P:1 Discussion with a White Hindu

Swami Dayananda used to emphasize that certain words such as mithya, sat / asat, anirvacaniya are not even present in the Western mind

Discussion with a white Hindu
Discussion with a white Hindu

Louise is a white woman who is a Hindu practitioner

Louise is a white woman who is a Hindu practitioner. Her introduction to Sanatana Dharma was through Swami Dayananda Saraswati whom she met in 1999. She is deeply involved in Yoga and has been influenced by my books. She is on our side of this battle against those in the West who are appropriating, misappropriating and distorting yoga.

Translating asat as “illusion” leads to losing the genius of the term. “Illusion” doesn’t capture the relationship between sat and asat, or the relation between satya and mithya.

After returning from a study in India at Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s Ashram in 2001, she had undergone what she calls a cognitive shift where she found it difficult to identify or resonate with what was happening with Yoga in America. By 2012 – 13, she had started critiquing some of her peers.

She had made a proposal for a conference called “Race and Yoga” and the topic she chose was “Lost in Translation or the Looting of Yoga”. When the conference was a few months away, she happened to be in India at the Rishikesh ashram and she came across Invading the Sacred.

Invading the Sacred and Being Different, especially the chapter on “non-translatable” resonated with what she had learned under Swami Dayananda. She says that Swami Dayananda used to emphasize that certain words such as mithya, sat / asat, anirvacaniya are not even present in the Western mind. This made her think about “insider” versus “outsider” perspectives, who is qualified to translate, views being as important as language in translation and so forth. As an illustration, she gave the following example:

Translating asat as “illusion” leads to losing the genius of the term. “Illusion” doesn’t capture the relationship between sat and asat, or the relation between satya and mithya.

Hinduphobia is a term that I coined in 2000. At that time, the number of search results in Google for the term was zero. There were fears in Hindus that coining the term will draw negative attention, that the community will be projected as negative. The denial was to the extent that they didn’t believe that Hinduphobia existed. The situation now is that people have started using the term and a million search results appear for the term. Louise says that I have helped her to the extent that her thoughts on the socio-political, colonial dynamics and so on resonate with the thoughts as expressed in my books.

Mantra leads to unity consciousness. This state is not compatible with Christianity.

She has presented a talk titled “Lost in Translation or the Looting of Yoga” and it was titled so because of her experience. She has seen people who teach the Gita who have never studied the book with a qualified teacher. Therefore, they aren’t qualified to teach it. A consequence of this is that that the text gets lost in translation. She has also used my digestion theory in her works.

Louise illustrates the problem of people without adhikara teaching books such as Gita with an example:

Matthew Remski is a self-described writer and teacher of Ayurveda, Yoga therapy, Yoga philosophy and Asanas. Even when the subjects dealt by him are intrinsically Hindu in their origin, he doesn’t seem to have learned any of them from the proper tradition. His website doesn’t mention anything about his teachers and he claims that his approach is “Socratic”. Not only this, in this partial digestion of the subjects, he doesn’t even mention the Hindu origin of these subjects. Among these, Ayurveda has specific roots in Atharva Veda but Matthew seems to attribute it to Socrates. The motive seems to be to retain the names which are part of a billion-dollar industries but deny their Hindu origins.

She is of the opinion that the U turn theory provides a well-structured description of what she calls “deluding of Yoga”. There are five stages in the process of West appropriating Indian culture. The U turn theory can be summarized in the following five stages. It is important to note that not all appropriators or non-Indians go through all the five stages:

In Stage 1, there is an initial quest that can be quite devotional and serious on the part of the non-Indian. One may get initiated, immerse oneself in Indic thought and generally enjoy the benefit of learning.

In Stage 2, there is a distancing and neutralization, a distancing from Indianness and a subsequent neutralization of the origin which renders the subjects somewhat generic.

In Stage 3, the West lays claim to the origin of the previously Indian subject. It is no longer generic, but part of their own culture as some secular scientific idea that is now part of Western discovery.

