[Advaita-l] Maxmuller et al

Michael Shepherd michael at shepherd87.fsnet.co.uk
Sat Aug 8 05:34:00 CDT 2009

Dear Bhadraiah,

I'm not sure that Maximilian Mueller -- with all the emotional baggage
carried by his beleaguered spirit -- is a fit subject for this website -- or
for my posthumous defence ! But here goes..

The pioneering work in the Western rediscovery of Sanskrit, and thus all the
knowledge that it offered the key to, was first carried out in India itself,
by those scholars attached to the Raj in one capacity or other, like Jones;
and in Germany and France. Muller, a German who studied in Paris also, was
recommended to come to Oxford because the Bodleian Library held many
valuable documents. (Don't ask why...)

He was a pioneer, along with German and French colleagues, in this 'new'
study -- and so made the 'laboratory' mistakes of any pioneer researcher.
And remember, he was working in Oxford, not in India under the supervision
of pundits and gurus !

Mueller's prime interest was 'The Science of Language' -- a science which he
invented and named, against much suspicion from the Church and from
scholars. (The universities were still closely associated in their 'degrees'
to 'holy orders' in the Christian Protestant Church -- even Catholics were
banned from Oxford until a later date..)

So Muller represents merely Western researches in Sanskrit in 1800 onwards..
though to its credit, Oxford had an appointed Professor of Sanskrit from
1830, primarily to aid Christian missionary work.

Muller arrived in 1848, and when he got down to the RgVeda he used
Sayanacharya's 14th century CE commentary (I believe). But he also
inaugurated the great 'Sacred Books of the East' series of translations --
in which the principal Upanishads appear; some translated by him, some by

So please see him as a pioneer -- as much as any American frontiersman or
gold-miner of the time -- with all his mistakes and misjudgements. But it
was surely to his credit that he learned from his mistakes.. And Darwin's
Theory of Evolution misapplied to 'primitive' societies and humanity in
general, must have been a distraction.

Properly, the word 'primitive' (from 'pra' in Sanskrit...) speaks only of
first emergences; it acquired a pejorative sense only in the minds of those
reading the word ! (Roll on, the belief that 'modern' doesn't mean 'we know
better' any longer..)

Scholars would now prefer other non-debased words like 'Early' or 'Original'
or a specific time-period for 'primitive'. In fact, the more thoughtful
would feel respect for a 'primitive' tribe, chipping away so skilfully at
flint stones to make its 'knives'..

On the subject of 'Sanskrit as a dead language' I'm not competent to speak.
The argument is that around some date (and presumably not all at once, or
affecting all people; some not for centuries) 'Sanskrit' as a localised
dialect of Vedic, ceased to be a spoken language and became the formalised
language of priests and scholars, with rules established -- out of actual
oral practice.

The argument then is that Sanskrit ceased to 'develop' (because of the very
comprehensive rules) or more to the point 'change' in usage -- as for
example a 'living' language like American English, adapting to new
technologies, new immigrants misusing it, etc.

And because we all/most people/  have a personal emotional investment in
'our age is greater than any previous' ha ha, we think that the spoken
language is more colourful, pliable, vivid, communicative, valid...
forgetting that constant misuse and misunderstanding demote, demean, and
debase the most sacred and the most philosophical and the most beautiful
words.. look for instance at the word 'mantra' in the West today, meaning an
empty repetition by politiicians etc...

The counterargument sometimes advanced in India is that Sanskrit is such a
perfectly 'constructed' language that it can be accurately used of subatomic
physics and space research alike.. Not for me to say.

But there is a question to be raised about Vedic and Sanskrit, and  spoken
against formalised language (and it is most apparent at the moment in
French) : is the 'Vedic' language of the RgVeda thus more a freer, 'bhakti'
language of the heart, as of poetry and spontaneous praise, than 'Classical'
Sanskrit, which naturally tends to a 'jnana' vocabulary and thus
intellectual tendency of mind ? (What do current Sanskrit poets find ?)

Once again, not for me to pronouce on. Poets like myself love the English
language for its rich choice of not-quite-alternative words, allowing for
nuances of emotion which many though not all may pick up.

Against this, would be the pundits and gurus who say that Sanskrit, as the
'original' language, has all these universal subtleties built into its very
sound : so always communicates more to the deeper levels of the human
antakarana than any 'boiled' language.. (How does the absence of sandhi in
older Vedic fit into this ?)

Those English schools which have begun to teach Sanskrit from an early age
find that the spoken Sanskrit alphabet 'exercises the mouth' far more than
any European language, and  helps spelling because of this; and now that
English grammar is almost totally neglected except at basic level, brings
grammar in its clearest formulation, back into education. (It's a worldwide
phenomenon that students learn their grammar these days only or mostly from
learning a foreign language !)

