Critical Commentary on “Respect the Sacred, Ignore the Sexism”

Posted on September 30, 2013 by

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Shoba Narayan’s article published in the New York Times tells the story of a Hindu mother struggling with how to present (or not present) some of the more vexing issues in Hinduism to her children. Shoba Narayan is an author for the New York Times who has graduated from the Columbia Journalism School, and has written various Hindu columns, along with weekly column in the Mint Lounge, an Indian Business Daily, and The National, based in Abu Dhabi. The most important biographical information regarding this article by Shoba Narayan is that she is currently living in the United States, and is the mother of two daughters (aged 16 and 11). Shoba doesn’t provide any concrete or factual evidence, as this article is more opinion based and is simply presenting a viewpoint to the audience. Her argument/proposal presented in this article is that Hinduism, and all religions, are products of a certain era, containing rules that are no longer relevant, rules that need to be reinterpreted.

 

The content of this article focuses on how religions need to change in order to essentially stay relevant in the modern day, and specifically on how she should “tailor” Hinduism for her two daughters living in the United States.  I was originally curious about the content of this article and its message, but then as I took in more, I began to become a little more skeptical of the overall point this article was trying to present. Shoba Narayan begins with an obscure statement, stating, “I love my religion’s glorious and imaginative epic stories, in which seers chose the moment they die and goddesses kill the bad guy while riding a tiger.” This line, while a great attention getter, uses language that makes it seem as though she values the excitement of Hinduism, rather than its messages and underlying moral values. This opening line in a way discredits her as a distinguished author, and gets her started on a shaky foot. The second paragraph continued to make me a little confused on her intentions as she states, “its (Hinduism’s) rituals, though beautiful, can be tedious,” and “what I want to share with my children … but in a Hinduism-lite way.” Through these statements, Shoba hurts her reputation as an author on Hinduism, before she even gets to the main argument of the article. It seems as though she only takes to heart the fun, exciting and “easy” aspects of Hinduism, while disregarding the more tedious. She only wants to share the best and easiest parts of Hinduism with her daughters.

 

Shoba then, in the next few paragraphs reveals her argument about Hinduism, and religion in general. She seems to be at a crossroad about whether she should inform her daughters about some of the darker aspects of Hinduism, such as that some hymns are only supposed be chanted by men. It is the last paragraph and the phrase “Hinduism-lite” that I see as having many consequences. She states, “I want them to imbibe a faith that gives them strength but is also flexible enough to accommodate their dreams and circumstances. For now, Hinduism will do.” The general attitude towards religion (Hinduism) controversially portrayed here is that religion is a loose interpretation of a set of values that is open to the individual to interpret. The word “flexible” especially emphasizes this, and almost made me cringe. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this statement, that religion is “flexible.” Perhaps it is a difference in perspectives. Shoba is a mother who only wants the best for her children, and so the emotions of protection and love are portrayed. She promotes her viewpoint that religion has to be tailored to the times, and thus portrays the sustainers of the original teachings as the “bad guys,” as those who are hindering progress. But who is to draw the line on what you can/can’t exclude from the teachings of a certain religion? Does removing certain aspects of a religion detract from the overall experience?

 

Of course Shoba Narayan doesn’t mean to completely criticize and undermine all of Hinduism, she simply means to protect her daughters, but her article certainly does raise some questions because of the way it is written and presented to the reader. The first impression suggests that she possibly isn’t the most serious about or completely devoted to Hinduism. Her perspective is the only one presented, so of course this article is biased, but that opinion does come with some consequences that must be considered. The article is purely opinion based, so the reader has to take everything with a grain of salt and make their own interpretations of the question at hand, whether Hinduism, and all religions for that matter, should be tailored to certain situations or circumstances. 

Works Cited

 Narayan, Shoba. “Respect the Scared, Ignore the Sexism.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times Co., 9 Sept. 2013. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/01/08/with-children-when-does-religion-go-too-far/in-hinduism-respect-the-sacred-ignore-the-sexism

 

 

 

 

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