Friday, February 20, 2009

New School Curriculum for Hinduism in the State of Virginia now propagates the Hindutva version of "New Hinduism"

Hindu Press International (HPI), on 21 January 2009 which may or may not be true (I have not been able to check it).

The School Curriculum's original description, of what a course should cover, apparently listed two “essential questions” and six items of “essential knowledge for Hinduism.”

Previously, the "essential questions" for Hinduism were:
- What are the characteristics of the Hindu religion?
- How did Hinduism influence Indian society and culture?

The first of these was changed to:
- What are the beliefs of the Hindu religion?

That, claims HPI, brings Hinduism in line with Christianity, Judaism and Islam where the term “beliefs” is used and not the "undignified and non-religious" term “characteristics.” It is interesting that HPI considers the standard for what is dignified to be Christianity, Judaism and Islam - and gives away the non-Hindu criteria that are used by the VHP and its allies.

Apparently, the points of “essential knowledge” for “Hinduism” previously read:
* Caste system in religious law based on occupations
* Belief in many forms of one major deity
* Reincarnation: Cycles of rebirth based upon karma
* Karma: Future reincarnation based on present behavior.
* Vedas and Upanishads: Sacred writings
* Spread along international trade routes.

This was revised to:
* (Caste system item deleted entirely)
* Belief in many forms of one God
* Reincarnation: Rebirth based upon karma
* Karma: Knowledge that all thoughts and actions result in future consequences.
* Vedas and Upanishads: Sacred writings
* Spread along major trade routes

According to HPI: "These changes served to separate religion from social practices (the caste system) and to correctly state the Hindu view of God, reincarnation and karma". In separating "Hindu beliefs" from "social practices", the VHP is further going down the route of using Western categories to define itself. Traditionally, we never defined ourselves by our beliefs, but only by our practices. That is why Professor (and later President of India) Radhakrishnan described "Hinduism" as a "way of life" rather than a set of beliefs. The notion of a unitary "Hinduism" is entirely a Western invention, as many scholars have demonstrated in detail elsewhere.

It is also significant that VHP types are absolutist about "the" Hindu view of God. Historically, there have been six "orthodox" views of God in India, along with the many "unorthodox" views....

The HPI story concludes: "Congratulations to all involved. This is the first time any state’s curriculum has been adjusted to reflect the Hindu point of view on our own faith.". It is indeed a sad day when one modernised view of Hinduism is allowed to trump traditional as well as more widespread views of Hindu faiths, beliefs, customs and traditions.

The physical terrorism of Hindutva outfits on the ground in India is matched by the intellectual terrorism of Hindutva outfits not only in India but also abroad.

It may be news to our deliberatly unscholarly Hindutvans, but reincarnation was not an original Hindu belief (it is not found in the Vedas, for instance, though it can be "read back" into one or two passages). In any case, the notion of reincarnation is not consistent with the rest of the Vedas which are thoroughly non-vegetarian (as are the majority of Hindus even today). Rather, the notion of reincarnation is a Jain invention. Later, a version of reincarnation was also adopted by Buddhists some of whom, as a consequence, became vegetarians (even today, there are many non-vegetarians among Buddhists). In any case, reincarnation has a proper philosophical basis solely in Jainism. It is only as Jain and Buddhist ideas influenced us that we started accepting reincarnation and vegetarianism. And it is only through Jain and Buddhist imitation of Greek iconography that idolatry spread in Hindu circles - there is no evidence of it in the Vedas.

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