Breaking the Spell of Dharma and Other Essays
By Meera Nanda
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Three Essays Collective, New Delhi
In recent times, there have been very few intellectual voices from among the English-using sections of India with the commitment and s of secularism in India seem to invest faith in ‘good Hinduism’ and its ‘plurality’ and seem content to direct their critical energies against Hindutva, refusing to see the fundamental links between the former and the latter. But the very rise of aggressive political Hindutva, since the 1980s, owes to the shallow secularism which refused to formulate a strong critique of Hinduism—in its Brahminical and non-Brahminical variations—but instead sponsored the practice of upholding various mutations of Hinduism in the public sphere. Under the guise of equal respect for all religions and cultural practices, the Indian state and society have openly indulged in and encouraged the celebration and prioritisation of Hindu rituals in public institutions, and the sad part is both secular (left-liberal) and anti-secular anti-Hindutva (broadly the ‘Ashis Nandy camp’) voices have not been disturbed by this. The crimes of public intellectuals have found an echo in the pursuits of their academic kin. Few university-bound academicians in India have been angered by the injustices they are surrounded by.
In such an overall context, Meera Nanda’s Breaking the Spell of Dharma is a passionate plea for secularising India. Though presented as a collection of essays, the book has the tone and character of a manifesto. As the title of the lead essay indicates, it is an attempt at “breaking the spell of dharma”. She states in the introduction: “This book is a plea for serious and critical engagement with India’s dominant religious tradition—Hinduism”. What is refreshing and reassuring about Nanda’s approach is that she locates the resources for this battle against Hindu dharma and Hindutva in Bhimrao Ambedkar’s ideas and the alternatives posited by the Dalit movement. But first, we need to come to terms with how Meera Nanda (who, after completing a PhD in molecular biology at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi worked with popular science movements and as a science reporter for The Indian Express, and then went on to acquire another doctorate in the philosophy of science) views the construction of modern Brahminical Hinduism during the British colonial period.
Anti-colonial nationalist fervour, in the context of the attempt by the British to introduce a modern scientific discourse, resulted in a Hindu-nationalist reading of scientific reason in Hindu metaphysical terms. Nanda identifies as neo-Hindus a range of players from Ram Mohan Roy to Vivekananda, Aurobindo to Radhakrishnan, Nehru to Gandhi, and argues that they saw the naturalism and scepticism of modern science to be already present in vedic literature, or as being secondary to “the ultimate spiritual truths of Vedanta”. In such a context, “the only consistent and uncompromising voices of a rational re-examination of the core values of Hindu metaphysics came from Dalit and Shudra intellectuals, including above all, Ambedkar, Phule and Periyar. The work of Enlightenment that was shouldered by the bourgeoisie in the West, fell upon the most oppressed and powerless sections of the India proletariat”. And she castigates the Indian mainstream left sparing only MN Roy and DD Kosambi—for not ever seriously engaging with religious questions and taking up the cause of Hindu reformation and enlightenment. Given that the Indian intellectual classes, dominated by Brahmins and dwija (upper or twice-born) castes, have never seriously engaged with the ideas of Ambedkar or other Dalit and Shudra intellectuals, the pressure on secularisation was never substantive or serious.
Nanda is not content with critiquing the obviously-Hindutva voices. She takes to task an internationally influential group she broadly categorises as “anti-Enlightenment/postmodern”, whose indigenism, celebration and romanticisation of “alternative sciences and alternative modernities”, makes them no less dangerous in real terms than Hindutva nationalists who valorise “vedic sciences and authentic modernity”. At various points across the essays, Nanda expresses her philosophical irritation with a range of intellectuals. Gayatri Spivak, Partha Chatterjee, Dipesh Chakravarty, Ashis Nandy, Vandana Shiva and Claude Alvares, who are labelled “reactionary modernists” for seeking to model alternatives on “innocent”, “genuinely archaic”, “supposedly subaltern modes of living and knowing”. This, for the author, amounts to “epistemic charity” or “epistemic populism”, while in actual fact these local knowledges could be “patently irrational, obscurantist and downright oppressive” to the very subalterns these intellectuals claim to speak on behalf of.
