[Advaita-l] wilhelm halbfass
rama.balasubramanian at gmail.com
Wed Sep 30 03:51:28 CDT 2009
On Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 12:48 PM, Vidyasankar Sundaresan
<svidyasankar at hotmail.com> wrote:
>> 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".
> I didn't get a chance to respond to the other replies on this thread yesterday.
> It seems to me that I am prepared to "cut some slack" more readily than others to Halbfass. And it is precisely because of his instinct to be fair to the subject of his study and to be alert to the possibility of bias built into the Western academic process!
> Re: the treatment meted out to traditionally schooled pundists in Western academia, it will all change if they perceive that the social and political establishment in India gives these pundits the respect they really deserve. A lot has to change at home before they will change abroad. Why should we blame only the Indology/religion/philosophy departments in European and American universities?
I agree, there is a certain personal element in how much slack is cut
here. But, let me explain myself. I used to cut a lot of slack to
these people till I realized that many (not all), but many are well
disguised racists or have some kind of religious agenda that they
suppress during normal times. This spilled out during some of the
"heated" discussions on the Indology list, and I think you know what I
am talking about. Of course I can't comment on Halbfass in this regard
- he may be a stellar character. I am certainly impressed that
Halbfass even raised the question of bias. Of course, I would have
been more impressed if he had raised it himself and not as a
consequence of Said's "Orientalism" being applied to non-Islamic
cultures. And I would have most certainly been very impressed if he
had not concluded that there is no essential problem with the
"traditional" analysis since it can "reveal" its own deficiencies,
whatever the heck that means!
> 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.
I think there are some universities like the Venkateswara university
which have traditional pundits. The problem is that the public are
more interested in slick presentations in English. Of course,
humanities as a field of study is itself dying a slow death
everywhere, including the US, but especially fast in India. In any
case, scant respect is given to even great scholars such as
S.S.Suryanarayana Sastri, Mm. Kuppuswami Sastri and so on. It's a fact
that it is easier for Indians to get kudos from the West if they write
bad things about Indian/Hindu culture.
In spite of all this, I think things are getting better. There are
more respectful scholars such as Diana Eck, Francis Clooney, Stephen
Phillips and so on who are dissociating themselves from this ugly
More information about the Advaita-l mailing list