[updated 2009]

Western media routinely discredits other cultures by characterizing them in terms of the worst possible elements. Such repeated characterization in Western media and academia serves to denigrate and undermine those cultures, resulting in the perception that the foreign culture is superior.

The word Hindu is characterized only by negative attributes (caste, cow worship, sati, dowry, misogyny, etc) to make Hindus look primitive and having no moral authority the world (and having nothing to contribute to the world), thereby making other countries, appear more civilized and superior.

Within the closed doors of academics people know the great contributions by Hindus in the past to mathematics (India and China were far ahead in numerous areas of advanced mathematics), medicine (a number of firsts in surgery, vaccination, etc), metallurgy (the steel and produced in India was unrivaled and was prized by many conquerors), architecture, shipbuilding (this is another area India and China were far ahead of the world, not to mention the first to produce double-hulled ships), mindbogglingly advanced in logic theory and metaphysics (acknowledged as being far more advanced, with areas not even ventured into by Greek schools), epistemology, unparalleled pluralism, rich body of classical literature far eclipsing classical western literature (with breathtaking depth in depicting, understanding and transcending the human-condition), add to that the richness in arts: music, poetry, classical dance forms, etc.

But these are rarely ever openly acknowledged or mentioned outside small academic circles. Anything that has even the potential of high visibility for Hindu civilization is actively suppressed by the media and Church-funded institutions. Only then can the USA maintains project itself as a superior culture, in order to justify its foreign policies as a global leader. It describes more of an insecurity than anything. See related articles: Expropriation.

Here’s a compilation of the biases that dominate descriptions of Hinduism in the media and classrooms in the USA, and my examination of each of these characterizations:

