Wendy Doniger and Interpretation of Hindu Mythology

Kṛṣṇa in the Mahābhārata

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[Part 1 | Part II]

 [Digest is still being compiled and edited, Introduction to be written – Sunthar]

This extended debate pits traditionalist Hindus against American Indologists—with various shades of opinion in-between—around the work and personality of Prof. Wendy Doniger at the University of Chicago. [Do let me know if your views have been inadvertently omitted or distorted: this is an evolving archive!] It was sparked off by Sunthar Visuvalingam’s follow-up observations, in the light of George W. Bush’s State of the Union address in 2001, on David Loy’s Buddhist appeal, just after 9/11, for a pacific approach to the problem of terrorism. Mukur K. Khisha‘s citation of Krishna’s advocacy in the Bhagavad Gîtâ of the resort to military force as a rallying banner for both Hindus and Americans in the face of Islamist terror, then provided Sunthar the occasion to exercise some creativity in re-stoking and contextualizing the still simmering controversy provoked by Wendy’s assessment of the Krishna’s ‘genocidal’ role in the Mahâbhârata. [Intro to be completed – SV]



Index of threads

Re: A petition for peace...the role of the Internet 2

Lord Krishna’s “messianic” crusade against evil....towards a Hindu perspective on violence. 3

Re: Lord Krishna’s “messianic” crusade against evil....towards a Hindu perspective on violence. 5

Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...more on Gita and terrorism.. 6

RE: Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...more on Gita and terrorism.. 9

Re: Thanks for the Word files of your Meditations on the Rigveda! 9

FW: Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...more on Gita and terrorism (= ‘contextual dharma’) 10

FW: Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...more on Gita and terrorism (= ‘contextual dharma’) 11

Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...more on Gita and terrorism (= ‘contextual dharma’) 11

Re: [Abhinavagupta] Wendy Doniger and Hindu mythology! 13

Re: Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology... 15

RE: Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...let’s continue this discussion at Abhinavagupta  17

Vrata. 18

Why is there no Greek equivalent to the notion of dharma? maybe, because there were no brahmins to impose it on Greece... 18

Participate in Doniger interview. 22

RE: Wendy Doniger and Hindu mythology! 23

Studying others (by Frank Burch Brown) - American Indology revisited (by Michael Witzel) 28

RE: Wendy Doniger and Hindu mythology! 29

RE: Wendy Doniger and Hindu mythology! 31

RE: Wendy Doniger and Hindu mythology! 31

Report on DANAM. 32

Re: Report on DANAM. 35

Doniger’s PR team at work! 38

Please include a link to “Wendy Doniger and Interpretation of Hindu Mythology” at svAbhinava. 39

Re: Please include a link to "Wendy Doniger and Interpretation of Hindu Mythology" at svAbhinava  40

RE: Please include a link to "Wendy Doniger and Interpretation of Hindu Mythology" at svAbhinava  40




Related threads at svAbhinava:


Rajiv Malhotra - What is the ‘political’ agenda behind American studies of South Asian Tantra?


Sitansu Sekhar Chakravarti - Consequentialism and the Gîtâ - a Response  to Amartya Sen


Gautam Sen - Academic researchers versus Hindu civilization

Hermeneutics of Ganesha: Psychoanalysis, Hindu Wisdom and Transgressive Sacrality (dialogue)



[Mukur is responding below to David Loy’s Petition for Peace and Frank B. Brown’s own thoughts on 9/11]


 Re: A petition for peace...the role of the Internet

From: Mukur K. Khisha

Sent: Friday, September 21, 2001 9:59 PM [Abhinava msg #1904 – order of thread reversed]

To: Sunthar Visuvalingam


Dear Sunthar,

Thanks for endorsing copy of the mail to me. Though I am a practicing Buddhist, personally I have my reservations about submitting to terrorism which is a universal scourge. There can be no compromise with manifest evils. Appeasement of the Munich type can only whet the appetite of evil-doers. I tend to believe in the words of Krishna in the Gita:

“Whenever there is decay of righteousness

and there is resurgence of  unrighteousness,

I incarnate myself.

For the protection of the righteous, to destroy the evil-doers,

And to re-establish the order of Dharma,

I am born and reborn

Epoch after epoch (again and again.)”




Warm regards to you & Elizabeth,



 Lord Krishna’s “messianic” crusade against evil....towards a Hindu perspective on violence

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

SentWednesday, September 26, 2001 3:13 PM

To: Mukur K. Khisha

Dear Mukur,

Your citation from the Bhagavad Gita strikes a deep personal chord: it was through listening to Lord Krishna’s sermons through the mouth of eloquent preachers from India that this teenager in Kuala Lumpur (KL) became a self-conscious “Hindu” (of sorts...). I too have my reservations about pacifism, and one could persuasively argue that Gandhi’s tactics of passive resistance worked in India only because he was dealing with the English (as opposed to the Dutch, Nazis, or Ben Laden). Also, the fact that we are a nation of individualists probably makes it all the more incumbent that we rally, vocally, in a show of unity against this serious threat to the roots of our diversity (judging by subsequent reports in the press, I probably reacted hastily without having really listened to the whole of Bush’s speech to Congress...). Only when this has been made abundantly clear to ourselves and to others abroad, can we afford the luxury of more complex—and fruitful—analyses of the forces arrayed against each other:

Krishna’s admonishment to fight must be replaced in the context of the titanic struggle of the Mahâbhârata war that pits the white Pândavas against the evil Kauravas—had the model king, Arjuna, laid down his arms, the whole world would have suffered oppression. However, a more careful reading of our national epic offers a much deeper insight into the intricacies (and pitfalls...) of “righteousness” (dharma). Despite their superior wisdom and ardent desire for peace, the 2 most venerable and upright leaders, Bhishma and Drona, have deliberately ranged themselves on the side of the Kauravas. There’s no one better versed in Dharma than Bhishma, for Krishna orders the future righteous king to learn its secrets from the generalissimo dying slowly on the battlefield. Even more baffling, at first sight, is that Krishna’s own elite troops (the Yâdavas) are arrayed—with deadly effect—on the opposite side against the smaller forces of his own protégé Arjuna. You might recall that Krishna had offered Arjuna the choice between his army and his own person, and he chose the latter as a mere charioteer, i.e., a committed non-combatant (even when under extreme provocation, at times, to hurl his lethal discus against Bhishma and others...). After the universal carnage, when the few remnants are searching for survivors among the mangled bodies, a horrifying loud laughter is heard which is clearly that of the trickster God. Did Lord Krishna intend to re-establish Dharma by eliminating the war-mongers on both sides through a fratricidal conflict? After all, he previously incarnated as Parashurama with the explicit and successful intention of ridding the world of military men (kSatriyas)!

It is this incapacity to understand (much less appreciate...) the subtleties of Hindu thought that has led Indologists, like Wendy Doniger (and, before her, the Buddhist Marxist, D.D. Kosambi), to denounce Krishna before American students (much to the outrage of Hindu members of the Liverpool Indology mailing list). When I took my Australian brother-in-law so long ago in KL to see the Tamil film, Karna, that celebrates the loyalty, chivalry and generosity of this (3rd) Kaurava general, he emerged from the cinema calling Krishna a “fink” for having so cruelly and treacherously machinated the death of this undisputed hero.  Yes, it’s difficult for a child of Abraham (much less for a Buddhist...), to understand how even illiterate Tamils in Malaysia could hero-worship Karna all the while acknowledging the superior wisdom and divinity of Krishna! Islam may well disallow suicide (e.g., a suicide bomber who inadvertently escaped death during a successful sabotage operation refused to kill himself because it was no longer necessary), but Krishna lay down willingly so that an unwitting hunter might pierce his heel with an arrow, his manner of atoning for his inevitable sins.






 Re: Lord Krishna’s “messianic” crusade against evil....towards a Hindu perspective on violence

From: Frank Burch Brown

Sent: Wednesday, September 26, 2001 11:55 PM

To: Sunthar Visuvalingam



As I’ve just been reading and studying the Gita with my students in World Religions, and as questions of violence and non-violence have naturally arisen, we’ve tried to take multiple perspectives into account.   I’m less familiar with the whole epic context of the Gita, however, and your comments are helpful.  The Gita remains one of my favorite religious texts, but certainly not because its many internal tensions can easily be resolved!   But neither can the tensions easily be resolved within any other religious text that matters centrally to me, I must say.  That is part of their ongoing power, I think. 

I’m sorry that Wendy Doniger indulged in oversimplification, as you’ve previously reported.  She’s not known as a philosopher of religion, of course.  But she is indeed celebrated as a translator and interpreter of Indian traditions (as you know very well), so her insensitivity at this point is puzzling and embarrassing. 

Does this odd outburst of cross-cultural judgment from such a scholar come from that side of our academic life that often tolerates/encourages sweeping generalizations and blanket condemnations when launched from a feminist or Marxist perspective while insisting on infinite (over) refinements of analysis in so many other ways?  I’m in great sympathy with many feminist critiques, and indeed with certain Marxist critiques as well, and certainly I’ve seen sharp criticisms launched against biblical ideologies from all sorts of standpoints.  But it sounds as though this one was ill-judged and inappropriate.  I wish I could see at least the text of her remarks, if there is such a text available.

I plan to be out of town for a few days now.


