"They believe that time is both degenerative -- going from the golden age, or Krita Yuga, through two intermediate periods of decreasing goodness, to the present age, or Kali Yuga -- and cyclic: At the end of each Kali Yuga, the universe is destroyed by fire and flood, and a new golden age begins."

Firstly, this is not philosophy, but as the author points out, cosmology. Secondly, as a description of Hindu cosmology, it is fairly inadequate and reductive. It fails to point that there are multiple creation myths in Hindu texts. Also, as far as Hindu cosmology goes, people like notable astronomer and author, Prof. Carl Sagan, have pointed that the calculations of the age of the universe based on this cosmology works out to be fairly close to our current scientific estimates -- and "(Hinduism) is the only ancient religious tradition on the Earth which talks about the right time-scale."[i] Mentioning any of this, would, of course be quite contrary to the tone of the article. Rather than presenting the creation myth as a story and presenting the hidden elements of scientific truth, the article gives a reductive description, preceded by the phrase "Hindus believe." To understand this better, let us compare it with the article in Encarta about the Biblical creation myth.

Adam and Eve:

    "Adam and Eve, in the Bible, the first man and woman, progenitors of the human race. The biblical account of the creation of human beings occurs twice: in Genesis 1:26-27 and in Genesis 2:18-24. Marked differences in vocabulary, thought, and style between these accounts have led to the scholarly consensus that these creation stories reflect two distinct sources (see Bible: The Development of the Old Testament). In the first account, the Hebrew common noun Adam is used as a generic term for all human beings, regardless of gender; Eve is not mentioned at all. In the second account, Adam is created from the dust of the earth, whereas Eve is created from Adam's rib and given to him by God to be his wife."
The first notable difference is that of the expository technique. The latter article presents different creation accounts in the reading of Biblical texts. Note how this shifts subtly if it were preceded by "Christians believe .". That there are differences in the two stories in the same book could then be extrapolated, as is done in the article on Hinduism to state, "Christians believe many contradictory things." Instead the article about Adam and Eve treats it as a scholarly study of text (where different "accounts" are found), rather than conclusive statements about "Christian belief." Let us see how one would present a section on Christian "Philosophy" with the same approach as in the case of Hinduism.

