This is my rebuttal to Mr. Devdutt Pattnaik’s article ‘Delightful truths of cult leaders’, dated 21/12/2014 published in Mid-day.com where he had been more than critical on Mr. Rajiv Malhotra’s works & character.
As any writer would admit it, his or her job among many, is to curb the use of unnecessary alphabets & words. Mr. Devdutt seems to have used one letter too many. Whereas his article could have been aptly titled ‘Delightful truths of cult leader’, he calls it incorrectly by making the word ‘leader’ a plural. Because, lets face it, the whole article is about Rajiv Malhotra (henceforth mentioned in this article with Rajiv or RM). It’s a full-fledged attack on Rajiv’s works, his character and his contribution, which of course one is free to. This rebuttal is an attempt to consider the allegations that Rajiv has been charged with and to see if they really hold any truth. Here it should also be mentioned that though Devdutt has touched upon Rampal in the intro, no Hindu with a slightly endowed intelligence would ever accept him as his Guru. Of course he could still be classified as a cult leader.
As one could have easily guessed by now, I am indeed a fan of Rajiv’s works, having followed his works for more than a decade. His contributions to Indian culture and specifically to its Dharmic side are immense which even his detractors accept. And at the same time I should also mention that I’m not a fan of Mr. Devdutt’s works because, how can I put it? Let me take a shot at it: His works are pretty superficial & simple, at their best, probably a lot like his readers. I know he is the golden boy of the urban educated Hindu who is anxious of his ignorance towards his own culture but just doesn’t want to know it enough that he may have to seriously spend some quality time in learning and do something about it. Thats where Mr. Devdutt comes in. He talks about Hindu ‘mythologies’, about ‘homosexuals’ in Hinduism, draws some crazy flowcharts on slates. With a sprinkle of a little Indian history, and modern psychology, he hooks right into the mind of the ‘metro’ Indian man or the wannabe youth. In fact, one can learn as much about Indian identity & Dharmic culture from reading his works as one can do about codes, symbols and the gospels from a Dan Brown novel.
Just to be clear, Rajiv has in no way instigated this reply though I came about Mr. Devdutt’s article through his forum. And my first reaction after reading it was who & where are the cult leader(s) and where is the cult? It is very obvious that the whole article is about RM, although he does mention about other ‘rational’ leaders’ & their supposed ‘cults’, in the passing, which does put a question on his intellectual honesty. I wasn’t sure which ran longer, his dislike or put more strongly, his hatred for Rajiv or his knowledge of cult leaders. Either way, it makes a poor display of his supposed ‘knowledge’ & ‘expertise’.
Firstly, lets take the allegation of what RM profits by his works. I’m not sure if Mr Devdutt is aware of this, but it is pretty standard that when a crime is committed the investigators always look at who primarily benefits by the crime. So suppose if RM has committed the crime of writing books, criticizing some ‘scholars’ & initiating debates on the discourse of Indian, and more specifically on Hindu culture one has to ask, what and how does he benefit by it? The most obvious answers would be Money & fame as anything else would be much more personal and hence wouldn’t require so much of publicity, hard work etc. As many might already know, Rajiv, in the eighties and the nineties used to run several multinational companies spread across many countries and made appropriate earnings. He is retired, runs a foundation now and is well settled, enough to take care of himself and his family. So money is hardly a concern for him. On the contrary it could be argued that it is Mr Devdutt who has a lot to lose if he ever starts writing like Rajiv. Unlike Rajiv, he earns his living by writing and selling his books and hence makes him an ideal candidate for never questioning the ulterior motives of the Western academicians & scholars and the status quo that they have established in controlling the narrative on India.
Could it then be Fame? I would go on a limb here and say that for anyone who wants to be famous, and who also happens to have a few dollars in his pocket, writing books on Hindu culture and debating with academicians are hardly the best options. Why invest so much of your time, money and energy on something that brings you only ridicule and criticism, in addition to making you almost an outcast in your own field? Instead Rajiv could have given some money to build a temple or taken other easier ways, like writing on simplified Hindu ‘mythologies’. But he doesn’t. So what is the end goal of his crime, I wonder!