Seeing herself working in times when the designation “… ‘rationalist’ has become one of the worst insults that can be thrown at an intellectual”, Nanda is deeply sceptical of the postcolonial postmodernists who, in turn, are sceptical of Western intellectual legacies. She considers it irresponsible to simplistically relate the political-economic aspects of the legacy of colonialism with the epistemological baggage of the West and reject outright modern science and materialism. “It would be a mistake to reduce the Enlightenment to an ideology of capitalism and imperialism alone”.
Nanda vs Nandy
The first essay, “Dharma and the Bomb”, examines how the packaging of the nuclear bomb in the idiom of dharma is made possible by the postmodernist-Gandhian-eco-feminist alliance—which sniggers at the grand narrative of modern science— facilitating the advent and entrenchment of the reactionary modernism of “Hindu Science”. She argues that the postmodern and postcolonial denigration of modern science—in a context where we witness an excess of technological modernism from bombs to dams, but not the concomitant benefits of secularisation and liberalism—”has provided the philosophical grounds for Hindu science”. Mapping the common ground that postmodern and Hindutva/rightwing critiques of modernity (and Western science) share, she calls for an Ambedkarite rejection of “traditional India” founded on the basis of “integral humanism” (the philosophy of Deendayal Upadhyay, one of the early champions of Hindutva and ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh).
The postmodernist and indigenist disregard for the dualism (separation of the realms of matter and spirit, nature and culture) of modern science leads them towards an affirmation of the holism of the Hindu worldview, where “the distinctions between human beings are justified by distinctions in the very order of nature”. This translates into the inequalities between human beings being naturalised. In other words, the caste system, the varnashramadharma, is seen as an extension of the hierarchies that obtain in the natural world since the doctrine of dharma and karma, central to Hinduism, depends on a “unified understanding of nature and culture”. As Nanda points out, “holism lies at the very heart of gender and caste hierarchy in India”. Castes, genders, animals, plants, and inanimate objects occupy different positions in the karmic chain of being in a non-dualistic interconnected world where the social order, and the oppression therein, are naturalised. And Hindu metaphysics “rationalizes injustices and misfortunes as the natural consequence of the working law of nature”. This hoax, according to Nanda, is best understood by the Dalits and Shudras (not women?) who have been “the staunchest supporters of Enlightenment in India”, what with Ambedkar’s constant reference to the ideals of the French Revolution— “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”.
In doing this, Nanda turns on the head what Gandhian postcolonial scholars, led by Ashis Nandy, and feminists such as Sandra Harding have been arguing. For them, modern, Eurocentric, patriarchal science is actually an instrument of oppression and violence on colonised ‘victims’. Nandy argues that it is “the basic model of domination of our times”. From this perspective, modern science has ceased to be a source of orgainsed scepticism against dogma, but is the new dogma which needs to be radically scrutinised. This perhaps explains why the postmodernist, postcolonial, Gandhian, ecofeminist critics of Indian origin have refused to engage with the ideas espoused by Bhimrao Ambedkar, Jotiba Phule or Periyar Ramasamy and have maintained a deliberate silence on their distinctly positive attitude to colonial modernity, modern science and the values of European-style Enlightenment.
Even after the adoption of the Mandal Commission’s recommendations in 1990 brought the issue of caste out of the upper middle class closet, even after right-wingers such as Arun Shourie wrote of Ambedkar as a pro-British colonialist who did not engage with the “independence movement”, and even after the works of Ambedkar became belatedly accessible following his birth centenary celebrations in 1990, the broadly left-liberal (non-Dalit) intelligentsia in the country refused to engage with this scholar-intellectual- activist who was, by far, the only pan-Indian radical-progressive figure of the pre-Independence period. The few recent engagements with Ambedkar or the views of other Dalits that have happened among Indian academics—notably Gauri Viswanathan’s Outside the Fold (1998) and Aditya Nigam’s essay on what he chose to interpret as the Dalit critique of modernity (“Secularism, Modernity, Nation: Epistemology of the Dalit Critique”, Economic and Political Weekly, 25 November, 2000,)—have indeed cleverly read Ambedkar and the larger contemporary Dalit position into the postmodernist-Gandhian perspective. (Admittedly, in Nigam’s case, Dalit writings are read against the grain). More surprisingly, a 21-year-old project that calls itself Subaltern Studies is yet to admit a single Dalit into its charmed circle of bhadralok researchers. This calls to mind the structure of Mohandas Gandhi’s Harijan Sevak Sangh, where guilty caste Hindus were supposed to work for the ‘uplift’ of ‘untouchables’, and there would be no role for Dalits.
