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Eastern Religions: Deluded Constructions of the European World- I

Eastern Religions Deluded Constructions of the European World I

There are a few books which come with a stunning impact. ‘Do All Roads Lead to Jerusalem?‘ is one such work, turning all our cherished notions about religion on its head. A new paradigm with a better understanding of religions and traditions replaces the previous ones; the latter which only lead to strife, violence, and division. This approach to religions and traditions leads to a better understanding and acceptance of cultures different from one’s own.

First, a disclaimer. I am not an expert. I am simply an ordinary educated citizen of this country who grew up in a ‘secular’ milieu which did not allow me to reverse some gazes. Indian traditional commentators always believe that they know less than the author as another giant, Vishwa Adluri says. Here, I know nothing compared to the author, but I believe that this book is important for every English knowing person in this country and abroad. This is a layman’s summary of the book to stimulate readers to go for the original versions. Many passages are direct quotes from the book, and there is absolutely no claim of original thinking in this essay. I just hope to have made some key points in the book clear.

This book is a shortened version of the classic book, ‘The Heathen in his Blindness’, where the author removes all digressions and secondary lines of enquiry which were important for academic completeness. People had difficulty in understanding the larger version, and hence with the help of Divya Jhingran (a philosopher rooted in Indian traditions and based in USA), a smaller readable version came up. Divya Jhingran and SN Balagangadhara have certainly done a lot of service to us.

The basic thesis of the author is that if the point of reference that provides meaning to the word ‘religion’ are the Semitic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), then Indian culture does not have any indigenous religions (Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and so on). A theological framework that is basically Christian or Semitic in nature fully trap discussions about religion. Indian religions were a creation of Semitic religious theologies. SNB says that his critics have falsely accused him of many things- a Hindu Rightist among them. He believes that many academics have not understood his book at all; and for whom truth and falsity are less important than fame and popularity. Despite all the criticisms of the original book due to improper understanding, no one could provide a challenge to the thesis provided by him.

The author tries to answer the question, how much of what the West says about India roots in Western culture rather than in Indian culture? The specific guiding theme of the book is an examination of the claim that all cultures have religion.The intellectuals generally agree on the universality of religion and concede that there are many who are irreligious, atheists, agnostics, or simply ignorant. Religion is not only characteristic to cultures, but also its constitutive element, argue the intellectuals. Since religion partly gives identity to cultures, differences between cultures is explainable by speaking about differences in religions.

Anthropologists, ethnographers, religious scholars, philosophers, social scientists, psycho-analysts, socio-biologists have promoted this idea of universality of religion in all cultures. So much so that the man on the street and the intellectual have both internalised this completely. It is sacrilegious to even think that there could be a culture without religion.

The starting point of any cultural study is its religion. It is a presupposition that has never underwent a serious examination. Unfortunately, the experience of a small segment of humanity in the West has become universalized to describe all humanity.

The Puzzling Modern Authors of Religion

Modern writings on religion puzzle the reader, because on the one hand, they say it is impossible to say what constitutes religion in other cultures; and on the other, the authors are convinced that what they are studying in other cultures is indeed religion.

Western authors for example when studying Native American cultures distinctly feel the inadequacy or non-usability of their approaches to religion, and yet, the conviction that there must a religion allows them to develop a theory that will accommodate these practices. Similarly, when studying the Greek religion, Hinduism, Buddhism, Dinka religions- the absence of a central authoritative holy book, a revelation, a central prophet, a creed, a doctrine, or a central controlling organisation does not prevent them from calling them religions. In Buddhism, even the concept of god does not exist and yet it is a religion.

The Western Christian thinking is qualified in in its deepest philosophical and methodological ideas by a personalistic idea of God. Here, a genuine understanding of polytheism becomes an impossibility. Also problematic is the understanding of absolute discontinuity between the creation and the creator not existing in other cultures like Buddhism or in some philosophies of Hinduism.

If they cannot understand polytheism in their definitions of polytheism, how can they even say that polytheism exists in Hinduism, questions SNB. These authors seek to assure that Hinduism, Taoism are examples of different religions. However, unless they can find a unifying property that makes them into religions, this assurance becomes trivial signifying nothing. Simply stating that there are different kinds of religions but being at the same time unable to specify these differences is intellectual deficiency. If other cultures did not have what one can be properly termed ‘religion’, then why insist that they have a religion?

