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Mythology as Weapon
By Frank Morales


The related terms "myth", "mythology", "mythological", etc., have had an interesting history and a very pointed polemic use. That the terms are rife with very negative connotations is doubted by very few. The way the terms are used today both within academia, as well as by the general public, is to denote something which is untrue, false, "primitive" (i.e., not European), a lie. Just the other day during a visit to the dentist's office, I saw a pamphlet on the table called "The Myths About Sexually Transmitted Diseases". The ultimate question that we, as committed Hindus, all need to ask ourselves is do we really want such powerfully negative terms also associated with the sacred stories, teachings and history of Sanatana Dharma?

Polemically speaking, one culture's "myth" is another culture's sacred history...and visa versa. The academic field of the study of "mythological" literature was started by 18th century European Classicists who took their misconceptions about their own Greco-Roman pre-Christian religious and cultural heritage and attempted to apply them to all contemporary non-Christian cultures - including that of Bharat. These founders of "mythological" studies were convinced, as is unarguably evident in their writings, that the realm of religious story could be clearly demarcated into two radically distinct camps:

1) "Myth", that is the primitive stories about gods, goddesses, spirits, demons, magic and mysticism etc. found throughout all of the indigenous and non-Biblical cultures of the world - all certainly no more than ignorant "pre-scientific" attempts by these heathen savages (THEIR words, not mine) to explain such mysteries as natural weather phenonema.

2) "History", that is Biblical literature and everything proceeding such literature to be found throughout the history of Europe and the post-Columbian Americas.

There is the wonderful saying that we have all heard, that "history" is written by the victors. Consequently, the stories of Noah's Ark, Abraham, Moses, the Judges, David, etc. are unquestioningly accepted by most European historians - and sadly by many Hindu historians! - as being incontrovertible and established fact. This, even though the evidence for these supposed historical facts are in many cases no stronger, or even less so, than the evidence supporting the historicity of the ancient stories of Sanatana Dharma. What these Western scholars and their Westernized Indian counterparts called the "mythical" Sarasvati River, for example, was discovered to be a concrete geological fact in our century by satellite photography; Krishna's "mythical" city of Dvaraka was, likewise, discovered off the coast of Gujarat about two decades ago (anyone out there have a crane?).

  Despite these facts, the Puranas, Itihasas and traditional histories of Bharat, unlike the Biblical "myths", are relegated by modern Western scholars to the misty realm of "myth". Bluntly: primitive fables. If you've guessed that what has brought this situation about has been nothing less than European racism and intellectual colonialism, coupled with a strong element of Hindu inferiority complex, you've guessed right! The terms "myth", "mythology", "mythological", etc., have been used as a powerful weapon by anti-Hindu bigots for decades as a way of delegitimizing Hindu beliefs and the Hindu way of life.

Whether such unscholarly use of these otherwise legitimate terms will be allowed to continue as a weapon against Hinduism is up to each and every person presently reading this. Such terms should be absolutely anathema to every sincere and self-respecting Hindu when speaking about the sacred stories of Sanatana Dharma. Our stories are not "myths". If we truly respect our religion, our culture, our selves, we must never use these terms again. Rather, we should do what many other formally oppressed non-Christian cultures have recently done (such as many Native American tribes), and call these "Sacred Stories". We can later, as informed Hindus, debate over the meaning of these stories - whether they are literal history (which many very clearly are), or meant to be taken allegorically, or whatever. But, please, let us all agree not to ever degrade our Sacred Stories again by calling them "myth".  



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