What is Hinduttva? Is it Hindu + Tattva (Hindu quality)? Or is it something else? I still have no idea. Three of the four panelists in this discussion are widely ridiculed and vilified by self described “liberals”, “secularists” and “progressives” as hard right, bigoted, prejudiced, sectarian, Hindu extremist and Nazi:
Pavan Varma, Former MP Rajya Sabha and Author
Prof. Makarand Paranjape, Professor & Poet at JNU
David Frawley, Vedic Scholar
Sadia Dehlvi, Columnist & Writer
46 minutes 26 seconds in: “the problem in India is that we have thought phobia as Sri Aurobindo said in his letter to barendra in 1920; hundred years later I am at a university and I find that people have an incapacity to think clearly, because they immediately reduce every debate to a political position”
Is this the reason for the cries of “Nazism”, “racism” and so forth? Is this partly a difficult to reconcile debate about freedom of art and thought. If so, how can this issue be resolved? Eastern philosophy (Arya Varsha plus Bon plus Toaism) is based on freedom of art and thought. Without freedom of art and thought, there is no eastern philosophy.
Did the panelists say anything else that is controversial or offensive? Is their Sarva Dharma [all religions are authentically divine and true, all paths lead to the same goal, all is love], their celebration and eulogization of pluralism, diversity and universalism the problem? If that is the problem, what does “secularism” mean? What should “secularism” mean?
For example why do so many self described “liberals”, “secularists”, “progressives” and “leftists” find videos such as this so offensive?
Note, I am not criticizing anyone. I can’t criticizing them because I have no idea what they believe and why. I am thoroughly confused.
Recently there was a world Hindu conference keynoted by the Dalai Lama. It had many Jain, Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu delegations from all around the world and was not an “Indian” or “nationalist” affair. [Does anyone know if Sufi and Shiite delegations participated?] In addition to the Dalai Lama, many other Mahayana Buddhist delegations came. Along with delegations from many different Latin American, European, African and Asian countries. [Lebanon for example has had a Hindu community that is over 3,000 years old. They believe that they date from 4400 years back when they helped construct and operate the Baalbek temple. Similarly, there are ancient Hindu communities throughout the world.]
Note that Tibetan Buddhists (Vajrapani Mahayana Buddhists) in particular have been members of Hindu Akharas for thousands of years and have significant influence on intra-Hindu affairs. Maybe because Tibet was close enough to India for the Tibetan Buddhists to send delegates to meetings. By extension this applies to all Mahayana Buddhists. But the ones in China and Japan were too far to be more than intermittently involved in day to day affairs in India. But they were involved:
Japanese Buddhists were significant stakeholders in the Khmer empire Hindu establishment and Angkor Wat. The beginning of this video on Angkor Wat describes deep continual involvement of Japanese Buddhists in Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Hindu affairs going back to the sixth century AD.
I generally avoid Desi conferences because they usually don’t have a spiritual or religious focus. Many use it for business networking, tech networking and partner networking (“romance” for home-gamers). But I don’t know about the World Hindu Congress this year.
“However, to quote Representative Tulsi Gabbard — the first Hindu elected to U.S. Congress — it was a “partisan Indian political event.” Neither was the WHC merely a benign political event. It was, rather, a platform for modern India’s most extreme sociopolitical figures and organisations to propagate their supremacist ideology, Hindutva, which is a form of religious nationalism.”
Political speakers from the U.S. establishment who were invited to speak at the WHC ran the gamut from left to right. Several progressive Democrats who had been invited to attend the conference eventually backed out after being targeted by an AJA letter-writing campaign.
“Do I think all attendees were Hindu Nationalists?” AJA organizer Ashwin Khobragade asked. “No, I think that many of the attendees are looking to use their faith as a platform to give back to their communities.” There were many community service organization that also attended the gathering.
At the same time, those in AJA believe it is imperative to push back against what it identifies as a move to co-opt well-meaning organizations into a fascist agenda. “We wouldn’t want people with social justice values sitting down with people who are like Richard Spencer,” Khobragade explained.
Among the politicians who declined an invitation was Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an icon of Bernie Sanders Democrats, who cited “ethical” concerns with “partisan Indian politicians” on the speakers list. Gabbard has been known to be an admirer of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been accused of being linked to the Gujarat genocide and Hindu nationalism more broadly. She has also come under scrutiny for other relationships with the far right and her support for the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria.
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, another progressive Democrat, also became the focus of AJA’s accountability letters. Unlike Chicago State Senator-elect Ram Villavam and Alderman Ameya Pawar, Krishnamoorthi has not disavowed the WHC. He has continued to insist that the gathering promotes “acceptance,” despite the links to the far right that protesters have elucidated.
Please watch this short excerpt from a conversation between my main man in the house Veedu Vidz and Shaykh Shabbir Ally.
Veedu Vidz is one of Hindustan’s brightest sons, hottest heart throbs, most talented thesbians, funniest comedians, most enlightened leaders, wisest Islamic theologians and Brown Pundit favorites. He now lives in the UK with his beautiful wife and youtube sensation Mimzy Vidz. Shaykh Shabbir Ally is also one of Hindustan’s greatest lights. He is one of the world’s leading Murdhids or Islamic scholars.
This post is aimed at not so bright nonmuslims who back Islamist extremists against reasonable muslims (such as Shaykh Shabbir Ally) and muslimish leaders (such as Veedu Vidz and the ever elegant Mimzy Vidz). Let me summarize the wise Shaykh Shabbir Ally for you:
Blasphemy and apostasy laws (such as those that require the recitation of pbuh after the name of the holy prophet, or don’t allow visual depictions of the holy prophet pbuh) are unislamic and should be ended.
The holy Koran is consistent with freedom of religion, art, thought and speech.
Mohammed pbuh use to follow Jewish law in absence of specific divine guidance since Mohammed pbuh considered Jewish law to be divinely ordained and better than nothing. Many of the Hadiths show Mohammed pbuh following Jewish law and can be discarded.
Mohammed pbuh probably stopped stoning adulterers when the Koran revealed that the punishment for adulterers should be different [and in AnAn’s opinion lighter].
Many Islamist interpretations of the Islamic Shariah jurisprudence are not based on the holy Koran and can be discarded.
I 100% agree with the wise Shaykh about all of this. All global hate speech laws, demonetization of videos, or removal of videos regarding Islam should be ended immediately. All discussion of Islam and criticism of Islam should be allowed. The nonsensical phrase “Islamaphobia” needs to be retired. Muslims are mature enough not to be offended and engage in respectful dialogue. Muslims don’t need to be condescendingly pretentiously patronizingly infantalized or “protected”.
Every muslim in the world is entitled to freedom of art, thought, intuition and feeling. Once this happens Muslims and spiritual nonmuslims will automatically engage in dialogue with Islamist jihadi extremists and melt their hearts with the sweetness of love. The fourteen century Islamic civil war will end and the world will sing with joy.
Nonmuslims; first understand . . . then adjust. Please be slightly curious about Islam and learn the slightest bit about Islam before trying to “help” muslims. Please try to transform and improve yourself so that you have the ability to help others. Now you might ask, how can I learn about Islam and muslims? Good question. Right question. Please watch this discussion between six of the world’s leading Islamic theologians (I would rather our very own Brown Pundit resident Murshid Razib Khan was included too but it was not to be):
Canada’s parliament passed Motion 103 by a vote of 201–91 on March 23, 2017. The vote is nonbinding and some might allege that Tarek Fatah [an important leader of the global minority and liberal muslim movement] is over-concerned with it. This bill was pushed by the nonmuslim post modernist global intelligentsia in collaboration with the Arabist Lobby and soft Islamists as a way to support soft Islamists against moderate and minority muslims. Many of the Canadians duped into supporting Motion 103 are well intentioned useful idiots.
Tarek argues that Motion 103–which he believes is on the pathway to bringing blasphemy and apostasy laws to Canada–is precisely what most of Canada’s muslim immigrants came to Canada to run away from. I would add that this brings chills of fear down the spines of Canadian muslims and muslims who want to move to Canada. If Motion 103 ever became binding, it could be used to severely limit the freedom of art, thought, intuition and feeling of Sufis, twelvers, sixers, other minority muslims, moderate Sunnis, atheist muslims, ex-muslims; on the grounds that their practices, songs and sayings are Islamophobic and offensive to “muslims.”
Tarek Fatah said:
“it is almost as if you say Hindu or white man is an abuse now a days.”
when the muslims [Umayyad dynasty] tried to kill all remaining blood descendants of Mohammed’s pbuh family, the only country that protected the prophet’s pbuh family was Hindustan. For which Hindustan was attacked.
the holy Koran is not currently sequenced in the order Allah and Gabriel revealed it to the holy prophet.
Usman [and Fatimah] assembled the holy Koran in its current order twenty years after the holy prophet pbuh passed away.
Usman burnt three hundred copies of the holy Koran that didn’t exactly match his preferred written Koran.
muslims murdered the first four rightly guided muslim Caliphs.
the guys we are expected to follow got murdered by the very guys telling us we should follow them
my Hindu, Christian and Jewish friends make jokes . . . but when I do I can be killed
Hindus laugh all the time because Hindus have 50 million Gods so Hindus can pick a God and make fun of Him (the God they picked) because the other guy doesn’t even know that is a God.
[Hindus] have 50,000 books. No one can read them all. So no one knows how to get offended.
Just by holding the Koran [in a public talk] someone can get offended
Our greatest [muslim] saints . . . are celebrated by Sikhs and Hindus, not by muslims
Hindus are too busy getting MBAs or becoming CEOs to notice
Nizammuddin Auliya said I have two doors in my house, when the mullah and the king enter from the front door I leave because evil comes from the front door with the ruler and the mullah come together [I would strongly recommend that everyone visit his Dargah in Delhi during their next trip. It is a life altering visit.]
There is a fatwa against the same microphone which is used to broadcast the morning prayer across the world.
Holy Land Foundation trial revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan internally said in 1991 that “these are our organizations that we run under different names”:
Islamic Society of North America or ISNA
Muslim Student Association or MSA that has a presence in every urban high school in Canada and the United States
The Muslim Association of Scientists
We are waging a civilization jihad against western civilization by infiltrating and destroying from within
Not a single Indian muslim volunteered to fight on behalf of the Mukti Bahini [this is unfair . . . they were asked not to volunteer by Indira so that the Bangladeshi freedom struggle was not discredited. The mistake is Indira’s if there is a mistake.]
War between Mullah’s Islam and Allah’s Islam
There was no “Mullah’s Islam” during the life of the prophet pbuh.
The middle east was the only part of the world to not side against the Nazis in WWII.
many Nazis went to Egypt and Saudi Arabia in 1945
Soviet muslims defeated Hitler in WWII
Islam owes a lot to the Eastern Orthodox Church, to the Zorastrians and to the Hindus
Islam is Judaism planted on pagan Arab culture
We will eliminate Jihad in India before we do it anywhere else.