Stage 4 represents a kind of negative transference and expresses active animosity. This is about individuation – you can only claim it as your own if you destroy the origin.

Stage 5 is when there is re-importation of the ideas / subjects to complete the colonial cycle.


I proposed to Louise that we watch and evaluate an opposite point of view as presented in a video clip of Deva Premal, Miten and Manose.  In the video, Miten is curious to know as to what religion Mantras belong to. In his experience of having visited countries which are involved in conflict such as Israel, Ukraine etc. he has been questioned as to whether Mantras are associated with some religious organization.

Deva Premal replies saying that Mantras are ancient sounds that have been discovered and then put in structures convenient to remember and use them. They were discovered before the advent of religion and were adopted by Hinduism and cast into Sanskrit. That is how he claims that Mantras came to be related to Hinduism. But in reality, they have nothing to do with Hinduism and are indigenous because they are primordial sounds that speak to our very core, the center of our very self.

In the video, Miten is right to the extent that he says that religions have caused problems. But he is wrong when he classifies the Vedic knowledge as a religion as he understands it. He doesn’t address the issue of the idea of Mantra being compatible with the Christian religion. Deva Premal is even more misinformed and hence claims the origin of Mantras to be predating Hinduism.

To understand the fallacy of these arguments, which is quite common, we have to get rid of terms such as religion. One may ask whether tennis is compatible with taking drugs. The issue is whether taking drugs will debilitate one’s abilities in tennis. It is not about what one calls oneself, or what group one belongs to. None of those things are relevant. The issue is whether Mantra practice is compatible with the ideology that Christianity wants one to have. It’s not about joining a group. In this way, the very nature of framing the question in the video is very confused.

What if the question is posed this way: “What is the effect of a Mantra on somebody’s Christian faith?” Conversely “What is the effect of being a practicing Christian on the ability to really get the benefit of Mantra?”

When one looks at compatibility or lack thereof between X and Y, one should look in both directions. Influence of X on Y can be positive (helping), negative (hindering) or neutral. For example, if someone was to ask “what is the relationship between Tennis (X) on Christianity (Y)”, one would have to conclude that the effect is neutral.

How about an evaluation of the relationship between Mantra (X) and Christianity (Y). In the following slide, I illustrate the effect of Mantra on Christianity. How Mantra affects Christianity is on the horizontal axis and how Christianity affects Mantra is on the vertical axis. The relation in both directions is negative and this is illustrated by the x sign. This means that the effect is negative in both directions. This is because:

(i) Chanting Mantra in a Vedic way, with the Vedic world view, causes problems for people who are orthodox Christians. I.e. there is a conflict. This conflict may be obvious to them or they may be ignorant.

(ii) If one is a rigid in his Christian Orthodox worldview, then a person who really understands Mantra will say that this is a blockage. i.e. one isn’t doing justice to what a Mantra demands.

Mantra transcends dogma and beliefs and hence it will violate Christian orthodoxy. The idea of transcending dogma will conflict with the idea of one Son of God, his death, resurrection and so forth. Hence the people wanting to chant Mantra will have to transcend such dogmas. As long as, one is stuck in the worldview where the story of Jesus is stuck in one’s mind, one is in a state of nama-rupa, (name and form) i.e. stuck at the conceptual level whereas a Mantra aims at taking one beyond the conceptual level. Hence one would have to transcend the entire narrative of being a Christian.

Secondly, Mantra leads to unity consciousness. This state is not compatible with Christianity. Mantra leads to a state of unity with God. Christianity doesn’t teach Advaita. Even then, there are many who try to innovate means of Christianity to work with Advaita.  I have discussions with such people telling them how their idea isn’t valid. There can be no Advaita Christianity because admitting Advaita will negate Jesus. One needn’t be bothered about the story of Jesus and chant Mantra and do meditation and achieve the state of aham brahmasmi or aham Yahweh or aham Theo thereby eliminating the need of the middle man (Jesus). When the historicity of Jesus is no longer relevant, the Church too would become irrelevant. If there were no such problem, the Christians would have been happy to find resonance of their thought in the natives when they visited India.

