Religion

The Bhagavad Gita Revisited
Why the Bhagavad Gita is an overrated text with a deplorable morality at its core. Part 1 is on the Gita’s historical and literary context. Part 2 is the textual critique.

   Part 1 (The Appetizer)

   Part 2 (The Main Course)

The Minangkabau: Mixing Islam and Matriarchy
This matriarchal society of Muslims in Indonesia reminds us that religion and culture are never cut from whole cloth.

As Though We Were Immortal
Some travel impressions prompted by the living and the dead of Varanasi, India.

From the Outside, Looking In
Speaking of Muslims as fanatics and terrorists is not even considered bad manners; it’s seen as a comic expression of the truth. Suggesting that it might be a bit more complicated—that it’s ridiculous and hateful to so simplify a group...

The Other Swastika
Can the symbol ever be redeemed in the eyes of the West? What might be lost and what could be gained in the possibility of doing so?

In Light of Nalanda
What was ancient Nalanda University like? Here is a portrait based on the accounts of Chinese scholars of 7th century CE and a recent personal visit.

America, the Cold War, and the Taliban
The roots of transnational Islamic terrorism lie not so much in culture and the Qur’an as in politics and the conduct of the Cold War in Afghanistan.

Atheistic Materialism in Ancient India
It comes as a surprise to many that in ancient "spiritual" India, atheistic materialism was a major force to reckon with. Predating even the Buddhists, the Carvaka is one of the earliest materialistic schools of Indian philosophy.

On Caste Privilege
Much has been written about the unearned privilege of race and gender. What does the privilege of caste look like in Indian society? How and why has caste been politicized?

The Blight of Hindustan
The Indian caste system continues to mystify outsiders. Here is a brisk overview of its origins, spread, and some historical attitudes and debates.

Joothan: A Dalit's Life
Joothan by Omprakash Valmiki is a deeply affecting memoir of growing up achoot (‘untouchable’) starting in the 1950s outside a typical village in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Revisiting the Idea of India
A review of The Indian Ideology by Perry Anderson, focusing on Indian nationalism from the colonial era to the present.

   Part 1: Gandhi, early Indian nationalism

   Part 2: Nehru, Partition, the nation state

The Social Virus of Terrorism
The term "social virus" is often used to describe modern terrorism; it afflicts the social body indiscriminately and arises out of ill-defined or unaddressable grievances.

How Terrorism Works
Experts on Islamic terrorism are now everywhere, spouting wisdom on countless media outlets and blogs. Most of them ... reflexively summon their gut to explain what turns Muslims into terrorists.

On Early Islam
This five-part series on early Islamic history begins with the rise of Islam, shifts to its golden age, examines two major currents of early Islamic thought—rationalism and Sufi mysticism—and concludes with an epilogue.

Part 1: The Rise of Islam

Part 2: The Golden Age

Part 3: The Path of Reason

Part 4: The Mystic Tide

Part 5: Epilogue

Indigenous Aryans?
Few topics in ancient history are as disputed today as the role of Indo-Aryans in ancient Indiadisputed not in the echelons of scholarship committed to facts and the dialectical process, but by a powerful religious, nationalistic, or otherwise misguided brand of historiography.

What Confucius Said
No person has left a deeper mark on Chinese culture than Confucius, who lived 2500 years ago in an age of social turmoil.

Asian Food for Thought
India and China offer a striking illustration of the vast range and malleability of the human palate, and the power of ideas in shaping it.

On Being Spiritual
Spirituality is cool these days. Its warm and fuzzy aura now appeals to more and more people in the West. Here are my provisional thoughts on what being spiritual means to me.

Marco Polo's India
Returning home from China in 1292 CE, Marco Polo spent a few months in India ... his famous book, The Travels, contains a rich social portrait of India that still resonates with us today.

Potala-in-Exile
The seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile is in McLeod Ganj, a picturesque town below the snowy peaks of the Dhaula Dhar range.

The Politics of God
In response to 9/11 and the alarming role of evangelical Christianity in US politics, a host of loud atheistic voices have emerged. Most belong to concerned citizens driven by their secular ideals...

Candles in the Dark?
Beyond Belief, an annual symposium that seeks to promote the constituency of reason in society, was held this year [2008] from 3-6 October in La Jolla, CA.

Respecting Religion
Religious folks are a diverse lot. In their public acts, they exhibit a host of inspirations, both religious and secular. We can guess but usually can't be sure about the mix. Forget the average pious bloke, even a suicide bomber's inspirations are rarely plain.

The Station of Light
The life and times of Muid ad-Din ibn al-Arabi, a Sufi master of the medieval age.

Al-Beruni's India
The first significant intrusion of Islam into India was led by Mahmud of Ghazni who, quite justifiably, lives in Indian history as a cruel and bloodthirsty fanatic.

Anandpur Sahib
Anandpur Sahib is a holy city in Punjab. Its historical significance to the Sikhs is second only to Amritsar. Hundreds of Sikhs once embraced martyrdom here. Sikh history is deeply marked by their struggle for survival in a volatile land.

Jerry Falwell, BIH
Jerry Falwell is dead. The news reports reminded me that besides the Moral Majority, he also founded a Christian madrassa called Liberty University. There are in fact scores of Christian madrassas in America.

A Mousetrap for Metaphysics
Is it possible to reduce the vast range of humankind's metaphysical responses down to a few distilled outlooks that have shaped (and continue to shape) human culture?

The Wonder That Was India
Various societies at different times have dazzled with their bursts of creative and intellectual energy. Historians have a penchant for dubbing them Golden Ages. Examples include the Athens of Herodotus, the Baghdad of Haroun al-Rashid, and the India of the Buddha.

Servitors of the Divine Consciousness
Auroville aspires to be "a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and harmony, above all creeds, all politics, and nationalities."

John Frum
Some time ago, Ruchira brought to my attention an article about a village on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, where the people believe Prince Philip of England is a god. Though it might sound preposterous to many of us, it's actually not a joke.

Buddha's Finger
The monks and proprietors of Famen Temple in China's northwestern Shaanxi Province, about an hour's drive outside of Xi'an, believe the Buddha has given them the finger. Or four.

The Pakistan Puzzle
On August 14th this year, Pakistan completed 60 years as an independent country. In these 60 years, the state of Pakistan has endured, but doubts about it still persist - it has been called a failed state and a rogue state.

Omar Khayyam of Persia
In his lifetime, Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) achieved great fame as a master of philosophy, jurisprudence, history, medicine, astronomy, and mathematics.

 


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