- the constitution of India : India is, of course, the birthplace of Hinduism. The constitution of India has significant lacunae in its treatment of free speech and this makes it impossible for people to freely speak their minds;
- the network structure of Hinduism makes it impossible for a large 'Population' of Hindus to agree on anything.
- A third reason is that, and this is important too, edcuated Indians are generally willing to give anyone who has an opinion a chance to speak, and are often more concerned about fairness than about correctness.
Hinduism is largely a fiction, formulated in the 18th and 19th centuries out of a multiplicity of sub-continental religions, and enthusiastically endorsed by Indian modernisers. Unlike Muslims, Hindus have tended to borrow more than reject, and it has now been reconfigured as a global rival to the big three monotheisms.
The article is very, very revealing, but not in the way that Pankaj Mishra might think. The above sentences is the stuff from the opening block. Later on, Pankaj Mishra says that the concept of a "religion" emerged in "the late 18th century and early 19th century". This is false and has, thus, far gone unchallenged not only by Axess magazine but also by other commentators.
THE REMARKABLE quality of this transformation is partly shown by the fact that there was no such thing as Hinduism before the British invented the holdall category in the early nineteenth century, and made India seem the home of a "world religion" as organised and theologically coherent as Christianity and Islam. The concepts of a "world religion" and "religion" as we know them now, emerged during the late 18th and early 19th century, as objects of academic study, at a time of widespread secularisation in western Europe. The idea, as inspired by the Enlightenment, was to study religion as a set of beliefs, and to open it up to rational enquiry.
But academic study of any kind imposes its own boundaries upon the subject. It actually creates the subject while bringing it within the realm of the intellect.
Indeed, the interesting thing about Hindu thinkers is not that there is nothing common to them. It is indeed the opposite. They were working with a number of different concepts and had arrived at certain opinions on such things as the nature of reality, and this was based on a common vocabulary. Now, it must be said that these opinions were not scientific opinions in that the thinkers proposing the ideas were quite unaware of the Scientific Method. They were also not original contributions to philosophy since most of these ideas had already been proposed by others before them. But the fact that they were thinking at very abstract levels about the nature of existence, et cetera, using a common set of abstractions indicates that they were working within a single intellectual framework which can now be recognized not only in terms of its attributes of common history and language but also in terms of commonality in terms of religion.
Update (Mar 21): The title of the post refers to the old joke that goes : "We have had two Popes named John Paul. When will we have one named George Ringo?" Note also that when I say that Pankaj Mishra's article has no methodology, I am saying that he is not making his argument based off any statistically strong methodology as well. It is okay to Op Ed on a matter like this, but facts are facts and opinions and opinions. And what I am saying is that Pankaj Mishra's opinions are not at all solidly founded.