The third issue is that Bible considers silence to be dangerous and satanic. One is supposed to pray for positive things in a prayer because an empty mind according to them is a devil’s workshop. The opposite is true in the case of Mantra where it takes one to a state of emptiness. It is for this reason too that Mantra and Christianity aren’t compatible.

Another reason for the incompatibility is that Christianity will have to consider Mantra to be a prayer, and hence it will be a prayer to a (pagan) false God rather than the true Christian God. When Christianity expanded in Europe, the idea for them was to get rid of people worshipping “false” gods. The Church cannot establish its authority as long as people worship the “false” gods. For them to discover “false” gods again in India after a gap of a thousand years would be bad news. Any promotion of Mantra would mean an acceptance of “false” gods. Hence Christianity cannot accept Mantra. It is amusing to note that even a person who is deluded / under the influence of drugs can benefit from Mantras but those swearing by the strict Christian theology will keep away from it.

An analysis in the reverse direction will also be beneficial. The question here is as to how an orthodox Christian belief affects a person’s Mantra practice. The Orthodox Christian belief is called the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed is a historical narrative concerning Adam and Eve and they have committed the original sin. It is about how God cursed them with eternal damnation and the role of Jesus as a savior, his crucifixion and resurrection in order to redeem humanity. If all this runs in the mind of a Mantra practitioner, it takes the attention away from where the Mantra practice wants it to be. Anyone whose mind is thus distracted can be sure that he is not doing Mantra practice because Mantra is beyond concepts, it is a vibration, and it is not a prayer.

Another reason for the incompatibility of Mantra and Christianity is that the Bible doesn’t accommodate the Vedic idea of Ritam. Ritam is a fundamental fabric of reality and is very different from any concept that is present in the Bible.

The above analysis dealt with one example. This is the analysis any rigorous thinker would want to subject a thought / proposal to. It is sad to see that none of this is done. People are ignorant and trivialize the issues involved. What Miten and Deva Premal were saying in the video with a complete ignorance of both Christian theology and Vedic thought.

The article is based on this ‘Video’

To be continued..

1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

Rajiv Malhotra

Rajiv Malhotra

Born in 1950, Rajiv Malhotra is an Indian American researcher, writer, speaker and public intellectual on current affairs as they relate to civilizations, cross-cultural encounters, religion and science. He studied physics at St. Stephens College in Delhi and went for post-graduate studies in physics and then computer science to the USA. Rajiv served in multiple careers, including: software development executive, Fortune 100 senior corporate executive, strategic consultant, and successful entrepreneur in the information technology and media industries. At the peak of his career when he owned 20 companies in several countries, he took early retirement at age 44 to pursue philanthropy, research and public service. He established Infinity Foundation for this purpose in 1994.

Rajiv has conducted original research in a variety of fields and has influenced many other thinkers in India and the West. He has disrupted the mainstream thought process among academic and non-academic intellectuals alike, by providing fresh provocative positions on Dharma and on India. Some of the focal points of his work are: Interpretation of Dharma for the current times; comparative religion, globalization, and India’s contributions to the world.

He has authored hundreds of articles, provided strategic guidance to numerous organizations and has over 300 video lectures available online. To best understand Rajiv'sthoughts and contributions, his books are a good resource. Besides Invading the Sacred, in which Rajiv is the main protagonist, he has authored the following game changing books:

Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism
Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines; and
Indra's Net: Defending Hinduism's Philosophical Unity
The Battle for Sanskrit: Is Sanskrit Political or Sacred, Oppressive or Liberating, Dead or Alive?
Academic Hinduphobia: A Critique of Wendy Doniger's Erotic School of Indology

Currently, Rajiv Malhotra is the full-time founder-director of Infinity Foundation in Princeton, NJ. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Center for Indic Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and is adviser to various organizations.

