Why Does a Nice Positive Article in the New York Times Carry a Deep Bias Against Indian Dharma?

Our basic tenet is that Ignorance is the root cause of Bias. Ignorance stems from a lack of education and leads to biases that  enter the minds of people. These biases get deeply embedded with years of brainwashing, an art of repeating falsehoods often and in different styles.

We find all of these aspects widely prevalent in American Media, both print and television. The vast majority of American journalists grew up in a mono-cultural, mono-religious society with education that was predominantly insular. They also grew up when American thought was the most admired and most followed path in the world. So it is easy to understand why American Journalists fall into the trap of their own entrenched belief systems.

This practice seems especially prevalent in discussions of Indian Dharma in American media. It appears so ingrained in American journalism that even articles of praise seem to carry these deeply held biases. One such is a New York Times article by Lydia Polgreen about the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. This is a very nice article, an article of spirituality, of core human values and the tradition of taking care of people regardless of their race, religion or background. We recommend this article to all.

Yet, Lydia Polgreen cannot stop herself from expressing her deep seated religious bias in this article. Why did she have to sideswipe Hinduism in this article? Read her statement “Sikhism, which emerged in the Punjab region of India in the 15th century, strongly rejects the notion of caste, which lies at the core of Hinduism.”

This is the only line in the entire article about Hinduism. So we wonder why insert it at all. And where does Ms. Polgreen get the idea that Caste lies at the core of Hinduism? This is a perfect example of deep seated bias, nurtured, developed and fed through years of brainwashing.

But this is only the obvious example. The article also carries subliminal propaganda and the widely followed tactic of separating Indian society from Hinduism while attributing the good in modern India to British influence. Read the paragraph below:

  • India is not only the world’s largest democracy, it also is one of the most spiritually diverse nations. It was born in a horrific spasm of religious bloodshed when British India was torn in two to create a Muslim homeland in Pakistan. Yet from the moment of its independence, India has been a resolutely secular nation and has managed to accommodate an extraordinary range of views on such fundamental questions as the nature of humanity, the existence of God and the quality of the soul….Indeed, few places in India demonstrate so clearly the country’s genius for diversity and tolerance, the twin reasons that India — despite its fractures and fissures — has remained one nation.

First India was not born from British India. India was never British. A relatively small number of British administrators ran the Indian Government and a small number of British officers ran the Indian Army. The British did so because Indian Society allowed them to do so for a number of reasons. Several Muslim dynasties ruled North India for four or five centuries but that did not make India Islamic.

India was not a word coined by the British. Nor was the caste system first discussed by the British. The Greeks called the country Indica. This was also the title of the work by Megasthenes, a Greek ethnographer who served as the Greek Ambassador to the Court of Chandra-Gupt Maurya around 300 BCE. Megasthenes described a very fluid caste or class system based on jobs and not on heredity, a very different system than what Ms. Polgreen has been taught to assume.

The Romans converted the name Indica to India. The British adopted this term. The name comes from the Indus River. Indian Culture and Dharma was developed on the banks of this great river. The Indian name of the river is Sindhu. The Greeks, Romans, British called it Indus and the Persians, Arabs called it Hindu. So any attempt to distinguish between Indian and Hindu is false, forced and perhaps based on an inner need to impugn.

Lydia Polgreen does not seem to know that India has not JUST been resolutely secular from the moment of its independence. In fact, India has been a civilization resolutely independent of any “ism” since its birth at the beginning of known time. India has been the birthplace of many religions, Jainism and Buddhism being the earliest known to people like Ms. Polgreen.

In contrast, Britain is a predominantly Christian Protestant country which specifically disallows any Christian Catholic from becoming the King or Queen of England. Forget about any other religion. And Ms. Polgreen thinks Indian Secularism arises from the influence of this Britain?

