Rajiv Malhotra & Francis Clooney: The siren song of interfaith dialogue – Vijaya Rajiva

“From start to finish the phrase Hindu-Christian dialogue is a misnomer. It is a heavily politicized enterprise and the author’s naivety is alarming, if not surprising. It is to be hoped that he will introspect and do a new u-turn, and reject the siren call of Hindu-Christian dialogue.” – Vijaya Rajiva

Rajiv MalhotraAuthor and writer Rajiv Malhotra has reported that he will be presenting his discussions with Francis Xavier Clooney, Jesuit priest, scholar and professor at the Divinity school at Harvard Universtiy, USA as a model of interfaith dialogue. The present writer has previously critiqued this event (which took place at Harvard University) in the article “Rajiv Malhotra & Francis Clooney SJ: Just friends or best friends?” on this website. 

The word ‘dialogue’ and the phrase ‘interfaith dialogue’ have a misleading meaning in people’s minds, because they bring to mind visions of peace and co-existence. However, the history of the two proselytizing faiths has hardly been one of peace and co-existence and Mr. Malhotra himself is quite aware of this fact and as well of the current strategy of the Catholic Church to subvert Hinduism by the phenomenon known as inculturation. (See the book Breaking India by him and co-author Aravindan Neelakandan). In the above mentioned article the present writer has mentioned some of the reasons why Mr. Malhotra has taken a u-turn and has begun to engage in interfaith dialogue, or as Dr. Clooney put it bluntly, in Hindu-Christian dialogue.

At the Harvard event Mr. Malhotra told us that his new book Being Different calls upon the West to understand Hinduism’s different world view on its own terms and not through the categories of the Judaeo-Christian and Western thought. He highlights the differences between the two systems and stakes the claim of Hinduism’s own brand of universalism.

Fr. Francis Clooney SJFor Hindus these are not new insights nor have Hindu thinkers especially since the 19th century been indifferent to the challenges of Western thought. And so Mr. Malhotra’s own arguments are nothing new and in fact they represent, in the writer’s opinion, a type of capitulation to the very adversary that he has encountered in Judaeo-Christian and Western thought. He is also seeking an endorsement of his position from the very same adversaries. This is not just the beginning of the slippery slope; it is the slippery slope itself.

This is evident in his use of the ancient Hindu shastra of Tarka (philosophical argument) of which Purva Paksha is the first step. In his thinking Purva Paksha is a sort of ‘gaze’ by which Hindus can look at the West, rather than be looked at, which has been the case till recently. This is a misunderstanding of Purva Paksha as practised by Hindu philosophers, of all schools, whether it is Mimamsa or most notably that of Adi Shankara. With the Hindu philosophers there is a three-fold process:

1. Statement of the adversary ‘s position

2. Rigorous refutation of the adversary’s position

3. Statement of one’s own position

The purpose of Purva Paksha was to defeat the adversary. Adi Shankara’s Digvijaya tour of India accomplished just that, as he took on various adversarial schools such as Mimamsa and Buddhism.

SocratesMr. Malhotra on the other hand has tried to accommodate the adversary. He has been misled by the word ‘dialogue’. In Western thought it is most associated with Plato. However, here the word ‘dialogue’ does not mean an accommodation. Rather in each and every one of the great and small Platonic dialogues (36 of them) Socrates sets out to defeat the ignorance of his interlocutors through a relentless argumentative process, peeling away their layers of ignorance. There is no accommodation here. Our contemporary understanding (and that of Malhotra’s) of dialogue is neither Purva Paksha nor Platonic. It is a type of wishful thinking. It has its place in certain situations but not in the context of so-called Hindu-Christian encounters, where the adversaries’ subterfuges need to be unmasked, not further covered over with meanderings.

Mr. Malhotra is misled (and misleads the audience) into thinking that a friendly accommodation of the adversary’s positions is the same as classical Purva Paksha or Platonic dialectics. He is perfectly entitled to his own adventure of ideas and as an autodidact this novel experience holds him in certain thraldom. And as with every author/writer he wants to communicate his ideas to as large an audience as he can reach.

