Shehjar Review- Piyaray Raina

Book Review

Lately Hinduism and Hindi language teaching has found its way in US schools. That is a good development which makes us proud. But there are certain vested interests, which under the cover of Religion In South Asia (RISA) study degrade Hinduism by describing it as inferior religion which involves practices of animism. Hindu gods and goddesses are described as sex symbols. Saints are called homosexuals. Tantra is described as not a legitimate spiritual process but a mask hiding the true character as pornography ,Abhinavgupta the doyen of Kashmir Shivism did not know tantra , and Bhagwadgita is called as a book of war. Examine some of the writings:

1) Kripal,Jaffrey J, in his book Kali’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and teachings of Ramakrishna . A summary of his book in his own words reads as follows:

“Ramakrishna was a conflicted, unwilling, homoerotic Tantrika……Tantra’s heterosexual assumptions seriously violated the structure of his own homosexual desires. ………He remained a lover not of sexually aggressive women or even of older men but of young, beautiful boys “ Among the boys Swamy Vivekananda is identified as one.

The book is based on PhD dissertation of the author and won the First prize award from the American Academy of Religion (AAR).He is the head of Hindu studies in Rice University. Encyclopedia Britannica has listed the book as a top choice for learning about Ramakrishna .

2) Paul B. Courtright’s book –Ganesha: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings. The book is based on PhD thesis of author. The author is professor in the Department of Religion at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia USA . The book received a national award in 1985 by the committee on History of Religions of the American Council of Learned Societies based in Chicago .The book was reprinted by Oxford University Press in 2003 . A reprint of the book in India was made by the leading Indology publisher Motilal Banarasidass in 2003 . An excerpt from the book:

“Ganeshas’ trunk is the displaced phallus, a caricature of Siva’s linga. It poses no threat because it is too large, flaccid and in the wrong place to be used for sexual purpose

“He (Ganesha) remains celibate so as not to compete erotically with his father ,a notorious womanizer, either incestuously for his mother or for any other woman for that matter.”

“Both in his behavior and iconographic form Ganesha resembles in some aspects the figure of a eunuch…….Ganesha is like a eunuch guarding the women of the harem.”

“Feeding Ganesha copious quantities of modaka satisfying his oral/erotic desires ,also keeps him from becoming genetically erotic like his father “

“Ganesha’s broken tusk ,his guardian staff ,and displaced head can be interpreted as symbols of castration”

3) Professor David Gordon White’ book: Kiss of the Yogin: tantric Sex in its South Asian Context .
Excerpts from the book :

Tantra is a ritual in which body fluids –sexual or menstrual discharge are swallowed as transformative “power substance” to achieve magical powers …… Abhinav Gupta of Kashmir in the eleventh century made an attempt to transform kaula sexual practice into a simple by- product of a higher goal: the cultivation of a divine state of higher consciousness ……. The visarga sound of ha ( used as a mantra )is the sound a woman makes while enjoying the sexual intercourse …….” In other words the ‘ha’ sound of the visarga is the semnticization of sex in Abhinav Gupta’s system “……..Bindu on forehead is a physical drop of menstrual blood .

4) Doniger Wendy Professor of Hinduism at Chicago University , a leading indologist and widely respected in USA ,who has authored several books on Hinduism . Her views about Bhagwad gita, published in Philadelphia Inquirer :

“The Bhagwad Gita is not a nice book ……….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 ; It justifies war “

These are some of the broad observations about interpretation of Hinduism in the academic circles in the USA . There are other research papers which describe Hinduism in the same way as shown above. Since these books have been authored by academic scholars they have been accepted as reference books in schools and colleges and also in some museums where idols of Hindu gods are displayed .Even Microsoft encyclopedia – Encarta used these books for describing Hinduism . One may wonder what is the source of information for these writers and with what objectivity in mind have they written these books. Let us examine it.

Material Resources

a) These authors have spent several years studying Hindu literature in India and for some of them this forms dissertation for their PHD. Hindu literature is vast and oldest. It developed over vast period of time perhaps five thousand years. Different people did write differently in the early stages of the development of a religious philosophy .After all Hinduism is known as Sanatana Dharma –path of righteousness. It welcomes all thoughts .The centrality of Hindu thought is: Ekam Sat Vipraha Bahuda Vadanti (Truth is one but the learned ones’ call it by different names). Our Puranic literature is full of intellectual wars over the supremacy of their chosen gods over others who are downgraded by various accusations. This is not uncommon in other religions as well.

b) Sanskrit is an archaic language which has its own history of development .Same words are interpreted differently ,which makes their translation difficult. One has to translate a passage in the context of the centrality of the thought , which otherwise will lead into erroneous conclusions .

c) The authors have made use of psychoanalysis as used by Freud in the study of arts, culture and religion .

d) Using interviews with Hindus who do not have through knowledge about the facts .

For the rest of this review, please go to the website: