[Advaita-l] Science and Advaita

Michael Shepherd michael at shepherd87.fsnet.co.uk
Tue Feb 3 14:15:55 CST 2009

Dear Vidyasankar,

One thing I learned from my sorry experiences with the 'Encyclopaedia of
Hinduism' -- Indians have long had a talent for enumeration and distinction
! Five of this, sixteen of that...full measured architectural details of
every temple mentioned..

I'm not the one to give you the full details of the debacle. The project --
with the assistance of an American university -- was launched grandly with
as many auspicious spiritual supporters as should guarantee any project..
and to be in 18 volumes. Down the line, five of us in England were asked to
'proofread' it into good American English, on the strength of our varying
knowledge of Sanskrit (Arthur Farndell has written a 'Companion to the
Mahabharata' and is working on a new translation of the Manusmriti), and
other skills. As I had more time, I've covered a bit over 9 of the 18
projected volumes, over several years.

Perhaps contributors should have been given the choice of writing in English
or Hindi, to be translated subsequently : the level of literacy and
readability and scholarship in the proofs varied hugely. Some of the best
articles came from (I guessed) former staff of the University of Hawaii in
its glory days; and some of the clearest on Hinduism, from Buddhist
academics !

Then funds ran out, it seems; we have not been paid the second half of our
fees; after being initially praised for the work, we were later told that it
was not up to scratch, i.e. no payment.. though we were extremely
conscientious in our difficult work.

The current idea is to form yet another committee to produce a one-volume
work.. Actually, this would be a good idea, judging from the overall quality
of the items as they came to me. But it does mean that some very interesting
aspects pf Hinduism will not see print..

However, the random nature of what was thrown at me did encourage me to
delve more systematically into the background -- so it's several years of
unintentionally expensive education.. no wonder Saraswati went underground !


-----Original Message-----
From: advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
[mailto:advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org]On Behalf Of
Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra,Water)
Sent: 03 February 2009 16:52
To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Science and Advaita

>but I can see that in an oral tradition stemming
>from satsanga in the presence of the guru or the rishi, 'Please inform
>further..' is more appropriate and useful than a challenging 'Why do
>say that?' (which I guess Adi Shankara had to face quite frequently on
>travels ?...)
>But I don't despair of the Western mind at its height : as a poet, I
>those two principles mentioned, of the One in the many, and the magic
>Creation, at the front of my creative mind; and trust that there are
>scientists as well as spiritual leaders who do the same !

Dear Michael,

I must admire the sentiments you express in this thread. Even in the
oral tradition, 'please inform me further' is reserved for one who is
as the guru. 'Why do you say that?' is appropriate enough amongst
There was a tradition of healthy debate as seen from numerous accounts
from across India, over many different centuries. The "Western" habit of
questioning is not too alien to the traditional Indian mind, although
the modes
of questioning and the language used may be different in style and

The problem is, nowadays, people don't always know what is appropriate,
to whom and when. On the one hand, many undeserving and self-appointed
individuals are raised to the status of gurus, while genuine gurus are
respected. On the other hand, the genuine spirit of scientific inquiry
is getting
lost everywhere in the world, for various reasons. This is true not only
Westerners, but of Indians too. There is no longer a Western mind or an
mind or a Chinese mind. Having lived  in India and the USA, I don't see
people are very different anywhere, except for their unique sets of
and cultural prejudices.

Just as a general caveat, I would caution reading too much into things
the five stages of saMSaya, etc. There have been many different schools
thought in India and each has a different take on such topics. For
in the upanishad-s and in Sankara's writing, saMSaya is simply a
of the mind. It arises naturally whenever there is an unknown or a
between knowns. Without seeing the perspective of the particular school
being discussed, it is hard to generalize.

Best regards,

ps. Is the Encyclopedia of Hinduism project officially extinct? Their
is still up, although it has not been updated for a few years now.
knowing what the
Archives: http://lists.advaita-vedanta.org/archives/advaita-l/

To unsubscribe or change your options:

For assistance, contact:
listmaster at advaita-vedanta.org

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list