  1. Yoga – the denial of its Hindu roots. Yoga is practiced by more than 20 million Americans today and is a $7 billion dollar business, rapidly growing, not just within the USA, but across the globe… but when it comes to acknowledging its Hindu origins:
    • We should not under estimate the power of modern marketing. Hinduism may very well end up stripped of its roots like words like karma, dharma, avatar, mantra, tantra, etc. Indians in India might know yoga is of Hindu origin, but all around the world people will not see that (just like no one associated karma, dharma, and even meditation to Hindu origin).
    • There is a large move to dissociate yoga from Hindu and say that it existed before Hinduism and so does not belong to Hindus. The word yoga is referenced without a doubt several thousand times across all the ancient Hindu spiritual literature (dating as far back as 6,000 years), across all languages of India. Is there any other culture that has this much in their ancient literature (let alone even one occurrence of the word yoga)? the word yoga itself is in Sanskrit (a language strongly tied with Hinduism).
    • Bear in mind that as recent as the 70’s  when even “meditation” (as it is being practiced today, as a systematic methodology) was not only alien to the West, but was shunned by them say it is something practiced by “eastern mystics” or “hindoos”. I know, because I grew up in the USA in the 70’s and that is what the school books taught me. Only after it was scrubbed, sanitized,  and stripped of its “Hindoo” (like “voodoo”) origins, it was accepted into mainstream from the late 70’s on.
    • Even when yoga became a Time magazine cover-story “The Power of Yoga”, neither the word Hindu nor Hinduism was mentioned even once. On the other hand they had a small blurb where they mentioned Christian Yoga.
    • The most popular journal and website on yoga in the USA: “The Yoga Journal” has anything other than Hindu associations with Yoga. You see many more references to Christian Yoga, Buddhist Yoga, and even Islamic Yoga. You’ll have to really dig hard to find the word “Hindu”. Despite the fact that all their asanas (itself a Sanskrit word) are have Sanskrit names.
  2. Caste? Western media chooses to characterize Hinduism using caste system while it makes their culture exempt from being characterized by its own caste system.
    • For example, in the USA, politicians play the caste card with Hispanics, Blacks, the Christian right, Muslims, gays, the rich, the homeless, immigrants, privileged outer-city folks, marginalized inner-city folks.
    • Racism and discrimination, including in subtle forms, such as what is known as “white-privilege” still penetrates all ranks of American society – business, academics, politics, etc.
    • As referenced above, the caste system in the USA is hidden, no overtly spoken of. Which makes it all the more dangerous. It is much easier to deal with the problem, when you know the problem exists, not when you are in denial. This is why India has probably the biggest and most outreaching affirmative action program in the world, and has done more for its minorities than any other country. It does suffer from corruption and inefficiency, but that is an entirely different issue (and despite that it still has done more for its minorities than other nations have done for theirs).
    • One need only observe how cities in the USA are segregated (and hardly get visibility on the radar when it comes to politics). For example: take Washington D.C. – the whole of South-East D.C. is almost exclusively black population (newscasters are careful to make the distinction – inner city versus outers city kids for example).
    • For most of its two-thousand year history, Western civilization can be characterized by violence far worse then the caste system: barbaric racism, slavery, imperialism, feudalism, serfdom, torture, persecution, witch-hunts (trials, burnings, impalement of women), and genocide of entire populations in the name of race and religion. They’ve become reasonably civilized only in the last 150 years or so. In comparison, Hindu culture in its over five-thousand years history has been very benign and extremely pluralistic.
    • Many Christians do not even allow a person from another Christian sect into their church or community. Churches in many countries have separate seating areas for the “lesser people” — not to mention they are discriminated against from becoming priests.
    • Muslims have been at conflict with each other for well over a thousand years in the name of the communities they belong to (the Shia vs Sunni Muslims, persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims, etc). In contrast, in Hindu culture one can see radically different communities, each with completely different sages, methods of worship, mythologies, image of God, all going to each others temple (followers of Vishnu, Siva, Kali, Muruga, etc. for example) creating a total synergy between each other as opposed to conflict.
  3. Dowry deaths? The dowry system is still a problem in most parts of India, but it is rapidly declining due to the burgeoning middle class, where things like dowry and intercaste marriages are challenged. Still lot of work to be done, but dowry and dowry related crimes are ever more monitored and severely dealt with by the legal system and the society today than ever before. But the point here is, by the same token one could characterize Christianity in terms of the number of spouses in the USA killed over insurance fraud – which is probably statistically greater. Or the practice of honor killings, beheadings, and lapidations in Muslim countries – which not only go unpunished, but are sanctioned by the Islamic law in those countries.
  4. Cow worship? Western media (and educational material used in schools) is quick to note that Hindus consider cows as sacred. It fails to note that Hinduism is rich in symbolism, and many things are considered sacred, ranging from all living things, to rivers, hills, space, time, language, music, etc. The cow has been and continues to be vital part of ones livelihood for most of agricultural rural India (which is most of India). See: Cow Worship.
  5. Idol worship? in what way is “a dead man nailed to a cross worship” or “the cannibalistic partaking of the blood and flesh of Christ” (communion), any less an idol worship or ritualistic? The same can be said about Islam. The Muslims obsession with the Koran is such that it has pretty much been idolized – “Koran worship”, so has the word “Allah” or “Mohammad” been idolized. You’ll see this form of idolization in many Muslims homes (and even vehicles and offices). Not to mention the Muslims desire to emulate Mohammad in all ways (a form of idolatory; call it Mohammadism if you will). Islam can be also depicted as “black stone worship”, referring to the Kaaba (aka, “The Abode of Allah”) – the tens of thousands who throng there to kiss the stone, or even the fact that Muslims worship the black stone five times a day by facing that direction in their duty to prayer. The Christian/Muslim will protest that we don’t know what we are talking about, that we are maligning Jesus/Mohammad, that they are all “symbolic” and not idol worship. Precisely my point. It is interesting that Hindus have always been broadminded enough to understand the symbolism of other faiths, but for some reason other faiths don’t reciprocate that. Perhaps because fundamentalist religions are so stuck up that their faith is the true faith that they refuse to even try to look at other faiths in a positive light? This the danger of fundamentalism – the more fundamentalist you are in your beliefs, the more it stifles your thought. See Idol Worship.
  6. Sati? It shows a sort of desperation, when Western media chooses to characterize Hinduism by cherry picking something that occurs in a frequency of less than a 1 in a population of a billion (.00000001%) per year. There have been 5 documented cases (including press coverage) in 20 years (between 1987-2007) in a population of almost 1 billion. Just do the math folks. It’s only the name, sati, that was taken from the Hindu purana character Sati, who in a fit of rage immolated herself by spontaneous self-combustion (and turned into fierce goddess that wiped out the traitors). The origin of mass sati started when Hindu women immolated themselves in order to be spared from being taken as sex slaves (after the trauma of seeing their spouses and sons tortured and massacred before their eyes) by marauding Muslim invaders. If one were to follow this attitude of characterizing Hindu culture by sati, then by the same token, we should keep bringing up medieval Christian practices like burning of women at the stake (which occurred in far more frequency) to characterize Christianity today, or the lynching of Black Americans which still occurs today, just that today it is more civilized, it’s done using “authorized force” using guns and batons.
  7. Mythology? The stories in Hindu spiritual literature is not mythology, but known as itihasas (or “thus verily it came to be”). Whatever came to be, came into being, as we caused it to be (this is a very deep/existential concept). Meaning, Hindus could care less of the historical origins of it (this is why for a man in North India the birth place of the avatar Rama is in his village there, and for another guy it is in his village in South India, and there is no conflict, as itihasas don’t care about these details, but in transmitting the profound knowledge they carry). Having said that, more and more data points from the itihasas are being mapped to exact locations and time periods.

