Research and Book Update
Indology is a Worthless Academic Course: Why Hindutva Needn’t Fear Western Academia and How My Research Has Disappointed Me
After having finished writing my chapter on Islam, I proceeded to conduct further research into Buddhist and Hindu history that I had began before even finishing the chapters on Christianity and Islam. To this end, I decided to research more into Indology departments in Western Academia since I was under the assumption they could provide me with the most accurate and well-researched information. Indology is a branch of Religious Studies that focuses on the religions indigenous to India so I had no doubts when beginning to read into the studies. Indology has made bold claims about Hinduism being a modern invention and that Indians have largely deluded themselves into believing a unified Hinduism existed. I was apprehensive, but completely willing to accept historic facts and any theological contradictions brought up should they be present. I resigned myself to such possibilities and I knew of the Hindutva outcry that made me worry about an increasing anti-intellectual streak in India. I had wiki’d the Religious Studies course in order to gain a better basic understanding, but the terms seemed overly broad. Undeterred, since a wiki being unable to provide accurate or useful information was nothing new to me, I decided to look up research by Indologists and skimmed through some passages about one such book by a Indologist named Gerald J. Larson. Unfortunately, what I found was a broad generalization based on nothing more than a portion of the nationalistic song of modern India having portions of a Christian song in national unity with Christians in India. The man used one small call for national unity to paint a broad generalization, but never submitted any other evidence for the claim that Hinduism was a modern theological invention with an unfounded religious history. This was one anecdote of inter-religious unity with Christians and the man took it as proof that Hinduism was some sort of deluded copout of modernity. I checked his other book on a specific Hindu Atheist philosophy, and found that he listed a bunch of people making assertions without any archaeological or historical evidence about how the Hindu atheist system existed in India and then claiming they were wrong based on his own baseless assertions. These weren’t expert opinions with historic facts present in any arguments, although they seem to believe their own views as more credible than the random guesses that they were. All I saw was just a listing of random guesses on how the belief structure worked based on insufficient evidence. I looked up Andrew Nicholson’s sample beginning in Unifying Hinduism before purchasing it as this seemed to be the most interesting and recent book, and he outright admits that pre-modern India had overlap with branching beliefs and that Indologists evidently know this . . . so why aren’t these schools and their overlap seen as denominations by Indologists? Why aren’t the re-contextualized axioms seen as denominational differences within Hinduism similar to other religions? I investigated further . . . .
After reading more translated Hindu texts and comparing them with the opinion pieces, I was thoroughly confused by how these people could argue inclusiveness in Hinduism as proof that they were different religions and not a unified religion. In fact, they ignore the explicit texts of each Gita (Song) favoring unity with Brahman under a specific God or Goddess to argue that it’s not “unified” and even argue that such arguments are proof they’re different religions and not denominational differences. I thought perhaps I didn’t understand something crucial, but in my mind, I was already comparing Hinduism to the history of Christianity that I knew. I decided that I had to look into the veracity of these claims made by the Indologists and so I took the time to purchase the Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy. I eagerly began reading to try to ascertain why my personal views were so diametrically opposed to the texts that these Indologists have read and translated themselves. The first chapter explains that this entire enterprise of Religious Studies of Indian Philosophy has no true understanding of Indian philosophy at all and are simply making guesswork. This is not a strawman or an attempt at some character assassination; this is literally what their explanation is for their so-called theorizing. Evidently, all they do is make a bunch of empty guesses and nothing else. They don’t do archaeology or read into Indian history, despite noting changing trends in Hinduism . . . which they take as proof that Hinduism isn’t a unified religion. I sifted through other chapters relevant for my research and to try to satisfy this confusion I felt. A chapter explaining how they don’t know the history of India and don’t bother researching it. To my surprise, they repeatedly reference a paranoid conspiracy theory about an Aryan Invasion which has been debunked by other departments of Western Academia and is now recognized as a paranoid conspiracy theory celebrated by Nazis and formed from Western racism. I’m sorry to say this pervasive usage of a paranoid conspiracy theory tarnishes the content of their research; the Four Noble Truths are interpreted as racialized categories instead of the philosophical precepts since the term “4 Arya Truths” is repeatedly presumed to be a racialized concept — which they compare to an even more fictitious pre-Aryan civilization (since Aryan and Pre-Aryan are both fictions as there is no such thing as an Aryan race). The Aryan race paranoid conspiracy thereby causes massive failures in historical accuracy and reasoning throughout this book. This is supposed to be teaching eager young minds the basics of Indology and it completely fails. I’m genuinely surprised they were too lazy to check themselves and instead repeatedly reference a paranoid conspiracy theory as their cited evidence.
