[Advaita-l] wilhelm halbfass

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian rama.balasubramanian at gmail.com
Tue Sep 29 10:49:18 CDT 2009

On Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 10:38 AM, Shrisha Rao <shrao at nyx.net> wrote:

> On Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 5:27 PM, Stig Lundgren <slu at bredband.net> wrote:
> > I have also found the works of Wilhem Halbfass useful and interesting.
> However, apart from that I would like to
> > make a few observations on indology and it´s "scientific" approach:
> I don't think Indology is particularly scientific; in fact, one of the
> frequent responses made by Indologists to objections to their style of
> study by Indians is that those whose training is in the sciences
> (which is true of most educated Indians) cannot understand the methods
> and conclusions of Indology!  There are any number of postings on the
> Indology list saying this.  Indologists swear allegiance instead to
> philology, which in its proper sense means they claim support from
> historical linguistics, which is anyway in the humanities and not a
> science, and furthermore in Indological practice can be a fig leaf to
> cover just about any kind of false posturing and intellectually
> dishonest scholarship that may exist.
An excellent set of observations by Shrisha. Reminds me of the time when
there was some loser in the Indology list posting about the low quality of
software engineers from India (yes software on the Indology list). He
claimed Indian software engineers are sub-standard because of poor
educational facilities in India. To which some Indian posted a link to best
undergrad schools in Asia (ranked by US deans) and about 10 of the top 25
were from India. To which a an eminent professor from Harvard replied that
Japan had more universities in the list in spite of a smaller population
thus proving that Indians are inherently stupid. To which our very own
Vidyasankar pointed out that these things have to be normalized for economic
conditions, and also commented on the irony of him being an engineer and
having to point out things from the social sciences to a Harvard humanities
professor. To which there was no reply - no apologies - no nothing. Imagine
this fellow talking about Africa like that - he would have been hounded out
of Harvard the next day. But somehow Hindus and Indians are fair game for
any kind of nonsense.

> Of course, all this is hurting Western Indology itself more than
> anything else; the Indian diaspora is least interested in supporting
> such scholarship, for one thing.  Indologists complain that Indians
> build temples in just about any city where they are in numbers but
> never give money for Indological scholarship, but does this surprise
> anyone, seriously?  Indology departments are closing or cutting down
> all over (especially in Europe), and those that remain are obliged to
> venture into Buddhist scholarship to tap into that source of funding.
> (Buddhists also have, thanks to the flamboyance of the Japanese and
> the Dalai Lama, been able to keep the Eurocentrism of academic
> Indology at bay when it comes to their field, something that we
> Vedantins should carefully note and emulate.)
Also to note is that you can be Christian or Buddhist and be counted as an
"unbiased" academic studying your own or any other religion, but no Hinud
can be unbiased. If he is Hindu, he has to be some kind of fundamentalist

BTW, someone wondered if my opinion of Halbfass extended to all his books
(private email). The answer is no. His books are good and worth reading. But
IMO, you have to be aware of the agenda that he is subscribing to. I.e.,
superiority of the Western methods of analysis. But to his credit he raises
the question if Hackers Christian beliefs misled him in his readings of
Sankara. That itself is a major achievement for a Western academic - if any
Hindu raised that question he would be dismissed as a "fundamentalist".


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