Wendy Doniger, who of late is very much in the news, is the intellectual grandmother of Peter Heehs. Wendy Doniger begat Jeffrey Kripal, who did his “research” on Sri Ramakrishna for his P.H.D. dissertation under her guidance at the University of Chicago. Jeffrey Kripal wrote the blurb on the back of the Lives of Sri Aurobindo (2008) by Peter Heehs, who gave a soft copy of his book to his “venerable guide” prior to its publication – Kripal’s book on Esalen (2007) contains references to the MS of the Lives. Esalen is an institution founded by Michael Murphy, who is more or less in the same business of misinterpreting spirituality. He in fact paid for the trips of both Richard Hartz and Peter Heehs to America in order to attend a conference in California. This is the lineage of the so-called scholarship that we are presently dealing with, and of which most of the disciples, followers and intellectual admirers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are totally unaware. Now that Wendy Doniger, the grandmother of falsehood (she has a veritable brood of children who have followed the path of outright denigration and erotic misinterpretation of Hinduism) has been exposed and her publisher Penguin Books has capitulated to a humble headmaster (hats off for Dinanath Batra, the octogenarian hero and his courageous lawyer Monica Arora), it is time that the followers of Sri Aurobindo rethink and take stock of the situation at the Ashram: Why did the Managing Trustee of the Ashram encourage Peter Heehs in his denigration of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother? Why did Manoj Das, the award winning writer justify this incomprehensible action of the Managing Trustee, who will certainly go down in history as perhaps the only Trustee who has gone against the interest of the spiritual institution he was entrusted with?
Meanwhile, it is time to rejoice a great victory for all those who stand for the spiritual values embodied in Hinduism. We publish below a few objectionable extracts from Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus: An Alternative History in order to give the readers an idea of her so-called scholarship and the academic tag attached to her erotic misinterpretations of the sacred symbols of India. The extracts along with critical comments on them are part of an online petition that was circulated for canvassing against her book. The petition at one point of time fetched 11009 signatures as opposed to the meagre 3500 claimed by a group of leftist scholars fighting for her cause. The full petition, which also has a list of factual errors, can be accessed at:
DEROGATORY, DEFAMATORY AND OFFENSIVE STATEMENTS
Clumsily written, each chapter is a shocking and appalling series of anecdotes which denigrate, distort and misrepresent Hinduism and the history of India and Hindus. Doniger uses selective quotations from obscure and non-original, peripheral and ignorant references with a bizarre emphasis on sexuality and eroticism. Cited below are only a handful of quotes along with our understanding and interpretation, with references from Hindu scripture.
[Page number precedes the quote from the book. This is followed by a rebuttal comment.]
Pg 40 If the motto of Watergate was Follow the money, the motto of the history of Hinduism could well be Follow the monkey or, more often Follow the horse.
COMMENT: Very derogatory and offensive. The motto of Hinduism is to follow the truth and unite with God.
Pg 112 - The author alleges that in Rigveda 10.62, it is implied that a woman may find her own brother in her bed!
COMMENT: The hymn has no such suggestion. It is offensive to suggest that the sacred text of Hindus has kinky sex in it.
Pg 128 - The book likens the Vedic devotee worshipping different Vedic deities to a lying and a philandering boyfriend cheating on his girlfriend(s).
COMMENT: This is offensive and ignores that fact that in the Rigveda, the gods are said to be all united, born of one another, and from the same source.
Pg 225 -Dasharathas son is certainly lustful... Rama knows all too well what people said about Dasharatha; when Lakshmana learns that Rama has been exiled, he says, The king is perverse, old, and addicted to sex, driven by lust (2.18.3)
COMMENT: Sri Rama is revered and worshipped as a deity. The highly acclaimed and critical edition of Valmikis Ramayana records no such statement attributed to Lakshmana. An imagined phrase, 'kama-sakta' is mistranslated as 'addicted to sex' by the author whereas it normally means filled with desires. Valmiki uses a phrase 'samani-madhah' (trans. Possessed of passion).
Pg 467 - Harihara and Bukka (the founders of the Vijayanagara Empire that saved Hindu culture in S India) double-crossed the Delhi Sultan when they reconverted to Hinduism.
COMMENT: The brothers committed apostasy as they had been imprisoned and forcibly converted to Islam, and immediately reverted to Hinduism when they were 1000 miles from the Sultan, under the influence of a Hindu ascetic.
Pg 468-469 -The mosque, whose serene calligraphic and geometric contrasts with the perpetual motion of the figures depicted on the temple, makes a stand against the chaos of India, creating enforced vacuums that India cannot rush into with all its monkeys and peoples and colors and the smells of the bazaar.
COMMENT: It is simply unacceptable that a scholar can flippantly, pejoratively and derogatorily essentialize the Hindus as monkeys and peoples, colors and smells.., and chaos in most insulting manner with the aspersion thrown at the entire Hindu culture and community all over the world. Such generalization has no place in serious scholarly work.
Pg 509 - Shankara and the philosopher's wife. This tale contrasts sex and renunciation in such a way that the renunciant philosopher is able to have his cake and eat it, to triumph not only in the world of the mind (in which, before this episode begins, he wins a series of debates against the nonrenouncing male Mimamsa philosopher) but in the world of the body, represented by the philosophers wife (not to mention the harem women who clearly prefer Shankara to the king in bed). The author attributes the tale to Shankaradigvijaya of Madhava and to Ravichandra's commentary on Amarushataka.
COMMENT: The author concocts the story as a sexual orgy in which the Saint Adi Shankara and King Amruka take turns making love to the latters wives after he is tired. Both her sources however state that the King was already dead and the Saint transferred his soul into the dead Kings body through his yogic powers. There is no suggestion in the texts that the queens prefer Shankara to the king in bed.
Pg 571 - It is alleged that in a hymn from Saint Kshetrayyas poetry, God rapes the women devotees.
COMMENT: The hymn merely presents devotion using spiritual metaphors and the hymns of the Saint seen collectively depict it as a passionate love affair between the God and the devotees. No rape is implied in this hymn at all.
Again, the above is simply a sampling of the scandalous and offensive statements in the book. By her own admission in the book, Doniger has no credentials as a historian and the title of the book is misleading as the book is not on the History nor an Alternative History of India. This shows that the author is not an authority on the subject as she is not able to understand the deep meaning of Sanskrit verses or Indian Concepts. These cast serious doubts about the authors integrity as a researcher and ability to interpret accurately. Additional examples of the authors shoddy scholarship will be made available upon request.
We emphasize that this defamatory book misinforms readers about the history of Hindu civilization, its cultures and traditions. The book promotes prejudices and biases against Hindus. Can Penguins editors really be incompetent enough to have allowed this to pass to publication? If this is not deliberate malice, Penguin must act now in good faith.
As concerned readers, we ask PENGUIN GROUP to:
1. WITHDRAW all the copies of this book immediately from the worldwide bookshops/markets/Universities/Libraries and refrain from printing any other edition.
2. APOLOGIZE for having published this book The Hindus: An Alternative History. This book seriously and grossly misrepresents the Hindu reality as known to the vast numbers of Hindus and to scholars of Hindu tradition. PENGUIN must apologize for failure to observe proper pre-publication scrutiny and scholarly review.