Indra's Net

Indra's Net

by Rajiv Malhotra


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It is fashionable among intellectuals to assert that dharma traditions lacked any semblance of unity before the British period, and that the contours of contemporary Hinduism were bequeathed to us by our colonial masters. Such arguments routinely target Swami Vivekananda, a key interlocutor who shattered many deeply rooted prejudices against Indian civilization. They accuse him of having camouflaged various alleged 'contradictions' within traditional Hinduism, and charge him with having appropriated the principles of Western religion to 'manufacture' a unified world view and a set of practices known today as Hinduism.

Rajiv Malhotra offers a systematic rejoinder to such views and articulates the holographic understanding of reality that grounds Hindu dharma.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789351771791
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers India
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Rajiv Malhotra's books include The Battle for Sanskrit: Is Sanskrit Political or Sacred? Oppressive or Liberating? Dead or Alive?; Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines; Being Different: An Indian Response to Western Universalism. In addition, some of Rajiv's debates are showcased as the central topic of Invading the Sacred.

Table of Contents

Preface: Why this book xiii

Introduction: Debating Hinduism 1

Overview 1

Two opposing camps: continuity vs. discontinuity; unity vs. disunity 2

We are all jewels in Indra's Net 4

Indra's Net and Buddhism 13

Influences on modern society 15

Who is a Hindu? 18

Hinduism: Surfing Indra's Net 20

Framing the debate in three disciplines 22

Part 1 Purva Paksha (Examination of My Opponents' Positions)

1 Eight Myths to be Challenged 29

Myth 1 India's optimum state is Balkanization 30

Myth 2 Colonial Indology's biases were turned into Hinduism 31

Myth 3 Hinduism was manufactured and did not grow organically 32

Myth 4 Yogic experience is not a valid path to enlightenment and tries to copy Western science 33

Myth 5 Western social ethics was incorporated as seva and karma yoga 35

Myth 6 Hinduism had no prior self-definition, unity or coherence 36

Myth 7 Hinduism is founded on oppression and sustained by it 38

Myth 8 Hinduism presumes the sameness of all religions 39

Summary of both sides of the debate 39

2 The Mythmakers: A Brief History 44

My wake-up call: How I discovered the myth 44

Missionary origins 46

Founders of the Myth of Neo-Hinduism 48

The Chorus Line 55

3 Paul Hacker's Construction of 'neo-Hinduism' 62

Initial romance with Advaita Vedanta and its personal influences on Hacker 62

Hacker starts his attack on contemporary Hinduism 64

Alleging political motives and appropriations from the West 68

Hacker on Vivekananda and the West 70

Allegation 1 Importance of Direct Experience 72

Allegation 2 'Tat Tvam Asi' ethic 74

Allegation 3 Nationalist agenda 77

Allegation 4 Inclusivism and sameness 79

4 Agehananda Bharati on Neo-Hinduism as a 'Pizza Effect' 81

Pizza Effect: Indians copy Westerners 82

Hinduism deviates from Indian tradition 84

Fear of sexual impotence drives neo-Hindus 85

Bharati's definition of neo-Hinduism tenets 86

5 Ursula King's Bridge from Hacker to Rambachan 88

6 Rambachan's Argument to Fragment Hinduism 96

Using Shankara to shoot down Vivekananda 96

Issues with methodology 102

Essentializing Shankara 107

Challenging the direct experience of the rishi-yogi 110

Is Rambachan fixated on Christian assumptions? 113

Allegation that yoga makes people less rational and intelligent 117

Political allegations 118

Western scholars' support for Rambachan 119

Many scholars disagree with Rambachan 120

7 The Myth Goes Viral 125

Richard King 126

Brian Pennington 133

Peter van der Veer, Sheldon Pollock and others 137

Hindu leaders echo the chorus 143

Some academic defenders of contemporary Hinduism 145

Part 2 Uttara Paksha (My Response)

8 Historical Continuity and Colonial Disruption 153

Integral unity in the sacred texts 155

The dynamics of insiders and outsiders 157

Samgraha: Harmonious organization of diversity 160

The ubiquity of samgraha texts throughout history 162

Swami Vivekananda follows his tradition's footsteps 169

The colonial disruption 170

European debates: Are the Hindus Aryans or Pantheists? 171

Reduction into 'Indian schools of thought' 174

Postmodern and post-colonial distortions 175

Challenging the Neo-Hinduism thesis 177

9 Traditional Foundations of Social Consciousness 178

Western methodological straitjacket misapplied to Vivekananda 181

The 'world-negating' misinterpretation of social problems 185

Origin of Christian philanthropy 187

Conditions that led to the revival of Hindu seva 189

Sahajan and Swami and social activism in contemporary Hinduism 191

Swami Vivekananda's sevayoga 195

Challenging the Neo-Hinduism thesis 201

10 Harmonizing Vedanta and Yoga 202

Vedanta's evolution at the time of Shankara 205

Theory of two realities 210

Yoga and classical texts 212

Shankara's mentor's writing 213

Upanishads 213

Bhagavad-Gita 215

Shankara's own kind of yoga: cognitive shift without action 217

Systematic withdrawal from particular to universal 217

Dissolving the text/experience gap 219

Difference from Patanjali's Yoga 221

No causation is involved 222

Flexibility on anubhava 222

Summarizing Shankara's posture on anubhava/yoga 226

Respect for yoga 226

Yoga as preparation for higher practices 227

Comparing different levels of meditation, dhyana 228

Reasons for rejecting yoga at times 229

Advaita Vedanta beyond Shankara 230

Four historical periods 231

Vivekachudamani 233

Other later texts 235

Challenging the Neo-Hinduism thesis 236

11 Mithya, Open Architecture and Cognitive Science 237

The unity of all existence 239

Puma 239

Mithya as Relative Reality 240

Samavesha principle of integrality 244

Common toolbox and open architecture 246

Adhyatma-vidya 250

Rishis and cognitive science 255

Robustness of the ecosystem over time 258

Challenging the Neo-Hinduism thesis 263

12 Digestion and Self-Destruction 264

The metabolism of digestion 264

The flea market of modern gurus 268

Digestion and the neo-Hinduism thesis 272

Conclusion: The 'Poison Pill' for Protection of Hinduism 273

Hinduism's predicament today 274

The Porcupine Defence and the Poison Pill Protection 277

Astika and Nastika: Redefining the terms of the interfaith debate 282

The criteria for nastika: Principles that must be rejected 287

History Centrism 287

Disanbodied knowing and self-alienation 288

Synthetic cosmology 291

Fear of chaos 292

Controversial implications of the Astika / Nastika approach 293

Refuting the myth of sameness 299

Poison pill versus digestion 304

How the poison pill strategy works 307

Notes 314

Bibliography 351

Index 363

Acknowledgements 375

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