Curating Rajiv Malhotra's Works. Online Resource, Database, Crowd Sourcing, and Expert Feedback on Contemporary Hinduism, Dharmic India, and topics covered in 'Breaking India', 'Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism", 'Indra's Net: Defending Hinduism's Philosophical Unity', 'The Battle For Sanskrit', and the newly released book 'Academic Hinduphobia'.
Pdf of the book is available for free download here
Go to chapter 1 Section I – Exposing Academic
Hinduphobia – By Pandita Indrani Rampersad, PhD
The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think . . .
Throughout the Mahabharata . . . Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of
murderous and self-destructive
behaviors such as war . . . The Gita is
a dishonest book; it justifies war.
Wendy Doniger, in Philadelphia Inquirer
There is generally, therefore, an inverse ratio between the
worship of goddesses and the granting of rights to human women. Nor are the
goddesses by and large compassionate; they are generally
a pretty bloodthirsty lot. Goddesses are not the solution.
Wendy Doniger, in Washington Post
(Please refer pages 15-16 for the introductory comic
Chapter 2: Religious
Studies: Projecting One’s Shadow on the ‘Other’
This section paraphrases RISA Lila-1: Wendy’s Child Syndrome, a seminal essay by Rajiv Malhotra, published in
September 2002 on an Indian-American web magazine. The essay critiqued a selection
of scholarly literature associated with the American Academy of Religion
summarized prior criticisms of established scholars. Its main contribution was
to make the academic materials more easily accessible and to encourage
non-academicians to participate in the debate. The essay revealed explicit
examples of Hinduphobia in the work of certain scholars in Religious Studies
and related academic fields. It also examined the training and expertise of
several Western scholars, particularly their ability to translate Indian
languages into English. The essay also examined the use of psychoanalysis and
other Eurocentric theories to analyze specifically Indic categories and conditions.
The objective here is to analyze and critique a specific genre
of American scholarship that uses Freudian theories to interpret Indian culture.
A central point made by the essay is that there are no true outsiders—because those who stand outside Hinduism remain firmly inside
their own ideologies, institutions and cultures.
Chapter 3 shows how award-winning scholars
declared Sri Ramakrishna (hereafter referred to simply as ‘Ramakrishna’), the nineteenth
century Hindu saint, to be a sexually disturbed and abusive homosexual.
Chapter 4 shows how other award-winning scholarship
from America describes the Hindu Goddess in ways that would resemble a sex
maniac and demonic person. She is seen as over-sexed and violent—her sexuality
being the focus of scholarly analyses and she allegedly
inspires or somehow causes
Chapter 5 shows how some well-placed scholars have concluded that
Ganesha’s trunk symbolizes a ‘limp phallus’; his broken tusk is a symbol for
the castration-complex of Indian men; and his large belly and love of sweets
are proof of the Hindu male’s enormous appetite for oral sex. Such academic
works have received awards from the most
prestigious American institutions of scholarship, and such views about Hinduism have started to gain
respectability in mainstream America.
Chapter 6 exposes scholarship which claims that Hindu mothers do
not love and bond with their children to the same extent that White women do.
Those critics from outside the academy who have dared to speak up have been
condemned as ‘hijackers’ of the scholarship.
Chapter 7 gives examples where one of today’s pre-eminent American
interpreters of Sanskrit texts, Wendy Doniger, is harshly criticized by a few
scholars. Her translations (and mistranslations) are widely relied upon by
other scholars, and are widely disseminated as prescribed readings in American colleges and among the public as
Chapter 8 shows how this group of scholars dismisses Tantra as a
hypocritical philosophical and spiritual mask hiding its true character as
pornography and a system of exploitation of the lower castes.