Beyond those benefits, I'm not competent to speak; but I have English
friends who teach Sanskrit to English children, who would wax eloquent on
the further benefits to the minds of children.. or some children..provided
it's not treated as a status symbol. We even set our own Sanskrit  exams now
on a national and international basis..

Well, I think that's enough on the MaxMonster and all his evil attendants
and monstrous children...


-----Original Message-----
From: advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
[mailto:advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org]On Behalf Of
Bhadraiah Mallampalli
Sent: 08 August 2009 00:47
To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Maxmuller et al

Dear Michael ,

After your mail, I decided to read Maxmuller's book

A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature
- so far as it illustrates -
The Primitive Religion of the Brahmans
Dated 1869

The title of the book raises questions. He knows that the research was still
progressing. Through his book he is just giving a status of what was found
so far from his perspective as of 1869. He declares that the most important
thing he found so far in the history of Sanskrit was that it was a
'Primitive Religion'. What is primitive? Why is Sanskrit a 'dead language'?
Usually Indologists reply to these questions saying words like primitive and
dead-language are "technical" words, no offence intended. But a general
reader who knows nothing about the linguistics will assume that a very
primitive unsophisticated religion is meant. Indologists define a dead
langauge as one which is not currently spoken and/or a language doesn't add
any more new words and rejuvenate itself (this later opinion wrongly assumes
every language is like English which adds words from other languages). But a
common man on the street thinks if Sanskrit is a dead language why should
schools fund Sanskrit te

>Few men if any in recorded history have been able to >unite East and West

For India and rest of the world, Maxmuller was the Karl Marx of linguistics.
He divided more people than he united.

>a man who claimed nothing more than to have investigated the 'science of

If you give specifics of his achievements, we will discuss in appropriate

>That he was advised to come to Britain
> And the idea that he was in league with the Church

Moot points. I told you it is all in the infrastructure. People do their
assigned works. Imperialists funded the money hoping to extend the
renaissance. If no money, they would have closed down Indology departments
back then, as they are doing it now. It is only natural there are common
interests between British, French, German etc, in spite of infightings.

>he praised heartfully the great hymns which he understood

And he trashed those that he didn't.

On page 4 of his book he explains his administrative policy of Sanskrit
studies: He says Hindus discuss various exquisite topics which are of no
practical value. For him, knowledge must be for a utility, and knowledge for
the sake of knowledge is garbage. This policy was so ruthlessly adopted,
British used the bricks from IVC excavations to build rail tracks. Even 10
years ago UK libraries burnt many Sanskrit manuscripts which were
"duplicates". This is not very different from today's MNCs taking up
diversity programs in their companies. The diversity programs must enhance
business opportunities. No diversity for the sake of diversity or for the
sake of humanity. Any way about knowledge for a utility, Maxmuller was dead
wrong. Many branches of mathematics were invented 100-200 years before a
practical use was found.

However by pages 8-9 Maxmuller contradicts himself by weaving the AIT,
imagining all kinds of divisions and massacres of the then non-existant
tribe of "Dravidians". AIT is ignorance ignorance for the sake of ignorance.
He tries to drive a wedge between Greeks and Hindus saying they are at
opposite poles because Greeks were practical but Hindus were not, while
ignoring the idealistic theories of Greeks and also ignoring the
similarities between both (development of logic, arts, polytheism, puranas),
while at the same time connecting Greeks to west. He was a plain manipulator
who mastered the art of division. Marx likewise imagined divisions between
classes in societies, between management and workers, which were all free
markets all along human history.

>Granted, he had a very detached view of Adi Shankara as commentator on the
>His 'What India has to teach us' lectures indicate his true feelings.

That explains his priorities. Beauty of Rgveda belonged to the "early
Aryans" so he is comfortable. Advaita competes with Greek philosophy and his
religion, so he is detached. The middling Brahmana literature attracted his
criticism, because it contains the description of complex rituals and
seemingly infinite number of superstitions, what happens if you do such and
such ahuti, exquisite knowledge for the sake of knowledge which was of no
practical use. It is also easy to stick a scorn that brahmins misued the
Aryans' Rgveda.

>ideally this website should only be conducted in Sanskrita and Vedic

Today most people in the world are brainwashed by psychology of English
langauge (a Chomskyist idea). We should conduct discussions in English, so
that we can negate English. Then move on to Sanskrit, and then negate
Sanskrit to know advaita.

The ahutis of yajnas, vishthutis of sama, gamakas of Carnatic music, grammar
rules of pratisakhyas, can all be represented as Java classes and we can
study all these with the help of some pranayama to find out why there are
used for what purpose, many younger people on this board can start seeing
the results in 50-100 years if we start working now.


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