Due to centuries of distortion Hinduism is widely misunderstood

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By Dr. Sastry Putcha

I never thought of starting a column with President Obama ‘s unfairness. After all, he has been and still is my most admired of world leader.So much so, after his dismal performance in the first debate of his second term reelection campaign, I just couldn’t sleep worried about his victory prospects. But something always bothered me about his unfairness towards India when it comes to his judgement of this ancient country’s tolerance. No doubt he must have been fully aware of India’s subjugation for hundreds of years by foreigners of various faiths. India was never violent but quietly absorbed the many cultures into its fabric. It is not just Obama’s unfairness but hypocrisy at the same breath! Case in point:
“Obama forced to defend Saudi Arabia cosiness after India tolerance speech”
That is a headline in the venerated, The Guardian (the guardian.com) on January 27, 2015 written by journalists Dan Roberts and Jason Burke. The first paragraph begins “Barack Obama has been forced to defend his unwillingness to challenge Saudi Arabia’s autocratic rulers as he led a US delegation to shore up relations with its new king, just hours after lecturing India on religious tolerance and women’s rights.” In fact, he cut short of his India trip and once he is with the Saudi Prince, the President didn’t utter a single word on Saudi intolerance and bigotry!
The Guardian’s shock at the way India was treated that day by Obama is my shock today at the way many of the elite sons and daughters of India denigrate about their present Mother Country.Why did Obama misunderstand about Indian way of living? That is understandable, him being an American. But why is today Indian Media and the intellectuals remain ignorant about the spiritual history of India?
My introspection began.
Why this imbalance? What is missing? Forgetting Dara Shukoh for example?
India has long spiritual history. Yet I have never heard from any of the billions of Indians in talk or print about Dara Shukoh and his contribution to India. The first son of Shah Jahan,
Dara Shukoh with his inquisitive, philosophicaland mystical aptitude, gathered many scholars in Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic and translated the Upanishads into Persian around 1655-56 and exported to the Middle Eas.t They were then transported to Europeand translated from Persian to Latin to French, English and to other European languages by the end of 18th century.
Germans and other Europeans had for the very first time learnt of this immense wealth of Indian Philosophy.The Vedic texts reached America in its formative years. The spiritual brilliance of Upanishads inspired Western philosophers from Schopenhauer, Max Muller, Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau and the others so much that the West’s view of Indian philosophy and spirituality rose to Himalayan heights. English poet and philosopher T.S. Eliot, wrote that many “Indian philosophers make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys”.
American Veda—Vedanta quietly surfaces in the daily lives Americans”.
As the knowledge of Upanishads with its Advaita Vedanta (true Self same as the highest Reality)
spread all over the West, it is not just the life of the elite that has been transformed in the West. In his 2010 book, “American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation How Indian Spirituality Changed the West” the author,Philip Goldbergstates that due “to centuries of distortion—some intentionally perpetrated by colonists and missionaries some the result of innocent ignorance—Hinduism is widely misunderstood” . He then goes on to chronicles the absorption of Indian Vedanta during the past 150 years. He concludes that Indian Vedanta profoundly influenced American way of life. As Houston Smith writes in the foreword for this book
“ Vedanta quietly surfaces in the daily lives Americans”. What about in India, the origin of the Upanishads?
Due to current distortion Hinduism is widely misunderstood
The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ in some fashion when you talk to ordinary Indian. But it is the intentional distortion perpetrated by the selfish Media, by the hypocritical pseudosecularists and by the ignorant or selfish politicians that the Indian tolerance is widely misunderstood. I can’t blame President Obama after all!
(Dr. Sastry Putcha has undergraduate and graduate engineering degrees from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC. He is frequent contributor to India Tribune and lives in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Putcha can be reached at drputcha@att.net)