Even if I were to be generous about this massive failure, there’s even worse failures in historical accuracy. The Oxford Handbook implies that Indian civilization never had contact with the West and never once seems to have any reference to or knowledge of Alexander the Great’s failed conquest and the direct result of that failure: the cultural trade, Greek immigration, and eventual creation of a Greco-Buddhist empire in which the Greco-Romans and indigenous Indians joined together in what is historically seen as one of the most peaceful unifications of culture in all of world history. There’s no mention of this at all. It incorporated such an important component of Northern Indian history and there’s no indication that any of these so-called scholars have ever even researched this important cultural and transnational milestone. In fact, they celebrate keeping Indian and so-called “Western” culture separate and see them as opposed; they largely homogenize and generalize Hinduism as something that supposedly failed to be consistent . . . from 300 BCE to around 1700 AD. I don’t understand how or why anyone could or should believe any culture could remain in some static state for that long or why the changing times would be seen as proof that Hinduism is a modern invention, but it’s clear these Indologists don’t understand how math and history are interrelated. They don’t have any clear concept or theory, it’s just random guesswork. I’m sorry, but their reasoning simply lacks any critical faculties; they repeatedly harp on about Analytical philosophy of the West being so different from Hindu philosophy, but apart from one person using Hobbes as some go-to to understand the diverse literature of philosophy as a basic comparison (and even this is putting it mildly, as the person using Hobbes doesn’t actually appear to understand Hobbes, but rather generalizes his philosophy for a miniscule comparison), there seems to be no deep comparison of philosophy between Hinduism and the Western traditions. They don’t even seem to be aware of the progress in mathematics that India can rightly be proud of like the mathematical formulas of Brahmagupta and Aryabhhata.
To my genuine surprise, this entire so-called discipline seems to be largely incurious of doing any actual research into Indian history. The Oxford book complains about the lack of comparative religious and philosophical studies, but no Indologist seems to genuinely want to attempt such an enterprise. I asked two friends, one who has a degree in History and another in philosophy, and both informed me that Religious Studies really lacks in actual historical research and accuracy. They simply don’t bother doing it before making any assertions about other people’s religions. Out of all of Western academia, Religious Studies lacks in critical examination of actual history, archaeology, and understanding of cultural diversity. I can presume then, that all these people really know how to do is translate texts. If that’s the case, then they don’t have any unique knowledge or special privilege. Their research is bogus and based on bad evidence. From my own research, I can personally attest that they use paranoid conspiracy theories liberally. Even the arguments from some of these so-called scholars don’t make any sense and are teeming with arrogance. Andrew Nicholson, the translator of Siva Song and author of Unifying Hinduism, seems to lack the critical thinking faculties of the much-loved Analytical Philosophy that his colleagues repeatedly harp about and whom he adamantly defends. He made a response to Rajiv Malhotra, claiming on twitter that Malhotra had plagiarized him, yet he never took Malhotra to court. In his criticism of Rajiv Malhotra, he actually argues that Malhotra has no right to an opinion because he doesn’t understand Sanskrit; Nicholson proceeds to completely destroy his own argument against Malhotra’s assertions that Western academia is making spurious assertions against Hinduism by attributing his own personal guesses on ancient Hinduism to the influence of his thesis advisor Pollock. Why is this self-refuting? Because it means that both Nicholson and Pollock’s ideas have absolutely nothing to do with Hinduism and are their own personal opinions on the religion. If Pollock’s ideas are original, which I don’t dispute, then he isn’t actually doing research since that means he isn’t trying to uncover an ancient philosophy of a religion analogous to an archaeologist, but rather just making things up without sufficient evidence. Now, Nicholson does this in his own book, Unifying Hinduism. In one such argument in favor of a unified Hinduism, Nicholson argues in support of a Hindu identity and contends the assertions of his Indologist colleague Paul Hacker who tries to assert some bizarre generalization that a billion Hindus feel inferior and his even more bizarre re-contextualization of Modern Hinduism and pre-modern Hinduism into some neo-terms that have no basis. I held a favorable disposition for Nicholson and an unfavorable one for Hacker, I readily admit this and I found Nicholson provided a better argument . . . but by the end, Nicholson diverges into ad hominen and implies Hacker