Rajiv Malhotra’s Talk at Kitab Khana, Mumbai’s Premier Bookstore


Well, thank you for inviting me. You know, this is the, this is one of the most beautiful book stores I have seen anywhere. I mean, this is really very nice. And my first impression walking in is that, you know, I should come and do some, I should really spend the day here. Because I just looked around, found some very interesting titles. And this would be a nice place to sort of hang out and spend some good amount of time in a future trip. So, I am delighted that Kitab Khana is hosting this event and delighted that all of you are here. And thank you for the introduction. Basically, this book is a result of, you know, many years, More than a decade of trying to understand what it means to be Indian that is distinct. There are things, there are things about oneself, which are not distinct. They are shared. So, you cannot sort of say, that’s a signature. Because that’s common. But there are things that are distinct. So, I wanted to figure out what is distinct. And I have lived in the US for 40 years and I have never missed a year when I didn’t come to India. Usually three – four times a year. So, i am bi-cultural I understand both cultures. In this book I coined several terms, One term I have coined is called western universalism. That’s on the title. By western universalism I mean that the experience of the west gets exported all over the world because of west’s power and the colonial period, so that people think that this is a universal experience. The west’s idea of history, their philosophy, their worldview, their aesthetics, what it means to be beautiful, you know, what is right or wrong, their values seem to permeate and I call that western universalism. Now, Chinese people are contesting that. They have a contrarian thesis called Confucian universalism. They have come up with something called Confucian ethics to contest the protestant ethics on which the west is based. And they have come up with the idea of Confucian modernity. So, they are saying when we become modern, when we have science and technology and we even supersede the west, please don’t think we are westernized. Very interesting. We remain Chinese in a certain philosophical sense and a certain worldview, but of course we will be more modern and more science and technology than anyone else. Actually, Japanese did that also. The Japanese decided they will not lose the sense of who they are while becoming very modern. So, unfortunately, in India, we are told that modernisation means westernization. And either you are modern, in which case you better give up your own civilization because that is old-fashioned and pre-modern and, you know, not very useful. Or if you want to remain traditional, you are sacrificing the benefits of modernity. Actually, that is totally wrong. There is also a dharmic way of modernity, there is a dharmic way of science and technology. In fact, we have never had a clash between science and our dharma. You know, we never had that. And to give you a quick reason why, unlike the Abrahamic religions, in the dharma traditions, shruti and smriti are separate. Shruti is eternal and permanent. The eternal laws, the eternal laws is not the right word, but the eternal truths. And Smriti is constantly changing. So, the circumstances of a certain place and time, that is smriti. What is in itihas is smriti. So, since we kept these separate in our texts, we did not mix them up and make one text out of it, like the Abrahamic religions have collapsed their shruti and smriti and even puranas into one book. So, we did not make one book. We have a whole library. People ask me, what is your book and I say, we have a whole library. And the separation of shruti and smriti, means that we can keep rewriting the smriti, keep rewriting the science and technology and the knowledge that exist in a given time and place without jeopardizing the eternal truths. And so, we are not boxed in, we are not frozen in time, we are not fixed forever in one place. This means that we can, we, using the dharmic foundations we can have all the modernity, we can solve problems, you know, we can worry about medicine and rockets in space and all that. There is nothing, nothing undharmic about that because in the dharma it’s flexible. Now, this is the term, western universalism. Then There is another term I have which is called digestion of one civilization into another. Like a deer, It’s eaten by a tiger and when the tiger has digested the deer, there is no more dear left. There is not one copy of the DNA of the deer in the tiger’s body because it would be considered a foreign substance, it would be toxic. So, all of the deer has been broken down from the mouth throughout the digestive tract into smaller and smaller pieces and the molecules have been broken down so there is no molecule of DNA left. And that becomes spare parts which is reassembled into tiger’s DNA. It is reassembled as tiger’s DNA and becomes part of the bones and blood and flesh and so on of the tiger. So, when the digestion is complete, the tiger is stronger, no more deer left. What was unfit and the tiger cannot digest, he either leaves it out, Does not bring it in or he excretes it because it is waste. So, civilizations have gone through this process. When Christianity entered Europe, a whole lot of so-called pagans were the previous faith of that place and so what happened is the Christianity assimilated and digested