chintha-matham

Does Rajiv Malhotra need Purva Paksha for Hindu Christian Dialogue ?'

Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

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 In his talk/dialogue/discussion at Harvard University (USA) with Jesuit scholar and priest Dr. Francis Xavier Clooney, he presented his own arguments from his book Being Different,but did not criticise Dr. Clooney's arguments. As the present writer has stated in previous articles, even his use of the Socratic word 'dialogue' is misleading since the Socrates of the Platonic Dialogues (all 36 of them) was relentless in peeling off the layers of ignorance of his interlocutors. Understandably, Shri Malhotra is neither Adi Shankar nor Socrates (fair enough !) and Francis Xavier Clooney is a trained scholar, a formidable opponent in his own chosen field.

One of the puzzling aspects of Rajiv Malhotra's use of Purva Paksha (the ancient Hindu method of debate) for his model of Hindu Christian Dialogue is the question of why he uses that phrase since his 'dialogue 'has very little resemblance to the classical Purva Paksha of Tarka Shastra (science of debate) used by the Hindu philosophers. The most celebrated of them was Adi Shankara and he used this method to 'defeat' his adversaries in argument, not appease them (as Malhotra does). Adi Shankara challenged the Mimamsa school and in particular the Buddhists. Purva Paksha consists of the statement of the adversary's arguments, then its REFUTATION and ending with stating one's own position. 

Clooney is also a dedicated Jesuit who follows the Vatican's agenda of Inculturation in India. Readers must be reminded that Inculturation stands for the Church's attempt to imitate/synthesise the culture and beliefs of Hinduism (or any other religion), not with a view to assimilate or integrate with it, but to subvert it from within, with the eventual aim of Conversion. While methods of conquest and violence were followed in past centuries, at present the favoured method of Inculturation (started simultaneously with conquest and violence centuries ago) is now being carefully revived. In India one significant aspect of Inculturation is the drawing of intellectuals and the elite into Dialogue. Malhotra is all too familiar with this phenomenon and has written about it in his book Breaking India (co authored with Aravindan Neelakandan who contributed significant portions of the book). Other writers on the contemporary Indian scene such as Radha Rajan, Sandhya Jain, Tamizhchelvan and George Thundiparambil have written about it. The journal Bharatabharati has a long list of articles on Hindu Christian Dialogue which are a must read of anyone who wants to understand the workings of Inculturation.

The most recent articles are 'Old Poisoned Wine in new Tetra Packs' by George Thundiparambil (in Vigilonline) and 'Inculturation and Indigenisation' by Tamizhchelvan (in Bharatabharati). The former article takes a critical look at Francis Xavier Clooney's activities in India and the latter article is a detailed historical survey of the topic of Inculturation and Indigenisation.

In this context it is puzzling as to why Malhotra chose to 'dialogue' with Clooney in the first place, even if it were to give exposure to his own newly published book Being Different to audiences. That could have been done independently of Clooney's presence. During the 'dialogue' with Clooney at Harvard university, Shri Malhotra was obligingly silent on key issues such as Clooney's flattery of him as being an updated , sophisticated (read superior) version of Swami Dayananda Sarasvati and Swami Vivekananda. Of course, courtesy may have required Malhotra to remain silent during the guest's talk, but surely it was incumbent on him to have politely and courteously refused to don that mantle during the reply period ? For someone like Malhotra with an easy fluency of speech, this would not have been too difficult a task.

Instead, one saw the surprising spectacle of the author of Breaking India being unusually accomodating and in smiling fashion thank Dr. Clooney for his comments (the usual protocol) but making no reference to the Vivekananda comment or the great contributions made by Swami Vivekananda and Swami Dayananda Sarasvati to Hindu spirituality and Hindu nationalism, besides which his own contributions are relatively small. He had obviously accepted the mantle that Clooney had placed on him ! Both the spoken words and the body language indicated a genuine feeling of gratitude for the economiums being showered on him. Malhotra had at long last come in from the cold ! And what better interlocutor than a Catholic priest from the Western world to give his blessings ?

Some critics have taken Malhotra to task for intellectual dishonesty in using the phrase Purva Paksha without following up with the contents of this method. Here again, one wonders why Malhotra would have taken the risk of using that phrase. Surely as astute an author such as as he is, he could have anticipated criticism from knowledgeable people, and not counted only on camp followers to sustain him ? Another critic has referred to his misuse of Purva Paksha as his 'achilles heel.'

The arguments of his book Being Different could easily stand on their own as his own adventure of ideas,wherein he 'gazes' at the West and its thought, especially Christianity and proceeds to distance himself from that tradition by outlining the differences that separate Hindu philosophy and religion from the West . This would have been the honest thing to do and the sensible thing to do.

The answer to the question as to why he uses the phrase Purva Paksha it would seem, is to acquire a superficial image of allegiance to the traditional aspects of Hindu tradition, especially since he has often found fault with orthodox Hindu acharyas and gurus for their 'alleged' ignorance of Western thought. He has castigated them quite openly as burying their heads in the sand, while he himself is the proud product of east and west and therefore has the ability to take on the West (see his article 'The Westernised side of my background' in Sulekha.com, 2004, as well as comments elsewhere from time to time). The present writer has on many occasions pointed out that the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths are the backbone of our civilisation. Any chipping away at these is an unfriendly act which can only benefit the adversary.

While Malhotra may legitimately (in his mind) think of criticising the traditional acharyas for their ignorance (or so he thinks!) he himself has violated one important aspect of Hindu Purva Paksha, which is to 'defeat' the adversary, in this case Christianity as represented by Francis Xavier Clooney. Why does Shri Malhotra desist from this task ? Why does he in his new avatar present a truncated version of Purva Paksha at his discussion at Harvard ? The answer again is that he is hamstrung by his own newly found committment to that dubious entity called Hindu Christian Dialogue ? Simultaneously, he believes that using the phrase Purva Paksha gives him a certain respectability. In turn it provides the Jesuit scholar  with a cover for his easy entry into his delicate agenda of Inculturation, and a certain respectability.

Should Hindus not sit up at this turn of events ?

(Dr. Vijaya Rajiva is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university. Her academic training is in Philosophy, Political Science, Political Economy and History).

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