[Advaita-l] Indology, traditional learning and the state of affairs in India

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Thu Oct 1 00:37:30 CDT 2009

This is a very relevant topic indeed. A few observations:

Traditional shaastraic knowledge is still reasonably well-preserved
but exists in pockets that are not well networked. For a sincere
seeker who is not already clued into the network, accessing the
knowledge base is difficult. Worse, awareness of the shaastra-s is
very low even among otherwise traditional Hindu families. Unless one
has a strong family background or is lucky to live in a place that has
a good ecosystem (such as Chennai), the practical constraints on
pursuing the shaastra-s are quite significant.

I don't think the modern university system in India is well-equipped
to handle shaastraic scholarship. The issue is not merely one of jaati
as Vidyasankar seemed to imply - the trouble is that neither the state
nor the bulk of contemporary Indian society attaches significant value
to shaastraic scholarship. Moreover, the education system in India is
heavily oriented towards "professional" disciplines (engineering,
management, medicine, etc) and even here there is relatively less
research. Leave alone shaastraic scholarship, the university system is
not even geared for scholarship in the natural or social sciences.
Even a supposedly "elite" university like JNU is essentially a
preparation ground for IAS aspirants, and the few who are genuinely
interested are often subverted by the Marxist clique.

A telling feature of the present Indian education system is the almost
complete absence of any form of traditional knowledge. For example,
the legions of doctors graduating from Indian medical colleges have
zero knowledge of Ayurveda, law graduates have zilch background in the
dharmashaastra-s (not even a single paper or seminar), etc. One would
have expected an IIT-trained metallurgist to have at least a basic
idea of traditional Indian metallurgy. But even though they had
"recreational" papers on the humanities, there was not even a talk
organized on the subject of Indian metallurgy through the ages.

In a sense, the inability of the university system to nurture the
shaastra-s is a good thing. At least, it has protected shaastraic
scholarship from being subverted by a state that has its own agenda.
It has also given an opportunity to those committed to the shaastra-s
(such as many members of this list) to actively contribute to the
preservation of the shaastra-s.

I am also personally convinced that the distinction between "academic
scholarship" and "traditional scholarship" that western Indologists
often make is an artificial one that we should obliterate. Also, it is
easier for those rooted in the tradition to understand modern academic
tools (and accept or reject a given tool as required) than it is for
typical university-trained academics to understand tradition. People
on this list who are rooted in tradition and at the same time
professionally trained in the modern university system (often outside
India) can be an excellent bridge in this regard.

Ultimately, the future of shaastraic study & scholarship lies in the
hands of those who value it, and that includes several members of this
list. Granted that we are busy with our careers, families, etc but if
we are concerned about the future of the shaastra-s, then we need to
get out of our silos, put aside our petty differences and work
together to nurture and preserve the system. In other words, we need
to do more than just personal study and practice.

Just some food for thought. Apologies for any incoherence, perceived or real.


2009/9/30  <sivasenani at yahoo.com>:

> In short, we have a mixed bag. I hope we will make the right choices which uphold, celebrate and learn from our tradition and ensure that none of us is denied or kept out of our tradition.
> Senani
> Sent from BlackBerry® on Airtel
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com>
> Date: Tue, 29 Sep 2009 09:48:46
> To: Advaita List<advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
> Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] wilhelm halbfass
> How many universities in India engage the traditional scholars in meaningful discourse? No, the big bogey of high caste vs. low caste will always raise its ugly head if the topic were to be even remotely broached. The upshot is that Indian universities produce hardly any scholar with good knowledge of either the Sanskrit language or specialty texts in various fields of knowledge. Meanwhile, the traditional pundits remain completely separated from the workings of modern universities.
> Vidyasankar

na nirodho na ca utpattiḥ na baddho na ca sādhakaḥ I
na mumukṣur na vai muktaḥ ity eṣā paramārthatā II
-- Māṇḍūkya 2.30

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