Who is Dewey?
It is in this context that Nanda— who identifies her coordinates as a liberal humanist of mid-middle class, upper caste Punjabi Hindu origins—resurrects Ambedkar, the protagonist of her second essay “A Broken People Defend Science”. For, it is Ambedkar who led the rebellion in India against the holistic Hindu universe and turned to the “‘reductionist’, ‘masculine’ and ‘violent’ sciences of the West for help”. But in the process of resurrecting Ambedkar, Nanda chooses to read him through the eyes of John Dewey, whose name surfaces in the odd footnote in some of Ambedkar’s works and was one of his teachers at Columbia University in New York. Nanda casts Dewey in the role of Ambedkar’s ‘guru’ and goes on to argue that Ambedkar read into the Buddha what he imbibed from Dewey, namely, a progressive, anti-metaphysical, naturalistic view of science. Nanda’s essay hereon is littered with expressions such as “Ambedkar’s Deweyan scientific temper”, “Deweyan Buddha”, “bears the stamp of Deweyan thinking”, “Dewey’s presence is most palpable”, “like his hero John Dewey”, and “seamless blending of Dewey and the Buddha”. She recalls Savita Ambedkar’s anecdotal reference, quoted by the scholar of the Dalit movement, Eleanor Zelliott, that her husband even imitated Dewey’s classroom’s mannerisms 30 years after he sat in those classes. is it necessary to affirm, in the mythic-puranic tradition, such lore as knowledge? Does Nanda have to go the extra Freudian distance in search of an intellectual father figure for Ambedkar?
Thousands of Indians have read Ambedkar, in English and in translation, and understood the core of his philosophical concerns against Hindu dharma and his investment of faith in a rationalistic neo-Buddhism without having had to be told of his indebtedness to Dewey, one of America’s foremost public intellectuals of his time, besides being one of Ambedkar’s several teachers at Columbia. Also, Ambedkar and Dewey, Nanda admits, never had any direct communication. Dewey died only in 1952 at the age of 92, by when Ambedkar had written and published a great deal of his work, except The Buddha and His Dhamma. However, we do not see Ambedkar sharing his work with Dewey— who was intellectually active even in his old age—nor any exchanges between the two. (In personal conversation, Meera Nanda stood by her reading of Dewey into Ambedkar.) However, while exploring at such length the Ambedkar-Dewey connection, it is surprising that Nanda does not mention KN Kadam who perhaps was the first author to deal with Dewey’s influence on Ambedkar at length (The Meaning of the Ambedkarite Conversion to Buddhism and Other Essays, 1997). She also does not refer to the scholar of Buddhism, Christopher Queen’s work, Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia (1996), where he explores the Dewey-Ambedkar connections.
It is not as if Dewey did not influence Ambedkar. Ambedkar did tell the New York Times in 1932 that “the best friends I have had in my life were some of my classmates at Columbia and my great professors, John Dewey, James Shotwell, Edwin Seligman and James Harvey Robinson”. What is disconcerting is Nanda’s attempt to attribute all of Ambedkar’s insights into Buddhism to Dewey. Her enthusiasm in driving home the Ambedkar-Dewey linkages could also be a strategic ploy to (belatedly) pitchfork Ambedkar into the international intellectual arena, a ploy to attract Western academic attention towards Ambedkar. But for an Ambedkarite in India who has read Ambedkar in the context of Indian thinkers, such a long-winded and patently digressive reading of his intellectual legacy is disturbing. One is not making a case here for Ambedkar’s “originality”. It is not as if he was not influenced by what he read, and he read widely. Not only does Nanda seem to be stretching a little thread too far, she would not have lost much in considering Ambedkar’s turn to Buddhism and his critique of Hinduism on their own terms.
