers are faulted for claiming ignorance of the need to be sensitive about human beings of another culture – and ask whether university professors should not be held to at least that standard.

Visitors and Civility

No resolution is in sight. The Protestant faculty are peeved at the rise of informed opinion, which hinders their “freedom” to write lewd fantasies about anything they choose to demean as “visitors” and tourists. Hinduism is a soft target. Writing such interpretations about Judaism or Islam is likely to bring extreme consequences – while there are enough Indian establishments which will continue to welcome “scholar” dollars, unaware of the nature of the scholarship conducted. After 19 years of such writings, the pedagogues do not appear to have anything to cite but a few hate e-mails or internet postings, and one missed egg, as signs of danger.

Sankrant Sanu frames the questions for Religion academia thus:

  • “Is the academic study of Hinduism in America, as it currently exists, a valid discipline in that it has some ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and between scholarship and fiction?” • “What does it tell us about the state of academia in Hinduism studies when a host of academic writing that is highly deviant from “emic” understanding passes off as mainstream scholarship, without any significant internal academic challenge?”
  • “Are the standards of sensitivity in dealing with religious symbols of Hindus in the academy lower than that for other religious traditions such as Islam, Judaism or Christianity? What part does this play in dismissing any Hindu protest as ‘fanaticism’?”

The Academy, while bemoaning the decline of civility in intellectual discourse, is in no hurry to examine the causes and sources of incivility – which might point straight at themselves. For example, Professor Antonio de Nicolas refuted the RISA claim of blanket “academic freedom”, pointing out  that  “the first responsibility of a scholar in describing, writing, speaking, and teaching other cultures is to present those cultures or the elements of those cultures in the same manner those cultures are viewed by themselves and by the people of those cultures. If not, then the scholar is using those cultures in name only and his goal is their destruction, if not in intention at least in fact.  A scholar who does not know how to present other cultures by their own criteria should not be allowed to teach those cultures.  His freedom of speech is not guaranteed by his ignorance.  His degree is a privilege of knowledge, not ignorance. Freedom stops here.  Opinions are not the food of the classroom at the hands of professors.  They guarantee knowledge”.

The moderator of the RISA forum apparently sent a threatening e-mail asking de Nicholas to “shut up”.

Courtright describes his own, his university’s and the RISA’s attitudes quite well when he says in a grand  Freudian slip, dispensing wisdom to Emory’s admiring student newspaper: “People who talk to themselves about themselves leave no room for discourse.”

Narayanan Komerath

P.S. Posted with deep gratitude to Dr. Richard Fox Young of the Princeton Theological Seminary for thoughtfully providing us the wonderful opportunity to inform and educate web/Twitter-savvy people of 2015 about these events from back in 2004, through his ceaseless Tweets and other verbal/acoustic emissions across the frequency spectrum.

What They Teach at Theological Seminaries and Divinity Schools

Recently, a ‘renowned Princeton histerean’ has hysterically exclaimed in horror that the Komerath blamed for a recent WordPress Post on Fundamentalist Clerics, may be related to a certain Komerath who was ‘Part of The Atlanta Community”. This is a truly brilliant historical deduction, linking events across more than TEN years, for an Associate Professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary. As it happens, (to ‘plagiarize’ and ‘distort’ Presidential Candidate Benson):

“I know both those Komeraths, they are good friends of mine and yes, you got something right for once”. Although most else in that Twit Rant #8463, was right along the Standards of Integrity of the Princeton Theological Seminary. 

Said “Komerath” was indeed part of The Atlanta Community, in the sense that he had, as he says below, lived in Metro Atlanta for over 25 years by the time he wrote this article that I found on the ‘Net. Must have been part of that huge Community of a million people that rides every day on Interstate 285. Or I-85. Or Peachtree Street where  Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With Da Wind ran all the way from Peachtree Industrial Boulevard to Old Peachtree Street to New Peachtree Road in Peacthree Corner Circles around Peachtree Corners to Peacthree City where Tara, her Daddy’s slave-labor cotton plantation was located, until Rhett Butler came by to say: “Frankly Mah Deah, Ah Don’t Give a Dam*!” Sending tremors through the gasping lily-white throats of the assembled Protestant audience at the use of such shocking language. That was long before they read the Princeton Theological Seminary Scholarly Twit Site, or the writings of the RISA.

It was published in ‘Swaveda’ which had a brief but illustrious career in the heyday of the RISA. Before RISA went underground. And people went away weeping at the sudden sense of loss that accompanies the Circus leaving town. Or, more accurately, at the end of a hilariously entertaining soccer match. Using RISA as the inflated leather bag.

I am going to reproduce below, the full text of what was published at Swaveda more than a decade ago. This is excerpted from an archive at  http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.com/2014/02/alerting-naked-emperors-in-age-of.html .  I am not specifically asking the owner of that collection for permission, because I have no fear that he will stab me in the back as certain SUNY faculty might. You seem the term ‘integrity’ means something with the people who run that site.

