Alone of all the major world religions, Hinduism is defined by those who not only do not share the faith but who are in fact implacably hostile to it. Wendy Doniger of Chicago University is but one example. Globally renowned as an ‘authority’ on Hindu religion her writings betray overt hostility and hatred of Hinduism as violent and misogynist. Now while an academic being outside the tradition can shed fresh light on that said culture, only with Hinduism is it an unwritten rule that being hostile to the subject under review is some sort of prerequisite. Indeed anyone attempting to write anything sympathetic to Hinduism is quickly denounced as right-wing, fundamentalist, Hindu nationalist, fascist, racist or harbouring Nazi sympathies.
One of the most bizarre occurrences is with the myth of the Aryan invasion which is taught as gospel in schools and universities worldwide. So sacrosanct is this idea that any moves to challenging this outdated racist notion which has its roots in colonialism, European imperialism and white supremacy, is itself denounced as racist. The same hurdles have not been encountered by Africanist scholars such as the late Basil Davidson who proved emphatically that before white colonisation the Africans had built civilisations such as that of Great Zimbabwe.
These giant stone structures which gave the country its name are now accepted as having been the work of Africans, the Mashona people. Yet at the same time as the myth of an Aryan invasion of India was being constructed, academic pseudo-science manufactured the myth of Zimbabwe being the work of Phoenicians. Africa was said to have been incapable of producing anything approaching civilisation and so nineteenth century European scholars spoke of invasions by Hamites, Semites and other primeval supposedly white races. Such ideas would now be laughed at. Yet with Hinduism, the old colonialist prejudice persists. One of the impacts has been the shame at being associated with anything Hindu.
Deepak Chopra is renowned the world over for his deep spiritual insight and his following among westerners which has propelled him into the mainstream. Yoga in particular is followed by millions. Yet few know its association with Hinduism. Chopra and others always proclaim their “universality” in such matters. Indeed they disown any links to Hinduism to be appear more acceptable but also because the anti-Hindu discourse by figures such as Doniger is so mainstream that anyone who dares to go against the grain risks being permanently tarred with the plethora of swear words mentioned previously, especially Hindu nationalist.
To this extent Chopra himself feels it apt to use that very same swearology and invent the idea of yoga having nothing Hindu about it. This absurd idea takes away the very soul of yoga and a host of other spiritual practices. If Chopra hopes that this will in any way dent opposition to it then unfortunately he is definitely trying to run with the hare as well as hunt with the hounds. Christian fundamentalist and evangelical organisations are known for their uncompromising hostility to yoga as a vehicle for dark forces associated with Satan.
For example KP Yohannen founder and leader of the hardcore outfit Gospel for Asia, and the more notorious Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network who recently blamed Haitians for the earthquake in their own country because they follow Voudon and made a pact with Satan to drive out the French colonists, want yoga banned from America.
They rightly see yoga as a Hindu practice and for this reason regard it as a conduit for sinister dark forces which will put America under the heel of Satan. Paradoxically this does not of course stop them from sending missionaries to India to convert Hindus, and paradoxically once again with the anti-Hindu double standard discourse, Hindus who even expose that are labelled fundamentalists and fascists.
The challenge here is to first of all proudly state that yoga has Hindu origins. Its practice, understanding and value cannot be separated from the culture and civilisation from which it sprang. This should remove the stigma which is currently attached to being Hindu. The next is to challenge the pseudo-academic study of Hinduism. Ideas are not static but are in flux. What has helped figures such as Doniger has been the slavish mentality and inferiority complex which allows them to kick down any uncomfortable questions as to their methodology. In contexts such as this “freedom of speech” has always been one-sided.
Just as racism in anthropology was successfully challenged at the dawn of the twentieth century so the anti-Hindu discourse can successfully be taken head on and relegated to the racist colonialist era past from whence it sprang and where it has always belonged. With greater availability to books and other materials it is the Hindus in western countries who are in a prime position to initiate this process. Through the vast network of modern technology these ideas can then be communicated and disseminated.
Just as Doniger has no monopoly on the study of Hinduism, Chopra has no shareholder exclusivity when it comes to yoga. Knowledge cannot be fenced in by national boundaries, celebrity mystique or the walls of ivory tower academia. It is for everyone. Hence it is for every Hindu to take responsibility in regaining their culture from the aloof and haughty human idols who brook no opposition, competition or alternative viewpoint. Only then will the shame of being Hindu be removed and the anti-Hindu discourse be challenged by the uncompromising search for the truth.
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