How not to engage in Hindu-Christian dialogue – Vijaya Rajiva

Dr. Vijaya Rajiva “The chipping away at the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas. gurus and maths has been the ancient dream of the Catholic Church. Hindus should resolutely show up these designs and above all reject Hindu Christian Dialogue. That exercise is intended to be a distraction. The real target of the Church are the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths, because the Church has understood that these are the backbone of our civilisation.” – Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

Rajiv MalhotraAt a discussion at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Rajiv Malhotra, the author of the book Breaking India (2011) addressing a small gathering, presented a spectacle of retreat and submission before a known ‘adversary’ Jesuit theologian and scholar Dr. Francis Xavier Clooney (see videos below). Malhotra’s co-author Aravindan Neelakandan was not present and it is not known what his views are on his co-author’s start of a new career in Hindu Christian Dialogue. It was not so long ago that Breaking India had poignantly informed readers of the dangers facing India: terrorism, Maoism, Inculturation from the Church and so on. And now we see the one of the authors of that book engaging with the self-same Inculturation forces, under the rubric of Interfaith Dialogue, in this instance, Hindu-Christian Dialogue. The present writer has explained in previous articles the reasons for this capitulation by Mr. Malhotra. The reader is reminded that Inculturation is the process by which the Church ingratiates and insinuates itself into the local culture (in this case Hindu culture) not to integrate with it but to subvert it in various ways, so that the end result would be conversion. The Vatican has openly endorsed this method and one avenue of Inculturation is the drawing in of Hindu intellectuals into the process of Interfaith Dialogue, specifically Hindu-Christian Dialogue. Violence and conquest are no longer the chosen methods. Other avenues are there and Interfaith Dialogue is one of them, along with creeping Conversion.

At present Hindus should sit up and take notice of the fact that Mr. Malhotra has further intentions of spreading his ‘message.’

During his recent visit to India for talks on his new book Being Different, Malhotra met three different groups. The first meeting was with academics in Delhi amongst whom was a professor from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU, not known for its Hindu orientation) who informed Malhotra that he Malhotra is interested in ‘knowledge systems’. Mr. Malhotra repeated this line at Dartmouth. In the video of the discussion there he tells us that he is interested in knowledge systems, that he is not interested in the ‘politics’ of interfaith dialogue. This coming from the author of Breaking India is indeed precious!

Spanish pirate Francis XavierThe second meeting was with business people, a new group who Malhotra claims, does not know much about their own identity as Hindus and needed to be educated on the topic. And the third group was composed of some Hindu acharyas who Malhotra felt did not know much about Western thought and who needed to be educated in order to engage in Hindu Christian Dialogue. It is this last group that should concern the Hindu Samaj most. It is one thing for diasporic Hindus to keep themselves occupied with interfaith dialogue, quite another thing to help in the subversion of the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths by the Church. These have been the mainstay of our civilisation and we tinker with them at our own peril. The present writer has explained why this is so, in a previous article ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’. The central argument of that article is that the traditional acharyas are well versed in their own tradition and that should continue. Spreading the virus of interfaith dialogue amongst them is doing a disservice to them and to the Hindu Samaj.

Here, we want to briefly examine the shape of things to come by looking at the process by which the well-trained Jesuit scholar Dr. Francis Xavier Clooney was able to exploit Rajiv Malhotra’s vulnerabilities, both the latter’s new-found agenda of interfaith dialogue (and now quite openly Hindu-Christian Dialogue) and his position as an autodidact. The ‘churning’ that Malhotra did in understanding the differences between Hinduism and the monotheistic faiths (specifically Christianity) is important to himself undoubtedly. He is taken in by his own involvement with this process and as with most autodidacts (self-taught) though not all, he imagines this to be a world shaking event. This subjective illusion can be the basis of a fine adventure of ideas, even perhaps an autobiographical account of his personal evolution. But as a ‘scholarly’ attempt to tackle a well-trained adversary it was bound to end in a debacle.

