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Rajiv Malhotra

Rajiv Malhotra
Rajiv Malhotra
Born (1950-09-15) 15 September 1950
New Delhi, India
Occupation Author
Nationality American
Alma mater St. Stephens College
Syracuse University
Genre Religion and science,Civilizations
Notable works Being Different (2011),
Breaking India (2011),
Indra's Net (2014)

Rajiv Malhotra (born 15 September 1950), is an Indian-American entrepreneur who after a career in the computer and telecom industries took early retirement in 1995 to found The Infinity Foundation through which he has promoted philanthropic and educational activities in the area of Hinduism studies.[1][2][3]


  • Biography 1
  • Infinity Foundation 2
  • Criticism of American academia 3
    • American academia 3.1
    • Wendy's Child Syndrome 3.2
  • Ideas 4
    • Dharmic traditions vs. Abrahamic religions 4.1
    • U-turn theory 4.2
    • Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines 4.3
  • Response 5
  • Publications 6
    • Books 6.1
    • Written publications 6.2
    • Key online writings 6.3
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Sources 10
    • Published sources 10.1
    • Web-sources 10.2
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12


Rajiv Malhotra [4] is an Indian–American activist, researcher, writer, speaker and public intellectual on current affairs as they relate to civilisations, cross-cultural encounters, religion and science. Rajiv Malhotra was born September 1950.[web 1] He studied physics at St. Stephen's College, Delhi and computer science at Syracuse University,[web 2] and was "a senior executive, strategic consultant and a successful entrepreneur in the information technology and media industries"[web 1] until his retirement in 1994 at age 44.[web 1] Malhotra took an early retirement to pursue philanthropic and educational activities and founded the Infinity foundation in 1995.[web 1]

Currently, Rajiv Malhotra is a full-time founder-director of the Infinity Foundation[web 3] in Princeton, NJ. He also serves as chairman of the board of Governors of the Center for Indic Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and as adviser to various organisations.

Infinity Foundation

The Infinity Foundation is an organisation based in New Jersey promoting Indic studies. [web 4]

The Foundation has given more than 400 grants for research, education and community work.[web 1] The Infinity foundation has provided small grants to major universities in support of programs including visiting professorship in Indic studies at Harvard University, Yoga and Hindi classes at Rutgers University, the research and teaching of nondualistic philosophies at University of Hawaii, Global Renaissance Institute and a Center for Buddhist studies at Columbia University, a program in religion and science at University of California, and endowment for the Center for Advanced Study of India at University of Pennsylvania, lectures at the Center for Consciousness Studies at University of Arizona.[5] The foundation has provided funding for journals like Education about Asia,[5] International Journal of Hindu Studies[6] and in the establishment of Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Non-violence at James Madison University.[6]

Criticism of American academia

American academia

Malhotra voices four criticisms of American academia:[7]

  1. "American academia is dominated by a Eurocentric perspective that views western culture as being the font of world civilisation and refuses to acknowledge the contributions of non-western societies such as India to European culture and technique".[7]
  2. The academic study of religion in the United States is based on the model of the "Abrahamic" traditions; this model is not applicable to Hinduism.[7]
  3. Western scholars focus on the "sensationalist, negative attributes of religion and present it in a demeaning way that shows a lack of respect for the sentiments of the practitioners of the religion".[7]
  4. South Asian Studies programmes in the United States create "a false identity and unity"[7] between India and its Muslim neighbour states, and undermine India "by focusing on its internal cleavages and problems".[7]

In his 2003-blog Does South Asian Studies Undermine India? at Rediff India Abroad. India as it happens Malhotra criticises the uncritical funding of South Asian Studies by Indian-American donors.[web 5] According to Malhotra,

Many eminent Indian-American donors are being led down the garden path by Indian professors who, ironically, assemble a team of scholars to undermine Indian culture. Rather than an Indian perspective on itself and the world, these scholars promote a perspective on India using worldviews which are hostile to India's interests.[web 5]

Malhotra argues that American scholarship has undermined India "by encouraging the paradigms that oppose its unity and integrity",[web 5] with scholars playing critical roles, often under the garb of 'human rights' in channelling foreign intellectual and material support to exacerbate India's internal cleavages.[web 5] According to Malhotra, Indian American donors were hoodwinked[web 5] into thinking that they were supporting India through their monetary contributions to such programmes.[web 5] Malhotra compares the defence of Indian interests with corporate brand management, distrusting the loyalties of Indian scholars:[web 5]

Therefore, it is critical that we do not blindly assume that Indian scholars are always honest trustees of the Indian-American donors' sentiments. Many Indian scholars are weak in the pro-India leadership and assertiveness traits that come only from strongly identifying with an Indian Grand Narrative.
They regard the power of Grand Narrative (other than their own) as a cause of human rights problems internally, failing to see it as an asset in global competition externally. Hence, there is the huge difference between the ideology of many Indian professors and the ideology espoused by most successful Indian-American corporate leaders.[web 5]

According to Malhotra, a positive stance on India has been under-represented in American academia, due to programmes being staffed by Westerners, their "Indian – American Sepoys"[8] and Indian Americans wanting to be white – whom he describes as "career opportunists" and "Uncle Toms" who in their desire to become even marginal members of the Western Grand Narrative sneer at Indian culture in the same manner as colonialists once did. Malhotra has accused the academia of abetting the "Talibanisation" of India, which would also lead to the Talibanisation of other Asian countries.[9]

Wendy's Child Syndrome

Malhotra has voiced criticisms of western studies of India. His 2002 "Wendy"-blog,[web 6] in which he criticised the use of Freudian psycho-analysis to analyse Indian culture,[web 2] was the starting point[10] of a "rift between some Western Hinduism scholars [...] and some conservative Hindus in India, the United States, and elsewhere".[web 2]

In this blog, RISA Lila – 1: Wendy's Child Syndrome,[web 6][11] he criticised the use of Freudian psychoanalysis to analyse Indian culture.[web 2][12] It was the starting point[10] of what Martha Nussbaum has called a "war"[2] by "the Hindu right"[13] against American scholars.[10] The blog

...has become a pivotal treatise in a recent rift between some Western Hinduism scholars—many of whom teach or have studied at Chicago—and some conservative Hindus in India, the United States, and elsewhere.[web 2]

In this blog, Malhotra concluded

"Rights of individual scholars must be balanced against rights of cultures and communities they portray, especially minorities that often face intimidation. Scholars should criticize but not define another's religion."[web 2]

According to Braverman,

Though Malhotra's academic targets say he has some valid discussion points, they also argue that his rhetoric taps into the rightward trend and attempts to silence unorthodox, especially Western, views.[web 2][note 1]


Malhotra's work analyses and critiques Western culture, philosophy and political discourse from the perspective of a "Dharmic paradigm" or framework. Malhotra argues that India has been studied from a western perspective, but that Indians have not gazed at the west from a "Dharmic framework". He presented a more nuanced picture of the sex-scandal involving Swami Nithyananda arguing that there's more to it than what was being portrayed in Indian media.[web 7]

Dharmic traditions vs. Abrahamic religions

Malhotra argues that there are irreconcilable incompatibilities between Dharmic traditions and Abrahamic religions.[14] The term Dharma

... is used to indicate a family of spiritual traditions originating in India which today are manifested as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. I explain that the variety of perspectives and practices of dharma display an underlying integral unity at the metaphysical level....[15]

According to Malhotra, Abrahamic religions are history-centric in that their fundamental beliefs are sourced from history – that God revealed His message through a special prophet and that the message is secured in scriptures. This special access to God is available only to these intermediaries or prophets and not to any other human beings.[web 8] History-centric Abrahamic religions claim that we can resolve the human condition only by following the lineage of prophets arising from the Middle East. All other teachings and practices are required to get reconciled with this special and peculiar history. By contrast, the dharmic traditions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism—do not rely on history in the same absolutist and exclusive way. [web 9]

According to Malhotra, Dharmic traditions claim an endless stream of enlightened living spiritual masters, each said to have realised the ultimate truth while alive on this earth, and hence, able to teach this truth to others. Unlike in the case of Dharmic traditions, the great teachers of Abrahamic traditions are not living models of embodied enlightenment. Instead, Abrahamic teachers proclaim the truth based on historical texts. The consequences of these divergent systems are enormous, and are at the heart of Dharmic-Abrahamic distinctions.[web 10] Dharmic flexibility has made fundamental pluralism possible which cannot occur within the constraints of history centrism.[web 11]

According to Malhotra, both Western and Dharmic civilisations have cherished unity as an ideal, but with a different emphasis. Malhotra posits a crucial distinction between

  • A "synthetic unity" that gave rise to a static intellectualistic worldview in the west, positioning itself as Universal,[16] and
  • An "integral unity" that gave rise to a dynamically oriented worldview based on the notion of Dharma.[16]

While the former is characterised by a top-down essentialism embracing everything a priori, the latter is a bottom-up approach acknowledging the dependent co-origination of alternative views of the human and the divine, the body and the mind, and the self and society.

