The Pretamata Problem, Or the Tale of Post-Colonial Colonization
Being an ethnocentric and exclusive religious system is not a real problem as many are trying to construct. Within the larger Dharma, many sects, sub-sects, ritual and theological systems and philosophical schools of thought have always been formed as primarily ethnocentric entities, spurring other ethnic groups to develop their own parallels, in a never-ending enterprise of creativity. Despite the shared cultural baggage as well as genetic heritage, the fact remains that we are a conglomerate of a few thousand jātis and tribes, with each having its own unique familial and clan practices, all co-existing within the complex of our Dharma. The “free market system” the Dharma has embraced makes possible the tremendous creativity of the religious spirit and also enable many of these jātis to develop their own traditions and institutions. For example, the Ādhīnams of the Śaiva-Siddhāntins of Dramiladeśa, which enjoy a high degree of prestige and power like any “Brahminical” institution, pay witness to this fact.
The problem arises when a religion purports to be inclusive but is in reality ethnocentric as is with the case of the Mohamatta and Pretamata mārgas. I am always amazed by many of the Cīnas here in Siṁhapurī who are devout adherents of the Preta. They root for Yisrael and see themselves as having a bond with certain Semitic patriarchs who wandered in a desert region 3 millennia ago. They see their own ethnic homelands as abominations while a country several thousand miles away is “holy”. The Malaya jana here, of whom almost everyone follows Mohamatam, see Arābya Bhāṣā as a divine language and see themselves as part of the pan-Arābya identity, despite having zero ethnic or genetic connection to the language or its Semitic original speakers. A few of them have even left for Marūnmatta countries to wage yuddha against the “infidels” or even conspired to do destructive deeds here. Fortunately, security efforts have kept these problems at bay though there is no telling to the extent this problem could grow to.
Returning to Pretamata, we note how the minds of its adherents are colonized and they see themselves in the image of the white men who represent this religion. Unfortunately for them, the fact that they will never be the same in the white man’s eyes does not shine on them. The white man brought the “enlightenment” of Pretamata to the non-white masses wallowing in ignorance and darkness. It is therefore not in the least surprising that Cīnas and Indians who convert to the Pretamata feel “superior” as if they have been inducted into the Euro-American identity. The irony is, neither the Preta nor any of the prophets in the Yahudāgama were Caucasian. They were Semites, like all Yahudas are. Reading and analyzing the Pūrva Bhāga of the Yahudāgama with a critical eye, one finds that the Yahudas initially practiced polytheism and the gradual conversion to monotheism via monolatry was a result of extraordinary geo-political circumstances. As a matter of fact, this is the evolving scholarly consensus. (More on this in a future article) Hence, like any ancient heathen people, the Yahudas were tribal, deeply ethnocentric and despised exogamy. And the Preta acted in perfect concordance with Yahuda ethnocentrism. For example, consider this account of an incident from the Preta’s life (Mark 7:24-30):
24And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. 25For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: 26The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. 27But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. 28And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. 29And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. 30And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.
The same account is repeated by Matthew 15:21-28, who however calls the woman a Canaanite. But overall, there is little difference between these two passages.
21Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 23But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 24But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 25Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 26But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. 27And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. 28Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
In the above two passages, it is clear that the woman is likened to a dog! Such harsh words from the supposedly kind Preta who, we are told, saw beyond ethnic differences. If you point this out to Pretopāsakas, they are quick to point out that the Preta finally healed the woman. But that just evades the main question here: Whether the Preta was, like any typical first century Yahuda, ethnocentric or his later followers had force-fitted him into modern notions of equality and political correctness? At any rate, the Preta’s original intentions had been to reform the Yahuda-mata from within. He was not interested in it becoming a universal faith as the following verses from Matthew 10:5-8 show:
5These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
Indeed it seems that the Preta’s cult would have been nothing more than a radical offshoot of traditional Yahudamatam. The Preta was not interested in anyone apart from the Yahuda-jana, at least in the initial phase of his mission. I say initial, because towards the end of his mission, there seems to be textual hints of a change in his outlook towards the “gentiles”, the “heathens”. But on the whole, the Preta envisioned himself as the Yahudeśvara and claimed to be the person referenced in the bhaviṣyaviṣayam in the Yahudāgama. And as many modern scholars have pointed out (Refer to Bart D. Ehrman), the Preta was an apocalyptic Yahuda, who preached the imminent end of the world, with the Yahuda-jana being delivered from the rule of oppressors. What the new or would-be-converts to Pretamata keep ignoring, deliberately or not, is the fact that the Preta was by no means unique in claiming to be the Yahudeśvara. There were many Yahudas who either claimed to be the Yahuda-jana-rakṣaka or were presumed to be “the one” by the Yahudas themselves. Refer to this excellent article that sheds some light on the lives of some of these “saviours” who were either contemporaries of the Preta or post-dated him. There were also claimants before the Preta (Look up, Judas Maccabeus, Simon of Peraea and Athronges). This list of Messianic claimants comprises of Yahudas from different backgrounds, who used differing strategies as the proclaimed leader of the Yahuda-jana. But if there was one thing that was common between all of them, including the famous Preta himself, it is that they were nothing short of a miserable failure for the Yahudas.
Now, one may wonder why we are discussing the textual and historical issues of the Pretamata in such painstaking detail. Well, as a Hindu you may have known other Hindus who have converted to the Pretamata or those who are contemplating such a decision. They have obviously been “infected” by the powerful memetic viruses of the Pretamata. In other words, they have bought into its claims for want of critical reasoning. I believe every Hindu should equip himself with a thorough study of the Pretamata, its historical antecedents and most importantly, the Pretāgama, especially the Uttara Bhāga. A careful study of the Uttara Bhāga would reveal that it is not a book written with a single aim, inspired by “God”, like the Pretopāsakas claim. There are several layers within it and its propensity for contradiction highlights that there were competing interpretations of what the Preta ought to be. To go back to the statement regarding pre- and post-Preta Messianic claimants, the most important question a Hindu contemplating conversion can ask himself is: What if the Preta was merely one of many such claimants? But it so happened that his followers managed to come up with a canon of texts, organize the faith and transform the horrifying death of the Preta from the failure it was, to a story about salvation.
And in my opinion, this is the question even those who are “firmly entrenched in the Dharma” but foolishly believe the Ponzi scheme that “all religions are equally good and lead to the same goal”, have to ask themselves. It is this honest self-inquiry, guided by a strong and clear intellect, which can provide an effective vaccination against getting “infected”.
And that is why, this article starts by establishing the fact that the Preta, true to his Yahuda beliefs, was ethnocentric. It is not to make the childish claim that he is racist and therefore we should ignore him. If we carry the thinking to its logical conclusion, we have to ask ourselves the following question: What changed a primarily Yahuda-based religious movement and altered the very course of history, making Pretamata a movement that seeks to invade the entire earth like a viral epidemic? The answer lies in a certain character, whom we encountered in the previous article: Paul.
The interested reader should do his own homework on the subject. But to put it briefly, Paul himself was born as a Yahuda and later on in life converted to the Pretamata. Despite his roots, it is Paul whose writings lend themselves to an anti-Yahuda interpretation. And Paul seem to have taken the Preta’s cult in a direction that the Preta himself could not have imagined. (Remember that Paul never actually got to see the Preta while the latter was still alive.) So, we do note that there is a contradiction between the Preta’s intentions and the actions of Paul. But the trend of departing from the Preta’s original intentions started even before Paul. We note in one of the above quotations, Matthew 10:5 that the Preta expressly instructed his śiṣyas to not go to the Samaritans. However, in direct contradiction to that, we find that one of the śiṣyas went to Samaria to preach to the Samaritans as stated by Acts 8:5-6:
5Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
Now this occurred before Paul’s conversion to the Preta-cult. But we find the repetition of the same behaviour. Paul is indeed known for being most aggressive in reaching out to the heathens. In other words, we are looking for that magic moment when the Pretamata ceased to be a Yahuda movement. Consider the following verses from Acts 13:42:
42And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. 43Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
44And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 45But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
Hence, we can conclude that it is the insurmountable Yahuda rejection of the Preta that led to the cult ceasing to be a mere outgrowth of the Yahudamata and spurred its transformation into a religion on its own. In other words, the so-called universality of the Preta’s teachings is a circumstantial result. The Preta hardly saw himself as relevant for people outside the Yahuda. However, as we noted before, there are a few statements to the effect that the Preta might have become more receptive to gentile followers after the disappointment of his own people, the Yahuda-Jana. Take, for instance, the following verse from Matthew 8:5-13:
5And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.8The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
But Paul, very much like the Preta who inspired him, is a man of contradiction. He felt great concern for the Yahuda-jana, who were his people. But at the same time, he realized the futility of his mission to them and, in a stroke of wicked genius, sought to redefine the very notion of Yisrael, as done in Romans 9:2-7
2I have deep sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart, 3for I could wish that I myself were condemned and cut off from the Messiah for the sake of my brothers, my own people, 4who are Israelis. To them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises. 5To the Israelis belong the patriarchs, and from them, the Messiah descended, who is God over all, the one who is forever blessed. Amen. 6Now it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all Israelis truly belong to Israel, 7and not all of Abraham’s descendants are his true descendants.
