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Indian/Hindu Identity
Was The Hindu Caste System Partly Responsible For The Muslim Invasion Of India???

Even though the Caste System is actually not part of the Hindu religion, but was a product of Indian culture and society and actually did not come into existence thousands of years after the vedic religion was being practiced, Do you agree that the caste system (especially in relation to how it was abused) was partly responsible for the Islamic invasion of India.

The caste system served to keep the Indian civilisation divided and precluded unity and cohesion as well as Hindu brotherhood and love. That is why Indian lands were a state of warring kingdoms, which the Muslim invaders and trespassers exploited to conquer India. Do you agree that had the caste system not been in place, Islam would have never been able to invade India and to this day the entire population of Pakistan and Bangladesh would have still been Hindu. Afterall they are only Muslim because it was forced on them by the invading Mughals. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Couldn't work out where this might belong. It has to do with the topic of 'Hindu Identity' as well as Hinduism in general. Figured it might go here.
Don't know if this has been posted before, but felt it was important. It's quite old ("September 9, 2002").

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Varsha Bhosle
Towards Balkanisation, V: Adivasis</b><!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd--><!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Hindus -- not the don't-know-my-ass-from-my-mouth type -- do not accept the view that tribals are non-Hindus;</b> and that Christians, Muslims and Hindus have an equal right to offer their religion to them, as then NCM chairman Tahir Mahmood claimed (Hindustan Times, Jan 28, 1999). Mahmood also cited census reports to support his claim: "Appendix C to the census report of 1991 gives details of Sects/Beliefs/Religions clubbed with another religion. According to this annexure, no tribal community has been clubbed with the followers of the Hindu religion in the report."

Whether Adivasis are Hindus or not has always been a question of great controversy. The Niyogi Commission's Report of the Christian Missionaries Enquiry Committee MP, Nagpur, 1956 (Vol I, Part I, Chapter I) states, "The Missionaries have throughout claimed that they are not Hindus. A continuous attempt has been made by these organisations to foster a sense of separateness amongst the Tribes from the rest of the Hindus. Speaking about the separation of the aborigines from the mass of the Indian population Gandhiji remarked: 'We were strangers to this sort of classification -- animists -- aborigines, etc, but we have learnt it from the English rulers.' To the question put by Dr Chesterman whether Gandhiji's objection applied to areas like the Kond hills where the aboriginal races were animists, the unhesitating reply was, 'Yes, it does apply, because I know that in spite of being described as animists these tribes have from times immemorial been absorbed in Hinduism. They are, like the indigenous medicine, of the soil, and their roots lie deep there'." (I wonder what our Gandhivadis have to say now.)

Whatever the Adivasis may have been originally, there's no doubt that they were gradually absorbed into the Hindu fold -- just like the pagans of Saudi Arabia and northern Africa were into Islam, but only many, many centuries earlier. So does that give Hindus poaching rights over Arabs...? The Niyogi Report states, "Where a tribe has insensibly been converted into a caste, it preserved its original name and customs, but modified its animistic practices more and more in the direction of orthodox Hinduism. Numerous examples of this process are to be found all over India and it has been at work for centuries."

Besides, what's the difference between Hindu forms of worship and the Adivasis' "animism" anyway? Don't Hindus worship trees on Vat Savitri, snakes on Nag Panchami, and cows everyday? In 1891, J A Baines, the Census Commissioner, considered as futile the distinction between tribals who were "Hinduised" and those that followed a tribal form of religion because, "every stratum of Indian society is more or less saturated with Animistic Conceptions but little raised above those which predominate in the early state of religious development."

Tell me, how many Hindu Gods and Goddesses can you name...? Even if you believe that each God is a mere form of the One Reality, how many forms of, say, Durga, can you name? Have you heard of Zanai? Well, She's a Bhosle <i>daivat</i>, and the tribals of that area of Satara district, too, worship Her. Ms B Nivedita, of the Vivekananda Kendra at Kanyakumari, writes, <b>"The missionaries called the Gods and Goddesses of these [<i>north eastern tribal</i>] communities 'spirits'... First introducing and then popularising the use of 'spirits' for the Devi-Devata of these communities, the missionaries started their campaign for conversion.</b> The people were told, 'You do not have God. You worship only spirits. What you have is only primitive ideas of religion and a bundle of superstitions. If you want to be saved then follow the Only True God'."

But why did the 1991 census make the anti-Hindu distinction...? Really, you shouldn't ask stupid questions when you jolly well know the will of a political class and bureaucracy steeped in Fabian socialism and manipulated by frankly-Red historians. <b>Till 1901, all communities -- like nagarvasi, gramvasi, vanavasi -- were listed as Hindus. But in 1901, the census officers were directed by the British government to mention the religion of Adivasis as "animism."</b>

Thing is, the census officers kept complaining that it was nearly impossible for them to decide who was an animist and who was a Hindu, since all worshipped God in many forms. Thus, in one census, a community was "animist" and in the next it was Hindu, or vice versa. Finally, the government directed the officers to enter the name of a community as the name of its religion. <b>Voilà: the religion of the Santhals became "Santhal," that of the Nagas became "Naga," and so on. After that, deriding each "religion" became easier for missionaries following the policy of Divide & Convert.</b>

But, no matter what manipulations followed, the British just couldn't distinguish between Hinduism and "animism." In the census of 1901, Sir Herbert Risley observed that "Hinduism itself was animism more or less transformed by philosophy," and that no sharp line of demarcation could be drawn between them as the one melted away into the other (The People of India, 2nd edition). In 1931, the census commissioner, Dr J H Hutton, <b>admitted that the line between Hinduism and tribal religion was difficult to draw and the inclusion of tribals within the Hindu fold was easy</b> (Census of India, 1931, India Report, Vol I, Part I). The deputy commissioner of Amravati, Mr Stent, sent a note to the census officer saying that <b>the educated Indian officers maintained that Gonds, Korkus, Bhils, Gowaris and Banjaras were Hindus</b>, and that he himself conceded that when members of these tribes settled in a Hindu village they became Hindus. He commented on the tendency of Hinduism to absorb the religion of other people, and also pointed out that the <b>aboriginals returned themselves as Hindus...</b> (Census Report, Central Provinces and Berar, 1931, Volume XII, Part I).
(Who cares about Stent's opinion that they 'became' Hindus when they settled in 'Hindu villages'? What does he know?
All that matters is that urban Indians of that time knew these communities were already Hindu - regardless of whether they had settled in 'Hindu villages' or not. That is, even when the Gonds and others lived in their original locality, they were Hindus and their villages were Hindu villages too.
And the other way too, as seen above: the Girijan also considered themselves Hindu.)

Then why did the British persist with the scheme? The Niyogi Report states, "It is not easy to find any sound reason for isolating the tribal people from the Hindus in view of the repeated admissions made that the animistic or tribal religion was hardly distinguishable from the Hindu religion. The mystery is solved when we come to examine the Missionary activities within these tribal areas." Those activities form a book, bits of which I'll give you some time.

How missionaries lull stupid Hindus can be seen from the census of 1941: That year, for the first time, heads were counted community-wise instead of on the basis of religion. That is, a tribal was classified merely as one who belonged to a scheduled tribe despite his being a Christian. Result, the all-India figures for Christians were shown as 6,040,665 -- which was less by 256,098 than the figure recorded in 1931. However, the Census Commissioner of India, Mr Yeats, made a note where he disclosed that about 1/20th of the total tribal population were Christian. Meaning, there was actually an increase of 3,474,128 persons among the Christian community during 1931-41.

But let's return to where we started -- Gujarat and its tribals. Davinder Kumar wrote in Outlook of July 1: "Of all the disturbing facts that have emerged from the post-mortem of the communal carnage in Gujarat, the most baffling and alarming is the large-scale participation of Dalits and tribals in the rioting... Even more shocking: tribals, who have little in common with mainstream Hinduism, brandished weapons, looted and killed as they violently avenged the 'attack on Hindus'."

From Rajdeep Sardesai, to Barbara Crossette, to Our Special Correspondent -- everybody needed smelling salts at this revelation. Quite natural. After all, what would those whose lineage has no bond with Hinduism except for, if at all, the occasional phuljhadi at Diwali, know about a Hindu memory...?

Identity is the result of the interactions among an array of phenomena that gather around a responsive core and induce its expression. Since the interactions are diverse, the relations that emerge, too, are diverse and thus prone to change. An individual is not just a biological entity; he also carries a memory imprint which, among others, accommodates the body's mental and spiritual needs against the external forces that protect or threaten his survival. <b>The Adivasi or Vanvasi or tribal was and is a Hindu.</b> And as a Hindu, he did not require "successful experiment" to rise in unprecedented anger at the unprecedented provocation of 58 Hindus -- men, women and children -- locked into a bogie and set on fire.

On the night of January 7, 1993, four women, three men and two girls were locked in a room, doused with kerosene, and set on fire. When the news of the Radhabai Chawl massacre spread, including how the attackers stood around shouting "Allah-o-Akbar," Bombay burned. When 68 Hindus suffer the same fate, why wouldn't Gujarat burn...? <b>Did you really expect the Dalits and Adivasis of Gujarat to be as brainwashed by our "eminent historians" as you are?</b><!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->Man, for their sake, I'm glad the British anthropologists did not meet my Grandfather. He'd have confused and confounded them utterly. Based on appearance and actions he'd have been immediately classified as a 'savage tribal animist'. He spent much of his time outside the home and had no trouble sleeping outside when travelling. At such times he bathed in rivers - in ice-cold water! Who but a complete and utter Mowgli would do that? (Except that all the generations of my family prior to my Grandfather did that too - Mowglis galore.) His dress was also very much like that of any 'savage' - some primitive white cloths. And barefoot too - that proves it for anyone still harbouring any doubts! And who knows what those animystic thingies were which he did everyday during sunset and sunrise, even when travelling far away from home? And what's up with his animystical dealings with Nagapambu/Sarpam?
And oh yeah, to top it all off, his deities were typically Girijan too: a God who lives on a mountain, whose hair is utterly matted, skin entirely coated with sacred 'ashes' and who wears jaguar skin; and a Goddess who also dresses similarly many times; and goodness! their children too, - for example, one of them is known for living on a mountain when not leading an army of Devargal... Sorry, did I say Gods - tsk, tsk, how dare I presume to lay hold on words meant only for christian people - I meant 'Spirits' with lowercase 's' of course.

