The lack of critical focus, I think, is intentional, in order to avoid stating the uncomfortable truth: Hinduism worships blatantly fictional gods. Not fictional in the sense of “probably-doesn’t-exist,” which could be said about all gods. I mean fictional in the “characters in a fictional book” sense. That is the Hindu mentality: a cool god appears in a book, and people start worshipping him. Weird but true. This is the actual origin of the two of the most popular Hindu gods: Krishna and Rama, stars of the two most popular Hindu books, the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana, self-styled incarnations of Vishnu.
For a fuller discussion of the literary history of Krishna, see my post here.
We see an interesting analog in the West with those geeks in Britain and Australia who have been listing “Jedi” as their religion. The Jedi, of course, are fictional characters from the Star Wars movies. Although the Star Wars geeks think it is clever to screw with the government surveys, I am fairly certain they aren’t actually offering prayer and sacrifice to Obi Wan Kenobi or Darth Vader. If they do start praying to Luke Skywalker or Yoda, we will have an exact correspondence to what occurs in Hinduism. If you don’t believe me, try a simple research project: find out when Krishna was born.
To the mystical Hindu mind, the dates for Krishna’s birth are firmly established by the hard science of astrology, supplemented by a long series of textual guesswork! Let the inquiring mind feast upon this veritable Euclidian proof:
Krishna was born in the Rohini nakshatra, in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada, on the 8th day of the waning moon at midnight… the 38th chapter of the Shri Vishnu Puran says that Kaliyuga started on the day Krishna died… another shloka in the Shrimad Bhagwat Purana (part 11, chapter 6) where Brahma … says that 125 years have passed since Krishna's birth; this is just before Krishna plans his death… the advent of Kaliyuga is traditionally taken to be 3102 BC, because all our panchangas or astrological journals maintain that 5,100 years of Kaliyuga had passed before 1999 AD. The belief is supported by mathematician Aryabhatta's astronomy treatise Aryabhattiya, the Surya Siddhanta, an astronomical text that dates back to 400 AD, and a 5th century inscription from a temple in Aihole. Deleting 125 years from the date … Krishna was born either in 3327 or 3228 BC. The rest he left up to his software, merely feeding in the planetary configuration that Krishna was supposedly born under, to generate the row of figures that conforms to the epochal moment.In sum: “July 21, 3228 bc… satisfies every condition described during Krishna's birth.”
Wheew, glad we got that established!
Woops, in the same article, the author admits that these astronomical projections can be a bit less than sure: "But the dates, while drawn from the same source, strain in opposite directions.”
Thus we get dates out to 5561 BC. The variation is not surprising,
“Considering that there are 150 astronomical references provided about the characters and events in the Mahabharata… there is little consensus on what information is worth concentrating on. In addition, there is reason to believe that our scriptures ‘grew’ over time, incorporating events of every period. So there is precious little we can attribute collectively to one age. Many scholars in fact wonder if all the references to Krishna in the scriptures refer to one person or whether the Krishna of Vrindavan and the Krishna of the Mahabharata are two different people.
Well, I guess it makes my critical task easier if the same article that claims he was born in 3228 BC also points out that he is essentially a legend thrown together over time.
The hero of the Ramayana, Lord Ram, is theoretically even older than Krishna, being the previous incarnation of Vishnu (the 7th to be exact). So when did he live? By the logic of the yugas: over 2.5 million years ago. I say: why not??? If you are going about killing demons with your giant bow and arrows, and fighting along side of armies of intelligent flying monkeys, you might as well make it millions of years ago too, while you are at it!
Of course, more respectable astrologists put Lord Ram’s birthday in 5114 BC. January 10 of 5114 BC, actually! Again, the key to this reconstruction lies in the constellations and heavenly signs described in the book.
Of course, nothing in archeology corroborates anything civilized going on in India that long ago. The Harrappan settlements of the Indus Valley civilization, appearing as early as 3000 BC, evidence skillfully-laid canals and adobe bricks structures, but nothing on the order of the civilizations and technologies described in the Bhagavad Gita or Ramayana, not even in the iron age yet. Apparently, that is because in order to find the stuff from 7000 years ago “you'd have to dig more than 60 metres”.
Or just admit that a good book is a good book, even if it has nothing to do with history.
Not to say that Westerners are incapable of the similar silliness. The situation reminds me of the Book of Mormon, with its ridiculous descriptions of advanced American civilizations, which, woops, don’t seem to have left any actual physical evidence! The case of the Mormons, like that of the Hindus, indicates yet again that most people are not capable of excising critical thinking about a book once it has been invested with religious significance.
I am not unsympathetic. I know that it is a slow and painful process to come to terms with the fact that your religious ideas are fictional. Nonetheless, realizing that your particular incarnations of Vishnu are fictional might lead you down the path to a more truthful religion. After all, only the truth shall set you free.