U-turn theory

According to Malhotra, the Western appropriation of Indic ideas and knowledge systems has a long history. According to Malhotra, in what he calls "the U-Turn Theory",[8] the appropriation occurs in several stages:[web 12][web 13]

  1. In the first stage, a Westerner approaches an Indian guru or tradition with extreme deference, and acquires the knowledge as a sincere disciple.
  2. Once the transfer of knowledge complete, the former disciple, or/and his/her followers progressively erase all traces of the original source, repackages the ideas as their own thought, and may even proceed to denigrate the source tradition.
  3. In the final stage, the ideas are exported back to India by the former disciple and/or his followers for consumption. Malhotra cites numerous examples to support this theory, dating from the erasure of Upanishadic and Vijnanavada Buddhist influences on Plotinus to the modern day reimportation of Christian yoga into India.

Another example is the influence of Vivekananda's influence on western thought, for example William James and his The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).[17] According to Malhotra, Vivekananda's ideas have continued to exist in the West in various manifestations, for example via Aldous Huxley and his The Perennial Philosophy (1945), and the works of Ken Wilber. Malhotra's gives an overview of westerners who were influenced by Vivekananda's ideas across the generations, examining how they shaped 20th-century Western thought, and questions why much of his influence remains unacknowledged and unaccredited.[17][note 2]

Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines

Malhotra's book Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines[24] discusses three faultlines trying to destabilise India:

  1. Islamic radicalism linked with Pakistan
  2. Maoists and Marxist radicals supported by China via intermediaries such as Nepal
  3. Dravidian and Dalit identity separatism being fostered by the West in the name of human rights.[note 3]

The book goes into greater depth on the third: the role of US and European churches, academics, think-tanks, foundations, government and human rights groups in fostering separation of the identities of Dravidian and Dalit communities from the rest of India. [web 14]

According to Malhotra:

In south India, a new identity called Dravidian Christianity is being constructed. It is an opportunistic combination of two myths: the "Dravidian race" myth and another that purports that early Christianity shaped the major Hindu classics.[web 15]
British linguists Francis Ellis and Alexander Campbell worked in India to theorize that the south Indian languages belong to a different family than the north Indian ones. Meanwhile, another colonial scholar, Brian Houghton Hodgson, was promoting the term "Tamulian" as a racial construct, describing the so-called aborigines of India as primitive and uncivilized compared to the "foreign Aryans".[web 15]
A scholar-evangelist from the Anglican Church, Bishop Robert Caldwell (1814–91), pioneered what now flourishes as the "Dravidian" identity. In his Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian Race, he argued that the south Indian mind was structurally different from the Sanskrit mind. Linguistic speculations were turned into a race theory. He characterized the Dravidians as "ignorant and dense," accusing the Brahmins – the cunning Aryan agents – for keeping them in shackles through the imposition of Sanskrit and its religion.[web 15]


Malhotra has received both strong positive and negative response. Hinnells considers Malhotra to lead the traditional Hindu criticism of methodology for the examination of Hinduism.[26] Prema A. Kurien considers Malhotra to be at

...the forefront of American Hindu effort to challenge the Eurocentricism in the academia.[27]

Critics include Martha Nussbaum, who criticises Malhotra for

... disregard for the usual canons of argument and scholarship, a postmodern power play in the guise of defense of tradition.[28]

Other scholars welcome his attempt to challenge the western assumptions in the study of India and South Asia[29][note 4] but also question his approach, finding it to be neglecting the differences within the various Indian traditions.[31][32] In response, Malhotra points out that he does not state that all those traditions are essentially the same, that there is no effort to homogenise different Dharmic traditions, but that they share the assertion of integral unity.[33]



Written publications

  • Malhotra, Rajiv (2005). "India and Globalization". In Nagendra Rao. Globalization, pre modern India. Daya Books. 
  • Malhotra, Rajiv (2007). "The axis of neo-colonialism". Indian Journals 11 (3).  
  • Malhotra, Rajiv (2009). "American Exceptionalism and the Myth of the Frontiers". In Rajani Kannepalli Kanth. The Challenge of Eurocentrism: Global Perspectives, Policy, and Prospects. Palgrave Macmillan.  
  • Malhotra, Rajiv , Aravindan Neelakandan (2011-A).  
  • Malhotra, Rajiv (2011).  
  • Malhotra, Rajiv (2013), Vivekananda's Ideas and the Two Revolutions in Western Thought. In: Vivekananda as the Turning Point. The Rise of a New Spiritual Wave. Pp. 559–583, Advaita Ashrama 
  • Malhotra, Rajiv (2014). Indra's Net: Defending Hinduism's Philosophical Unity. HarperCollins India. 