No one in my family had ever heard (and the older generations might still not know) of 'tribals' being of a different religion: Not Hindu but a 'separate' religion? <!--emo&:blink:--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/blink.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='blink.gif' /><!--endemo--> When did that happen?

First the christoterrorists define what is Hindu and exclude most Hindus from it, then they tell all those who are excluded that theirs is 'not Hinduism. Let me 'splain. Your religion is <i>also</i> a hooga-booga religion <i>but</i> it is still different from Hindoooo hoooga-boooga. Do you see the grand point I'm making? (No? Don't worry, you tribal thing, it's called L-O-G-I-C and it's obviously too much for your brain.) I therefore dub thee a non-Hindoo Animist.' Now, the final touch for the right effect: 'the evil Hindooo hooga-boogas invaded your land and have marginalised your hooga-boogas. There's no proof whatsoever for this, but proof is not important. Look I am from England/Portugal/France/... and the One True gawd's with me, so that should suffice for reliable authority. You Hamites have to believe us because we're gawd's Newly Chosen People (NCP) - the Japhetics.
And don't forget: only jeebus will free you from your damned backward animistic hooga-booganess altogether. And trust me, that's what you little animists were all waiting for. And if not... do you <i>want</i> to be cooked forever in gawd's eternal frying pan?'

('Gawd's eternal frying pan' is my friend's own creation, part of a poem he's made.)
what im understand from this british researchers is that animism is base only on mythology not philosophy(as in the case of hinduism).which mean that hinduism is a more smart version of hooga booga then animism.
And spirits are a kinda less powerful gods.
This british theories are "great".Acording to them ,you can put even majority of population in the animist camp. If you are not Adi Shankara,Ramanuja or Madhva ,you can easly find your self place in animistic baricade ready to be protected from brahmanism(read converted to the only true religion).
Have a personal copy of 'Return of the Aryans' by Bhagwan S. Gidwani - a very interesting read. Will post some sections later as I can find/scan them.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->SONG OF THE HINDU

<b>- WHO IS A HINDU? - his Identity, his Duty, and his Mission -</b>

(Composed by Karkarta Bharat in 5000 B.C.)

Reproduced from 'Return of the Aryans' by Bhagwan S. Gidwani (pages 65 & 82-83)

"Our desires have grown immeasurable. But they should be desires to give, not merely to receive, to accept and not to reject; to honour and respect, not to deny or belittle...

"God's gracious purpose includes all human beings and all creation_

"For God is the Creator; and God is the Creation...

"Each man has his own stepping stones to reach the One-Supreme...

"God's grace is withdrawn from no one; not even from those who have chosen to withdraw from God's grace...

"How does it matter what idols they worship, or what images they bow to, so long as the conduct remains pure…

"It is conduct then - theirs and ours - that needs to be purified...

"There can be no compulsion; each man must be free to worship his gods as he chooses...

"Does every Hindu worship all the gods of all the Hindus? No, he has a free will; a free choice_

"A Hindu may worship Agni (fire), and ignore other deities. Do we deny that he is a Hindu? ...

"Another may worship God, through an idol of his choosing. Do we deny that he is a Hindu?...

"Yet another will find God everywhere and not in any image or idol. Is he not a Hindu?...

"He who was Karkarta before me was a Sun-worshiper. Did the worshipers of Siva ever say that he was not a good Hindu? ...

"Do the worshipers of Vishnu feel that he who worships before the image of Brahma is not a Hindu?...

"How can a scheme of salvation be limited to a single view of God's nature and worship?_

"Is then God, not an all-loving Universal God?...

"Clearly then, he who seeks to deny protection to another on the basis of his faith, offends against the Hindu way of life, and denies an all-loving God...

"Those who love their own sects, idols and images more than Truth, will end up by loving themselves more than their gods...

"He who seeks to convert another to his own faith, offends against his own soul and the will of God and the law of humanity...

"In the Kingdom of God, there is no higher nor lower. The passion for perfection burns equally in all, for there is only one class even as there is only one God...

"The Hindu way of life?... Always it has been and always it shall be...that God wills a rich harmony - not a colorless uniformity...

"A Hindu must enlarge the heritage of mankind_

"For a Hindu is not a mere preserver of custom ...

"For a Hindu is not a mere protector of present knowledge...

"Hinduism is a movement, not a position; a growing tradition and not a fixed revelation...

"A Hindu must grow and evolve, with all that was good in the past, with all that is good in the present, and with all goodness that future ages shall bring ...

"Yet he remains a Hindu"

"Hinduism is the law of life, not a dogma; its aim is not to create a creed but character, and its goal is to achieve perfection through most varied spiritual knowledge which rejects nothing, and yet refines everything, through continuous testing and experiencing...

"Yet a Hindu must remain strong and united, for a Hindu must know that not an external, outside force can ever crush him, except when he is divided and betrays his own...

"What then is the final goal of the Hindu? Through strength, unity, discipline, selfless work, to reach the ultimate in being, ultimate in awareness and ultimate in bliss, not for himself alone, but for all...

"This was the silent pledge that our ancient ancestors had taken, when they called themselves the Hindu…

"If I cannot abide by that pledge, how can I retain the right to call myself a Hindu?"

(Extracts reproduced from 'Return of the Aryans', by Bhagwan S. Gidwani, published by Penguin Books Ltd. in India & Canada — ISBN 0-14-024053-5).
what is your opinion about this book about tibetan buddhism?


Introduction: Light and Shadow
Plato’s Cave
Realpolitik and politics of symbols

Part I - Ritual as Politic

1 - Buddhism and Misogyny (historical overview)
The "sacrifice" of Maya: the Buddha legend
The meditative dismemberment of women: Hinayana Buddhism

The transformation of women into men: Mahayana Buddhism

2 - Tantric Buddhism

The explosion of sexus: Vairayana Buddhism

Mystic sexual love between the sexes and cosmogonical eros

The guru as manipulator of the divine

The appropriation of gynergy and androcentric power strategies

The absolute power of the "grand sorcerer" (Maha Siddha)

3 - The “Tantric Female Sacrifice"

The karma mudra: the real woman

The inana mudra: the woman of imagination

Karma mudra vs. inana mudra

Nevertheless, Thurman presumes to declare them expressions of traditional Tibet’s “inner modernity”, which is ultimately superior to Europe’s “outer modernity”: “As Europe was pushing away the Pope, the Church, and the enchantment of everyday life, Tibet was turning over the reins of its country to a new kind of government, which cannot properly be called ‘theocratic’, since the Tibetans do not believe in an omnipotent God, but which can be called ‘Buddhocratic’” (Thurman 1998, p. 248). This form of government is supposed to guide our future. At the Tibet conference in Bonn, Thurman made this clearer: “Yes, not theocratic, because that brings [with it a] comparison to the Holy Roman Empire ... because it has the conception of an authoritarian God controlling the universe” (Thurman at the conference in Bonn). Thurman seems to think the concept of an “authoritarian Buddha” does not exist, although this is precisely what may be found at the basis of the Lamaist system.
<!--QuoteBegin-Honsol+May 24 2007, 04:27 PM-->QUOTE(Honsol @ May 24 2007, 04:27 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->what is your opinion about this book about tibetan buddhism?
[christoterrorist allegations against Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism in particular]
The page at link http://www.trimondi.de/SDLE/Contents.htm starts with:
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Contents
Victor & Victoria Trimondi<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->The Trimondis made a 'name' for themselves by absurdly claiming that Hinduism and Buddhism 'inspired Hitler'. These two writers are christians who try to shift the blame for Nazism, the Holocaust and the racism based on the imaginary Oryans off from christianity by trying to implicate utterly uninvolved religions.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Book Tries to Link Hitler with Buddhism and Hinduism</b>

Hamburg, Germany, September 19, 2002: Adolf Hitler was fascinated with Buddhism and Hinduism, and many of his henchmen viewed him as a Krishna-like divine warrior who would cleanse the Earth of "vermin" in a baptism of fire, according to a headline-making new book. <b>The book Hitler-Buddha-Krishna is by a controversial Austrian husband-and-wife team of authors</b> who have generated publicity in Europe with a number of books exploring what they call the "violence- prone" side of Buddhism and Hinduism.

It was this side of those Eastern philosophies - the image of the vengeful demigod annihilating enemies without mercy to create a new earthly order - which fascinated Hitler as a young man and which continues to fascinate impressionable young neo-Nazis, say the authors. In fact, there is little new in the book by <b>Herbert and Mariana Roettgen,</b> according to this article in the German press, who write under the <b>pseudonym Victor and Victoria Trimondi.</b>

Beyond linking the swastika with Hindu symbolism, the authors fail to prove that Hitler himself actually had more than a brief flirtation with Eastern philosophy in pre-World War I Vienna. But this latest book has nonetheless drawn press attention in Austria and Germany, with more- or-less serious interviews appearing under invariably sensationalist photos of Hitler superimposed over the Buddha. "Hitler was a Buddhist" screamed a typical headline in Bild, Europe's biggest tabloid.

(source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur - For more on Hitler, please refer to Free thought Today and nobeliefs.com and Freethought.com).<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Now onto the person these liars-for-gawd are foolishly criticising:
<!--QuoteBegin-Honsol+May 24 2007, 04:27 PM-->QUOTE(Honsol @ May 24 2007, 04:27 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Fragment
Nevertheless, <b>Thurman</b> presumes to declare them expressions of traditional Tibet’s “inner modernity”, which is ultimately superior to Europe’s “outer modernity”: “As Europe was pushing away the Pope, the Church, and the enchantment of everyday life, Tibet was turning over the reins of its country to a new kind of government, which cannot properly be called ‘theocratic’, since the Tibetans do not believe in an omnipotent God, but which can be called ‘Buddhocratic’” (Thurman 1998, p. 248). This form of government is supposed to guide our future. At the Tibet conference in Bonn, Thurman made this clearer: “Yes, not theocratic, because that brings [with it a] comparison to the Holy Roman Empire ... because it has the conception of an authoritarian God controlling the universe” (Thurman at the conference in Bonn). Thurman seems to think the concept of an “authoritarian Buddha” does not exist, although this is precisely what may be found at the basis of the Lamaist system.[right][snapback]69276[/snapback][/right]<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->I suspect they are talking about the famed German scholar of Buddhism Robert Thurman. He is <i>only</i> one of the world's foremost and respected western experts on Buddhism including Tibetan Buddhism. (He is also the dad of lovely actress Uma Thurman, but he's more famous in his own right - she's always been described as the 'daughter of Thurman'.) Back in high school one of my teachers had praised his works to the sky.

The Trimondis' speculative lies are no match for Thurman's in-depth factual knowledge. Though he might perhaps not know as much as actual Buddhist Monks and Lamas, he's probably as good as it gets otherwise. Thurman works in peer-reviewed circles and won't have time to waste responding to unfounded allegations and missionary lies made up by frauds.

I, on the other hand, have a little time:
This is but Trimondis' latest christolies. They're highly bothered since the fastest growing religion in Germany is Buddhism. And Thurman is - unlike the western 'scholars' on Hinduism - a Buddhist himself and therefore both knowledgeable and not at all opposed to his field of study. He has helped in bringing Buddhism to German and western attention, and what's more, it's positive attention he's garnered for Buddha's Dharma. He's an authority - not some random writer on the side - greatly admired and respected in German (and western) scholarship; but even casual readers apparently learn a lot from his books.

The Trimondis were already liars when it came to the typical cover-up of the facts concerning nazism which they attempted earlier. Hitler was a catholic and he's never been excommunicated. Pavelic and Tiso were devout catholics. Most nazis were devout catholics and (in Germany) protestants too.
The lying-duo were already pathetically desperate when they tried to fudge the actual christian connection with hitler and nazism by inventing the impossible thread to Buddhism and Hinduism instead. But with this book the Trimondis have once again put their hind paws in their mouths. Besides, how embarassing for them that they should try to pretend to know more than Thurman. The world is laughing. Perhaps none louder than myself. Mwahahahahahaha

Here, found Thurman's site.
His bio:
Robert A.F. Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, President of the Tibet House U.S., a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan civilization, and President of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies, a non-profit affiliated with the Center for Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and dedicated to the publication of translations of important texts from the Tibetan Tanjur.

Professor Thurman also translates important Tibetan and Sanskrit philosophical writings and lectures and writes on Buddhism, particularly Tibetan Buddhism; on Asian history, particularly the history of the monastic institution in the Asian civilization; and on critical philosophy, with a focus on the dialogue between the material and inner sciences of the world's religious traditions.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><span style='font-size:14pt;line-height:100%'>Think it Over: Nehru's nationalism</span>
By M.S.N. Menon

NEHRU was not sure.

“Merely by being born in India does not make you an Indian,” he says. Then what makes you an Indian? “To be an Indian, in the real sense of the term,” he says, “you have to lay claim on your inheritance.” In this country, only the Hindu claims the Indian inheritance.

Nehru himself was a great admirer of his Indian inheritance. Naturally, he was a true Indian—a true Indian nationalist.

Muslims make no claims on their Indian inheritance. Except on the land. They say they are different from the Hindus. Which is why they called for Partition. Do they, then, deserve to be called Indians? By the logic of Nehru, they do not.

Nehru recalls how proud the Greeks and Italians were (and are) of their past, although they are Christians today. But why are Indian minorities (Christians and Muslims) not proud of India’s past? This is a complex issue. Let me explain.

Sheikh Abdullah writes: “Nehru used to call himself an agnostic. But he was also a great admirer of the past of India and the Hindu spirit of India.” But who inspired him? He was inspired by the “same revivalist spirit as seen in Dayanand Saraswati and K.M.Munshi”, Sheikh says. (Atish-e-Chinar)

It is clear Abdullah did not like India’s past. Obviously, he was no nationalist. Dr. Akbar Ahmed says that Muslims of the Indian sub-continent have failed to explain their past, present and future. More so the past.

Here is another example. <b>In 1948, Nehru was addressing the Aligarh Muslim University convocation. He asked the assembled Muslims—the cream of Muslim society—whether they admired the past of India. There was deafening silence. But let me explain this in some detail. He told them: “I am proud of our inheritance and our ancestors, who gave an intellectual and cultural pre-eminence to India. How do you feel about this past?” (Only a nationalist could have asked such a question.) Not one Muslim got up to answer Nehru’s question.</b> But it calls for an answer. The Muslims cannot ignore it.

To Nehru, nationalism was more an emotional attachment to the motherland, to its fauna and flora, to its mountains and rivers, to its people, to its past. But “to the average Indian,” he says, “the whole of India was a kind a punya bhoomi”(holy land).

What is more, says Nehru, “In moments of crisis, a country calls up its traditions to raise a high pitch of effort and sacrifice.” This was the case when India had to fight the British empire. Only a people with a past can call up their past.

<b>India is no holy land to Christians and Muslims. That is the difference between the nationalist Hindus and the minorities. For us, Hindus, India is holy. She is the “mother.” For them, India is a piece of territory. Jerusalem is holy to them. Mecca is holy to them. Not India.

That is precisely why we Hindus have a greater stake in the destiny of this land. “The fate of India is largely tied up with the Hindu outlook,” says Nehru in a letter written on November 17, 1953 to K.N. Katju, his Home Minister.</b>

Is the fate of India tied up with the Muslim outlook?

To this he has a highly significant reply. He says: <b>“The Muslim outlook may be and, I think, is often worse. But it does not make much difference to the future of India.”</b>

Can you believe that this was written by Nehru, the man with a soft heart for the Muslims? But it is true. How is one to explain it?

By 1953 Nehru was a changed man. His faith in Muslims was shattered after Sheikh Abdullah betrayed him. Thus the nationalist in him came out in full force when he wrote his Last Will and Testament.

It was Nehru’s hope that his secularism would provide for Hindus and Muslims a framework within which they could bring about the necessary adjustments. But it was a false hope.

Nehru was no great thinker. He made many many mistakes. But he was a great lover of his country. And he could express his love in most beautiful words.

<img src='http://www.adherents.com/images/rel_pie.gif' border='0' alt='user posted image' />


In modern Western thought, the first writers to divide the world into "world religions" were Christians. Originally, three religions were recognized: Christians, Jews and pagans (i.e., everybody else).

After many centuries, with the increased Western awareness of Eastern history and philosophy, and the development of Islam, other religions were added to the list. Many Far Eastern ways of thought, in fact, were given the status of "world religion" while equally advanced religious cultures in technologically less developed or pre-literate societies (such as in Australia, Africa, South America, and Polynesia) were grouped together as pagans or "animists," regardless of their actual theology.<b> It's true that by the standards applied at the time, the Far Eastern religions Westerners encountered were often in a different category altogether than the religions they classified as pagan. One can not directly compare, for example, the local beliefs of the Polynesian islands of Kiribati during the 1500s to the organizational, political, literary and philosophical sophistication of Chinese Taoism during the same period.</b> But one could certainly question whether Japanese Shintoism, as an official "world religion", was theologically or spiritually more "advanced" than African Yoruba religion, which was classified simply as animism or paganism.

During the 1800s comparative religion scholars increasingly recognized Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism as the most significant "world religions." Even today, these are considered the "Big Five" and are the religions most likely to be covered in world religion books.

Five smaller or more localized religions/philosophies brought the list of world religions to ten: Confucianism, Taoism, Jainism, Shinto and Zoroastrianism.

Beginning around 1900 comparative religion writers in England began to take note of the Sikhs which had begun to immigrate there from India (part of the British Empire at the time). Sikhs, if mentioned at all, had been classified as a sect of Hinduism during the first three hundred years of their history. But after the influential British writers began to classify Sikhism as a distinct, major world religion, the rest of the world soon followed their example.

Baha'is are the most recent entrant to the "Classical" list. The religion is only about 150 years old. On their official website, Baha'is claim 5 million adherents worldwide, established in 235 countries and territories throughout the world. While most comparative religion textbooks produced during this century either ignore them or group them as a Muslim sect, the most recent books give them separate status and often their own chapter. Baha'is have achieved this status partially through their worldwide geographical spread and increasing numbers, and partially by constantly insisting that they are indeed the "newest world religion."

Classical World Religions Ranked by Internal Religious Similarity:
Most Unified to Most Diverse

1. Baha'i
2. Zoroastrianism
3. Sikhism
4. Islam
5. Jainism
6. Judaism
7. Taoism
8. Shinto
9. Christianity
10. Buddhism
11. Hinduism

No "value judgement" is implied by this list. There are adjectives with both positive and negative connotations which describe both ends of this spectrum. From an academic, comparative religions viewpoint, there is no basis for "prescribing" whether it is better for a religion to be highly unified, cohesive, monolithic, and lacking in internal religious diversity, or whether it is better to be fragmented, schismatic, diverse, multifaceted and abounding in variations on the same theme.

In a practical sense, most people actually practice only one form of whatever religion they belong to. Buddhism, for example, if viewed as a whole, can be understood to have a large amount of internal variation, including the Theravada and Mahayana branches, all of their sub-schools, various revivalist sects, as well as Tibetan and modern Western forms. But most actual Buddhists are not actually involved in all of these; rather they practice one, internally cohesive, fairly unified form, such as the Geluk order of Tibetan Buddhism, or Japanese Amida-Buddha worship.

How is classification done for official government figures? It is important to note that data for the size of various religions within a given country often come from government census figures or official estimates. Such governmental endeavors are interested primarily in physical population demographics, such as how many people live in a household and how many telephones there are per person. These studies are not theological treatises. They merely classify Hindus as all people who call themselves Hindu, Muslims as all people who call themselves Muslim, Christians as all people who call themselves Christian.

From a sociological and historical perspective, most religions have arisen from within existing religious frameworks: Christianity from Judaism, Buddhism from Hinduism, Babi & Baha'i faiths from Islam, etc. For the purposes of defining a religion we need to have some cutoff point. Should Sikhism be listed as a Hindu sect (as in many older textbooks), or a world religion in its own right?

To manage this question we have chosen once again to use the most commonly-recognized divisions in comparative religion texts. These definitions are primarily sociological and historical, NOT doctrinal or theological in nature.

We recognize that within many religious traditions there are deeply felt arguments for excluding certain groups from their description of their religion. For example, councils of Muslim leaders have voted to no longer accept Ahmadis as valid Muslims, although Ahmadis consider themselves orthodox Muslims. Many Evangelical Protestants churches exclude all non-Evangelical or non-Protestant groups from their definitions of Christianity. On the other hand, some Hindu writers are so inclusive that they claim as Hindus adherents of any religion that arose in a Hindu environment, including Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. These definitions are theological in nature and of little use in this statistical context.


