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Reply To: Why I Disagree with Joe Campbell


This is indeed an interesting topic to delve into.
As I read Nandu’s post, I was curious to know if the conclusion was arrived at , after years of trying to reconcile with Joe Campbells rather indulgent take on Hinduism , or a first hand impression.
Nandu introduced me to J.C through the Hero of a Thousand faces. And ever since Im a great admirer of Josephs incisive and articulate genius. And how effortlessly and unassumingly did he add dimensions and socioreligious context , to obscure rituals that remain shrouded in what Nandu had termed Orthopraxy. Despite not being as politically articulate nor half as erudite as Nandu, our perceptions were shaped by the same sociopolitical dynamics that prevailed in Kerala.
As a scion of a secular Hindu family of a deeply religious parents, I had the fortune to be exposed to the deep – often cryptic culture of practicing Hinduism as well as a good dose of liberalism that prevailed in my hometown which was relatively the most cosmopolitan in Kerala.
Like all youngsters I had voiced more questions than could be answered. I went through phases of contesting the premise of my religion -then ignoring it – and to finally reexamining it.
And I cannot thank J.C enough for providing clues to finding perspective, and the ability to perceive the larger canvas on which – not only my religion – but all categories of Human thought that reflect his/her inner environment – are so exquisitely crafted.
I can understand Nandus angst at the movement to establish a Vedism based monoculture and I share his sentiment that its a revolting and a dangerous idea.
But then I look to Hinduism -as jameson put it the juxtaposing of the conflicting parts of the Whole.
For every Manu or a brahmin zealot a detractor is born in India to oppose him.
Infact there are studies that indicate that Manusmrithi is a product of the anxiety of the priestly class which was facing existential threat from reformist forces.
That is what Krishna means when he declares that he will take form on earth to correct the inequilibrium.
Regarding Caste- it is a European term for the social structure that existed in India made up of different social and community groups called Jati .
But according to a famous Historian Romila Thapar the Jati system existed even before religion incorporated and reorganised it into a horizontally stratified social structure.
So the term Caste which referred to Ex Jew converts to Christianity who were identified so that the privileges accorded to Gentiles did not extend to them is inadequate to describe the Indian social architecture.
Even if the Religion faded away – the empty shell that it had inhabited, will be replaced by political ambitions that will give impetus to new found social mobility to a shackled humanity.
A realist can easily understand that the Jati form the backbone of the Indian society and it may get restructured and eroded but never give way.
Those who would never fit in where either néecha (outcasts) or Nishedhis (those who rejected the system). Mahavira the aghoras the ShaivaTantriks patanjalis Sri Buddha the Charvakas the Samkhya where all Nishedhis.
The moral of the story is what Lee Yuan Kew the father of Singapore puts so succintly-
To oppose is the Indian way – it is in their blood.
I love the way Hinduism embraces conflict as a necessary element in its narrative. It is reflected in our Swastika.
So to paint the entire Hindu civilization in one colour as a repressive system that trapped millions hapless souls may be true only up to a point.
That is another Monolith that we need to take down.