Saturday, March 10, 2018

Divya Jhingran on Shashi Tharoor's "Why I am a Hindu"

Shashi Tharoor published a book recently, "Why I am a Hindu". (As of this blog post, I haven't read it.)

Divya Jhingran, co-author with Balangangadhara of Do All Roads Lead to Jerusalem?: The Making of Indian Religions, has some reflections on Shashi Tharoor's book.  She argues that "a more apt title for Tharoor’s book would have been “Why I am a Protestant”.

As S.N. Balagangadhara notes, if you take away the Bible and you take away Jesus, there will be nothing left that would be recognizable as a religion called Christianity. Similarly, if you take away the Quran and take away Mohammad, there will be nothing left that would be recognizable as a religion called Islam. Religions stand or fall based upon these two factors. If these two factors are necessary components of religion, it obviously means that the Indian traditions are phenomena of a different kind. You cannot use different standards of determination in judging this matter. Even Buddhism does not need a Buddha, nor does Jainism need a Mahavira. The Indian traditions will still exist, each as a distinct entity and each distinguishable from the other without any such props. They are human discoveries that can be communicated in any number of ways, not a belief system handed down from God.

It is regressive to regard certain avenues of exploration as taboo just because the principles are deemed to be a part of Hindu religion. This is a double-whammy for Hindus. We are required to recognize Protestant ideas as secular and we are required to treat Hindu empirical discoveries and theoretical claims as religious.