Project to Create a Scholarly Renaissance in Hindu Studies

The goal of this long range project is to identify, connect with, build community, intellectually support, and gather together a body of dedicated scholars and academically sympathetic colleagues who will work to contribute to the emerging stream of critiques representing the birth of a new era in the academic approach to the study of India. This scholarly renaissance will encourage an alternative subaltern orientation embracing and employing indigenous categories in the interpretation of Hindu ideas and practices with invigorated, theoretically vibrant, aboriginal understandings of Critical Studies productively employed in a post-traditional Hindu milieu when researching Indic Civilization. This project will examine and compare theoretical models in their application to Indic ideas and society. In so doing, updated indigenized approaches will be explored and developed.

This project will organize a careful examination and documentation of the peculiar anti-India/anti-Hindu bias perceived in American Academia, both in secondary Social Studies textbooks and particularly in tertiary scholarly academic treatments. It is hoped that promoting and encouraging this nascent debate will lead to mutually copacetic solutions on a civilizational level. It is also hoped that opening the door to dynamic alternative theoretical interpretations of India will usher in a new millennia of enlightened scholarship and appropriate, representative paradigms about Hinduism’s many philosophies and India’s fascinating contested and parallel histories, multiple cultures, and religious beliefs.[1]  See: The Architecture of Hinduism: An investigation into Hinduism as a Complex, Adaptive System  –  Sanjeev Sanyal http://swarajyamag.com/culture/the-logic-of-hinduism/

Unfortunately, the path towards simply recognizing the existence of this observable scholarly phobia is obstructed by officially ensconced phobia deniers. American and other modern academic intellectuals must learn to dispassionately examine one of the last bastions of prejudicial stereotyping still operative in the liberal academy. Anti-Hindu bias is a lingering residual of the dominant culture’s previous scholarly manipulations that have out-lived the hegemony of colonialism and several other ‘isms’.

In the past few years there have been many personal testimonials and scholarly analyses investigating negative narratives found in widely used scholarly representations of India, and specifically Hinduism. This project will compile an annotated bibliography of biased scholarship and document essentialisms, negative comparisons, Eurocentric approaches found in centuries of writings about India and Hinduism. In the past decades many essays have been written investigating the anti-Indian/anti-Hindu academic pathologies that have lingered unheeded for decades. This body of scholarship will be collected and studied. It is time that this apparent anti-Hindu malaise should now become terminal… the bias must pass away.

It will not be an easy battle, because scholarly approved essentialisms and theoretically dense distortions continue to be intimately employed and propagated by many modern scholars who make their livings teaching a distorted view of Hinduism. Indeed, Hinduphobia[2] is one of the last tasty little morsels of discrimination lingering in the American melting pot, caught in the throat of academia.

Those in control of the “official” academic narrative have heretofore rarely admitted that there is a bias. Instead of working to clear away the perceived discrimination, as is the usual anti-racist norm in America’s liberal academy – oddly, scholars often defend those subtle biases: since “that’s the way Hinduism has always been taught”. Prescient trumps the present moment. Theory trumps experience. To be seen as “valid and true”, the tradition must be frozen, textualized. When the object of study talks back, it can be threatening—the butterfly shouldn’t baulk.

Our ongoing vociferously raised, meticulously maintained, and enthusiastically discussed “insider’s perspective” threatens to tear down long-established Indological walls, or the scholarly “masks erected by outsiders”[3] to define Hinduism. This emergent, sympathetic, emic, historically ‘corrective’ movement in Hindu Studies is perceived as a threat by the scholarly status quo, thereby blocking opportunities for productive engagement. But as with worthy, timely, informed and long-awaited movements, our efforts will find resonance and ultimately succeed.

Many informed Hindu-Americans have taken note of the hazardous potholes of anti-Hindu academic bias found in their pathways while raising their American families in ‘the Land of the Free’. The first fledgling steps have been taken and the more obvious and blatant problems have been identified. One aspect of this project will be to gather together and promote the scholarly research of these Hindu-Americans who are working to fill this nasty, often mean-spirited rut in America’s academic road to the future, before our third and fourth generation children have to drive by the anti-Hindu academic biases on the way to their graduations.  This anti-Hindu bias also exists in other nations, even India, where a subtle ‘anti-majoritarian’ trajectory has guided the narrative since Nehru’s impact on educational institutions.

Our goal is to look at this sometimes subtle, sometimes overt anti-Hindu academic bias squarely in the face, document it with dispassionate exegeses, and propose more academically appropriate, user-friendly or resonant, endemic approaches to the study of the Hindu concepts under dispute between scholars. Hopefully, through these processes, biases will be eliminated from the academic discourse about Hinduism. Indic Studies will be free to auto-deconstruct its own negative assumptions while investigating the manifestation of the ancient Dharma as extant in Hindu India past and present. By so doing, scholars will break free from the fetters and obstacles that inhibit open-minded, eclectic, synergetic approaches required by the inherent profundity found in the study of Dharmic traditions.