Who is Francis Xavier Clooney? He is a Jesuit priest and scholar who is a Professor at the School of Divinity at Harvard University (USA). He has a long-standing interest in Hindu Christian Dialogue. He was introduced at Dartmouth as :

  1. Professor of Divinity and Comparative Theology
  2. He is on numerous editorial boards
  3. He is the Director of the Centre for the Study of World Religions
  4. He is the first President of the International Society for Hindu-Christian Dialogue
  5. He was the Coordinator of Inter Religious Dialogue for the Society of Jesus
  6. He is the editor of New Comparative Theology.

Fr. Dr. Francis ClooneyHis academic credentials are impeccable. So is his dedication to the Vatican’s program of Inculturation (see the article by George Thundiparambil ‘F/X Clooney, SJ: Poisoned wine in a new Tetra Pak’ as well the writings of Radha RajanSandhya Jain and Tamizhchelvan). The present writer has pointed out on several occasions that Dr. Clooney is a soft-spoken, well spoken, well-trained scholar who does not appear before audiences with the words Inculturation and Conversion blazoned on his forehead. His modus operandi is intellectual discussion and the occasion at Dartmouth provided him with a ready venue. Both he and Malhotra expect to continue these interfaith, Hindu Christian dialogues. This was clearly stated. These ‘dialogues’ will not benefit the Hindu Samaj. They will only offer opportunities for Fr. Clooney to open the door further into Inculturation while providing Malhotra with the ILLUSION that he is benefitting Hinduism by explaining the differences between Hinduism and the monotheistic faiths to a Western audience, even though he claims that he is addressing himself to Hindus.

After a 34 minute talk (approximately) by Malhotra on the themes of his book Being Different, Dr. Clooney took the podium and his talk lasted approximately 46 minutes. It has a 3 pronged approach and its subtlety and sophistication are all too evident, besides which Malhotra sounded amateurish and unprepared.

In the first part Clooney paid the obligatory tributes to the author and amongst these there is one that stands out. He remarked that it is not the first time that Hindus have embarked on a critique of Christianity (and the West). He mentioned that Swami Dayananda Sarasvati in the 19th century and Swami Vivekananda in the 1900s did just that, but now Malhotra has provided a MORE SOPHISTICATED (and updated) critique. Fr. Clooney thus conferred the mantle of a new Vivekananda on Shri Malhotra’s shoulders, which the latter did not decline to accept. This was evident in Malhotra’s remarks after the Clooney talk.

Swami VivekanandaThe second part of Clooney’s talk was devoted to a summary of the themes of the book which Malhotra had already presented to the audience, the over arching theme being that Hinduism was a different kind of Universalism ( different from the West) and that differences should be respected and can be the basis of dialogue.

It is in the third part that Dr. Clooney excelled in the subtle and sophisticated dialectic that Jesuit scholars are known for. In this segment he both acknowledged the merits of some of Malhotra’s arguments and at the same time he pointed out their inadequacy as an account of the West and Christianity. At the end of the session Malhotra acknowledged that he had taken close notes and these points would be the subject of further interfaith dialogues! While Mr. Malhotra dutifully brought out his copy book, Dr. Clooney’s frequent gestures of rubbing his hands together, said it all. The present writer has already pointed out elsewhere that Mr. Malhotra’s method Purva Paksha was fatally flawed. He truncated the ancient Hindu method of argument (Tarka Shastra) by omitting an important section of it: Refutation of the opponent’s arguments. He merely ‘gazed’ at the opponent but did not refute him. And the Hindu-Christian ‘dialogue’ is set up just for that.

The ancient method consists of (1) Statement of the opponent’s arguments, (2) REFUTATION of the opponent’s argument, (3)Statement of one’s own arguments.

Dr. Clooney, even as he praised his host, managed to show that Mr. Malhotra did not really understand the West, especially Christianity. At least half a dozen examples were cited and it would be useful here to point out two or three of them. One of them was Malhotra’s incomplete understanding of the god of Christianity and his historicity. Another example was the ‘complexity’ of the synthetic unity of Christian thought, unlike Malhotra’s implied description of it as being inferior to Hindu integral unity.

The third example is telling. Clooney pointed out that in using the periodisation of history as starting with Rome, followed by the birth of Christianity, followed by Renaissance and Reformation and then followed by Modern Science, the Enlightenment, and then Colonialism, etc. Malhtora was using the West’s own model of itself. Hence, here again Malhotra was deficient in truly describing the West and especially Christianity.

