Rajiv Malhotra rajiv.malhotra at WORLDNET.ATT.NET
Fri May 12 08:37:09 CDT 2000

To Mr. Vyas:

In the spirit of our great tradition, let us focus on pramanas and not just
conclusions. Each side in the Indian debating tradition has the right to
question the other's methodology, and if the methodology is not sound then
its just an opinion and no more.

As long as you base your discussion on text analysis, I have great respect
for what you have been writing. But the moment you get into
social-political-cultural aspects, particularly concerning contemporary
American life as it pertains to Hinduism, I wish you question your pramanas.
It is NOT valid means of truth to say that when one man wearing a dhoti gets
no ill-treatment, or if one man gets served vegetarian food respectfully,
that it implies that there is no prejudice against Hinduism. There are two
flaws with your pramana: (1) One man is not a statistically valid sample. In
America, great emphasis is place on objectivity based on quantitative data.
Otherwise, it is deemed worthy of gossip columns only. Therefore, please get
involved in large-scale surveys before pronouncing conclusions. (2) Explicit
prejudice is the tip of the iceberg only, and many studies show that the
real biases are implicit and do not just come out spontaneously until one
examines deeper. Even deeper still and more problematic than implicit
beliefs, are biases that are unconsciously applied and the person is not
even aware of having them, because he/she suppressed them into the 'shadow
side'. There was great denial about prejudice against women in the
workplace, about racism against blacks, about prejudice against gays in the
Army, etc. These were proven eventually by systematic research. So please
consider that ancient texts will not give you the pramana to make social
commentary about American life. You must be humble enough to want to go out
to learn with an open mind. A tradition emphasizing outputting memorized
knowledge, and not respecting new learning from others to keep renewing
itself, does become ossified and obsolete. Ours is a great tradition not
afraid to learn.

Once you are outside the realm of direct spiritual experience and texts, and
into social-political issues, there is no absolute truth. Hence, bias is
inevitable. Media owned privately has bias, and media owned publicly
(Doordarshan or BBC) has bias controlled by different strings. Academics are
the same way. There is enormous politics on who gets what job, tenure,
committee appointment, etc. These mechanisms control what is taught and are
believed by a given civilization as 'truth', when in fact it is largely
subjective. (Propaganda is simply other people's biases; one's own are not
see the way a fish does not know there is water.) Hence, you can either be a
player in inputting your own values into the belief system or abandon it to
others, just as Indians left to the British the job of administering the
country, because it seemed like too much trouble and not a lofty
intellectual task fit for the elite.

There is a role BOTH for institutional means of education to influence
public beliefs, and also the informal mechanisms such as the 'new age'
movement. Neither can be denounced as valid, and I am very active in both
equally. They involve different issues. The dynamics of each must be studied
in detail. New age is very open, but the result is lack of quality control
and authenticity, and also there is lots of plagiarism. For instance, I have
papers to show that yantras/mandalas have been turned into Western claims
called "sacred geometry"; nidra yoga is being marketed as 'lucid dreaming';
the vasana-samskara theory and skandhas (of Abhidharma) are being
re-discovered as 'meme' theory; the vital/subtle body ideas from tantra are
being pronounced as discoveries of cognitive science called 'morphogenic
resonance'. The list is rather long and the hypocrisy is blatant. Besides
myself, I do not see Hindus at these technical conferences to point out the
genuine knowledge verses the superficial fast-food. In academics the issues
are equally serious, because there are 70 million students being influenced.
You cannot say that there is no relevance of all this, because you have not
done exit surveys of students learning history, social studies etc. These
graduates are the ones who get jobs in media and we know how poor the
media's image of Indic ideas has been. When very little quantity and
superficial coverage exists on Hinduism, then quality and authenticity
become even more important. These simplified modules in textbooks become
stereotypes in popular belief.

I want you to know that I greatly admire your leadership to mobilize Hindus
at all levels towards advaita, which is my practice as well. But these are
socio-political issues you have wandered into, and text analysis will not



bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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