Devdutt Pattanaik – Hinduism

It was after listening to the talks of Swami Boddhananda when I wondered if Hinduism is to be practiced in a particular lineage. That is, if to practice Hinduism, one has to select from among the darsanas.

It was then that I rediscovered Devdutt Pattanaik when he was interviewed in Hindi by Ranveer Allahbadia.

The screenshot is unfortunate and misleading. Pattanaik actually is against Hindutva and is often trolled for his statements. He goes on, nevertheless. This video led me to his channel where I watched many of his videos. This was followed by many videos with him suggested by the YouTube algorithm. He does not claim to be a guru nor does he accept any guru. He says that he consumes information and then write books and then you can take from it what you want.

I enjoy listening to and reading his 21st century interpretation of an ancient idea or way of life. The notes below are not only from the video above. These notes also get information from other videos of his posted on his channel.

He says Western scholars interpreted myths as untrue stories in the 19th century. The present thinking is trying to put myths into the realm of history but he would like myths to be interpreted in the 21st centuries as believed stories. These stories are believed to be true. It’s characters are alive not just in history but are alive today and will be alive in the future.

In one particular video, he mentions that Hinduism is to be practiced just like having a thali. A little bit of karma yoga, a little bit of njana yoga and a little bit of bhakti yog mixed in a proportion as per your liking. No one can say that the way you practice is wrong, just the way no one criticizes you for the way you eat.

He says Hindu thinking is cyclical. Hence, the concept of karma. Abrahamic traditions have the concept of justice because their thinking is linear. So, things can move from injustice to justice. Hindu thinking believes things are as they were, will be as they are and will remain as they are. As they say, some things just don’t change and only the characters change. Hence Indian gods smile when injustices occur because they are compassionate to the doer who is performing these actions trapped by his own ego and misunderstanding of his situation. The concept of karma necessitates belief in the concept of rebirths.

The other thinking he argues against is the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism. Buddhism looks at the world as filled with suffering caused by desire. Hence, they call for a rejection of desire. He says that this is a rejection of the real for the theoretical. He says Hinduism looks at suffering akin to hunger. So, the solutions to suffering is not rejection but trying to feed the hunger.

I had read from his book, Myth/Mithya about yajna being an exchange. His thinking on this has solidified now. He says the translation of jajna as sacrifice by Western scholars was due to their limited understanding. Hinduism sees yajna as an exchange. We give to get (as against give and take). The West sees exchange as a sort of commercialization of a spiritual practice. Hence, they translated as sacrifice which is giving without expecting anything in exchange. But, really, if we do not get, how can we give? We take from nature and give to others, as if we are doing something noble. The equation changes in the yajna where we give to get.

He has worked with corporations like Future Group and Reliance. He claims that businesses in India must not look to scale but to diversify. Allow each person to have a unique experience just like Hinduism offers. He says this diversity will bring profits in India. He says that no country can manage diversity the way India can. Europe and the US finds it challenging even with a few refugees.

Ranveer, in the video above, gets really good guests but asks really poor questions. He asked the standard how India can become a country like China and Korea. Pattanaik says that China can only live within walls. He quotes the Great Wall of China and Great Firewall of China as examples. China grows on obedience and conformity. Such a process would not work in India. We are also hence less likely to give up our freedom in conformity to a King or a ruler. He says that the Chinese do not understand India. He says one of the words used to describe India is luan which stands for chaos.

We are trying to order this chaos believing that everything cannot be many and needs to be one. We are trying to move from pantheism to monotheism because we think the West is better than us. Pattanaik says that China adopted Taoism and Confucianism, and rejected Western thought. India on the other hand adopted Western thought and rejected Indian thought.

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