Ramana MaharshiFr. Clooney even managed to throw in a quick remark that questioned the specificity (according to him) of the Hindu interpretation of the Rishi tradition. The Rishi tradition according to him is much more open than Hindus would allow. Mr. Malhotra held up Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi as his sources, but he did not and could not defend the vast Smriti tradition or even the Upanishads as he did not seem to be very familiar with these. A traditional acharya would immediately have been able to respond to this. A traditional acharya does not need to have gone through the fraudulent exercise of interfaith dialogue to explain the Vedas and the Smritis! He certainly would not have allowed himself to be entrapped in the periodisation of history, borrowed from the West!

Apart from all this being Clooney’s misrepresentation of the Vedas, it is also a sign of the current attempt by the Church to refine its Inculturation by appropriating the Vedas! The Hindus do not understand the Vedas but Christians such as Fr. Clooney can. This is the subtext of his observations.

Adi Shankaracharya with disciples.All in all, the video shows a dismal lack of preparedness by Shri Malhotra on how to handle the Jesuit scholar. This is, of course, where his lack of formal training shows up. What should alarm the Hindu Samaj is that the book Being Different is being considered (so the author informs us) for students at the Department of Psychology at the University of Delhi. One hopes that intrepid students and faculty can tackle the situation. Hindus do not need lectures on what atman or punarjanmam mean, nor do they need to seek for a place at the table of Western Universalism (which is Mr. Malhotra’s stated aim). Dr. Clooney has already done the rounds of institutions in Chennai, among college students in particular. Should he appear at classrooms in Delhi one can only hope that the door of interfaith dialogue is firmly shut. The book Being Different cannot be allowed to become the thin end of the wedge for Inculturation (although that may not be the author’s aim).

The chipping away at the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths has been the ancient dream of the Catholic Church. Hindus should resolutely show up these designs and above all reject Hindu-Christian Dialogue. That exercise is intended to be a distraction. The real target of the Church are the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths, because the Church has understood that these are the backbone of our civilisation .

Other articles by the same author

  1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
  2. Does Rajiv Malhotra need Purva Paksha for Hindu-Christian dialogue?
  3. Rajiv Malhotra and Hindu-Christian Dialogue
  4. Francis Xavier Clooney: Building the Trojan Horse
  5. Purva Paksha and the Siren Song of Hindu-Christian dialogue
  6. Rajiv Malhotra’s endorsement of Hindu-Christian dialogue
More articles on Hindu-Christian dialogue and inculturation
  1. Inter-faith Dialogue: What’s in it for Hindus? – Sandhya Jain
  2. Interfaith Dialogue: Western Christian imperialism vs. the Non-Christian world – Sandhya Jain
  3. Inculturation & Interfaith Dialogue: The futility of it – Thamizhchelvan
  4. F/X Clooney, SJ: Poisoned wine in a new Tetra Pak – George Augustine
  5. Fr. Gabriele Amorth on Yoga: A Passport to Hell? – Virendra Parekh
  6. Hindu activism outside the Sangh – Koenraad Elst
  7. Interspirituality: Interfaith dialogue or dissembling monologue – Kenneth Rose
  8. Kanchi Acharya: No more conversions – Indian Express
  9. Ram Swarup, Hinduism, and Monotheistic Religions – David Frawley
  10. Hindu View of Christianity and Islam – Ram Swarup
  11. “Dancing Jesus” in the New Indian Bible – Swami Devananda Saraswati
  12. Kanchi Acharya confronts Vatican Cardinal at interfaith meeting – Radha Rajan 
  13. Interfaith Dialogue: The Vatican in sheep’s clothing – Radha Rajan
  14. Inculturation: Fooling the Hindu masses – Nithin Sridhar
  15. Catholic Ashrams: Sannyasins or Swindlers – Sita Ram Goel
  16. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters – Sita Ram Goel
  17. Atma Jyoti Ashram: Sannyasis or Snake Oil Salesmen? – Swami Devananda Saraswati
  18. The Interview – Swami Devananda & Rajeev Srinivasan
  19. The Spirit of Satan at work in India – M.K. Gandhi

» 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.

