This is the first update on an ongoing self-study to improve my own understanding of 'digestion' using the example of Yoga. This is work in progress.
'Digestion' is a term coined by Rajiv Malhotra. My reading is that it represents the calculated misappropriation of methods and concepts from Indian (dharmic) knowledge systems, which are subsequently reassembled and integrated into an existing western or non-dharmic framework with the final goal of maintaining or enhancing the latter's balance of power, and if necessary, discarding the original dharmic method/concept/source/context as redundant and obsolete. Rajiv Malhotra explains this via the tiger-deer metaphor, which is discussed in other blog posts and in his forum.
(Read 'Being Different' book for the complete and accurate details)
Fundamental Christianity, like its Islamic and Judaic counterparts, are history-centric systems. In more general language, their core is dogmatic and tied to a finite number of unique supernatural top-down intervention(s) in human-recorded history. On the other hand, Indic religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism are based on Dharmic thought systems that are not history-dependent. Dharma is a Sanskrit non-translatable that roughly means ~ 'that which sustains or upholds'. I view dharma as 'that which is essential', and Sanskrit as the best available language to explain the essence of the cosmos. Though there are significant and deep metaphysical differences between
these different dharmic systems and a pluralism of their dharmic sub-variants, they all
adhere to a common set of Dharmic truth claims, including Punar Janma
(rebirth) and Karma (cause and effect). All these systems believe in one more forms of Yoga as a dharmic path to reach the ultimate truth without external crutches or textual/historical artefacts.
Dharmic truth-claims are permanently irreconcilable with a history-centric core. For example, if Christianity becomes dharmic, the idea of original sin, the need for a son of God, intermediary prophet, etc. become totally irrelevant. Dharma and Dogma are incompatible. Islam, and Judaism have similar issues. Furthermore, these history-centric religions are themselves incompatible with each other, since each rejects the other's record of unique divine interventions in history. Thus there is also a need for a HC systems to augment it's own idea inventory to appear superior to its HC competitor when they fight for global market-share.
Why Digestion and Not Complete Borrowing?
If the HC west were to attempt to openly borrow and adopt authentic Yoga, it would immediately clash with their dogmatic core, because Yoga as path of achieving self-realization, represents freedom from history and history-centrism (a full chapter in Rajiv Malhotra's book 'Being Different discusses this). Hence, Yoga in its original form, meaning, and context cannot be adopted by the west unless they give up their HC dogma. The Yogasanas may help them look better, feel healthier, but they cannot proceed beyond that to reach higher levels of consciousness without seriously comprising their dogmatic beliefs. Thus openly acknowledging and borrowing Yoga poses an existential question. What to do?
Visit India as students, humbly learn from Gurus for years. Then take a step back, analyze Yoga, de-construct it and strip it down to smaller components. Then pick and reassemble those pieces that are not in conflict with their dogmatic core, to synthesize a bastardized or cannibalized version of Yoga, and reject the rest as waste material.
This mangled synthesis of "Yoga" is initially considered as generic knowledge, and not unique to dharmic systems, but is eventually retro-fitted and back-traced to some obscure Western source, over time. Thus, history-centricity is preserved, while also allowing their followers to get real but highly limited benefits of Yoga, while still keeping them dependent on prophets and supernatural interventions. To increase the comfort level, "Yoga" practititioners can mechanically chant "Hallelujah" or "A.Hu.A", or recite the Torah instead of the essential and profound 'Om'.
Interestingly, look at the reverse case. Dharmic thought systems can happily and openly borrow from progress achieved by western science and technology since it is compatible their dharmic 'operating system' core that is based on the scientific idea of cause and effect. No digestion is required and the original ideas are neither distorted, nor misrepresented. Science has always been compatible with dharma, but not always with a HC core.
To summarize, Digestion is a method of:
1) extracting the 'nutrients' out of a dharmic concept,
2) discard the crucial dharmic constituents itself as unnecessary waste,
3) reassembling non-dharmic nutrients to synthesize a new distorted concept (rename it as "Christian Yoga, Christu-natyam for comfort and acceptance) that is of limited use and importantly, is fully compatible with history-centric dogma,
4) obfuscate, alter, or delete the original context, depth and meaning of the concept (e.g. the true, deep meaning and intent of Yoga and Bharatanatyam is lost)
5) deny credit to the dharmic primary source, and erase it over time, and even sell the mangled form back to Indians
I count at least two crucial practical benefits of digestion to the west. Let's use HC Christianity as an example.
Once we have a Hindu-DNA enhanced Christianity , there is
OUTCOME 1) SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN EFFORT TO FORCE OR COERCE CONVERSIONS OF HINDUS.
OUTCOME 2) REDUCED MOTIVATION FOR DOGMA-FOLLOWERS TO TURN DHARMIC
why? Aren't these positive outcomes?
To see (outcome 1), History-centric religion will now have all the externally observable equivalent features contained in Hinduism - Christian Yoga, Christunatyam, Christian Veda, Jesus Pooja, etc. The myth of sameness becomes incredibly strong. The message to dharmic peoples will simply be:
YOU DO NOT EVEN NEED TO CONVERT ANYMORE. WE ARE THE SAME. PLUS WE DO NOT HAVE CASTE/COW/SATI/DOWRY PROBLEMS. YOU MERELY NEED TO UPGRADE.
