Attacks on Sacred Books,
Attacks on Sacred Books and Sacred Personalities
New Challenges for the New Millennium
By Paul Utukuru
Attacks on sacred books and sacred personalities have been a challenging enterprise from colonial times for anthropologists, behavioral scientists, historians, theologians, archaeologists, neuroscientists and philosophers alike. Their overall objective is to seek explanations for the continuing influence of religious practices in human societies especially among the masses at large in spite of their dissonance with the scientific worldviews that have evolved since the European Renaissance. The most recent trend in this regard is to apply Freudian Psychology to explain religious phenomena and religious personalities.
A disturbing flaw in this endeavor is often the conflict between real objectivity and the subjective biases associated with the researcher’s own tradition at birth and its influence during his or her formative years. In as much as the researchers involved in this process happen to be predominantly Judeo-Christian Westerners in Western Universities, they tend to focus their attention on Hinduism while neglecting to subject their own traditions to the same degree of
scientific enquiry. Hinduism happens to be a major religion in the modern world that poses a threat to the spread of Islam and Christianity. Its message of the universality of all religions is acceptable to any of the three Abrahamic religions.
It is not surprising therefore that Jeffrey Kripal’s “Kali’s Child” and Paul Courtright’s ” Ganesa” are but two out of numerous other books that are damaging to the sentiments of millions of Hindus in spite of their scholarly recognition by their peers and widely glorified by prestigious awards. ” Invading the Sacred ” by Krishnan Ramaswamy, Antonio de Nicolas and Aditi Banerjee with Rajiv Malhotra as the driving force behind, is an emotionally charged but profoundly justified rebuttal to the explorations into the sexuality of Hindu gods, goddesses and saints such as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa in these books in terms of Freudian Psychology by Western scholars.
Unfortunately, the rebuttal is not scholarly enough to tip the balance. I came to this realization after I came across another book called ” Encountering Kali” edited by Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey Kripal published in 2003 and republished by Motilal Banarsidass in 2005. It contains twelve chapters written by different authors with almost a hundred books and articles from refereed journals quoted in the Introduction alone. The book addresses literally hundreds of issues related to Kali and Kali worship in India in a manner not unlike ” Kali’s Child ” This book too is but a tip of the Iceberg that is on the horizon.
Particularly intriguing in this book is a chapter on Mahabhagavata Purana by Patricia Dold. Her portrayal of Srimad Bhagavatam is distinctly different from the
scholarly fashion in which many issues of relevance to Modern Science were addressed by members of the Haiti Vedanta Institute quoting from this treatise at a recent conference in Titupati, India on Science and the Spiritual Quest that I attended and presented a paper.
A scholarly way to tip the balance would be for scholars of Hindu backgrounds to get into the nitty-gritty of the Abrahamic religions with the same tools as historical context, neuroscience and psychiatry as the Westerners are employing to trivialize Hinduism. Examples of issues that need to be addressed in this regard with the same degree of academic rigor are the mythologies of Adam and Eve and Original Sin, the Symbolic Consumption of the flesh and blood of Jesus, the
Threats, Acts, Jealousies and the Dictatorial aspects of the God of Abraham elaborated to in the Old Testament, the atrocities of the Crusades, the Burning of dissidents and the so-called Witches and the sexual perversions and promiscuity among the leaders of the Abrahamic religions, past and the present.
This I believe is an important step to take especially by scholars of Religious Studies in Indian Universities to arrive at the underlying core of the spiritual quest that is central to all religions and all of scientific inquiry as well. And that will also pave the way to diffuse the fundamentalist claims of exclusive rights to Absolute Truths by any group through the researches of our younger generations. Eko Sat Viprha Bahuda Vadanti. (Truth is One, the Wise describe it
variedly.” This ancient dictum applies to all knowledge and all paradigms- scientific, spiritual or otherwise.