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To John Bastile: Touché! Well, Amost. To Kevin Graham: On 'Fads' and Fantasies

Reader comment on item: Islamophobia?

Submitted by Rakshas 10 Anan (India), Dec 2, 2005 at 14:43

I, for one, have acquired great admiration for your erudition and your skill in thrust and parry, John Bastille, and being a believer in karma and rebirth, I think that your next birth is likely to be that of a Hindu Brahmin scholar, or a Kshatriya warrior, a prince perhaps, current rationalist-atheist scruples notwithstanding! This is intended as a highly laudatory compliment, believe me.

I said almost, because I don't know what to make of this statement:

"It is sad to learn that millions of people perished in religious wars since time itself. People died in the name of Zeus, Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, Nebuchadnezzar, Buddha, Kali, Vishnu, Yahweh, Jesus and Allah.

All claiming to have sole franchise rights to sell God's products and services. All claiming to have exclusive tickets to "Paradise" - the visit of a lifetime!!"

--Perhaps you are trying to balance the scales, but I don't know if anybody as a rule tried to kill in the name of either Buddha, Kali or Vishnu, or fight a jihad or crusade to that end, with promises of material or spiritual rewards.

Buddhism nearly perished under the force of Islamic jihad in India, except for the missionaries of peace and culture who had sagaciously found a home in the far east! There was the notable exception of Chengiz Khan, who set out of Mongolia on his pillaging spree as a Buddhist, laying Damascus to waste, and by the time he turned back from Makkah, lo and behold, he'd converted to Islam, and was in fact the first notable who tried to take a whack at the Buddhas of Bamiyan with gunpowder. However, he did not fully destroy them, since something had to be left behind for the Taliban's perceived media advantage!

As for Hindus, their internecine wars were fought by the rule book in those days, for personal gain and not for spiritual advancement. Being firm believers in the axiom of ‘guests being like God', they ensured that all comers were treated to courtesies due to the Gods themselves! That is how tales of the riches of the fabled land of Ind grew pervasive, attracting everlasting hordes of fortune-seekers from alien lands!

When the spirit called, the rulers laid down their arms, abdicated from their thrones and appointed able successors, gave away all material possessions, and retired to the forests as renunciates.

Later, Hindu kings fought unto death to defend their honour and their faith in the face of savage jihadi attacks that lasted for 1000 years. In more recent times, they even helped the British in the two World Wars on the fronts in Europe and Africa.

The legendary wars of Kali and Vishnu are widely perceived to be engagements in defence of justice and law, to counter the forces of greed, lawlessness and violence against the defenceless!

Older Hindu society had avenues for free debate, and all peaceful streams of thought, including monotheism, dualism, and even atheism were able to assert themselves without persecution.

So John, I don't know what to say about that unfair remark about Buddhists and Hindus. Even in the present times, in case you don't know it, it is Leftist, Communist and Secular Hindus who are fighting tooth-and-nail (mostly in democratic ways) those who oppose minority appeasement in India!

To Kevin Graham: "Everyone I know who converts is typically doing it as a fad - just like hinduism and new age became a fad in Univesities during the 60's and 70's..."

--While agreeing with you in spirit, here's a little clarification. I thought Hinduism was more of a fad in the pop culture, following the Beatles on to Madonna, and the hippie generation in-between, and not so much in the universities per se. New Age is a later phenomenon.

Even Indians themselves whole-heartedly subscribe to the fad perspective. Even then, it highlighted not the narrowness, but a felicitous openness of American culture to expansive ancient systems of thought, music, cuisine (vegetarianism) and non-sectarian spirituality (yoga and meditation).

Most professionally educated Hindus in India subscribe to the rational-atheist-secular persuasion, and you'll be surprised to know that Brahmin priests, yoga teachers, or practitioners of traditional medicine are among the poorer groups in India, except for the fortunate few patronised by Westerners! Currently, there are more practitioners of yoga and meditation in the West than in India. Thus it remains a major surprise for Indians even now to learn of the German, American, Russian (research) and Israeli (military) adoption of yoga, or the commercial success of Gurus and yoga teachers abroad (majority among whom are Westerners in the West as of now)!

There again, the main rush began from the Western countries to India in search of alternative lifestyles, rather than Hindu adventurers rushing Westwards uninvited! Even the abuse reported in the so-called ‘guru-cults' has been more often perpetrated by chief Western disciples in positions of power than by Hindus, barring a few notable examples. In those cases, the perpetrators did not receive mainstream Hindu or Indian (government) support, either covert or overt!

This is a major distinction, you know! While people may join Islam in the West as a fad, I wonder if it is as easy for them to drop out. I don't know what the position of the Nation of Islam is in this regard! Current White conversions are too recent to make a statement about the fallout in case someone from among them wants to drop out of Islam. It is not known if women who marry Muslim men after conversion to Islam are allowed to leave Islam later if they change their mind for any reason, including divorce. (The most striking new case is of the White Belgian woman who converted to Islam after marriage, and became a suicide bomber in Iraq).

Lastly, for your information, I will tell you about a particular later-day tribe of lost Jews, which formally converted to Hinduism, as Brahmins, and rose to the highest political position in India a few centuries ago, continuing in positions of leadership into the present times. I remember seeing a Berkeley dissertation on (something like) "The Chitpavan Brahmins of Maharashtra, The Shipwrecked European Jews of India," but I am not aware of further Western research on the subject.

The Marathi Chitpavan Brahmins, with distinctive fair skin, tinted eyes (grey, blue, green, and especially hazel) and tinted hair, claim (in their formal published geneaologies) that their ancestors were a group of 14-odd Jewish families who landed on the Western coast, and by undergoing a fire ritual, were accepted into the Hindu fold. By a strange quirk of circumstances, they rose from a rather lowly status of priests -- looked down on by other groups of indigenous Brahmins -- to respected administrators, money-lenders and monarchs. These were the Peshwas who fought the Islamic hordes and even the British as leaders of Hindus! All that remains at this point, is to conduct DNA tests that may conclusively prove or disprove the claim.

Remarkable, I think! What does it tell you of the 'fads' prevailing in Hindu society?

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