Recollections with Sita Ram Goel: Part 3

Clash of Civilizations The now-fashionable expression “clash of civilizations” was already in use in India…

Clash of Civilizations

The now-fashionable expression “clash of civilizations” was already in use in India well before Samuel Huntington gave it currency in the West. Girilal Jain, for one, already used it in his analysis of the Ayodhya crisis in 1988-92.

Sita Ram Goel wasn’t inclined to using trendy expressions, but the clash between Hinduism and Islam had always been a central theme in his reading of medieval and modern Indian history.

Contrary to the fog-blowing of the secularists and their loudspeakers in Western academe, who always try to blur the lines between Hinduism and Islam, a line laid out ever so clearly by Islamic doctrine, Goel firmly stuck to the facts: Islam had waged a declared war against infidelism in India since its first naval invasion in AD 636 and continuing to the present.

However, about the future of Hinduism, at least in its confrontation with Islam, Mr. Goel was not overly pessimistic. In spite of its demographic growth and its successful extraction of concessions from secular governments in India and the West, Islam may really be a paper tiger. Not only is its impending demise a mathematical certainty, but it may even happen sooner than we would normally think possible.

The Muslims themselves will question Islamic beliefs, and some of them are already doing so (Mr. Goel kept contact with Ibn Warraq, apostate and author of Why I Am Not a Muslim). For most, the occasion will probably be the conspicuous failure of Islamic culture to keep up with the requirements of the modern world.

Recently, some mainstream politicians in Europe have broken a taboo by calling Islam “a backward religion”. For the present purpose, not the character but the impact of Islam is important, so let us rephrase that: Islam is a factor of backwardness.

Successive UN reports on the state of the Arab countries have documented how in spite of their God-given oil wealth, they are hopelessly behind in practically every respect: enterprises set up, original research conducted, inventions patented, internet access per head, books published, sales per book, foreign books translated etc.

Likewise, in the past, in its first and most creative centuries, the Arab world had a non-Muslim majority and the grip of Islam on the minds of even the Muslims was not yet very firm; but when Islam solidified and penetrated the culture more thoroughly, a thousand years of stagnation set in.

Today in Malaysia, the Muslim population enjoys increasing prosperity by redistributing the wealth generated by the non-Muslim minorities.  And not to look too far, just compare India’s creativity and progress since independence with the persistent obscurantism in the failed state of Pakistan.

The worldwide Islamic propaganda and mosque-building boom is financed by the buyers of petrol, not by Muslim economic achievement. As Mr. Goel remarked: “When their oil runs out, they will go back to tending goats.” Or more seriously: they will reject that retrograde option, drop Islam in disappointment, and seek access to the real world.

On the conversion front, Christianity has better trump cards than Islam. Its missionary effort is very systematic and puts to use the latest knowledge from psychology and marketing.

But both belief systems are ultimately doomed by their delusional core doctrines. In the long run, mankind won’t keep on believing that Jesus was God’s only-begotten Son and that His death and resurrection delivered us from sin; nor that God gave private and exclusive messages to Mohammed now preserved in the Quran. Unfortunately, even while their time runs out, they can still do serious harm to Hinduism. That is why the prospect of ultimate success is no reason for complacency.

Last Meetings

In Sita Ram Goel’s last years, I purposely telephoned or mailed him less often than I used to in the preceding decade. His diminishing health as well as my own sudden heart disease were conditions that made us less prone to communication.

But more importantly, I was embarrassed for not meeting his standards. I had gotten divorced, a very ordinary occurrence in the contemporary West but still an object of scorn for a serious Hindu. I remembered the disapproving smirk in his comments on the family life of his American acquaintances (“I met Mr. Y at the wedding of Mr. X’s son, who is of course divorced by now…”), and I felt reduced to being yet another specimen of the decadent Westerner species.

Not that he ever expressed himself to that effect, but I wouldn’t have found it unjust if he had.  His own family life had always struck me as a model of harmony or at least of successful conflict resolution, to the great benefit of all members young and old, a standing challenge to the individualistic mores of the modern West.

When I was in Delhi, he didn’t come to the office anymore and the only place where we talked was at his bedside. His mind was lively as ever and often even full of plans for new books, including a sequel to his book on Nehru, but pain had become his permanent companion. He still proofread the writings of others but didn’t manage to realize his own writing projects anymore. More than in the past, he talked about his spiritual life.

Mr. Goel had never been much involved in conventional religion, never went to temples or performed devotional rituals, and could possibly be described as an atheist. However, he practised a few simple meditation techniques. Though troubled by physical discomfort, at least he finally had plenty of time for his sadhana. I understand that he also rediscovered the devotional verses of his family’s guru Garibdas.