The arguments of the authors appear dubious when definition of religion is solely in the framework of Christianity. Statements about other traditions like,’ Some traditions have neither X, nor Y, nor Z (example- neither god, nor a scripture, nor a prophet), but they are religions nonetheless,’ reveal their dim notion of what makes a religion. These authors but paradoxically state that what makes Christianity a religion is not what makes Hinduism a religion.

Creeds, belief in God, prophets, Churches, and existence of scriptures define Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and make them religions. If we take away all the above features, nothing like a religion remains. These properties are necessary to call them religions. In the mass of western writings on other religions, the ambiguity comes across where sometimes creeds are a necessary condition for certain traditions to qualify as religions; and some other times, the existence of creeds are not a necessary condition to qualify as religions. The author strongly says that hence, if Semitic traditions are religions, other cultures do not have religions; and if other cultures have religions, Semitic traditions are not religions.

Christian Encounter With the Roman Tradition

Christianity grew within the confines of a Greco-Roman world against the backdrop of the Judaic community in the Roman Empire. What was religio to the Romans? How did the Romans look at Christianity? What was the attitude of the Christians to Roman religio?

Ancient Roman world laid an extraordinary emphasis on a variety of associations, philosophical schools, ritual practices, ceremonies, and cultic practices in their social life. Each cult honoured its own god as for example, there were many Juno gods belonging to different states-parallel but not identical. The profusion of cults was characterised by a toleration that bordered on indifference about the differences. This tolerance in the Roman world is an obvious outcome of humans to entertain multiple perspectives resulting in a spontaneous and natural diversity of beliefs or practices.

Paradoxically, in pagan Rome, there was no dearth of books, tracts, and philosophical schools denigrating and dismissing gods; sometimes denying their existence too. And the same people like Cicero or Plutarch were officiating as priests in temples too. The entire arsenal of the Enlightenment thinkers against religion comes from a single work of Cicero. How do we reconcile to this ambiguity as seen by the western thinkers?

The Enlightenment thinkers (17th and 18th centuries CE) in the Age of Reason proposed that the genius of Roman politics kept people united by taking advantage of their credulity. Some said that people were hardly reading those days and hence what the thinkers wrote in private detached from their public personae. Hume suggested that the Romans were either dishonest or lived in fear of persecution. Gibbon believed that the pagan intellectuals were actors in a charade. As put by Gibbon, ‘The various modes of worship were all considered equally true by the people, equally false by the philosophers, and equally useful by the magistrate.’ Even contemporary history sees the Roman pagan intellectuals as inauthentic, if not downright dishonest.

There is an oddness here since the Greco-Roman intellectuals were at par with the Enlightenment thinkers in terms of their knowledge sophistication and arguments against gods and religions; and yet, the very same arguments that led the Enlightenment thinkers to shun religion and go towards atheism did not have any effect on the pagan philosophers. The cultural matrix of the Romans was completely different in the way they practiced and wrote about religions that the Enlightenment thinkers could not understand.

What was the idea of Roman religio? Religious practice was diverse from theoretical debates for them. The religious practice was not dependent on the status of the gods-real/unreal, worthy/unworthy of veneration. Cicero says importantly that some things retain because they transmit over generations and require no other legitimization. Second, philosophical argument may not be able to establish or prove some opinion, but it is irrelevant to traditional practice.

Hence, religion for them are the traditional practices handed down over generations and for this practice, the existence or non-existence of gods is irrelevant. Thus, upholding ancestral customs needed no theoretical justification. In the eyes of the Enlightenment thinkers, Pagan rationalism never reached to its logical conclusion – a rejection of traditional religious practice.

People were identifiable by their tradition as belonging to a certain city, a language, a culture, and a history. The last pagan prefect of Rome, Symmachus, made an impassioned plea to continue with their established practices to the Christians in power. He mentions that ‘not by one avenue alone’ do we reach the tremendous secret called truth. Each tradition had respect. The Romans took pride that their religio was open to worship of all divinities.

The Jewish and Christian Response to Reformulate Roman Ideas of Religion

The persecution initially of Jews and later Christians was based on the Roman idea that they were not traditions and hence not religions. And the Jews and Christians refused other traditions as equally valid. The Jews responded by showing that they were a people with history and laying claims of great antiquity. When it comes to traditions, especially when a group claims exemption from practicing the traditions of others, the most important claim they can make is related to their own antiquity. The Jews could argue that theirs was the most ancient of traditions, therefore a religio, allowing them not to follow the traditions of others.

The pagans surprisingly thought of early Christians as devoid of tradition and as atheists! The challenge faced by Christians was this: they were not Romans, they were not Jews, they did not have a history, language or tradition and could not trace themselves back to any one set of people. The Christian writers responded by showing that Christianity had existed as the ‘first, most ancient, most primitive and true doctrine.’

The Christians instead of showing that they were true to ancestral practices transformed the question itself by arguing that their doctrines were ancient and therefore true. Christianity in its polemics against pagan thinkers posited itself as having the very ancient scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments. Because these were the most ancient, Christianity was also ancient as they fulfilled the prophecy of the Jews. Later, in a position emanating from gradual power, they claimed Christianity as fulfilment of not merely of Jews but of all peoples. Early Christian writers tried showing that Socrates, Plato, Virgil were in fact anticipating and preparing the coming of the Gospels.

Christianity thus became the religion of humankind and hence there was no need to follow the pagan traditions. By forming a vital link between belief and practice, Christian writers brought a fundamental shift that religion was counter to tradition and not synonymous. Hence, if they accept the teachings are true, it follows that their practices are likewise true. Christianity posited a new link between belief and practices that was unknown to Antiquity. Criticism was known to the pagan world against their beliefs or practices, but importantly, it did not challenge tradition. Religion hence reduced to what we come to define today as a belief based on doctrines; and anything pagan was simply an expression of false beliefs and hence a false religion.

In appropriating the Old Testament, they appropriated the past of humankind too within a framework of past of one people. The story propagated in the simplest form: there was a true and universal religion, a universal gift to humankind. During historical course, the sense of divinity corrupted and idolatry/ devil worship prevailed. Then God spoke to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to lead the tribes back on the true path. The ‘best’ of the pagans by preparing and anticipating the advent of Gospels were now a part of world history written by Christians, even as the religio of the pagan Romans became the prototypical false religion.

Because of an absence of tradition, Christianity had to fall back upon the doctrinal purity from the very inception. This had the interesting consequence of an extraordinary emphasis on written texts and their correct interpretations. If religion has to do with practicing the true doctrine, then there can be only one avenue. Everything else is false or corrupt. For the pagans, the truth value of traditions was unrequired. The Christians thought it was a necessity, and this led to a huge gulf between the two worlds.

The First and Second Encounters of India

First, the Greeks encountered India, and later in the 16th century, European culture encountered us for the second time. Travel reports from missionaries or students fulfilled their expectations of India as being a wealthy land filled with opportunities to make money; and a land with strange creatures and stranger customs. There were Christian communities descending from Noah they had to establish contact with and convert back. Writers after writers persisted with the theme of making no distinction between geography and ethnography. There was no difference between flora and fauna and the knowledge of peoples and cultures. In contrast with the ancient Greek writings on India, the 16th and 17th century European writing entered two new domains of morality and religion.

Authors like Varthema gave lucid description of the sexual excesses in the Indian land with polyandry, polygamy sometimes in thousands, fetishisms of the most beastly kind, and wife-swapping too in a gross one-sided misrepresentation of Indian practices. The hungry European readers lapped up these hugely popular accounts strengthening the popular image of India in their minds. Varthema’s writing was one of the main sources of information about India, translated into many languages and with several reprints too. A scholar as late as in 1984 says that ‘Varthema is an excellent observer and there is no doubt of the veracity of what he writes. The naiveté of his accounts gives a strong reason to believe that he is recording and not inventing! 

The reports unanimously declared that Indians were heathens and idolaters. Idolatry, witchcraft, superstitions, rituals, devil worship, diabolical actions of their bodies during prayers, and so on filled the practices of Indian Kings and people. Even the unwillingness of Jains to hurt animals became idolatry! Hence, instead of questioning whether there was a religion in India as defined by them, the assumption simply came from the readings of their Holy Book that a false religion permeated the continent of Asia.

Christian Schisms and Their Projections on Indian Cultural Understanding

During the same time of 16th century, a strong schism came into Christianity with the Protestant Reformation, which shook the foundations of Papal Authority and Catholic practices. The movement rested on four main pillars: idolatry and the immense importance in battling it; the degeneration and corruption of religion; the relationship between Man and God; the issue of Truth.