Here it is, from the distant past, when “Twitter” was something associated with bird-brains:

\BEGIN{QUOTE}

Alerting Naked Emperors in an Age of Academic Arrogance
Author: Narayanan Komerath
Publication: www.swaveda.com
Date: May 20, 2004

“Although there seem to be no myths or folktales in which Ganesa explicitly performs oral sex, his insatiable appetite for sweets may be interpreted as an effort to satisfy a hunger that seems inappropriate in an otherwise ascetic disposition, a hunger having clear erotic overtones.” [1]
That is a sample from Emory University Professor Paul Courtright’s book [1] – used to educate undergraduates in what Emory calls “Religion Studies”. Specifically, it is about Shri Ganesha, the child deity who inspires Hindu children, icon of excellence in writing and mathematics. Most of all, it’s about a child – a “toddler” [2]. Statements such as the above are at the core of the controversy about the obscene twisting of Hinduism in the guise of Western “scholarship” [3, 4, 5] – drawing impassioned defenses of what entrenched academia call their “academic freedom.” At the same time, these academics bemoan how “uncivil discourse” on controversial issues is “silencing” scholars – making one wonder if they have considered their own level of civility.
To people like me, who do have some knowledge of what is appropriate in education, that appears instead, to fit the published definitions of “child pornography” and “pedophile fantasy” [7,8]. Far from being appropriate in American classrooms based on my (20 years of) experience, these would trigger administrative intervention – or worse. Such things are indeed seen – usually scrawled on restroom walls or in subway tunnels. I had not realized that these inscriptions were journals of Religion Studies.
According to Courtright’s friends in the Religion in South Asia (RISA) forum [10,11] which dominates Religion Studies in the USA, if the above excerpt disgusts you too, that’s because we are all “illiterate or worse” [8] (certainly I am, compared to the erudite individual so described there). Lacking PhDs in Religion Studies, we do not make a sport of sneering at other people’s beliefs under cover of “scholarship” – or else we could convince ourselves that this constitutes “brilliant scholarship” [9]!
Driven by Prof. Courtright’s claim that critics were quoting him “out of context”, I forced myself to read his book. Until then I thought that respectable universities (and are there other kinds?) taught respect for other religions and cultures. I thought peer review rejected such egregious “conclusions sans data.” My education included meeting Dean Robert Paul of the Emory College this February with a team of concerned citizens [10]. Courtright’s recent article [2] in Emory’s “Academic Exchange” website, claims that what he is doing is “Studying Religion in an Age of Terror”, and he frames the issue as “Internet death threats and scholarship as a moral practice”. I have to comment in public on this.
My first observation is that the criticism of Courtright’s book is based – as one might expect – on the contents of Courtright’s book(s). There is no evidence to suggest that any “extremists” picked on Courtright as a “target” while he was innocently going about his job as a teacher, researcher and scholar-aspirant. His wild generalizations and desperate casting for red herrings, appear intended to deflect attention from the egregious nature of his writings – and from proper psychoanalysis of the mindset which motivates those writings.
Atlanta – City of the 1996 Olympics
Emory University boasts of its Methodist roots. I lived for 4 years – my entire graduate-student life – as a renter in the home of a (dear departed) Methodist lady. She treated me as “her #1 son”. She had common sense and grace, far more than any of the Religion Chairs, Thrones and other pompous academic furniture who appear to lead RISA and South Asia Studies in the US. From what I learned by observing her, and her social circles, I have nothing but good things to say about the Methodists’ beliefs – and the American Southerner’s gracious regard for all humans. The widow of a railroad worker, she did not have a college degree, and she had never traveled north of the “Mason-Dixon Line”. Obviously she did not miss much, if our RISA experts exemplify the products of the American Liberal Arts college education. Their writings remind me of her laughter as she would exclaim: “Lawd Aw’Mighty! Ain’t they too big for their britches”?
But – don’t generalize that wisdom to all of metro Atlanta – it’s a big place – a bustling, modern center of technology and business. We conducted the Olympics, remember? Our daily newspaper is grandly named the “Atlanta Journal and Constitution” (AJC) – a corporate merger of decades ago which means that a city of 6 million has a grand total of ONE monopoly newspaper, which ranks somewhere in the world’s top 1,000,000 in journalistic excellence. Its Religion section was highly pitched to me by an Associate Professor of South Asia Studies at Emory. Coincidentally, they had quoted said Assoc. Prof. recently as an “expert” on Hinduism.
Very nostalgic. For many years, this “Religion” section featured a big advertisement titled: “AND WHY DO THE HEATHEN RAGE?” As the controversy erupted, the AJC did what they do best: they published a sneering, ignorant, bigoted writeup, and censored out letters except ones which abused those who raised the issue. N. Ram’s “The Hindu” would have been proud of them.
AJC class shows. Bill Shipp, former AJC Editor, now writes for the suburban Gwinnett Daily Post. Shipp praised Emory President James Wagner [11] for putting down the Hindu complainers. Shipp also proudly cited Courtright’s claim, which confirms his place on a scale of 0-10 as a “vidya-vinaya-sampannah” scholar and teacher on Hinduism: “Do I have to ask 800 million Hindus to get permission to say something?”