Take care--





Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...more on Gita and terrorism

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

Sent: Wednesday, November 07, 2001 3:19 PM

To: Frank Burch Brown

Cc: Alf Hiltebeitel; Elizabeth Visuvalingam; Mukur K. Khisha; Rajiv Malhotra

Dear Frank,

Wendy Doniger has been sharply criticized on various counts even by her American colleagues. When I met in Paris long ago with an appreciative Paul Ricoeur to discuss my hermeneutics of humor and the clown (thesis abstract and the original transgressive sacrality paper), he visibly shook his head and frowned (but stopped just short of making derogatory remarks) on the (mis-)appropriation of his theological reflections in her Origins of Evil. Similarly, the Vedicist Michael Witzel has lambasted her for her deficiency in Sanskrit, (mis-) translations and poor scholarship, so much so that she once asked us with a hurt expression: “why does Witzel hate me so much?” Madeleine Biardeau, the papess of French Indology, had only scorn for Wendy and the latter’s supposed ‘structuralism’ (until she hurt herself physically in the US and got to experience Wendy’s kindness at first hand). When Wendy learnt we had just visited Dumézil in Paris, she was genuinely surprised that we’d want to have anything to do with that “nasty old” man—I don’t recall the details of their bruising encounter, but it wouldn’t be difficult to guess... A trained psychoanalyst could just as easily default her “wild analysis” of Hindu myth. When in 1990, I took the ever so meek and self-effacing Indian scholar of Kashmir Shaivism, Navajivan Rastogi, to listen to Wendy speaking to a packed audience at Harvard, I was unable to restrain him from springing to his feet to challenge her ‘methodology’...

When first exposed to what perhaps still remains her classic, viz. Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Shiva, I was both fascinated and horrified. It was only after my discovery of tantricism, Abhinavagupta and (through Elizabeth) the ‘anthropology’ of Bhairava, that I recognized it to be a treasure of Hindu motifs of transgressive sacrality. Notwithstanding the dubious and distorting veneer of eclectic theorizing that she feels obliged to slap on, Wendy’s real forte is an intuitive ‘free-association’, which, I believe, is how most ‘uninitiated’ Hindus, both illiterate and learned, actually assimilate and elaborate their symbolic universe. Our own hermeneutics of the Indian symbolic universe has sometimes been perceived in like manner by scholars—both negatively (Rahul Peter Das) and positively (Heinrich von Stietencron, who did the original analysis of the Bhairava’s decapitation myth)—who have been unable or unwilling to grapple with its (otherwise quite explicit) presuppositions. Not only did Elizabeth send Wendy our constructive critique of her decipherment of the Bhairava cycle, but I also proposed her name as one of the SUNY Press pre-publication reviewers for my thesis. It speaks to her humility that she thought it appropriate to pass on the manuscript to someone she felt would be more competent (viz., Lee Siegel, who was then working on his Laughing Matters: India’s Comic Tradition). We were also rather touched when she ran out of her house after us in the biting Chicago winter of 1985 to return the money we had just paid her for her new book.

It seems to me that her very exposure to (and excitement about!) so many mutually incompatible models of interpretation actually has the paradoxical effect of creating, at least on some occasions, the space for a more balanced judgment. At a frankly feminist cross-cultural panel, at the 1991 AAR at Kansas City, a young scholar known to us from Harvard delivered a very interesting talk, based on indigenous manuscripts, on the sexual initiation of male disciples by female gurus in the Buddhist tantric tradition. This was, however, packaged into a ‘political’ claim that such innate wisdom originally belonged to women and had been somehow usurped by ‘patriarchal’ men. With all due praise, I stood up from the audience to object that in the corresponding Hindu esoteric traditions it was clear that male gurus often chose women to initiate their own male disciples because they were physiologically more adapted to certain modes of transmission. To approach this phenomenon primarily through the male versus female optic was to skew the more valuable human insights to be gained (and all the more inexcusable as Elizabeth had given her the draft of “Union and Unity in Hindu Tantrism” at Harvard...). Wendy, as the official respondent, then publicly and explicitly endorsed my observations—not something we’d expect of an “ideological” feminist! So much so that I subsequently received a nasty personal letter from the scholar-friend for having praised her in private to her husband while criticizing her in public...apparently what was at stake was not feminism but careerism!

Actually, the Mahabharata itself denounces Krishna (I need to reread the details of the passage): when a great sage (Uttanka), who was away on pilgrimage (or the like) during this Hindu Armageddon, returns to discover too late what his Lord had “engineered” he prepares to unleash his fury through a potent curse. Krishna is actually inwardly so pleased at the latter’s principled stand that he subsequently sends the king of the gods to offer the sage water while he is wandering in extreme thirst in the desert. The pure brahmin refuses what was, in fact, the freely offered elixir of life simply because Indra had disguised himself as a filthy untouchable (with urine dripping around the flask?). You can see the consequences of this refusal today in the million untouchable would-be converts to Buddhism (to the great discomfort of the Dalai Lama...).

The value of the Mahâbhârata is that it offers so many conflicting perspectives on “righteousness” (dharma) even while positing, implicitly or explicitly, that Krishna’s conduct, even when seemingly reprehensible or incomprehensible, is ultimately divine (e.g., I’m not sure that an Indian holocaust would have resulted in a theological impasse comparable to what devout Jews have had to deal with...). For most Hindus, Krishna’s actions (including his youthful dalliances with the cowherdesses) are to be understood and contemplated rather than embraced as a model for imitation. Even otherwise, the net result is that even the Hindu villager has (had?) a highly developed sense for moral complexities that resists attempts to paint human situations simply in terms of good versus evil (despite the seeming contrary message of the Râmâyana...), even though he may be quick to pursue and vindicate his own self-interest. (Sri Aurobindo, for example, makes a similar argument for the ingrained aesthetic sense of the Indian in “The National Value of Art.”) How else to explain the survival over the millennia of so diverse a civilization, encompassing the polyvalence of a myriad communities in perpetual flux?

So the issue, as I see it, is not whether Wendy has misunderstood or even caricatured Krishna, but whether she would acknowledge a more insightful interpretation when presented with one in a collegial and friendly manner. And reading between the lines of my original missive [above], Hindus may be likewise forgiven for having sworn, till now, by the simplified Song of God—complex enough as it already is—instead of replacing it within the more grisly, problematic, and paralyzingly ambivalent context of the Mahâbhârata. The sustained attempt, in Rajiv Malhotra’s regular column, to apply the Gita to the current “war on terrorism”, is already facing questions (well worth reading...) of such “epic” proportions from his (over-?) literate Hindu diaspora readership. Rajiv, now a full-time philanthropist, has been working with various educational institutions to rectify and enhance the portrayal of Hinduism to American audiences—your students might find his piece thought-provoking and even worth a fresh discussion.

As always,



 RE: Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...more on Gita and terrorism

From: Alf Hiltebeitel

SentWednesday, November 07, 2001 4:59 PM

To:  Sunthar Visuvalingam [Abhinava msg #1904 – order of thread reversed] 

Dear Sunthar,

An interesting appreciation of Wendy. Good to see you speaking out for unexpected rewards of listening, complexity, and kindness. All good things indeed.



 Re: Thanks for the Word files of your Meditations on the Rigveda!

From: Antonio de Nicolás 

SentThursday, September 25, 2003 3:54 PM

To: Sunthar Visuvalingam

Dear Sunthar, 

I am glad you got Meditations. The format varies and the adaptation to it has added a few spelling mistakes. You are welcome.

I did receive the magazines and gave Pedro permission to publish my articles. 

Your article on transgression is very good and much needed. I have been considering certain aspects of it for a long time. The Ethics of transgression: the Western mind will not understand these ethics unless you link them to the reality of dharma, the dhr that holds together the moment and the choices of the moment. There are no a priori laws in dharma

 And second to the fact that ethics in dharma is the ability to choose from among the present various options the best, always, by habit...This is the Indic tradition. It cannot be compared to the Western Ethics where decisions are based on “veridical”, universal laws with the affirmations of the left brain and where there is no need to develop frontal lobes, essential to decisions in complex situations. Keep up the good work and let me know when the book is out. 




 FW: Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...more on Gita and terrorism (= ‘contextual dharma’)

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam 

Sent: Friday, September 26, 2003 9:22 AM

To: Antonio de Nicholas

Dear Antonio,

 With regard to the ‘situational’ or ‘contextual’ understanding of Dharma in traditional India, you may find the following exchange of relevance. I intend to forward it, perhaps with some additional developments, to the Abhinava forum next month. There was also a lucid confrontation of Western and Hindu ethics presented at the Indic Colloquium (I’m puzzled as to why you did not participate...) by an Australian scholar.

Alf had chaired the transgressive sacrality conference at Madison in 1986 on our behalf, and Wendy had participated in the same...

More in due course!



 Re: Lord GaNeZa caught red-handed in Hugh Heffner’s Chicago penthouse - online petition to revoke his green card?

From: Laurie Patton

Sent: Saturday, November 01, 2003 6:57 PM

To: Sunthar Visuvalingam



I must say you make a strong case for the open interpretation of Ganesh as including sexual content—which is what Paul’s book was also doing.  I agree with your interpretation wholeheartedly, and loved its sense of humor!