Key online writings

  • RISA Lila – 1: Wendy's Child SyndromeRajiv Malhotra (2002),
  • Problematizing God's Interventions in HistoryRajiv Malhotra (2003),

See also


  1. ^ See also The Tantric Truth of the Matter. A Forthright Response to Rajiv MalhotraJeffrey J. Kipal,
  2. ^ Malhotra disagrees with contemporary academic scholarship on Vivekananda,[18] which shows how Vivekananda himself was influenced by western ideas, such as Universalism, via Unitarian missionaries who collaborated with the Brahmo Samaj.[19][20][21][22][23]
  3. ^ In the 20th century Dravidianist, Tamil nationalists, have developed an alternative narrative for the neo-Hindu narrative.[25] According to Bryant, both groups have used colonial Indology to construct opposing narratives which "suited their practical purposes".[25] Brahmins attacked Dravidianism, claiming Tamil to be an integral part of the Brahmin heritage.[25]
  4. ^ The issue of the one-sidedness of the western understanding of India has also been touched upon by westerners. See for example King (1999), Orientalism and the modern myth of "Hinduism",[30]


  1. ^ Kurien 2007, p. 155: Quote: The next Indic studies organisation established in the United States was the Educational Council of Indic Traditions (ECIT), which was founded in 2000 (along with an associated Indictraditions Internet discussion group) under the auspices of the Infinity Foundation, based in New Jersey. The Infinity Foundation was formed in 1995 by the wealthy Indian American entrepreneur Rajiv Malhotra, who, after a career in the software, computer, and telecom industries had taken an early retirement to pursue philanthropic and educational activities. As Indic studies gradually became the main focus of the Infinity Foundation, the ECIT was disbanded (the Indictraditions group was also closed down later, in the summer of 2003).
  2. ^ a b Nussbaum 2009, p. 247: Quote: The chief antagonist behind these attacks is Rajiv Malhotra, a very wealthy man who lives in New Jersey and heads the Infinity Foundation, which has made grants in the area of Hinduism studies.
  3. ^ Taylor 2011, pp. 153–154: Quote: ... Rajiv Malhotra, a self-described Indian-American entrepreneur, philanthropist and community leader. Malhotra had graduated from St Stephen’s College, Delhi, in 1971, and came to the US to pursue degrees in physics and computer science, where his subsequent career spanned the software, telecom and media industries (Ramaswamy, de Nicolas and Banerjee, 2007, p. 472, n.5). He left the business world in 1995 to establish the Infinity Foundation, a non-profit organisation that ‘‘seeks to promote East-West dialogue and a proper understanding of the Indian civilizational experience in the world, particularly in the United States and India’’
  4. ^ "Bio on Being Different Book website". 
  5. ^ a b Campbell 2007, pp. 258–259
  6. ^ a b Mittal 2006, p. xiv
  7. ^ a b c d e f Kurien 2007, pp. 194.
  8. ^ a b Kurien 2007, p. 196.
  9. ^ Kurien 2007, pp. 206–207.
  10. ^ a b c Nussbaum 2009, p. 246-247.
  11. ^ Kurien 2007, p. 202.
  12. ^ Hinnells 2010, p. 53.
  13. ^ Nussbaum 2009, p. 246.
  14. ^ Kurien 2007, p. 198.
  15. ^ Malhotra 2011.
  16. ^ a b Tilak12 2012.
  17. ^ a b Malhotra 2013.
  18. ^ Hitchhiker's Guide to Rajiv Malhotra's Discussion Forum
  19. ^ King 2002.
  20. ^ Kipf 1979.
  21. ^ Rambachan 1994.
  22. ^ Halbfass 1995.
  23. ^ Rinehart 2004.
  24. ^ Malhotra 2011-A.
  25. ^ a b c Bryant 2013, p. 453.
  26. ^ Hinnells 2010, p. 52.
  27. ^ Kurien 2007, p. 195
  28. ^ Nussbaum 2009, p. 258.
  29. ^ Larson 2012, p. 311.
  30. ^ King 1999.
  31. ^ Yelle 2012.
  32. ^ Larson 2012.
  33. ^ Malhotra 2012.