On the other hand, I must emphasize that in 21st-century Atlanta, one ignores the negative and looks ahead – the “City that’s too busy to hate.” Easy, direct, friendly informality is the preferred mode of behavior – even during rush hour traffic – and it is by no means acceptable in any conversations or discussions to make the sort of grossly lewd interpretations of other people’s religions, in which Courtright wallows.
The AJC is appreciated for its grocery advertisements and used-car deals. Its few pages of non- advertisement are entertaining – the cartoons of Michael Lukovich and the dry humor of its “Vent” section are as hilarious as its Editors’ occasional efforts to be deeply insightful. An Editorial by prominent South Asia journalist Moni Basu after the Pokhran-II tests, bemoaning her Kolkatta friends’ potential inability to buy Revlon lipstick and Levi’s jeans due to imminent U.S. sanctions, comes to mind, followed by their ghoulish and ignorant sneering at an Indian-American astronaut’s credentials, in the wake of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
“Religious Studies” vs. Studying REAL Religion
Now, a word about “Religion Studies” as distinct from Studying Religion – a nuance that I have learned recently. Emory, for example, has a “School of Theology” and a Seminary – where REAL religion and worship are taught and studied the RIGHT way. From their website Mission Statement [12] we read:
“The Candler School of Theology at Emory University is grounded in the Christian faith and shaped by the Wesleyan tradition of evangelical piety, ecumenical openness, and social concern. Its mission is to educate–through scholarship, teaching, and service– faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries in the world… students … represent more than 56 denominations.”
In other words, every religion is well represented, as long as it is Christianity.
And then there’s the Undergraduate Religion Department. A unit somewhere between the School of Law and the Department of South Asia Studies – well separated from the Candler School of Theology, perhaps to avoid polluting its “shuddhi”. Their Mission Statement [13] is very interesting in contrast:
“…examine the role of religious traditions in shaping political and social institutions of diverse cultures and to explore religious issues involved in warfare and other political conflicts. The study of religion helps us to comprehend with greater sophistication and insight the faiths, world views, practices, and ways of life that have, both historically and in the contemporary world, shaped the actions and allegiances of human beings…”
Their Chair welcomes students thus [14]: “The study of religion is among the oldest pursuits in human intellectual history. The curriculum at Emory is designed to introduce students to the teachings and practices of the living religions of the world. Equally important, the University provides an important context for stepping back from particular religions in order to study aspects of religion comparatively and thematically across traditions, e.g., religion in public life, religion and gender, religion and culture.” 
Equal Respect for All Religions – Emory / U. Chicago Style
To put it briefly, this Department appears to be where one learns to preach “And Why Do The Heathen Rage?” – but in a manner deeply sophisticated, compared to the AJC. This is where all those pagan beliefs are “psychoanalyzed” as objects of mirth and contempt by “scholars” who consider themselves as “visitors” to those religions, per Courtright [2]. Hinduism Studies is in this category – it straddles the Departments of Religion and South Asia Studies. Thus, for example, it would be a horrible, blasphemous error to presume that Professor Courtright would contemplate applying that “psychoanalysis” about a child’s liking for sweets and his fantasies of oral sex, to the Gifts that the Magi brought to the Infant Jesus and His Holy Mother.
In short, “Studying Religion” is where one writes in flowery praise about one’s own beliefs. Apparently, Professor Courtright’s own PhD Thesis, done at some such School of Divinity, starts off with a deep acknowledgement of his Protestant beliefs, to which he dedicates his life.
“Religion Studies” is where one twists the innocent legends of other religions into the most gross sexual perversions, conveying that the believers of those religions are devoid of humanity, are morally depraved, and are completely violent and stupid – unless of course they See The Light and are Born Again, in which case their souls might be saved. It is where one learns to conduct this abuse – the “oldest pursuit” – with a veneer of intellectual sophistication. In this respect, the difference between Emory University and the Binori Madarssa would appear to be one of degree and perception – with Sheikh Osama bin Laden a “visitor” in psychoanalytical scholarship on the history and traditions of Christianity.
So the next time you read of these Scholars dispensing advice to us illiterate heathens on India’s Secularism being Under Attack, remember their own “secularism” and their concept of equal treatment of all religions. I have not checked where Catholicism and Judaism fall in Emory’s caste system, and I am certainly not going to comment on Islam.
The above arrangement is not unique. The University of Chicago, likewise, boasts a “Divinity School”. It is organized into Major Religions – Christianity and Judaism – and then all those Other Curiosities and “isms”. REAL religions are studied – entire courses on Luke:xx, for example. Pagan Cults are “interpreted” – by the likes of Professor Wendy Doniger, who “loves” India and Hinduism [15] because “you don’t have to make a choice at all between writing sex and doing scholarship” or something to that effect. If you haven’t heard of Dr. Doniger’s vast knowledge of Hinduism before, surely this should impress you: she wrote the Foreword to Paul Courtright’s book. She praised it effusively – especially citing how thrilled she was when she thought of “Ganesa” dictating the Mahabharatha to Vysasa.