I am puzzled as to why you persist in assuming some kind of “school” of Wendy’s “Orientalists”—there’s just no evidence for it, and if anything, you yourself make the case stronger than any other folks do for some intriguing perspectives on sexuality and the family.    Were you being facetious in your message?   

PS there are at least 20 death threats in that petition.  It’s now a document of hate.

Laurie L. Patton

Professor of Early Indian Religions

Winship Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities and Chair,

Department of Religion



FW: Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...more on Gita and terrorism (= ‘contextual dharma’)

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

Sent: Saturday, November 01, 2003 7:37 PM

To: Laurie Patton


Thanks for responding to my reflections on the GaNeza controversy that I hope to get back to in due course, rather than with a couple of hasty generalizations that might easily be misinterpreted in one direction or the other. I was being (more than just) ‘facetious’ because I felt that some sympathetic (as opposed to merely derisive) humor might nudge everyone towards looking at the issues in other ways that might help defuse both the mounting hatred and the fear, provide a breathing space at least.

Believe me, I am not at all happy with what’s happening......on either side!  


P.S. I’ve appended a thread regarding Wendy—again, forced out of me by circumstances—your comments would be appreciated...  [the ‘appended’ thread is the preceding one all the way up to Mukur’s original post – SV]


 Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...more on Gita and terrorism (= ‘contextual dharma’)

From:  Sunthar Visuvalingam

Date:  Fri Jun 4, 2004; 2:30 pm

The present article is in response to recent writings by Rajiv Malhotra on RISA-L scholarship and Hinduism that appeared in Sulekha. It has been written in my capacity as a Hindu living in the diaspora as well as a member (albeit marginalized!) of RISA-L and is addressed to the readers and members of Sulekha as well as those Indians and other scholars, researchers and sympathizers of Hinduism who work with, alongside, and for disciplines that may come under the rubric of Hindu studies as part of the larger discipline of Indology. More particularly, it seeks to initiate a dialogue with the growing number of Hindus in the diaspora whose professional field of research is not Hinduism or Hindu Studies but who nevertheless have received training in the western academic setting and are familiar with disciplinary methodologies of humanities and social sciences. [...] Ideally, negotiations would involve the following sequence: recognize the truthful and untruthful elements in each side; put the truthful elements from each side together; form a new side and adopt it while struggling with your opponent; continue revising and refining the new position as the negotiations or fight continues; end the struggle only when both sides agree to occupy the same side. Satyâgraha would involve creation of small groups of dedicated Hindu scholars to study and document instances of misrepresentation of Hindu values, practices, norms, etc. Other groups will be needed to intensify and coordinate such activities as letter writing, writing petitions and getting signatures and establishing dialogue with the teaching faculties at the scholarly and university levels. [...] According to the ideals of Gandhian satyâgraha, if the above steps fail, then launching of non-cooperation movement will be necessary, which would include boycott, strike, peaceful disruption, blockade, and sit-in. If these steps fail to produce a settlement (i.e. fair and accurate representation of Hinduism and Hindus), then creation of a parallel entity to replace the opponent’s facilities would be necessary. In the North American context, this would mean setting up of independent Hindu schools and universities....

Prof. Shrinivas Tilak, Taking Back Hindu Studies (Sulekha, 6 Jan 2004)


I suggest we meet informally in the near future to discuss the feasibility of such an endeavour. We could also analyze on that occasion the “tool box” methodology advocated by Professor Wendy Doniger in her various studies of Hinduism. Her 1980 article ‘Inside and outside the Mouth of God: The Boundary Between Myth and Reality” in Daedalus Vol 109, no 2 (Spring): 93-125 would be a good starting point. “Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty in Retrospect” by Kees Bolle (Religious Studies Review Vol 10, no 1 (Jan 1984): 20-26 provides a balanced critique of her methodology. I would recommend it to anyone who is new to her writings. “Gender and Religion” is another area where current interpretations need to be energetically contested. While Indologists are keen and eager to contribute, finance and/or promote works such as “Women and the Hindu Right” (edited by Tanika Sarkar and Urvashi Butalia; 1996 reprint), I am not quite sure if they will accept a proposal by an undergraduate student to write a term paper on a topic such as “The Marxist and Feminist Distortions of Hindu Family Values.”

Shrinivas Tilak, Critique of Indology (Open RISA, 2nd June 2004)

Dear Prof. Tilak,

I read your above Sulekha article, as soon as it appeared, with much appreciation for your portrayal of the ‘Hindu dilemma’—for the (mis-) representation of (the complexity of) Indian traditions and sensibility (that often cuts across religious divides...) has preoccupied me ever since the ‘culture shock’ of moving to India to study at the Sanskrit and Benares Hindu Universities. Thank you for having penned your thoughts.

I would be grateful if you could share with us, even if only from memory, a concise conceptual summary of Wendy’s ‘methodology’ as delineated in her and Bolle’s articles. I am particularly interested in issues and dimensions that might contradict or have been left out of my own assessment [above]. Readers should bear in mind that the [above] thread dates back to 9/11 (01), before I launched the Abhinavagupta forum, and that my appraisal of Wendy was then based on readings, impressions, discussions with mutual colleagues, etc., dating back to more than a decade...

Best wishes,


P.S. The several participants of this electronic dialogue (samvâda) will surely agree that their considered thoughts are of great public interest!

[rest of this thread at Sunthar V. (3rd June 04),


Dialogue (samvâda) in Hindu, Muslim and American traditions - Funding behind Colloquium on Indic Traditions


 Re: [Abhinavagupta] Wendy Doniger and Hindu mythology!

From:  Raja Mylvaganam

Date:  Fri Jun 4, 2004; 3:56 pm

To: [Abhinava msg #1905]

If Freud befuddled many of us by equating the Oedipus myth (slaying the father to marry the mother) with everyman and woman what are we to make of this determination of Hindu men to ‘slay’ the Mother (Wendy Doniger). The former myth, it has been successfully argued, was a misapplication of a kingship ritual by Freud. What myth are we acting out in this relentless attack on Wendy Doniger?

Or is it possible that there are some latter day entrants to the field of South Asian studies in the USA who having got the best of capitalism want to introduce the best of Hinduism to the USA? If you are, you must first understand that for the last thirty years South Asian studies has been struggling along with as few as 8 or 9 students per class. The classes have been been kept alive in large measure because of teachers like Wendy Doniger and others who would prefer not to be named in this post who have actually made it possible for these departments to continue to exist to this day.

I agree there have been excesses in the interpretations using the psychoanalytical worldview. But the only decent (scholarly) rebuttal by an Indian that I have read is the one by the Vivekananda group to Kripal’s thesis. (If you are looking for work by Doniger to critique try her book Hindu Myths published by Penguin). The rest of the articles including those in Sulekha have been more akin to going hunting with a shot-gun loaded with buckshot. The spray is wide enough that it will hit something but every hunter will tell you that any game killed in this manner is so full of lead that it is completely useless.

As for Srinivas Tilak’s suggestion that Hindus should start their own private schools failing S. Kalyanaraman’s effort to introduce the ‘correct’ Hinduism, good luck to you but you will not succeed. Not because the USA will refuse you. No the USA will take your money should you so wish to spend it. You will fail because of the attitude of the immigrant who believes that he/she gets material success in the West and spiritual success from the East, thus getting the best of both worlds!  (Don’t take my word for it. Hear it for yourself in Louis Malle’s PBS documentary on immigrants to the USA).

Wendy Doniger in her recent forward to the book by White has clearly indicated that the battle has been joined. Who can blame her given the extreme provocation that she has endured. But she has let herself down by stooping to the level of the fanatics whose agenda and authority is not clear. Fortunately, those who seek to corner the market on Hinduism will suffer the same fate as the Hunte family who tried to do the same with silver. The reason is quite simple. It takes many years of careful attention to the nature of this nation of associations and paying one’s dues before one is permitted entry. Incidentally African-Americans and Hispanics have a hard time understanding what Indian immigrants have to complain about if anything.

I expect that I have offended a few but I guess it is the nature of this dia-logue. And you are right I am a LIBERAL and proud of it!

Raja Mylvaganam



Re: Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...

FromShrinivas Tilak

DateSat Jun 5, 200410:01 pm

To: [Jnana (= Open Risa) msg #124]


Dear Prof. Tilak...I would be grateful if you could share with us, even if only from memory, a concise conceptual summary of Wendy’s ‘methodology’ as delineated in her and Bolle’s articles.

Reply: I must preface my response with a correction: since I never held a tenured teaching position, I should not be addressed as professor. Shrinivas or Dr Tilak will do.

Though it goes back two decades, I think Professor Bolle’s assessment of Professor Doniger’s writings is still valid and useful because the weaknesses he detected earlier seem to have amplified with the passage of time. After paying suitable compliments to her erudition etc., Bolle goes to the heart of the issue: Doniger’s methodological weakness. Among other things he lists (1) undue emphasis on Hindu mythology and fiction while lacking the philosophical vigour of Hinduism or Buddhism (One philosopher thought that The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology was ‘chaotic’ (p.24); (2) raising eclecticism to the level of virtue; (3) He finds troublesome Doniger’s introduction to Rigveda 10:28, a hymn featuring Indra: “A son of Indra gave a sacrifice and invited the gods; all but Indra came to it, for Indra was angry with the son’s pretensions to be another Indra.” Though the Freudian blueprint is discernible here, what bothers Bolle more is that “the reader is not permitted or invited to think along other lines than what traditional scholarship has done” (p.23). Bolle detects here an unhealthy tendency to ‘psychologize’ or ‘personalize’ Hindu documents and data she is scrutinizing. In support, he quotes the observation of an unnamed scholar, “She thinks she has psyched out the Indians” (p. 23). Overall, he finds Doniger’s methodology lacking in `openness’ (p.25) (see “Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty in Retrospect” In Religious Studies Review, vol. 10, no 1 (Jan 1984): 20-26.

