An Academic review of Dr. Paul Courtright’s icon

An Academic review of Dr. Paul Courtright’s

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Papers Accepted for Presentation


The Importance of Utilizing the Gita to Solve Problems of the 21st Century

Dr. Satya P. Agarwal

Formerly, Visiting Scholar, University of California, Berkeley

11293 Ridermark Row, Columbia, MD 21044,

Gita’s Lokasamgraha – message (calling on all to serve mankind) has inspired many social activists during the last two centuries. Pioneering work in the field of social reform was done by Rammohun Roy who used the Gita (in early nineteenth century) to strengthen public opinion in favor of putting an end to the evil practice of suttee (widow-burning). At the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1893, Swami Vivekananda gave Gita’s message of inter-faith harmony and popularized inter-faith dialogue. The twentieth century provided several well-known examples of conflict-resolution by non-violent means, in different parts of the world. The biggest challenge facing mankind has erupted right at the start of the 21st century, posing serious threat to world peace. How can Gita scholars stay aloof when world peace is disturbed by anti-social elements operating in the name of religion? The path shown by Swami Vivekananda needs to be vigorously followed viz. inter-faith dialogue, particularly in the trouble spots of the world. As a long term remedy, it is important that hatred-causing text-books which are poisoning the minds of students in many countries, are replaced by UNESCO-approved books. Educational reforms of this type can lay the foundation for world peace by instilling sattvika values in the minds of the next generation. I take this opportunity to appeal to Gita-scholars to put forth new ideas which can help solve the challenging problems of the 21st century.

An Academic review of Dr. Paul Courtright’s

Ganesa, Lord of Obstacles- Lord of Beginnings

Vishal Agarwal

11127 Hastings Street NE, Blaine MN 55449,

Recently, there has been a fierce controversy over the contents of the above book. The talk will touch upon the following issues:

  1. Academic importance of the book

  2. Errors of translation and selective use of textual evidence

  3. Tendentious interpretations, leading to misrepresentation of Hindu texts

  4. Misuse of secondary sources

  5. Faulty use of psycho-analysis in interpretation of Ganesha legends in Puranas

  6. Conflict of traditional interpretations with Courtright’s analysis

  7. Time permitting – larger academic issues involved (perhaps a good topic for panel discussion)

Copies of the tentative text of the article that will be turned in for the proceedings volume will be submitted beforehand to the conference organizers, and additional copies will be brought for the audience.

Misrepresentation and Caricaturing of Hindu Dharma

in History textbooks in India

Vishal Agarwal

11127 Hastings Street NE, Blaine MN 55449

The scope of this talk is restricted to the following three books:

1. NCERT school textbook on Ancient India by Romila Thapar, used in Std. VI 1966 to 2001

2. NCERT textbook on Ancient India by R. S. Sharma, used in Std. XI from 1970s to 2001

3. D. N. Jha’s ‘Ancient India in Historical Outline’ (1998) used by University of Delhi students, and sponsored for translations into various languages by ICHR

The review will give instances of systematically slanted narratives dealing with Vedas, Vedic culture, Sanskrit, Hindu Dharma, Brahmins, Hindu rituals etc., and contrast these with the favorable treatment given to Islam and Christianity. Jha's book in particular abounds in snide and contemptuous remarks against Hindus and their beliefs. Copies of tentative text of the article that will be turned in for the proceedings volume will be submitted beforehand to the conference organizers, and additional copies will be brought for the audience.

^ Tribulations and Triumphs of Early Settlers from India

Dr. Rajen Anand

Professor of Physiology, California State Uni. at Long Beach

The history of early settlers who trace their roots to India is replete with hardships and hostility they encountered when they were not welcome to this country and were being exploited as indentured laborers. It is also filled with extraordinary achievements and contributions they were determined to make in their adopted country. The hard work, perseverance and sacrifices made by early settlers opened the door for new generations of Indo-Americans who migrated after the liberalization of US Immigration laws in 1965 and have thrived so well to become one of the most prosperous communities.

Several hundred Indians came to the Bellingham area of Washington State from Canada to work in lumbar mills. Collectively called as ^ Hindus and derogatorily described as rag-heads, these largely Sikhs were confronted with anti-Asian hostility led by a group known as Asian Expulsion League, that did not want to see them live in their towns. Thrown out of their homes, deprived of their belongings, kicked and beaten, these pioneers from the Punjab State moved south to California and switched to agriculture and became some of the most successful farmers. Despite overt discrimination, constant humiliation, and lack of support from any quarters, they went on fighting for their basic civil rights and right to citizenship. As they became organized, they pooled their efforts and resources to ensure their survival. They were ultimately successful in their determination in changing the laws of citizenship. They not only became proud and productive citizens of the United States, but also were able to get elected one of them as Congressman. The talk will trace the roots of their tribulations and stories of their triumphs.

^ The Role of Inter-faith Dialogue for Social Harmony and World Peace

Swami Atamajnanananda

Resident Minister, Vedanta Center of Greater Washington DC

3001 Bel Pre Road , Silver Spring, MD 20906,

I will begin the discussion with an analysis of the three elements found in the title: 1) world peace; 2) social harmony; and 3) inter-faith dialogue. First, is world peace a viable possibility, a hopeless dream, or something in between? And what is our personal responsibility with regard to working for world peace, whether we believe it can ever be fully attained or not? Part of this discussion will naturally include the Vedantic conception of the world and the nature of peace as found in the Bhagavadgita and other Vedantic texts. The discussion on social harmony will deal with the question of what we really mean by harmony. Is it toleration between groups that have no real areas of common understanding and interest, or is it a deeper appreciation based on some higher understanding of the oneness of all faiths? Here the teachings of the Bhagavadgita, Sri Ramakrishna, and Swami Vivekananda will be relied upon for clarification. Finally the deeper meaning of inter-faith dialogue will be discussed along with its critical role in bringing about both social harmony and world peace. Again, the Bhagavadgita will be the main source, but we shall also take a brief look at the history of inter-faith dialogue in India.

