Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dalai Lama does sport a 'religion'.... for dummies from the West, that is!

Here is some scholarly corroboration of the falsity of 'religion'.

"There is much in what you say, but HH the Dalai Lama, of whom I am follower, considers Buddhism his 'religion'. So do the Sikhs regarding their faith," responded a senior bureaucrat (who described himself as a practising Muslim) after reading my post about religion being a fraudulent category imposed on the world cultures by the European colonialists. 

The following was my rejoinder to the senior bureaucrat.

Western hegemons have obviously been quite successful - over the last few centuries - in superimposing the false category of 'religion' on cultural and philosophical systems of the world.

Even the states they midwifed, like Republic of India, constitutionally accept fraudulent categories like 'religion'.

And 'religion' is not the only false category that the people of the world have to pretend to live under; there are more. It's actually the entire Euro-centric knowledge system that we'll have to bring into picture.

Would Dalai Lama be understood if were to jettison the fraudulent categories and terminology imposed by the West?

It's also important not to get stuck on semantics, but to try to see through concepts and then see whether those concepts actually have an existence in the real world.

Panths, Sampradayas and Gyan Margs that exist in India have never never had anything like rigid creeds, ecclesiastical councils laying down and modifying those creeds (like in Catholicism), 'inerrant' books claiming the Absolute Truth and based on supposed 'historical' events, canon law/Shariat, theocracy/Caliphate, and -above all - the imperial tendency/willingness to actually go out in the world and impose their creeds on other cultures.

History bears India out.

There is, by the way, plenty of literature on how the false category of 'religion' was invented by the European colonialists and imposed on the world.

One scholar who's written a lot on it is Thomas David DuBois of Australian National University. Web link to one of his articles and some relevant excerpts are pasted below.


Why Doesn't Asia Have Religion?
By Thomas David DuBois, 28 Oct. 2011 (Huffington Post)

Having spent the past 10 years writing and teaching on Asian religions, I now have something to confess: Asia does not have religion.

"But what," you may ask, "about that college class I took on 'world religions?' We learned about Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism and Shinto. Half the class was about Asia."

Between you and me, I hate that class. I hated it as a student, because I thought it didn't make sense. I hate it even more as a professor, because I know it doesn't make sense. Here's why.

Think about the religions the Western world knows best: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Whatever the differences that separate them, these three religions all share a great deal in common.

Each one, for instance, is centered on a text -- a holy and inviolate scripture. For Jews, Christians and Muslims, the sacred text is never wrong -- although man's interpretation of it often is.

Based on this knowledge, it would seem sensible to assume that religion and scripture are inseparable. But in fact, the central role of scripture, like much of what we assume about "religion" as a concept, is uniquely Western...

...The fact is that the Western idea of religion did not reach Asia until very recently. When it did, the concept was so foreign that many Asian languages had to invent a new word for it (specifically for making diplomatic treaties with the Western powers who insisted on a clause protecting "religious freedom").

This puts Asia's own traditions into a strange bind. Even now, we face the problem in deciding just what to call the ideas of Confucius or the Buddha. Calling them "religions" clearly doesn't work, because Asian traditions look and behave so differently from what we know in the West...

Thomas David DuBois says the following on his blog-site.

Casting Faiths – Imperialism and the Transformation of Asian Religion

Ideas have a history, and that much of the global culture we now take for granted dates from a time when Europeans were much more able to force their will upon the rest of the world. The idea of religion —  what it is, what role it should play in society — comes from this very specific moment of history. Even the Chinese word for religion was only invented during the 1870s.

So does that make the idea of religion a form of spiritual imperialism?


Those who are interested in exploring this topic further are also advised to read 'Religion, Religions, Religious', a paper written by American scholar Jonathan Z. Smith. Available on the link pasted below as downloadable PDF, the paper traces the history of the colonial construction of the category ‘religion’.



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