Rajiv Malhotra

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A classical concept in Hinduism has been that a true proposition has to be consistent with sruti, yukti (reason/logic) and anubhava.

Rajiv Malhotra (born 15 September 1950) is an Indian-American author and Hindu activist who, after a career in the computer and telecom industries, took early retirement in 1995 to found The Infinity Foundation. Through this organization Malhotra has promoted philanthropic and educational activities in the area of Hinduism studies.


  • India is more than a nation state. It is also a unique civilization with philosophies and cosmologies that are markedly distinct from the dominant culture of our times – the West. India’s spiritual traditions spring from dharma which has no exact equivalent in western frameworks. Unfortunately, in the rush to celebrate the growing popularity of India on the world stage, its civilizational matrix is being digested into western universalism, thereby diluting its distinctiveness and potential.
    • Rajiv Malhotra. Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism, 2011. Synopsis

Indra's Net (2014)[edit]

  • A classical concept in Hinduism has been that a true proposition has to be consistent with sruti, yukti (reason/logic) and anubhava.
  • [Indra's Net is a metaphor for] the profound cosmology and outlook that permeates Hinduism. Indra's Net symbolizes the universe as a web of connections and interdependences [...] I seek to revive it as the foundation for Vedic cosmology and show how it went on to become the central principle of Buddhism, and from there spread into mainstream Western discourse across several disciplines.
  • For example, Cambridge University established a prize named for an essay competition on the topic: 'The best means of civilizing the subjects of the British Empire in India, and of diffusing the light of the Christian religion throughout the eastern world.'
  • ...acting on Hacker's wishes, the editor of his collected works excluded the author's polemical Christian writings from the compilation. ... Many such polemical writings also appeared in fringe religious pamphlets and propaganda literature which are unknown to most scholars.... Hacker's suppression of this material compromised his integrity as an objective scholar, as it misled readers into thinking his writings on Hinduism were objective evaluations when in fact they were, in Andrew Nicholson's words, the work of a 'Christian polemicist'. In his posthumously published wrigings, Hacker is as explicit in his support for Christianity as he is in his attack on contemporary Hinduism.
  • The modern academics find it politically incorrect to criticize the devastation under Islamic rule, even though post-colonial scholars have amply exposed the ruin created by the British.
  • In the Mahabharata, the ceremony for the oath of a new king includes the admonition: 'Be like a garland-maker, O king, and not like a charcoal burner.' The garland symbolizes social coherence; it is a metaphor for dharmic diversity in which flowers of many colors and forms are strung harmoniously for the most pleasing effect. In contrast, the charcoal burner is a metaphor for the brute-force reduction of diversity into homogeneity, where diverse living substances are transformed into uniformly lifeless ashes.

The Battle for Sanskrit (2016)[edit]