Remarkably, these Reformation intellectuals used the same pagan intellectual criticisms of Christianity (rediscovered from Arabia as the originals were all but lost) to severely criticise Catholic Christianity and its ritualistic practices. Briefly, Catholic Christianity was ‘Christian paganism.’ The philosophy of an innate divinity of Man suggested a deeply ingrained religious human consciousness. The role of the priests became questionable. Cicero used similar arguments against Christianity as a religion. Hence, ironically, the criticism of Catholics by the Protestant branch of Christianity were the pagan arguments against Christian religion!

Regarding truth, there was a chasm because of degeneration into idolatry, but the bridge was the true religion. One had to choose the correct bridge between competing Christian doctrines as the rest were all illusions. On the eve of the age of Reason when atheism took roots, European knowledge about Indian religions relied upon native Indians proficient in European languages. Their answers depended on how well they understood the questions in the first place. So, in the horizon of European expectations, heathens and idolaters populated all parts of the sub-continent. Finally, Reformation posed the question of Religion as a relationship between the false worship of the pagans versus the true one of the Christians.

The heathens became descendants of Noah, who of course were completely unaware of it. This also implied that the European societies had little to learn from the pagan world. Christianity established a crucial link between belief and practices. Actions expressed or embodied the beliefs that an individual held. Protestantism revitalized the idea that the outer trappings of worship must be congruent with the inner worship of God. Hence, knowledge about the native’s external actions meant finding what the natives internally believed in. The external actions were, in fact, public confessions in faith

Christianity dealt with the Indian traditions in its proselytizing efforts to root out the erroneous beliefs by the twin strategy of aggressive persecution and severe criticism of beliefs. The Portuguese, for example, declared an all- out war against the Brahmins who were strongest in resisting conversion. Persecution, punishments, job enticements, coercion by political power did not have much effect and thus began the next step- a severe criticism of belief systems.

In this route began the creations of religions and terms like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, and so forth. Criticisms about the disordered philosophy, immorality of the gods, inconsistencies of the books, etc started vigorously as they tried to make sense of the Indian cultures. They fabricated religions around texts to find some theology or a theory of god.

Enlightenment Thinkers- a Secular Guise of Christian Discourse

As the popular discourse goes, the Enlightenment Thinkers of the French did away with religion and its bondages. The author thinks otherwise. The Enlightenment simply continued the Christian discourse under a different guise. To understand the ancient pagans from the living pagans, they used the texts of one to illuminate the other. European thinkers started finding common experiences in the human cultures, and accepted the existence of the domain of religious experience as being a universal across cultures.

The Ancient Roman and Greek paganism blended into Asian paganism neatly by the Enlightenment efforts; and the world came divided finely into Christians, Jews, Heathens, and Muslims. The moderns were far advanced than the ancient Greeks and Romans; and the traveller reports also ensured the discourse that the contemporary Christian society was far advanced than the primitive and barbaric Asian pagans.

The Age of Reason also ensured a developmental ordering of human history with paganism representing the childhood of man. Hume reasoned that the origin of religion is idolatrous in nature and these people are barbarous because of defective cognitive development. The primitive man or the pagan man had concrete ideas of god; the God of the Semites is an advance because it shows that man has begun to form abstract conceptions. It is fascinating that ‘concrete’ and ‘abstract’ thinking related to Christian theology acquired a secular mantle when the same concepts have a usage in psychology and anthropology too.

The blending of Asian paganism to the ancient pagans, the primitiveness of paganism, the advanced abstractions in Semitic religions created a world history with a timeline from the primitive man to the advanced man. European history subtly and effectively became history of humankind. Enlightenment was simply a secularization of the ideas presented in the religious identification of human history with Christian history. Idolatry became erroneous; religion became a cultural universal.

Theories of religion came into existence and it was impossible to conceive of a culture without religion. Instead of calling religion God’s gift to humanity as the Christians insisted, they made it nature’s gift to humanity. Empirical questions about the origins of Christianity turned into theoretical questions about the origins of religion. ‘Why did Christ emerge among the Jews?’ became ‘Why did the gods emerge in the human communities?’ Hence, the Enlightenment universalized religious themes by secularizing them.

The Search for the Holy Texts When Creating Religions

Europe understood religions in India in their own framework. Missionaries and intellectuals approached India with a poor stock of concepts including ‘heathen’, ‘pagan’, ‘idolaters’, ‘devil worshippers’, ‘zoolaters’- an exhaustive list of the intellectual richness of European cultural framework. Hinduism was a ‘false religion’ a priori.

