History is a tricky situation. What we have deemed historical facts can be twisted into a narrow-minded perception of what really occurred. Just as numerous witness to an accident can have numerous differing stories, so history can be seen from the eyes of the author, inclusive of numerous biases and prejudices. Just as the recent attempt in Arkansas to ban the historical works of Howard Zinn, who sought to portray history from the oppressed perspective, or the lack of extensive Indigenous/Black/Mexican history (which play a major role in U.S. History) in the U.S. public educational system (but yet the Jewish Holocaust is given extensive breath every year, quite possibly to support a particular country which is evidenced by the fact that U.S. history completely ignores what Japan was doing in Asia), we can find such historical manipulation probably in every country. Imagine what history looks like in the Russian educational system, or in N. Korean, essentially in any country with major political/governmental sway over its people. Essentially, those who win the wars write the history books.
My interest in history deals not with politics, but in spirituality, mysticism. When certain groups came into power, they sought to suppress other groups, other information, and definitely what we would call alternative spirituality. Hence, the creation of secret societies who had to hide their names, their beliefs and practices from the political-orthodox control. Though, such groups require initiation in a hierarchical nature to see if an adept is worthy of such information, including the group called "secret" or "Essene" by the outsiders in viewing John the Baptist and possibly Jesus himself, they at least were not persecuted by the political sway where they sought not to fight and argue with others. But to establish an orthodox religion where such secret groups may take power and influence away from the social-elite, historically, that was a threat to be solved as has been found throughout the globe.
In viewing history, just as raising Indigenous/Mexican/Black heritage and influence in U.S. history can make the colonizer uncomfortable, where the colonizer looses such prestige from having their voice the only perspective taught, such is found also in my ethnic India. Historically, India is land of numerous traditions, and what is deemed "Hindu" is essentially an attempt to synthesize numerous traditions. Though many practitioners enjoy the fact that such differing traditions can enjoy the differences, where a Vaishnava can worship with a Shaiva (as an example), but to actually climb in a particular path would require choosing. Hence, India is reach with numerous paths, where it should be recognized that an adept should be able to explore and find a spiritual home to develop. Such rich diversity brings beauty, but it also can bring numerous prejudices where those following a path may not agree with another lifestyle.
In studying the numerous spiritual traditions, I'm lead also to recognize the historical perspectives of India. Given my love for the Tantrik groups, especially with a Goddess leaning, sadly much of such traditions is lost in history due to Brahmanic conquests. Not only has the Brahmanic tradition historically sought to subdue such groups, but they attempted to place a Brahmanic influence into such traditions including the feared Yogini cults, as a means of control or domination. Such would be like the Roman Catholic Church attempting to influence the Gnostic traditions, or "Romanicize" the Protestant movements who sought to drift away from Roman Pagan influences. To study India from the perspective of Tantriks, Jains, Adivasi's, etc., a completely different perspective is shown, akin to studying U.S. history from the perspective of Indigenous/Mexican/Blacks of the U.S. As an example, the Mauryan empire is the most extensive Brahmanic-Hindu empire, bringing the Hindu Dharma to much of the Southeast Asian world. However, such empire was built on extensive warfare, where Chandragupta would dress as an ascetic Tantrik monk to win the hearts of the villagers, then viciously conquer them. Such was allegedly under the guidance of the famed Chanakya, who we historically know very little about. Chanakya was credited for writing the political treatise Arthashastra, but such text was written hundreds of years after Chankaya under the pen-name Kautilya, where very little of Chankaya is actually known. In addition, Chandragupta converted to Jainism as repentance for his sins of conquest, much like his later grandson Ashoka the Great converting to Buddhism after his vicious conquests.
Just as Howard Zinn was opposed regarding U.S. history, much like Oliver Stone is opposed for his historical portrayals differing drastically from what is taught in our educational systems ("The Untold History of the United States), researchers such as Devdutt Pattanaik and Wendy Doniger are targeted for their portrayal of Indian history. Mr. Pattanaik's research and work is massive, where he holds the intellect and bravery to critique areas that do not fit the historical evidence, dive into deeper meaning for spiritual truths, and holds the brilliance to see ties across numerous cultures. Nonetheless, as anyone can see from his facebook page, that he has numerous "haters" of the same ethnic and religious background. Moreover, such hatred does not present proper historical/spiritual information or other evidence as rebuttal, but only personal smears. Through such means, no growth is found on either end, with Mr. Pattanaik being presented with new information he did not consider, or the criticizer attempting to challenge their own established beliefs. Ms. Doniger's work is shed in the same light, raising numerous questions that Brahmin's are not prepared to answer. Hence, her mass censorship in India.
In viewing "A History of India" by Professor Michael H. Fisher (Greater Courses), it is interesting to note that Muslims did not have such a vicious conquest of India, or more particularly of Hinduism. Growing up, the elders would tell me that the Muslims invaded India, destroyed temples and build their mosques over them. In Professor Fisher's lecture, the sultans/mughals only destroyed temples of their enemy neighbors for political reasons, where such rulers not only kept, but maintained the Hindu shrines in their own territories. As I later discovered, Mr. Pattanaik seems to support the theory that Islam invasion was not as destructive as often portrayed as discussed in his article "Did Arrival of Muslim Invaders A Thousand Years Ago Destroy Hindu Culture?". Nonetheless, with the world ripe with anti-Islamic sentiments, Mr. Pattanaik's detractors took to facebook to spew Hindu superiority being the most advanced civilization in the World without outsider influence. It seems such haters do not understand Sumer and its correlation to the Indus Valley, the lack of Brahmanic-Vedic evidence in the Indus Valley, or the influence of Zoroastrian, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Semitic, East African, before Hindus started writing down their major texts. Much of the major writings of Hinduism occurred hundreds of years after the Hellenic period. Such detractors seem to be ignorant of such history, or fail to present well-welcomed contradictory evidence.