has no right to an opinion because he’s a Christian. I sort of just stared at that as it took me a moment to process that a Western scholar could be so blatantly bigoted and provide such a ridiculous error in reasoning. Nicholson attempts to argue a middle approach that rejects what he sees as Hacker’s presumable extremism. He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s using the logical fallacy of ad hominen against both Hacker and Malhotra. He’s also committing the middle-ground fallacy. He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s given ample cause to dismiss this entire branch of Western academia as worthless; if even his fellow Indologists are considered to have valueless opinions, based on a bigoted notion against their religious beliefs, then how on earth is one suppose to make any progress in this discipline? What does progress even look like? What viewpoints can even be called worthwhile? Evidently, Malhotra has no right to an opinion because he isn’t a translator and Hacker has no right to an opinion because he is a Christian. Also, Indology admits it makes random guesses and will never actually progress with anything meaningful. What even is this? How can an entire department of academia lack so much in its credibility? Why has this ridiculous department not been shut down yet?
In what could have been an interesting final analysis, Nicholson consistently asserts his confusion about why Islam wasn’t integrated into Hinduism and tries to use the Rama re-tellings of replacing Asuras with terms identifying Muslims as proof of Hindu bigotry. He poorly asserts that arguments about Islam being nihilistic is proof Hindus were ignorant since it was the same assertion against Buddhists. He seems entirely unaware of the genocide of 8 million people that Islam committed in Northwestern India, he seems to fail to understand that the re-tellings are parallels to the religion of Zoroastrianism which also forbids the usage of interest rates and believes in sinfulness, and it’s made abundantly clear that he has absolutely no understanding of Islamic theology at all when trying to figure out why Hinduism never tried to adapt it. He consistently asserts Hindu bigotry, but makes no attempt at actually comparing the religions. How hard would it have been to simply seek advice and information from a fellow colleague within his own Religious Studies department? Failing that, how hard would it have been to google search a local Mosque or Islamic center and go ask about Islam there? How hard would it have been to simply research Islamic theology through google or go on the multitude of Islam learning websites to gain a better understanding in order to compare and contrast the religions? Yet, he doesn’t even bother to put even that much effort into this chapter that supposedly tries to compare the religions. This is just laziness on his part and it really repudiates his credibility. Even a ten minute google search of the basic facets of Islam would have answered this question; Islamic jurisprudence is specifically designed to prevent such attempts since any outsider’s views on the theology is considered worthless unless they follow Sharia, Jihad against non-believers of the Abrahamic God is a religious doctrine among the five forms of Jihad that a Muslim must commit to, and any Hindu that did compare them would have been brutally murdered similar to the massacres that made the Hindu Kush (Hindu Murder/Hindu Slaughter) mountains that the Islamic invaders named in their triumphant massacre of 8 million people. Something these Indologists evidently refuse to even engage within any discussion. He harps about the Hindu extremism, yet seems to be utterly ignorant of the fact India took in Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Kashmir that were being persecuted with kidnappings, mass murder, and organized rape campaigns by Muslims in both areas. Evidently, Pakistan is happy to protest against extrajudicial killings by their police on Pashtun groups that support Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but don’t concern themselves with the sprees of murder, rape, and torture of Hindu and Sikh minorities that have all but left for India for their own safety. Nor does Nicholson seem to think over Intra-Abrahamic violence that could also pose a substantial problem to his own confusion of why Hinduism never adapted to anything of Islam’s theology, he seems blissfully unaware of the outright genocide of Christian Iraqis by ISIS. Both of these events are contemporary and happened only a couple of years ago as of this writing. This shouldn’t be perceived as an attempt to deflect Hindutva or Indian army human rights crimes. The deaths of journalists throughout India and the Indian army’s rapes and murders should absolutely be held accountable with punishable jail time, but these horrible crimes cannot be the only issues highlighted regarding controversial topics for the sake of intellectual honesty. I don’t support the anti-intellectual stupidity of Hindutva or would ever condone what unsavory people in the Indian army have done to civilians, but the refugee crises that Islamic militia groups caused cannot be ignored.
