Friday, May 05, 2006

The Ugly Hindu and the Forsaken Hindu

It is certain that I am a strong, and sometimes merciless, critic of American culture and government, but this does not mean that I hold a greater and blind regard for other cultures. I am well aware of the absurdities of other cultures, countries, and governments. The fact is that every culture has its beauty and its ugliness. Every culture has its fundamentalists and criminals as well. It seems there is no shortage.

One of the most endeared, yet absurd, statements made by Mahatma Gandhi, was his response to a question about what he thought about Western civilization, to which he replied, “I think it would be a good idea.” It might have been a clever response except that it was both arrogant and hypocritical considering the entrenchment of a bigoted Hindu caste system that readily dehumanizes the less fortunate by making them outcasts and sinners, as well as the reality that India is a country with rampant corruption at every level of civil life. Hilariously, people still buy the notion that Western cultures are materialistic while Eastern cultures are not. I especially enjoy how the religious leaders of the Hindu faith, Brahmins, just happen to be the ones allotted the most privilege and wealth, including the most wives. What a coincidence.

Many people have an attraction to the exotic and this is evident in religion as well as philosophy. It is a reason that some Westerners are drawn to Eastern philosophies and vice-versa. For instance, Deepak Chopra continually markets his notions of mystical, Hindu-based love to a willing and affluent Western audience. Yes, he does this for money despite preaching non-materialism. He also claims that it is a scientific-based approach, but provides only anecdotal statements of praise for his system. Yeah, like we’ve never seen that before.

Deepak Chopra and other Hindu mystics also speak of male aspects that include "protection" and of female aspects like "pure action." However, a NY Times article on the Indian movie Water, cited by 3 Quarks Daily, should demonstrate the true extent of Hindu love and compassion. Yes, the widow of a Hindu man does not fare well in Eastern culture. If she is not burned alive, then she is at best, placed on the back burner. I should mention that new brides are also sometimes burned and disfigured for lack of dowry payments or for other minor transgressions. All this validated by the religious writings in the Vedas. Welcome to the real world of Hinduism.

Here is a suggestion for all the wise and passionate, Hindu gurus who claim to have the power to fly – why don’t you put on a kerosene-soaked sari next time and levitate yourself into the funeral pyre.
-Just a peasant
Photo of an Indian widow from the rather striking gallery of "Bruce" at PBase