Nanda falters again in introducing Ambedkar as “the most influential Dalit intellectual of the 20th century”. She does what most non- Dalits do, which is to label Ambedkar a purely Dalit intellectual. (This should perhaps be a reason for Nanda to reconsider her wholesale dismissal of identity politics of all kinds). This is exactly how the entire ‘nationalist’ political class of Ambedkar’s time, and non-Dalit intellectuals of the post-1947 period, looked at Ambedkar. To some, he was in fact merely a ‘Mahar leader’. Most recently, in his much-celebrated book, The Idea of India, Sunil Khilnani refers to Ambedkar as “the formidable leader of India’s ‘untouchables—. But never do we see Gandhi being referred to as the foremost Gujarati Baniya leader (though the construction of his worldwide fame rests on a Vaishya subcaste tag — `Gandhi’), or Nehru as a leader of the Kashmiri Brahmins, though both of them exhibited unabashed clannishness. (Given this tendency, it comes as a pleasant and welcome surprise that Queen refers to Ambedkar as “the Indian civil rights leader”.)
It is indeed true that on the issue of conversion and sometimes in his field activism, Ambedkar addressed himself only to Maharashtrian Dalits, sometimes specifically Mahars. But otherwise his intellectual energies since the Columbia days had been directed at seeking a solution to the issues that concerned the nation at large. Starting with Castes in India in 1916 when Ambedkar was just 25, to Annihilation of Caste, or his attempts at writing the history of the Shudras and ‘untouchables’ and at re-reading ancient Indian history as a battle between Brahmins and Kshatriyas at one time and between Brahmins and Buddhists at another, the legislation-related work on the Hindu Code Bill and the Constitution, to his work on the issue of rivers and water (which has been studied by Professor SK Thorat of Jawaharlal Nehru University), his work on economics (studied by the economists S Ambirajan and Narendra Jadhav, currently head of the Reserve Bank of India’s economic research wing), or his reflections on the idea of linguistic states or the question of Partition, Ambedkar’s oeuvre reflects the wide-ranging concerns he had and the different roles he played.
Dewey’s Yankee shadow and the casual reference to Ambedkar’s location notwithstanding, Nanda offers a brilliant reading of Ambedkar’s approach to Hinduism. After charting his disgust and disillusionment with Hindus and Hinduism, Nanda examines why the religious question of Buddhism that Ambedkar dwelt upon is central to her concerns of science and scientific temper in social life. Juxtaposing a reading of Annihilation of Caste and The Buddha and His Dhamma, Nanda argues that Ambedkar took seriously Buddha’s dictum not to treat anything as infallible and eternal and applied it right back to the Buddha’s own teaching to create a new Buddhism that rejected the ideas of karma and rebirth. Ambedkar merely updates the Buddha and presents prajna (understanding) as the central theme, as opposed to superstition, Brahminic naturalism and supernaturalism. “Ambedkar’s Buddha was reason and scientific method sacralized”.
The Satapota Brahmina claimed that “God loves the mystic”. Against this, Buddhism and the Lokayata school of philosophy insisted on a separation of the social and the natural. But Brahminism ridiculed and eventually suppressed the anti-metaphysical worldviews that challenged it. It is this anti-metaphysical bent that inspired Ambedkar and which Nanda tries to hitch with Deweyan pragmatism to attack both Hindutvawadis and postmodernists. For her, “Ambedkar’s Buddhism contains the seeds of Indian Reformation and Enlightenment rolled into one”, and she concludes that “modern science is the standpoint of the oppressed”.
Experience and identity
Nanda also finds useful the Ambedkarite Buddha’s position on “experience” as a source and category of knowledge. Expressing her discomfort with the valorisation of “experience” in identity politics and feminist epistemology, she points out that despite his love for his longsuffering community, nowhere does Ambedkar romanticise the experience of untouchability as “a source of superior knowledge”. She also seems to have in mind the work of the “Shudra” intellectual Kancha Ilaiah (Why I am Not a Hindu, 1996) where he claims commonality with the feminist use of experience as a source of constructing an alternative knowledge-base. She chastises Ilaiah for his celebratory approach to Dalit religiosity and his claim that among the oppressed, Dalit-Bahujans’ internal patriarchy is, in turn, relatively more benign. For Nanda, experience of oppression alone—be it Third Worldist, woman’s, Dalit’s or black’s—cannot enable better knowledge. All knowledge, she argues, has to be validated by reason and rationality. If anti-Sanskritic Dalit religiosity is steeped in irrationality and unreason, and merely appears to be relatively democratic in its spiritualism, compared to Brahminic religiosity, one cannot continue to suffer it or posit it as an alternative to the hegemonic variant of oppression.