    For example, just thirty years ago Western Indologists believed the river Saraswati was a mythological river. But now with satellite imaging, remote sensing, radiocarbon dating, archeology, plate tectonics, core samples (content of oxygen, nitrogen, and other gases and minerals across the different layers), astronomical verification (of constellations recorded in the itihasas at the time of events like coronations and important birth/deaths, wars)… it is not only a established fact that Saraswati is a real river, but traces of the entire river underground has been mapped from Himalayas all the way to the ocean, including dates when it had dried up. It is interesting how “Saraswati” was consider a figment of Hindu imagination, whereas the same was not afforded to the Westerner (whether it be Jesus or the Aryan race) as figments of their imagination.

    Also, by the same yard stick, why not call the Bible as Christian mythology or the Koran as Muslim mythology? there is absolutely no proof that the people and events in these books even existed! If they quote the accounts of them in their “mythology” itself as evidence, then well by the same token Hindus can show accounts of their saints and sages in their “mythology” as evidence (with far more numerous references, just based on sheer volumes of ancient literature). Not to mention the number of times the Bible has been edited after its inception, and the number of times the Koran was edited for many years before it was made unalterable.

  8. Fundamentalists? The biggest oxymoron is the wording “Hindu fundamentalist”. Hindus are probably the most tolerant and pluralistic people you can imagine – boasting over a thousand faiths, practices, spiritual texts, and sub-cultures (20,000 by UNESCO estimate) each including their own arts, music, dance, languages, etc. If at all they are fundamentalist over anything it would be in protecting their highly pluralistic society from being destroyed by the “my way or the highway” religions (Christianity and Islam – in particular the more evangelical and fundamentalist strains of these religions). Christian and Muslim missionaries engage in spiritual terrorism by spewing hate speech and abuse on Hindu culture, practices, literature, gurus, temples, and institutions. In contrast if a Hindu as much as even raises a finger in defense, the entire Christian controlled media starts howling about “intolerance” and “Hindu fundamentalists”. Could they not instead describe the immense plurality of Hinduism where several thousand faiths live in perfect synergy (i.e. the complete freedom of expression of worshiping (approaching/addressing) God in whatever image, form, method, approach, book, sage, story, vision you like)?
  9. Christianity/Islam – religions of peace? The only “religions” of peace are those who are spiritual versus being obsessed by a book or a prophet (example of spirituality-centric faiths: all the numerous faiths co-existing under the canopy of Hindu culture, the hundreds of faiths of indigenous populations like that of the Native Americans, Aborigines, Wiccans, and religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Sufism). Christian and Islamic civilizations for most of their entire history, have been running rampant to conquer and to convert, or to decimate or enslave (in the name of their prophets) – and still continues today (via radicalized Islam and Christianity). The native population of entire continents were decimated – the Native South American population (by the Spanish and Portuguese), the Native North American population (by the British, Spanish, and French), the Aboriginal population of Australia (by the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and British), the native Hindu population of Afghanistan (by Turks, Persians, Arabs, and Mongols), the Jews of Europe (by Germans and Italians). Not to mention also the brutal colonization of South Africa, the Christian Inquisition, the persecution of the wiccans of Europe, the genocide of the pagans of Russia, black slavery, horrendous witch trials, persecution of scientists and philosophers,…
  10. Disgusting Rituals? Textbooks show how Hindus believe that bathing in the river Ganga, which is considered sacred by them, purifies them, and that they even drink the water which is dirty and filled with filth. That may be true, but do they have to accompany it by a photo of the most dirtiest portions of the Ganga? In other words, when they depict all other religions in the best possible light, shouldn’t they do the same for Hindus? Isn’t there anything else in the whole of India to show – like the millions of colorful puja rituals decked with garlands of flowers and offerings of fruits, milk, rice performed every day across thousands of beautiful temples (and within each home) as a broader and more accurate representation of Hindu “rituals”? One has to be weary of Christianity to portray Hindus as ritualistic and superstitious while conveniently excluding themselves (so that they can come out looking more “civilized” and can preach upon others). For example, let’s take the Ganga theme, they could have said:
    • “Many Hindus believe in purifying themselves by bathing in the sacred river Ganga” — provided they also have under Christianity: “Many Christians believe in the practice of baptism (dipping a person in ‘holy water’) for purification of sins”.
    • They can also add: “Many Hindus believe that dying in the Ganga will give them liberation from the cycle of life and death” — provided they also have under Christianity: “Many Christians bury their dead because they believe they will be resurrected back to life on Judgment Day”.
  11. Dirty People? Text books describe Hindus as dirty or poor people, as if they need to be “saved”. I’ll raise several points here:
    • First of all, before so sanctimoniously pointing out India is poor, realize that India is poor because of 300 years of imperialism (a euphemism for pillaging, plundering, enslaving, killing, torturing, maiming, raping… of India for 300 years). See: Indian Economy – Before and After. It’s like someone coming and robbing your house (and torturing, raping, demoralizing the inhabitants of the house for several generations), and then going back and saying “see, look how dirty that house is”, or saying, “you should be happy because even though we raped you, we ‘gave you’ cool stuff, like English”. It was not uncommon for British to refer to Hindus as brown niggers, heathens,… and lynched by the millions — see Hindu Holocaust article.
    • It is true that there are many poor people living well below the poverty line (and in dire need of assistance), but it is an wrong to refer to the bulk of Hindus as “poor people” just because they don’t fit the lavish lifestyle of the Westerner. Many Indians are content with what they have. If you are content with what you have, and you are not living under deprivation of basic civil amenities (food, water, clothing, sanitation, clean shelter, schooling, etc), you can’t call it poverty. There are many in India who are living under depraved conditions, but to characterize Hindus (in school text books) as “poor people” or as living under poverty would be wrong. I don’t think they’d appreciate being reduced into some category called “poor people” deserving pity.