India is the only country where a muslim can speak the truth and survive [I would add the United States]
Despite a bounty on Tarek Fatah’s head with an Imam saying I will slit your throat was conquered by a million Indian muslims protecting Tarek Fatah.
Please watch this short Joe Rogan [Intellectual Dark Web extraordinaire] interview clip. Only about 29% of US High School graduates meet the minimum academic, physical health and IQ requirements to join the US military. Note that if high school dropouts were added the percentage would drop markedly. Less than 10% of US High School graduates are qualified for many branches of the US military. Note that the physical fitness requirements to join the US military are a joke, to put it very politely. Is America in the words of Charles Murray “Coming Apart” across class lines? Physical health and exercise are strongly correlated with academic performance, career and business outcomes:
The interview discusses how health outcomes, exercise, sports (including formal JV and Varsity High School Sports) are declining rapidly among American children. Sadly this deterioration of physical health might be leading to an increasing percentage of people around the working in “Bullshit Jobs” that don’t add value to society:
What is worse they are forced to pretend to add value and lie, which contributes to growing depression and mental health challenges (an article series on this is planned):
In eastern philosophy for thousands of years it has been believed that physical health (Sharira Siddhi), mental health (Chitta Shuddhi), and intelligence (Buddhi) can be increased by exercise, stretching, breathing, meditation (which I believe simulates the effect of modern brain therapy), sound brain therapy (Naad or Mantra Yoga), and serving others. [My hope is that researchers vigorously test all these hypothesis with data:]
This is why PM Modi of India is trying to offer Yoga classes in every school student in India:
Why is America not similarly pushing for sports, martial arts, dance, gymnastics, exercise, stretching, breathing, meditation (brain therapy), sound brain therapy and better nutrition among poor children and the children of the lower middle class? Is it because of fear of the post modernist mostly caucasion intelligentsia? Is it for fear of being accused of victim blaming, racism, bigotry, sectarianism, prejudice, Nazism, Fascism, hegemony, exploitation, oppression, imperialism, colonialism, patriarchy, male misogyny, hate? Does anyone have any ideas on how to encourage character and good behavior among children without being accused of peddling an oppressive meta narrative and universalist norm? There is incredible fear to discuss culture in America:
It is possible that I am misunderstanding the zeitgeist and that there are other larger factors preventing American K-12 kids from eating healthy, exercising, meditating and listening to transcendent music?
If so, please let me know through your comments. This article, the fifth in the Post Modernist article series, is a plea for understanding rather than arguing a specific causation. Thanking all readers in advance for your insights and wisdom 🙂
I am not adding anything extra with this short news item, I think the news speaks eloquently and voluminously by itself. I just want to add that I feel utterly humble when I consider how much courage and determination people like Jibran Nasir possess to do what he is doing day after day in a place like Pakistan.
Rare secular candidate in Pakistan hounded by angry mob
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – It began with a audience members asking Pakistani parliamentary candidate Jibran Nasir to declare his religion at a public forum, a request he politely refused on the grounds it is irrelevant.
Later, the mobs started showed up. In the past week, three of Nasir’s public meetings in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, have been disrupted by religious hardliners – shouting out and shoving his supporters.
Nasir, a human rights lawyer, is a rare breed in Pakistan: an avowedly secular, progressive candidate in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 208 million, where most parties appeal to an Islamic vote bank.
His independent candidacy is in stark contrast to the prevailing mood of Pakistan’s campaign, which has seen the rise of new ultra-right Islamist parties campaigning on protecting draconian blasphemy laws and denouncing the persecuted Ahmadi sect.
Liberal and secular-minded Pakistanis say the sheer number of religious party candidates, combined with their ultra-conservative rhetoric, has already shifted the agenda in their direction.
Nasir aims to challenge the prevalent extremist discourse.
“Our campaign is bigger than just my win… What it is symbolizing for the people is a change in narrative,” he told Reuters.
“That challenging extremists is possible … not using religion to get votes is possible.”
Since launching his campaign, a number of clerics in Karachi have branded Nasir a blasphemer from the pulpit, a dangerous accusation in Pakistan that can lead to the death penalty, and labeled him an Ahmadi, a sect they consider heretics.
On Saturday, a mob of people chanting slogans associated with the new ultra-Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party, which campaigns under the “death to blasphemers” rallying cry, descended on his public meeting, crowding around Nasir and intimidating his supporters.
“I believe it’s being done in a very organized manner,” Nasir said. “Our politics should be free from compromise, fear, and discrimination.”
Labaik spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi said his party “did not send anyone to do this”, adding that people running in elections should declare their faith.
Nasir gained nationwide prominence in 2014 after staging protests against the Red Mosque, the Islamabad center of a militant network with links to Pakistani Taliban strongholds in the northwest and in neighboring Afghanistan.
The mosque was the site of a military standoff in 2007, but within two years its chief cleric was freed from detention and was once again calling for strict Islamic rule across Pakistan.
The mosque campaign earned Nasir a phone call and death threats from a high-ranking Taliban commander.
“We are doing it for the millions of Pakistanis … who right now are forced to choose amongst the lesser of evils, who are willing to embrace different political leaders with all their biases and religious bigotry,” he said.
“Every day I am carrying on with my mission, they are making a fool of themselves.”