^ The Burden of Bad Ideas: Some Critical Issues in the Vedic- Harappan Historiography

Professor Shiva G. Bajpai

Professor Emeritus of History, California State University, Northridge, CA.91330-8250

The presentation will deal with the current status of the Aryan Invasion theory that postulates that the Vedic Aryan invaded India in the mid-2nd millennium B.C.E. and developed the Vedic culture on the ruins of a glorious urban Harappan or Indus valley civilization of the 4th to 2nd millennium B.C.E. Despite the recent researches exploding this alien myth, the belief in the theory lingers on in the main stream historiography and, more importantly, in the most influential text books on Indian history and culture such as the newly revised Romila Thapar’s Early history of India (University of California Press, Berkeley, 2002; First published by Pelican Books, A History of India. vol .one, 1966). Additionally, the vast quantity of materials on various internet websites perpetuates this myth.

My perspective as well as of other scholars argues for the convergence of the Harappan and Vedic cultures on the basis of hard evidence of the Rig Veda and theVedic-Puranic tradition, the Vedic historical geography and the ancient archaeology. The first part of my presentation reiterates my earlier conclusions on the identity of the Sarasvati River with the modern Sarasvati- Ghaggar River, the home of the Vedic Aryans. The profusely celebrated River once flowed from the mountains to the sea ( RV 7.95.2) , but it dried up in the sands of Rajasthan near the archaeological site of modern Kalibangan ( ancient Vinashana) in about 2000- 1900 B.C.E. This identification has been reinforced among others by the eminent archaeologist, Professor B.B.Lal in his book, The Sarsvati Flows On, New Delhi: 2002. That the Sarasvati River constituted the central region of the Vedic culture is further reinforced by the identification of the Sarasvati-Drishadvati doab as the epicenter of the Vedic culture describe as “ the navel of the earth ( RV 3.29.4 -nabha prithivya) and “the earth’s most excellent portion”( RV 3.23.4 & 3.53.11- vara a prithivya,)in the Rig Veda and called Brahmavarta (the Divine Land) in the later historical tradition. The extensive Vedic ecumene called the Sapta-Sidhu country extended from the Ganga in the east to the Indus including its tributary Kubha ( Kabul) River of the Hindukush Mountains in the west (RV 10.75). This extensive country is the main area of the Harappan Civilization as well. The composition of the Rig Veda, at least its 7th mandala (Book) and the presence of the Vedic aryans, therefore, must antedate 2000 B.C.E.when the perennial river Sarasvati dried up causing extensive ruin. Archaeologically, the Harappan civilization also declined about the same time. Additionally, the archeo-anthropological findings preclude any discontinuity in the population make-up between 4500 and 800 B.C.E. in the northwestern India. The 800 B.C.E.- date is too late for the arrival of the Vedic Aryans by the universal scholarly verdict and their immigration between 6000 B.C.E. and 4500 B.C.E. has yet to be established. The Rig Veda and the Vedic Aryans must, therefore, be placed at least between 4500 and 2000 B.C.E., thus overlapping the Harappan culture in time and space.

Finally, I examine the historical implications of the confluence of the Vedic and Harappan cultures with a view to solving the riddle of their dichotomy and suggesting a new model of historical explanation. The validity of my historical reconstruction derives from the available hard evidence which effectively counters the theory of supposed evidence explicated by western methodology, especially of socio- linguistics. The methodological sophistication is no substitute for historical evidence; it does not by itself establish the truth of history. Further, a historiography based on the absence of evidence of certain elements of the Harappan matrial cultue in the Vedas and of the Vedic culture in the extant Harappan archeological record is not evidence of absence. There are other valid explanations and tenable historical interpretations consistent with the diversity and complmentarity character of the traditional Indian culture.

One wonders why this myth of the Aryan Invasion is still taken seriously by the establishment academics and their followers. The explantion lie principally in the understanding that its origins began in the orbit of colonial orientalism in the 19th century; and it is a perspective, which the present-day neo-orientalists continue to perpetuate on account of their methodological affinities and ideological agendas. What were, in fact, wrong ideas have become bad ideas, burdening historical narratives and interpretations.. Indians like others have lived with their past, while the neo-orientalist continue to live in the past ingeniously perpetuating their myths.

Constructing a Hindu Identity: Dialogue and Dissent

Aditi Banerjee

3 Ottawa Court, Naperville, IL 60563,

Hinduism is a tradition of translating the universal and eternal laws of Sanatana Dharma into the here and now. Like water that flows into the shapes of various vessels, dharma manifests and customizes itself in a multitude of traditions that appeal to the varying dispositions and needs of individuals and cultures across time and space.

In a globalizing and multicultural world, where East and West increasingly intermingle, where boundaries begin to blur, the definition of who and what we are take on new significance. What are the individual and communal aspects of our Hindu identity? The diversity of opinion around this question reflects the pluralism and diversity inherent to Hinduism. It reflects the different realities we face—an Indian living where Hindus and Muslims worship at the same shrines will have a different view from an American who is constantly questioned as to her religious beliefs and practices, as to “what” she is.

The exchange of views on this issue on IndDiaspora has informed my own conception of what it means to be Hindu. It may mean different things to different people, but the process of dialogue and debate is itself illuminating and worthwhile. The samvaad around me has led to a samvaad within me, and it is through this inner and outer dialogue, which has always been a key feature of the Hindu tradition, that we learn, understand, and continue to grow.

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