many things from the pagans including the idea of a mother and a boy, son, the Christmas tree, Easter, lot of these symbols and stories came from pagans into Christianity. But the pagans disappeared. The pagans disappeared. But what was useful and what could fit was brought in. Similarly the native Americans. The native Americans gave, a lot was taken from the Native Americans. when the Europeans went there, but the Native Americans live in museums. Similarly, Egypt, similarly, lot of African cultures. So, what happens when a culture is digested is that it’s no longer a living civilization. It’s no longer thriving, it’s no longer evolving, it’s no longer growing. Now, I am not at all against borrowing across cultures. I want that to happen. But the borrowing should be done with the ethic that does not destroy the source. I call it harvest the fruit, and nurture the roots. Don’t harvest the fruits and trash the roots. So, this is what happens, trashing the roots is what happens when you get digested. So, my quest has been to figure out, is Indian civilization getting digested into the west. This is my question. This is what I am looking at. And I find that a whole lot of from the last 200 years this has been a very big project, a project of Indology where the west has actually achieved a lot of stuff from the study of India, Linguistics, comparative religion, philosophy, even Christianity got enhanced, linguistics, many many areas. Nowadays neuroscience, cognitive science from the study of meditators and Buddhist meditators, yogis, a lot of that knowledge is going into western universalism and the original sources are being ignored and neglected. So, if this continues, then we will get reformulated into a western framework, western language, western idiom, western categories and we will cease to be ourselves. And so, that is what I would call being digested. And so, gradually this digestion has been going on because of the power asymmetry in the favor of the west. But today, we have a unique opportunity, because we are getting some economic power back. We have a unique opportunity to become self-conscious. That this is what is going on. Once you become self-conscious it is self-correcting. It’s like, you know, you tell a person you are speaking very loudly, you don’t have to tell him to stop. Once he becomes self-conscious then he will come down, you know. So, if we are self-conscious that we are being digested it will automatically change. So, the question is, what do we have to do in order not to be digested. And that is where the book starts. The book starts by saying, there are certain ways we can, we are different. And these are differences that are non-digestible. These are differences that are non-digestible. So, I am, in this book focusing on four major categories of difference. I did not take those differences which are digestible. So, you know, we eat with our hands. So, lot of people can eat with their hands. We take off our shoes and come into somebody’s house. Lot of people can do that. We became vegetarians, we are vegetarians for the most part, so, lot of people can become vegetarian for health reasons. Those are not non-digestible differences. They are digestible. But I wanted to find out what are the differences such that the other side cannot accept it. Because there is a contradiction with their own DNA. There is a clash of DNA. There is a philosophical contradiction. They cannot accept those points. So, those points are highlighted in this book “Being Different”. So, four points of difference are four chapters. Two, three, four, five, those chapters, each talks about one kind of difference. So, I will give you a very quick summary of these. And then would love to have your questions. So, one difference which is based on the notion I call, history centrism. The western religions are history centric,which means that there is a lineage of prophets, which is very exclusive, which is the only access to truth. The only access to man’s truth is through those historical prophets. And you cannot accept any other source of truth except this particular lineage of prophets. Yeah? And therefore, the historicity of these prophets and especially the historicity of the one and only son of God, is absolutely paramount, is absolutely central and critical for a religious life. And this idea came to me after, I have been exploring this in the 90s, but soon after 9/11, the US government had some events to bring people of various minority religions and give a little seminar on their religion to the American policy makers, decision makers, government officials. So, I was selected as a Hindu speaker to give a talk to American, you know, senior officials, senior top people. So, I asked them this question. Would it be possible for you to have a religious life, what would happen to your religious life if all history was lost. I asked this question. Suppose all history is lost, what would happen? And there was a huge turmoil in the room. Huge commotion, you know. Why would you take our history away from us, if you take our history away, we would be in darkness. In other words, the, it becomes very clear when you push this historicity idea in a western religion, it becomes very clear that what we call sachitanand, you know, the divinity in all of us, what we think of as, you know, tattvamasi, we are one with the divine, and therefore, even if I lost my history, I could, even if I did not know what somebody