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“We need to reverse the gaze upon the West by studying the other on our own terms,” stated Shri. Rajiv Malhotra at the launch of his new book titled Being Different at Coimbatore campus on November 14.
The program that was attended by over 500 students and faculty members, took place in the presence of Br. Abhayamrita Chaitanya, Pro Chancellor of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, and was organized by the Department of Cultural Education.
Outlining fundamental differences between Indian and Western civilizations, the author explained how dharmic traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, emphasized techniques of meditation to achieve higher states of consciousness, which were available to everyone.
“On the other hand, in the Judeo-Christian culture the ultimate truth is revealed through a lineage of prophets, and this leads to claims of exclusivity regarding the ownership of truth,” he noted. “God is so removed that there is no direct access to him.”
“In addition, the Western culture derives from an unbridgeable gap between Greek reasoning and religious revelation. The result is a forced union of separate entities, and such a union is susceptible to disintegration.”
Explaining why Indians are good at multitasking and improvisation, Rajiv added, “While most Westerners feel threatened by chaos and complexity and also have a hard time dealing with uncertainty, the same factors are perceived by Indians as catalysts for creativity and change.”
“In the dharmic cosmology, all things emerge from a unified whole. Order emerges naturally out of chaos. Every aspect of reality relates to every other aspect in a web of interdependency.”
Criticizing inadequate translations of certain Sanskrit words, Rajiv argued that sometimes such words as Atman or Dharma could not really be translated. “Words contain a rich context of meaning which gets lost with inadequate translations,” he pointed out.
Quoting the example of China which is very assertive about its civilizational history and culture, he said that China prepared its own report about human rights violations in the United States every year, instead of merely being apologetic about the human rights reports published by US agencies.
Rajiv Malhotra was 44 when he retired from professional life as a physicist and a computer scientist in the US in 1995. Shortly thereafter, he founded a non-profit organization based in Princeton, New Jersey, which has now given over 250 grants to-date to organizations and independent scholars. These grants have contributed to an inter-civilization dialogue based on harmonious co-existence rather than a clash of civilizations.
The foundation notes its special mission with pride, “Helping India find its own voice in this dialogue.”
Publisher Harper Collins set up a book stall on campus which saw brisk sales of Rajiv Malhotra’s new book, Being Different.
November 16, 2011