Did a double take there, did you? No, you didn’t read it wrong. If you disagree with her interpretation, well, that’s because you’re “illiterate or worse” – a Hindu Extremist, untrained in civil discourse. Welcome to “Hinduism Studies”.
Tripping on one’s own li(n)es
Now let’s see about Courtright’s recent article in Emory’s “Academic Exchange” – a “journal” used by Emory faculty to enlighten each other. It is run by the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at Emory – as high as “scholarship” gets, there. The Pentagon of “Academic Freedom”. It is posted on the web so that the whole world can enjoy vicarious enlightenment – though we are apparently not allowed to comment there on what we read. I did not even get an acknowledgement when I sent a rebuttal – twice. It appears that Courtright’s article in the April-May 2004 issue is generated from a talk of the same grand title: “Scholarship in the Age of Terror” that he delivered at the Williams College in Massachusetts (where he used to work in the past) in March. To the right of his article was a headline in big letters on “Professor Courtright Featured in Washington Post Article” – citing Shankar Vedantam’s notoriously biased piece, which has been analyzed (and trashed) thoroughly on Sulekha.com [18]. Again, the Exchange carefully avoids Sulekha’s error where it gave readers the opportunity to comment on Vedantam’s “reply” to Rajiv Malhotra’s critique of the Post article, causing Mr. Vedantam to pout off.
The Editor of the Academic Exchange got one fact right, when she wrote on top of the article: “..The reprint cover features the elephant god Ganesa as a toddler in a crawling position, sans clothing. “ Correct. Ganesha is a child deity – a toddler. Most us are able to distinguish between an innocent picture of a “toddler sans clothing” and the same picture used in apparent kiddie porn fantasies of the sort quoted at the top of this essay. It was the reprinted 2001 edition that triggered outrage – leaving no doubt on what the author intended to emphasize.
This of course debunks Courtright’s and Emory’s own propaganda, quoted in Shipp’s article [19] that the protests were about “a book …written 19 years ago”.
The Well-Financed Attack – on the Truth
What is Courtright’s basis for claiming: “These are increasingly dangerous times for scholars who study India”? As he was writing that, a team of Emory faculty and administrators spent much of the winter touring India. The Head of his department, Professor Laurie Patton has been posting regular reports on RISA from Pune – the only place with any cause to cite “violence against scholars”. Did Courtright study the number of muggings or hate attacks on Indian students and faculty in America this past year? Isn’t this another “interpretation” sans evidence?
His next statement is: “Well-financed and organized groups on the political and religious right want to control the memory of India’s past in ways that suit their own ideological agendas. Consequentially, scholars within or outside India who challenge those constructions become targets of attack.”
Isn’t that specious attribution of motives? I too am disgusted by the teaching of obscene fantasies as “scholarly interpretations”, but I am not “well-financed”, certainly do not belong to the “political and religious right” (or “wrong”), nor do I countenance physical violence. The vast majority of those who have protested his writings are people – like me – who assumed that religion, like any other subject, was being taught with some competence and empathy – and – like me – were shocked when they read the reality.
Courtright’s claim to be a “target of attack” is based on his claim of having seen bogus- named posts or spam emails – which Emory’s Public Relations department (that’s right – not the Security department!) used with amazing alacrity to suppress an Internet petition [20] that published exact quotes from Courtright’s book. The ancient test of “Qui bono?” points elsewhere – certainly more than it points at any “Hindu extremists”.
Obviously, getting that Petition removed was seen as a top priority in Methodist academia. I can’t fault their panic – I can imagine the reaction of decent Methodist mothers in Atlanta upon reading what gets taught at Emory. Remember that this is a place where the Abercrombie & Fitch clothing catalog is pretty-near banned – though it shows much less than what a casual walk down Peachtree street on a Summer day can show to the naked (oops! I mean “Ray-banned”) eye. A few years ago, copies of a textbook on teenage sexuality (devoid of any pretense of being a Religion text) were taken out of libraries and burned.
Motilal Banarasidas and Sons (MLBD), the Indian publisher of Courtright’s 2001 Edition, upon reading verbatim quotes in the Louisiana students’ internet petition, ordered the book withdrawn from bookstores in November 2003, and took out large advertisements in horrified apology [19] – pleading that they had not fully read what they assumed was a scholarly text, previously published by Oxford University Press. But that explanation was ignored by RISA – the publisher was assumed to have been “threatened by Hindu Extremists” to have withdrawn the book. (By the same token, I now assume that the Emory Academic Exchange has been threatened by Protestant Extremists to not acknowledge receiving my rebuttal of Courtright’s article). RISA members rose in uproar, threatening a boycott and withdrawal of copyright permission from MLBD – until Oxford Press withdrew Professor Laine’s history-revealed-as-joke book, and apologized.
At that point, a student member of RISA asked if they shouldn’t boycott Oxford as well – putting a damper on the boycott jihad. Perhaps, RISA is not having much luck breaking into the top-tier journals of their “oldest pursuit” – such as “Hustler” and “Penthouse”, so they still have to depend on Oxford University Press.
