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Being Different Hardcover – September 28, 2011

4.8 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Rajiv Malhotra s insistence on preserving difference with mutual respect not with mere tolerance is even more pertinent today because the notion of a single universalism is being propounded. There can be no single universalism, even if it assimilates or, in the author s words, digests , elements from other civilizations --Kapila Vatsyayan --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

RAJIV MALHOTRA is an Indian American researcher and public intellectual on current affairs, world religions, cross-cultural encounters and science. He is the author of Breaking India (Amaryllis, 2011), was the chief protagonist in Invading the Sacred (Rupa & Co.), and is an active writer and speaker. He is chairman of the Board of Governors of the India Studies program at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 488 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins India (September 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9350291908
  • ISBN-13: 978-9350291900
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #845,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Prahalad Appaji on November 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Review by Dr Shrinivas Tilak - an independent researcher based in Montreal. Holder of Ph D in history of religions from McGill University, Montreal, Dr Tilak's publications include (1) The Myth of Sarvodaya: Study in Vinoba's Concept (Breakthrough Publications, New Delhi, 1985); (2) Religion and aging in the Indian tradition (State University of New York Press, Albany, New York, 1989); (3) Understanding karma in light of Paul Ricoeur's philosophical anthropology and hermeneutics (International Centre for Cultural Studies, Nagpur; 2006), and Reawakening to a secular Hindu nation: M.S. Golwalkar's vision of a dharmasapeksha Hindurashtra (BookSurge, Charleston, SC, 2009). He has also written several chapters for books in the field of Indology edited by distinguished scholars.


In Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism Rajiv Malhotra contests the self-serving universalism that is readily apparent in the `grand narrative' (whether secular or religious) produced by the West, which sees itself as the agent or driver of the world's historical unfolding and sets the template for all nations and peoples of the world. Indeed, Western religionists and philosophers have rationalized European colonial expansion to Africa, Asia, and Latin America as an expression of divine plan and will that first became apparent (manifest) and inexorable (destiny) in Britain and the rest of Europe in the sixteenth century reaching the United States by the nineteenth century.

Being Different uncovers and explores major differences that set India apart from the World in terms of its markedly distinct philosophy, culture, and cosmology.
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In a world where the norm is Western version of Universalism heavily influenced by Abrahamic religions, where manageable differences are normalized and subsumed, elevating concepts and practices are secularized and digested, while incompatible differences, even if superior, are subverted and annihilated, this book reverses the gaze and takes a fresh look at Western Universalism with the view of Dharmic knowledge.

Incessant push to conform to Western Universalism has created an anxiety in being different. This book is a must read for modern day Hindus who have this difference anxiety.

Faced with a barrage of systematic and concerted Western criticism against Dharmic traditions, many followers of Dharmic traditions earnestly seek clarification, reconciliation, and even acceptance, by looking into the mirror of Western Universalism, not realizing that the premises which created this mirror leave no scope for positive reflection. Reversing the gaze helps one break loose of this stupor by making explicit the weakness and biases of this mirror, pointing out that this mirror is bigoted and must be shunned.

This book is intended for followers of Dharmic traditions and their Gurus who preach sameness in desperation and because of "difference anxiety from below", without understanding both sides and casually thinking through. This mindset is different from the classical Dharmic method of Purva-Paksha (reversing the gaze) which this book is advocating and applying. Prerequisites for reversing the gaze are (a) full comfort in and acceptance of being different, (b) careful understanding of the other side as well as the core Dharmic thought.
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I agree with the first two positive reviews of Rajiv Malhotra's recent book, "Being Different". It is indeed a path-breaking contribution to Indic literature. It is just as original as Edward Said's "Orientalism" and Frantz Fanon's "The Wretched of the Earth". Said studied and exposed the culturally unjustifiable negative portrayals of the peoples of the Middle East while Fanon's superb work explored the psychological consequences of colonizing the "psyche" of the Africans by their white colonizers. Malhotra likewise challenges the glib and vacuous generalizations made by western scholars about India and its robust cultural heritage.

Malhotra superbly and skilfully highlights the hollowness of the western understanding and its portrayals of India and its Hindu culture, religion, ethics etc. His chapter on the "non-translatables" is a unique contribution to those who want to undertake serious studies of India and its rich heritage in arts, sciences and philosophy. His treatment of "inter-faith tolerance" which is universally hailed as the westerner's benevolent overture to peoples of non-Abrahamic faiths, is a must reading for all students of religion, particularly those of the Abrahamic faiths. The end-notes are a treasure trove for scholars who want to delve more into the study of "Dharmic" faiths. I hope that the next edition of this book will append the end-notes to the end of each chapter rather than consign them to the end of the book which makes it cumbersome and often may serve as a deterrent as well for ordinary readers to refer to the notes.
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