Editors Note: The book Sanskrit Non-Translatables has gotten mixed responses esp. from the “scholars” and “experts”. That, it will help the sanatana civilization-al cause is of course understating its potential.That it could be a game changer for the “pop-expert” dialectic is also somewhat obvious. Its long term effects on videshi-drishti-driven sanskrit hermeneutics and on Indology (a genre of “academic” grade spurious Indian studies mostly based on the mis-translated sanskrit , that has been happening for centuries) is yet to be fathomed. As the book was being conceived and written by Shri Rajiv Malhotra and Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji, the world’s foremost “sanskrit” experts at the World Sanskrit Conference organization’s committee , in fact denied the legitimacy of SNT, and characterized it as flippant and irrelevant , during a conference related interaction. Recent conversations on Social Media by premium “branded” Indologists, Indophiles , who are supposedly “for” the Indian civilization-al cause , also brought across this point. SNT is a dangerous idea , dangerous for peddlers of Abrahamic Western Universalisms packaged as Sanskrit truths. Entire careers and narratives are threatened by this simple yet powerful idea. Sadly , the “hindu” side is too busy, fighting petty turf wars and celebrating its own mediocrity and ineptitude , aptly characterized as the “tamasha” in the recent interview by Rajiv for the book AI and Power.
IK Karthik presents his take on the idea of the SNT and why it could be game-changing.
As I see it, there are two types of adversaries to Hinduism:
- From non-Hindus who claim to be scientific and there by portray Hindus and Hinduism as being regressive
- From Hindus who call Hinduism as only a way of life and refuse to acknowledge the religious aspects associated with it
The first category of people are those who are obvious in their attacks and in a way are also easier to counter by directly proving them wrong with the scientific progress made during ancient times. It has become common knowledge, for instance, the effects of Yoga and Dhyana in relieving stress in any practitioner or the benefits of chanting Sanskrit verses on the human brain or how metallurgy and mathematics flourished in Vedic Bharat. With the advent of Social media, verifiable information is omnipresent and therefore countering lies from non-Hindus has become reasonable easier.
However, because of such exposure to information, a different kind of challenge has emerged for Hindus to counter. It’s a lot more complicated to handle because it comes from well-meaning but wanna-be-cool-and-secular-Hindus themselves.
Recently around the Deepavali time the issue of firecrackers made headlines one more time (like it does each year). While serious debates were doing rounds in Social Media among intellectuals if it was a new practice added in recent centuries or an age-old practice mentioned in the scriptures, someone personally known to the author came up with a weird explanation during one of the office team meetings. According to this person, firecrackers are being burnt to get rid of mosquitoes during the seasonal change from Fall to Winter. It is another point to debate that this person, though from India, has no idea that India doesn’t have a distinct fall to winter transition like in North America. It’s another classic case of forcefully mapping Western constructs onto Indian narratives to impress the Westerners, albeit in a totally different context. So, this person went on to tell that all “Indian” (not Hindu) festivals have a scientific reason behind the celebrations and therefore should not be taken at face value!
Having personally known this person I understand the intention here was to market the festival in a positive light. But the only problem here being the mindset that positivity means ripping of all Hindu elements from anything of Indian origin. Since it was a team meeting with other objectives to meet, the author gave a short rebuttal and made it clear the reasons are indeed religious!
This was just one short personal, may be even an inconsequential episode in the bigger scheme of things but imagine hundreds of thousands of educated Hindus living across the globe spreading such information about Hindu festivals to small groups of 5 westerners! The resulting spread of ignorance is no longer inconsequential.
What Hinduism is Not?
Hinduism unlike Islam or Christianity is not a centralized set of dogmas. There is of course no one book or a God-given set of scriptures for the Hindus. Many concepts of Hinduism are in fact accepted “ways of life”. But these “ways of life” originated from the shastras and were ingrained into our daily lives by our ancestors for uplifting our consciousness both as individuals and as a society. For example, waking up early in the morning can be called a “way of life” and it also has health benefits. Hindu Shastras are not only concerned about health benefits, but their ultimate goal is to uplift the consciousness of the individual. Therefore, it is prescribed by the Shastras to do Sadhana during Brahma Muhurtha (early hours before sunrise) for spiritual upliftment. While waking up is a good habit even for non-believers, the significance of Brahma Muhurtha cannot just be called a secular way of life. There is a religious/spiritual significance that go well beyond the borders of good health.
Similarly, while there can be numerous positive side effects from celebrating festivals or performing certain samskaras, the underlying spiritual aspects should not be ignored. It is common tradition in Hindu families to perform homa-s, while moving into a new house. It is also quite common to hear people (especially from the older generations) say that the smoke from burning dried cow dung and the samidha wood has medicinal value and thereby promotes the health of the family moving into a new house. However, what they never tell is Agni, according to Hindu traditions, is considered to be the mouth of Bhagavan himself and connects the divine with earthly realms (Ref 1).
The problem with this secularizing approach is two folds:
- Dilutes the core essence of the teachings of our Shastras and helps in digesting the positive aspects of Hinduism into pop-culture or into other religions
- Creates credibility issues, towards their own culture, in the minds of younger generations when the claims become unverifiable
Instead of doing good, this act of mapping Hinduism and its practices on to the modern scientific framework does more harm.
A crude Analogy
The differences between Hinduism and Abrahamic religions can be compared with the crude analogy of assembled computers vs branded ones. As we all know, branded PCs are closed and authoritative.
The companies decide what components are to be used inside the PC. They for example, decide the hard drive size, type and make. They also decide how many hard disk partitions the computer will have. The end user gets to choose nothing but use the PC the way it was received without any customization. If the user tinkers with the PC, then he/she should be ready to give up the manufacturing warranty. Hinduism on the other hand can be compared to an assembled PC where the end user can choose the parts of his/her choice and build a PC. However, it should be clearly noted that the flexibility also comes with restrictions both at the hardware configuration levels and also at the level of software. One cannot decide to have an older generation processor for their CPU, a 64 MB RAM in order to save costs but also wanting to have the latest version of an operating system to run advanced programs. Even though the user has choice, it has to be within a certain framework. Anything made out of sand cannot be silica and therefore cannot be used in place of an IC (Integrated circuit) component. In the same way Hindus have numerous choices with respect to sampradayas and deities but everything operates within the framework outlined by the Vedas. Any incompatible concept or idea would not yield the desired results.
It is time, that educated Hindus actually start putting efforts to understand Hinduism and get to know its deeper spiritual significance rather than always look for easy low hanging secular fruits to defend their practices. While it is important to watch out for missionaries, leftists and their devious ploys to attack Hindu culture, it is also equally important for us to understand the basic tenants of Hinduism in its true form. That’s why efforts like Sanskrit Non-Translatables are needed now more than any other time to educate Hindus who grew up under the western education system.
Ref 1: Sanskrit Non-Translatables by Shri. Rajiv Malhotra and Satyanarayan Dasa Babaji, Chapter 4, page 82