Secondly, Mr Devdutt talks about the cult that Rajiv seems to have started. He mentions how they consider him as a savior, as a martyr. Sure RM does ask help from people for his works, research. And he does have a lot of fans, readers, and supporters. He also does reject people’s voluntary help when they don’t fit his needs, including offers from yours truly. Most of the times when people complain about the state of Hinduism etc., he asks them to do the needful by themselves, rather than getting himself involved because of his limited resources. Which brings me to the question: Does Mr. Devdutt really knows the meaning of ‘cult’? Or does his definition goes only as far as when Bollywood calls one of its monstrosity as a ‘cult’ film? For a cult to exist, there should be a cult leader who promises something at the end, usually something pretty looney, like the Heavens Gate cult, Mormon cult etc. Some even call Christianity and Islam as a cult because they promise an afterlife in Heaven. It might surprise Mr.Devdutt that Rajiv hasn’t promised any such thing to his readers and fans. He doesn’t arrange gatherings or even satsangs. And he for sure hasn’t announced that he is going to lead and show them the light at the end of the tunnel. Frankly he is more interested in his own swadharma and his sadhana. And speaking of ‘Swadharma’ he is a ‘Kshatriya’ by the way and hence if he takes up the case for ‘intellectual kshatriya’, I think he is just doing his duty. Alas for Mr. Pattnaik, he is far from being the Brahmin he is supposed to be.
Sure RM wants people to carry on his legacy, continue his works. But if one applies Mr. Devdutt’s definition of ‘cult’ for that then the same should also be applied for every guru, every sage in India. There should be a Vyasa cult, Ramana cult, Aurobindo cult, Sankaracharya cult etc.
And thirdly, Mr. Devdutt, in a disparaging tone, mentions Rajiv’s ‘demands’ for invitations to speak in events. Anyone who learns driving in the U.S would have heard the phrase ‘right of way’. You ‘demand’ your right of way if you are obstructed by others while driving on your permitted legal route, observing the appropriate traffic rules. It is not being cocky, arrogant or apologetic either. It is just being assertive and enforcing one’s right as a driver in a free society. So if Rajiv demands to be invited to speak at literary fests or universities, he as a writer, thinker and as someone who has worked for two decades in his field and knows a fair amount of what he is talking about is entitled to assert his identity, as should any Hindu or individual if they are confident about themselves. Why should he be apologetic or shy about it, especially in events where there are no balancing acts to the one sided leftist/liberal agenda of the organizers? In fact it has been a part of his strategy to initiate debates and discussions amid the din of liberal propaganda. He has been quite vocal in asking people to be a ‘non ignorable’, if they ever want to have a stake in the modern Indian and Hindu discourse. If Mr.Devdutt doesn’t wants to do it, its fine but if he is indeed such an expert on Hinduism and its ‘mythologies’ why doesn’t he participates and debate people on the other side who have made it their habit to criticize and destroy Dharmic culture in every way they can?
Rajiv has been in on so many debates with people of varying viewpoints and diagonally opposite perspectives. He has debated Church fathers, priests, and academicians. I don’t see Mr. Devdutt doing it. He sits on his ass and has the arrogance to ridicule Rajiv when he takes up the initiative to counter the leftist/liberal/Abrahamic arguments!
There is probably a hidden reason why Mr Devdutt doesn’t undertake any such endeavor, the reason being he is one of them and he doesn’t want to admit it. He is fine with nodding to everything what Doninger says, sometimes even glorifying her, shamelessly selling out as soon as he sees any white skin. And by the way the very literary fests that used to shun inviting Rajiv have changed their minds and have started inviting him, a case in point to be made for demanding not to be ignored.
A positive dialogue and discussion in the open is very much needed on both sides if we are ever to have a civil society. Just because Richard Dawkins and Deepak Chopra call each other names after their debate doesn’t mean that they have become cult leaders. Sure they may each have strong supporters but that doesn’t mean they belong to a cult. They are having debates, trying to understand what the other one is saying, and letting people know why they believe they are right. It’s the only civil way of deciding an argument. Adi Sankara did it a thousand years ago. If that could be called as ‘ cult’ then it is an insult to human civility, intelligence & humanity itself. Perhaps Mr. Devdutt finds Aurangazeb’s and consequently, the present Islamic caliphate’s methods appealing.
So why did Mr. Devdutt write this article? May be Doninger and her accomplices instigated him to write the article. May be he was just afraid of the competition from Rajiv in book sales or he was frightened by how much of a ‘sepoy’ he is with no hint of any original thought. May be he was overtaken by the ‘green eyed monster’. Or may be he was just a little ‘cuckoo’ in his head. In any case I would prescribe him to read a little bit of Rajiv’s works or watch his videos. There are plenty in youtube. They might help him to learn a thing or two about his own cultural identity. Or he can sit somewhere silently and meditate. That also clears up the mind. But I do request him to spare us, the readers, from going through the experience of reading such banal and petty articles as the one he has published in Mid-day. We definitely don’t deserve such punishment.
Link to Mr. Devdutt’s article: