Monday, 10 October 2016

Fb Discussions - Pollock, Indian scholarship, and the lost Indian liberal



I just read Ananya Vajpeyi's article and was surprised how she assumes that opposition to Pollock come only from the Modi camp. I am very far from any Modi camp !
But my main point is that do not Mr. Murthy and others realize that there is vast learning and erudition in India even today. Deeply read Sanskrit scholars are there who are also anchored in the ethos of this land and who are best equipped to translate Indian texts. Why search out a WhiteMan for this.
The EducatedIndian's disdain for all Indian wisdom and strengths is incurable.  

(That Pollock has questioned the high handedness of our government on many occasions is good. I hope he also questions his own government. But that has no bearing on his appointment as the final word on sanskrit texts here.)
 
 Aparna Krishnan The extant commentaries on the Gita and the Charaka Samhita have been the final word. These could not have been so impeccably written by a western scholar is my understanding. There are subjectivities and philosophies in the classics of every land that are best understood by a scholar of the land.
Krishna Kanth Telikepalli The problem with lot of people trying to translate these texts is they can only get the literal meaning at best... Our texts have layers and layers of esoteric meanings embedded..only a great sadhaka can unravel them..
Aparna Krishnan At least a serious Indian scholar. At least this, as the petition reads, "However, such a historical project would have to be guided and carried out by a team of scholars who not only have proven mastery in the relevant Indian languages, but are also deeply rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India. They also need to be imbued with a sense of respect and empathy for the greatness of Indian civilization."
T.R. Shashwath That's completely, utterly wrongheaded. By that definition, none of us can ever study or be scholars of Shakespeare or Milton, which would be an absurd thing to say.

Think of people like Sister Nivedita or Annie Besant who were scholars of Indian works - would you deny them the right to study? Or the right to their place as scholars?

Have you read any of Pollock's output? I have, and all I can say is that if you support this petition, you don't understand scholarship.
Aparna Krishnan   I can study Chinese religion. But I would leave the interpretation of that to a learned Chinese scholar who is rooted in Chinese ways. I repeat, " "However, such a historical project would have to be guided and carried out by a team of scholars who not only have proven mastery in the relevant Indian languages, but are also deeply rooted and steeped in the intellectual traditions of India. They also need to be imbued with a sense of respect and empathy for the greatness of Indian civilization.""
Vidyasankar Sundaresan On the flip side, have you read any of the output of the key scholar signatories to this petition? Not the iit engg professors, but people like Ramasubramanian, Kutumba Sastry and Sampadananda Mishra? If you blindly reject this petition, the way Ms Vajpeyi does, you don't understand Indian scholarship. Come to think of it, the way she talks of Pollock, it's clear she doesn't understand Western scholarship either.
Aparna Krishnan Her peice is inane. And that The Hindu gave centre space for it, defines The Hindu also. In these modern time deriding Indian heritage, and admiring western eloquence, seems enough to get labelled as profound. The English Educated Indian, with a very very few exceptions, is lost beyond saving. It is just too many years of steeping in an alien framework.
T.R. Shashwath "We can agree to disagree  !!"

Right, but if we do, you need to be aware of the consequences. When we disagree, the default position is to be permissive. In other words, if we disagree and can't come to a conclusion about what's right, then Murty Classical Library has every right - every duty in fact - to promote scholarship as they see fit.
In other words, as long as they can't convince the rest of us, the petitioners have no right to be questioning another scholar's locus standi to be on a panel.
T.R. Shashwath Substantiative points:

"But I would leave the interpretation of that to a learned Chinese scholar who is rooted in Chinese ways." Is what I referred to as wrongheaded. Parochial, insular, blind.

At no point in the history of philosophy or literature was this ever a requirement - Al Beruni commented on Indian philosophy, as did Hieun Tsang on Buddhism, Varahamihira on Greek astronomy, ibn Sina on Greek philosophy, Aquinas on Islamic learning,... There has always been a culture of interpreting the works of other cultures - often with a totally different gloss. And humanity is only richer for it. Nobody, no culture, owns the great works of the past. We all have the right to learn from them and add to them.

You can't be a blind supporter of the native/local narrative on every single issue - please look at the thing from the other side and you'll find that the position you're taking is straight out wrong
T.R. Shashwath "On the flip side, have you read any of the output of the key scholar signatories to this petition?"

Some, yes. I can say that their scholarship is good, but their position is bad, can't I?

"If you blindly reject this petition, the way Ms Vajpeyi does, you don't understand Indian scholarship. Come to think of it, the way she talks of Pollock, it's clear she doesn't understand Western scholarship either."

Those two statements are just special pleading. You have to show how rejecting the petition is tantamount to not understanding scholarship. Why do you make the assumption that she rejects it blindly? What's she blind about? Nope, I don't see any of that. I think it's you who are being blind to the right and duty of every scholar to be a scholar.

T.R. Shashwath "In these modern time deriding Indian heritage, and admiring western eloquence, seems enough to get labelled as profound."

I think you err on the other side way way way too much these days. Which is blind as blind can be.
Incidentally, have you ever read Pollock? If you do so without cribbing about the "modern educated Indian" every three words, you'll find that he's very respectful and admiring of Indian heritage and culture, and that he's a real scholar with a very sensitive approach. Same goes for many others dating back to Max Mueller. Yeah, you may not agree with everything they say, but they're not the people you should be upset about.
Vidyasankar Sundaresan Why do I say she is rejecting it blindly? Sir, have you read her take on it? Do you know the credentials of the people who are the top signatories to it?

T.R. Shashwath Yes, I have read her take on it and she's almost completely right.

Can you, if you disagree with her, please tell me exactly what you disagree with in her article ?
Lead article by Ananya Vajpeyi: Why Sheldon Pollock matters

THEHINDU.COM|BY ANANYA VAJPEYI

Krishna Kanth Telikepalli There cannot be a comparison of Vedas and the worldly works of Shakespeare... Studying ones work is different from attempting to translate..

T.R. Shashwath Why not?

Illiad and Odyssey then... Or the Koran, or the Bible - there are scholars of all four from India - Hindus - who have written very interpretative works on them. Are they wrong?

 Sailesh Bhupalam Who's to say he has the final word? TheEducatedIndian would be wrong only in that his' is the final word. Indians have a particular socialization since childhood. What's wrong in taking another perspective? Who says Indian scholars are barred from works of commentary and translation? why can't a private donation be according to the wishes of the donor?
As long as we are afraid of the wndy donigers and the pollocks, we will only be the mystical civilization everyone wants to go to like they do to disneyland. We need to take our place in the comity of nations and these things are steps in that direction.

Vidyasankar Sundaresan That's a misunderstanding of the petition. The real question is, why aren't private money and public funds in India supporting the scholars in India? A hundred and fifty years ago, most of us sat around asking, what is wrong with mill produced cloth from England? Cloth is cloth, no matter who makes it. It took a Gandhi to make a powerful symbol out of the problem, before we saw the massive disadvantages to selling our raw material and buying the finished product.

Aparna Krishnan sixer !

Vidyasankar Sundaresan The analogy suggested itself! 

Sailesh Bhupalam So what are the massive disadvantages of someone translating our work? Cloth cannot begin to compare with knowledge, it is finite and follows demand and supply. The same work can be translated again and again by different scholars. That only Indian scholars should translate Indian books is only someone's opinion, there is no truth or fact in it.

Aparna Krishnan Sailesh Bhupalam philosophy, scriptures need a deep understanding of the context, and the land. If there are deeply read scholars in that land, they would best interprret their works. To the extent that I would question an urban Indian writing on village realities unless he has owned up and moved to a village. Outsider perspectives are often deeply distorted - except that sometimes they force us to think deeper also.

Sailesh Bhupalam The whole country so far has done nothing to translate the works, now that someone is funding it to be translated by a world class scholar, everybody is taking a stand on it, including me. Why were our works not translated to every language in India? I think it is for the same reason that we don't try to do empirical studies on whether astrology is right or whether ayurvedic medicines stand the test of rational method. We are afraid that some of our scriptures and our ancient knowledge may be false. We are afraid of the consequences such studies would have on the psyche of the gullible Indian who believes and reveres everything written in them.
 
Sailesh Bhupalam So we have some utility that they force us to think deeply. I'm sold. Besides, i think the society asking a private person to do something and not the other with his money, because of their opinion of what he is doing seems like a challenge to liberty for me. doesn't sound right. Why can't these people come together and fund a research project and translation by an Indian scholar, at the same time? 

Vidyasankar Sundaresan Au contraire, cotton is something that can be grown year after year and technology can be bought, developed and implemented. Lost cultural and civilizational knowledge is lost forever. Look at world history. The entire knowledge base of the pre Christian West and pre Islamic middle East is gone. How many Indians can even read old scripts? Why aren't the Murthys and the Ambanis and Adanis funding initiatives in India that will sustain better scholarship for our own over the next two hundred years? That's the problem that this petition brings up. I'm not fully in support of it, but I'm not going to brush the core problem aside either.

T.R. Shashwath Vidyasankar Sundaresan "The real question is, why aren't private money and public funds in India supporting the scholars in India?"

The answer is that scholars have been chased out of India. