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New Yale Professorships & “Invading the Sacred”

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– In November last year, I’d shared a piece by RM called Harvard and the Indian Billionaires. His article touched upon a significant phenomenon in the US – an unwarranted negative bias against India, and especially against Hinduism.

– In the case of Harvard, money donated by Indian billionaires to this great institution was being used to

 “systematically undermine core icons and ideals of Indic Culture and Thought.

For instance, scholars of this counterforce have

disparaged the Bhagavad Gita as “a dishonest book”
declared Ganesha’s trunk a “limp phallus”;
classified Devi as the “mother with a penis” and

Shiva as “a notorious womanizer” who incites violence in India;

pronounced Sri Ramakrishna a pedophile who sexually molested the young Swami Vivekananda;
 and interpreted the bindi as a drop of menstrual fluid and the
“ha” in sacred mantras as a woman’s sound during orgasm.

One of the issues at work is that these are notions representative of mainstream academia, i.e the top universities in the US (& world, by extension) Harvard, U of Chicago, Columbia etc..

– I have had to ‘defend’ similar notions at my workplace. Ignorance is partly to blame, but the greater tragedy is to be misinformed because scholars in certain US universities have such a perverse view of Hinduism. Scholars get to be the ‘reference points’, as they are essentially the new Holy sources of authority, and frequently, if at all – challenged.

– You and I are free to make our own opinions, but ‘the‘ right opinion as far as journals, media, books, television are concerned- is what a reputed scholar at a place of higher learning insists it is. And textbooks for school children get written based on this.

See California Textbooks Controversy

– Today, in a wonderful piece of good news, Yale announced that Indian donors poured $25mm to create 4 new endowed professorships focused on India and South Asia

  1. Nandan and Rohini Professorship of India and South Asian Studies
  2. Dinakar Singh ’91 Professorship of South Asian Studies
  3. Ranjan and Chandrika Tandon Professorship in the Study of Hinduism
  4. Anand Dhawan Professorship of South Asian Studies

– The Yale India Initiative since 2008 has brought in more than $55mm to Yale to increase Yale’s acitivity on India/South Asia. This is a fantastic new beginning that I believe is worth a minor celebration.

– With Time, and genuine scholarship, the Falsehoods that continue to be taught at American universities on the subject of Hinduism will fracture and break away.

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* the quoted text in color above was from a multi-year research project on this subject that culminated in the work/book “Invading the Sacred” (invadingthesacred.com)

[book cover: Invading the Sacred]

This text below completes the quoted text from the ‘Overview’ section of the site.

Are these isolated instances of ignorance or links in an institutionalized pattern of bias driven by certain civilizational worldviews?

Are these academic pronouncements based on evidence, and how carefully is this evidence cross-examined? How do these images of India and Indians created in the American Academy influence public perceptions through the media, the education system, policymakers and popular culture?

Adopting a politically impartial stance, this book, the product of an intensive multi-year research project, uncovers the invisible networks behind this Hinduphobia, narrates the Indian Diaspora’s challenges to such scholarship, and documents how those who dared to speak up have been branded as “dangerous”. The book hopes to provoke serious debate. For example:

how do Hinduphobic works resemble earlier American literature depicting non-whites as dangerous savages needing to be civilized by the West?

Are India’s internal social problems going to be managed by foreign interventions in the name of human rights?

How do power imbalances and systemic biases affect the objectivity and quality of scholarship?
What are the rights of practitioner-experts in “talking back” to academicians?
What is the role of India’s intellectuals, policymakers and universities in fashioning an authentic and enduring response?

“Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war…The Gita is a dishonest book”

“The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think…Throughout the Mahabharata … Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war…The Gita is a dishonest book …”

— Wendy Doniger, Professor of History of Religions, University of Chicago

Rajiv Malhotra’s 2002 article “Wendy’s Child Syndrome” is at this link

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