Book Review : Rearming Hinduism – Nature, Hinduphobia…

Published May 14, 2016 by vishalvkale

Image result for rearming hinduism bookThe title of the book says it all in a succinct and to-the-point manner : this a book centering around the image and ridiculing of Hindus, the misunderstandings among the western scholars and people regarding Hinduism, and the rise of Hindu pride. It is a book which seeks to counter some claims and observations  made by Wendy Doniger in her book, which serves as the starting point of the book; it then subsequently branches out and raises the issue of misrepresentation of Hinduism in the international media and academia
It quite successfully takes the rising Hinduphobia in the international discourse; and raises several pertinent points; it looks at the propagation of myths and half-truths regarding our religion, as well as the penchant of the westerner to fit everything into one mould, as it were. The penchant of the westerner {as well as some among us Hindus as well} of regarding Aryan Invasion also features here in a short and sharp chapter.
The book is organised in two parts, with the first part focussing on the aspects highlighted in the above paragraphs; the second part is about the author’s personal view about Hinduism – to quote the author : “how one devout Hindu sees hope for humanity in the richness of Hindu thought. I present this part in a more personal and devotional tone / it is perhaps best read as a set of thoughts / about what it means to be Human as reflected in the ideals and stories of Hinduism
The Author, Vamsee Juluri is a professor of media studies at the university of San Fransisco : this is a vital aspect, as he is well exposed to western views on our religion, and it is a part of his job as well – as he writes and teaches about worldviews, assumptions, commonsense ideas about ourselves and the world, and how they might be distortions, myths and outright lies – again quoting the author here. This is also what I myself have written about extensively, although in my amateur style.
Frankly, this is a book with only a partial relevance to India – India is a nation, and Sanaatan Dharm a religion. That is one; second, it is also a book with no relevance whatsoever to Sanaatan Dharm in India – as this is a book written by a Sanaatan Dharmi living and working in the USA. The problem of Eurocentricism, and the attendant problem of the representation of our religion in the West is of no material importance or relevance to us as Indian citizens. It is also of precisely zero relevance to us as Sanaatan Dharmis, as followers of The Eternal Path.
The reason is that Sanaatan Dharm, as per my readings and understanding – places emphasis on an individual understanding and faith, and not on collectivity. Second, our religion also emphasises duty to the nation, the society one lives in – and for residents of the USA – that is the USA and its society. Thus, the problems being faced by Sanaatan Dharmis in the USA are of no concern to me; I have my own nation, my own people and we have our own lives and duties to perform.   Worrying about the status of Sanaatan Dharm in the USA is not one of those problems.
That is why I found a zero emotional connect with the obvious angst of the Author on the problem of Eurocentricism, and of the misrepresentation of Sanaatan Dharm in the USA. I just could not relate to it; I could partially relate to Eurocentricism, as it is an ever present theme in everyday life, given the state of the modern world, but that is all. On the topic of books by Westerners and Western Academia on Sanaatan Dharm, why should I have occasion to read them, given that I have an excellent resource of Indian books on the said topics available on Indian book stores?
In recent years, there is an emerging trend of excellent, well –presented and researched books on any number of topics of Indian Relevance spanning Economics to History to Religion, all written by Indians, and spanning all possible viewpoints. There is admittedly a problem of shelf-space to these on book stores, which tend to give emphasis to Western books; but this is now receding, with the strong emergence of quality Indian research on all topics under the sun. The movement is slow- but it is present. The trend of Eurocentric Macaulay’s Children in Indian discourse is waning, with the strong emergence of a parallel thought process and philosophy, as India finally throws off the colonial yoke and emerges in its own right.
That said, the book per se is written in a rather angry or should I say annoyed tone as it seems to me; it could be a cultural thing,  as I am in India while the author is in the USA. While he quite successfully, it seems to me, takes on the stated purpose of the book – the lack of a proper presentation is a small problem. I would have loved a properly bulleted and point-wise rebuttal of the claims of Eurocentric writers on Sanaatan Dharm. This has not been properly presented; the content is excellent, it needs a proper presentation to makeit more effective.
A clarification is needed here : the title of the book says ‘Rearming Hindusm’ – this has nothing to do with conventional arms, and is more to do with a spiritual rearming, and a reawakening of Sanaatan Dharmis. It seeks to challenge Hinduphobia and the attendant incorrect portrayal of our religion in Academia and the Newspapers and Magazines of the West, especially the USA

On the second part, there is a lot I agree with – but I will withhold comment – as Sanaatan Dharm is typically an individualistic faith, and each person has to find his or her own path. The author’s observations are interesting, deeply thought-provoking, and I highly recommend Indian Sanaatan Dharmis reading this book for the second part; my advise would be to read and re-read the second part, as it contains a series of deep observations, ideas and gems. You will find a lot of learning as well as agreement with in the second part… read the book for this alone, is my advise to you…

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