Top 10 Most Hindu Countries -
Countries with the Highest Proportion of Hindus

Country Percent Number
Nepal 89% 19,000,000
India 79 780,000,000
Mauritius 52 600,000
Guyana 40 300,000
Fiji 38 300,000
Suriname 30 116,000
Bhutan 25 400,000
Trinidad and Tobago 24 300,000
Sri Lanka 15 2,800,000
Bangladesh 11 12,000,000


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Table of

No.  CHAPTER  Page In Printed Volume
1  Personal Encounters with Hinduism  1
2  Religious Loyalty and Commitment  103
3  Gurudeva Speaks on Entering Hinduism  113
4  Gurudeva Speaks on Ethical Conversion  131
Does Hinduism Accept Newcomers?

6  Beliefs of All the World's Religions  169
7  Six Steps of Conversion  257

    Real-Life Severance Letters and
    Other Personal Documents

8  Choosing a Hindu Name  281

    Sanskrit Birthstar Syllables
    A Collection of Hindu Names

9  Embracing Hindu Culture  337
10  Nine Questions About Hinduism  351
  Conclusion--Nirvahanam  369
  Glossary--Shabda Kosha 
  Supplementary Studies 
  About the Author 
  An Invitation to Monastic Life 
  Reviews and Comments

Does Hinduism Accept Newcomers?

UR DISCUSSION OF BECOMING A HINDU naturally gives rise to the question of how Hinduism historically has looked at the matter. Here we answer that query and the related question: "What makes a person a Hindu?"

What Is Hinduism?

Hinduism is India's indigenous religious and cultural system, followed today by over one billion adherents, mostly in India but with large populations in many other countries. Also called Sanatana Dharma, "eternal religion," and Vaidika Dharma, "religion of the Vedas," Hinduism encompasses a broad spectrum of philosophies ranging from pluralistic theism to absolute monism. It is a family of myriad faiths with four primary denominations: Saivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism. These four hold such divergent beliefs that each is a complete and independent religion. Yet they share a vast heritage of culture and belief: karma, dharma, reincarnation, all-pervasive Divinity, temple worship, sacraments, manifold Deities, the many yogas, the guru-shishya tradition and a reliance on the Vedas as scriptural authority.

From the rich soil of Hinduism long ago sprang various other traditions. Among these were Jainism, Buddhism, Virasaivism and Sikhism, all of which rejected the Vedas and thus emerged as completely distinct religions, dissociated from Hinduism, while still sharing many philosophical insights and cultural values with their parent faith.

Not unlike all the other major religions of the world, Hinduism has no central headquarters. Nor do the Christians, Jews, Muslims or Buddhists. They all have many who represent and function as secretariates for their various denominations. Hinduism is no different in today's world. It has had many exemplars in the past and will in the future of its denominations and the teaching lineages within them, each headed by a pontiff.

Critics have pointed out that Hinduism is not an organized religion. In truth, they are correct. For 1,200 years Islamic and Christian rule in India, Hinduism's central citadel, eroded greatly upon its perpetuation. Yet it survived. In today's world it may be accused of being a poorly organized religion, but it's getting better daily, as a few minutes on the World Wide Web will prove (see our listing at the end of this book). Its temples and active organizations encircle the world. Whatever its faults, it has kept the fires of sadhana and renunciation, of unabashed spiritual life and yoga disciplines alive. No other faith has done that to the same extent. No other major ancient faith has survived the assaults and the insults of the Abrahamic faiths. Hinduism's nearly three million swamis, gurus and sadhus work tirelessly within, upon and among themselves and then, when ready, serve others, leading them from darkness into light, from death to immortality.

What Makes One a Hindu?

Those who follow the Hindu way of life are Hindus. In the Mahabharata the great King Yudhishthira was asked, "What makes a brahmin -- birth, learning or conduct?" He replied, "It is conduct that makes a brahmin." Similarly, the modern Hindu may well state that it is conduct, based upon deep, practical understanding of dharma, karma and reincarnation, that makes a Hindu. After all, he might muse, is not a true devotee whose heart is filled with faith in and love for his Ishta Devata and who lives the Hindu Dharma as much a Hindu as his agnostic neighbor, though the first was born in Indonesia or North America and the second in Andhra Pradesh?

Shri K. Navaratnam of Sri Lanka, a devotee for some forty years of Satguru Siva Yogaswami, in his Studies in Hinduism quotes from the book, Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines: "Hindus are those who adhere to the Hindu tradition, on the understanding that they are duly qualified to do so really effectively, and not simply in an exterior and illusory way; non-Hindus, on the contrary, are those who, for any reason whatsoever, do not participate in the tradition in question." Shri K. Navaratnam enumerates a set of basic beliefs held by Hindus:

1. A belief in the existence of God.

2. A belief in the existence of a soul separate from the body.

3. A belief in the existence of the finitizing principle known as avidya (lack of knowledge) or maya (limiting principle of matter).

4. A belief in the principle of matter -- prakriti or maya.

5. A belief in the theory of karma and reincarnation.

6. A belief in the indispensable guidance of a guru to guide the spiritual aspirant towards God Realization.

7. A belief in moksha, liberation, as the goal of human existence.

8. A belief in the indispensable necessity of temple worship in religious life.

9. A belief in graded forms of religious practices, both internal and external, until one realizes God.

10. A belief in ahimsa as the greatest dharma or virtue.

11. A belief in mental and physical purity as indispensable factors for spiritual progress.

Shri Shri Shri Jayendra Sarasvati, 69th Shankaracharya of the Kamakoti Peetham, Kanchipuram, India, defines in one of his writings the basic features of Hinduism as follows:

1. The concept of idol worship and the worship of God in his Nirguna as well as Saguna form.

2. The wearing of sacred marks on the forehead.

3. Belief in the theory of past and future births in accordance with the theory of karma.

4. Cremation of ordinary men and burial of great men.

The periodical Hindu Vishva (Jan./Feb., 1986) cites the following definitions: "He who has perfect faith in the law of karma, the law of reincarnation, avatara [divine incarnations], ancestor worship, varnashrama dharma [social duty], Vedas and existence of God; he who practices the instructions given in the Vedas with faith and earnestness; he who does snana [ritual bathing], sraddha [death memorial], pitri-tarpana [offerings to ancestors] and the paNcha mahayajNas [five great sacrifices: to rishis, ancestors, Gods, creatures and men], he who follows the varnashrama dharmas, he who worships the avataras and studies the Vedas is a Hindu.' "

The Vishva Hindu Parishad's official definition from its Memorandum of Association, Rules and Regulation (1966) states: "Hindu means a person believing in, following or respecting the eternal values of life, ethical and spiritual, which have sprung up in Bharatkhand [India] and includes any person calling himself a Hindu."

In all definitions, the three pivotal beliefs for Hindus are karma, reincarnation and the belief in all-pervasive Divinity -- forming as they do the crux of day-to-day religion, explaining our past existence, guiding our present life and determining our future union with God. It is apparent from the pervasiveness of these beliefs today that a large number of non-Hindus qualify as self-declared Hindus already, for many believe in karma, dharma and reincarnation, strive to see God everywhere, have some concept of maya, recognize someone as their guru, respect temple worship and believe in the evolution of the soul. Many of these beliefs are heretical to most other religions, especially Christianity and the Jewish faith. Those who do believe in karma, reincarnation and union with the Divine have, indeed, evolved beyond the boundaries of Western religion.

The Indian Supreme Court, in 1966, formalized a judicial definition of Hindu beliefs to legally distinguish Hindu denominations from other religions in India. This seven-point list was affirmed by the Court in 1995 in judging cases regarding religious identity:

1. Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence as the highest authority in religious and philosophic matters and acceptance with reverence of Vedas by Hindu thinkers and philosophers as the sole foundation of Hindu philosophy.

2. Spirit of tolerance and willingness to understand and appreciate the opponent's point of view based on the realization that truth is many sided.

3. Acceptance of great world rhythm by all six systems of Hindu philosophy: vast periods of creation, maintenance and dissolution follow each other in endless succession;

4. Acceptance by all systems of Hindu philosophy of the belief in rebirth and pre-existence.

5. Recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are many.

6. Realization of the truth that numbers of Gods to be worshiped may be large, yet there being Hindus who do not believe in the worshiping of idols.

7. Unlike other religions, or religious creeds, Hindu religion's not being tied down to any definite set of philosophic concepts, as such.

A Summary of What Most Hindus Believe

Three decades ago we crafted a simple summary of Hindu beliefs and distributed it in hundreds of thousands of pamphlets around the world. On August, 1995, these nine belief were published by the Religious News Service in Washington, DC, for hundreds of American newspapers. On February 8, 1993, the Christianity Today magazine printed them side by side with their Christian counterparts so Christians could better comprehend Hindus (See p. 248-250).


1. Hindus believe in the divinity of the Vedas, the world's most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial hymns are God's word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion which has neither beginning nor end.

2. Hindus believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.

3. Hindus believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution.

4. Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds.

5. Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, spiritual knowledge and liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be eternally deprived of this destiny.

6. Hindus believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals and sacraments as well as personal devotionals create a communion with these devas and Gods.

7. Hindus believe that a spiritually awakened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry and meditation.

8. Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, "noninjury."

9. Hindus believe that no particular religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine religious paths are facets of God's Pure Love and Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.


1.WORSHIP, UPASANA:  Young Hindus are taught daily worship in the family shrine room -- rituals, disciplines, chants, yogas and religious study. They learn to be secure through devotion in home and temple, wearing traditional dress, bringing forth love of the Divine and preparing the mind for serene meditation.

2. HOLY DAYS, UTSAVA:  Young Hindus are taught to participate in Hindu festivals and holy days in the home and temple. They learn to be happy through sweet communion with God at such auspicious celebrations. Utsava includes fasting and attending the temple on Monday or Friday and other holy days.

3. VIRTUOUS LIVING, DHARMA:  Young Hindus are taught to live a life of duty and good conduct. They learn to be selfless by thinking of others first, being respectful of parents, elders and swamis, following divine law, especially ahimsa, mental, emotional and physical noninjury to all beings. Thus they resolve karmas.

4. PILGRIMAGE, TIRTHAYATRA:  Young Hindus are taught the value of pilgrimage and are taken at least once a year for darshana of holy persons, temples and places, near or far. They learn to be detached by setting aside worldly affairs and making God, Gods and gurus life's singular focus during these journeys.

5. RITES OF PASSAGE, SAMSKARA:  Young Hindus are taught to observe the many sacraments which mark and sanctify their passages through life. They learn to be traditional by celebrating the rites of birth, name-giving, head-shaving, first feeding, ear-piercing, first learning, coming of age, marriage and death.

Hinduism Has Always Accepted Adoptives and Converts

It is sometimes claimed that one must be born in a Hindu family to be a Hindu, that one cannot adopt it or convert from another faith. This is simply not true. The acceptance of outsiders into the Hindu fold has occurred for thousands of years. Groups as diverse as local aborigines and the invading Greeks of Alexander the Great have been brought in. Entering Hinduism has traditionally required little more than accepting and living the beliefs and codes of Hindus. This remains the basic factor in the process, although there are and always have been formal ceremonies recognizing entrance into the religion -- particularly the namakarana samskara, or naming rite in the case of adoptives and converts, and the vratyastoma, vow-taking rite, in the case of those returning to one sect or another of the Hindu religion.

The most compelling testimony to Hinduism's acceptance of non-Hindus into its fold is history. Possibly the most often quoted exposition of the subject appears in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Vol. 5, p. 233), in an interview called "On the bounds of Hinduism," which first appeared in the Prabuddha Bharata in April, 1899: "Having been directed by the Editor, writes our representative, to interview Swami Vivekananda on the question of converts to Hinduism, I found an opportunity one evening on the roof of a Ganges houseboat. It was after nightfall, and we had stopped at the embankment of the Ramakrishna Math, and there the swami came down to speak with me. Time and place were alike delightful. Overhead the stars, and around, the rolling Ganga; and on one side stood the dimly lighted building, with its background of palms and lofty shade-trees. 'I want to see you, Swami,' I began, 'on this matter of receiving back into Hinduism those who have been perverted from it. Is it your opinion that they should be received?'

'Certainly,' said the swami, 'they can and ought to be taken.' He sat gravely for a moment, thinking, and then resumed. 'The vast majority of Hindu perverts to Islam and Christianity are perverts by the sword, or the descendants of these. It would be obviously unfair to subject these to disabilities of any kind. As to the case of born aliens, did you say? Why, born aliens have been converted in the past by crowds, and the process is still going on.'

'In my own opinion, this statement not only applies to aboriginal tribes, to outlying nations, and to almost all our conquerors before the Mohammedan conquest, but also to all those castes who find a special origin in the Puranas. I hold that they have been aliens thus adopted.'

'Ceremonies of expiation are no doubt suitable in the case of willing converts, returning to their Mother-Church, as it were; but on those who were alienated by conquest -- as in Kashmir and Nepal -- or on strangers wishing to join us, no penance should be imposed.'

'But of what caste would these people be, Swamiji?' I ventured to ask. 'They must have some, or they can never be assimilated into the great body of Hindus. Where shall we look for their rightful place?'

'Returning converts,' said the swami quietly, 'will gain their own castes, of course. And new people will make theirs. You will remember,' he added, 'that this has already been done in the case of Vaishnavism. Converts from different castes and aliens were all able to combine under that flag and form a caste by themselves -- and a very respectable one, too. From Ramanuja down to Chaitanya of Bengal, all great Vaishnava teachers have done the same.'

'Then as to names,' I enquired, 'I suppose aliens and perverts who have adopted non-Hindu names should be named newly. Would you give them caste names, or what?' 'Certainly,' said the swami thoughtfully, 'there is a great deal in a name!' and on this question he would say no more."

Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, eminent philosopher and former president of India, confirmed Swami Vivekananda's views in his well-known book, The Hindu View of Life (p. 28-29): "In a sense, Hinduism may be regarded as the first example in the world of a missionary religion. Only its missionary spirit is different from that associated with the proselytizing creeds. It did not regard it as its mission to convert humanity to any one opinion. For what counts is conduct and not belief. Worshipers of different Gods and followers of different rites were taken into the Hindu fold. The ancient practice of vratyastoma, described fully in the Tandya Brahmana, shows that not only individuals but whole tribes were absorbed into Hinduism. Many modern sects accept outsiders. Devala Smriti lays down rules for the simple purification of people forcibly converted to other faiths, or of womenfolk defiled and confined for years, and even of people who, for worldly advantage, embrace other faiths."

In a recent article, writer Shreeram Tyambak Godbole of Bombay observes, "Hinduism . . . has been assimilating into itself all those who have been willing, without offending anybody. Whoever from other religions adopted even outwardly the customs and manners of the Hindus could, in course of time, hope to get his progeny easily assimilated in the Hindu society. This process has been going on for the last two or two and a half millenniums. The beginnings of this process can be seen in the sixty-fifth chapter of Mahabharata, Shantiparva, where Indra is described to have ordered Mandhatru to give all access to all foreigners, like the Yavanas, into the Vedic religion."

He gives a historical example, "[The] Bactrian Greeks had soon to run down to India as refugees, driven headlong by U-echis, when they were all admitted to the Hindu fold. The same fate the U-echis, the Sakas, the Kushans and the Huns had to face. The Kushan emperor, Kadphasis II, took to Siva worship so devoutly that on his coins he inscribed the image of the Lord Siva and had himself mentioned as the devotee of Siva. Huvishka and Vasudeva and their descendants also inscribed Lord Siva and his Nandi on their coins....While the Abhirs became Vaishnavas, the Scythians and U-echis became Saivas....Huns again became Saivas. The Hun King Mihirkula had inscribed on his silver coins 'Jayatu Vrshadhvajah' and 'Jayatu Vrshah' along with Siva's Trishula and his Nandi and his umbrella....All the Bactrian Greeks, the U-echis, the Sakas, the Kushans, and the Huns are now so well assimilated into the Hindu society that their separate identity cannot at all be traced."

Our friend and compatriate in promoting Sanatana Dharma, Sri Ram Swarup (1920-1998), had this to say about the power of those who have converted to or adopted the Hindu faith. "Hitherto, Hindus knew only two categories: Hindus born in India and Hindu emigrants who went overseas during the last few centuries, often under very adverse conditions. But now we have also a new, fast-growing third category of those who adopt Hinduism by free choice. This is an important category, and traditional Hinduism should become aware of them. Their contribution to Hinduism is notable. Hindu thought is changing the intellectual-religious contour of Europe and America and attracting their best minds. In this thought, they also find the principle of their own self-discovery and recovery. The new religion of these countries is now really the 'New Age,' which is greatly worrying the Christian establishment. The Pope sees 'Eastern influences' in this new development. Pat Robertson, an influential American evangelist, finds that 'the New Age and Hinduism -- it is the same thing.' He complains, 'We are importing Hinduism into America.' "

Must One Be Born in India to Be a Hindu?

At this time certain deeply ingrained misconceptions must also be erased, such as the mistaken notion -- postulated primarily by brahmin pandits and a few of the ShaMkaracharyas and parroted by Western academics -- that one must be born in India to be a Hindu. Of course, the Hindus of Nepal and Sri Lanka, the Hindus born in Bali and Malaysia, the Mauritian-born and Bangladesh-born Hindus would find such a concept very strange indeed, and few in the world would question their Hinduness. But the issue is often raised in America and Europe. Italian-born Swami Yoganandagiri bravely tackled this issue in his nation, as reported in our international magazine, HINDUISM TODAY.

Swami explained, "We have to overcome a misunderstanding asserted by Italian scholars that one has to be born in India to be a Hindu. Our sanga also hopes to spread the authentic Hindu culture among Italians who take yoga as just a sweet gymnastic."

His invitation to HINDUISM TODAY outlined plans for a June, 1997, international conference in Milan on the controversial subject of conversion to Hinduism, among other subjects. The problem is serious in Italy, for Hinduism is not officially recognized by the government. An individual's conversion and name change cannot be legalized. Tax-deductible status is not granted to Hindu organizations. HINDUISM TODAY accepted the invitation and sent representatives Acharya Ceyonswami and Sannyasin Skandanathaswami to the conference.

It was in 1985 that Swami Yoganandagiri established the Gitananda Ashram in Savona, perched in the hills a few miles from the Mediterranean Ligurian Sea above Corsica. He became a yogi in his teens and was trained in India by the late Swami Gitananda of Pondicherry, among others. He learned Sanskrit, absorbed the South Indian Agamic tradition, received sacraments making him a Hindu and was ultimately initiated as a renunciate monk.

Malaysian-born Skandanathaswami reported later, "I couldn't believe my eyes when we reached Savona. Swami Yoganandagiri and a small band of dedicated Italian Hindus have established full, traditional Hinduism at his ashrama. Stepping into his Shri Chakra temple was like being in India. Other swamis teach yoga but often remain at a distance from Hinduism. But Yoganandagiri boldly declares his Hindu heritage, and that in Italy!"

The conference was the first organized by Swami's newly created Unione Induista Italiana (Italian Hindu Union), as an attempt to unify under a Hindu banner those Italians already immersed in Indian culture. The three days included workshops on Indian dance, yoga, ayurveda and astrology, all presented by leading Hindus.

But a pivotal debate was taking place at meetings that pitted Italian professors of religion against Hindu swamis and delegates on the issue of converting to Hinduism. Chief adversary Professor Mario Piantelli opined that conversion to Hinduism is impossible for those not born in India. He was unanimously countered by all the Hindu delegates, who cited Indian Supreme Court decisions and statements by Swami Vivekananda and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, former president of India (See p. 160).

That might have been the end of the issue, but the day after the conference ended, a national Italian daily, L'Unita of Rome, published Piantelli's opinions in a major article. Swami Yoganandagiri flew to Rome to issue a rebuttal, and the debate entered the national forum.

Swami Yoganandagiri wrote in his rebuttal: "Contrary to Professor Piantelli's statements, the Italian Hindu Union comprises people who not only love India, but have received a religious formation in India with all sacraments and who identify themselves deeply and seriously with the Hindu faith. The statement that Hinduism is a neologism referring only to those born in India is a wrong interpretation. The word Hindu has evolved. Today in modern India Hindus are those following the principles of Sanatana Dharma. Its main characteristic is its universality. There are no decrees or scriptures which say only those born in India can be Hindu. What about the children of the Hindus born in America, Africa, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius and Europe? They call themselves Hindu just like we Italian Hindus. So how can it be an exclusive religion only for those born in India? On the contrary, the Supreme Indian Court in 1966 codified the definition of Hinduism and in 1995 confirmed that: 'Hindus are those who accept the Vedas (sacred text) as the highest religious and philosophical authority and are tolerant and accept that truth can have many facets, who believe in cosmic cycles, rebirth and pre-existence and recognize that many paths lead to salvation.' Italian Hindus, among which there are also Indian citizens living in Italy, already exist and are recognized by Indian Hindus and Buddhists. Many governments have legally recognized Hinduism."