In my own research of Hinduism to shed more light into my own spirituality, I was left with numerous questions that are still left unanswered. For example: 1) When did the ban on beef arise since Goddess cults are known to be carnivorous, and why is it a bigger sin to eat with outsiders/foreigners than to eat beef (Mahanirvana Tantra); 2) Why was the Mahabharata written before Avatar Krishna's story where Krishna was just a simple charioteer not an Avatar (and was the Bhagavad Gita a real event in the Mahabharata given the late timing of the writing of this text); 3) Was Radha a real individual given how late her story and cults arose, and was she Krishna's Auntie as discussed in the earliest writings; 4) Are there any truths to animal sacrifices as described in the Yajur-Veda, and why do Brahmins today oppose this sacrifice if it is not Buddhist/Jain "ahimsa" influence; 5) In praising the Vedas, why is it that Varuna or Indra are no longer worshiped, especially with the lowly status given to Visnu; 6) Is Shiva really Rudra, the deity worshiped only to be kept away; 7) The Jains have very different versions of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, which is accurate; and 8) Who came first, Krishna Kaliya or Hercules Hydra, since the Hellenic period occurred prior to the completion of the Mahabharata, which arose before the story of Krishna (Though Megasthenes may answer this, I have more research to do). The list goes on, those presented are off the top of my head and many more arise as go down further into the rabbit hole.
In researching the above information, especially Radha coming from a household that has sheltered devotees specifically of Radha, the historical information and perspectives can be heartbreaking. In further researching, Brahmins can only respond with the illogical "it is maya that deludes you and makes you ask these questions". Such responses do not answer the question, nor does it hold a proper understanding of Maya. These comments remind me of my mother shouting at me as a child for asking questions she could not answer, or like the immense film "The Believer" portraying a Jewish kid who asked too many questions leaving him ostracized, and further, becoming the Jewish opponent. As I continue my studies and my own spiritual growth, I'm finding that just as much as I grow, there is significant letting-go that also needs to occur. People so blindly, under the guise of devotion, hold on to certain belief systems and structures, despite the evidence presented. Moreover, any mystical experiences presented thereof, could simply be based on the adepts filters, or the collective conscious programming. If we constantly program our neurons with Jesus or Krishna, then altered-experiences will give you Jesus or Krishna (not to say it doesn't spiritually work based on our intention, however, it is through our programs/permission-slips the divine presents itself).
With that said, much of the way we react or respond to information that contradicts with our long-held beliefs, our persona, appears to trigger the flight or fight response as opposed to analytical assessment. From looking at the global sentiments of today, this appears to happen on a mass scale where only a few tend to tread this path of shattering paradigms. As I continue diving into the esoteric works of many traditions, including India, as well as placing such information in proper historical context to get a better grasp of such teachings, I've been left constantly reassessing what I've been raised to believe.
Many hold to such notions and beliefs because it is a part of their tradition, culture, heritage, and Hinduism does have much to brag about in terms of accomplishments and spirituality. However, in the light of Self-Realization, one is not what is portrayed in the material realm, neti neti. When it comes to the atma, we are not this body or its story. Hence, the soul is not the tradition, culture, heritage, but in fact, can be an obstacle as many are deluded by the external material world. In addition, many are further deluded by their beliefs, which can blind one from the truth. When deep in meditation, with the cessation of thought, one is not Hindu or any other limiting identity, one simply "is". That is the essence of nonduality or Advaita Vedanta, an Indian philosophy adopted by many Hindu groups.
It's important that we hold the ability to interpret our history and spirituality with the readiness to grow and mold with the truth. The original religion of India was not "Hinduism" which has led to Hindutva nationalist beliefs, where nationalism has sought to praise one way of life, often to the detriment of another. The original religion of India was Sanatana Dharma, The Path of Truth, where adepts sought for the truth through their teachings and experiences, trial and error, not through a blind-belief system leaving little to no growth. Those that seek the truth go against the grain, against the status-quo, and are often crucified for such. The ability to drop one's identity and belief systems for a greater truth is a daunting arduous task, which can often lead to isolation as one no longer follows the group. People are all too ready to defend their programmed beliefs, as opposed to acknowledging contradictory information. Therefore, it seems the question we should be asking ourselves before seeing the truth, is if we are ready for it? I feel like, with the advent of the age of information, where knowledge is easily expressed through social platforms and ancient religious texts are a few computer clicks away, unlike any prior generation, humanity should start preparing for the truth, and it may not be what our parents' generation taught us.
Overly educated and continuously exploring and revealing more behind the veil.
"It cannot be too highly emphasized that the mystic swims in the same waters in which the psychotic drowns."
-James Wasserman, The Mystery Traditions