A comment thread below discussed the issues relating to the historicity of Jesus, Muhammad, and Hindu figures such as Ram and Krishna. The assertion is that while Jesus and Muhammad are historical figures, Ram and Krishna are mythological.
To some extent, this is a religiously fraught topic. People from Abrahamic backgrounds are wont to dismiss Dharmic tradition as pagan, heathen, and yes, mythological. In many Abrahamic traditions pagan gods, a class into which Hindu deities are often bracketed, are emanations of true supernatural powers, but demonic ones. In the West, this tendency within Christianity has been pushed to the background. But it still exists in more conservative denominations and traditions.
Therefore, those who adhere to false and marginal religions have “myths.” Those who adhere to true and cultural dominant religions have “stories” or “narratives.” That is the cultural context which we must admit. Even in places where non-Abrahamic religions or traditions are dominant, the past few centuries of European cultural and imperial hegemony have imposed certain interpretive frameworks which are Abrahamic.
And yet that being said, as someone who believes all religious supernatural claims come from the realm of our minds, as opposed to reality, there is a qualitative difference between Jesus, Muhammad, and Ram and Krishna. If Ram and Krishna did exist, they are individuals who lived in “prehistory.” That is, from a period not accessible to us even at some remove through non-religious text. In this way, they are like Abraham or Zoroaster. In contrast, the Buddha, Confucius, Mahavira, and various figures in Hebrew legend and myth such as David, Solomon, and Jeremiah are liminal figures. The world in which they lived was stepping out of prehistory and archaeology, and into the written word, but it was not a fully-fleshed world.
Finally, you have the prophets and religious leaders who are “of history.” Jesus, along with Muhammed and Mani are generally agreed to be figures of history. But we don’t have contemporaneous records of their lives outside of religious traditions, and even in that case only from texts dated to later periods from when they flourished. This means that the context and the details of who these figures were may not align with what current religious tradition suggests and argues for their significance (though since Manichaeanism is dead as a living religion that is a separate case).
A common revisionist case for the nature of the “historical Jesus,” is that he was a Jewish reformer in the tradition of Rabbi Hillel. The emergence of a religion of universal salvation, as opposed to a different form of Judaism, was a process which then developed in the generations after the death of the historical Jesus, the Rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef. Roman Christianity as a sect cannot be understood without appreciating its birth in an Empire where syncretistic “mystery cults” were revolutionizing popular religious life (e.g., Mithraism). The elite Roman Christianity of the 3th to 6th centuries cannot be understood without the cultural priors brought to the religion by converts from aristocratic or educated backgrounds steeped in Greek philosophy (e.g., Origen, Athanasius, and in the West Augustine).
In short, a person around whom the legend and myth of Jesus grew almost certainly existed. But the Jesus of myth is to a great extent the creation of a Christianity which developed long after he died.*
Much the same can be said of Islam. A certain legend exists of Muhammad the warlord within Islamic traditions. But outside of these records, in the contemporaneous ones of the Byzantines, he is not noted (little remains of the records of the Persians and Ethiopians). This would not be surprising, because outside of modern Yemen, and the liminal zones of the Levant and the fringe of the desert on the western shore of the Euphrates, Arabia was of little consequence. So long as the spice flowed (e.g., frankincense), the goings on of the Arabs were not of note unless they impinged upon the civilized world.
And yet that did happen indeed, with the defeat of the Byzantines at Yarmouk and the Persians at al-Qādisiyyah. But as highlighted by revisionist scholars, the Byzantines took many decades to perceive in the Arab armies as anything but heretics and schismatics. This is also echoed in some ways in particular Islamic traditions which emphasize the relative impiety of the Umayyad Caliphate, denigrated in some sources as the “Arab Kingdom” due to its ethnocentric nature.
Compared to the later Abbasid period we don’t know much about the Umayyads. Part of the reason is that the winners write the histories, and the Abbasids won. In Hugh Kennedy’s The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In, he argues that Muawiyah was clearly a far more influential and important figure in Islamic history than one might think from the attention he receives from classical scholars and thinkers. But that’s because the Shia detest him, while the Abbasids and the Sunni Islam which evolved under their aegis minimized him.
But there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence that compared to the Abbasids the Umayyads were very much a skeletal barracks-state where Arabs imposed an ethnic dominion, rather than a religious one. Even in the Islamic histories, there are attestations of Christian Arab tribes who were exempt from the jizya tax, while mawlā individuals of Persian origin were subject to the same indignities of non-Muslim Persians.
In fact, archaeological evidence shows that Umayyads in Syria patronized the creation of mosaics which continued the Late Antique Hellenic visual tradition, depicting both humans and animals. And, Greek was the administrative language of the Umayyads for the first few generations. The last of the Church Fathers, John of Damascus, was a Greek-speaker of Syrian background who served as a civil official under the Umayyads in the years around 700 A.D. In contrast, the elite Barmakid family which was so prominent under the early Abbasids were of Buddhist background, but had to convert to Islam to become part of administrative apparatus which was becoming distinctively Muslim by this period.
All this is to set up the contention that Islam as we understand it, just like Christianity as we understand it, may actually not be the product of the first few decades of its flourishing as commonly understood, but of a later period when certain orthodoxies were understood and internalized, and grand narratives were later retroactively imposed. This aligns with the arguments in Lost Enlightenment and Warriors of the Cloisters that Islam, as we understand it today, was fundamentally shaped by the shift to the east initiated by the early Abbasids.