These last years, every time when I took leave of him on my way to the airport to fly back home, I realized that this could be the last I would see of him. Yet, he held out for several years longer than I expected (kicking the habit of smoking had clearly helped).

For an old man, there is nothing abnormal in dying, as he himself had said on the occasion of Ram Swarup’s peaceful and unexpected passing on 26 December 1998. In principle, then, it was nothing surprising when the phone rang and news of Mr. Goel’s own death came. But then it always takes us by surprise.

At Ram Swarup’s cremation, I recall seeing many Delhi intellectuals, including some otherwise fierce polemicists, unable to contain their tears. But Mr. Goel remained perfectly collected.

Any preacher could perfunctorily have spoken the following words, but Mr. Goel fully meant it when he told me: “The Ram Swarup who was born in Sonipat wasn’t the real Ram Swarup. The important part of Ram Swarup hasn’t left us.”

I don’t think I can say a similar thing now. Perhaps the real Mr. Sita Ram Goel is still with us somehow, but like many of us, I do miss him. Even as the moment of his passing recedes in time, it remains quite a task to find in ourselves the counsel for which we used to turn to Sita Ram Goel.




  • कृ

    Thank you!

  • Anfauglir

    “Mr. Goel had never been much involved in conventional religion, never went to temples or performed devotional rituals, and could possibly be described as an atheist.”


    Because here is Goel in his own words, taken from “An Interview with Sita Ram Goel”, The Observer, February 22, 1997:

    “We do have in Hinduism the concept of ishtadeva, the highest symbol of a person’s spiritual aspiration. In that sense, I am devoted to Sri Krishna as he figures in the Mahabharata, and the Goddess Durga, as she reveals herself in the Devi-Bhagvata Purana.”

    A peculiar definition of atheism.

    (SRG only denied the monotheist perversion and insisted that this was behind his dislike of the term god, while, contrastively, he said he had no such issue with the word goddess since the monotheisms hadn’t encroached on that word to make it dirty by associating it with their monotheist madness. This is clearly a reactionary response from SRG, albeit a very understandable one, but in no way does it mean he denies the Devas including Devis.)

    • Anfauglir

      Still connected to that direct quote of SRG (above), and also concerning how Elst’s statement continues with:

      “However, he [SRG] practised a few simple meditation techniques.”

      Years before the interview excerpted above, SRG wrote certain recollections of his in “How I became a Hindu”, published 1982 and which he republished with additions in 1993. He therein recalled in Chapter 8 (“Return to my spiritual home”):

      “One day, I told Ram Swarup how I, had never been able to accept the Devi either as Saraswati or as Lakshmi or as Durga or as Kali. He smiled and asked me to meditate on the Devi that day. I tried my best in my own way. Nothing happened for some time. Nothing came my way. My mind was a big blank. But in the next moment the void was filled with a sense of some great presence. I did not see any concrete image. No words were whispered in my [e]ars. Yet the rigidity of a lifetime broke down and disappeared. The Great Mother was beckoning her lost child to go and sit in her lap and feel safe from all fears. We had a gramophone record of Dr. Govind Gopal Mukhopadhyaya’s sonorous stun to the Devi. As I played it, I prayed to Her.”

      And that’s why biographies should all be autobiographies. Because no one else can be trusted. (Less so when non-heathens would write about heathens on such matters. The former invariably mold the latter to mirror their own preferences.)

      But how SRG’s own statements on the subject–given that they exist–are not brought up, still remains a question. Though a more important question is perhaps _why_ they were not brought up.

      And a third question is why no one else knew to notice, given the fondness and respect for Goel’s ideas expressed in the comments section. Here follows one of Goel’s insistences, from “History of Hindu-Christian Encounters”, Chapter 22 “Plea for rejecting Jesus as junk”:

      “We [Voice of India, i.e. RS and SRG] are trying to purify Hinduism by rejecting the monotheistic poison it has imbibed under the impact of Islam and Christianity. We are asking Hindus to be proud of their Gods and Goddesses, of their temples and icons, of their sages and saints, of their cultural and social traditions, in short, of all that the Biblical creeds denounce as polytheism, pantheism, idolatry and superstition.”

      That is, the two were trying to promote _heathenism_ among all so-called Hindus in India, as a key part of their agenda and vision for Hindus and Hinduism (heathenism) and proper revival.

      • Anfauglir

        To return to the statement that Goel wrote of himself in his 1997 interview: “We do have in Hinduism the concept of ishtadeva, the highest symbol of a person’s spiritual aspiration. In that sense, I am devoted to Sri Krishna as he figures in the Mahabharata, and the Goddess Durga, as she reveals herself in the Devi-Bhagvata Purana.”