else did, I can achieve it on my own,bBecause I have the capacity, every human being has the capacity to transcend to a higher state of consciousness through proper yoga, through proper sadhana and meditation and so on. So, even if we lost the history of what somebody else did, the point is, we can recover that for ourselves. We can recover the truths on our own because man is endowed with divinity and the gap between man and god is not infinite gap like in the western religions. But we are the manifestation of the divine in the first place. So, I discovered that there is a huge difference between a history centric approach and what do I call, adhyatma vidya or inner sciences or embodied knowing, knowing which is embodied in us here and now. And this difference is generally or many times it is the starting point of my debate with westerners and if you want to watch an interesting debate online, on YouTube, You go to the website of this book. The website is www.beingdifferentbook.com and then you click under videos and there will be like 30 – 40 videos and one of them is called Mark Tully, my TV, my video debate with Mark Tully. It’s one and a half hours and it is very interesting discussion. The only thing we talk about is history centrism for one and a half hours. And he says, he is a member of the Anglican church, he is very loyal to it, we respect each other. We are both very friendly and mutually respecting each other. But he keeps saying, why can’t we be the same. Why are we talking about differences. So, I say, okay, same on your terms or same on my terms. Yeah! It’s interesting point. So, for instance, I say, would you be willing to be same accepting the principle of karma and reincarnation. And he says, no, we can’t accept that. Okay? Because it would violate the whole idea of original sin, virgin birth, you know, sacrifice, redemption and all of that. Their story, the axioms of their story would be violated if you accepted these principles. And vice versa, if I accepted those principles, then there is no multiple lives, the idea of karma goes away. So, I said, well, you know, here is an example. If we want to be the same, but you cannot accept my axioms, I cannot accept your axioms. So, we can have mutual respect for our differences but we cannot achieve sameness except on somebody’s terms and the other gets compromised. So, then we are discussing a little bit and then he says, then I say, okay, now, can you accept, again he comes back and says, but you know, why are we talking differences, we should talk we are all same. So, I say, okay, we are all the same. So, my idea of sameness says that there is shakti, there is the divine feminine which is all pervading and so, I would like you to accept it. So, he says, First, he is thought he will go along with it. So, he said, we have a concept called holy spirit and shakti could be holy spirit and yeah, we can accept it. I said, that’s good. That means that all the murtis, all the deities, which are where Shakti is in our temples. It means that there should be no problem to put them in the church. Because if I put these in the church, if I put Durga and kali and all our deities in the church, you just have to say, this is holy spirit and it should be fine. So, he is very quiet. He says, no, no, no, that will never be accepted. So, I said, you want to be the same. This is what it means. So, he says, but we will be accused of polytheism. See! So, we go on this way, we go on this way, the whole, the whole video cassette I think is one of the finest. Because he is a decent man, he is a well-known man, he is a really brilliant thinker. And we have such a nice, relaxed, we are just sitting the two of us, and just having a chat. So, it goes on we thought will be half an hour but it went on for one and a half hours. And I think so many ideas come out in that tape. I would really like that you go and take a look at it. The second area of difference is the nature of unity. The nature of unity in the dharma traditions, I call it integral unity. Integral unity as contrasted with synthetic unity. Synthetic unity is like if you have a car, then the different parts of the car are made in separate factories and then put together. So, somebody made a tyre, somebody made, you know, battery, somebody made paint. So, the parts exist already and then they are put together as a whole. The parts exist and then they become whole. In the case of an integral unity, the whole exists, the one exists first. And then the challenge is for philosophers to debate and figure out how do parts come out of the whole and what exactly is the relationship between the parts and the whole. That is the whole debate between one school of thought of dharma and another school of thought is, what is the relationship between parts and the whole. Yeah? That is what it is. Is parts, you know, non-existent? Is it relatively existent? Is mithya temporary but exists, what is exactly the relationship between the parts and the whole. Now, the idea of synthetic unity I explained. I won’t have time here but in the book there is a huge amount explaining the west as a synthetic unity. There is a Hebraic tradition which is a biblical tradition. And there is a Hellenistic tradition which is a Greek tradition. And these are not mutually compatible but they have been forced together. Saint Augustine brought lot of Greek thought to create theology, but even till today the split between science and religion and