For (outcome 2), the message to dogma-followers will be:
YOU DO NOT NEED TO CONVERT OUT OF YOUR FAITH. WE ALREADY HAVE EVERYTHING DHARMIC FAITHS HAVE, AND WE ARE MODERN.
To summarize, hte net outcome of digestion is that the HC system gets stronger, and the dharmic system gets weaker. Thus a digester like Phil Goldberg will have no problem criticising conversion because:
After digestion is complete, there is no need to coerce and convert! Digestion allows HC religions claim equivalence and even superiority in features and benefits, even though they are only superficially the same as dharmic religions. The myth of sameness becomes incredibly strong.
Furthermore, since these digested concepts are delinked from dharma, existing dharmic systems will be seen as obsolete relics of a bygone era that never contributed much, and fit only for a museum. Where are the original native thought systems of Africa, North America, Australia, Middle East? They have been digested into one of the history-centric systems. Only India still remains their unfinished business, and barely so, because of the remarkable anti-fragile properties of Hinduism.
How Phil Goldberg made the Vedas Kosher
Now take the case of Phil Goldberg. His ideas and views have been covered in the 'hitchhiker's guide to BD' blog. His American Veda book deliberately makes no mention of Hinduism. anywhere. Why? This is not mere semantics. His audience is the west. His goal, as he himself has openly stated is that the western peoples can retain their existing (history-centric) faiths but be able to get the benefits of 'sprituality' (without caste/cow/sati/dowry etc). Thus, the only way out for him to be successful while also achieving this goal is employ digestion. Platitudes at other times keeps the Indians convinced that all is well and hunky-dory.
Digestion (as a strategy) relies on treating Hindus as useful idiots.
To summarize, we can now see that Goldberg's actions results in:
a) The original Vedas being stripped of their context, ideas appropriated and digested into an "American Veda" that is 'kosher' and compatible with history-centrism dogma.
b) The full meaning,and context of the original, Hindu Vedas get diminished over time and eventually lost.
c) The AV becoming a ready-to-consume all-American, self-contained reference textbook for Vedic ideas that gives it's readers a comfortable western interpretation of dharmic concepts. See how Hinduism is bypassed? This can only result in further degradation of Hindu dharma's 'brand' in the west, which Phil Goldberg does not see as his problem.
d) Any random person can latch on to this approach as a cookie-cutter to create a Scientology Veda, or a Timbuktu Veda, and sell books, patent, commercialize, and make money. A lot of "Yoga" methods have been similarly appropriated, commercialized, patented, and even weaponized by the Pentagon (e.g. Yoga Nidra). Just like the west has "paddle boat Yoga, Power Yoga, Aqua Yoga, ...".
e) Note that this digested multiplicity does not represent genuine and dharmic pluralism, since such proliferation is dharma nirpeksha (sans dharma), thereby only leading to corruption and adharma in the form of egoistic patent quarrels, practitioner injuries and disillusionment, marketing wars, greed, etc.
f) Furthermore, since the west controls the global discourse, these mangled meanings and definitions become the accepted ones, show up in Wikipedia, western school textbooks, and eventually accepted by the leftist-controlled textbooks consumed by Indian students.
g) Net result, as Rajiv Malhotra states: the history-centric tiger has eaten up the deer, the deer nutrients are converted into tiger DNA, making the tiger stronger. What is left of the dharmic deer is a pile of poop.
Phil Goldberg Celebrated in India
How have the dharmic deer welcomed folks like Phil Goldberg?
Some samples that I am aware of:
1) He was invited to give a talk organized by Ms Nirmala Seetharaman's foundation, which was promoted by a prominent RSS intellectual/spokesperson. Attempts to contact Ms. Seetharaman on twitter prior to this talk got zero response.
2) His HuffPost article that condemns conversion was reproduced on a reputed Indian website (IndiaFactsOrg) that promotes dharma. Note that these articles in themselves are not a problem and such sites have every right to publish any material they deem worthy. However, such articles help Hinduism very little, but boosts the digester's credibility a lot. As Rajiv Malhotra tweeted "it is like Rahul Gandhi talking about evils of corruption". Does Hinduism need a 'facts lecture' from the Goldbergs of the world to tell us that the coerced conversions represents a clear and present danger to India?
3) Monetary funding from Sanathana Dharma institutions.
4) Have his book cited as an shining example of positive Hindu influence on the west, even by strong 'Hindutva' proponents, when all that AV really does is to make it easier for the west to remain rooted to dogma by incorporating useful (intellectual/textual but not the deep dharmic) benefits of Hinduism.
Note: I look forward to IndiaFactsOrg uncovering the complete facts about
digestion of dharmic ideas and methods, and disseminate it to a wider
Questions to Ponder
1. Do some Hindutva giants and organizations even realize that they are celebrating an end-product that is Hindu-DNA enhanced Fundamental Christianity and not some pluralistic western branch of Hinduism as they foolishly believe it to be?
2. That this history-centric Christianity running on digested Hindu energy needs even less effort to convert dharmic peoples to their side, while also keeping their own followers bound in Dogma?
3. How is the cause of dharma served by celebrating this digestion?
Not just Phil Goldberg, Rajiv Malhotra has identified several westerners who have digested (for example) Aurobindo's ideas, repackaged it to suit Western audiences, and are now paid high fees and invited back to India by big companies to "educate" their management trainees.
The dogmatic tiger's conquest is being celebrated by dharmic deer.
Part-2 of self study is continued here.