The author illustrates her point with the self-limiting worldview of Viramma, an unlettered Tamil Dalit woman, who ascribes the loss of her milk while nursing a baby to the ‘crime’ of having listened to prayers of ‘upper-caste’ gods at her master’s house. (Viramma’s life has been the subject of an auto-ethnographic work rendered by Josianc Racine and Jean-Luc Racine as Viramma: Life of a Dalit, 1995.) True liberation, in Nanda’s framework, lies only in moving towards the universal-rational, and the sources for this universally testable knowledge can come from anywhere in the world—from the European Enlightenment to neo-Buddhism. Even as she heralds Dalits at one point as “the agents of the bourgeois revolution” she is also quick to warn that, “If dalits are to serve as the agents of reason and Enlightenment in Indian society, they will have to accept that reason will expel their own gods, as well as the gods of the twice-borns [sic], from social life”. This lesson she draws, she says, from Buddha. “Buddha encourages his followers not to treat even their own experience as infallible and exempt from revision”.
However, Nanda must also be willing to acknowledge the role that the experience of oppression plays in acquiring a perspective against an unjust social order. In her zeal to dismount what the postmodernists and feminists elevate as a source of knowledge (not necessarily ‘superior knowledge’), Nanda tends to set aside the value of experience without reckoning with how her own hero—Ambedkar—would have gained insights from an experience she herself probably did not have because of the accident of her birth as a non-Dalit. The role of Ambedkar’s experiences as an untouchable was perhaps central to his prajna (understanding) and his radical Buddhism. The stakes that an oppressed person brings to bear on his or her understanding of injustice and discrimination are crucial. it is for this reason that Ambedkar’s investment of faith in the values of Enlightenment and Buddhism have a different moral value and intellectual resonance than a similar investment from a white American male like John Dewey. It is a matter of some curiosity as to what Dewey’s position on issues of racial discrimination in the New York of early 20th century was and how the blacks view/viewed him.
Nanda could have tried to dig up something on the influence the African-American situation would have had on Ambedkar. Given that Ambedkar lived on the edge of Harlem while attending Columbia University, and his writings feature several comparisons of India’s Dalits and American blacks, this is a connection that would have been worth exploring. For instance, according to Jabbar Patel, the filmmaker who made the biopic Dr Babadasheb Ambedkar, it was a time when no black was allowed into Columbia University; and there was Ambedkar, a man similarly discriminated back at home, studying for a doctorate at the prestigious university. Clearly, Ambedkar would have related as much to the experience of the oppression of the blacks, and learnt from them, as he did to the abstract intellectuality of Dewey. As Patel said in an interview: “He must [have been] be walking through Harlem. So many dramatic things must have happened to him”.
In her keenness to flush the bath water of postmodernism, Nanda seems indifferent to the prospect of throwing the baby of experience with it. She elides the fact that postmodernism and the academic tendencies that mushroomed around this core, tended to emphasis different ways of arriving at knowledge. True, this tendency sometimes led to a vulgarly patronising intellectual tolerance towards, and even celebration of, inherently oppressive traditions merely because they belonged to the oppressed people what Nanda terms “epistemic charity”. However, that is not the whole story. The focus of postmodern concerns was on ‘difference’ and not so much on intuiting to ‘superior knowledge’ merely because one was non-Western, woman or black. And it is because Ambedkar had a different experience—as a Dalit—that he propounded a Buddhism that eschewed conventional Buddhisms (Hinayana, Mahayana, Theravada, Vajrayana) and called it “Navayana Buddhism, literally the “new vehicle”.
Experience in itself need not become knowledge, but certain experiences certainly can lead some people to certain knowledges. And to arrive at what might be morally and ethically right knowledge (say, Ambedkarite Buddhism) can sometimes take a long and tortuous route in identity and representational politics that liberal democracy entails. This can be seen in the case of Dalits in India today engaging even with Hindutva in order to wrest ‘power’. And such power in a liberal democracy—even in the context of a mutated modernity as in India— being a ‘modernist’ category that a postmodern intellectual like Michel Foucault best understood, what do we do with Nanda’s wholesale dismissal of the postmodernist critiques (though she does not mention Foucault in her work)? Should we, and Meera Nanda, join the progressive leftists and the upper middle class, and merely chastise a section of Dallis for such ‘wrong strategies’? How can such Dalits be the agents of a “rationalist bourgeois revolution” that Nanda wants them to lead? Does the experience of remaining powerless for hundreds of years make Dalits sick and tired of the endless wait and force them to evolve short-term strategies to take what comes their way, setting aside the idealistic, but practically unrewarding, attractions of radical Buddhism even if it was pioneered by Ambedkar? These are not easy questions to answer and they will remain with us till non-Dalits are willing to do something about themselves.