Courtright and $1.2Billion/yr Emory University have attacked Atlanta citizens, and the Louisiana students who posted the (vindicated) Petition. Sneering articles in the AJC, Gwinnett Daily Post, the Washington Post, the Berkshire newspaper, and the comments on Emory’s own edited, “moderated” EmoryWheel website, slandering the students who protested the book as “Hitlerite”, “KKK” etc. [20] exemplify the real hate campaign. Despite these being pointed out very emphatically to their Dean and President, there is no evidence that anything was done to put a stop to these – and Courtright [2] blatantly declares that the University is supporting him in his campaign.
Courtright is not alone, as he says – the attack on the truth is far broader. The Washington Post cites Prof. Wendy Doniger’s victimhood, where a flying egg, rotten or otherwise, is claimed to have missed her – at her lecture in London, UK. What the Post did not mention was the real violence at that event. IJAI has learned that many in the audience became upset at Doniger’s “oldest pursuit” of obscene, twisted references to Shri Ram and Sita – the central characters of the Hindu epic “Ramayana”, and the ideals of family values to many Hindus. At the end, a lady psychologist in the audience stood up to ask if Doniger herself had ever been “psycho- analyzed”. It is reported that she was shouted down, and physically manhandled by the organizers. RISA’s respect for Free Speech and Truth showed again.
Victimhood By Association – with the Attackers?
Courtright’s attempts victimhood by association with Macalester College History Professor James Laine. Laine, for those unaware of the scandal, wrote in his claimed “religion history” book that Maratha hero Shivaji was not, well, his official daddy’s son. Shocked Indian scholars questioned the basis of this claim – leading to Laine admitting that his claimed research revelation was in fact a crude “joke” he had heard somewhere, and Oxford Books to withdraw that masterpiece from circulation. Unamused, a mob of Shivaji-worshippers, the “Sambhaji Brigade” trashed the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) in Pune, citing perceived collaboration with Laine. Even less amused, the Mumbai High Court has recently permitted the State Government of Maharashtra to pursue an investigation of criminal conspiracy to incite violence, with the aim of getting Laine extradited to stand trial in India.
Courtright’s attempt to link this event to “Hindus” is especially instructive of his motives. Note that “visitor” or otherwise, he claims to be an expert on Hinduism. Alumni describe him as the Hinduism expert in Emory’s team-course on “Religion and Film” where, for example, the relevance of “Star Trek” to Christianity might be explored, conveying the ultra-modern relevance of Christianity. Apparently, not all American college courses demand such intense skill-mastery as the much-maligned “Basket-Weaving 101” . Courtright, according to alumni, uses clips of communal violence to teach “Hinduism and Film”. So well-informed an expert, and that too with his own Dept. Chair sitting in Pune, could hardly be unaware that it would enrage the “Sambhaji Brigade” even more to call them “Hindus”. Isn’t it surprising that the “well- funded” Hindu Extremist machine of Courtright’s imagination hasn’t got the Indian police on Courtright’s trail, given that his writings are far worse than Laine’s? Could it be because of two truths?
(a) Laine’s real problems are with the Law, not with any mob.
(b) The State of Maharashtra which is hunting Laine is ruled by the Congress Party – whose top leaders feted the visiting Emory Tour Group this winter. The Sambhaji Brigade is alleged to have close links to the Congress Party – which has now won an upset victory in India’s elections, along with their Marxist Communist coalition partners – all quite inimical to the “Hindu” lobby.
Thus, by Courtright’s own “logic”, one is forced to conclude that Courtright and Emory are in fact far more closely linked to the violence against scholars than any “Hindu” organizations have ever been! His Department Chair, Prof. Patton’s extended presence at Pune, possibly during, and certainly after, the violent events there, also raises curiosity.
Whining in lieu of rebuttal
Like most RISA members, Courtright is innocent of modesty when he presumes scholarliness:
“As scholars we have to own that integrity and do our work with as much clarity, resolve, and compassion as we know how….We have a duty to be accurate and put carefully thought-out ideas into the conversation for critical appraisal by our readers…”
It would appear that getting data before publishing conclusions is part of “integrity” – but hey, what do I know? But I do take utter offence at this claim:
“In my case, my attackers have not engaged the argument of my book—its intellectual substance—but have attacked me personally and called for public censure of me by my university. ..When others try to silence us because they claim to take offense and insist that their sentiments trump our pursuit of knowledge…. To write is to write back, against those forces that would take away power and agency from us.”
The Academic Exchange disappoints those who associated better standards of academic honesty with Emory, by publishing such nonsense. Ref. [21] is a partial list, compiled from the internet, of specific reviews and criticisms of the “intellectual substance” of his work, including specific attempts to engage Courtright and “Religion Studies” peers, in debate. According to someone who actually knows the subject, Courtright’s understanding of his chosen methodology of “psychoanalysis” [22], is not something to write home about, either.
He has not seen fit to attempt rebuttal, and I am not surprised.
Tavern-Tale Peddling in lieu of Scholarship