you know, the different ideological science is because of that foundational synthesis that comprise the west. So, I show four or five major milestones and events in western history, where more and more things get synthesized. So, colonialism starts synthesizing whatever they brought from the colonies. They start synthesizing into themselves. So, the synthetic unity always has the anxiety that things may fall apart. If things, if a car has been put together and glued together, there is always a risk that things may fall apart. And so, there is a fear of chaos which is the next difference. There is a fear of chaos. Chaos means that things will just fall apart and I know, I won’t know what to do. Whereas somebody who is functioning on the assumption of integral unity because unity pre-exists. Unity is the very nature of reality. There is no such thing, there is no possibility, it will fall apart. Because that is what exists. What will fall apart will be the parts in the divisiveness, but what remains always is the unity. So, if you are accepting the principle of integral unity, you do not have a fear of chaos. Because whatever happens is just temporary, and it’s going to have its play and it will be gone. And then things will be fine. So, the fear of chaos is not there. And this is my, this is the third difference is the west’s huge fear of chaos. I give the example that during my corporate days in the US, I used to hold project meetings. And often there would be Indians and westerners sitting in a room discussing project, you know, having a meeting on something. And it’s very interesting that Indians are always talking to each other, to be, lot of conversations going on. So, one is talking to two, three is talking to four, five is talking to two and three. So, multiple conversations happening. And nobody is thinking it’s chaotic or a problem. It’s like normal. But the Americans, (and my experience is more American than and when I say west, I mean American really and not European because I don’t have that experience) The Americans in the room would find it that things are getting out of hand, And why are too many people talking. And they would come to me after the meeting and they would say, well, can you explain what we decided because we are confused. We don’t know what happened. So, I started holding meetings in two parts. The first part would be to let the Indians brainstorm and let everybody talk like that to each other in a way that westerners felt was very chaotic. And the second part would be when I would sit down for the benefit of the westerners and write down one, two, three, who will do this that, flowchart, linear thinking. Linear thinking, discomfort with uncertainty that is all part of this fear of chaos. Discomfort with unpredictability. No grey area. It’s yes or no. You know, the Aristotelian logic, therein Aristotle introduced this idea called the law of the excluded middle. And those of you who are in philosophy will have read it, that says, true or false. Nothing in between. But, you know, we have had many kinds of logic. Like Jain logic says, that if you get have a preposition, and you ask a person to evaluate the truth of the proposition, valid answer could be true or it could be false or it could be both, true and false. Or it could be neither true nor false or it could be neither not true nor not false. So, there is many values possible in between the two extremes. This is the ability to think in a murky area and feel comfortable. And this idea of chaos being a fearful thing became very sharp. When I attended the Kumbh Mela, I went to the Kumbh Mela and I was invited by the head of the Juna Akhada who is the head of the all the sadhus, all the Naga sadhus, they are part of this organization. So, I was his guest and I walked with the Naga Sadhus and bathed with them and what not. I have had really fantastic time. And when I was done, my car was, taxi was waiting. So, I was packed and ready to go. Doing my pranam and good bye to the, my host. So, there was a crew, TV crew from United States to do a documentary on Kumbh Mela. ABC News. They have a show called ABC Sunday Morning. Show. And so, they were doing this documentary. So, Swamiji says, Rajiv, before you leave you can also give them your opinion. And he told them that this guy come from the US, you interview him also. So, these guys come to me and say, can you wait five minutes. We’ll just ask you a simple question. And that five minute turned out to be three hours. Because of what I said, it just created a huge discussion. And the show when it appeared on the television most of the, most of what they covered was my discussion with them. So, here is the question they asked: They said, we have been here for a month. And we are going around everywhere and we are putting the camera and the mike in front of all kind of people. We are asking the same question we want to ask you. And the question is, how do we explain to the Americans what is the meaning of all this chaos. That’s the question that they asked. So, typically the Indians are apologetic, saying oh, no, no, we need more infrastructure, we will become more modern, we will educate these people, they will wear proper clothes. You know, maybe in next few years we will have less chaos. So, they are very apologetic. But I did not do that. I always like to do the purvapaksha, which means I reverse the gaze and find out, okay now, what does the question tell me about him. So, I