Which brings me to Mormonism, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Unlike Jesus or Muhammad, there is no great debate about the details about the life of the Joseph Smith, the prophet of the religion that became Mormonism. Smith was born in Greater New England, and the Mormon church emerged as a sect in the Restorationist Protestant tradition. Its cultural context was among the Yankees of the American North. Smith’s family had been involved in radical Christianity, in particular, the Universalist Church.
Over the decades of Smith’s life as leader of the church, and later after his death, his sect became a new religion, fundamentally different from the Protestant milieu in which it emerged. Mormon religion early on took a jaundiced view of Nicene Christianity, holding to the Restorationist perspective that all other Christian churches were fallen and corrupt. But Mormonism deviated by innovating and transforming its theology, away from the dominant orthodoxy as articulated by early thinkers such as Bishop Irenaeus.
Due to secret revelations late in Joseph Smith’s life, Mormon leaders developed a Christology which was fundamentally different from that of other Christian traditions. Rejecting Trinitarianism and much of Greek metaphysics, Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was God the Heavenly Father’s bodily son, with Lucifer being his rebellious brother. Additionally, God the Heavenly Father has a Heavenly Mother, who is his wife. Father and Mother live on a planet in this universe in physical bodies.
There is much more which is exotic and strange to non-Mormons, whether Christian or not, in their theology. But, because Mormonism has existed in the light of history non-Mormons can look upon its claims with a much more critical eye. It is obvious, to many, that early Mormonism was just another Restorationist Christian church. Why did Mormonism deviate so far from mainstream American Christianity in its beliefs and practices?
It is important to remember that Mormonism is simply the westernmost and most successful offshoot of Joseph Smith’s religion. The Community of Christ, previously known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, remained located in Missouri when most of the community migrated west. Under the leadership of the descendants of Joseph Smith, the midwestern Mormons eventually merged back into the mainstream of liberal Protestant Christianity. Why?
I suspect one of the reasons that this occurred is simply the fact that the western Mormons became a very distinct ethno-cultural community, geographically separated from other Americans. In contrast, the Midwestern Mormons remained just another church among churches, albeit with a peculiar origin. And, like many “independent churches” in Africa founded in the 20th century, as it matured and stabilized, it slowly moves back into the mainstream of the dominant tendency of American Protestantism (with a few doctrinal quirks).
Since I began talking about Hinduism and the Abrahamic religions, to Hinduism we come back. A lot of the discussion online (and on this weblog) is difficult to follow because there is Hinduism, and then there is Hinduism. Hinduism as the religion of the people of India is an old concept, and a generic one. But elite philosophical schools of Hinduism, such as Advaita Vedanta, crystallized much later, even down into the period when Muslims began to first make incursions into India.
I have alluded to here to the book The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies. The focus on Greeks and Indians is due to the fact that aside from the Chinese these were the two ancient cultures which developed a fully elaborated philosophy that we in the modern world would understand, from metaphysics to ethics (Jewish and Persian philosophy in a distinctive sense tended toward religion).
Though they exhibited different biases and emphases, but it is clear that the Greeks saw in Indian “gymnosophists” kindred souls. The great Neoplatonist, Plotinus, reputedly inquired into the nature of Indian philosophy through meetings with scholars in Persia according to his classical biographers. The correspondence between Advaita Vedanta and Neoplatonism is rather clear, and probably due to a common set of monistic ideas which were in currency across the trading network between Alexandria and southern India, as well as through Persia, which spanned the edge of Roman Syria and into modern Pakistan, as well as ruling substantial Buddhist domains in Turan.
One of the generalizations often made about the development of Hinduism in the subcontinent over the past 1,000 years is that it is as if Islam did not even exist. That is, the indigenous religious traditions persisted and maintained themselves at such a remove that their evolutionary development was unperturbed by the exogenous cultural intrusion.
Crossing the Threshold: Understanding Religious Identities in South Asia, presents the argument that both Muslims and Hindus exhibited much more religious fluidity until the past few centuries. This is often argued in the context of peasant folk religion, where this is obviously true. But the author makes the case that groups like Hussaini Brahmins were much more numerous in earlier periods, especially before the emergence of a later Mughal orthodoxy under the aegis of Naqshbandi Sufis. Not only did this mean the forced conversion of many Ismailis to Sunni Islam, but also the shift of some liminal groups away from Islam and toward adherence to a Sanskritized Hindu identity. The reason for this is obvious: heretical or ghulatsects of Islam are viewed far more negatively by Sunni enforces of orthodoxy than Hindus, who were outside of the pale of Islamic writ in any case. This is analogous to the early decades of the Christian Roman Empire, when persecutions were directed primarily to heretical sects, rather than the pagan majority, which was neglected.
As must be clear by this point: Christians, Muslims, and though I have not addressed it, Jews, seem to have “cleaned” up their history.** In fact, one might even say they “retconned” their history so that present beliefs naturally lead from ancient beliefs, even though that is hard to see logically and empirically quite often where the ancient leads to the modern (e.g., reading the Synoptic Gospels, and then the Athanasian Creed, is confusing without any historical context). I believe that many modernist Hindus, living in a world of explicit and demarcated confessions, and formal beliefs and portable and digestible holy texts, have attempted to do something similar.
First, Hinduism becomes a religion of deep antiquity, despite its historical development over the past 2,000 years. Just as modern Muslims, Jews, and Christians look to the legendary Abraham, who lived 4,000 years ago, outside of the gaze of history, so modern Hindus look to the mythos of Ram, Krishna, and the Vedas, and built their house upon those rocks. This, despite the detachment of multitudinous folk Hinduisms from this ancient foundation, as well as the relatively tenuous connections of highly intellectualized philosophical Hinduism to the concrete and corporeal character of the early Vedas (Vedas venerated by vegetarian “Hindu fundamentalists” which clearly depict vigorous beef-eating warriors!).
