Rajiv Malhotra (born September 15, 1950), is an Indian-American thinker, philosopher and researcher focusing on the uniqueness of Dharmic traditions and its ability to serve as a better alternative to Western Universalism. He is the author of the four revolutionary books, Invading the Sacred, Breaking India, Being Different and Indra's Net. He studied physics at St. Stephen's College, Delhi and computer science at Syracuse University. He was a senior executive, strategic consultant and a successful entrepreneur in the information technology and media industries until his retirement in 1994 at age 44. Currently, Rajiv Malhotra is the founder-director of the Infinity Foundation in Princeton, New Jersey. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Center for Indic Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and as adviser to various organizations. He had formerly contributed many articles to Huffington Post and Sulekha.
Rajiv Malhotra's Books
Apart from the numerous articles in internet blog sites such as Sulekha and Huffington post, Rajiv Malhotra has written four best seller books:- Invading the Sacred, Breaking India, Being Different and Indra's Net.
This book articulates Hindu dharma’s multi-dimensional, holographic understanding of reality. Originating in the Atharva Veda, the concept of Indra’s Net is a powerful metaphor for this inter-relatedness. It was transmitted via Buddhism’s Avatamsaka Sutra into Western thought, where it now resides at the heart of post-modern discourse. This book invokes Indra’s Net to articulate the open architecture, unity and continuity of Hinduism. This concept is briefly described in Malhotra's previous book Being Different.
Seen from this perspective, Hinduism defies being pigeon-holed into the traditional, modern and post-modern categories by which the West defines itself; rather, it becomes evident that Hinduism has always spanned all three categories simultaneously and without contradiction.
Taking the debate further, Rajiv Malhotra argues that Vivekananda’s creative interpretations of Hindu dharma informed and influenced many Western intellectual movements of the post-modern era. Indeed, appropriations from Hinduism have provided a foundation for cutting-edge discoveries in several fields including cognitive science and neuroscience. Not only self-help gurus and lifestyle coaches but also scientists and philosophers increasingly draw on Hindu cosmology in framing their work.
This book describes an Indian Challenge to Western Universalism. Here thinker and philosopher Rajiv Malhotra addresses the challenge of a direct and honest engagement on differences, by reversing the gaze, repositioning India from being the observed to the observer and looking at the West from the dharmic point of view. In doing so, he challenges many hitherto unexamined beliefs that both sides hold about themselves and each other. He highlights that while unique historical revelations are the basis for Western religions, dharma emphasizes self-realization in the body here and now. He also points out the integral unity that underpins dharma’s metaphysics and contrasts this with Western thought and history as a synthetic unity.
This book focuses on the role of U.S. and European churches, academics, think-tanks, foundations, government and human rights groups in fostering separation of the identities of Dravidian and Dalit communities from the rest of India.
The book is the result of five years of research, and uses information obtained in the West about foreign funding of these Indian-based activities. The research tracked the money trails that start out claiming to be for education,human rights, empowerment training, and leadership training, but end up in programs designed to produce angry youths who feel disenfranchised from Indian identity.
The book reveals how outdated racial theories continue to provide academic frameworks and fuel the rhetoric that can trigger civil wars and genocides in developing countries. The Dravidian movement’s 200-year history has such origins. Its latest manifestation is the Dravidian Christianity movement that fabricates a political and cultural history to exploit old fault lines. The book explicitly names individuals and institutions, including prominent Western ones and their Indian affiliates. Its goal is to spark an honest debate on the extent to which human rights and other empowerment projects are cover-ups for these nefarious activities.
Invading the Sacred
Adopting a politically impartial stance, this book, the product of an intensive multi-year research project, uncovers the invisible networks behind this Hindu-phobia, narrates the Indian Diaspora’s challenges to such scholarship, and documents how those who dared to speak up have been branded as “dangerous”. The book hopes to provoke serious debate.
The book addresses questions such as the following:-
- How do Hindu-phobic works resemble earlier American literature depicting non-whites as dangerous savages needing to be civilized by the West?
- Are India’s internal social problems going to be managed by foreign interventions in the name of human rights?
- How do power imbalances and systemic biases affect the objectivity and quality of scholarship?
- What is the role of India’s intellectuals, policymakers and universities in fashioning an authentic and enduring response?
Core Ideas and Issues focused by Rajiv Malhotra
History Centrism of Abrahamic Religions
Rajiv Malhotra has developed a novel framework that classifies religions according to their dependence on history. For followers of history-centric (Abrahamic) religions, truth-claims based on history are more significant than the scriptural message itself. History-centric dogma such as original sin and resurrection become critical beliefs and no compromise can be made on their acceptance. This explains the centrality of Nicene creed to all major Christian denominations. Followers of history-centric religions believe that the God revealed His message through a special prophet and that the message is secured in scriptures. This special access to God is available only to these intermediaries or prophets and not to any other human beings.