I personally feel that there is much in Doniger’s writings that all Hindus need to carefully ponder and reflect upon. But there is much more that must be refuted. Take, for instance, her article “Inside and Outside the Mouth of God: The Boundary Between Myth and Reality” (Daedalus 109/2 (spring 1980): 93-125.

In this article Doniger is at pains to explain the porous nature of the boundary between myth/dream and reality in the Hindu tradition. This position is driven home through the creation of a number of myths.

Myths of the mouth of God (or Guru), for instance, (1) undermine one’s confidence in the reality of apparently real phenomena (on this side of the mouth of God); and (2) attempt to establish the reality of apparently mythic phenomena (on the other side of the mouth of God).

In support of this claim Doniger translates and analyzes three well known Hindu myths that depict the relative nature of appearance and reality: (1) Yashoda’s seeing the universe in the opened mouth of child Krishna; (2) Sage Markandeya’s realizing the ultimate reality after being swallowed and expelled from the mouth of Vishnu; and (3) Kacha’s going in and coming out of the mouth of his guru Shukra for learning the art and knowledge of attaining immortality.

One of Doniger’s conclusions is that “properly understood, such myths provide a conceptual system through which we may understand and construct universal reality” (p.120). The myths of the mouth of God provide, she claims, “a mirror image of conventional social [and cultural] evaluations of what is real and what is not real.” I have no problem with these assertions.

However, I part company with her as soon as the following statement appears:” We can best understand our own myths and those of other people by translating them into other myths.” Presumably, her “tool-box” methodology or approach guarantees “a means of translating reality, of establishing a vocabulary with which to understand what goes on in the heads of other people” (p.120).

I have no quibbles with Doniger’s metaphor of toolbox. Indeed, eclecticism, inclusivism, syncretism, and polytropy (the term coined by Michel Carrithers to refer to the dominant themes of fluidity and eclecticism of Indic religious life) constitute important and useful hermeneutical tools in the traditional Indian toolbox. Perfected by Yaska and Sayana (among others) they have served well the generations of Indians for understanding and relating to their thought universe.

But modern epistemology and exegesis have no use for these traditional tools. The toolbox of Doniger and other bricoleurs is filled with feminist theory, Jungian psychology, literary theory, psychoanalysis, structuralism and other fancy, high-powered tools. Perhaps a non-Hindu reader is able to understand the universal reality expressed in relevant Hindu myths using these approaches. But I doubt any average Hindu man or woman would. If you claim to understand the game of chess better and in a more original way, your claim must be so recognized and understood by those who know and play it.

Doniger’s “Pluralism and Intolerance in Hinduism” (Radical Pluralism and Truth: David Tracy and the Hermeneutics of Religion, edited by Werner Jeanrond and Jennifer L Rike, New York: Crossroads, 1991) is yet another article that Hindus must study carefully. Notwithstanding the infuriating title and some very irresponsible comments and remarks like “The fanatics among Hindus kill people (such as Muslims) (p.228),” the article does have redeeming features.

She begins by distinguishing between intellectual and sociological pluralism (p. 215) and recognizes the merits of ancient Hindu intellectual pluralism. She however laments that it did not lead to sociological pluralism. Since it is now available to the Western world, it must make the best use of it. “In fact,” she adds, “Ancient Indian religion is an idea whose time now has come” (p.233). Here I must interject a note of warning! Is it yet another instance of what Rajiv Malhotra has called and documented the phenomenon of U Turn?

Elsewhere she states, “Hindus and Buddhists in the early period shared ideas so freely that it is impossible to say whether some of the central tenets of each faith came from one or the other (just as Picasso and Brasque worked so closely together that they sometimes signed one another’s paintings”(p.232). I would add Jains and Sikhs to this list. Indeed, all Indians need to take another look at their shared pluralistic heritage: both intellectual and sociological.

[Shrinivas Tilak]


RE: Wendy Doniger and the interpretation of Hindu mythology...let’s continue this discussion at Abhinavagupta

From: Sunthar Visuvalingam

Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2004 11:56 PM

To: Shrinivas Tilak


Dear Shrinivas,

Thank you very much for having taken the pains to respond to my query regarding Wendy’s (lack of) methodology. Given the uncertainty (not to say arbitrariness...) of our posts getting through to ‘Open RISA’, I would invite you to continue these threads at our Abhinavagupta forum:




Shri Ashok Chowgule, Dr. Jakob de Roover, and others who had contributed constructively are currently pursuing their exchanges there.


With best wishes,






From: S. Kalyanaraman

Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2003 7:23 PM

To: [Abhinava msg #1467]


Would deeply appreciate guidance and references to literature on the following queries: Are there references to the practice of vrata (vow, ascetic discipline—e.g. kamaDha ‘penance’ Prakrit) in regions outside Bharat, say, in Greece? Does Greek ‘themis’ correspond to Vedic ‘dharma’? Are there Greek [and Indo-European language or Austro-Asiatic language] cognates for Vedic vrata?


[Kalyan’s full original post at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Abhinavagupta/message/1467]




Why is there no Greek equivalent to the notion of dharma? maybe, because there were no brahmins to impose it on Greece...

From:  Sunthar Visuvalingam

Date:  Fri Jan 23, 2004; 4:17 pm

To: [Abhinava msg #1576]



Themis was one of the Titans, the children of Uranos and Gaia. In Homer, Themis appears three times where her role, according to Timothy Gantz in “Early Greek Myth,” is that of “imposing some kind of order or control over gatherings....” Sometimes Themis is called the mother of the Moirai and the Horai (Dike [Justice], Eirene [Peace], and Eunomia [Lawful Government]). Themis was either first or second to deliver oracles at Delphi -- an office she gave over to Apollo. [...]

Dike and Astraia

Dike was the Greek goddess of justice. She was one of the Horai or seasons and the daughter of Themis and Zeus. Dike had a valued place in Greek literature. Passages from The Theoi Project describe her physically (with a staff and balance): “If some god had been holding level the balance of Dike (Justice).” - Greek Lyric IV Bacchylides Frag 5, and “[...] A beautiful woman is punishing an ugly one, choking her with one hand and with the other striking her with a staff. It is Dike (Justice) who thus treats Adikia (Injustice).” –Pausanias 5.18.2 Dike is described as almost indistinguishable from Astraea (Astraia) who is depicted with a torch, wings, and Zeus’ thunderbolts.


Iustitia or Justitia was the Roman personification of justice. She was a virgin living among humans until the wrongdoings of mortals forced her to take flight and become the constellation Virgo, according to the Adkinses in “Dictionary of Roman Religion.” On a coin depicting Justitia from A.D. 22-23, there is a regal woman wearing a diadem. In another, Justitia carries olive twig, patera, and scepter.

Lady Justice

The U.S. Supreme Court website explains some of the images of Lady Justice that adorn Washington D.C.:

Lady Justice is a blend of Themis and Iustitia. The blindfold with which Justice is now associated probably started in the 16th century. In some of the Washington D.C. statues, Justice holds scales, blindfolds, and swords. In one representation she is fighting evil with her gaze, although her sword is still sheathed.

Besides all the statues of Lady Justice, Themis, and Justitia in courthouses across the U.S. (and world), the much revered Statue of Liberty bears a close resemblance to the ancient goddesses of justice. Even in antiquity the personification of Justice goddesses changed to fit the times or the needs and beliefs of the writers. Is it possible to do the same with the Ten Commandments? Wouldn’t it be possible to distill the essence of each commandment and arrive at an order by consensus of some ecumenical council? Or let the different versions exist side by side just as the statues of Justice do in Washington D.C.?


N.S. Gill, Images of Justice

Dear Kalyan,

Shubha Pathak is writing her doctorate under Wendy Doniger (she’s her teaching assistant) at the Univ. of Chicago on a systematic comparison between the Sanskrit and Greek epics (she knows both languages), particularly with regard to the complex notion of dharma (‘socio-cosmic order’). Yesterday, we met her again at a seminar after the winter break, and I was able to pass on your question. As expected, she doubted that there was any Greek equivalent that would embrace the same perspective (she, however, suggested looking at arete in Plato...if you are desperate!). In fact, Shubha’s term of comparison on the Greek side is rather the notion of cleos (‘glory, fame, honor’ etc. = Sanskrit yazas?).