what I told him is this. I said that this is more complexity, more cognitive complexity, than your cognitive system knows how to handle. Your cognitive system handles a certain number of variables. Things have to be this this, this, that. And so, you have a model that things should end up being in one of these categories and this is something so bewildering and so complex, so unpredictable that you have a cognitive, your system crashes. Your mind, trying to cognize, it’s like your computer crash, it’s like your system crashes when you are trying to figure this out, because your models, the templates, the patterns that you are aware of that comprise normal behaviour are very limiting. And so, this is way beyond that. So, I said, the chaos is in your mind. The chaos is the feeling of cognitive overload. It is a result of the synthetic unity. Then I took it further. I said, because the west is a synthetic unity always fearful of chaos, you know, the synthetic unity falling apart. Because there is no underlying unity that they can say, okay, nothing can go wrong. What can go wrong? That is not there. So, always the huge control and also, synthetic unity and order is the characteristic of somebody wanting a lot of control. The way you control is you map something on to a framework, which is very simple, which is easy, few finite categories, very linear and then you can control it. Whereas if things are too complex, way too complex, then you really can’t control that. So, I said this is the, this is at the bottom of the European encounter with India that this so-called chaos had to be tamed, had to be civilized, had to be turned into order. And actually, the Native Americans when these, there was a nice BBC documentary I saw, which said that when the Europeans came to America, the thinking was that these Native Americans, because they are part of the forest, they are part of the jungle, they live in chaos, they live in wilderness, and there is something immoral and satanic about it. This is their philosophical view. And the spaces that the Europeans had captured were called settlements. They had a wall, straight line roads, very orderly, and whatever was left outside, was called a frontier. And the frontiers are very scary place, threatening place. And the march of civilization is to capture more and more frontier and make it civilized, make it orderly. So, this was the European experience in America. And this was perfected couple of hundred years before the experience in India. Actually, the experience in America was earlier. You know, and then came India. so, the same Englishmen, the same thinking, the same French people. They are also come up with a way to deal with this chaotic other, non-western other. And so, they applied it in many ways in India. There is lots being written on a result of the European intervention in India and how this so-called chaos to tame that they destroyed lot of things. So, this is the third difference is the attitude towards chaos. And the cover of the book is samudra manthan. The churning of the ocean with Devas and Asuras, opposites, opposites cooperating. So, in our culture, you do not anihilate the opposite. You control, you keep a little dominant over the, prevent anarchy. So, you know you keep chaos under control. You have order as the upper hand. But there is no final end, goal, to finish it all off and exterminate it like in the book of revelation, in the Bible, ultimately Satan will be killed. There will be no more, you know, uncertainty, ambiguity, chaos, wilderness. Everything will be very clean, straight line, civilized, that kind of thing. We don’t have that. And we consider this business of chaos to be very creative. We improvise, you know, those ragas are improvised. The music is improvised, cuisine is improvised, dance is improvised. Musicians are surprised, American musicians are surprised when I tell them that the greatest Indian musicians are, do not have written scores. They are not playing the written scores. like in western music. They are saying, is that true, is it possible. I say, yeah that’s possible. And this music has passed on for thousands of years without written scores. So, this is something very interesting. And a friend of mine, a person wrote a book in the 60s, one of the first books on Indian cooking for Americans. And I asked this person what’s the success due to. Because it became a big success. And the person said, I understand the American mind and the need for linear thinking. So, I have to say things like take so many grams of this, heat it up to so many degrees for so many minutes. This kind of a thinking. Whereas no Indian chef in a finest restaurant has got a scale and a thermometer and a time watch and lying to figure out like a machine, you know, how you cook. So, this, is, there is a certain improvisation and huge dealing with complexity and feel for it without fear. So, this is the third difference, the attitude towards chaos. And in fact, it is quite interesting, there is no Sanskrit word that means chaos. There is many like pralay is not exactly chaos, it is dissolution. So, you can have many different words that have some resemblance but there is no real chaos word. You know, that’s very interesting. Now, the fourth difference is lot of Sanskrit words are non-translatables. They are non-translatable and they should be preserved as such. And I give the example of 20 words in this book and my goal is that if we can have