Sunday, March 04, 2012

Being Different

Being Different is a book by Rajiv Malhotra. This book is truly different - I would go so far as saying in contemporary literature, it is one of its kind.

Until now, there have been books on Hinduism or the Indic civilization written by Indian authors or Western Authors (from an Indian or a Western lens and it is not necessary that this flows from the nationality of the author). There are many books like that - written by authors across centuries. This book is one of its kind - that throws light on Western civilization from an Indic lens. About time that such a book was published - and it is amazing to think that such a book was neither conceived nor published at any point in time (that I am aware of atleast).

Also, the book avoids the familiar trap of the greatness of Indian civilization by hiding in rhetoric - and this is where Rajiv Malhotra scores - he uses hard data points to throw light on the Western civilization - the appendix is voluminous in itself for those interested in further research.

A couple of sentences and lines of thought that really made me stand and think...

One that, western civilization is rooted in history - they need a historical start date before which everything that happened is negated - whereas in Indic tradition, there is a difference between Itihaasa and Puraana and none of them can really be relegated to either history or mythology - the closest words in English as it were. And Indic traditions are comfortable with multiple versions of Itihasa - as is mostly the case - so by nature we are instinctively pluralistic.

Second, that Indic traditions believe that self realization can come from within - in the Abrahamic religions, it is usually external - by an afterlife in heaven - which results from obedience to a particular code. And which is again why mystics are part and parcel of Indic traditions and not in the others (or even if they are, they are not particularly encouraged by the hardliners).

Third, and I quote this sentence "Hindus intrinsic belief in pluralism means that many of them are blissfully unaware that their sentiments are not at all reciprocated by the Abrahamic religions, which not only reject every other deity, but also consign Hinduism to paganism and the worship of false gods".

Fourth, take the example of Satyam-Shivam-Sundaram - which is the trilogy of Truth-Good-Beauty where it is that Truth is above good and good is above beauty and each of them can exist without the other. There are many such concepts in the Indic traditions that give a fuller explanation of the cosmic connection of which we are all ultimately, but a small part of.

These are just a few teasers out of the book, but if you have any interest in Indic civilization this book is a must read.

Being Different, by Rajiv Malhotra.

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