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

Venkatesh Murthy vmurthy36 at gmail.com
Sat Nov 12 20:53:45 CST 2011


The question you are asking is depth or breadth better?  It is always
better to know one thing in great depth than to know a hundred things
in breadth.

They say if you know only one mantra that is Gayatri Mantra and
practice it sincerely not knowing any other mantra that is sufficient.
No need to know anything more.

Depth is always better than breadth in Hinduism.  From your example
given below A is better than B. But B may look like a scholar.  But
what is important?

If all people call you a scholar but you are not reaching your
spiritual goal what is the use? The Western Academic Professors may be
scholars but they
are not practicing the knowledge. They are good for clearing exams and
getting marks.

On Sun, Nov 13, 2011 at 5:26 AM, Omkar Deshpande
<omkar_deshpande at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Dear Sri Rajaram,
> <<<We should accept a scholar as an expert in a text or a tradition only if heknows 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.>>>
> 1. Would you say the same thing for the Bible as well, i.e, unless one knows (and also speaks) Hebrew and Greek, and has memorized the entire Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and New Testament by heart, any opinions formed by the person about these two texts will be flawed? (the same can also be asked about Plato or Aristotle's works)
> If you think that the criterion you have given above applies only to Sanskrit texts but not texts in any other language (or of any other religion), what would be your justification for why it's applicable only to Sanskrit texts and texts from Hinduism? On the other hand, if you think that the criterion applies to texts in any language and of any religion, then would you also agree that no person who is not an orthodox Jew or Christian, and who does not fulfill the criteria above (which will probably include the vast majority of traditional Hindus and also the members of this list) can be trusted on their opinions about the Bible?
> 2. Consider two people A and B.
> A knows the ins and outs of the Sarvamula Granthas of Sri Madhvacharya and knows all those texts by heart, thanks to traditional learning. But A knows almost nothing about texts from other traditions, not just Christianity or Judaism, but also other Hindu traditions like Gaudya Vaishnavism or Advaita (independent of the rebuttals found in the dvaita commentaries themselves). A also does not have an understanding of the history of India, or of other civilizations, and the only sense of history that A has comes from the traditional texts like Mani Manjari and Sumadhva Vijaya. A also strongly believes that all the Vedas teach the philosophy he adheres to, i.e, his interpretation is the only right one.
> B is not versed in the Sarvamula Granthas like A. He has studied many of those works taking the help of traditional scholars, and has supplemented that understanding with self-study as well. But B cannot recite a verse at random - e.g, B will not be able to answer a question like "What is verse 2.3 in the Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya" which A will be able to. In addition, B has also studied Advaita, Gaudiya Vaishnavism and Buddhism in a broad sense (and/or has learnt them from other colleagues who have studied them), although he would not be able to compete with serious traditional scholars (of the A type) in any of those traditions. Unlike A, B thinks that each of the traditions he has studied have good rational arguments in favor of their respective interpretations, and it's impossible to say that one school got it right everywhere, and others didn't. B also has a broad understanding of Indian history, including the early history of Buddhism, Advaita
>  and other traditions (perhaps gathered from works written in English) and has also been trained in the history of other civilizations - Greek, Roman, Persian, Mesopotamian and Chinese. B is not a scientist, but he is familiar with the broad picture of the history of the world, evolutionary theory and so on.
> Is A's opinions going to be more authoritative than B's on all questions pertaining to Hinduism? I hope you agree that it will not be the case. So for what sort of questions is A more reliable (a stronger authority) and for what sort of questions is B more reliable?
> Note that A and B are purely hypothetical figures, not modeled on any particular individuals. But the nature of the background that A and B come from would represent the general distinction between a purely traditional background and an academic one. I chose A to be from a dvaita background just so that the two examples can be more objectively compared on an advaita list. It does not matter what particular example tradition A is chosen to be from (it could even have been Buddhism or Christianity or Islam, not just any of the Vedanta traditions).
> Regards,
> Omkar



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