We hold a basic truth as self evident, that the nature of a country comes from the culture and beliefs of its majority. India has been successful in managing, to quote Ms. Polgreen, its “extraordinary range of views on such fundamental questions as the nature of humanity, the existence of God and the quality of the soul…” because and only because Indian Dharma & Culture allows and encourages this diversity of thought. This has been true since the founding tenets of Indian Dharma were established at the beginning of known time. Or to use Ms. Polgreen’s term, it is “Hinduism” that allows this diversity of thought and religion to flourish in its society.

Frankly, we don’t like the word Indian Dharma and we have come to abhor the word “Hinduism” or the term “Hindu”. It is wrong in every way, etymologically, linguistically, culturally and philosophically.

  • First and foremost, there is no “ism” in Indian Dharma. An “ism” is either a principle, belief,  movement or a defining attribute of a thing. Indian Dharma is a framework that allows the development of many “ism“s within itself. There are people who prefer the macro belief system and there are people who prefer the micro belief system. A micro belief system is one which follows one icon or one book over others. The macro belief system is one that follows the concept of different ways at looking at the same truth.
  • Secondly, the word Hindu is a Persian/Arabic word just like the word Indian is a Greek/Roman/British word. If such geographical words are to be used, why not use the original word “Sindhu”? So to those who use the word Hinduism or Hindu religion, we recommend the use of Sindhism or Sindhu religion.
  • There is another subliminal put down implicit in the words Hinduism or Indian Dharma. It is an attempt to make the Dharma, the religion and the philosophy a local value system restricted to the borders of India. Calling our Dharma as Hindu is like calling Christianity as “Lebu” or Islam as “Arabu”. After all, the Bible was written in Lebanon just as the Ved were written on the banks of Sindhu. Islam originated in Arabia just as our Dharma originated in the Sapta-Sindhu area (the land of Seven Rivers). But Christianity and Islam lay a claim to global values and they have dropped the reference to their land of origin.
  • Our preferred name is the historical name Sanaatan Dharma or its literal translation Eternal Dharma. It is a global framework because its principles are so universal, far more universal than those of any mono-iconic religion or faith. The Separation of Ruler and Religion, the Separation of Reason and Faith were developed in Sanaatan (pronounced Sa-Naa-Tan) Dharma long before any other religion (of today) was conceived. The framework of Sanaatan Dharma is so broad, deep and universal that the belief systems of all religions can fit within it, at least the non-exclusionary belief systems. This is why we disapprove of any attempt to refer to it merely by its land of origin.

This might be beyond the ken or the inherent biases of journalists like Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times. The real scary thing is that Ms. Polgreen may be among the most benign of American Journalists. Our objective in this article is to hold a mirror in front of Ms. Polgreen to show her how she comes across in her writings. If she gets it, perhaps she can educate her colleagues.

Finally a personal tale about the caste system being at the core of “Hinduism”, as Ms. Polgreen puts it. A couple of decades ago, we met an engineering student at an American University campus. Let’s call him Ernest D’Silva (similar to but different from his real name). Ernest, a Christian Catholic of Portuguese denomination, was born and grew up in Karachi, Pakistan. He had come to this American University for his masters degree. He told us that his mother would never allow him to marry any girl who was not a Brahmin Catholic Christian. Where is “Hinduism”  in this young man’s tale, the tale of a Christian Catholic young man born in Islamic Pakistan and studying in predominantly Christian Protestant America?

To attribute Caste System to “Hinduism” is to attribute Slavery to American Christianity. We hope Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times gets it.

Editor’s Note:
One of the ancient precepts is Janmata Jayate Shudra, Samskaaraat Dwija Uchate, or “all beings are born at the lowest level, it is by education and culture that one becomes a Brahmin”. This was the ruling in the celebrated case of Satyakaam Jaabal by Sage Gautam, one of the most respected and earliest Sages of Sanaatan Dharma. This is a story from the Upa-Ni-Sad, philosophical texts that were composed before the advent of other religions. 


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