about a 100 words of Sanskrit, which we introduce into the English language, you know, like we introduced the word Shakti. We don’t say energy. Because when you say energy the divinity is gone. I mean, what’s feminine, divine about this energy, it’s just electricity, you know. It’s gone. So, we just use the word shakti and put it in English and make sure people understand it. And we are first of all to understand it ourselves and use it in a certain way like the word yoga is in the English language and so, even though people may not understand, because the word is there, we can keep making sure their knowledge gets better and better. So, over time they begin to get deeper and deeper into understanding really yoga. Maybe right now only a few people will understand it. So, when a word is added into a language that all the things that this word brings, become part of the culture. So, my idea in this fourth difference is that certain Sanskrit words should remain non-translatable and they should be introduced as is. Example I give is, I am not happy when atman is translated as soul. I am not happy. I know it’s very fashionable. Because soul doesn’t have, does not reincarnate. It’s got one life. Soul is always separate from God. There is no tattvamasi. Animals don’t have soul, but they have atma. Even plants have atma. So, how do you, when you trans, when you replace atman with soul, you have also changed its meaning. So, I give many examples of this sort to illustrate the point that I am making here. So, these are my four differences and the end of the book message is, we are being digested unless we are being different. So, if we are not being different, we are being digested. If we are being different, we are not digestible. So, there is two, two options. And I give Gandhi as my role model. For non-digestible, you know, difference. Gandhi did not translate satyagraha and swaraj and all these words, you know, ahimsa. He did, when the British judge asked him, what are you doing? He says, I am doing satyagraha. So, he says, what does that mean? So, he keeps giving a long theory of what it means. But he doesn’t just replace it the word and finish it. So, then he says, okay, what will that achieve you. He says, it will achieve swaraj. Now, what is swaraj? Swaraj is more or less freedom in the ordinary sense. It’s not political freedom, it’s lot more. So, you see, keeping the words was a solid part of him. And also, his dress. He is non-digestible. He goes to meet King George in England, he takes his goat with him. It’s there, takes his goat with him. Because that’s who I am, that’s how I am. I am not disrespecting you; I am not asking you to be like me. I am respecting you as you are and I want you to respect me as I am. That’s the idea that I am conveying. So, Gandhi as a quintessential man of the soil, very dharmic embodies this ethos of being different. And not wanting to mimic and get digested. They would have loved to make him a Viceroy or Lord or something and get rid of the freedom movement. But Gandhi was not for sale. So, that was the, that is the conclusion of my book. Thank you very much for listening and I would love to have questions. -She is asking one question now. Can we give a mike there? One mike over there. Maybe you can take one mike there, whoever raise their hand. -Hello, I am Vandana Mehta. I want to know what’s the reason that we don’t have equivalent of the word chaos. There has to be a reason for it. -The word? -You said na chaos. -Yeah chaos. This is not heard. I was na? -No, you were heard. I am not sure I am heard. -Yeah, it’s quite low. -Okay, am I heard now? Now, I am heard. Okay. Okay, good. I think, when a word is missing, it means that that experience is missing. Okay? This is very important. I am glad you asked this. Yeah, I wanted this answer. -The reason a word should not be sacrificed and replaced with another word of the other culture is that the whole experience would be lost. So, when we say shakti, if we give it up, then, you know, the shakti is got such metaphysics, such philosophy, such, you know, iconography, rituals, so many events, you know, festivals. It’s not a simple thing to replace it and say you know energy or something like that. I mean we would look like fools having Durga Puja, which is a celebration of some electricity or something. It would be looking like a caricature. So, I think a word exists because that civilization had a certain experience, they had a word for it. So, the nonexistence of a word also means the non-existence of that experience. Because certainly the Sanskrit, you know, founders and rishis were very sophisticated people. And if there was this foundational idea of chaos there would have been a word for it. -I feel why we don’t have equivalent of chaos because we Indians are quite tolerant. So, we don’t get into the pressures which creates that chaos. That’s how I witness. –Yes, So, you used the word tolerance and so, I am going to tell you my ideas about it. I am going to tell you about why tolerance is not good enough. That’s chapter one of my book. In chapter one I describe many instances where I go to some interfaith event in the west and they want to pass a resolution saying we all resolve that we are tolerant of each other. And I say, no, let’s replace the word tolerance with the words, mutual respect. You don’t want to be tolerated by your spouse at home. You don’t want your spouse to say, I tolerate you at home. You don’t want