As a final note of contention, I have to say that I’ve never been so disappointed in researching an academic discipline to gain a greater understanding. I love academia, I’m a proud product of US academia, but I’m sorry to say that Religious Studies has no value to its claims within Indology and far too often relies of paranoid conspiracy theories and outright ignorance of history. It’s the only discipline I’ve seen that is so thoroughly incurious with researching its own baseless assumptions to see if there’s any veracity to them. I’m sorry, but if you’re an Indologist, then your views aren’t more credible than others and you clearly have nothing but guesswork to offer; you have no right to parade it as somehow more studious or truthful than any random person’s opinion on religions. At no point have I seen any attempt to even look at Hinduism on the basis of doctrinal beliefs or holy texts as signs of unity, and after looking more into the controversy of Pollock, who placed himself into political controversy by signing a demand to break-up India even further by recognizing Kashmir and Jammu as independent without any thought to the ramifications of his decision, I’m forced to conclude that too much narcissism and downright ignorance exists in this discipline for it to be recognized as equal to other academic departments. Based on interviews, Pollock simply comes off as narcissistic and fueled by animosity and revenge towards an entire racial group. Yes, I’m calling Pollock a racist. He tries to present himself as blameless after signing an incendiary petition over a controversial political topic and then makes deliberate threats about waiting until all the Sanskrit texts are destroyed in order to blame an entire nation-state for being too vindictive, racist, and narcissistic to translate them. This man doesn’t deserve a position in academia and Nicholson acting as his lapdog and providing excuses by asserting that Pollock’s opinion pieces are his unique copyright – and thereby refuting that Indology has any credibility whatsoever – leads me to believe there’s no point even trying to meaningfully discuss these issues. This so-called academic discipline doesn’t even correct itself with regards to paranoid conspiracy theories and actively refuses to engage in historic and archaeological research. I’m sorry, but after analyzing and researching, these are my conclusions on these sensitive matters.
Ahmed, Manan. “Why Hindutva Groups Have for Long Had Sheldon Pollock in Their Sights.” Scroll.in, Https://Scroll.in, 3 Jan. 2017, scroll.in/article/804517/why-hindutva-forces-have-for-long-had-sheldon-pollock-in-their-sights.
Sanujit. “Cultural Links between India & the Greco-Roman World.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 23 June 2018, http://www.ancient.eu/article/208/cultural-links-between-india–the-greco-roman-worl/.
Ganeri, Jonardon. The Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Ghosh, Tanushree. “I’m a Target Because I’m an Outsider: Sanskrit Scholar Sheldon Pollock.” The Indian Express, Thursday, May 03, 2018, 4 June 2018, indianexpress.com/article/express-sunday-eye/im-a-target-because-im-an-outsider-sanskrit-scholar-sheldon-pollock-5191995/.
Larson, Gerald James. Indias Agony over Religion. State Univ. of New York Press, 1995.
Larson, Gerald James., and Īśvarakr̥ṣṇa . Classical sāṃkhya: an Interpretation of Its History and Meaning. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2014.
Nicholson, Andrew J. Unifying Hinduism Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History. Permanent Black, 2015.
Nicholson, Andrew J. Lord Śivas Song: the Īśvara Gītā. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 2016.
Nicholson, Andrew J. “’Upset about Rajiv Malhotra’s Plagiarism, Even More Upset about Distortions of My Work’.” Scroll.in, Https://Scroll.in, 3 Jan. 2017, scroll.in/article/742022/upset-about-rajiv-malhotras-plagiarism-even-more-upset-about-distortions-of-my-work.
chandraiitk. “Rajiv Malhotra’s Hard-Hitting Response to False Charges of Plagiarism.” YouTube, YouTube, 23 July 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGpB0ITyNVQ.