Miami Univ Launch News- Malayala Manorama


BOOK LAUNCH ARTICLE (Miami Univ of Ohio; Oxford, Ohio, USA)

Vedanta meet discusses state of Hinduism studies
Saturday,29 September 2007 18:34 hrs IST

Vedanta meet discusses state of Hinduism studies

New York: Hindus themselves are partly to blame for the derogatory references to Hinduism and Indian philosophy in the US academia, said speakers at a symposium on Hindu philosophy here.

The issue was raised by speakers at the 17th International Congress of Vedanta while discussing a book titled “Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America”, published in India by Rupa.

The book edited by Krishnan Ramaswamy, Antonio de Nicolas and Aditi Banerjee contends that some American scholars have disparaged the Ganesha trunk as a “limp phallus”, classified Devi as the “mother with a penis”, and Shiva as “a notorious womaniser”, and pronounced Sri Ramakrishna a paedophile who sexually molested the young Swami Vivekananda.

“The onus is on us to correctly represent our faith and philosophy,” said Prof S.S. Rama Rao Pappu, echoing the sentiments of delegates at the conference held at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, from Sep 20-23.

“The problem is, Hindu families do not encourage their children to study religion and philosophy,” Pappu told IANS over the phone from Oxford.

“As a result, there are very few Hindu professors teaching philosophy and religion in the US.”

Of the 100 delegates attending the conference, only a third were from philosophy and religious studies disciplines. Others included experts in medical and engineering fields.

One solution suggested was that Indian spiritual gurus should encourage some of their brilliant disciples to study Indian thought in graduate schools, get their PhDs and then teach it.

“As of now, the disciples just glorify their gurus instead of giving respectability to the teaching,” Pappu said.

A case in contrast is the Dalai Lama, who directs those interested in Buddhism to do research on the subject and then teach it rather than hang around him.

The themes taken up at the congress were ‘Vedanta and Physics’, ‘Vedantic Epistemology’, ‘Vedanta, Ecology and Ethics’ and ‘Contributions of Vedanta to World Philosophy’.

Eminent philosophers and scientists who presented papers at the conference included E.C.G. Sudarshan, who many believe has been overlooked for the Physics Nobel, Karl H. Potter, Katherine Young, Chris Chapple, Subhas Kak and Arvind Sharma.

Arvind Sharma, who teaches at McGill University in Montreal and is a prolific writer, was the subject of a symposium at the conference. He was also conferred the award of Vedanta Arunodya.

An interesting sidelight of the congress were some sessions where Sanskrit was the language for presenting papers as well as for discussions.

K. Ramakrishna Rao, chairperson of the Indian Council for Philosophical Research, delivered the keynote address.