Arun Shourie's column, Feb.18, Part 3/3
....continued from the last post....
Swami Vivekananda, Gandhiji and other reformers often drew the attention
of the missionaries to these blind-spots. They made another vital observation.
In condemning and calumnising a Hindu practice like idolatory for instance, and
the beliefs behind it, the missionaries missed the deep potential which was
inherent in it.
As the same human pains and predicaments made their communities - and them
personally - seek the same sorts of solace in the same sorts of devices, they
soon enough became idolators of the most primitive kind. The idol as an aid
for gathering one's awareness, as the embodiment of values which by honoring
it and reflecting on it one imbibed; the reverence for all animal life, the
reverence for the peepul as the entry-point from which to develop reverence
for all inanimate nature; each of these as a device to break down the barriers
between man and animals and inanimate materials; the harmonious view of life
which resulted from these in contrast with the instrumental view of the latter
which man-centered traditions (Christianity, Islam more so, and Marxism-Lenin-
ism most of all) inculcated; each of these as a device, a stepping-stone in
breaking mind and matter - this great healing potential, this potential for
opening horizons of a vast and deep knowledge was foreclosed by the calumny.
And the statue of Virgin Mary became a mere wish-fulfilling thing.
How true the warning of the Dhammapada" "A wrong action may not bring its
reaction at once, even as fresh milk turns not sour at once; like a smouldering
fire concealed under ashes, it consumes the wrong-doer..."
Missionary scholarship, or scholarship inspired by the missionary impulse,
has been even more lethal than the calumny. Its effects have lasted through
the century, and they have reached matters far afield. A number of the notions
which colour our minds to this day can be traced to the seeds that were sown
by that scholarship: That the white Aryans massacred and drove away the dark-
skinned Dravids, that India is not a nation but a heap, a zoo of different
As has been shown, there was not the slightest evidence for the notions, on
the contrary all the evidence pointed the other way: For dating scriptures like
the Vedas, for instance, Max Mueller is the foundational authority; he dated
the Rig Veda to 1200 BC not because of any evidence, he had none - neither
archaelogical nor any other kind; he put the date of 1200 BC because he firmly
believed that the world had been created at 9 am on 23 October 4004 BC, and
that because the Bible says so, that given the intervals mentioned in the
Bible for events down to the Flood, the Vedas could not have been composed
before 1200 BC! Moreover, the ones who put the notions in circulation did so,
in many cases, with specific objectives - of undermining the regard of the
people for their own culture, of pitting sections of them against other
sections. They often explicitely acknowledged these motives in their private
correspondence, which, as in the case of Max Mueller, has since been brought
to light. Recall, for instance, what Max Mueller wrote to his wife about his
translation of the Rig Veda: "...this edition of mine and the trnslation of
the Veda, will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the
growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion
and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting
all that has sprung from it during the last 3000 years."
(For a telling and succint accounting in the case of one of these seeds,
see Dr Navratna S. Rajaram's important lectures: Aryan Invasion of India, The
myth and the truth, Voice of India, 1993, from which the Max Mueller examples
So deeply have these notions got imbedded in our discourse, so potent is
the divisive politics that swirls around them that today to show these notions
up - as having been put out without any evidence, as being contrary to all
evidence which has come to light in the last century, as having been put out
for the specific and conscious purpose of dividing and undermining India - to
do so is denounced as chauvinism and communalism!
That these notions remain so lethal to this day is not, of course, the
doing of the missionaries: The principal responsibility for that lies with
Indian intellectuals. But while one lense of the spectacles of these intellec-
tuals has been fabricated by the Marxists, the other one, the original one,
was certainly fabricated by that missionary-imperialist scholarship.