But should Hindus take this seriously as an enlightening or useful experience? Should young Hindu students, who already have been deprived of a first hand experience of their own civilisational and cultural experience by the colonial experience and its camp followers at the various universities, be further distanced from the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus, maths,  etc. of India? Perhaps the ‘gaze’ should now be critically turned towards Mr. Malhotra’s own arguments, especially as the Catholic Church continues to make inroads into the country.

Indian IdiotDr. Clooney’s eager sponsorship of these discussions may seem to be purely intellectual/spiritual/religious forays, but objectively, they are attempts at his own brand of inculturation. He has found a ready ally, a golden opportunity, to facilitate this process. It is not clear to any thinking Hindu as to why there should be a Hindu-Christian dialogue. Or even an interfaith dialogue, especially one that is manipulated by interested parties. The two proselytizing faiths are guilty of dogmatism and exclusivity, not Hinduism. Why then the need for Hindus to engage as if they are also a guilty party? If there are no mea culpas to be done, why should Hindus do them? And what is the compulsion to seek the approval of the West? Mr. Malhotra is entitled to his own adventure of ideas, but he should not take himself seriously as a defender of Hinduism, and nor should we. What do Hindus have to ‘dialogue’ about with a hostile adversary?

Mr. Malhotra’s statement that he is not interested in politicization is misleading.

From start to finish the phrase Hindu-Christian dialogue is a misnomer. It is a heavily politicized enterprise and the author’s naivety is alarming, if not surprising. It is to be hoped that he will introspect and do a new u-turn, and reject the siren call of Hindu-Christian dialogue. –  Haindava Keralam, Dec. 27, 2011

» Dr. Vijaya Rajiva is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university. Her academic training is in Philosophy, Political Science, Political Economy and History.

See also

2 Responses

  1. IS,

    I am glad that you have brought this traditional age old issue of desert religions at large. Organised religions as I call them, as a Corporate Religion Shop, are very dubious. Out of these three, Judaism is now crawling. This leaves Christianity and Islam. Both are fiercely competing with each other for conversion, which Hindus still do not believe in and quite rightly. I am in agreement on this point but it is equally essential to counter these two proselytising corporators.

    I have been partly busy with my virus and partly busy with this national virus debate on corruption. I just finished watching it as it fell in shame and pieces. I am mentioning it because it is relevant to this issue also. Hindus are imbecile sentimental hyper reactive volatile creatures and still have not woken up to the world’s challenges. I also assure you that they will never wake up. They can work under fear but not under pleasure.

    No wonder these agencies decieve them by divide, decieve and rule. We have some Europeans and Westerners who use this your inculturation technique I just learnt in your blog, permeate inside our society you quite rightly state and purchase some INdian Hindu faces in different castes to brain wash and then use them. I am sure you are more aware than me about such faces who pose as sympathisers but actually are destroying the foundations of society.

    They have such people in Indian scenario as well as in UK, US and other nations. I do not want to name but I have admonished them from time to time.

    I do not know how to combat them? Perhaps time is the biggest healer.

    However a word about these Christian Missionaries and the powerful western
    society and the Muslim world. I do not think that Muslims are yet over. The west perhaps will like to think that they have managed to either vanquished them or subdued them. My own feeling is opposite. Islam is very combative and will revert back at a single call. This fight between Islam and Christian world has not yet started. Wait and see over next one year. God bless


  2. This whole business of holding interfaith dialogues is nothing but self-promotion campaigns conducted by pseudo-intellectuals like Rajiv Malhotra and company. The fact is that so long as Christianity sticks to its exclusive and intolerant theology no understanding between Hinduism and Christianity is possible. Christianity cannot hold its dogmas to be non-negotiable if it wants a fruitful dialogue with Hinduism. Sri Aurobindo rightly points out that “you can live amicably with a religion whose principle is toleration. But how is it possible to live peacefully with a religion whose principle is I will not tolerate you?”

    It is not for the first time that such dialogues are taking place. Gandhi tried his hand at this but fell flat as he had to. However, the disastrous outcomes of his trysts with Christian leaders are still haunting the Hindus as such dialogues by Gandhi “left Hindus at home more defenseless vis-à-vis the Christian onslaught than they had been before.” (Sita Ram Goel – History of Hindu Christian Encounters). So the point is Christianity has to shed its exclusiveness for any talk between Hindus and Christians to come off. But then the question is: Will Christianity be Christianity if it does away with its spurious thought system?


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