The dominant writings showed no protest for such concepts in understanding other cultures. Also, missionary and travel reports formed the theoretical sophistication of the Enlightenment criticisms. To distinguish between the different types of idolaters, their beliefs underwent a dissection. The source of beliefs had to be a textual for the Christians, and thus began a search for a single book. The Indian tradition confused them with many texts, sub-texts, stories, Puranas, mythologies. They finally zeroed on to the ‘Vedam.’

Europeans believed as per their own experience that communities united or differentiated from each other according to the beliefs that they entertained. Faced with the empirical problem of transmitting God’s word to the heathens, the missionaries came up with theological solutions. The texts of Vedas, Upanishads, or Puranas became the ’holy books’; anything which was explicitly not religious like grammar became non-holy. Though the ‘holy books’ came for identification, it was frustrating to the missionaries to realize that most Indians had an indifference to the differences in the texts, and were oblivious of most of the doctrines in the books. Hinduism came in their writings as loose, non-canonical, vague, wavering, illusory, obscure, inconsistent by people like Hume and in the polemical writings of James Mill (The British History of India).

The author makes his most important statement now: ‘It did not occur to people then and now also that the amorphous nature of Hinduism had to do with the fact that Hinduism did not exist. It was an imaginary entity, conjured up in the minds of Europeans due to their absolute conviction that there had to be a religion in the natives.’

But, though convenient, it is not useful since most holy books discuss everything under the sun; rituals, daily living, creation, stories, poems, allegories, or just string names together in a melodious manner. If all of these are religious texts, then this religion would dominate the totality of social life and human existence. If everything became a part of religion, then the word loses its meaning. Yet, intellectuals insist that religion pervades every part of human life, which is in fact a confession of ignorance about the nature and definition of Hinduism as a religion. This confession of ignorance has become the truth of Hinduism.

Thus, came an attack on the shameful practices of Hinduism, as they carefully made a separation between a ‘philosophical’ Hinduism and a ‘popular’ degenerate Hinduism. The popular Hinduism consisting of shameful practices like Sati, caste, dowry, infant marriage was not worthy of study. The philosophical Hinduism had a definition as a set of fixed doctrines in the contemporary theories of religion by the Europeans. Europeans created Hinduism in their own image. The conclusion came that Hinduism was immoral.

The Polemic on Brahmins and the Caste System

The Church identified three fundamental obstacles in the conversions of the natives: the nature of Hinduism; the structure of social life; the role of priests or the Brahmins in the social life. They could not convert the Brahmins even as people like Francis Xavier thought they were the most perverse people in the world. He expressed clearly that ‘if there were no Brahmins in the area, all the Hindus would accept conversion to our faith.

The social and economic inequality which was equally prevalent in Europe transformed into caste and religious terms. They could not understand caste and made two guesses: the holy books must have sanctioned this system, and the Brahmins continued to hold sway in perpetuating this system. Their anger fell on both. They focussed on the lower strata in their conversion purposes. The explicit hostility towards heathen priesthood combined with the inability to convert them. The Brahmins were the literate, informed group, and their only source of information about India. The Brahmins again were mostly unimpressed by the Christian criticism of their beliefs.

The hatred against the heathen priesthood, recently highlighted by both Protestants and Catholics during the Reformation, the impotence in converting the Brahmins, the identification of Brahmins as ‘priests’, the inability to understand the culture they were functioning in, and a supercilious arrogance were the ingredients that concocted the charges of duplicity, unauthenticity, and immorality against the heathen priestly caste. Hence, the Whites had a problem with the inferior ‘yellow’ and ‘brown’ whom they could colonize but not convert, in contrast to the primitive ‘red race’ that could get decimated, or the backward ‘blacks’ that became slaves.

The attacks continue to this day in India. Yesterday, the heathens were impervious to the message of the Gospels; today they are impervious to the message of social and economic progress. Christian missionaries made a moral issue about the Brahmins and the caste system; the social scientists in a secularized form continue to do the same thing. Both are equally ignorant of what they are doing, says the author.

The Creation and Discovery of Hinduism

Portuguese referred to Indians as ‘gentues.’ The British made them into ‘Gentoos.’ The 18th century world spoke of the ‘religion of the Gentoos.’ The same Gentoos were termed ‘Hindus’ by the Persians as people who lived on the other side of the Sindhu river. The name had an adaptation in the 19th century and the religion of the Gentoos became the religion of the Hindus. And later, it received a full-blown recognition of ‘Hinduism.’

William Jones, Hastings, Colebrooke started the Asiatic Society in Calcutta and began a ‘second Renaissance’ as they rediscovered the Sanskrit literary texts. Previous European missionaries had announced a dead Sanskrit language known only to the priests. This oriental Renaissance helped in unifying the history of the world by the absorption of living heathen culture into the paganism of Antiquity. The Romantic thinkers called India the cradle of civilization. But to characterize a living culture as a ‘cradle’ is no credit. It means that those who live in this culture are still in their cradles, and have been in it since thousands of years unlike their European counterparts.

The descriptions of Hindus became ’childlike’, ‘innocent’, ‘unspoiled state’, ‘less sophisticated’ and so on. In a funny manner, the characteristic of a living culture became primitive and innocent. That included religion also, as Hegel put it in unflattering terms, ’fantasy makes everything into a God here.’ The image now built up by the Romantics strengthened the Biblical story of an original religion by depicting India as the seat of a primal culture.

From Hegel through Marx, the description of India was that of stagnation. ‘A tremendous fossilized organism, dead at the core, yet standing strong by its vast mechanical solidity and hoary antiquity,’ said one missionary. What was the reason for the stagnation? Of course, the social organization or rather the caste system. One consequence of this extended childhood is the dominance of religion in all aspects of life. Yet, if it is all pervasive, what is the definition of religion? Defies description here.

And Then Comes the Buddha and Buddhism as Saviours

This creation was after the creation of Hinduism by the Europeans. Buddha became a Martin Luther and Buddhism became a Protestant like attack on Hinduism. Writers after writers successfully made a branch of the massive Indian traditional tree into the religion of Buddhism and made it rebel another branch called Hinduism. Buddhism had clearer texts and in a rapid time of seventy years in the 19th century, crystallised into a proper religion in the libraries and institutes of the West. By the middle of the 19thcentury, a West that alone knew what Buddhism was, started judging Buddhism that existed ‘out there’. Buddhism became a textual object, defined, interpreted, and classified through its textuality.

Like Hinduism, Buddhism also had a corrupted ‘popular’ Buddhism and a pure, simple, and original ‘philosophical’ Buddhism. Like for Hinduism, intellectuals and the missionaries came with a similar conclusion: popular Buddhism was corrupt. And the final message was- one could admire the good things that Indian civilization had to offer without having to admire its current state, living inhabitants and the actual culture.

Everyone was not enamoured with Buddhism, as some of the corruptions and repressions were very clear to their eyes. Even a Max Mueller, sympathetic to Buddhism, felt compelled to compare it with Christianity only to find the former inferior. The author thus shows that by the turn of the 20th century, Buddhism originated and matured in the libraries of Paris and London.

Through the centuries, missionaries, travellers, and scholars portrayed Indian culture without altering the framework of the image it depicted. The later reports merely modified the previous reports information. A single belief persisted in common across the centuries: to know and understand a culture is to study the relevant texts. Or to know and understand a culture is to find out what people believe in.

It is ridiculous to realize that Europeans made pronouncements about a living culture based on texts of the ancient past. Researchers quote the Laws of Manu when talking about Indian ethics; ethnographers would solemnly mention the four varnas when talking about the caste system. It is akin to assessing present European culture based on readings of gibberish vernacular translations of the Bible, the author says. Yet this is a continuing theme with respect to India since time immemorial.

The tragedy is that Indian and Asian intellectuals have made this posturing their own. What started as a Protestant criticism of Catholic priesthood, and then conveniently used to describe the Brahmins by the West, has now become the regular stock-in-trade of any progressive intellectual in India. Anthropologists, philosophers, and students of religion accept a set of notions due to a long currency as truisms; and they become scientific truths by intellectuals from other cultures.

The author concludes this section by saying that the reason for believing that India knows of indigenous religions is itself religious by nature; generated and thriving because of standard Christian beliefs. Why do people still believe in the universality of religion? Long currency; association of tradition with religion; and colonial mind-sets of contemporary intellectuals are some of the reasons.

Continued in the next part.

(The series was earlier published on www.indiafacts.org)


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