As soon as I heard that the new book by Stephen Knapp, Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture, came out I went out and bought it. Went out as in went to Amazon, mind you.
Stephen Knapp is a household name on the Internet if one searches for any kind of Hare Krishna related stuff and I’ve seen quite a few of articles on a very odd looking, circa 1990, website at stephen-knapp.com to make a guess at what this new book will be like and it makes me a bit weary.
I have no doubts in authenticity of his ideas and conclusions but from what I’ve seen so far his argumentation could be very problematic. It is one thing to declare the supremacy of the Vedic civilization, it’s quite another to rely on findings of the modern science to prove it.
When people like me are presented with “scientific” proof of our version of history we tend to embrace it wholeheartedly and without reservations. This is not a bad thing in itself, as we are eager to confirm the teachings of Lord Chaitanya and our acharyas but, on the other hand, it might feel our hearts with false hope.
There’s nothing wrong with believing that India was a cradle of civilization but there could be a problem when we present this theory to outsiders. Some of them might want to believe us and so they are our primary target but if they find out that our argumentation is shaky at best, when they find out that our “scientific” arguments can’t stand any kind of test, what should we tell them then? Sorry, we tried to lie to you but it was in your best interests?
Now, I won’t go as far as to say that ideas presented in this book are lies but I have a feeling that Stephen Knapp accepted them unconditionally just because they agreed with his/our preconceived notions, without giving them a thorough testing.
These arguments largely come from the works of scientists that come across as not much more than Hindu nationalists trying to sound clever.
We know that westerners were prejudiced against Indian culture and we understand that all their research was done through the prism of their prejudice. Likewise, we should also admit that Indian scientists are equally prejudiced against the findings of the westerners and so they would frame their ideas in such a way as to always contradict the old English masters, truth be damned.
Right now the Indians seem to support our own, handed down the parampara version of history and so we gladly use their arguments ourselves but this situation is not going to last simply because we, as a spiritual movement, have nothing to do with Hindu nationalism. We are brought together for a brief moment like straws in a whirlpool and we are bound to part ways sooner or later.
A hundred years ago Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati didn’t have much use for Hindu nationalists, why should we hitch our wagon to their horse now? We can acknowledge their contribution but we should never, under any circumstances, get ourselves into any kind of indebted position. We should never ever support any of their notions just because they have supported some of ours.
Just a couple of weeks ago I argued that we shouldn’t be too concerned that the modern science find most of our views of Vedic history plain wrong, I argued that we can easily fit our version into their time frame. Now comes this book that will probably try to move their time frame to fit ours better. Fine, but beware that this new science is not going to get the nod of approval from the old science, ever.
We might feel temporarily relieved that, for example, Vedic people indeed introduced Sanskrit to the mankind but this will last only as long as we don’t meet any opposition, and the opposition to Sanskrit being the primary language of this planet is very, very formidable.
I shouldn’t go into any details now, before reading the book, I’m just airing my concerns. Maybe the book turns our a lot better than I assume and I will be forced to eat the humble pie. That would serve me well, I want to prove myself wrong and so get a compelling reason to seek mercy of a vaishnava. As I said earlier – by hook or by crook, getting attention of the Lord or His devotees is the most important thing in one’s entire life, doesn’t really matter how it happens.
If I need to strip down and shake my privates at Narada Muni in exchange for getting his blessing to be born in Vrindavana and meet Krishna Himself I should never miss this chance. Strange, isn’t it?