Saturday, January 03, 2015

Review of S.L. Bhyrappa's Aavarana

AavaranaAavarana by S.L. Bhyrappa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I discovered Aavarana through the article Rending the veil of historical negationism in India on the IndiaFacts web site. Interestingly, Sandeep Balakrishna, the "writer, columnist, translator, and recovering IT professional" who translated Aavarana from Kannada to English, heads IndiaFacts.

Much of the history of the Muslim conquest of India was already familiar to me, so initially I thought that this book was merely polemic. Indeed, I have read some of the references that Bhyrappa cleverly inserted in the narrative.

The book closes with the words of Swami Vivekananda on the dangers of stumbling upon an inspired superconscious state without undertaking yogic discipline. Swami ji used Muhammad as a prime example. I had attended a study sponsored by the Vedanta Center, in which the swami bypassed these words, perhaps out of embarrassment of Swami Vivekananda’s forthrightness.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Swachh LBS show us how to map a clean-up campaign.

Swachh LBS is a grassroots clean-up campaign for L.B. Shastri Nagar in Bangalore. Here is how it mapped one of its campaigns:
I would love to see other clean-up initiatives to map their campaigns and activities in the same way. Send me the link to your map (email bahuofbengal [at] yahoo [dot] com) and I will include it on the Grassroots initiatives to clean India map.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Grassroot initiatives to clean #India

The map below is my effort to support clean-up initiatives in India, albeit from afar.

I support Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Clean India campaign. While there is merit in tagging public figures to do clean-ups and photo ops to inspire others, grassroots initiatives should also be recognized.  Many, such as the idea of The Ugly Indian, predate the PM's campaign.

This map helps:
  • Identify existing grassroots clean-up initiatives across India, north to south, east to west, 
  • Identify gaps in coverage, and
  • Provide a means to network among various initiatives and jointly plan clean up campaigns.
Users may download the map as KML, import the data into Google Maps or Google Earth, and customize the map to their needs.  I also tried importing the KML into ArcMap, but non-spatial attribute data was converted to unparsed CDATA.  This map is a gift to those involved in cleanup initiatives in India.

The Ugly Indian on Facebook provided much of the information to build this map.  Mr. Warren Doud organized the information into a table listing the names of grassroots clean-up initiatives and their respective Facebook pages.  I mapped the points, and added attribute data, including description, Facebook page, email, phone number, etc., wherever data was available.

If you zoom in on Bangalore, you will see areas representing the Bangalore North, Bangalore South and East, and Anekal taluks of the Bangalore Urban District.  These areas were derived from the GADM database of Global Administrative Areas.

BTW I informed The Ugly Indian that I created this map, and TUI said that was a "nice effort" - not necessarily a ringing endorsement.  TUI might be doing a mapping effort of its own to focus on sustainable efforts and provide quality control.  At any rate, TUI is welcome to use my data and customize to their needs.

Please email me at bahuofbengal [at] yahoo [dot] com if you have any changes to recommend.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Review of Indra's Net


Indra's Net: Defending Hinduism's Philosophical UnityIndra's Net: Defending Hinduism's Philosophical Unity by Rajiv Malhotra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the first part of Indra’s Net, Rajiv Malhotra traces the lineage of scholars who posit a “neo-Hinduism” invented by Swami Vivekananda. The most recent of this lineage is Anantanand Rambachan of St. Olaf College, who claims that Swami Vivekananda’s reliance on direct experience is incompatible with Shankara’s reliance on sruti.

Malhotra then proceeds to show that Rambachan’s concept of Hinduism is too narrow: namely, that Shankara did not dismiss direct experience out of hand and that Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta is only one system of knowing within Hinduism. Malhotra discusses how Hinduism has evolved over time and places Swami Vivekananda squarely in the Hindu tradition.

Malhotra then discusses “digestion” of Hinduism. By digestion, he means the process by which people absorb the parts of Hinduism that they like and excrete (my word, not his) the parts they don’t like. A good example is the de-contextualization of yoga from Hinduism, whereas the rest of Hinduism is trashed.

He introduces the concept of “poison pills” to prevent the “digestion” of Hinduism into other frameworks. These poison pills include characteristics of Hinduism (karma, re-incarnation, embodied knowing, integral unity) that cannot be reconciled with the traditional tenets of Abrahamic religion and force the spiritual seeker to make a choice among religions.

Indra’s Net is more accessible than Malhotra's book An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism; however, Being Different and Indra’s Net re-enforce one another. I would have to read both books several times to fully understand the concepts that Rajiv Malhotra introduces. My 3-star rating is less about the merits of the book and more about the limits of my understanding.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review of Understanding Hinduism

Understanding HinduismUnderstanding Hinduism by Oxford Center for Hindu Studies
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book supplements the online continuing ed course Introduction to Hinduism–History, Text, Philosophy from the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies.

Virtues of this book:

It exercises caution in inferring what archaeological finds indicate about the Indus Valley Civilization.

Similarly, it is cautious about the Aryan Invasion Theory. All it says about the Aryans:
  • AIT is a colonial construct (drawing upon Kim Knott's book Hinduism A Very Short Introduction)
  • Vedic Sanskrit has linguistic similarities with other Indo-European languages
  • We may infer that the Vedic people were agriculturists or pastoralists from their hymns
Understanding Hinduism notes that South Indian priests instructed North Indian priests in Vedic ritual after Islamic suppression of Hinduism. This is evidence of the cultural affinity between North and South (see Breaking India to see how various forces are alienating the South from the North).

I like Understanding Hinduism even better than Klaus K. Klostermaier's book A Short Introduction to Hinduism. Understanding Hinduism is the best introduction to Hinduism that I've read: therefore, I'm rating it 5 stars.

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