Swami had many allies. Dr. R. Gopalakrishnan, the Director of Radhakrishnan Institute for Advanced Study in Philosophy, University of Madras said, "As an Indian and as a Hindu, I find there is no truth in this statement that those who are born in India alone are eligible to become Hindus." Dr. Atulchandra S. Thombare from Pune, India, noted, "A man can change his nationality, and even his sex, why not his religion?" Indian Ambassador to Italy, Mr. Fabian, a Catholic, said, "Faith is a matter of the heart and personal choice. If someone practices Hinduism and is accepted by Hindus, then he is one."

Swami is allying himself with the Buddhists, who are also pressing for official recognition in Italy. They are, according to Swami, two years ahead of the Hindus in the decade-long process of changing the complex Italian laws relating to conversion.

The Ceremony of Welcoming Back

The vratyastoma ceremony ("vow pronouncement"), dating back to the Tandya Brahmana of the Rig Veda, is performed for Hindus returning to India from abroad and for those who have embraced other faiths. One finds a wide range of converts in India, from communities such as the Syrian Malabar Christians, who adopted Christianity shortly after that religion's founding, to the Muslim converts of a thousand years ago, to Indians converted in the last few generations. Especially in the case of many recent converts, the conversion is often superficial, and the return to Hinduism is a simple matter of ceremonial recognition. In other cases, complete reeducation is required.

There are many organizations in India active in reconversion, some motivated by fears of non-Hindu dominance in regions once all Hindu. The Masurashrama in Mumbai specializes in reconversions through the shuddhi shraddha, purification ceremony, bringing dozens of converts back into the Sanatana Dharma each month. Masurashrama founder, Dharma Bhaskar Masurkar Maharaj, set a strong precedent in 1928 when he organized the purification rite for 1,150 devotees in Goa who had previously converted to Christianity. About the same time, Swami Agamanandaji of the Ramakrishna Mission in Kerala reconverted hundreds to Hinduism, as did Narayana Guru. More recently, two South Indian ashramas -- Madurai Aadheenam and Kundrakuddi Aadheenam -- have brought thousands of Indians back into Hinduism in mass conversion rites. Since the early 1960s, the Vishva Hindu Parishad has reportedly reconverted a half-million individuals through shuddhi ceremonies all over India. The VHP activities are extremely distressing to Christian missionaries who, according to an analysis published in HINDUISM TODAY (Feb. 1989), spent an average of $6,000 to win over each convert.

Above is a vratyastoma certificate that can be photocopied (enlarged) to document the shuddhi ceremony held at a temple. This sacrament marks the formal reentrance into a particular sect of Hinduism, through the acceptance of established members and the blessings of Gods and devas invoked through rites performed by an authorized priest.

When such souls do return, it is the duty of established followers to shepherd them, blend them in and assist at every opportunity to make them successful members of the international extended family of our venerable faith. It is vital that reconversion campaigns are followed up with continuing education, social improvement, community temple building and priest training to create fully self-sustaining groups. It is one of the duties of the Hindu priesthood to stand guard at the gates of Sanatana Dharma and perform the sacred ceremonies for worthy souls to allow them entrance for the first time or reentrance into the Hindu fold in case they strayed into an alien faith and now desire to return. The priesthoods of all four major denominations of SanAtana Dharma -- Saivism, Vaishnavism, Smartism and Shaktism -- are performing the duty, empowered by the Gods, of bringing devotees back into the Hindu fold through a congregation of devotees.

Swami Tilak aptly noted the present trend in Hinduism: "Multitudes of serious and sincere seekers of Truth are knocking at our doors. We cannot disappoint them, keeping our doors closed. We will have to open our doors and accord a hearty welcome to our new visitors. Whoever comes to us is ours, and we have a duty to make him feel quite at home with us. We must not suffer from superiority complex. Nor should fear or suspicion mar our magnanimity. While in Indonesia, we were pleased to see that the local Hindus had started taking non-Hindus in. We shall have to do the same all over. ... Marriages of mixed nature are unavoidable. Whether we like it or not, we will have to make room for them. We cannot lose a person only because he or she has got married to a non-Hindu. We should rather try to bring a Hindu's non-Hindu spouse into our fold. In Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica, the pandits wisely do not perform the marriage of a mix-couple until the non-Hindu partner agrees to embrace Hinduism as his or her religion" (Hindu Vishva, July/August, 1985).

Above is a vratyastoma certificate that can be photocopied (enlarged) to document the shuddhi ceremony held at a temple. This sacrament marks the formal reentrance into a particular sect of Hinduism, through the acceptance of established members and the blessings of Gods and devas invoked through rites performed by an authorized priest.


Folks please read page 5 of this pdf and give wide publicity. Better yet try to get them to organize a local event in you temple.

Kushwant Singh in Deccan Chronicle, 10 June 2007
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->A matter of life and death
By Khushwant Singh

Having taught comparative religions in some foreign universities I am acquainted with the scriptures of most major religions of the world, be it superficially I hoped to find answers to three questions: Where have we come from? Why are we here? What happens to us after we die? I did not find them in any sacred text. What answers there are fall in two broad categories: one which holds that an Almighty Power created us; He gave us a life-chance to prove ourselves; and on death we return to God to be rewarded or punished for our conduct in life.

The second group of religions believe in a continuous cycle of births, deaths and rebirths with our destinies dependent on how we led our lives. I found both sets of answers unacceptable to me, as neither adduce any concrete evidence in support of their contentions.

A friend in Mumbai sent me three books on religion by A. Parthasarathy who has a formidable reputation as a scholar of Hinduism. I could well understand that as I read his best known work The Eternities: Vedanta Treatise — first published in 1978, now in its 13th edition. He writes lucid prose with apt quotations, poetry and anecdotes. It is as seductive an exposé of Vedanta as I have read. But when it came to answering the three questions which no one has yet answered, he gives traditional explanations. Why are we so different from each other? Most of us would answer because of genes inherited from our parents and our upbringing. Parthasarathy discretely attributes them to the "past" when he means exactly what most of us refer to as our previous lives before this one. I do not dispute his views about what we should do in our lives. He says it should be devoted to self realisation through meditation. He censors drinking as "taking intoxicants" and indulging the senses as improper.

For me, and the vast majority of my friends, drinking is different from addiction to alcohol or drunkenness and is a pleasant pastime. So is indulging in our senses given to us by nature. About life after death, he juggles with words which leave the reader utterly confused because he hesitates to say that he believes in reincarnation because his scriptures say so. Even the Dalai Lama whose leadership of his sect of Buddhism is based on belief in reincarnation denies its validity and has set up a council of elder monks to elect his successor.

Parthasarathy constantly talks of bliss of self-realisation. I have not met him but a lot of self-proclaimed teachers of religion who claim to have achieved sublime bliss. All of them have smug smiles of satisfaction on their faces, but I have never come across one who could laugh heartily. As for bamboozling readers with words, I quote just one example, a translation of a shloka, which runs: "Om. That is infinite. There is infinite. Infinite has come out of infinite. Take away infinite from infinite, what remains is infinite."

Can you decipher what it means? Why is it so hard to be truthful, and admit I do not know?

how can he talk about Hinduism?
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->He censors drinking as "taking intoxicants" and indulging the senses as improper.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Our sardar well known for his love of the leg and a peg can take issue with this I can understand. I do have a copy of A. Parthasarathy's "The Eternities: Vedanta Treatise". Most of what Khuswant has said is absolutely bogus, either he hasn't read the full book or read it while intoxicated. His comments about past life or meditation is pretty selective nitpickings ignoring everything else mentioned around it.

Here's Kushwant on critising A. Parthasarathy's views on Ahimsa
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->About Ahimsa he writes : “The concept of kindness has been gravely misconstrued in India. They blunder in following the spiritual doctrine of ahimsa – non-injury. And refuse to inflict any form of injury. They are more concerned about the act of kindness rather than the thought of kindness… The Hindus followed the doctrine of ahimsa blindly. They have abstained from injuring anybody irrespective of the consequences accruing there from. Even if it led to their destruction later. This fanatic approach to life has rendered the Hindu race passive and vulnerable to weakness that turned out to be a diabolic weapon in the hands of the oppressors and invaders. It was made use of to destroy the Indian tradition, culture and religion.”

Parthasarathy is weak on history. As a matter of fact our ancestors did resist invaders by use of arms. They were not defeated by ahimsa but greater military prowess of the invaders. Gandhiji who looked upon the Gita as his Bible declared ahimsa to be ‘parmo dharma’, the primary faith. It was not based on weakness or cowardice; it was based on courage, the like of which the world had not seen. Where soldiers and policemen armed with modern weapons failed, he, the naked faqeer succeeded. When murderers roamed the streets thirsting for human blood, he alone stirred their conscience and forced them to lay down their weapons. How can Parthasarathy or anyone else question the greatness of ahimsa as the supreme courage?
When Congress rioting goons where out on the streets of Delhi in Nov 84, why didn't Kushwant use Gandhi weapons and make those frantic phone calls to President Zail Singh?
Looking into the past, our culture has spawned different schools of thoughts & spirituality that have matured and claimed to be different from Hinduism. And this keeps happening. http://www.SahajMarg.com states "spirituality begins where religion ends", and looks like some followers do consider themselves to have outgrown or outside the Hindu fold. In spite of the fact that SahajMarg draws its core from Raj Yoga, a Hindu school of philosophy.

Are we following the footsteps of several conquerors of the Indian subcontinent in trying to "gum" together a Hindu identity? Maybe our identity is that we refuse to be identified.
A beautiful kavita by Rashtra-Kavi Sri Maithili Sharan Gupt ji. In this he is talking about Hindu Identity. He mentions Islami onslaught, and wonders why we are still standing on our feet. He says it is because of our identity - our Hindu-ness (Hindupan in his words).

<span style='color:red'>
करो, बन्धुगण करो विचार
किस प्रकार हो अब उद्धार ?
सबकुछ गया, जाय न एक -
रक्खो "हिन्दूपन" की टेक!