your colleague in the office to say, you know, I tolerate you to sit next to me. Or somebody invited you for dinner saying, okay, I tolerate you to Sit have dinner with me. It’s an insult. Tolerance means something wrong with you, but I will put up with you. That’s what tolerance means. And I say, mutual respect that means I respect you. It’s not just tolerance. Now the word tolerance has a history in Europe when the kings, these different kings after the reformation, when the holy Roman Empire at the Vatican was falling apart, then, you know, a lot of different protestant faiths coming up. And so, different kings had different religions. Like the king of England, the monarch of England, the king of England is likely the head of the England church. And so on. You may find that in many Scandinavian countries. You find that in many European countries still the tradition, head of the state is also the head of the church of that country. And so, there used to be, the law was that every citizen has to be of this particular religion. And then a treaty was declared among various kings that we tolerate each other’s religion. So, it was more like a ceasefire. Like I would I think you are going to hell, you are no good, but I will tolerate you. I won’t persecute you. Mutual respect is something very powerful. Now, I thought when that I proposed mutual respect, they will accept it. But they had a very difficult time accepting. Why? Because for them to respect me means you are not going, once you respect me, I am legitimate. Once you respect me you have no reason to come and convert me. You have no reason to come and say that I am going to hell. You got no reason to say that my I am worshipping false gods. Because once you respect me means I am legitimate. See. So, since the exclusivity claim that theirs is the only way, that exclusivity claim makes it very difficult for them to have mutual respect. It’s easier for them to have tolerance. So, when you switch a westerner from tolerance to mutual respect, if you read chapter one, it will tell you how to take that conversation further and challenge the exclusivity claim. There was a meeting in the UN, 2000, millennium summit. And all the big religious heads came to declare that they will all be in harmony that there will be world peace. And the Hindu delegation was led by Swami Dayananad Sarasvati. And I had many discussions with him on this idea of mutual respect, tolerance not good enough. So, in the final draft, which all the religious heads were going to sign, the Vatican had drafted it and put in the word tolerance. And so Swamiji crossed it out and put in the words mutual respect. They would not accept it. So, this went back and forth for many days and their meeting going on. And New York Times writes a big front page article that the millennium summit might fail, did not give reasons but said, due to some irreconcilable differences over technical language. That’s what the New York Times said. And this, and so, Swamiji held his ground that I want mutual respect. What do you mean you tolerate me. I want mutual respect. So, finally, they pleat , they gave in. The head of the Vatican was Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict. He was the head of the delegation. So, they signed to prevent a sort of a big catastrophe in public. PR fiasco. And that was what the resolution said. And, two weeks, two, three weeks later, the Vatican issued a clarification. A clarification saying that while we respect other religion, their ability to achieve salvation is not of the same quality as ours. So, it means that you are not quite there. So, you see, I think one of the most powerful things you can start doing immediately after After… one of the things you can start doing after reading the first chapter is to push for mutual respect. as a term rather than tolerance. The Dharmic civilization emerged in forest. All the yogis, they are forest kind of people, mountain, forest. And the three Abrahamic religions they emerged in the desert. All three of them in desert. So, I give a whole analysis of the influence of the geographical terrain on your thinking. You know, one is, forest is complexity. Everything is interdependent. Complexity, flux, interdependence, change, you know, chaos, for the westerner. That is why when they came to America, they found that the native Americans were very comfortable living in the jungles. They were chaotic people, something wrong with them. And whereas the desert has very few things. And these things are static. You come back the next day, the stone is still there, you know, like that. Things are more static. There is less flux. There is less different complexity of items to deal with. So, I also bring that as a possible influence on how our civilization became the way it is. Please. The whole of our direct debates probably goes back to ) -Yes. -Can you? -Yes. I appropriate a term because it works. I appropriate a term to mean reversing the gaze. That is what it means to me. That west has been gazing at India through anthologists, through missionaries, through philosophers, historians, all kinds of people were coming and gazing at India and framing it in their own terms, not only for their own consumption but re-exporting it to Indian intellectuals. Many of the intellectuals, Indian intellectuals are trained in western thought. Even about who we are they have learnt about it from western perspective. So, I am just trying to reverse