She presented the 2nd chapter of her dissertation in a talk entitled “Kuza and Lava versus Nala: When Poetic Rulers affirm or interrogate Dharma in the Sanskrit Epics” (4th Dec 03), by translating the term as “righteousness” of practices associated with varNa (caste), âzrama (station in life), gender and society as a whole. It’s worth noting that this is how the Bhagavad Gîtâ’s ‘situational ethics’ also defines ‘duty’ (as contrasted to Kant’s ‘moral imperative’), as was very well demonstrated by Prof. Lakshmi Kapani in her talk on this subject last summer in Paris at the International College of Philosophy. The term “poetic rulers” derives from the fact that Lava and Kuza, the sons of Lord Râma, also provide one of names for the wandering bards (kuzîlava - zûdra status in the Arthazâstra!) who spread the dharma by memorizing and reciting the epic. King Nala, in the Mahâbharata sub-narrative, is also transformed into a charioteer-bard (sûta), likewise an outcaste (apasada) because a product of mixed (brahmin/kSatriya) marriage ‘going against the grain’ (pratiloma). This relationship between royalty, bard and brahmin has been studied by Romila Thapar, who gave a fascinating series of talks on the subject at the Collège de France in summer 1989. She affirmed, for example, that kings whose ‘Aryan’ legitimacy was admitted tended to style themselves as ‘solar’ (sûrya-) descendants of Râma, whereas usurpers would rather trace their genealogy to the ‘moon’ (candra-) lineage (vamzî) deriving from Lord KRSNa (and, by association, all the irregularities of the MBh.)

In contrasting the two Hindu epics, Shubha dwelt at some length on the imperial role of the Azva-medha (‘horse sacrifice’) accomplished by Râma to consecrate his triumphant reign of virtue, whereas king YudhiSThira undertakes the same more as an expiation for release from the burden of all the preceding slaughter in the Mahâbhârata. Curiously enough, several others present, both student and faculty (including Wendy herself...), questioned how the Azvamedha could ever be understood as an expiation. I was able to chip in, finally, that at the end of his period of consecration (dîkSâ), the (would-be) emperor entered a pool of water wherein he transferred all his evil onto a (deformed brahmin) scapegoat (jumbaka, in whom Kuiper saw the ritual model of the vidûSaka); thereupon the rest of community would also plunge into the pool to wash away all their sins. Since this (avabhRtha) ritual is integral to the horse-sacrifice, it does indeed constitute an expiation for all the slaughter entailed by the (now successfully fulfilled) imperial ambitions. Wendy murmured in agreement as I was concluding (this is certainly not the first time she has endorsed my observations aloud in public...). I might add here that this holds true even for the RâmâyaNa, where the virtuous and exemplary Râma is (implicitly) expiating, not so much for his treacherous killing of the monkey-king Vâlin or for his ‘heartless’ banishment of his ‘unchaste’ wife Sîtâ, but for having slain RâvaNa. The jumbaka embodied brahmanicide, and this demon-king was, after all, a brahmin (a brahma-râkSasa?

Homer’s heroes, even the ‘good’ guys, also commit atrocities (if you recall what Achilles did to Hector’s body...) and perform sacrifices to propitiate the gods, expiate their misdeeds and in (expectation of) triumph (as Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his own daughter Iphigenia for victory over Troy). So how come they have no dharma neither in the epics nor much later in classical Athens? Whatever the (individual strands of the) Indian epic narratives may have been in the beginning, the brahmins wove them together to exemplify and glorify a sacrificial order that was extending and consolidating itself across the whole subcontinent. Biardeau, in fact, sees the Mahâbhârata as the brahmanical response to the ‘apocalyptic’ challenge posed by the Buddha dharma especially after the latter was espoused and propagated by Emperor Azoka. The Iliad and the Odyssey seem to have retained their ‘raw Mycenaean’ ethos across the dark ages down to classical Greece. Unlike the Hindu’s relationship to his epics, the Athenian’s relationship to the bard’s glorification of the Homeric gods, sacrifices, etc., was an already problematic one. It is in this uncomfortable space, between the certainties of the past and a newly emerging skeptical mentality, that creativity took those fresh paths that have bequeathed to us works of celebrating life as tragedy (elided in classical Sanskrit theater...), an interrogative mode of philosophy, etc.

I’m not sure if I’ve addressed your question (certainly not on vrata!) but perhaps these incomplete thoughts might be food for further thought...



P.S. I’ve copied Shubha on this post and, hopefully, you might hear from her in due course...



  Participate in Doniger interview

From:  Mary Hicks

DateSat Jun 5, 2004; 1:02 am

To: [Abhinava msg #1909]


You may be interested in participating in the featured interview with Dr. Wendy Doniger on a relatively new portal, swaveda:


“Modern Variants of Classical (Sanskrit) Hindu Myths Dr. Wendy Doniger Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions in the Divinity School, and the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations University of Chicago

Wendy Doniger’s research and teaching interests revolve around two basic areas, Hinduism and mythology. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and ecology.

Among the many books published under her name are: [as Wendy O’Flaherty] The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology (Berkeley: University of California, 1976) and Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984) and [as Wendy Doniger] Splitting the Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press and University of London Press, 1999).

Dr. Doniger will answer your questions about Hindu Myths. Questions will be accepted until Friday, June 11, 2004. Her responses to selected questions will be posted on Saturday, June 12, 2004.”


 RE: Wendy Doniger and Hindu mythology!

From:   Gautam Sen

Date:  Sat Jun 5, 20041:48 am

To: [Abhinava msg #1912]


Academic researchers versus Hindu civilization

 “The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think. Throughout the Mahabharata ... Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war.... The Gita is a dishonest book; it justifies war. ..I’m a pacifist. I don’t believe in ‘good’ wars.”

(Wendy Doniger, Indologist and Professor of History of Religions at the University of Chicago: Philadelphia Inquirer of 19 November. 2000.)


This discussion seeks to understand why Indian studies in the West (especially the US and the UK) are overwhelmingly hostile to their object of study. In the first place, ethnocentric and parochial perceptions will usually dominate when one culture critically evaluates another. And once the resulting interpretative canon becomes firmly established through common consent, prolonged practice and appropriate imprimaturs, it becomes painfully difficult to dislodge, even if it is motivated by an intellectually disingenuous political rationale. In the case of the contemporary Western critique of India, and increasingly Hinduism, its rationale and sheer perversity can be attributed to mundane political reasons and international power politics. In order to understand the dynamics of this phenomenon vis-à-vis India and Hinduism one first needs to explain the role of the academic and researcher, the intellectual entrepreneurs of society, and their function as agents of the political objectives of society.

[Gautam’s full article was posted in June 2004 at svAbhinava and is currently being discussed at Sulekha]


The social and political churning that has been unfolding in contemporary India is, first and foremost, a nationalist phenomenon. It has occurred in the backdrop of a profound awakening in the nineteenth century that was primarily religious in character. The former exhibits many of the defects of intolerance and exclusivism intrinsic to nationalism, but such shortcomings are neither unique nor necessarily fatal. Indeed nationalism remains an unfortunate necessity in a jealous world of predatory nation states, ever ready to extinguish the weak. The progressive sapping of the earlier religious renaissance, in the last remaining repository of an uniquely open-ended spiritual and philosophical quest, must nevertheless be a source of regret, although that need not be permanent.

Author: Gautam Sen


Studying others, fbb

From: Frank Burch Brown 

Sent: Sunday, June 06, 2004 9:40 AM [Abhinava msg #1919 – order of thread reversed]

To:  Sunthar Visuvalingam 


“This discussion seeks to understand why Indian studies in the West (especially the US and the UK) are overwhelmingly hostile to their object of study.”


Dear Sunthar:

I noticed, when I was a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University for a term and was reading more British scholarship than usual, that a level of condescension and critique did creep into a good bit of the writing on India and on Hinduism especially--though that feature was far more pervasive in scholarship produced in the past. By contrast, it seems to me, some of the more recent scholarship almost bends over backwards not to give offense.

I have read enough of the discussions that you’ve been circulating to see the sources of some of the concern about Western (including North American) studies of Asian religions and of India especially.

At the same time, as you might expect, I imagine we are both aware of much scholarship from the West that reflects a great affection, even love, for things Indian--a love that I myself share in many respects. Yes, that can also fall into Orientalist traps, including idealization and the like.  But it grieves and troubles me to see Western studies of India characterised as “overwhelmingly hostile,” as is done in the piece quoted above. When there is hostility and it s expressed in prominent places--but expressed obliquely or not recognized as hostility by those expressing it--that can indeed be  “overwhelming,” I’m sure.  But it is misleading to portray the hostility as so prevalent, at least in  religious studies.

For instance, in the past few months I’ve read large portions of J. Fuller’s *The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India*  (Princeton UP, 1992) as well as Axel Michaels’ *Hinduism, Past and Present” (Princeton UP, 1998) (originally published in German) and Karen Pechilis Prentiss’s *The Embodiment of Bhakti* (Oxford UP, 1999). Then there are the writings of Diana Eck at Harvard.  And so on.  Those diverse writings are fairly representative of high-level scholarship on India produced by Western academics in the recent past, and I think one would be hard pressed to characterize them as hostile.  They are careful, caring, and engaging--though, of course, open to criticism and questioning from all sides. 

Obviously a Western “religious studies” approach does not always attempt to represent everything in exactly the manner that insiders to a given tradition would find congenial or would fully affirm.  Christians have long noticed this aspect of the academic study of religion, even when Christianity is taught or critiqued in “neutral” academic terms.  Christian traditionalists in particular strongly object to the way the Bible is typically taught in Western secular universities, for instance.

For these and other reasons, I believe it is indeed wise for religious groups to set up independent schools of religion in which their own religious tradition can be taught in a way that is highly sympathetic (even if not without critical awareness).  I teach in a Christian seminary, after all! 