Several examples of Courtright’s obscenities are quoted at [10]. Consider this sample [26]:
“… Ganesa’s mother… Offers the prize of a mango to which of her sons can go around the world first. Ganesa wins by circumambulating her and eats the fruit and then gets beheaded…. The mango is a vaginal symbol. Hence Ganesa’s eating the fruit is an act of incestuous possession of the mother for which he is punished by beheading, symbol of castration, and his celibacy is his punishment for acting out his incestuous desires”.
That was his interpretation. The original legend, which he clearly knew [24] is:
“She said to them .. ‘Your father will decide who I will give it to.’ When Skanda heard this, he quickly went on a pilgrimage through the triple world, mounted on a peacock, but the wise pot-bellied one circumambulated his two parents. Then he stood there happily in front of his two parents, saying: ‘Give it to me!’… Parvati smiled and said: “All the pilgrimages and sacrifices are not worth a sixteenth part of the worship of one’s parents. Therefore this son (I.e., Ganesa) is worth more than a hundred sons having a hundred virtues.”
A beautiful legend, obviously used to instill respect for parents, is twisted into filth. Is this wild “interpretation” based on Emory’s classroom reward system, or personal experience, perhaps?
Freudian Slip : “Controlling the Past to Suit Ideological Agenda”
Courtright tilts at the diabolical “right wing extremist” windmills, accusing them of wanting to “control India’s past to suit their ideological agendas”. Who is trying to manipulate the past here? As Courtright says: “Religious stories and ideas are not private property. They belong to the public domain.” True. But stories twisted into child pornography and pedophilia and tavern-tales of incest and group orgies do not belong in undergraduate classrooms or religion library shelves, do they? Why ban XXX-rated websites from access by children, if this is the sort of stuff being peddled by Professors in Methodist universities – as Religion Studies?
Innocent – of Empathy
The same April-May 2004 issue of Emory’s Academic Exchange web page also ran several items micro-analyzing their Anthropology department’s “Speech Code” controversy where a professor uttered one phrase, which offended an African- American listener. In that case, the President called campus meetings, and sent the entire department into “sensitivity training”. Recently, Emory has also had to deal with the Bellesiles case, where a professor “left of his own accord” after irking the NRA. Someone challenged the data published by Prof. Bellesiles to prove that pre- Independence American farmers were not armed with guns. Bellesiles claimed that he could not find the data again – it was lost in a fire, etc – and this was deemed to be sufficient evidence of falsifying conclusions, i.e., not having enough data to back conclusions. A far cry from the standards in Emory’s Department of Religion, isn’t it? Is the irony (or is it “hypocrisy”?) so hard to see?
Deal Paul of the Emory College rejected all comparisons to such precedents at his meeting with us on February 18 – he went so far as to claim (consider this gem…) that racist statements uttered INSIDE a classroom – or written in an article – would have been fine with him.
Does Porn-Peddling Come Under Academic Freedom?
This is a painful issue on which to write. Many Indian editors and readers are brought up in such genteel and sheltered environments that they simply cannot bring themselves to use or even see words such as “p0rnography” – with the unfortunate effect of leaving the obscene writings of these “scholars” improperly characterized. This is a holdover of social superstitions which worry more about “log kya kahenge?” (what will people say? What happens to my Family Honour?) than about stopping abuse and caring for the rights and interests of victims. One finds the word “pornography” replaced swiftly with “inappropriate expressions” or “idiosyncratic expressions” – leaving the reader clueless about the true nature of the offensive writings. On one famous desi web portal, the overzealous editor kept censoring posts where we even tried writing “P….. aphy”. Child pornography is simply not even imaginable.
On the other hand, the RISA “scholars” have no such hang-ups – they specialize in the “oldest pursuit” after all, writing and peddling sex books. Their claimed mission is to bring out the “true meanings” of our religious traditions. The trouble with this claim, as seen from the excerpts presented here, is that there is absolutely no basis, reasonable or otherwise, for this pornographic twisting of religions traditions. I have presented just two examples in this essay – that is not for lack of numbers, but simply to avoid filling these pages with the lewd fantasies of these people, who have no lack of publication outlets themselves.
The RISA argument predictably finds sympathy with their colleagues in liberal arts university administrations, who see themselves as Defenders of Academic Freedom. The Managing Editor of the Emory Academic Exchange, operating from the Office of their Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, for example, wrote an impassioned outburst in 2002 against the “Silencing” of controversial intellectual debate by “uncivil discourse” [ ].
A quick survey of Courtright’s and Doniger’s comments about those whom they so casually offend, points to the source of the “uncivility” in this case. Most of those who have expressed themselves on this issue in public, are well-accomplished professionals, businesspeople or professors – in fields where smut does not constitute evidence of originality or excellence. They have made their sincere protests known, through the most restrained and quiet means – generally starting with a friendly letter to the author. The response, what little there has been from the RISA, has been shockingly rude and obnoxious. In most cases, they don’t exhibit the breeding even to acknowledge letters. In the rest, when they do respond, it is in a manner that puts to rest all doubt about their class – calling their critics “illiterate or worse”, “self-proclaimed pundits”, “terrorists”, “KKK types”, “Hitlerites”, “Fascists”, and, of course the all-inclusive “Hindu nationalists”.