the gaze in order to take our view of the other, you know, so that we are clear on who we are. Once we start gazing at the other we are forced to understand ourselves better. Because we have to gaze from somewhere. We have to stand on some foundation to gaze at them. So, we are forced to understand ourselves that is why I am starting this process. Now, this is not exactly the orthodox idea of purvapaksha but it works for me. One of the things we do is we adapt. We adapt our categories. The reason it works is, I want our traditional matthas and traditional Sanskrit academies to start western thought, start studying western thought and give in back and forth dialogue, back and forth, you know, debate, discussions, like we had with Buddhists. Hindus Buddhists. You know, different Mimamsa, Vedantins had these debates with each other. I would, I think we have not participated in these, our best brains from the traditional Sanskrit side have not been participants with colonial history, have not been participants of the, during the enlightenment period. There were no participants there to argue back and give another point of view. So, I am trying to start that. And when I tried to encourage either a guru to start reversing the gaze or a Sanskrit place, I get things like why should we worry about others, aren’t we looking inside us, that sort of thing. But the word purvapaksha doesn’t match it. So, however, I am using it when I say, we are used to doing purvapaksha of Buddhists. They say, yeah, of course, we should do that, that’s how we learnt, that’s how we teach Vedanta, like purvapaksha with Buddhists. So, I say, okay, but there are no Buddhists at the gate that are out there. Now, the real other that we have to deal with, our youth have to deal with are western thought. So, let’s be doing the same dialogic, let’s be doing the same argumentation, with western thought. And then, and now, because I have introduced the word purvapaksha in my discussion, it’s very difficult for them to say, no, no, no, we will not do purvapaksha. So, basically, I am using it as a technique. For example, for example, I contrast history centrism with the embodied knowing. And I contrast the incompatibility, mutual incompatibility of the Nicene Creed, the original sin and all those things in the Bible with the karma reincarnation. I contrast it. And what I argue is that if you use one as a set of your axioms, your starting point, then the other gets falsified and if you use these as your axioms then that gets falsified. Now, this means that you can rewrite the same thing by saying, this is their position and this is our response. Basically, I conclude that as far as the argument between history centrism and embodied knowing is concerned, you can’t prove either one by argument to be right or wrong. Because it’s a different set of axioms. They will say that what you are telling me is also transmitted by some rishis, they told you that. So, mine is transmitted through Jesus who told me that. And so, they will say that, they will give all the reasons why God is infinitely removed, you think God is infinitely close, why God is, why we are not satchitanand, you know, why this, there is no multiple births. So, you cannot, using science and empirical proof, falsify any of these things. You cannot, using science falsify it. I mean, I cannot falsify that the axioms of another faith are false. I cannot falsify. I can only say that they are different. So, I am going to trying to, in this book I am not trying to give you a Hindu view of why are we better. I am trying to say, an apple is different from an orange. And so, my goal is little different. My goal is to show difference as a reality, as a starting point. Because I live in the U.S., I have friends, I have friends with all kinds of religions and we all live in a pluralistic society. And I basically want to be able to say that these are very different axioms, starting points in your belief and my belief structure. And the two can’t be just mixed up. We cannot be all same without compromising. That’s a very foolish thing to try. We must, therefore, have mutual respect. That’s my bottom line. We must have mutual respect. Now, I whether at some point in time science will advance to a point where we will be able to actually prove a particular point of view. I don’t know. May be that will happen. But my project in this particular book is not the falsification of somebody else’s religion. My use of the word purvapaksha is more strategy, not brilliant from my part, but practical strategy to get it through our gurus and Sanskrit universities. To start doing this. And by using a word to which they are familiar with they have told me in the Sanskrit congress, Sanskrit conference happened in January last month. I was, had a special panel there on my book and so many vice chancellors and so on of Sanskrit universities came and said, yes, we should launch a purvapaksha of western thought. So, if I can do that, I am successful. -Thank you very much to Shri Malhotra for coming here. My father, Dr. Chandragat Samaya is a great admirer of his and often talked about his approach to a lot of people. I am delighted and I am sure my father would be delighted wherever he is right now to know that this event is being done here. I thank Kala Acharya, the director of for coming and introducing the way it is. Thank you all for coming. -Thank you very much.

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