Many inauthentic translations and interpretations by pre-eminent
Indologists have been popularized into standard meanings today. Such scholars
dismiss the translations and interpretations of contemporary Tantric
practitioners as inauthentic and are contemptuous of practicing Hindus
participating in the discourse about their own traditions. Indeed, practicing
Hindus are treated as inferior to the scholars and are excluded from the
discourse about their traditions. The American Academy of Religion (AAR) needs
to investigate this serious issue and its multifaceted ethics committees could
serve as ombudsmen to ensure that the communities’ voices have a fair
The group of scholars who are the focus of this book has
concluded that, in order to understand modern India, Hindu society at large needs
to be psychoanalyzed for its sexual deviance and pathologies. RISA Lila-1 raised
the concern that, historically, pogroms, incarceration, slavery, oppression,
and genocides of ethnic peoples—such as of Native Americans, Blacks, Jews,
Gypsies, Cubans, Mexicans, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Chinese, and Japanese—have
often followed depictions of them by White Americans, first as
primitive/exotic, then as dangerous ‘savages’ threatening civilization or ‘our
way of life’, and finally as lacking in human values and therefore unworthy in
Many scholars in this group are interconnected, and follow the
lead of the powerful and influential academician, Wendy Doniger. By focusing its analysis on this specific group of
scholars, RISA Lila-1 was adapting an established practice in Indian logic,
termed prathamamalla-nyaya, where the exemplar of a particular line of argument
is taken on, and if demolished, the
whole school or argument is debunked.
Later, this section presents two new theoretical models: one
called the Chakra Hermeneutics model for understanding how a diversity of approaches
to Hinduism is possible; and the other called Wendy’s Child Syndrome to
reverse the gaze upon this group of scholars by applying
Asymmetries of Power
The majority of the scholars in academic Hinduism Studies are
from outside the Hindu traditions, while at the same time they are ‘insiders’ to
other religious and political ideologies and cultural identities.
The views of Hindu practitioners are seen as being less reliable
and legitimate than scholarly perspectives. As will be seen, a divergent view or
critique from Hindu practitioners, is sometimes perceived by academicians as a
personal ‘attack’ against them.
The result of personal and career bonds among the small number of
specialists in a given topic is unhealthy to the integrity of the peer review process.
Personality cults develop around certain scholars who are in academic positions
of power in Hinduism Studies and whose work is propagated uncritically by their
students. The powerful scholar in turn nurtures and protects his/her students.
The theoretical model called ‘Wendy’s Child Syndrome’ (presented
later in this section) reverses the gaze back on the scholars of India. The
primary symptom of the syndrome is the use of Freudian analysis and other
fashionable Eurocentric theories to deconstruct and reconstruct the ‘Hindu
other’, and in the process caricature and trivialize Indian personalities,
practices, scriptures and deities. Contrary to their scholarly commitment to
intellectual freedom and openness, many academicians have responded to this
investigative research with a surprising degree of intolerance and hostility,
while thankfully, there were others who privately encouraged it.
Freudian Psychoanalysis of
The validity of applying Freudian psychoanalysis to non-Western religions
is questionable. Even though it has been largely rejected within contemporary
Western academia, psychoanalysis has become a very fashionable methodology to
study Indian culture. Sudhir Kakar, one of India’s best known psychologists and academicians anticipated this challenge when he wrote back in 1982:
Psychoanalysis . . . has been insufficiently aware of its
underlying paradigm and its deep roots in Western culture. The implicit model of
man that underlies the psychoanalytic meta-theory is certainly not universal;
the psychoanalytic notion of the person as an autonomous, bounded, abstract
individual is a peculiarly Western notion. In contrast, the holistic model of
man that underlies Indian mystical approaches and propels their practices is
rooted in the very different Indian cultural tradition which, in some ways,
lies at an opposite civilizational pole.
Applied psychoanalysis is a method used to analyze myths,
religion, folklore, and culture. Kakar finds it unfortunate that “the
constraints which apply to the psychoanalytic treatment situation, namely, the analyst’s
attitudes of respect and objectivity towards the patient, are largely absent in
. . . works of ‘applied’ psychoanalysis.”
Freud’s fascination with ‘taboo totems’ influenced many social scientists
to use psychoanalysis to interpret their ethnographic studies. Their
ethnographies would ‘confirm’ or ‘falsify’ Freud’s notions such as the Oedipus
Institutions of Knowledge
Production and Distribution
As with any large academic field, Religious Studies in the US is
highly organized and features prestigious journals, academic chairs, and extensive
programs of study. The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is the primary
organization for academic scholars of Religious Studies in the United States.
