Malhotra has developed a novel framework that classifies religions according to their dependence on history. For followers of history-centric (Abrahamic) religions, truth-claims based on history are more significant than the scriptural message itself. History-centric dogma such as original sin and resurrection become critical beliefs and no compromise can be made on their acceptance. This explains the centrality of Nicene creed to all major Christian denominations. Followers of history-centric religions believe that the God revealed His message through a special prophet and that the message is secured in scriptures. This special access to God is available only to these intermediaries or prophets and not to any other human beings.
Dharma traditions do not hold history central to their faith. Gautama Buddha emphasized that his enlightenment was merely a discovery of a reality that is always there. He was not bringing any new covenants from any God. The history of the Buddha is not necessary for Buddhist principles to work. In fact, Buddha stated that he was neither the first nor the last person to have achieved the state of enlightenment. He also asserted that he was not God nor sent by any God as a prophet, and whatever he discovered was available to every human to discover for himself.
One of Malhotra’s key research interests is the competition of civilizations in a world of increasingly scarce resources, and what role India will play in this encounter. Malhotra posits that three civilizations, each with its own distinct history, sense of purpose, identity and grand narrative are competing for leadership on the global stage: China, Pan-Islam, and the West. He proposes three scenarios under which India is likely to participate. In the first, India’s subnation identities become aligned with these external civilizations on religious and ideological grounds, and India’s cohesion as a nation state is eroded. In the second scenario India’s culture spreads globally as pop culture but the Indian nation-state disappears. In the third, India emerges as a nation-state with its culture intact and helps the world.
India’s Contributions to the World
Indian knowledge systems, encompassing a variety of subjects ranging from science and medicine to architecture and textiles, represent an unbroken transmission of knowledge over millennia. They offer locally developed solutions to uniquely local problems, support a sustainable lifestyle and are ecofriendly. Unfortunately, modernization and western models of progress have categorized these knowledge systems into artificial categories of science, folklore, superstition,etc. and devalued much of this knowledge. In seeking to catalogue India’s scientific heritage and cultural legacy, Malhotra’s project enables the preservation and revival of these practices.
Interpretation of Dharma
Dharma philosophical systems are highly systematized in their approach to understanding ultimate reality and in carefully addressing what one can know through various means of knowledge. However, this rigor does not restrict their freedom in being comfortable with social organization. Indians exhibit remarkable openness to self-organization and decentralization. Malhotra explains the basis for this openness (“Order, chaos and creation”): “Hinduism weaves multiple narratives around the central motif of cooperative rivalry between order (personified as devas) and chaos (personified as asuras). A key myth shared by all the dharma traditions — the ‘churning of the milky ocean,’ or ‘samudra-manthan’ — shows the eternal struggle between two poles. The milky ocean is the ocean of consciousness and creativity, which is to be churned in order to obtain amrita, or the nectar of eternal life.”
Mr. Malhotra’s scholarship has produced numerous pioneering ideas and paradigms such as “Western Universalism”,“Mutual Respect”, “Cultural Digestion”, “History Centrism”, and “Integral vs. Synthetic Unity”.