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Christianity has a very mature body of apologists. Islam has its fair share of apologists too. But what about Hinduism? Wikipedia mentions a few authors, but I was curious to know if there are any Hindu apologists with training in philosophy, history or other disciplines, with experience debating skeptics, atheists, and apologists from other religions, who have published literature making a case for the veracity of Hinduism as the true religion. Something like the Hindu version of William Lane Craig. Are there any such contemporary Hindu apologists?

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I looked at the Wikipedia article which claimed that Vivekananda and Aurobindo were apologists. I beg to differ.

Was Vivekananda an apologist?

An apologist is one who defends a controversial position. In the case of dharma that would imply defending shastra (scripture) in a controversial issue. I am giving below Swami Vivekananda's attitude towards the Vedas.

  1. Personally I take as much of the Vedas as agrees with reason. Parts of the Vedas are apparently contradictory. They are not considered as inspired in the Western sense of the word, but as the sum total of the knowledge of God, omniscience. This knowledge comes out at the beginning of a cycle and manifests itself; and when the cycle ends, it goes down into minute form. When the cycle is projected again, that knowledge is projected again with it. So far the theory is all right. But that only these books which are called the Vedas are His knowledge is mere sophistry. Manu says in one place that that part of the Vedas which agrees with reason is the Vedas and nothing else. Many of our philosophers have taken this view.

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 5, Sayings and Utterances

Would an apologist criticize his own scripture? The answer is clearly no. So neither Vivekananda nor Aurobindo were apologists. Wikipedia is clearly wrong here.

Does Hinduism encourage apologists?

Hinduism in general does not encourage apologetic writing. Apologetic defense of the indefensible would merely bring scripture to ridicule.

Acharya Shankara, for example, in his Gita Bhasya 18.66 says:

The appeal to the infallibility of the Vedic injunction is misconceived. The infallibility in question refers only to the unseen forces or apurva, and is admissible only in regards to matters not confined to the sphere of direct perceptions, etc ... Even a hundred statements of sruti to the effect that fire is cold and non-luminous won't prove valid. If it does make such a statement, its import will have to be interpreted differently. Otherwise, validity won't attach to it. Nothing in conflict with the means of valid cognition or with its own statements may be imputed to sruti.

REF: Srimad Bhagavad Gita Bhasya of Sri Sankaracarya translation by Dr. A. G. Krishna Warrier, p. 629.

Many Hindus do feel that they must loyally support every verse in a canonical scripture. That is a mistaken attitude. The only obligation of Hindus is to truth. Of course a Hindu must defend Hindu dharma from unfair criticism.

We are heirs of a richer heritage than most of us are aware of. The life of the people of spirit, from the beginning until now, has a great deal to offer to us. If we cut ourselves away from the rich treasury of wisdom about man's aspirations on this earth which is available to us from our own past, or if we are satisfied with our own tradition and fail to seek for ourselves the gifts of other traditions, we will gravely misconceive the spirit of religion. Loyalty to our particular tradition means not only concord with the past but freedom from the past. The living past should serve as a great inspiration and support for the future. Tradition is not a rigid, hidebound framework which cripples the life of spirit and requires us to revert to a period that is now past and beyond recall. It is not a memory of the past but a constant abiding of the living spirit. It is a living stream of spiritual life.

Introduction to The Principal Upanishads by S. Radhakrishnan

Hindu attitude towards shastra - the reason for not encouraging apologetics.

Hindus do not view shastras in the same manner as many other faiths. Belief in Shastras does not give us release from Samsara the goal of a Hindu. It is aparokshanubhuti (direct spiritual experience) that gains Hindus the release. Hence there is no need to defend every line and word of shastras.

They study the Vedas and discuss. But they do not realize the Ultimate Reality just as a spoon does not know the taste of food. The head carries the flowers, the nose knows the scent. The people study the Vedas. But, very few persons understand the same. Not knowing the Reality of the self, a fool is infatuated by the sastras. When the goat stands in the shed, the shepherd seeks for it in the well in vain. The knowledge of the sastras is not competent to destroy the infatuation accruing from worldly affairs. …. Having studied the Vedas and realized their essence the wise man should leave all the sastras just as one desiring corn leaves the husk. Just as one satiated with nectar has no use of food, no one who is in search of Reality has anything to do with the sastras. One cannot obtain release by reading the Vedas or the sastras. Release comes from experience, not otherwise, O son of Vinata.

[Garuda Purana, Dharma Khanda, Chapter XLIX]

  1. Of all the scriptures of the world it is the Vedas alone that declare that even the study of the Vedas is secondary. The real study is "that by which we realise the Unchangeable". And that is neither reading, nor believing, nor reasoning, but superconscious perception, or Samâdhi.

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 5, Sayings and Utterances

How does one verify the truth of Hinduism?

It is not possible to verify the truth of Hinduism by any intellectual means. It can be verified by prolonged spiritual practices that lead to direct spiritual experience.

Is there a Hindu version of William Lane Craig. Are there any such contemporary Hindu apologists?

Not as far as I know. Moreover as I have tried to make clear that Hindu shastra and Hindu spiritual figures have not encouraged blind belief in Shastras. So there is no need for apologetics. Of course one should defend the dharma from unfair criticism.

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    an amazing answre! Take a bow! I learned many new aspects in the same answer. Aug 4 at 21:31
  • Many Hindu spiritual leaders like Prabhupada, Gandhi, etc have attempted to defend religious dictums like subordinate position of women, varna division, etc. Your definition for "apologetics" is limited to Hindu theology and your answer is correct in that sense. But hinduism is much beyond mere philosophy and thus has its share of apologetics
    – SMJoe
    Nov 27 at 16:00

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