Second, the localized diversity of Hinduism becomes flattened in an atomized world characterized by anomie. Just as ‘traditional’ Javanese Hinduism tends to flourish in the village, but not in the urban centers, so ‘traditional’ Hinduism of locality is not portable or plausible in the great fleshpots of modern India. Urban Hindus need something that gives them religious succor and is also in keeping with their understanding of their traditional origins. Something that is not a rupture from the past, but an extension and evolution. A “perfection” as Christians would say of Judaism and Salafi Muslims of traditional Islam.
Just as urban Indonesian Muslims who shift from abangan Islam to a more “orthodox” world-normative santri Islam view themselves as reclaiming a more pure and primal Islam, so it strikes me that modern Indians who adhere to a “Vedic religion,” stripped of locality and universalized and extended, create a mythos and narrative of reclamation, not innovation.
Over the 21st century, India will urbanize, and the villages will fade away in memory and with time. It is plausible that as this occurs modern urban Hinduism will produce a relatively standardized, and yes, deracinated, a spirituality which is more amenable to a people who move from one end of the country to another, as their professions take them on peregrinations over their lifetime.
To some extent the Abrahamic religions, and Buddhism, have already been through this. Torn away from a specific soil that nurtures them in a distinct local culture, these religious traditions have developed portable variants, which eventually become normative, uniting disparate peoples with distinct folkways. As India becomes its own world, and different cultures within it synthesize and merge, a need will develop for a more portable and flexible Hinduism. Both secular Hinduism and Hindu fundamentalism are faces of this transition, and both are likely the seeds of sectarian traditions which will wax and elaborate over the coming decades.
* Reading the Gospels, this is most clear in the writings of “John.” A grand and conceited figure, in contrast with the modest Jewish prophet of Mark.
** Orthodox Judaism as we understand really congealed in the 6th century with the Babylonian Talmud. Therefore, I argue it is a sister religion to Christianity, with both deriving from sects of Classical Judaism. Some scholars have in fact argued that Christianity is an extreme derivative of a form of Hellenistic Judaism!
There are several perspectives on Afghanistan’s name. Afghanistan’s name might come from “Upa-Gana-stan”:
“Upa” with a choti “a” at the end or “उप” means near
“Gana” or “गण” I believe might be a reference to Shiva’s Ganas (gouls, ghosts, unusual looking beings . . . possibly a reference to non homo sapiens of some kind, some say aliens)
“Stan”, I don’t know. Is this “Sthaana” or “स्थान”? If so this might mean position or venue or station or field or throne
An extremely wise fellow contributor from Brown Pundit reminded me of two other ancient names used for Afghanistan:
Panini’s Aṣṭādhyāyīrefers to Afghanistan as ash-va-kaa-na (अश्वकान).
Please note that the Aṣṭādhyāyī is much older than Patanjali who is considered millennia older than Krishna. Traditional scholarship of Aṣṭādhyāyī places it more than 7 thousand BC, which is not to say that the Aṣṭādhyāyī has not in any way been modified since then.
Pakrit name “a-va-gaa-nna” (अवगान्ना).
The oldest part of the Rig Veda samhita refers to:
“The Pakthoons are descendants of the Paktha tribe mentioned in Vedic literature.”
“Archaeological excavations in this region conducted by Sir Estine (an East India Company official) led to the recovery of uncountable shrines and inscriptions. He has authored four books on that topic featuring photos of icons, icons and inscriptions discovered. The photos show a sun temple and a Ganesha statue too. An Islamabad University professor Abdul Rehman has authored two books on those finds recalling the glory and prosperity of those times.”
“Regimes of two Hindu rulers “Kusham” and “Kidara” lasted for fairly long periods. During their rule a number of Shiva temples were not only in Afghanistan but in other West Asian regions too. Uzbekistan and Takzikistan formed part of the Afghan kingdom in those times. Tashkent has one of those ancient Shiva temples standing even today.”
“Professor Abdul Rehman states that Bukhara region Was known as “Shah Vihar” in ancient times. It was ruled by an Hindu king. When Arabs invaded that kingdom its queen traveled to Kashmir to seek military help. Arab chronicles mention her as ‘Khatoon’, meaning ’Woman’.”
“An Ayurvedic practitioner of Varansi (alias Benares) had treated the Khalifa for some ailment afflicting the latter. In those days it was Hindu Ayurvedic practitioners who were eagerly sought by Arab patients. A number of Arabs had translated Sanskrit Ayurvedic texts into Arabic. A list of those translated Sanskrit texts appears in a Volume known as al “Frisht“.”
“Baku (capital of the Azerbaijan region) known for its underground petroleum yields has still an ancient Hindu temple of the Divine Flame generated by the subterranean petrol and gas). During the Czar regimes in Russia a Punjabi priest officiated at that temple. The walls display some religious stanzas written in Punjabi Gurumakhi script. The market there also had Hindu merchants. Nearby was a locality too of Hindu inhabitants. Baku in Azerbaijani language actually signifies a Goddess. Therefore obviously Baku derives its name from a very ancient Vedic Goddess temple there.”