    • Most (not all) of these “poor” people in India live with a certain dignity. That is, they don’t have feelings of envy or inferiority over the more affluent person. This is not the case in Christian societies, where the poor are “outcast” resulting in crime or psychological stigma of being poor. Such labeling as “poor people” introduces a sense of shame or stigma. It is an irony that indigenous cultures (that meet all basic standard of living) across the globe are show-cased for their great culture and content life, but at the same time are labeled (and stigmatized) as “backward and poor societies”.
    • To add further to the irony one should note that the idea of taking bath every day was an export from India to Europe. A basic reading of Christian history will reveal how the Church forbade daily bathing and about how the royal families took bath only a few times a year. In fact the word “shampoo” has roots in the Hindi word “champa” which refers to “head massage” (using a herbal mixture). The average Hindu would rather forfeit a day without food than go without a bath.
    • Pollution of the environment has become an endemic problem in India – and is a reflection of rapid modernization, without the proper civic infrastructure services in place. The USA went through this disastrous phase of pollution through the 70’s and 80’s, till they woke up up and started cleaning up the mess.
  12. Bhagavad Gita as violent? Again I’ll raise a few points here:
    • The Christian/Muslim’s violent interpretations of the Gita actually gives an insight into the pathology of the radical Chrsitian/Muslim mind – obsessed with war, domination, violence. People see what they have been conditioned to see by virtue of the culture they subscribe to. The Hindus view the Bhagavad Gita as an internal struggle which goes on in every day decisions in the life of any person (between what is right or wrong, action or inaction, between the ego and the self, society over individualism, etc.). The first chapter of the Gita is dedicated to the metaphor of this internal “struggle”, the remaining 17 chapters (each of which has titles starting with “The Yoga of…”, like  The Yoga of Knowledge, The Yoga of Action etc) is a grand exposition of various techniques/yogas to transcend it.
    • That is why India has spent the most part of her long and ancient history not in conquering and subjugating nations, but in assimilating many different faiths and cultures (even those that were persecuted by others found refuge in India). It is no coincidence that the concept of ahimsa (non-violence) as a political movement arose in India, as opposed to violent reforms or revolutions. In contrast Christianity and Islam have the most violent history of conquering and decimating indigenous cultures on just about every continent in the name of religion.
    • Even if one were to insist on making literalist mis-interpretations of the Gita, then in all fairness one should examine Christian and Islamic literature which is riddled with violence (in fact, so abundant that you won’t have to even search hard to find it). Such as the sanctioning or legitimizing rape, murder, genocide, torture, crucification, witch trials, slavery (of non-believers, heathens/kaffirs, and the women and children of those who have been conquered), religious justification for war, slavery, killing animals for food, etc. Such religious justification is even used today. For example, radical Christians in the USA called the invasion of Iraq as a “just war”. Radical Islam in its goal to establish dar-ul-islam (a global hegemony of Islam) by any means, including threatening the destruction or take over of nations that do not submit. Granted these are by radicals, but the voice of these radicals dominate their religions.
  13. Animal Sacrifices?
    • Again American text books cherry pick the practices of animal sacrifice (like a rooster or a goat; which they later eat by the way) which occurs among the less educated sects of society in India (and even within those sects very rarely)… and make no mention that the majority (conservatively, over 80%) of Hindus offer platters of flowers, fruits, rice, coconuts, incense etc, for their offerings to God. Could they not have shown a picture of that? That is, shouldn’t a culture be represented by the majority practice? If you go to any photo website – you’ll find plenty of such beautiful photos of idols bedecked with garlands of flowers and fruit offerings.
    • Even more so, what does that have to say of how much more barbaric and inhumane Islams practice of halal is – i.e. slitting the throat of a goat while it is still alive (you should see some videos of it) as it is required by their religion, or Christianity in the billions of animals they kill and consume, as they claim is justified by their religion.
  14. Lack Compassion? Christians are shown as great humanitarians where as Hindus are not. This is not true. Hindu ashrams continually do immeasurable humanitarian work – with zero expectations (including never proselytizing), in many areas: education, health care, disaster relief, housing, orphanages, pensions for poor women, hospices,…. But this gets zero visibility on the media (because of this media bias which this article is pointing out). In fact I’d even say Hindu organizations are much efficient in the use of the money that is donated (as a large portion of the money of Christian organizations go to administration and evangelizing). For example: the bias is so blind that Mother Teresa has always shown as serving Kolkata’s poor, while right next door to her is one of the oldest Hindu ashrams compassionately serving millions of people – and is totally ignored by media. It may be true that Christianity has a larger network and tremendously more funding, but this has to be put in context:
    • Hindus were incapacitated under brutal European Imperialism for 300 years (of which 200 years under even more brutal British Imperialism), and it’s going to take a lot more than just 50 years of independence to recover (despite which, India has made tremendous recovery in just the last 10 years).
    • The Church has about 1,400 years of accumulation of conquered wealth, that are now reinvested generating a continuous stream of revenue.
    • Christianity derives much of its billions of dollars in revenue from much of the conquered land in the world from colonial era. For example, little do people know that over 30% of the non-governmental land in India is owned by the less than 5% Christian population – as a carry over from colonialism and through external church funding.
    • Christianity has a powerful business network churning out billions of dollars. For example, there is a powerful nexus in the USA between hospitals and churches. Every major hospital in the USA is Christian owned. They charge exorbitant amounts (essentially responsible for making healthcare unaffordable in the USA, being the “compassionate christians” they are), to build more churches, get more church members, more donations, build more hospitals, and so on completing the circle.