ऐसा है वह कौन विवेक
करता हो जो हमको एक ?
और बडा सकता हो मान -
केवल "हिन्दू" - हिन्दुस्तान!

तप्त रणु का वह तूफान
उठा अरब से वह अंजान
रोका गया कहाँ दुद्धर्श,
बीते चार चार सौ वर्ष ?

जिस उद्धत का देख प्रकोप
उलट गया सारा योरोप !
कर न सका वह हमको लोप
खडे रहे हम निज पद रोप!

हुए किरकिरे कितने स्थान
उजडे उखडे बहु उद्यान !
अडे रहे जो पौधे पूत,
इसी भूमि के थे उद्-भूत !
कोई इसे न जावे भूल-
"हिन्दूपन" था उसका मूल!</span>

I can not dare to translate the above. Will leave that to Ashok-ji (with request).

Now, I think if he lived in todays world he would be a Hindu-fundamentalist/fascist/nazi etc., rather than being our national poet!
I am compelled to type more... this might as well go in Sikh thread... He further says :

On Separate Identiy for Sikhs -

<span style='color:red'>जैन, बौद्ध, सिख, वैष्णव, शैव,
हिन्दू कौन रहा फिर, दैव ?

गुरु गोविन्द और रणजीत
रखते थे निज भाव पुनीत
"बडे धर्म हिन्दू" यह छन्द
गाया है किसने सानन्द ?

चिडियो से पिटवाये बाज
रक्खी निज गुरुता की लाज
वे छोटे बच्चे निरुपाय
चुने गये जीतेजी हाय
स्वीकृत किया न किंतु विधर्म
था यह किस सँस्कृति का मर्म?

बने आज सिख हमसे भिन्न !
हो यो क्यो न आप उच्छिन्न !!
पर मत हो कितने भी अन्ध
अक्षय हो शोणित-सम्बन्ध !!</span>

Man!! How did he became named as the national poet!!! He is criticizing the non-violence and satyagraha!!! I am sure Congressees have not read this!!!

<span style='color:red'>अब भी चेतो, न हो उदास
चेता रहा तुम्हे इतिहास
बुरी बात का भी क्या टेक
समुचित है सत्याग्रह एक !

इसपर कितने हुए प्रहार ?
किसने झेले इतने वार ?
त्याग आक्रमण-मूलक-नीति
हमने भोगी है बहु-भीति !!</span>
<!--QuoteBegin-SwamyG+Jun 11 2007, 03:30 PM-->QUOTE(SwamyG @ Jun 11 2007, 03:30 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->http://www.SahajMarg.com states "spirituality begins where religion ends", and looks like some followers do consider themselves to have outgrown or outside the Hindu fold. In spite of the fact that SahajMarg draws its core from Raj Yoga, a Hindu school of philosophy.

They don't "consider themselves to have outgrown or outside the Hindu fold", this I say as I know several of their followers. Shall, in future post about their great tradition in the Acharyas and Sampradayas thread.

This reply is only to quote a beautiful rubaai which resonates with "spirituality begins where religion ends", to show what is the sense of that quoted statement:

dharmagranth sab, jalaa chukee hai, jisake antar kii jvaalaa
mandir masajid girije sab ko, toD chukaa jo matavaalaa
paNDit momin paadariyon ke phandon ko jo kaaT chukaa
kar sakatii hai aaj usii kaa svaagat merii madhushaalaa
(Madhushala - Harivansha Rai Bachchan)

{fire of whose heart, has burnt down all dhramagrantha-s
crazy, who has broken down all temples, mosques and churches
who has unbonded all the shackles of pandits, momins and padres
only he would be welcomed today, in this madhushala of mine}
Book Review

<b>Representing Hinduism: The Construction of Religious and National Identity</b>
by Heidi Pauwels

Representing Hinduism: The Construction of Religious and National Identity. Edited by VASUDHA DALMIA and HEINRICH VON STIETENCRON. New Delhi: SAGE PUBLICATIONS, 1995. Pp. 467. $24.95 (paper).

Even if scholarship sometimes may happen in ivory towers, the walls are quite permeable to real-life events. Contemporary politics unavoidably influences scholarly exchanges, even if the setting is a place as remote from India's heat and dust as a hilltop castle in Tubingen, Germany. The <b>castle was the unlikely site of an interdisciplinary conference on modern Hindu self-perception in October 1990, during the build-up of political tension in India</b>. Between the time of the conference and the publication of the volume, the tension had led to the destruction of the so-called Babri Masjid, the mosque in Ayodhya, by self-proclaimed "liberators of the birthplace of Lord Rama" in December 1992. The ensuing communal rioting shocked many, including the editors, who envisage this volume as an answer to the violence. They hope it will contribute to "digging up the ground beneath the feet of the stereotypes being projected currently" (p. 32). The destruction of an edifice called for the deconstruction of a hegemonic discourse.

This is not to discredit the volume as tainted by <b>political motivation.</b> The articles, though of uneven quality, are scholarly and well supported. Even those who do not agree with the political perspective of the editors (shared by at least some of the authors) will have to admit that the volume is a major contribution to understanding Hinduism and other South Asian religions in all their diversity.

Taken together, the articles show how the current perception of many urban Hindus of their religion has come about historically through the interaction of many factors. In the past two centuries, the Christian critique, Orientalist perceptions, and the nationalist movement have led to privileging in Hinduism's self-definition the devotional (bhakti) and monistic (advaita) strands, and to stressing the issue of foreign origin in its demarcation against other religions.

At the very least, this rich volume will be thought-provoking. The very topic alluded to in the title, the representation of Hinduism, is one of considerable interest to contemporary academics, as witnessed by the recent special section devoted to it in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion (68.4 [2000]: 705-835). It should be pointed out, however, that the volume under review does not directly address the issue of who should represent Hinduism, <b>but rather aims at undermining the authority of a (politically empowered) discourse that claims to represent Hinduism</b>.

It is impossible to do justice to all the arguments within the scope of this review. The volume is conceived as a collection of perspectives from different disciplines. What the articles have in common is that they set Out to challenge current stereotypes regarding Hinduism in its many aspects.

Two articles concentrate on legal issues. Dieter Conrad unmasks legal reforms in personal law, in particular with regard to the scheduled caste issue, as "legal Hindutva" (p. 335). Sudhir Chandra counters the notion that British legislation in India was progressive, especially on the issue of women's rights. He presents as a case study a late-nineteenth-century, much-publicized legal case known as Dadaji Bhakaji vs. Rukhmabai, which revolved around a husband's seeking legal resort to force his child-bride to be restored to him.

Two other articles tackle historical truisms. Partha Chatterjee shows that the notion that Indian nationalism is synonymous with Hindu nationalism is a modern, rationalist, and historicist idea. He does so by comparing the view of history as expressed in early and later colonial Bengali historical textbooks. More directly bearing on the Babri Masjid issue is Gyanendra Pandey's insightful analysis of Hindu histories of Ayodhya. He shows that these texts remove agency (and thus responsibility) from the Hindu "martyrs" and instead invest it in timeless agents.

Three articles by South Asian political scientists, Ram Bapat, Sudipta Kaviraj, and Suresh Sharma, deal with Hindu ways of coming to terms with Western modernity (and its claim of superiority) without losing one's traditional "self." They analyze nineteenth- and twentieth-century writings that grapple with this issue, but, within the political frame of the book, the arguments can be seen as challenging the apparently attractive solution of the issue presented by the Hindu Right and proposing alternative ways to assert one's Hindu identity in the face of modernity.

Ram Bapat tries to make sense of the controversial Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922), a highly educated high-caste Hindu who was interested in Hindu reform, married a low-caste man, and finally converted to Christianity. However, after her conversion, she had her fights with Church authorities, and when she eventually set up a missionary school for widows, she led it in an idiosyncratic way. In representing Pandita's words: "there is no such thing as Christianity, there are Christian religions" (p. 249), Bapat turns upside-down the whole enterprise of deconstructing Hinduism as many Hinduisms. Sudipta Kaviraj goes further in his essay on how the "forgotten" Bengali author Bhudev Mukhopadhyah (1827-94) "talks back" to the empire by means of his "reverse anthropology." One of the questions Mukhopadhyah raises is at the very heart of the volume's critique of neo-Hindu chauvinism, namely what constitutes the "we" of the nationalists. Suresh Sharma discusses the most famous of all those who "talked back," namely Gandhi, and analyzes the meta-position underlying his seminal text Hind Swaraj (first published in 1909). He incisively distinguishes Gandhi's sense of the past as a living tradition from "various modernist attempts to appropriate tradition as a past no longer alive" (p. 286).

Three articles come from the perspective of the performing arts. They deal with what happens to religious texts when performed in non-traditional ways. Roma Chatterji problematizes concepts of authenticity and tradition in her analysis of the complex interrelating discourses surrounding the rediscovered "tribal" dance called Chho from Purulia in Bengal. Anuradha Kapur analyzes Parsi theatre, in particular the mythological drama of the early twentieth-century Hindutva defender Radhesyam Kathavacak. She argues that the introduction of realism as a narrative model led on the one hand to a "domestication" of the gods, who are forced within a logic of cause and effect, and, on the other, to the introduction of "miracles" made possible by stage technology. She repeatedly draws out the relevance of her conclusions for the modern television versions of the epics. Angelika Malinar makes the Bhagavadgita episodes on the Mahabharata television serial the object of her research, arguing that the intelligentsia's belittli ng of the series as a "soap" has preempted serious analysis. Malinar alerts the reader to the serial's dangerous reduction of the complexity of the Gita's message to a "martial" solution for contemporary Indian society's problems.

Two articles deal with the construction of non-Hindu South Asian religious identities, one Sikh, one Muslim. In both cases, the parallels with Hindu militant discourse are tantalizing. Veena Das reveals how militant Sikh discourse combines a discourse of Sikh history with a modern one of state, minorities, and cultural rights. Novelty is subsumed within repetition, and present and past are intrinsically interrelated. Javeed Alam presents a case study of the Ittehadul Muslimeen in Hyderabad, arguing that the recent avatar of this movement has occupied a vacuum created by the perceived withdrawal of the state as a protective institution (with the disposal of the Nizam, compounded by the land reforms that impacted Muslims negatively). He finds that the Ittehad's rhetoric of past Muslim glories was instrumental only in gaining the confidence of the Muslim community, but that it has receded in favor of cultural and linguistic identity building.

Several other articles seek to place different ingredients of currently mainstream political Hinduism in historical perspective. Jurgen Lutt argues that the Ram lahar (Rama-wave) in middle-class Hinduism is a continuation of a British puritan rejection of Krishna. He traces the history of Rama's rise to prominence to the Maharaja Libel Case of 1861, and the ensuing reactions of Hindu reform groups, in particular those led by Dayanand Saraswati and Gandhi. The late Wilhelm Halb-fass discusses one of the influential strands of modern Hinduism, practical Vedanta, with regard to the ethical and social applicability of Vedantic metaphysics of nondualism. He revisits Hacker's argument that Svami Vivekananda's so-called tattvamasi ethics were inspired by Schopenhauer through his student Paul Deussen. Vasudha Dalmia unravels masterfully the complicated fabric of nineteenth-century "traditionalist" (sanatana) reconstructions of Hinduism. She argues convincingly that these were as deeply impacted by missionary and Orie ntalist perspectives as the so-called reform movements, by analyzing the complex works of the influential Hariscandra of Banaras. Monika Horstmann focuses on the influential, much-used but little-studied Hindi journal Kalyan and the Gita Press.

The nationalist and anti-Muslim millionaire Marvari founders started a project to universalize dharma and streamline diverse Hindu groupings under one umbrella with the ultimate aim of bypassing those groupings, including Hindu sampradayas, as well as Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. The late Gunther Sonntheimer points Out that the embarrassed discarding of folk religion by middle-class Hindus comes in the wake of Christian missionary critiques. He argues this has an erosive effect, which can be compared with the ecological one of deforestation.

Several contributors suggest and demonstrate useful angles for further research. <b>Friedhelm Hardy argues in favor of stressing centrifugal de-Sanskritizing features and investigating Tamil sources in particular</b>. Gita Dharmapal-Frick makes a start at looking at the central notion of "caste" from the outside, via early Western understandings of it, utilizing little-known German sources. The late Richard Burghart provides an oft-forgotten perspective on Hinduism from that "other Hindu nation," Nepal.

The daring sweep of some authors' conclusions has already led to criticism. <b>This is the case with von Stietencron's ambitious study relating his findings about religious configurations in pre-Muslim India to the modern concept of Hinduism. His position seems to favor the notion that the category "Hinduism" was invented by Orientalist discourse.</b> For this, he has been sharply criticized, for instance, by David Lorenzen ("Who Invented Hinduism?" Comparative Studies in Society and History of Ideas 41.4 [1999]) and by Brian K. Smith ("Questioning Authority," International Journal of Hindu Studies 2.3 [1998]). Both critics overlook how von Stietencron's generalizations are balanced by the carefully researched first part of his article which, significantly, reveals that Saivas in pre-Muslim South India saw themselves as fundamentally different from other Hindu traditions.

What von Stietencron and Dalmia seek to accomplish in this volume is not so much to deconstruct the academic construct "Hinduism," but rather to discredit communalists who claim to speak for Hinduism (and Sikhism and Islam). They seek to highlight that different groups within Hinduism did not always understand themselves as first and foremost in opposition to Islam or other "foreign" religions, and that such an understanding comes about in conjunction with an increasing self-understanding as part of a monolithic religion in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in response to Western critiques (Dalmia in effect addresses the issue on p. 177 n. 3). Their project is a profoundly political one, in that they express the hope that the awareness of these two major issues may deflate the political tension in India. <b>It remains to be seen whether the scholarly findings of this volume will change Hindu self-awareness and influence political events. </b>One of the editors envisages that "(t)he pressure of an imagined domin ating and uniform Hindu majority would cease to drive 'non-Hindu' communities into harsh reactions" (p. 80). Though one may disagree with the editors' position and with that of individual authors on several points, it should be stressed that all contributors are aware of the complexities involved in trying to make their individual research results relevant for the study at hand. The danger of generalizations is precisely what the whole volume sets out to counter.

In my view, the main shortcoming of the volume is the imbalance between articles researching the pre-colonial period and those about nineteenth- and twentieth-century perceptions of Hinduism. The editors are aware of this and express their hope of redressing the imbalance in a later volume (p. 32). In general, this imbalance is symptomatic of the current research climate, where an overreaction against the hegemony of "classical" Indology has led to an overemphasis on the importance of the colonial encounter. It is hoped that the pendulum will swing back, and that a better balance may be reached. The volume under review documents a wealth of detailed analyses of cases of "modem Hinduism" in the making. While that is an excellent project, it also needs to be complemented by studies of the "pre-modern" period. For such studies to be feasible what is desperately needed is that more of the countless "indigenous" sources that are untranslated, or even unpublished, should be made available. <b>If what has been said abo ut pre-colonial Hinduism is flawed and based too exclusively on Sanskritic and Brahmanical sources, the first priority should obviously be to overcome the bias by making available the other sources. </b>
A Lecture on India - Large and Small by Amartya Sen

Another Hindutva-bashing by this guy.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->In contemporary politics, the enthusiasm for ancient India has often
come from the Hindutva movement - the promoters of a narrowly Hindu
view of Indian civilization - who have tried to separate out the
period preceding the Muslim conquest of India (from the third
millennium BCE to the beginning of the second millennium ADE) . In
contrast, those who take an integrationist approach to contemporary
India have tended to view the harking back to ancient India with
the greatest of suspicion. For example, the Hindutva activists
like invoking the holy Vedas, composed in the second millennium
BCE, to define India1 s "real heritage. " They are also keen on
summoning the Ramayana, the great epic, for many different
purposes, varying from delineating Hindu beliefs and convictions,
to finding alleged justification for forcibly demolishing a mosque
- the Babri masjid - that is situated at the very spot where the
"divine" Rama, it is claimed, was born. The integrationists, in
contrast, have tended to see the Vedas and the Ramayana as
unwelcome intrusions of Hindu beliefs into the contemporary life of
secular India.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The integrationists are not wrong to question the fractional
nature of the choice of so-called "Hindu classics" over other
products of India's long and diverse history. They are also right
to point to the counterproductive role that such partisan selection
can play in the secular, multi-religious life of today’s India.
Even though more than 80 per cent of Indians may be Hindu, the
country has a very large Muslim population (the third largest among
all the countries in the world - larger than the entire British and
French populations put together) , and a great many followers of
other faiths: Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Parsees, and others. The
fact that India currently has a Muslim President, a Sikh Prime
Minister and a Christian head of the dominant party in the ruling
coalition may make India very unlike any other country in the
world, but it need not be seen as particularly strange in India

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Similarly, the adherents of Hindu politics - especially those
who are given to vandalizing places of worship of other religions -
may take Rama to be divine, but in much of the Ramayana, Rama is
treated primarily as a hero - a great "epic hero" - with many good
qualities and some weaknesses, including a tendency to harbour
suspicions about his wife Sita's faithfulness. A pundit who gets
considerable space in the Ramayana, called Javali, not only does
not treat Rama as God, Javali calls Rama's actions "foolish"
("especially for," as Javali puts it, "an intelligent and wise
m a n " ) . Before he is persuaded to withdraw his allegations, Javali
gets time enough in the Ramayana to explain in detail that "there
is no after-world, nor any religious practice for attaining th a t , "
and that "the injunctions about the worship of gods, sacrifice,
gifts and penance have been laid down in the Shastras [scriptures]
by clever people, just to rule over [other] people."<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

he means "babri maqsjid" right?

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->I turn finally to the political issue of minority rights and
secularism, a subject in which there have been many ups and downs
in recent years. The 2002 riots in the state of Gujarat, following
the Godhra incident, in which possibly 2000 Muslims died, were not
prevented by the state government, nor was the BJP-dominated state
government, which had failed to protect minority community, booted
out of office in the December elections that followed. On the
other hand, the BJP-led central government did fall in the general
elections held in May 2004. Any set of election results,
especially in a country as large as India, would tend to carry the
impact of many different types of influences, and there cannot be
any single-factor explanation of the electoral outcomes. But
looking through the nature of the electoral reverses of the BJP and
its allies in the recent elections, including the total - or neartotal
- demise of the "secular" parties in alliance with the BJP,
it is difficult to miss a general sense of grievance about the
neglect of secular concerns by parties which were not formally
signed up for the Hindutva agenda. Not only were the voters keen
on bringing down the BJP itself a notch or two (its percentage of
voting support fell from 25% to 22%), but there are reasons to
entertain the hypothesis that the "secular" support that the BJP
allies delivered to the BJP-led alliance was particularly imperiled
by the Hindutva movement's aggressive - and sometimes violent -
undermining of a secular India and the complete failure of the
BJP's allies to resist the extremism of Hindutva.
In particular, the violence in Gujarat did seem to tarnish the
image of BJP and its allies, in addition to the issue of economic
inequality and the back-firing of the boast about "India shining."
The apparent concession by the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari
Vajpayee, that the Gujarat killings had been a major influence in
the B JP' s defeat ( " I t is very difficult to say what all the reasons
are for the defeat [of BJP] in the elections but one impact of the
violence was we lost the elections") was, I understand, withdrawn
or significantly emended by him later, but no matter who concedes
what that plausible connection would be hard to overlook. It is
important to understand the hold of the sceptical tradition in
India, despite the manifest presence of religions all across the

In responding to the exploitation of religious demography
in the politics of Hindutva, the defenders of secular politics
often take for granted that the Indian population would want
religious politics in one form or another. This has led to the
political temptation to use "soft Hindutva" as a compromised
response by secularists to the politics of "hard Hindutva." But
that tactical approach, which certainly has not given the anti-BJP
parties any dividend so far, is, I would argue, foundationally
mistaken. It profoundly ignores the strength of scepticism in
India, which links with the argumentative tradition and which
extends to religions as well, particularly in the form of doubting
the relevance of religious beliefs in political and social affairs.
Indeed, despite the bloody history of riots in India, the
tolerance of heterodoxy and acceptance of variations of religious
beliefs and customs are, ultimately, deep rooted in India.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
It imparts Hinduism an international character and appoints a Hindu the
custodian of world affairs. This is what makes me proud of my Vedic
ancestry. The Rgveda, which is at least 5500 years old could think and
preach in terms of humanity and internationalism when the rest of the
world was no more than cave-dwellers. This is a cogent proof of the fact
that civilisation started in India.

The above is from an article by Anwar Shaikh

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