Intellectual integrity demands no less than the complete withdrawal by Courtright, Doniger and their cohorts of their obscene and discredited writings. Their claim of being objective researchers flies in the face of the evidence, and their mutual description as “scholars” is hilarious. They have been shown to be systematically and deliberately twisting the most innocent of Hindu legends into lewd interpretations – with absolutely no basis whatsoever – even by their own admission. Whether they improve their mindset is up to them as full-grown adults – but it is clearly essential for the public to know exactly why readers are enraged by their writings. To-date, the response of these writers and their cohorts, especially of RISA, provides no hope that objective reasoning and basic decency will prevail in their circles without external intervention. Far from it, there is a mindless “circling of the wagons to shoot at the Injuns” challenging their invasion of our religious sensibilities and basic sense of decency. At the very minimum, their obscene products must be removed from classrooms – and moved from the “religion” sections of university libraries to the “pornography” sections if they must have those for their off-hours entertainment.
Laine’s backpedaling on the nature of his book is an example where these “scholarly works on history of religion” are revealed upon examination to be self-described “jokes” and utter obscene fiction. The reader will find that Laine’s book is still falsely advertised on book-peddling websites as “History of Religion’ when it is neither.
It is, most regrettably, not an option for civilized society to wait for the RISA academic community to grow integrity on its own – the pre-requisite of developing common sense might take decades if they start now.
In Conclusion: The Issues
This controversy is not about the academic freedom to publish scholarly deductions based on evidence and competent, objective analysis. The first issue in the controversy is about a powerful university’s arrogant propagation of vile fantasies – whose obvious and predictable effect is to demean and humiliate. These are certainly inappropriate in teaching. Their peddling probably borders on the criminal. Yet, the university’s response has been to attack those who patiently point these out.
These Protestant faculty (I use that adjective because they associate religion with everything we say) are peeved at the rise of informed opinion, which hinders their “freedom” to write lewd fantasies about our icons and beliefs – even about toddlers! They are clearly running a powerful campaign to demean us – and generate hatred towards us based on religious prejudice. They dehumanize us by casting our deities as immoral, perverse and violent. This bigotry has clear and present dangers to us – our children are assaulted by thugs in school on the “rationale” that they are believers in obscene customs – or that they are devoid of moral standards. Hate assaults against Hindus are on the rise in the West. Ignoring the source of the hatred is again, not an option for those of us who simply want to live in peace.
There has been no lack of effort to engage with these worthies in honest intellectual debate. My article is certainly not intended to be an intellectual exercise on religion – I have no credentials in religion – but it is based on the simple concepts of pointing out the facts and demanding basic human decency. But others such as Malhotra, Sanu, Agarwal, Balagangadhara and Venkat, to name a few, have done an exhaustive job of analyzing and rebutting the works of Doniger, Courtright and their cohorts with incisive intellectual arguments.
The RISA/ Emory response to all these efforts has been what Tagore would have called “Insolent Might”. The latest example is the Emory Academic Exchange’s failure to even acknowledge receiving the rebuttal to their publication of Courtright’s blatantly flawed article. In this I agree with what Courtright says, as quoted in another Emory article [[26]]:
“People who talk to themselves about themselves leave no room for discourse.” An accurate description of RISA and Courtright’s attitudes in this controversy.
To someone who sees matters from both sides of the academic walls with fairly old eyes, Emory university’s behavior in this issue is reminiscent of a rookie lecturer trying to gain control of an undergraduate class through petulance, unable to command respect. A panicked response which indicates that they are keenly aware of their untenable position. One hopes that sensible senior faculty and administrators at Emory will see the need to act in support of basic human decency first, because failure to do so is the surest road to the loss of the very academic freedom which all of us cherish. They must put their “religion studies” house in order, using adult common sense to override the pompous pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo.
There are precedents aplenty for universities showing good sense in dealing with such matters – I need not list them here. There are also plenty of examples of excellent Hinduism research and study programs, for example those at the University of Heidelberg, for Emory and U. Chicago to emulate.
Our aim is to see Hinduism taught and learned with competence and empathy, rather than with these sneering tavern-tale “interpretations” and vile pornography. Hindus, like all other people, have the right to be treated with elementary human decency, to worship as they please, and not be subjected to vicious bigotry and abuse. We expect this respect for basic human decency even of 21-year-old military jailers – should we expect less of university professors?