        In contrast, here follows what Elst insists Hindus take away about the ‘real nature’ of Krishna as revealed in the Mahabharatam ( ):

        ‘On the other hand, introducing the [Mahabharata] epic’s hero Krishna as “the [n]th incarnation of Lord Vishnu” (p.9), without quote marks, detracts from the book’s purpose of teaching “history”. Let alone the secularist deconstruction, even in the epic [Mahabharatam] itself he is a down-to-earth war consultant and womanizer’

        Note well that Elst’s statement was made after Goel’s demise, akin to how Elst’s projection of Goel as an atheist is (also conveniently) made after Goel’s death, neither of which Goel is alive to contest. But since it was Goel’s stated agenda that Hindus must remain utmost heathens, one may assume he will not have rolled over. And in any case, it is clear that Elst’s own agenda concerning Hindus is rather different from that of Goel, being quite unheathen (and specifically de-heathenising, as is actually apparent from many more such instances when inspected).

        Just to underline the point:
        To Goel, the Sri Krishna he read of in the Mahabharatam is the “highest symbol of [his] spiritual aspiration”, while Elst lectures to a heathen audience that they must dispense with such heathen views: that what Goel viewed as “the highest … spiritual aspiration” is but “a down-to-earth … womanizer”. The last is a statement that Hindus never forget to take umbrage with when missionaries and Doniger types uttered it. But Elst gets away with it. Because Goel’s not around to counter it and Elst knows it, just as he knows he has the confused ‘Hindus’ of today eating from his hands.

        Hindus need to know what they’re admiring and empowering.

        • कृ

          Yes, but perhaps you’re inclining a bit more toward malice, when you really ought to attribute that to Elst’s कर्म being as he was not born and soaked in भारत.

          That said I’m annoyed with the notion that ‘polytheism’ (note not इष्टदेव or मूर्तीपूजा) is okay, in part because there are very specific Abrahamic meaning behind these words (and of God). This is also where one can take offence at ‘Atheism’ being applied to SRG…

          Then again, you’ve proven to be more well-read than I; I’d love to hear of your views on this. English is annoying because Indians attribute one meaning, but historicity does not lend them this right inasmuch it does to the Anglo-Saxon world.

          • Anfauglir

            “Yes, but perhaps you’re inclining a bit more toward malice when you really ought to attribute that to Elst’s कर्म being as he was not born and soaked in भारत.”

            1. It has nothing to do with where he is born.
            If you want to properly assess it, then it begins (and some may conclude it ends) with the fact that Elst is not a heathen.

            Not being a heathen makes him an invariable subversionist when it comes to
            – speaking on heathen matters
            – speaking/lecturing to a heathen audience on heathenism

            2. Elst has moreover repeatedly exhibited a specific feature: attempts to de-heathenise heathenism, one aspect at a time.

            There are several examples of this. Including the mentioned example concerning Krishna/Rama (Vishnu), Samkhya as _originally_ atheist rather than the inverse, and more. His projecting Goel as an atheist to a presumably unwitting audience is just the latest instance, though it is far more revealing.

            3. Neither of the above proves malignant intention, and are not unique to Elst or to foreigners. (Indian post-heathens do it too.)

            But in trying to convince his heathen audience that Sita Ram Goel could “possibly be described as an atheist”–however carefully Elst phrased it–he was knowingly lying.

            – No one can claim it was a mistake on Elst’s part: his entire paragraph was building up to his declaration of Goel as an atheist. (He always drops these very things into his works as mere asides.)

            – Nor can his error regarding Goel’s atheism be dismissed as innocence either: Goel’s relevant statement from his interview was published at the VoiceOfDharma site and had been available there for many years. And voiceofdharma also hosted Elst’s own musings, both before, during and for some time after.

            Note well that no one asked Elst to write on Goel’s religious views, to thus commit himself. Elst _chose_ to do so all by himself. Hindus’ picture and consequent ‘collective memory’ of Goel becomes very much distorted thereby.

            Infer the rest. (Note that to lie implies motivation.)

            In any case, Hindu heathen revivalism is being hijacked away from where Sita Ram Goel specifically intended it go.

            Hindu heathens need to make it very clear in their minds that Goel and Elst are actually at polar opposite positions–regardless of whether they think Elst is innocent of any ill intent–rather than assuming that Elst is any positive force for Hindu heathenism (Hinduism) all because his writings favour “Hindu nationalism”. These two things ceased to be synonyms, just like how “Hindu” has similarly forcibly ceased to imply heathen Hindu (so that heathen Hindus are now stuck having to otherwise distinguish themselves in English terminology. This is what always happens when heathenism gets diluted by non-heathen infiltration).