  • There is a new awakening in India that is challenging the ongoing westernization of the discourse about India and the intellectual machinery that produces it.
  • One of his [Pollock's] goals is to critique and expunge what he sees as deeply entrenched static social hierarchies, barbarisms and poisons. I do not see anything inherently wrong with this intention by itself; most Hindus welcome improvements and the evolution of their culture. The issue worth debating is that Pollock sees these ills as deeply rooted in the Vedas themselves and as requiring the abandonment of core metaphysical and sacred perspectives.
  • I am not alone in making this point. At least one European Indologist accuses Pollock of relocating Orientalism 'to the "New Raj" across the deep blue sea'.[1]
  • He [Grünendahl] says Pollock's narrative 'is not an evidence-based study of Orientalism or Indology in Germany, but a sophisticated charge of anti-Semitism based largely on trumped-up "evidence".... Pollock's post-Orientalist messianism would have us believe that only late twentieth-century (and now twenty-first century) America is intellectually equipped to reject and finally overcome [‘Eurocentrism’...] The path from the 'Deep Orientalism' of old to a new 'Indology beyond the Raj and Auschwitz' leads to the 'New Raj' across the deep blue sea.
  • Wilhelm Halbfass, the late Indologist at the University of Pennsylvania, took such ridiculous statements into strange, speculative areas and wrote: Would it not be equally permissible to identify this underlying structure as 'deep Nazism' or 'deep Mimamsa'? And what will prevent us from calling Kumarila and William Jones 'deep Nazis' and Adolf Hitler a 'deep Mimamsaka'?
  • Thus, Grünendahl has noted Pollock's tendency to develop broad narratives without any supporting evidence. Moreover, he draws attention to Pollock's messianism in promoting American scholarship.... , casting doubt on Pollock's attempt to analyse Sanskrit objectively. He raises the pertinent question as to whether Pollock is providing the intellectual foundations for America's 'New Raj', to replace the dead British Raj - i.e., whether American imperialism is replacing the dead British imperialism.
  • It is important for Pollock that Muslims not be blamed for the decline of Sanskrit. He writes that any theory 'can be dismissed at once' if it 'traces the decline of Sanskrit culture to the coming of Muslim power'... Trying to prove the timing of Sanskrit's decline prior to the Turkish invasions enables him to absolve these invasions of any blame... I get the impression that Pollock does not want to dwell on whether Muslim invasions had debilitated the Hindu political and intellectual institutions in the first place... Throughout Pollock's analysis, hardly any Muslim ruler gets blamed for the destruction of Indian culture. He simply avoids discussing the issue of Muslim invasions and their destructive influence on Hindu institutions... The impact of various invasions in Kashmir was so enormous that it cannot be ignored in any historical analysis... The contradiction between his two accounts, published separately, is serious: Muslim invasions created a traumatic enough shockwave to cause Hindu kings to mobilize the 'cult of Rama' and therefore the Hindus funded the production of extensive Ramayana texts for this agenda. And yet, the death of Sanskrit taking place at the same time had little relation to the arrival of Muslims. When Hindus are to be blamed for their alleged hatred towards Muslims, the Muslims are shown to have an important presence; but when Muslims are to be protected from being assigned any responsibility for destruction, they are mysteriously made to disappear from the scene.
  • He sidesteps the rise in the funding of Persian and Arabic by the secular Indian government and by foreign sponsors, and the concurrent dramatic decline in Sanskrit funding. He does not expose the downsizing and dismantling of the institutions , both formal and informal, on which Sanskrit and sanskriti have traditionally thrived. Pollock is careful not to implicate the non-Hindu forces that have wreaked havoc against Sanskrit.
  • For Pollock, the fact that [...] have written about Ayodhya, Mount Meru, Ganga, etc., in multiple locations is dumbfounding and irrational..... I propose a different interpretation of the same data. As per our tradition, the conceptual space of Hindus can be replicated and localized easily. The Hindu metaphysics of immanence leads to the decentralization of sacred geography.... This is why people in south India substitute their local rivers for Ganga for ritualist purposes; there is a town called Ayodhya in Thailand; the cognitive landscape of people in Java started to include Mount Meru as a local place, and so on.
  • It seems obvious that Pollock is committed to the Marxist theory linking literary works and political power. He wants to deploy it as his lens for analysing how the aesthetic use of languages in India became interwoven into the fabric of politics. At a deeper level, beyond the aesthetic and political usage of Sanskrit, he finds that old Marxist demon: theology. For him, as for most Marxist-oriented scholars, all forms of spirituality/transcendence are, in effect, irrational, deformed and mystified ways of thinking....
  • Many similar views were also expressed in the Sanskrit Commission Report written under the Nehru government in the 1950s. That report declares: "The State in ancient India, it must be specially pointed out, freely patronised education establishments, but left them to develop on their own lines, without any interference or control. It says that until the British disruption, the salient features of our traditional education included: 'oral instruction, insistence on moral discipline and character-building, freedom in the matter of the courses of study, absence of extraneous control...' ... We can never insist too strongly on this signal fact that Sanskrit has been the Great Unifying Force of India, and that India with its nearly 400 millions of people is One Country, and not half a dozen or more countries, only because of Sanskrit.'
  • He then goes a step further and briefly imposes a Freudian reading on the text, a reading outdated and crude even in the current Western context of cultural criticism. He says the depiction of 'the other' in Ramayana can be understood as a projection of the unfulfilled sexual desires of traditional Indians. .... The motive of applying a totally alien framework, viz., the Freudian one, to a traditional Hindu text is something that is questionable.
  • If a scholar were to refute the very existence of Allah..... it would be called Islamophobia. .... An analogous situation exists in the way an attiutde gets classified as anti-Semitic. Hindus should be alarmed by the existence of a double standard in Western academics, because the same sensitivity and adhikara to speak for our tradition is not granted to Hindus. ..... We need to define a level playing field for characterizing a work as Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Hinduphobia, etc.
  • Although he sees this process as politically driven, Pollock does acknowledge there were no conquering Sanskrit legions that caused Sanskritization, unlike the coercive Romanization which followed Roman military legions. Nor was there a central church-like religious institution and hence no evangelism that could have Sanskritized through religious conversion. He admits that the notion of the Sanskrit cosmopolis does not fit the Western notion of an empire.
  • I wish to also point out that Dr Ambedkar, the pioneering Dalit leader, had worked zealously to promote Sanskrit. A dispatch of the Press Trust of India dated 10 September 1949 states that he was among those who sponsored an amendment making Sanskrit, instead of Hindi, the official language of the Indian Union.
  • I do not contest that this top-down instrumental use for pure politics was being made to some degree; but to reduce the entire process of cultural evolution to a matter of politics betrays a profound misunderstanding. This view disregards the intrinsic appeal of the Sanskrit tradition, including for non-elites, and the various roles it played in the cultures it touched. In particular, to dismiss the entire symbolic discourse of Sanskrit as 'mystifying' is to apply a reductive Marxism that cannot account for sacredness in the lives of people.


  1. Reference is to Gruenendahl 2012

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