Invading the Sacred

This book is the effort of those Indian scholars who follow the adage that where and when dharma is abused, it is your dharma bound duty to do pratikara, to counter it with all the force at your command. Today Hinduism is under siege by forces who have found their playing fields in a section of the American Academy of Religion and the Departments of South Asia Studies. Their game plan is to denigrate Hinduism by focusing narrowly on its perceived social ills, its complex, basically pagan symbiology, and by relying heavily on overused shibboleths democracy, human rights presuming a rationality that is superior to the logic of what may be termed as non-Western cultures and assuming an unexamined superiority of bibliolatry over idolatry, of successful economics over ethics and overlooking in the process the substantial content of Hinduism, its unequalled intellectual wealth, the fact that India has, by virtue of Hinduism and Sanskrit, a place in the history of the human mind as Max Mueller once noted. 19th century Europe had taken to Hindu/Sanskrit studies like fish to water and considerable European thought right down to Post-Modernism is the product of the interaction between all the major European minds and Hindu thought philosophy, aesthetics, poetry, grammar, drama and so on via Ferdinand de Saussure who was a Professor of Sanskrit at Geneva. Sanskrit had replaced Hebrew, which had earlier replaced Arabic, as the mother language in European Universities around 1808. Hindu thought was treated with deep respect by eminent thinkers such as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Schiller, Schelling, Saussure, and Trubetzkoy, for example. I think we have to look at Said s intervention to understand what Rajiv Malhotra described so aptly as the U-Turn Syndrome. Said s “Orientalism” is about western rubbishing of Islam/Arabic scholarship. The absence of reference to Hindu/Sanskrit scholarship is telling. Then suddenly we see the rise of anti-Hindu scholarship in a section, influential no doubt, in the American academy and a number of co-opted Indian scholars to find suitable quotations and extracts from Sanskrit texts in support of a purvagraha, a pre-determined thesis. The intellectuals featured in this book, with their bold decision to take on this scholarship, have entered into a serious dialogue about motives, methodology and substance and, using their own tools, have reversed the gaze back on to the scholarly establishment to their understandable discomfort. This book is important because it records the background, the issues and the arguments in this debate, and the debate is not over. This has been a historic intervention. The record of this enterprise is a lesson for a large number of young Hindus who must learn to combat adverse western scholarship by using the weapons of the enemy. –Kapil Kapur, Former Chair of Department of English, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi; Former Dean of School of Languages, Literature and Cultural Studies, JNU; Former Pro Vice Chancellor, JNU; Presently Chief Editor of Encyclopedia of Poetics

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