RISA (Religions in South Asia) is the unit within the AAR for scholars who
study and teach about religions in the Indian subcontinent. For the most part,
the controversies described herein emerged out of the Indian diaspora’s debates
with RISA scholars and the issues
cannot automatically be generalized to apply to other areas of the academy.
Wendy Doniger, the Mircea Eliade Professor of History and Religion
at the University of Chicago, is one of the most influential persons in the
study of religion. Partly as a result of Malhotra’s essay, Doniger and other
scholars have come under the scrutiny of Hindus in North America—for their
practice of dredging-for-dirt and using disheveled, questionable approaches to
translations and interpretations of traditional Hindu texts. Many white
Americans with personal spiritual connections to Hinduism have also taken note of
this fabulously contrived, out-of-context eroticizing of Indian culture.
Doniger’s former students have been successfully placed in academic
jobs and chairs, carrying forward the torch of her theories and research principles
regarding Hinduism. She is notorious for her racy, bawdy interpretations of
Hindu texts. A BBC-linked site wryly describes her: Professor Wendy Doniger is known for being rude, crude and very lewd
in the hallowed portals of Sanskrit Academics. All her special works have
revolved around the subject of sex in Sanskrit texts.
The influence of Doniger’s Freudian approach to Indian society
is not relegated to the confines of the Ivory Tower; indeed, it has had a
pervasive and pernicious impact across mainstream America. She and her protégés—the chelas in
her parampara, many of whom have approvingly been called Wendy’s
Children—contribute many articles on India and Hinduism to widely used
resources. These include Microsoft’s Encarta, and
other encyclopedias and reference works, as well as textbooks used in Asian
Studies courses across the US.
Further, Freudian speculation about Ganesha having an Oedipal complex)
has made its way into American museums as ‘fact’. One of the foremost art
museums in the US is the famous Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore. Its display
on Asian Art features some rare and precious art objects of Asia. Each display
item has an explanation next to it that is also in the museum’s coffee table
book referenced below. These explanations are important, because many school
tours visit the museum, and through art, the kids learn about Asian culture. The
large eleventh century Ganesha carving in the collection has a write-up, andthe
following are excerpts from it: “Ganesa, is a son of the great god Siva, and many of his
abilities are comic or absurd extensions of the lofty dichotomies of his
father.” And it then goes on to say: “Ganesa’s potbelly and his childlike love for
sweets mock Siva’s practice of austerities, and his limp trunk will forever be
a poor match for Siva’s erect phallus.”
Furthermore, anthropologists, like Stanley Kurtz,25 have
concluded that nursing Hindu mothers do not bond with their babies the way
white women do and that Hindus lack a sense of individuality because of their
inability to perceive separation in space or time. Additionally, Doniger sees the classic, widely revered and time-honored Indian
epic Mahabharata as Krishna engaging in genocide.
Recently, a significant number of Hindu-Americans and members of
the academy have called into question the off-color, ingeniously refashioned
scholarly works made by some academicians. The Hindu intellectuals who persist
in analytically questioning this scholarship have been profiled and targeted as ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘attackers’
by RISA scholars and some journalists. This dismissive, dehumanizing process
potentially sets Hindu-Americans up for a denial of their basic human rights.
The Paradigm is Shifting
RISA Lila-1 galvanized
many members of the diaspora and academic scholars to start paying attention to
the issues, and some of them wrote letters and articles on this relevant
topic—a selection of which is featured in this book. Ironically, in the process
they were transformed from objects of ‘clinical’
study by academicians to objects of academic scorn and phobia. Instead of being
seen as a treasured resource, and as a source for professional research, the
Hindu/Indian ‘others’ morphed into dangerous academic adversaries threatening
the purity and elitism of the Ivory Tower.
To read the entire chapter please refer pages 17 to 26 Go to chapter 3
Pdf of the book is available for free download here