[Advaita-l] URGENT MESSAGE TO HH Shankaracharya of Sringeri Matha - CIRCULATE AS WIDELY AS POSSIBLE

Vidyasankar Sundaresan via Advaita-l advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Wed Aug 27 17:54:32 CDT 2014


I would urge everybody on this list to keep calm and not to jump to conclusions about this matter.
 
I am not an official spokesperson of the Sringeri Matha, but over the last two weeks, I have been involved in some of the background discussions. Here are some clarifications that I am capable of sharing at this stage.
 
1. All contacts between Columbia University and the Sringeri administration are in a stage of discussions. No formal agreements have been signed.
 
2. From the Columbia University side, Prof. Sheldon Pollock is involved in these discussions because of his research interests in the Sanskrit language and his contacts with traditionally trained scholars and institutions in India. He is admittedly not interested in focussed research on Advaita texts or philosophy. If an endowed chair is set up at the university, he is not going to be the person taking up the position. Indeed, if terms are agreed upon and if a chair does get established, there will have to be a full process of hiring and recruitment to fill the position. By the time things happen, Prof. Pollock may be well on his way to retirement and emeritus status. One may disagree with every single thing that Prof. Pollock says about Sanskrit or one may disagree with him partially. However, that is neither here nor there when it comes to this new idea of endowing a teaching and research chair concentrating on Advaita studies. Contrary to how it is being portrayed, Sheldon Pollock is not going to hand-pick a candidate and Sheldon Pollock is not going to actively be supervising his or her work after recruitment. Universities do not give so much power to any one individual when it comes to the composition of their faculty, no matter how senior that individual may be. A graduate stuent could perhaps legitimately complain that a professor has great power over him, but no one professor has inordinate power over other professors in a university.
 
3. No agreement with the university will be signed till the Sringeri Sankaracharya, Swami Bharati Tirtha, finds the terms acceptable and gives approval to it. Right now, the Sringeri Matha authorities are preparing for the traditional annual vAkyArtha sadas that starts on the day of Vinayaka Chaturthi and goes on till the end of the Chaturmasya. And soon afterwards, it will be time for Navaratri and the important Darbar ceremonies in Sringeri. Further negotiations and discussions with/about Columbia will naturally take time. All that Prof. Pollock's note to another list member says is that he will have more information in October. This does not mean anything more than what it says. As a moderator of this list, I would also urge everyone here not to share private email correspondence verbatim on a public forum like this one. It leads to more problems than it solves.
 
4. I can guarantee that people in Sringeri are analyzing the terms of engagement with Columbia University with a fine toothed comb. There are multiple people, internal to the decision making process in Sringeri, who have very different perspectives on what should be done, how it should be done and even whether it should be done. These include not only the Acharya himself and key administration people, but also others with stellar records in public life and education, both in India and abroad, who are providing their inputs. I am not at liberty to name anybody, but I can indeed share here that the proposal is receiving extremely critical scrutiny at Sringeri. For what it is worth, I have given my own inputs as well. Advaita-L members should be able to judge for themselves how I view the general Indian experience with Western academia.
 
5. Personally, I am quite aware of the nature and quality of academic output and I know how it can distort and misrepresent various elements of sanAtana dharma. However, I am also highly confident that the Sringeri Acharya and the Matha administration will never do anything that will be detrimental to sanAtana dharma. In fact, one often heard criticism of Sringeri is that the Matha does not move quickly on various matters. One reason for this slowness in response is that dharma-sUkshma matters often do not admit of quick solutions. I find it somewhat amusing and somewhat annoying that on the few public forums that have started discussing this, people are jumping to all sorts of conclusions, assuming that the Sringeri Matha has already signed some official contract with Columbia university. What is the worst is that some people are talking as if the Sringeri Matha has already sold its soul to Columbia university. Let me reassure you that everything is a discussion stage as of now and that when a decision is taken from Sringeri, it will definitely be something that will be in the long term interests of sanAtana dharma. 
 
6. Finally, one question remains. Everybody who has an objection to this idea is starting off with the premise that Western academia should be treated as anathema and that we should have no give and take with American/European universities when it comes to our traditions. Paradoxically, we all go to the same Western universities when it comes to education in the sciences or business or law. We either live outside of India or if we live in India, we do everything possible to send our children to these institutions. We are proud of the MBAs and the PhDs we get from Harvard, Yale, MIT, Wharton, Columbia, Caltech, Berkeley etc, so long as it is all about mathematics or engineering or medicine or finance or law. We are all content to be students in these secular fields in these universities, but we do not want to engage with them in research and studies of our traditions, cultures, religions and philosophies. At the same time, we are not ready to go and study our own traditions and philosophies seriously in the few places left in India, because we are not prepared for the rigor and discipline required by our traditionally trained panditas and Acharyas.
 
So, the question is, why are people opposed to the very idea of Sringeri followers in the United States seeking a constructive engagement with an American university, without caring to find out what the details are and what the actual terms of such engagement will be? Why is there an assumption that any engagement will only be destructive to our interests?
 
I am not asking these questions to trigger additional discussion here, on this forum. In fact, I would prefer that we do *not* discuss it on this forum, because this topic is not within the focus of this list. I would, however, urge you to ponder over this and share your thoughts with me privately. Inasmuch as I am involved in the background, I will ensure that your legitimate concerns and thoughts will be taken seriously before decisions are taken. But once again, please contact me via private email. This is not an issue for any one of us to decide on. Even if it were, it is not something that should be handled in a free for all public discussion.
 
Best regards,
Vidyasankar

 
> Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 21:51:31 +0530
> To: sujal.u at gmail.com; advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
> Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] URGENT MESSAGE TO HH Shankaracharya of Sringeri Matha - CIRCULATE AS WIDELY AS POSSIBLE
> From: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
> 
> Namaste
> On Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 6:32 PM, Sujal Upadhyay <sujal.u at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> > Namaste,
> >
> > Please give it in proper readable format.
> >
> 
> Kindly use the link below to view PDF file. Important message for All
> Followers of Sanatana Dharma.
> 
> http://jmp.sh/bUxFGEr
> 
> 
> >
> > Also mention the source of such info. Is there any official announcement
> > on this by shringeri Matha, do they have any info about this activity.
> >
> >
> > OM
> >
> > Sujal
> >
> > I got this e-mail from well wishers of Sanatana Dharma.
> >>
> >>
> >> URGENT
> >>
> >> Note on Columbia University
> >>
> >> wanting to host a chair on Adi Shankara
> >>
> >> Hindus worldwide who follow the US universities and academies  are
> >> saddened
> >> to
> >>
> >>
> >> ‚Äč<content clipped>
> >>
> >
> 
> 
> -- 
> Regards
> 
> -Venkatesh
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