This particular peeve is something I have been guilty of, not too long ago. I realized my mistake and now cannot stop feeling sorry for those who continue to commit this folly. Someone truly said that little knowledge is dangerous. This applies to people who enjoy bashing the ancient Indian scriptures without truly understanding them. The pseudo-secularists, the born again feminists, students and faculty from the top Indian colleges who take pride in their Gender Studies Cells,the writers cum activists, the I-am-in-love-with-everything-western-and-hate-everything-Indian and every Tom,Dick and Harry who can pen a few words is guilty of it.
If you ask them their source, it is always second-hand...Internet(Oh My God!!), western authors, and some by misinformed Indian authors too. And since religion bashing is fashionable these days, you will win substantial popular support if you defame Rig Veda or Ramayan.
I am deeply respectful of all religions. I love little Ibrahim who goes to the mosque everyday and reads the Quran. I am in awe of little Praveen Thomas who attends Sunday School. I am proud of 6 year old Gouri who attends a Baal Sanskara Kendra and is already learning about the Geeta, the Vedas and Upanishads.
I am hurt by the way some of these scriptures have been misrepresented by some authors both Indian and Western. Bloggers too in the name of feminism and pseudo-secularism are doing such disservice. I wish they would be honest about their research and do their home work well.They quote these authors or one of the unauthentic websites and cry wolf. Recently I skimmed through a book titled Infinite Hindu Wisdom by a Faculty of a Respected US University and found it sadly lacking. It clearly showed a lack of understanding of the culture and philosophy. And how easily we rely on such books and such 'experts' for their two bits on our scriptures.
Sanskrit has been misinterpreted and many books contain sorry translations. Also because many of our Puraans are very symbolic in nature you either need the brains or to say the least an excellent Sanskrit teacher and Vedic scholar to understand the true meaning and the deeper philosophy.I am not in a position to defend each and every accusation not because of lack of evidence but because of limited knowledge ( I am still learning). But I would like to give some examples. Dr. Moore has written in some book quoting from some Ved say that "Prajapati ran after his daughter and raped her" He goes on to say that the Vedas are full of such disgusting things and people find it titillating hence they read these scriptures.
The Story: goes that Prajapati got angry with his daughter and ran after her.
The Real Meaning:This story actually teaches a political lesson. A lesson in democratic practices in fact. The 'daughter' is a reference to the King's Council of Ministers..his Rajyasabha..his Rajyasabha/Rajsatta is also his duhita(Sanskrit for daughter). The bhavarth is a lesson in democracy. It says that the leader of the Rajyasabha should not be from the the Royal household but an ordinary subject of the state ..only then can he be fair and just in his duties. It is the job of the Rajyasabha/Rajsatta to serve the Praja.
Shameful is the way Dr. Moore has translated it. I know I have not done a good job explaining because though I am comfortable with English, I found it an extremely difficult task to translate from the Hindi explanation of this Sanskrit Shlok into English. It only highlights how things get contorted out of shape.
And translations by people who begin with an agenda and are unfamiliar with the language,culture,history and philosophy can end only disastrously.
Similary the shlok Ahilyayee jarah indrah has been translated as Indra raped Ahilya...whereas the shlok simply and beautifully describes something as natural as a Sunrise!!!.
What is sad is that there are few to oppose these awful translations. Many who are followers of Sanatan Dharm are steeped into mindless ritualism rather than knowledge, devotion and action. Sankrit being viewed as a 'dead' language means we are fast losing the tool with which to dig further and deeper,hence becoming alienated from our culture and our history in the process.
Someone I was chatting with the other day, was ridiculing the Veda and saying that somewhere it is written that if you have a cold you should chant .."I do not have a cold"...something to this effect. I do not know the exact reference and hence cannot correctly comment on this literal translation. But what I found sad is that when a Doctor from John Hopkins or Harvard Medical School talks about the powers of positive thinking/prayers/meditation it does not seem so quaint and silly.
I understand that my peers,the young today are put off by the ritualism they see around them and also by the various malpractices which have crept in. But what is important to remember is that what is needed is reform and a revival of a study of these scriptures not ill informed bashing. Are we waiting for some Westerner to show us the power and brilliance of our scriptures, our shastras...yoga,ayurved,jyotish-shastra etc. etc. Will we believe in ourselves only then?
I wish those who consider themselves smarter than Adi Shankracharya,Ramkrishna,Swami Vivekanand,Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,Pandurang Athvale Shatri...some of the great followers and teachers of Advait Vedant would be honest and wise enough and refrain from commenting on something they know very little about.