Dharma traditions do not hold history central to their faith. Gautama Buddha emphasized that his enlightenment was merely a discovery of a reality that is always there. He was not bringing any new covenants from any God. The history of the Buddha is not necessary for Buddhist principles to work. In fact, Buddha stated that he was neither the first nor the last person to have achieved the state of enlightenment. He also asserted that he was not God nor sent by any God as a prophet, and whatever he discovered was available to every human to discover for himself.
Clash of Civilizations
One of Malhotra’s key research interests is the competition of civilizations in a world of increasingly scarce resources, and what role India will play in this encounter. Malhotra posits that three civilizations, each with its own distinct history, sense of purpose, identity and grand narrative are competing for leadership on the global stage: China, Pan-Islam, and the West. He proposes three scenarios under which India is likely to participate. In the first, India’s subnation identities become aligned with these external civilizations on religious and ideological grounds, and India’s cohesion as a nation state is eroded. In the second scenario India’s culture spreads globally as pop culture but the Indian nation-state disappears. In the third, India emerges as a nation-state with its culture intact and helps the world.
Here Rajiv Malhotra starts off from the ground covered by eminent writer Dr David Frawley (Shri Vamadeva Sashtri) in his book Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations where he speaks about the Western Mono-culture and Indic Pluralism and about Religious Exclusivism, Racism and Colonialism. David Frawley calls for the need for a class of intellectual Kshatriyas who would take up the task of defending Dharma traditions which are slowly getting digested into or eliminated by exclusive religious doctrines. Rajiv Malhotra is a shining example of such and Intellectual Kshatriya, a fighter whose weapon is words, thoughts and intellect.
India's contribution to the world
Indian knowledge systems, encompassing a variety of subjects ranging from science and medicine to architecture and textiles, represent an unbroken transmission of knowledge over millennia. They offer locally developed solutions to uniquely local problems, support a sustainable lifestyle and are eco-friendly. Unfortunately, modernization and western models of progress have categorized these knowledge systems into artificial categories of science, folklore, superstition,etc. and devalued much of this knowledge. In seeking to catalog India’s scientific heritage and cultural legacy, Malhotra’s project enables the preservation and revival of these practices.
He also raises voice against the digestion of India's knowledge into Western science, philosophy, psychology, medicine and engineering without giving due credit to the source viz. the Dharmic civilization of India.
Interpretation of Dharma
Dharma philosophical systems are highly systematized in their approach to understanding ultimate reality and in carefully addressing what one can know through various means of knowledge. However, this rigor does not restrict their freedom in being comfortable with social organization. Indians exhibit remarkable openness to self-organization and decentralization. Malhotra explains the basis for this openness in his articles. “Hinduism weaves multiple narratives around the central motif of cooperative rivalry between order (personified as devas) and chaos (personified as asuras). A key narrative shared by all the dharma traditions — the ‘churning of the milky ocean,’ or ‘samudra-manthan’ — shows the eternal struggle between two poles. The milky ocean is the ocean of consciousness and creativity, which is to be churned in order to obtain amrita, or the nectar of eternal life.”
This view is very close to the Upanishadic view that Amrta is pure knowledge of immortality obtained by understanding consciousness and not a material entity or a potion which expands the life span of the mortal body.
Malhotra also speaks about "the open architecture model of Dharma", which can serve as a better alternative to Western Universalism. In Dharma traditions, plurality and unity in diversity is natural and not imposed from outside where as in Western Universalism an artificial unity is imposed, which is inherently unstable and cause various kinds of stress to its adherents. He points to the fact that Western culture is the product of an imperfect union of the Greek reasoning and the Abrahamic exclusivity based on blind faith with no scope for any reasoning.
Search Tool for Analyzing Rajiv Malhotra's writings
Below is a custom search-engine created to search Shri Rajiv Malhotra's extensive works available online. For example type 'Indra' and click search. All the places where Indra is mentioned will be listed, especially those mentions related to 'Indra's net' and also those mentioned in 'Being Different'. Similarly we can search on 'difference anxiety' 'sanskrit non translatables' etc
The following websites are searched:-
- Rajiv Malhotra Main Site
- Indra's Net Book Site - IN
- Being Different Book Site - BI
- Breaking India Book Site - BD
- Invading The Sacred Book Site - ITS
- Being Different Forum at Blogspot
- Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations - Dr David Frawley