Infinity Foundation has given more than 400 grants for research, education and community work. It has provided strategic grants to major universities in support of pioneering programs including: visiting professorships in Indic studies at Harvard University, Yoga and Hindi classes at Rutgers University, research and teaching of nondualistic philosophies at University of Hawaii, Global Renaissance Institute and a Center for Buddhist studies at Columbia University, a program in religion and science at University of California, endowment for the Center for Advanced Study of India at University of Pennsylvania, lectures at the Center for Consciousness Studies at University of Arizona.

Rajiv Malhotra inspired the idea of Swadeshi Indology Conference. The first ever Swadeshi Indology Conference was held at IIT, Chennai from July 6 to July 8, 2016. This conference hosted well-researched papers that highlighted the discrepancies and mistranslations in the studies of Indology done by Prof. Sheldon Pollock. This conference is the first of a series of conferences that have been planned to address multiple issues raised by Western Indologists requiring astute examination, analyses and rejoinders, culminating in a published volume with a selection of papers.

Another major initiative of the Infinity Foundation is the HIST series. The HIST (History of Indian Science and Technology) series is a compilation of multi-Volume History of Indian Science and Technology based only on solid academic scholarship, and not on wild extrapolations. To accomplish this, each volume was subjected to rigorous peer reviews. The following volumes have already been published and printed as part of this IF project:

1. Marvels of Indian Iron Through the Ages
2. Indian Zinc Technology in Global Perspective
3. Water Management and Hydraulic Engineering in India
4. History of Metals in Eastern India and Bangladesh
5. Harappan Architecture and Civil Engineering
6. Beginning of Agriculture and Domestication in India
7. History of Iron Technology in India
8. Indian Beads History and Technology
9. Himalayan Traditional Architecture
10. Animal Husbandry and Allied Technologies in Ancient India
11. Harappan Technology and Its Legacy
12. Reflection on The History of Indian Science and Technology
13. Chalcolithic South Asia: Aspects of Crafts and Technologies
14. Traditional Water Management

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  1. It seems like the originating point for this disastrous spiral is the ” neutralization of the origin” of Indian knowledge. It is important for type 3’s to comprehensively demolish the U-turn and prevent its distorted ideas from infecting Indian thought.

    But it appears a significant portion of the damage is being done by people who have no idea what they are doing; as described in the article. Is it wishful thinking to believe that they will ever understand the argument that what they are doing is destroying a culture? For the concepts they are misappropriating and distorting are not even in the western imagination. It may take some dedicated study for them to understand, which probably won’t happen.

    Is there a way to use a simplified argument in addition to a comprehensive argument to combat the denial of the origins of Mantra and yoga. Something that type 5’s could use as an anthem or fight song?

    For example say distortionists are taking yoga and mutilating it to remove pieces that they think don’t fit with their version of Christianity. A sort of sterilization process in their mind. They might even add something like a Christian prayer or meditating on Jesus to make it suitable for them. A simplified defense could be linking yoga firmly with a concept that is undeniably Hindu or Indian like Krishna. You could use a line from the Gita where Krishna says that yoga is the way to show unswerving devotion to him. Or where he is called the Lord of Yoga.
    This would be something simple to use as a form of direct confrontation with the distortionists. You would be confronting them with direct quotes from Hindu God. Krishna even has recommendations for people who are not experts. So even if you cut away pieces from yoga, you are still practicing it from Hindu origins. Unswerving devotion to Krishna when done sub-optimaly is still devotion to Krishna. You therefore cannot appropriate it as a Socratic or Christian practice.

    I’m not claiming to be an expert or to even advocate this specific argument. But something simple that type 5’s can chant that shows that yoga(or other concepts being digested) is inextricably Bharat, could be helpful. The comprehensive arguments are like waves and the simple argument is like the sea level washing away the distortionists. Plus it would be so simple that westerners subscribing to these distortion factories could understand and question people like Remski ect, forcing them to respond. Either acknowledging the Indian origins of their practice or closing up shop.

    Or may be the simple arguments mixes in too much of stage 5 of the U turn, and compromises on being different.

    Anyway looking forward to part II.