[Advaita-l] Vedanta Studies in India in two parts - 1

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 10 07:07:43 CST 2012

PraNAms to all

I am posting an article by Shree Aravinda Rao from Hyderabad. As I understand he retired from Police service as DIG and started his Sanskrit studies and now completed his Ph.D. He has sent me his extensive sanskrit works and also the attached article on Vedanta Studies in India, expressing his concerns. Those who want to discuss with the author can do so directly.

Hari Om!
                     Vedanta Studies in India

This is a study based on the author’s interaction with the Sanskrit scholars from different parts of India, with particular reference to Andhra Pradesh. The note takes into account the present status of shAstra studies in general and study of Vedanta in particular.
The study of shAstra-s is an intellectual heritage which existed in a healthy manner till a few years ago. shAstra pundits were found in almost every town and some of them continued the venerable practice of keeping students in their own homes and teaching them vyAkaraNa, tarka, VedAnta etc. shAstra sabha-s were common during important functions/festivals alongside pravachan-s in purANa-s. It underlined the basic point that philosophy formed the base for any exposition of other texts like Ramayana or Mahabharat.
This note focuses on the dangerously dwindling number of shAstra scholars and the gradual disappearance of an intellectual heritage. Cultural heritage like artifacts are preserved by physical intervention by spending money, but this is a live heritage which has to be preserved in human minds by keen students.
•    Preservation of shAstra-s in the traditional form has been a private initiative in AP. Some private colleges in the name of oriental colleges were started by philanthropists about a hundred years ago and they produced two generations of pundits who studied all available texts in any shAstra they took up. Some were chatushshAstra pandita-s while many others studied at least one or two.
•    About 30 years ago these colleges started accepting aid from the government and that brought about a drastic change in the curriculum by reducing the shAstra syllabus and adding other subjects like English, history etc. This initiated the process of decline in standards. Of late, the govt. has taken a decision to close the colleges and any remnants of Sanskrit studies will disappear. This will create a permanent disappearance of scholars and it would be impossible to fill the void. They are examples of Bhartrihari’s line – prabhavaH smayadUShitAH. At present there are only six to seven scholars in the whole of AP who can teach the advanced texts in Vedanta.
•    The traditional peeTham-s had some AsthAna pundits who were scholars in the shAstra-s but in the submissive and servile environment of the peeTham-s there was no intellectual climate and very little was done to continue the teaching and train scholars. More emphasis is on yaj~na-s and rituals and the shAstra pundits are used for occasional pravachans. We are reminded of the line from bRRihadAraNyaka ‘yathA pashurevam sa devAnAm’. With all due reverence we may call the scholars as the pashu-s for the pontiffs.  Only a handful of scholars exist even in other peeTham-s like Sringeri and Kanchi, but their teaching is confined to a particular community only and even that is not noteworthy. They are examples of Bhartrihari’s line – boddhAro matsaragrastAH. One honorable exception appears to be the Pejavar peeTham in Bangalore which is training scholars in Indian logic.
•    Some peeTham-s hold shAstra sabhA-s once in a year, but the same handful of scholars gather from different parts of the country and merely recapitulate the texts and disperse. They are too scared to deviate from the text and are completely insulated from any research work done in the universities.
•    Shastra study was mostly confined to one community, and it was pursued seriously, partly as a religious duty and partly as an economic activity also. When this community changed their profession and took up different jobs and also migrated heavily, there is a sudden gap in scholarship, because others were never initiated into these studies except in a general manner. The patented community will never revert to their profession because of the forces of modernity and hence there is a vacuum in scholarship, besides vacuum in religion.

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