4 Responses

  1. Hindu Darshan is not something that can be taught and expounded in universities by professors who have no rudimentary knowledge of Samskrit. To fathom the meaning of the Hindu Satras one has to sit at the feet of a traditional Hindu Samnnyasi with VAIRAGYA in the full.Has Rajiv Malhotra gone through this process? This answer is an emphatic NO. Then who is he to decide that he represents the Hindus.


  2. “Advaita is for a few sannyasis only, not the householder or society at large who should be worshipping Ishwara, the Guru, and their Family Deity”

    100% right you are.

    You have mentioned Sri Krishna and it is Sri Krishna alone who says in the Gita ” Surrender to Me” . The epics Ramayana and all the yugas before is pluralistic Ramayana of course has Ashtavakra Rishi, King Janakas Rishi, which is the greatest treatise on non-attachment (can I say Ramana Maharishi was the only saint who practiced this). Ramayana has Sage Vashista with the extraordinary Yoga Vashista, which touches Advaita. One can say Ashtavakra Gita and Yoga Vashista laid the foundations of Advaita. Adi Sankara in Dakshinamurti sloka (a sloka which verses Advaita) acknowledges this in a very humble way as ” Sarva Muni Jananam” (to all sages) . Ramayana has Vibhshana Shranagathi (surrender) which is very analogous to Ramanujas call for surrender to Maha Vishnu. Then you have Lord Hanuman, who is Dvaita personified with Lord Rama. The whole gamut of Sanatan Dharma comes into play in Ramayana. The evolution into the next yuga when Lord Krishna comes as God is due to the massive decline of values compared to Ramayana , which is very well written as ” Yeda Yeda hi Dharamsya …………………………………………… Sambhavami Yuge Yuge”

    In this Kali Yuga, you have a terrible decline in human values added with superconfusion due to perturbations of the ego, which Sri Ramakrishna Parmahamas rightly described as the cause of “Maya”
    This is exactly what has happened to Malhotra and Clooney. Their egos have perturbed so high to be trapped in Maya that they blabber and write anything.


  3. Sri Anonymous you have hit the nail on the head!. They are mixing up two different things. This is the problem with modern Advaita promoters – Neo-Vedantins.

    Christianity is a personality cult focused on the New Testament character Jesus. It is not countered with Advaitic abstractions. It is countered with a SUPERIOR personality and that can only be Sri Krishna of the Mahabharata from the Hindu point of view.

    Everybody forgets that Shankara re-established the Six Religions of Hinduism and that Advaita is for a few sannyasis only, not the householder or society at large who should be worshipping Ishwara, the Guru, and their Family Deity.


  4. The path of affirmation is Bhakti and the path of negation is the way of not not this ( neti neti) has been jumbled up by both Malhotra and Clooney. The Path of negation is very well explained in the best and yet to be equalled by any text , Vivekachudamani. Vivekachudamani is a very difficult text to understand , if one’s Sanskirt is not super perfect. To be superperfect, you have to live a life in Vedic schools, learn Sanskrit from the age of six. You must live and breathe Sanskrit , so that the right smiriti and shruti is imbibed. Suddenly you retire from IT business at 45 and say Purva Paksha is outright hand weaving. One doubts whether Clooney and Malhotra have even the basic knowledge of Sanskrit. Purva Paksha requires Vairagaya better wriiten as Bairagya to be performed. This V (B) airagya comes after deep study , detachment , tapas and as Adi Sankara very brilliantly put it as “Gnana V (B)airagya Siddhartham “. Just discussing Purva Paksha with heavy lunch, carbonated drinks and what not is puerile stuff.

    Many westerners down the ages have confused the path of affirmation and path of negation. Clooney and Malhotra have committed the same mistake. The path of affirmation is towards the omnipotent and the path of negation, neti, neti is towards ordinary mortals , which Adi Sankara did with great character when he re-established Sanatan Dharma all over India. Adi Sankaras Bhaja Govindham brings in the path of affirmation and Vivekachudamnai the path of negation.

    Both Malhotra and Clooney by hand weaving for cheap fame have missed the bus of interpretation by a million miles.


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