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2 thoughts on “Discreditation

  1. Dear Sir,Your feelings are true. I don’t object. But rather than the ignorance of hinduism by the western world, I am much worried and feel angry on the ignorance on Tamil language, dravidian contribution to science and literature within India. Always the Tamil contributions are ignored and not even mentioned. Even the contribution of Tamils to Hinduism is large than sanksrit (but I am not having strong enough points to argue this but I can prove it to you shortly).Probably as you born and brought up in US, your mind focused on this. But for me, the major thing we should first make the Arrogant aryans to accept Tamil and Dravidian scientific contribution.For instance, in your article you said hindus are more tolerant. Rather than that I will say Tamils are more tolerant. Here anybody can speak abuse of hindus and spirtuals. But this is absolutely impossible in North India. They are highly intolerant. There are many more examples from the post independence periods. But if you watched during all those times, South India especially Tamilnadu had been peaceful without any such major communal violence.My views doesn’t mean that I was not in support of your article. My view is anything about India and Hinduism without proper including contribution of Tamils is half baked. I can show you many instances. Even here in Oncophyta, I found an INSA publication entitled, ‘Indian contribution to Science’. In this they said only about aryan contributions even about muslim rulers but not even a word about Tamils.So from my point of view first make the intolerant, arrogant Aryans to accept the contribution of Tamils. Later we can move to western people to popularize and to realize the hinduism.But one fact is sure it is billion times tougher and difficult to achieve my target rather than yours.Note: At present I am not able to present you more evidences for my views. Anyhow shortly I will present you the data and reality.

  2. Velmurugan,
    Thanks for your comment. I agree with you regarding the tremendous (and largely understated) contribution of Tamil spiritual traditions to Hinduism. But in my article, I’m talking about Hindus in general (including Tamils!). Also, you make it seem like Tamils are not Hindus. See posting: http://kaveri.org/wp/2003/04/the-aryan-dravidian-divide/.

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