    Christians believe that all humans descend from one man and woman, called Adam and Eve and calculated the age of the world to be about 10,000 years. They believe also that the female Eve was created from male Adam's rib by God to be his wife (which is used to justify Christian attitudes towards women such as a historical denial of voting rights). Christians believe many contradictory things -- for example, that an all-loving, forgiving God puts human beings in everlasting Hell, if they sin without repenting in this life. [Emphasis added]
This would be a similarly reductive account presenting "Christians" as irrational, and failing to grasp the multiple levels of subtleties involved in understanding a religion. As we see in the description of Hinduism, this is precisely the approach of the Encarta article. An account similar to the one in Encarta of Adam and Eve would be a neutral objective treatment of similar material in Hindu mythology, rather than a treatment that boxes the rich and diverse Hindu cosmology into "Hindu belief." Adding the relationships to modern scientific understanding would make it a "sympathetic" treatment for current audiences. Instead, the Encarta article on Hinduism consistently chooses a subtle (and sometimes, not so subtle) negative portrayal. Despite a very rich philosophical tradition, the anthropological view dominates the article on Hinduism. Both the articles on Christianity and Islam, lead instead with the philosophical ideas. Apparently the broadness of Hindu philosophical ideas "Vasudeva Kutumbha" (the world is a family), and the ideas of religious pluralism ("many paths lead to God") that continue to guide most Hindus, find no place in the Encarta article. "Gods" Nowhere is the anthropological view more apparent than in the treatment of "gods". Firstly, an inadequate attempt is made to put the idea of "gods" (not "Gods") in proper perspective for a Western reader. The word "deva" in Sanskrit, is less akin to the "God" of Christianity, but more so to "angel" (a power higher than man but lesser than "God"). Secondly, the concepts that "God" is "unknowable" and that different deities are thus representations of different aspects ("roop") of "God," is glossed over. The Encarta article also completely misses the concept of the Hindu trinity -- that any Hindu child could recite -- a key idea in the presentation of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as creator, preserver and destroyer, and their female counterparts as three aspects of the One God. That the male and the female energies co-exist in Indian thought and the idea of God as both male and female (at the same time being beyond gender) is also missed. Having skipped all the structure, the topic of "Gods" is presented as a confusing "curio-shop" of unrelated deities and sects, complete with sensational descriptions of blood and gore. Hinduism:
    Shiva embodies the apparently contradictory aspects of a god of ascetics and a god of the phallus. He is the deity of renouncers, particularly of the many Shaiva sects that imitate him: Kapalikas, who carry skulls to reenact the myth in which Shiva beheaded his father, the incestuous Brahma, and was condemned to carry the skull until he found release in Benares; Pashupatas, worshipers of Shiva Pashupati, "Lord of Beasts"; and Aghoris, "to whom nothing is horrible," yogis who eat ordure or flesh in order to demonstrate their complete indifference to pleasure or pain. Shiva is also the deity whose phallus (linga) is the central shrine of all Shaiva temples and the personal shrine of all Shaiva householders; his priapism is said to have resulted in his castration and the subsequent worship of his severed member.
While "phallus" is one interpretation of "linga" there are others as well. Apparently the author, whose interests appear to have a limited focus, continues to find contradictions from that single point of view -- missing both other common interpretations as well as the underlying symbolisms. A disproportionate interest in the dimension of esoteric "sects", "phallus", "skulls", "flesh" and "ordure" dominates the article and we find that practices and aspects far more prevalent and relevant to contemporary times -- like Yoga or Chakras, meditation or mantras, breath and Pranayama that are practically absent in the article. The article continues with these descriptions, clearly showing the author's interest in particular ways of looking at Hinduism. Hinduism:
    As Durga, the Unapproachable, she kills the buffalo demon Mahisha in a great battle; as Kali, the Black, she dances in a mad frenzy on the corpses of those she has slain and eaten, adorned with the still-dripping skulls and severed hands of her victims. The Goddess is also worshiped by the Shaktas, devotees of Shakti, the female power. This sect arose in the medieval period along with the Tantrists, whose esoteric ceremonies involved a black mass in which such forbidden substances as meat, fish, and wine were eaten and forbidden sexual acts were performed ritually.
In the well-embellished description of Kali, the intensity of the language speaks for itself of the Encarta's author interest in this particular area. Clearly blood and gore, erotica and exotica are of much greater interest to this particular writer than Hindu philosophy, or any of the symbolism of these ancient descriptions. Again, the article shows more interest in the portrayal of esoteric sects and ceremonies than exploring mainstream and commonplace Hindu rituals -- like saying "namaste", the sacred syllable "Om", lighting diyas or wearing bindis (the "dot on the forehead") -- practices that are vastly more familiar to a Westerner and a Hindu child alike, none of which find a place in the Encarta article. The article instead describes various "Gods" and "Goddesses", particularly emphasizing the sensational, as we saw in the description of Kali above, without presenting these within the unifying coherent theme that most Hindus view these manifestations -- of different forms of One Supreme Reality, which cannot be boxed into a single set of attributes or descriptions. As the section on "Indian Philosophy" elsewhere on Encarta states:
    "Most of the poems of the Veda are religious and tend to be about the activities of various gods. Yet some Vedic hymns and poems address philosophic themes... such as the henotheism that is key to much Hindu theology. Henotheism is the idea that one God takes many different forms, and that although individuals may worship several different gods and goddesses, they really revere but one Supreme Being." [Emphasis added]
Has the Encarta article on Hinduism lost all keys? While there is a passing mention of this concept in the article, it is, characteristically, watered down from the clearer statement above.
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