But there needs to be space, also, for academic scholarship that is not committed automatically and in principle to the viewpoint of a particular religious tradition, or of some religious outlook, and that is not afraid to look into historical or other questions that most religious traditions ignore.  I myself don’t insist that Christianity be taught or discussed by university scholars only in ways that traditional Christians of various persuasions would affirm.  For one thing, Christians disagree strongly with other Christians!  I do ask that the materials, cultures, and people under discussion be treated with respect and that the scholarly values dominating a given discussion not be treated as beyond question, themselves.

Sometimes, needless to say, Western religious scholars use techniques and approaches (e.g. Freudian or feminist) that are quite different from ones most congenial to Hindus or Muslims or Sikhs--or to Christians and Jews, for that matter. And sometimes, unfortunately, that is done in a way that is presumptuous and unnecessarily offensive or that distorts what is being studied. 

The line of acceptably sympathetic interpretation is not invariable and distinct, however.  I just read parts of M. Whitney Kelting, Singing to the Jinas: Jain Laywomen Mandal Singing and the Negotiations of Jain Devotion (Oxford UP 2001). Before publishing her study, the author shared openly her journals and writings with the Jain Laywomen whose practices she was studying (practices in which she was an invited participant). The Jain women apparently approved of her descriptions and interpretations.  But they might never say, themselves, everything that she goes ahead and says about Jain men, for instance.  Does that mean those things should just never be said?  I don’t think so.

As scholars of religions other than our own, do we need to be silent if we can’t say something nice, or at least something neutral?  In many contexts, yes! 

But there are settings in which criticism—including mutal criticism—is called for. Rajiv. M. says many harshly critical things in regard to Western Abrahamic monotheistic traditions, for instance, and there is surely a place to raise such questions, and in both directions, though the tone could well be made more inviting of dialogue.

Whereas Western scholars in university settings generally resist criticizing the rituals and teachings of a given religious traditions, in the name of academic neutrality, they tend to forget their restraint when it comes to certain matters of social ethics (e.g. “caste”) or matters of gender (e.g. “patriarchy”).  The often tacit assumption seems to be that people around the world ought to be in basic agreement on matters of social ethics and justice, even if their rituals and religious beliefs per se differ. Things are more complicated than that, aren’t they?

In any case, those in a position of political, economic, or ideological dominance, it seems to me, have a different set of responsibilities from those whose culture or people have been subjected to considerable exploitation and oppression or suppression.  Western scholars have long been far too oblivious of that power difference and its implications—whether in their more traditional attacks on “idolatry” or in the more recent feminist attacks on the patriarchical patterns of Asian and African religions (as well as Western)—or (perhaps ironically) when it comes to attacking social structures perceived to be hierarchical and elitist. I’m not suggesting that no questions be raised, ethically and religiously, but that they be raised with awareness of different assumptions and contexts.

It may be a cliche to say, at this point, but it nonetheless seems highly regrettable that people so easily fall into the habit of comparing (and exaggerating) the worst features of the other side with the best features of their own side.

Actually, though it may seem immodest, I still want to commend some of the approaches to negotiating and transforming differences that I spell out (in terms of aesthetics, initially) in my discussion of “ecumenical taste.” That chapter, as you know, is found in my somewhat mischievously entitled *Good Taste, Bad Taste, and Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life“ (Oxford UP, 2000). Many of the same challenges that arise in differences over art and aesthetics also arise in the interaction of different cultures and religions.


With all good wishes, 

Frank (Burch Brown)

Frederick Doyle Kershner Prof. of Religion and the Arts

Christian Theological Seminary

Indianapolis, IN 46228USA  


[response to Academic researchers versus Hindu civilization (by Gautam Sen) - a psycho-social profile of the American Indologist! (05 June 04)] 


 Studying others (by Frank Burch Brown) - American Indology revisited (by Michael Witzel)

From:  Sunthar Visuvalingam

Date:  Sun Jun 6, 2004; 11:59 pm


5.2.5 Americanization: ‘instant gratification’ and ‘enthusiastic’ study of texts and traditions

These would include especially the fashionable, short of breath, quickly ‘exited’ [excited? - SV] and quickly changing, ‘enthusiastic’ attitudes that are propagated now. Nothing against some enthusiasm in our studies! Or even some polemics and esprit (Europe for example has become very staid and polite over the past 30 years!) But the attention span in the US is much too short, everything, also in Classical Studies, must lead to immediate gratification. A study should be written in one year, one may be lucky if, as one colleague put it, “I can amuse them for two years.”

This procedure is combined, at least in my field, with a lot of rehashing of older, already forgotten positions from the last century, that are now sold as something new. As Kant said, the amount of our knowledge remains the same, just like the circle of light a lamp projects on a table: it is just that the circle moves when you move the lamp.... In addition, foreign languages are virtually unknown beyond some school Spanish and even less French; exchanges with scholars beyond the oceans therefore do not exist unless they are carried out in English. [...] As an example, I mention again from my own experience, the concepts of friendship and giri, and the contrast they form with the horrors of no lasting friendship and the lack of a feeling of obligation, both of which are so typical for America (...), where, as one Japanese friend correctly analyzed during a brief visit, ‘people are just superficially friendly’. These are no stereotypes; I have often discussed this with foreign friends and colleagues in America. Indeed, whatever their differences may be at home, Europeans of all ethnical backgrounds usually band together in the US. Why is that? American culture does not know the concept of friendship; the term just means ‘acquaintance’, and this kind of ‘friends’ you can drop, trip up and betray whenever convenient. This civilization has deviated so much from that of Europe that it has become alien to Europeans. We still regard it as quasi-European and we then are shocked to find out that people in America operate in totally different ways. Similarly to Europeans living in the US, people from Japan, Korea, and China usually will understand each other better than others—maybe due to the underlying Confucianism? A similar observation can be made about educated people from anywhere in the former British Empire: they have gone to the same type of schools, they tend to behave similarly and to understand each other well.

Classical Studies and Indology, Prof. Michael Witzel, Wales Professor of Sanskrit, Harvard University

Dear Frank,

 As usual, your comments were very much appreciated. Despite their blatant contradiction with the assessment of Gautam Sen (who is admittedly not himself an Indologist and is still working on his book), it seems to me that there is much that could be said to substantiate either perspective. Until I’m able to find the time and occasion to take up some of these issues more systematically, and in a manner beneficial to all parties, I merely offer the above citation from Prof. Michael Witzel, who is clearly speaking from long experience with colleagues and students (in Germany, South Asia, Netherlands and the USA) on the quality of American Indology and how it reflects the surrounding cultural dynamics...

 all the best,


 P.S. Is Gautam’s perceived “Indological hostility to India” worse in the USA than in Europe? and how would one characterize the difference?


 RE: Wendy Doniger and Hindu mythology!

From:  Jack Hill

Date:  Sun Jun 6, 2004; 12:42 am

To: [Abhinava msg #1917]

Just a few brief comments on the current discussion:

“The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think. Throughout the Mahabharata ... Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war.... The Gita is a dishonest book; it justifies war. ..I’m a pacifist. I don’t believe in ‘good’ wars.” (Wendy Doniger, Indologist and Professor of History of Religions at the University of Chicago: Philadelphia Inquirer of 19 November. 2000.)

As is well known, the BG was a comparatively late (tantric?) insertion into the text of the Mahabharata tradition. The Mahabharata is filled with marvelous teaching stories—no doubt inserted piece by piece at various times over the centuries into the text as well. From what I feel is a tantric point of view, Arjuna’s battle in the Gita is an inner conflict, a struggle against all his familiar old friends and family members: attachments, aversions, desires, etc. So it’s pointless to argue that it “justifies war.”

The Mahabharata story as a whole, though, is another matter. There, so far as I’m familiar with it, Krishna only goads the Pandavas into immoral behavior after they have exhausted all honorable means of defeating the forces of the patently evil Duryodhana—because the dharma must be upheld, no matter what the cost in dishonor.

I recall hearing an interview with Ram Das (Alpert) some years ago where he said that Daniel Berrigan (if memory serves correctly) infuriated him by telling him the BG was “the most immoral book ever written.” (Berrigan was a Catholic priest.) Westerners just don’t get it. Like the obsession with tantric sex, which has little to do with tantra. Once a seeker asked my guru, Swami Muktananda, in a public satsang to explain tantric sexual practices as part of yoga. Muktananda replied that he had never heard of any such thing -- preposterously, of course, since such a master of tantra would certainly be well aware of the left-handed path. But a guru is not an educator; he doesn’t explain things: every word he utters has only the aim of bringing the seeker closer to God. His reply, by the way, had that effect on me when I heard it, as it forever banished from my mind any curiosity I might have had toward the subject. (I should add that on another occasion, when Muktananda was asked about the Holocaust, he shocked most of his listeners by stating that, karmically, it had to happen—somewhat more difficult to accept, but surely in the true tradition of the Gita, IMHO.)

Educators and scholars mostly have their own agenda, which often have little to do with the materials under discussion, and I suspect that a certain fear of the mysterious and the irrational (may I be forgiven for suggesting “meta-rational” as a more accurate term?) inhibits them in certain fatal ways. Once my wife (a German) was doing advance work in Heidelberg for a visit by Gurumayi Chidvilasananda (Muktananda’s successor), and offered a certain tantric scholar whose primary interest was Kundalini the opportunity to actually experience the arousing of Kundalini for herself. The lady declined—apparently on the grounds that it would spoil her scholarly objectivity.

I submit that the opposite would be true.

Just a comment about Ganesh: I suspect that some of the legendary material that purports to explain the origins of his characteristics is the result of what Robert Graves called misinterpretation of icons. (Example: an image of a nude man and woman exchanging the gift of a fruit—is it Paris and Helen, or Adam and Eve?) I don’t think anyone today can determine the truth of what is so long lost in the mists of time, and frankly I couldn’t care less. All that matters to me and my wife is that we love to offer our household Ganesh flowers and sweets and do puja to Him. Instead of trying to figure out how it works, dear scholars, just try it for yourselves and see what it does for you.

 Submitted in love and respect... Shatrajit


 RE: Wendy Doniger and Hindu mythology!

From:   Gautam Sen

Date:  Sun Jun 6, 2004. 6:31 am

To: [Abhinava msg #1918]

Thank you. I am learning a lot about a field that is my outside area of expertise, but interests me deeply. I hope I will have enough Sanskrit a year from now to profit more from the many knowledgeable people who contribute to this and other forums.

Gautam Sen


 RE: Wendy Doniger and Hindu mythology!

From:  Jack Hill

Date:  Mon Jun 7, 2004; 12:44 am

To: [Abhinava msg #1920]


Thank you. I am learning a lot about a field that is my outside area of expertise, but interests me deeply. I hope I will have enough Sanskrit a year from now to profit more from the many knowledgeable people who contribute to this and other forums. - Gautam Sen

My own studies in Sanskrit have been limited to making an attempt to understand technical terms of spirituality, especially Kashmir Shaivism, that have no exact—nor even nearly exact—counterpart in Western languages. Still, I believe I have benefited greatly even from this small effort. For example, prakasha and vimarsha -- what a revealing concept! Oh, would that I had the time to make a real study of this marvelous language.



 Report on DANAM

From:  Vishal S. Agarwal

Date:  Thu Dec 9, 2004; 10:40 pm

To: [Abhinava msg #2448]


Shame on you, Cynthia Humes!

by india visitor

Posted on November 20, 2004 9:6 AM EST



As a visitor from India, I attended yesterday’s DANAM event being held in San Antonio, Texas. It is part of the AAR 2004 annual conference. I had come with great expectations to see rational discussion and high standards of academic conduct which we are told are superior to what we have in our Indian institutions. I am referring to the DANAM session in which Cynthia Humes responded to Rajiv Malhotra’s Powerpoint presentation. His talk was titled, `Debunking the Myth of Hindu Sameness.’ His paper is on Sulekha and he gave out hard copies of it. I read it later with great delight.

Cynthia Humes’ so-called response was a disgrace! She was introduced by Rita Sherma as Rajiv’s dialogic partner (I am unsure what the word was but it meant partner.) However, there was nothing dialogical about her approach. Contrary to academic standards, Cynthia Humes did not say one word about Rajiv’s talk or his insightful thesis. She spent her entire talk doing personal anthropology and psychoanalysis on Rajiv and about Infinity Foundation.

If Humes had planned to criticize Infinity Foundation then they should have asked Rajiv to first give a talk on Infinity Foundation and then Humes could have responded to that talk critically. That would have been the academic procedure. But Humes simply ignored Rajiv’s talk, which he had sent to her in advance as per Rita Sherma’s procedures. Humes trivialized him by completely ignoring his scholarship.

Worse still, she accused Rajiv of giving money and forcing scholars to write in compliance with his own ideologies. But Humes failed to mention even one concrete example of this. How could an academic scholar have such disregard for empirical evidence?

In fact, I can say from personal experience that I attended a successful conference in Delhi last year on Indic religions that was sponsored by Infinity Foundation in which there was far more diversity of voices than I saw at AAR. There were more anti-Hindu left wing voices than pro-Hindu. It was organized by CSDS in Delhi and convened by Madhu Kishwar. Also I am familiar with the outstanding reputations of many scholars involved with Infinity Foundation’s projects.

Humes must provide evidence to support her charge or be honest enough to retract!

Some white people simply cannot tolerate the sight of non whites becoming empowered. Humes should also do an inquiry about how her own institution and others including AAR get funded. It seems that white Christian and Jewish funding is okay and normal but if others participate even on a much smaller scale then all hell breaks lose. Do they fear that their days of economic and intellectual domination could be ending?

Humes came across like an amateur and not in the same league as Rajiv intellectually. Maybe she was fighting this complex. Later someone whispered that she was Rita Sherma’s PhD advisor and hence Sherma could have done it as a favor to invite her. I have not verified these facts. If true, this would be evidence in support of the cartel theory of academic religious studies.

Rajiv made a strong comeback in later discussions but Rita Sherma gave him only 3 minutes to counter Humes 30 minutes of attacks.

Rajiv stated that just as scholars without initiation in the tantric tradition claim legitimacy in producing knowledge, so also Rajiv as outsider to the academy has the right to produce knowledge about religion. This powerful point was brought home in the minds of many Indians in the audience because they felt that his talk was a cut above all the rest on that panel.

One Indian named Neela in the audience spoke up bravely that there was western colonial hegemony still in this field. Dr. Melukota spoke up in very strong support for Rajiv. On a previous panel he gave a detailed example of how the Sanskrit word `bhaga’ has been distorted by scholars to make fun of Hindu texts. Rajiv used this to explain how power is being abused.

Humes failed to recognize Rajiv as one of the top public intellectuals for the Indian diaspora today. This is his well earned success because his articles are more popular than any other writers today. He must have worked hard at it. I have been reading them for 5 years now and the fan club is growing. Humes tried to dismiss Rajiv’s success as being bought with money. But nobody pays anything to the 10,000 to 20,000 Sulekha readers who read his articles. They read them despite being so long because they like them. Indian readers have spoken in his support, which makes the high brow Humes angry and she is trying to dismiss his legitimacy as a writer with important things to say.

Rajiv’s success is built on his intellect, his marketing savvy to build readership, and his courage to speak up. Humes made a thinly veiled threat of lawsuits against Rajiv.

Humes tried to analyze Rajiv as entrepreneur and philanthropist using simplistic text book quotes but she has no real experience either as entrepreneur or as philanthropist. Also it was based on many factual errors on what Rajiv is trying to do and her advice to him as if he should take her seriously.

It became clear that Cynthia Humes tried to score points with her academy by attacking Rajiv personally. Some persons in the hallway were saying that she is a Wendy’s Child and got her PhD under Wendy Doniger. This could not be confirmed.

But it has backfired in my eyes. As I reflect further on this experience upon my return to India, I will start to spread awareness about these nefarious people in the US universities who lack not only good scholarship and rules of engagement in honest debate but who appear determined to bring about the death of Indian culture.

Humes’ behavior has removed all my remaining doubts about the importance of Rajiv Malhotra’s work.

I withhold my name for sake of personal security.


VISHAL’S COMMENTS: It may be recalled that Cynthia Humes was the lady who led the hysterical attack and threats against MLBD when the publisher withdrew Courtright’s filthy book on Ganesha last year. She wrote to me that she is willing to discuss the book with me but after I wrote (with Kalavai Venkat) a critique of the book, she shied away from any discussion (despite 3 reminders) and said that she has no time. Also, I have been informed that it was not Mr Melkote (as the article above states) but Dr B V K Shastry who presented the paper on ‘bhaga’.


 Re: Report on DANAM

From:  Rajiv Malhotra

Date:  Fri Dec 10, 2004; 8:00 am

To: [Abhinava msg #2449]


Since I am named in this thread, I should give my side. Some minute details in the posting cited by Vishal are inaccurate, but the sentiment of frustration expressed in it is justified, and its overall depiction of what happened is fair.

I have requested DANAM for a copy of the audio recording of my session so that I may quote accurately, but have not yet received it. After her ambush, Cynthia Humes let me have her paper for a brief moment, on which her response was typed, but quickly took it back, insisting that she will send me a copy which I have yet to receive. Therefore, what I say below is from recollection only.

First of all, I respect Humes and her right to defend Doniger from whom she got her PhD in Chicago, because that is how the brownie point system works, and also her right to attack me PROVIDED she uses facts.

I also understand Rita Sherma as panel chair ‘sucking up’ to Humes, from whom she received her own Phd, as this type of reciprocity is at the very heart of my argument about academic cartels. In other words, this is normal! (Andy Fort said in his talk something to the effect that Rajiv Malhotra has not supplied ‘proof of the cartel.’ So Andy, I hope you are tuned in here: THE VERY PANEL YOU WERE ON GIVES YOU DATA TO PONDER.)

I felt and expressed openly the following disappointment about the panel administration:

1) Several weeks before the event when I sent Rita my original talk’s slides, she suggested that I should change my talk which was about Geopolitics and Hinduism, so as to make it ‘constructive’. I replaced the original talk with an ENTIRELY NEW ONE, which is essentially the thesis of my latest Sulekha column on the Myth of Hindu Sameness. She also called me to suggest that from my new talk I should drop the name of one prominent scholar whom I was criticizing, as that would be counter to the spirit of constructive dialog. I instantly complied and my talk had NO names of any RISA scholar whatsoever, in the spirit of the panel chair’s request. However, she clearly failed to apply similar policies on Humes, whose ENTIRE talk was about me personally. I would have had no problem with an open discussion on geopolitics by BOTH sides, but why this sleigh of hand?

2) Given that Humes wanted to attack Infinity Foundation and me personally, the protocol of the academic process requires that FIRST I SHOULD HAVE GIVEN A TALK ON THE FOUNDATION AND MY WORK, AND THEN ANYONE COULD HAVE BEEN ASKED TO GIVE A REJOINDER. In other words, logic suggests that first you let someone present whatever he has to say and then criticize it all you want. But Humes’ attack was baseless and filled with false premises and assumptions - working backward from conclusions she wanted to reach. One of the hallmarks of the cartel is the use of FALSE PURVA-PAKSHA OF THE OPPONENT. This habit comes from the way native informants are not treated as equals. Whites gaze and non-whites are the ones gazed at. (Those non-whites who submit to this establishment can win various levels of white gazing privileges, i.e. join the sepoy army.)

3) If Humes did what she did regardless of Rita’s wishes, then Rita should have let Humes go first on the panel, and given me the chance to rejoinder in defense. (Humes talk was known to Rita in advance but not known to me.) The way they designed the ambush was to let me go first and speak on a serious thesis that was 100% free from RISA politics, and then to let Humes get 30 minutes to make her smart-ass remarks about me. After that, Rita gave me ‘3 minutes to respond.’ What a joke - 3 minutes to point out the tons of errors in Humes’ 30 minute prepared speech! The sequence should have been changed and this would have alleviated a part of the problem.

So it was a three-part ambush plan: (1) encouraging me to change my talk’s theme to be non-critical of RISA; (2) letting Humes go after me personally; (3) and fixing the sequence so as to prevent me from giving a full scale rejoinder to Humes (which I was quite capable of giving had they allotted time to me).

Hopefully, Rita won enough brownie points. But I am disappointed because over the past few years I praised her as a very solid Hindu scholar and have admired her innovative approaches to constructive scholarship. She has given me considerable input in my writings in the past, for which I shall remain grateful. I cannot really blame her for being practical minded in pusuing her ambitions. The system is the way it is and we can simply step back and reflect. They studied us well and know how to buy us off, where our vulnerabilities are, etc.

It was rumored that DANAM is being penetrated by RISA going forward, so as to neutralize its independence. In exchange, DANAM will enter the club as ‘legitimate,’ the same way as the Hindu-Christian Dialog group at AAR got controlled with Hindus in charge as proxies.

This contrasts with Gandhi’s satyagraha strategy in which he refused to sell out to the empire of his time. Instead, he used their attacks against him to expose that the system was not conducting itself in a civilized manner while justifying its existence on bringing civilization to the natives. Ultimately, it was the public exposure of this duplicity (for which Gandhi paid a heavy price personally) that caused the empire to crumble. Once the natives stopped giving it credibility the empire had no power.

Similarly, these very scholars claim to promote human rights, objectivity in scholarship, their ‘love for Indian culture,’ avoidance of ad hominen attacks, and intellectual ‘freedom’. Yet they violate these very standards in their own conduct and work. This hypocrisy is what my first talk would have proven with HARD DATA/EXAMPLES, that I decided (under advice from Rita) to not present. The legitimacy of these scholars stands in question as they contradict their own professed norms. Hence they intensify their personal attacks against anyone who exposes this and who they fail to buy off.

One scholar visiting from India who witnessed this was shocked and said that most people in India have no clue that this is what goes on. He interpreted the scholars’ problem as follows: My ideas, he felt, are too innovative for them to deal with. They had no way to give a serious response to my thesis on History-Centrism and Sameness. So they had no choice but to attack personally. But in doing so, they exposed that they are emotional, irrational, and political.

I am reminded of the thesis of Marimba Ani, referenced in my Whiteness paper on Sulekha, i.e. that what the West calls ethics is ‘rhetorical ethics’ only. Ani explains that their ethical theories are like PR for others but not for themselves. (They have subconscious filters to block off the ethics as lived reality.) How else could Jefferson proclaim the “All men are created equal” and then write in the Virginia Commonwealth proceedings that blacks are sub-human? She gives many such contradictions throughout history to make her case, asserting that this rhetorical ethics is at the heart of the conqueror’s strategy to defeat/control the conquered.

Similarly, much of what the academy has proclaimed as ‘intellectual freedom’, ‘objectivity’, ‘fairness’, ‘respect for the culture being studied’, etc. is merely rhetorical. It is immaterial to them whether their peers follow these norms themselves, provided the peers have sufficient symbolic capital and soft power in the knowledge marketplace.

I hope the responses from Humes and Sherma will come in open forums such as this, where both sides have equal access to post their positions, and NOT IN CLOSED FORUMS OR THOSE CONTROLLED BY THEIR PEERS. If they respond in the tradition of secrecy or in forums where I cannot get EQUAL space to give my side, it would merely expose the hypocrisy of their rhetorical ethics.

Finally, I offer dialog in earnest, as I imagined Rita had planned which unfortunately did not materialize for whatever reasons. It is never too late to start fresh and see one another’s positions with an open mind. That is the spirit of dharma as represented in the very name of DANAM.

I have proposed DANAM to host DEBATES on specific issues that are causing tension, and to moderate these debates to ensure equal rights of free speech. Let us see if they accept this.




 Doniger’s PR team at work!

From:  Rajiv Malhotra

Date:  Fri Dec 10, 2004; 3:35 pm

To: [Abhinava msg #2450]


Compare the two divergent accounts of the tensions between Hindus and the academic scholars who claim to be ‘objectively’ studying Hinduism. One is a few weeks old by a Diaspora Hindu man named Narayanan Komeranth, and the other appeared TODAY in the powerful U of Chicago’s magazine where Wendy Doniger’s rules as Queen.

This is how a Hindu Diaspora man sees things in great detail, covering many facets of the complex situation very clearly: http://www.indiacause.com/columns/OL_040601.htm

This is how Doniger’s powerful PR machinery has hit again: http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0412/features/index.shtml

(Someone pointed out that Vijay Prashad has positioned himself as the high profile Indian that the West can parade at interviews whenever a Desi [‘native’ Indian – SV] proxy is required, whereas to young Indian idealists he still claims to be against Imperialism!)

Finally, here is Arvind Sharma’s take on the whole affair:





 Please include a link to “Wendy Doniger and Interpretation of Hindu Mythology” at svAbhinava

From:  Sunthar Visuvalingam

Date:  Sun Dec 12, 2004; 3:32 pm

To: [Abhinava msg #2454]


Dear Amy [M. Braverman],

Rajiv Malhotra has brought to our attention (below) your recent write-up on “The interpretation of gods: Do leading religious scholars err in their analysis of Hindu texts?” at the University of Chicago website:


Since you’ve thought it fit to include in your feature a hyperlink to a critique by Rajiv of ‘Wendyism’ at my svAbhinava website, I would request you to substitute the existing link with one to the parent frame-set (with numerous links) of “What is the ‘political’ agenda behind American studies of South Asian Tantra?” so that visitors may also have the option of accessing an increasing number of related dialogues and articles:


Moreover, not having had the privilege of being interviewed for the feature (if I’m not mistaken, Rajiv would have forwarded you my name and contact info...), I would also request you to add a hyperlink within your feature to the debate around Wendy’s work that I’m currently compiling:

“Wendy Doniger and Interpretation of Hindu Mythology: Krishna in the Mahâbhârata


that attempts to replace her pronouncements on Lord Krishna, hermeneutics of Indian representations, and influence in academia, within the context of not just the current ‘Hindu versus WASP’ controversy but also the ideological underpinnings of the War on Terror. My request might make more sense if you consider that I had recommended Wendy to be a pre-publication reviewer of my Ph.D. thesis (on humor!). I’m still compiling, editing and reformatting the digest for easier access and greater intelligibility, but our readers might appreciate the head-start....

With best wishes,



 Re: Please include a link to "Wendy Doniger and Interpretation of Hindu Mythology" at svAbhinava

From: Amy Braverman

Sent: Monday, December 13, 2004; 5:37 PM [Abhinava msg #2459 – order of thread reversed]

To:  Sunthar Visuvalingam 

Dear Sunthar,

Thank you for writing. The original link has been replaced with the one you provided. Because we're only linking to items mentioned directly in the article, we won't be able to link to your discussion, as you suggested.




 RE: Please include a link to "Wendy Doniger and Interpretation of Hindu Mythology" at svAbhinava

From:  Sunthar Visuvalingam

Date:  Mon Dec 13, 2004; 11:13 am

Dear Amy,

Thank you for having replaced the hyperlink to Rajiv's critique of David White's book, for I think it's important that visitors immediately realize that svAbhinava is not (just) another 'Hindutva' site. Your reason for not adding the link to the debate around Wendy at svAbhinava makes sense. However, I'm making that debate along with your own feature available from links added to the head of Rajiv's review. If you don't mind, I'm also appending this exchange to the end of Part I of that dialogue so that readers may be reassured that we are in agreement regarding this.

Best wishes,


P.S. Given the circumstances, context, venue and nature of your feature, I found it to be relatively balanced...those really interested in the (if there is any one such...) 'truth' behind such controversial issues can easily do their homework by following up on the various links provided.

[End of Part I]