In conclusion, I would say that I love Hinduism because it is a non-dogmatic, open-ended, personalized, interpersonal, self-correcting, evolving, experiential, self-sustainable system.

Etymologically, Dharma comes from the Sanskrit root word dhri, meaning “to support, firm, uphold.” Dharma is the underlying principle of the “cosmic order” of the Universe. The basic meaning or principles of cosmic and/or individual existence, it is also called Divine Law or Natural Law. On an individual level Dharma signifies virtue, righteousness, morality, ethics, and correctness. In particular Dharma refers to fulfilling the individual’s personal “duty” or true nature, as expressed by his or her Higher Self.

Hinduism is also known as “Sanatana Dharma”, which means Eternal Religion or Eternal Spiritual Path. Dharma is a very big word and would take several paragraphs, even books, to adequately explain. In short, it can be seen as the Spiritual Path, the soul-felt direction that your Samskaras[4] take you.

            According to Dr. Robert Svaboda, “Sanatana Dharma is eternal because it sprouts vigorous new growth whenever one of the saints or seers who are its inspired leaders receives new information from the One Absolute Reality. The Eternal Faith has grown over millennia into a broad spectrum of religious attitudes, philosophies, sects, deities, rituals, and Concepts of Supreme Beingness, many of which have only one thing in common: their acknowledgement of Reality’s Ultimate Oneness.”


Since I was a young girl, I was attracted to Hindu and Buddhist symbols and iconography. Particularly, after I arrived in India in December 1970 at the age of eighteen, I gained an understanding of Dharmic ideas and theories that helped make sense of the world around me. It is the spiritually and intellectually alive and personally experiential and ultimately experimental nature of Hinduism that sustains me. It is an open-ended, multi-perspectival orientation from within which my spirit hums. Hinduism is constantly evolving, absorbing and transmuting. Dharmic traditions don’t reject the old, but incorporate an understanding, a grounding of ancientness into everyday socially and morally acceptable, spiritually informed conduct.

For me personally and spiritually, the Hymn of Creation, from the Rg Veda is one of the reasons I am a Hindu. The Rg Veda, the seminal original source of Hindu knowledge and beliefs, tells the adherents, seekers of wisdom who are listening to the sages’ poems, that in the end to truly know, to truly understand, they must even question God, the highest authority…”Question Authority”.  (Tat Tvam Asi – That Thou Art)


The 10th Mandala of the Rig Veda concludes with the Hymn of Creation (hymn 129). After a poetic discussion of “existence and non-existence” and metaphysically lyrical descriptions of the origins of the universe in Vedic Sanskrit, this hymn known as Nasadiya Sukta (ná ásat “not the non-existent”) ends with an ironic query in the seventh verse that gives permission to question even the ultimate authority.

 The seventh verse of The Hymn of Creation:

Who really knows what happened? Who can describe it?

How were things produced? Where was creation born?

When the universe was created, the one became many.

Who knows how this occurred?

Did creation happen at God’s command, or did it happen without his command.

He looks down upon the creation from the highest heaven.

Only he knows the answer – or perhaps he does not know.


Nasadiya Sukta (after ná ásat “not the non-existent”) is the 129th hymn of the 10th Mandala of the Rigveda. It is concerned with cosmology and the origin of the universe and concludes with the suggestion that to understand ultimate reality, the seeker should question even God.


Dharma’s intrinsic nature is simultaneously evolving and transitional as well as steady and firm. It is interconnected, undifferentiated, complete, complex, simple, evolving, and immortal. The paradox is not mutually exclusive.  As Hindus it is our duty (Dharma) to question bias.

[1] Hinduism is often called Sanatana Dharma.

[2] The term “Hinduphobia” was coined online.

[3] Professor Doniger called Western theoretical representations of Hinduism “masks”, but she considered them valid interpretations no matter how lurid or extravagant.

[4] A Sanskrit word that means “impression”; (Your Samskaras are impressions imprinted on the subconscious mind by experiences in this or previous lifetimes. The Samsakaras, or tendencies then set the tone of your orientation towards events in your current life, your intrinsic nature, responses, states of mind, etc. The Dictionary of Common Sanskrit Spiritual Words says, “Whenever an action is performed with the desire for a specific result (whether for oneself or another), sanskara is created for that person. These accumulate and determine the situations with which we will be presented in the future and will influence the scope of future actions.” [From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanskara%5D

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This entry was posted on March 30, 2015 by .
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