And having now cut the cord that links Yisrael and the Yahudas, he comes up with a renewed definition of what is “Yisrael”, as Paul explains with a brilliant botanical metaphor in Romans 11:17:
17Now if some of the branches have been broken off, and you, a wild olive branch, have been grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree,
And voila! This is one of those rare moments where a metaphor so perfectly describes the meme par excellence and the modus operandi of the Pretamata. It is this “grafting” of heathen peoples that has been occurring over the past two thousand years and not without violence and misery. And this is the chain of grafting. The Hellenic-Roman heathens were “grafted” together with the Yahudas who had accepted the Preta, to replace the ones who had rejected him. Within a matter of centuries, this extended to the whole of Europe and the Āṅglīkas saw themselves as the “Grafter” par excellence, sending their missionaries all across the world. And just as the Greek/Roman converts were adopted as “Yahudas” and became part of “Yisrael”, the Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Africans and South Americans were adopted as “grafts” alongside the Āṅglīkas and became part of Āṅglīka Rājyam.
When Mlecchadvīpa became independent from the Āṅglīkas and an unparalleled power by itself, it started viewing itself as the “real” Yisrael. Thus we see this nonsense matam, uniquely “Made in Mlecchadvīpa” product, which we like to call “Moron”-mata. The charlatan who founded this mata preached that the Garden of Eden is located in Mlecchadvīpa and stated further that the Preta, after his death on the śula, appeared in Mlecchadvīpa.
The analogy is perfect. The Yahudas who abandoned the identity of their own forefathers and were disowned by their community, sought to re-make the heathen Greeks (And as we saw in the previous post, the most dull-witted among them) in a “Yahuda” mold, with the effect that these poor heathens saw a language and culture (Hebrew, Yisrael) so alien to their own, as sacred and superior. Instead of being proud of their ancestry, they relished in seeing themselves as non-biological “descendants” of Abraham. Fast forward about 2000 years later.
The Āṅglīkas (and later, the Mlecchas) abandoned their European identity, marked by Greek and Germanic cultural ideals with deep-seated heathen roots (Consider that in the study of pratīcya philosophy, the phrase Anglo-American is used, to distinguish from continental European thought). They sought to colonize the world outside Europe and cast the “ignorant idol-worshippers” in the Āṅglīka/Mleccha mold, with the effect that these “inferior races” (Or AKA, the white man’s burden; courtesy of Rudyard Kipling) saw the language, culture and religion of the Āṅglīka/Mleccha as superior to his own. And if such an attitude of servility should persist even today, after “independence”, then are we not confronted with a problem of “Post-Colonial Colonization”?
If you can raise the following two doubts in the mind of a Hindu convert or a wannabe-convert, you can safely state that you have cured the victim of the Pretamata virus.
1. Is the Preta merely one among many Messianic claimants? If he was a failure like all other Messiahs of the 1st century, then what is worthwhile about believing in him?
2. Does it make any sense for me to believe in a religion that seeks to colonize me and degrade my ethnic origins? Does it make sense for a religion that has an awfully specific origin in a certain location and point of time in history to claim universality? Am I not better off following the path of my own ancestors?