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References:
[1]: Courtright, P, “Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings”, Motilal Banarasidas and Sons, 2001, p.111.
[2] Courtright, P., “Studying Religion in an Age of TerrorInternet death threats and scholarship as a moral practice”. Including Editor’s Comment. Academic Exchange, Emory University,http://www.emory.edu/ACAD_EXCHANGE/2004/aprmay/ courtright.html
[3] Malhotra, R., “RISA Lila 2: Limp Scholarship and Demonology”
http://www.sulekha.com/expressions/column.asp?cid=305890
[4] Agarwal, V., Venkat, K., “When The Cigar Becomes A Phallus-Part 1”. http://www.sulekha.com/articledesc.asp?cid=307042
[5] Sanu, S., “Courtright Twist And Academic Freedom” http://www.sulekha.com/ column.asp?cid=305899%20
[6] Cornell Law School: ”child pornography” – .. depiction is of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; depiction .. created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or .. depiction is advertised, promoted, presented, described, or distributed in such a manner that conveys the impression that the material is or contains a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.’ Excerpts from Cornell website on “Child Pornography”. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/2256.htmlTITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 110 > Sec. 2256.
[7] Wikipedia: “pedophilia ..is sexual attraction of an adult to prepubescent children.” Excerpt from “Wikipedia” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedophilia
[8] Doniger, W.: “Malhotra’s ignorant writings have stirred up more passionate emotions in Internet subscribers who know even less than Malhotra does, who do not read books at all,” quote by Vedantam, S. in “Wrath Over a Hindu God” http:// www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A334-2004Apr9.html
[9] Conlon, F., “the book, taken as a whole, could not be taken by a reasonably informed reader, as anything
but a brilliant contribution to scholarship.” Post on the Religion in South Asia list, Nov. 3, 2003,http://www.sandiego.edu/theo/risa-l/archive/msg07243.html
[10] Komerath, N., “Why People Are Outraged By Paul Courtright’s and Emory University’s Portrayal of Hinduism – Introduction to the Facts and Issues”. Presented at Emory University, February 18, 2004. http://jitnasa.india-forum.com/ Emory_intro_short.htm Also, Notes used to present “Why People Are Enraged..”: Narayanan Komerath http://jitnasa.india-forum.com/Docs/Komerath.htm
[11] Shipp, W., Shipp, W., “Adams can learn from Wagner”. Gwinnett Daily Post http:/ /www.gwinnettdailyonline.com/GDP/archive/ article20DD10E2D0924096A99DEB0763. Excerpts:
[12] Emory University Candler School of Theology Mission Statement. http://www.candler.emory.edu/
[13] “The Opportunities and Benefits of a Religion Major”. Emory University Department of Religion. http://www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/RELIGION/courses/ benefits.html
[14] “Welcome from the Chair, Laurie L. Patton”. Emory Department of Religion,http://www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/RELIGION/welcome/index.html
[15] Marty, Martin E., “Scholars of Hinduism Under Attack”. http://www.beliefnet.com/story/128/story_12899_1.html Excerpt: “The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School is pleased to announce the appointment of Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions, to the directorship of the Martin Marty Center. An unparalleled presence in international religious studies in her over thirty-year career, Ms. Doniger’s recent works include Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade; The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; and a new translation of the Kamasutra (with Sudhir Kakar).”
[16] Malhotra, M., “Washington Post and Hinduphobia” http://www.sulekha.com/expressions/column.asp?cid=305924
[17] See Shipp, W., Shipp, W., “Adams can learn from Wagner”. Gwinnett Daily Post, above.
[18] Malhotra, R.., “RISA Lila – 2 – Limp Scholarship and Demonology” Sulekha, Nov. 17, 2003, quoting the text of the Petition by the students protesting offensive passages in Courtright’s book on Shri Ganesha. http://www.sulekha.com/expressions/ column.asp?cid=305890
[19] Jain, Rajiv: “ Ganesh”. Apology on behalf of Motilal Banarasidas & Sons, Nov. 3, 2003.http://groups.yahoo.com/group/INDOLOGY/message/3841.
[20]: Comments posted on moderated, edited website of “EmoryWheel” regarding Courtright controversy. http://www.emorywheel.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/11/ 07/3faa9d9806787
[21] Partial list of articles on the intellectual merits of Professor Courtright’s work, proving more than ample opportunities for him to respond/ rebut. http://jitnasa.india-forum.com/Docs/Courtright_Doniger_List.html
[22] Vinekar, S.S., “”Prof. Courtright’s Pseudo-psychoanalytic Depiction of Shri Ganesha: Authentic Scholarship or Bigotry? ” Proceedings of the Dialogue Between the Concerned Community and Emory University for Better Relations, Decatur, GA, February 18, 2004.http://jitnasa.india-forum.com/Docs/ShreeVinekar.htm
[23] : Courtright, P, “Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings”, Motilal Banarasidas and Sons, 2001, p.124.
[24] Courtright, P, “Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings”, Motilal Banarasidas and Sons, 2001, p.126.
[25] Adams, Allison O. “SILENCED: Is uncivil discourse quelling scholarship on controversial issues?” http://www.emory.edu/ACAD_EXCHANGE/2002/decjan/ silenced.html

[26] Patel, D., “Academic freedom debated in wake of recent petition”. The Emory Wheel Online, Nov. 7, 2003.http://www.emorywheel.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/11/07/3faa9e07c1016

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