            Sita Ram Goel wanted Hindus to remain heathens and for heathenism to remain pristine. In fact, I’d say that heathen Hindu readers of Goel need take away nothing else of his biographical details other than that he thought that Hindu heathens preserving their heathenism was paramount, and that this can be considered his honest position and therefore be taken seriously by Hindu heathens _because_ he was a heathen himself (as opposed to one of the many non-heathens trying to hijack Hindu heathens for their own causes and regularly subverting heathens).

            Hindu heathens who respect Goel as a native thinker who was more sensible than those aiming to popularly lead Hindu revivalist thought today (and certainly more heathen in his objective), need to follow his aforementioned advice on heathenism, as it is factually consonant with heathenism and heathen aspirations.

            I would say that where heathen interests are concerned, heathen Hindus need to extricate themselves from all non-heathen influence:

            Because, though entirely obscured by Elst’s writings, the fact is that post Goel, Hindu heathen revivalism on the netizen front has ground to a halt, being murdered and replaced by non-heathens and their unrelated interests: their non-heathen and de-heathenising visions.

          • Anfauglir

            – “God” is a heathen word and refers to a heathen God from a heathen pantheon. Such as Thor.

            – Just because ishtadeva is singular does not mean that many Hindus do not worship several other Hindu Gods besides, such as the entire family and circle of their ishtadeva. Hindus factually have a pantheon. But see also further below.

            – I have long had these issues with words and their meanings in languages influenced by christendom.

            However, when using such languages, since polytheism (like Goddesses) is a point that the missionary monotheisms can not assimilate, it becomes handy as a descriptive term because the description is accurate to a degree.

            On the validity of the use of the Greek word “polytheism”, here are those of the Greek religion:


            “Are you therefore Polytheists?

            We can answer in the affirmative, but should first reiterate that the
            terms ‘monotheism’, ‘polytheism’ etc are used only as conventions, as in reality the monotheists invented these terms to distinguish themselves from normal humanity. Since humanity never doubted the multiplicity of the Universe, we use ‘polytheism’ simply to contrast ourselves from the so-called ‘monotheists’.”

            In the universe of manifestation, there are factually many Gods. Hindu heathenism is both ‘monist’ and ‘polytheist’ in the sense that Taoism is. (Philosophy actually reveals a somewhat comparable relation between monism and the Olympic Gods.)

            Whatever one may say, Hindu heathens, like Taoists, the Greek/Roman adherents of the Olympic Gods, the Shintoists, and the like, are not monotheists.

            In Taoism, beyond manifestation, everything resolves into the Tao (the potential unmanifest) from where the manifest Gods and consequently everything in manifestation emerged. This is in many ways similar to Hindu heathenism. (The descriptions are actually strikingly similar. For example, most of the Nasadiya Suktam, wherein the original, theistic Samkhya is already apparent, looks to me like an excellent summary for the Tao and its evolution into the universe. In translation at least.)

            For this reason, Hindu heathens–and Taoists and the like–get dubbed “soft polytheists” by outsiders.

            None of these phrases (and the last even less) mean anything to the heathens concerned, of course, as they are not truly self-referencing terms. They are merely useful for heathens to delineate themselves from those who are not.

            Regardless of whether any terms are used, the reality remains that there are many Gods, at least in manifestation. And it’s not just Hindus’ heathenism that recognises this.

            Sita Ram Goel’s interview was at the voiceofdharma site. Doesn’t make me well-read.

  • Sujata Srinath

    Thank you for this moving and revealing account of your encounters with the great Sita Ram Goel!

  • JayZ

    Brilliant.Sharing.Saving into my IndiaFacts archive.

  • yogesh

    Thank you Dr. Elst for writing this series. Your writing was very lucid and captivating. It was indeed pleasure to read all 3 articles in this series. I just wish more and more indians picks up and read work of Sita Ram Goel.

  • Manish

    Believe me SIta Ram Goel’s writings are more relevant today, than when he was alive.
    His ideas are gaining currency with time.

    • Savarkar’s Disciple

      Only thing is if he would have been alive he could have seen how his works have helped us ideologically and obviously him being alive would have meant the great man could have been viewed by so many on YouTube.

  • Barbaric Opinion

    Great series.

  • Ashish

    Fantastic Series!

  • Nabha Garjana

    what a beautiful ,insightful , factual and mature compilation. Thanks indeed for the enrichment.

  • Ananth Sethuraman

    Thank you for a beautiful account.