[Advaita-l] Vedabta Studies in India - II

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 10 07:09:28 CST 2012

•    The universities have a small prakaraNa grantha (like vedAnta sAra) even at the post-graduate level and nothing further. Only two shAstra scholars are seen in the universities in the whole of AP. It is a matter of shame that the reputed Andhra University had to close their PG course for the first year as there were no students.
•    M.A or Ph.D in Sanskrit is done in the medium of regional language or in English. Such situation is unique to Sanskrit. 
•    There is some initiative in the Vedanta schools run by the new order of swamis, i.e. those from the Ramakrishna, Chinmaya or Dayananda schools, but the approach is mainly from the point of pravachanam-s, which of course are very important, but there is no deep study of the vAda grantha-s such as advaita siddhi or khaNdana khaNdakhAdyam. However these schools are the only silver lining in the otherwise dark sky.
•    Knowledge of shAstras like vyAkarana, mImAmsa, tarka and sAhitya cannot be seen in isolation, as something unconnected with Vedanta or dharma. These become the foundation on which any ritual or practice has to be interpreted, as otherwise, mere recitation or performance of rituals can degenerate into a stage of meaninglessness, where even the performers may not have conviction. (This is the reason why even the putohit-s/vedapandit-s do not bring up their children in their own profession. The allegations against several god men are partly due to their lack of knowledge and lack of application to their dharma, besides any other motives the media may have). Ritual can hold a person so longer he is already faithful, but when a ritual or practice is questioned it is the shAstra which comes to rescue for giving a meaningful interpretation. Hinduism, unlike other religions, is backed by philosophy, where our purANa-s present philosophical truths in the
of stories.
•    Recitation of Vedas and performance of ritual is like the hardware of dharma whereas preservation of shAstra-s is the software. There are several pundits who may recite the vedas but not many who can teach essential books like the Gita, the UpaniShat-s, or brahmasUtra-s which are considered to be the core of Indian thought, and for which world wide acclaim. Any number of vedapAThashAlA-s cannot produce teachers who can teach the above mentioned books. It is not such a difficult task to master them, but we have simply given them up due to ignorance about their import. PurANa told like a fairy tale may impress a child or a person who has unquestioning faith, but it cannot impress the one who questions. A dArshanika dRRiShTi or philosophical orientation is required not only to answer the doubting Thomas but to inculcate proper understanding and respect in our own tradition.
•    A purohit or a veda pandit can be compared to an electrician or plumber who has his role, but the shAstra scholar is comparable to a researcher who has a greater role.
•    A climate has arisen wherein the secondary sources (like English translations, lectures by Swamijis etc.) are becoming the primary sources and even scholars and writers are relying on these.
Hence there is a need to examine how the shAstra studies, and in particular the Vedanta studies can be preserved. The question is how and by whom? A few suggestions are as follows.
•    The oriental colleges teaching Sanskrit have to be revived in their original form and due recognition has to be given to the degrees, (so as to allay fears of unemployment). As the governments are unwilling to revive them there is a need to seek help from corporate sector as part of corporate social responsibility. In fact, all these oriental colleges were set up by the erstwhile zamindars but not by governments. There should be a credible body to properly make out a case and persuade these corporate to help these schools.
•    Similarly some assistance can be given to the private shAstra schools run by peeTham-s etc.
•    A proper syllabus can be evolved keeping in view of the present needs so that the students have some basic skills in English, computers, general knowledge etc.
•    Training in shAstras has always been associated with religion as noted above, or as part of one’s own sAdhanA for self realization. Modern scholars may be skeptical about the aparokSha realization of what Vedanta teaches, but they should have no problem to study as a purely intellectual discipline i.e. to have parokSha knowledge.
•    Some eminent shAstra scholars are in their seventies or eighties. We have to get their lectures and preserve them digitally. This can be taken up by identifying pundits in the entire country and have their lectures in whatever language they can teach. Such pundits will be less than about hundred in a population of 1.2 billion. They should be identified.
•    There have traditionally been some places which were centers of learning in earlier days and there is some infrastructure in the form of human and material resources available in these places. Such resources have to be identified and strengthened.
•    In AP the TTD has a scheme known as the kumAra-adhyApaka scheme wherein the students go to the residence of the scholars and receive training in the Vedas only. The TTD pays honorarium to the teacher and to the student. A similar scheme is being implemented as private initiative for shAstra studies by one philanthropist of Hyderabad and about a dozen scholars have been trained in the last ten years. Here too it is learnt that more scholars are concentrating on vyAkaraNa because they get jobs or on mImAMsa because they can become experts in yaj~na related activities and thus make money.
•    Efforts were made in vain to persuade TTD to cover the shAstra students studying under recognized teachers. Private initiative seems to be the only option.
The future for Vedanta studies in India looks bleak and the number of scholars is dwindling like that of endangered species. There is need for the intellectual community to ponder on this and think of methods to preserve the intellectual heritage.

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