Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Two pieces by Balu

The first two parts of a continuing series:

Translations or Travesty of Traditions?

"In one sense, the title of the piece captures the nature of the tasks facing the contemporary generation, whether in India or in the Diaspora. This generation, unlike many from mine, is confident and self-assured; perhaps, it is proud too about the strength of its culture and traditions. Rightly so. However, personal convictions about the value of our traditions and culture do not automatically guarantee the truth of such convictions. Not only that. It is also the case that the history of India, and that of the entire humankind, requires of us that we are able to say and show what is valuable and what is not in our traditions. This history is the history of colonialism, subservience, and is further weighed down by the scientific, technological, economic and the military weight of the western culture. Today, we need more than a mere practice and a further continuation of our traditions; we need also to examine them honestly and critically in order that we may transmit what we found valuable in them."

...To Follow Our Forefathers - the nature of tradition

While reading this contribution and all the others I hope to write, we need to keep the context in mind. The context is this: many intellectuals, both in India and among the NRIs elsewhere, appear bent on transforming our multiple traditions into a single ‘religion’ called ‘Hinduism’. The problem does not lie in the transformation of variety and diversity into a unity. Rather, it lies in trying to fit our traditions into the straightjacket of ‘religion’. While calling ourselves ‘Hindus’ might be a convenient way of talking, the danger lies in going further and trying to develop ‘doctrines’, ‘theologies’, ‘catechisms’ and ‘Ten Commandments’ so that those around us in the West could recognize us as followers of a religion called ‘Hinduism’. (These reflections are also applicable to ‘Buddhism’, ‘Jainism’, ‘Saivism’ and all such entities.) In the course of my future contributions, I will look at some of the compulsions that force us to manufacture ‘Hinduism as a religion’. In this piece, I want to focus on the nature of traditions. What is a tradition? What differentiates religions from traditions? The second question will remain implicit until the end. By that time, we should have a better understanding of what it means to speak of a tradition.

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