[Advaita-l] Traditional Scholarship vs Modern Pseudo-Intellectualism

Rajaram Venkataramani rajaramvenk at gmail.com
Sat Nov 12 16:45:02 CST 2011

I wanted to start this post because even the most learned members of this
forum have glorified the academic scholars for the correctness of their
translation and deep insights. On the face of it, this appreciation seems
justified because of the vast and intense research done by the modern
scholars - western and easrtern - alike. Their translations provide us all
with a quick and easy option to learn traditional subjects and form
an opinion. When we contrast this with insufficient scholarly publications
from traditional sources, it is but natural to feel that the modern
scholars have done a lot more that we should be indebted to. We may
acknowledge that there are political and religious aspirations behind such
endeavours and there are those who are on a mission to destroy our
traditions. But we also note with elation that there are others who are
neutral or sympathetic, who have worked hard to protect our traditions. I
will respond to the individual points raised in the posts of Shri Omkar
Deshpande etc. to the best of my knowledge but the conclusion either way
(Harvard is influenced by the Church or not; Clooney is working to help
inculturation strategy of the Church or not) will at the best change our
perspective about an institution or an individual. It will have no impact
on either the institution or the individual. I would like to show that the
modern scholars might come to some of the right conclusions thanks to what
they learnt from traditional sources but their methods are fundamentally
flawed. As a result, their conclusions will ever remain half-truth and as
dangerous as crossing half-well.

We should accept a scholar as an expert in a text or a tradition only if he
knows the related texts by heart. Otherwise, they can form opinions but
they will be flawed for two reasons. First, inability to commit to memory
makes it impossible for the mind to synthezise all the related concepts in
a text. Second, inability to pay attention and grasp the text, which is
critical to retain it in memory shows that the mind is disturbed. The
reasoning exercised with such a mind is also prone to make mistakes. This
is no different in any subject but more so in philosophy and mathematics,
where every word in a text and every variable in a theorem respectively are
important to arrive at the right conclusions. I am not arguing that memory
alone is enough to reason but that it is an essential pre-requisite. To
claim expertise in a text, one should know the entire text and those
related referenced to it by heart. By this yard stick, many traditional
scholars will score way above the modern scholars though no one may know by
heart all texts.


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