Nanda tends to use labels rather casually, as when Vandana Shiva, Claude Alvares, Madhu Kishwar and Sundar Lal Bahuguna are bunched together as “left wing indigenists”. Nanda also succumbs to another tendency among (non- Dalit) academics and intellectuals engaging with the Dalit movement for the first time. This is the formulaic utterance of the names Phule- Ambedkar-Periyar in one breath (this reviewer too was at one point a party to this crime)—proudly positing a counter to the mainstream nationalist Tilak-Gandhi-Nehru trio. Most are unlikely to have really read Periyar since he is unavailable in English. At a time when some Tamil-Dalit critics of Periyar are alerting us to his problematic perspective on Dalits, it would be advisable to tread with caution on what one has not read and refrain from depending on selective paraphrasing and hearsay. Jotiba Phule was of course made available in English only recently. What is also crucially missing in a book that looks up to Buddhism is the absence of any reference to Pandit Iyothee Thass, a Tamil Dalit-Buddhist intellectual- activist of the late nineteenth century, who played a key role in reviving Buddhism and reclaiming it as the religion of Dalits. This omission is all the more striking since the scholar G Aloysius has made available lyothee Thass’ ideas to the English reader (Religion as Emancipatory Identity: A Buddhist Movement among the Tamils under Colonialism, 1998). Besides Thass, Nanda’s project would have benefited immensely had she read Lakshmi Narasu, another Buddhist from Tamil Nadu (a non-Dalit), whose fusing of select precepts of Buddhism with the values of the Enlightenment in the early twentieth century made him a forerunner of Ambedkarite Buddhism. In fact, Ambedkar was familiar with Narasu’s important work, The Essence of Buddhism, first published in 1907, in Colombo. He even wrote a foreword to the third edition of this book in 1948, issued by Thacker & Co. which published most of Ambedkar’s works in his lifetime. Ambedkar perhaps drew more from Narasu than he did from Dewey.
A few words about the readability of the work. Nanda writes with the passion and commitment of an activist rarely seen among scholars. However, the book abounds in casual use of language and a tone that 4ets too shrill at points, which at least the copy editor should have been alert to. Most unforgivable is the insensitive use of the word ‘pariah’ as a category in a book that is otherwise full of moral outrage against casteism. At several points Nanda does not substantiate her claims with examples. While discussing identitarian politics and feminism vis-à-vis Dalits, she misidentifies V Geetha as a Dalit scholar. Geetha is in fact a born-Brahmin who is a keen observer of the Dalit movement among other things. She also mistakes Sharmila Rege to be a Dalit. Nanda’s arguments, given that they are drawn on the moral ground of citing ‘Dalit feminists’, lose their weight since she infers Dalitness wrongly. For someone who regards science so highly, such lack of rigour in basing her conclusions on faulty premises is puzzling. In such a context her regular recourse to italics (sometimes three sentences long) to draw attention is not only distracting, but also makes you wonder if lack of rigour can be made up for with intensity of feelings.
In the final analysis, despite the polemical charge of her work and its manifesto-like quality, Nanda is not clear about what needs to be done. Why does she stop short of espousing that we move towards practising radical Buddhism—if not with the entrapments of organised religion, at least as a political position? Instead of treading on Ambedkar’s path, she seems to want to ‘secularise Hinduism’. On several occasions in the book she regrets the fact that there was no true Hindu Reformation and calls for one. But given her sharp understanding of the religion, it is wishful thinking to hope for the kind of reform she wants within Hinduism. Ambedkar did initially talk the language of reform— as did others in their own limited ways—but he had in the end to move away from Hinduism. How then should we go about the reformation? What can be done? Can the Gita and the vedas be rewritten? By whom? We will be told they were never written and pre-existed writing and were passed on orally. Does not vedic religion claim permanence, immutability? And if Hinduism does purge itself of caste, Brahminism and its metaphysical bent, then it will no longer remain Hinduism.
(I thank Ravikumar for sharing some of his views on the book with me.)