Published sources

  • Bloch, Esther (2010), Rethinking Religion in India: The Colonial Construction of Hinduism, Routledge,  
  • Bryant, Edwin; Patton, Laurie (2013), The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History, Routledge 
  • Doniger, Wendy (2009), The Hindus: An Alternative History, New York: Penguin 
  • Halbfass, Wilhelm (1995), Philology and Confrontation: Paul Hacker on Traditional and Modern Vedānta, SUNY Press 
  • Hinnells, John R. (2010), The Routledge companion to the study of religion, Taylor & Francis,  
  • King, Richard (1999), "Orientalism and the modern myth of "Hinduism"", NUMEN, Vol. 46, pp.146–185 
  • King, Richard (2002), Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and "The Mystic East", Routledge 
  • Kipf, David (1979), The Brahmo Samaj and the shaping of the modern Indian mind, Atlantic Publishers & Distri 
  • Kurien, Prema A. (2007), A place at the multicultural table: the development of an American Hinduism, Rutgers University Press,  
  • Larson, gerald James (201), "Being Different Enough: Some Reflections on Rajiv Malhotra’s Being Different"The Issue of Not , International Journal of Hindu Studies, Volume 16, Issue 3, December 2012, pp 311–322 
  • Malhotra, Rajiv (2013), Vivekananda's Ideas and the Two Revolutions in Western Thought. In: Vivekananda as the Turning Point. The Rise of a New Spiritual Wave. Pp. 559=583, Advaita Ashrama 
  • Malhotra, Rajiv. (2012), ""Author's Response: The Question of Dharmic Coherence, International Journal of Hindu Studies, Volume 16, Issue 3, December 2012, pp 369–408 
  • Mittal, Sushil (2006). Religions of South Asia: an introduction. Gene R. Thursby. Routledge. 
  • Nussbaum, Martha C. (2009). The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future. Harvard University Press.  
  • Prothero, Stephen (2006), A Nation of Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Multireligious America, The University of North Carolina Press,  
  • Rambachan, Anatanand (1994), The Limits of Scripture: Vivekananda's Reinterpretation of the Vedas, University of Hawaii Press 
  • Rinehart, Robin (2004), Contemporary Hinduism: ritual, culture, and practice, ABC-CLIO 
  • Tilak, Shrinivas (2012). "Differing Worldviews (Western and Dharmic) in Rajiv Malhotra's Being Different".  
  • Peter Wilberg (April 2008). Heidegger, Phenomenology and Indian Thought. New Gnosis Publications.  
  • Yelle, Robert A. (2012), "Comparative Religion as Cultural Combat: Occidentalism and Relativism in Rajiv Malhotra’s Being Different", International Journal of Hindu Studies, Volume 16, Issue 3, December 2012, pp 335–348 


  1. ^ a b c d e "Rajiv Malhotra". The Huffington Post., Inc. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g The University of Chicagio MagazineThe interpretation of gods. Do leading religious scholars err in their analysis of Hindu texts?Amy M. Braverman (2004),
  3. ^ "Infinity Foundation". 
  4. ^ "Infinity Foundation". 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Does South Asian Studies Undermine India?Rajiv Malhotra (2003),
  6. ^ a b RISA Lila – 1: Wendy's Child SyndromeRajiv Malhotra (2002),
  7. ^ "Lessons from The Swami Nithyananda Saga". 
  8. ^ "Problematizing God's Interventions in History". 
  9. ^ "Dharma and the new Pope". 
  10. ^ "". 
  11. ^ "Dharma and the new Pope". 
  12. ^ “Are Indians buying back their own ideas from the West?” lecture at IIT Mumbai, April 1, 2013
  13. ^ Lecture on U-Turn Theory: How the West Appropriates Indian Culture at Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi, August 26, 2006
  14. ^ Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines"Rajiv Malhotra (2011),
  15. ^ a b c How Evangelists Invented "Dravidian Christianity"Rajiv Malhotra (2011),

Further reading

Malhotra's criticisms

  • Ramaswamy, Krishnan; Nicolas, Antonio de; Banerjee, Aditi (2007),  
  • Kurien, Prema A. (2007), A place at the multicultural table: the development of an American Hinduism, Rutgers University Press,  
  • Nussbaum, Martha C. (2009), The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future, Harvard University Press,  
  • McComas, Taylor (2011), "Mythology Wars: The Indian Diaspora, ‘‘Wendy’s Children’’ and the Struggle for the Hindu Past", Asian Studies Review, June 2011, Vol. 35, pp. 149–168 

Background information

  • Sweetman, Will (2004), "The Prehistory of Orientalism: Colonialism and the Textual Basis for Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg's Account of Hinduism", New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 6, 2 (December, 2004): 12–38 
  • King, Richard (2002), Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and "The Mystic East", Routledge 
  • Bryant, Edwin; Patton, Laurie (2013), The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History, Routledge 

External links


  • The Infinity Foundation
  • Huffington Post – Blog by Rajiv Malhotra


  • The Tantric Truth of the Matter. A Forthright Response to Rajiv MalhotraJeffrey J. Kipal,
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