Saturday, February 24, 2018

Gandhi on the authority of the shastras

 From the digital version of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi:


When I was in Kashi, three questions were sent to me on behalf of the Kashi Pundit Sabha. I considered it my duty to answer these questions, but I did not then have time to do so. Later the questions lay in my file. I could not attend to them during my tour either. Now I am cleaning up my file. The questions are:
1. How can a sanatani Hindu who is well versed in the doctrines of sanatana dharma and accepts the Vedas and the smritis based on them as an infallible authority, contend that there is no untouchability in Hinduism or lend his support to freely mixing with untouchables, excepting on the occasions enumerated in the well-known verse: “In religious processions, marriages, emergencies, rebellions and in all festivals, contact with untouchables does not polllute”? 

2. Your work is among the people of India who are predominantly sanatana dharmis and who implicitly believe in the Gita dictum: “Let the Shastras, therefore, be they authority in deciding what is to be done and what is to be shunned.” How can you then effectively carry on the work of eradicating untouchability till you have proved that this work is in conformity with the Shastras? 

3. The Muslim Ulemas are firmly convinced that there is merit in killing all those who follow any religion other than Islam for they are Kaffirs, and that Muslims can mingle with them only when they accept Islam. So long as all Muslims are under the influence of these Ulemas, how can Hindus make friends with Muslims while protecting the Hindu dharma? 

Sunday, February 04, 2018

More on the Aryan nonsense

Professor Subhash Kak quotes Vernant and Olender 1992, Pannikar 1997 in the following; the highlighted sentences really caught my attention:
Now we know that to speak of a “pure” race is meaningless since all external characteristics of humans are defined in a continuum. In the 19th century atmosphere of European triumphalism, what obtained in Europe was taken to be normative. With hindsight it is hard to believe that these ideas were not contested more vigorously.
Although this was the age which marked the true beginnings of modern science, old myths continued to exercise great power. When it was found that the languages of India and Europe were related in structure and vocabulary, the West responded with “a tissue of scholarly myths. These myths were steeped in erudition, informed by profound knowledge of Hebrew and Sanskrit, fortified by comparative study of linguistic data, mythology, and religion, and shaped by the effort to relate linguistic structures, forms of thought, and features of civilization. Yet they were also myths, fantasies of the social imagination, at every level. The comparative philology of the most ancient languages was a quest for origins, an attempt to return to a privileged moment in time when God, man, and natural forces still lived in mutual transparency. The plunge into the distant past in search of `roots’ went hand in hand with a never forgotten faith in a meaningful history, whose course, guided by the Providence of the one God, could be understood only in the light of Christian revelation.
As scholars established the disciplines of Semitic and Indo-European studies, they also invented the mythical figures of the Hebrew and the Aryan, a providential pair which, by revealing to the people of the Christianized West the secret of their identity, also bestowed upon them the patent of nobility that justified their spiritual, religious, and political domination of the world.” (Vernant 1992)
Although the term Aryan never had a racial connotation in the Indian texts, the scholars insisted that this was the sense in which the term ought to be understood. It was further assumed that Aryan meant European by race. By doing so Europe claimed for itself all of the “Aryan” texts as a part of its own forgotten past. The West considered itself the inheritor of the imagination and the mythic past of the Aryan and the idea of the monotheism of the Hebrew. This dual inheritance was the mark of the imperial destiny of the West. Despite his monotheism, the poor Jew, since he lacked Aryan blood, should have seen “the dark silhouette of the death camps and the rising smoke of the ovens.” (Vernant 1992). On the other hand, the Asiatic mixed-blood Aryan had no future but that of the serf. He could somewhat redeem himself if he rejected all but the earliest core of his inheritance, that existed when the Aryans in India were a pure race. For scholars such as Max Muller this became ultimately a religious issue. Echoing Augustine, Muller saw in his own religious faith a way for progress of the Asiatic. We would smile at it now but he said, “Christianity was simply the name `of the true religion,’ a religion that was already known to the ancients and indeed had been around `since the beginning of the human race.”‘ (See Olender, 1992) But ideas – bad and good – never die. Muller’s idea has recently been resurrected in the guise that Christianity is the fulfillment of Vedic revelation! (E.g. Panikkar, 1977).

 Olender's book is The Languages of Paradise: Race, Religion, and Philology in the Nineteenth Century.  The blurb at