Afghanistan is also central to the ancient Sharada civilization:
The Sharada civilization [Afghanistan, Northern Pakistan, Kashmir] represents many things. One is the convergence of the six major Shaivite schools (not just Trika) within Uttara Mīmāmsā (Vedanta) and the four major Tibetan schools via the shared 84 Siddhas. Later large streams within Sufism joined this convergence [which might be the topic of a future researched article].
In the opinion of Wilson the renowned Vedic translator Kandahar is similar to the Rig Vedic word Gandhara. Wilson further observes,:
Ibn Haukil mentions that in his time there were remains of a considerable city more to the west, by the people of which, Zaranj was built. He calls this places Ramshhristan, a curious compound of Indian and Persian appellations.
There were ruins ‘at astonishing number’ in Herat, at Farrah, and Peshawarun–all sites near the province of Dranjiana connected with the Vedic dynasty of the Srinjayas [who were prominent during the 18 day Mahabharata war]. It therefore becomes all the more curious to hear the name of the place called Ramshehristan.
Panini, the eminent grammarian of Sanskrit, lived here in about 350 BC. [for the record I think Panini lived far earlier and before Patanjali] In his composition of the a sutra (4.3.93) on the Sindh and Takshasila class (gana-patha), he includes Sindhu, Varnu, Madhumat, Kamboja, Salwa, Kashmir, Gandhara, Kishkindhya, Urasa, Darada and Gandika. These are geographical names and lie in the trans-Indus regions. The place mentioned by Panini as Kishkindhya is today known as Kalat in Baluchistan. A great linguistic puzzle is that the local people call Brahuis speak in a Dravidian dialect.
Afghanistan was not the name of a country before 1747 AD. The lands lying to the est of the River Indus were called by different times as Kamboja, Bahlika, Madra, Aratta etc. in the north; as Sarayu (Horayu) in the north-west; as Sarasvati (Harahvati) in the south-east; as Gandhara in the center; as Zranjiana in the south-west and as Kishkindhya in the south.
. . .
They were of five streams or Pancajanas. Their leader was Visvamitra, who lived in Satudri-Vipasa valley (RV III.22.1). They fought against the Srinjayas under Vasistha in the famous battle of the ten kings.
Several waves of the new people, the Aryan races–Druhyus, Turvasus and Anus went westwards from these places. These groups are variously known in traditional literature as the Persians (Parsu), Medians (Madras), Parthians (Prithus), Hyksos (Yaksus), Mittanians and Helenes (Alinas) etc. They originally settled at a places known as Shortugai in Badakhshan in North Afghanistan. Old Sumerian texts as also the descriptions in the Baudhayana say that Aratta was Badakhshan, Balkh, or Bactria in Central Asia. From here, they exported lapis lazuli to the Sumer. The Sumerian epic, Enmerker and the Lord of Aratta describes this in detail. The epic, found in the clay tablets of Boghaz Keui is dated c. 1700 BC. In the Mahabharata, Karna derides the Madras and Arattans as being lowly people! [in conversation with Salya during the 17th day of the Kurukshetra war]
. . .
The name Srinjaya is similar to Zaranj and Sarangaei of the Iranians, old Persians and the Greeks. These were the names of the Iranian tribes who lived according to Herodotus in Zranjiana or Dranjiana, an area on the River Sarasvati or Horahvaiti in the Arochosia-Helmand region. Divodasa, greatest among the Rig Vedic kings, was a Srinjaya. He was born here. . . .
Horahvaiti region i.e. the Helmand-Arachosia region of what is today western Afghanistan . . .
Heldebrandt, one of the earliest scholars on the Ramayana in the West, was of the view that Sarasvati was the river Arghandab (Horahvaiti of the Zend Avestaiver, ) in Arachosia of modern Afghanistan (then Iran). Brunhofer, another scholar of the epic, adopted the Iranian link. Zimmer was in favour of placing the Rig Vedic Sarasvati in this area. Recently, Burrow has held that the early Rig Vedic Sarasvati was the River Horaxvaiti of Iran, and the River Sarayu was the Afghan, Horayu. Among the Indian scholars, Jaichandra Vidyalankar, after a detailed rumination, identifies Sarasvati as the Iranian Haraqvati . . .
The Ishvaku, the family Ram belonged to, and the Vasistha family were linked to a very early time of the Rig Veda, originally from the north and north-west region called Harirud of modern Afghanistan, on the bank of the River Horayu, mentioned in the Avesta. Only in the Rig Veda there is the name Sarayu. In the same way, still earlier, the family of Atris hailed from the banks of the River Rasa in the region of South Russia and North Afghanistan today. In a very early hymn in the Rig Veda (53.9), Sage Syavasva Atreya extols in glory a fleeting dolumn of the Maruts moving southward–the horse-borne storm troopers. In the course of their journey, they cross the rivers Rasa (Ranha or Oxus, in modern South Russia), Krumu (Kurran), Sindhu (Indus-between Pakistan and India today) and Sarayu (Horayu or Harirud)
Most people do not know that until about a thousand years ago, the Tarim Basin (northwest of Tibet, which is the part of Xinjiang below the Tian Shin Mountains) was Indic in culture and it was a thriving part of the Sanskritic world; its people spoke the Gāndhārī language which many see as descended from Vedic Sanskrit, and Khotanese Saka, which is also closely related to Sanskrit. Perhaps the region to compare it most is Kashmir, to whose north it lay. There was also much interaction between the two regions with many scholars traveling from Kashmir to Khotan, and silk culture is believed to have passed from Khotan to Kashmir and then into India.
Gāndhārī inscriptions have been found as far east as Luoyang and Anyang in Henan province in Eastern China which attests to the vastness of the influence of Sanskrit. Europeans in recent centuries called the whole region Serindia, indicating the meeting place of China and India.
The traditional date for the of Khotan, on the southern and the more ancient branch of the Silk Road, is the reign of Aśoka Maurya (3rd century BCE). It was ruled by Buddhist kings until it was conquered by the Muslims in 1006. Some of the kings mentioned in the “Prophecy of the Li Country”, composed in 746 CE, dealing with events of the recent past are Vijaya Kīrti, Vijaya Saṅgrāma, Vijaya Dharma, Vijaya Saṃbhava, and Vijaya Vāhana.
Many Khotanese cities had Sanskrit names. For example, Khotan in Sanskrit was Gaustana गौस्तन and the modern city of Kashi (Kashgar) was called Śrīkrīrāti (in Sanskrit Śrī+krī+rāti, श्रीक्रीराति, ‘Glorious Hospitality’). Kashgar itself appears to be the popular name from Sanskrit Kāśa+giri (काशगिरि, bright mountain). The Khotanese called their language hvatanai ह्वतनै which later became hvaṃnai ह्वंनै; this is equivalent to the name deśī that is used for language in India (vatan, from svatana = deśa).
The liturgical texts in the region were written in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, whereas those in the region of Krorän (Chinese Loulan), an important oasis further east of Khotan, used Prakrit in administration. A third language called Tocharian was also used both to translate Buddhist texts and as an administrative language. Many Sanskrit texts of India remember the general region as Tuṣāra or Tukhāra, and it retains currency as a popular proper name.
That Khotanese Saka was principally a Indo-Aryan Prakrit is reinforced by the fact that the texts are in Indian scripts of Brāhmī and Kharoṣṭhī. Many of these documents were collected in archaeological explorations to Chinese Turkestan by Aurel Stein, who is also known for his translation of Kalhaṇa’s Rājataraṅginī. Stein came across tens of thousands of manuscripts from 5th to 11th centuries in various sites including the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas in the Kansu (Gansu) province. One of the principal scholars who edited and translated many of these texts was H.W. Bailey and this literature remains a popular field of study for scholars.
Aurel Stein says in his celebrated Ancient Khotan: “There was little to prepare us for such overwhelming evidence .. on the large place which Indian language and culture must have occupied in the administration and daily life of this region during the early centuries of our era. That Sanskrit Buddhist literature was studied in Khotan down to the end of the eighth century A.D. has been proved beyond all doubt by the texts in Brāhmī script which I excavated.”
The mummies of Tarim Basin
The discovery of the Tarim mummies that go back to 1800 BCE strengthen the view that the region was Sanskritic. The earliest mummies in the Basin are exclusively Caucasoid, and the American Sinologist Victor H. Mair has said: “Because the Tarim Basin Caucasoid corpses are almost certainly the most easterly representatives of the Indo-European family and because they date from a time period that is early enough to have a bearing on the expansion of the Indo-European people from their homeland, it is thought they will play a crucial role in determining just where that might have been.”
Some have suggested Europoid identification to explain the blonds and red-heads among the mummies, but there is no need to travel thousands of miles to Western Europe to explain this; Kashmir, just south of the Basin has plenty of red-heads and blonds.
One of the DNA studies notes that the population had “relatively close relationships with the modern populations of South Central Asia and Indus Valley, as well as with the ancient population of Chawuhu.” This is perfectly reasonable if the original inhabitants of the region were from Indus Valley [code for India] and they left a genetic trace in the region.
My own interpretation is that the Vedas, Purana Itihasas, Ramayana and Mahabharata refer to some places north of Afghanistan in Turan (perhaps Sudakshina‘s army in the Mahabharata came from Turan) and west of Afghanistan in Iran (some believe that Pahlava refers to Arjuna‘s, Abhimanyu‘s, Parakshit‘s and Janamajeya‘s and Ashwamedatta’s ancestral line). Some even claim that the temple of Baalbek in Lebanon
and temple of Delphi in Greece are very closely connected to Arya culture and temples in the east:
Shahzahan Bachchu was known locally and within the secular Bangladeshi movement as an outspoken, sometimes fiery activist for secularism. He printed poetry and books related to humanism and freethought via his publishing house Bishaka Prakashani (Star Publishers). He was also a political activist, serving as former general secretary of Munshiganj district unit of the Communist Party.
He was reportedly shot and killed this evening near his village home at Kakaldi in Munshiganj district near the capital Dhaka.
I would define the “intellectual dark web” as the confluence and convergence of leaders from classical European enlightenment, hard sciences, technology (including neuroscience, bio-engineering, genetics, artificial intelligence), and east philosophy streams. Among the intellectual dark web’s many members are Dr. Richard Haier, Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Haidt, Ben Shapiro, Weinstein brothers, Sam Harris, Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, Yuval Noah Harari, Thomas Friedman, Maajid Nawaz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku , Dr. VS Ramachandran, Steven Pinker, Armin Navabi, Ali Rizvi, Farhan Qureshi, Peter Beinart, Gad Saad, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, Russell Brand. If Steve Jobs were still alive, I would include him among them. They defy easy labels and are high on openness. I hesitate to label others without their permission, but our very own Razib Khan strikes me as a potential leader of the “intellectual dark web”; although I will withdraw this nomination if he wishes. 😉
Some see the intellectual dark web as the primary global resistance to post modernism. I don’t agree. Rather I see them as ideation and intuition leaders thinking different: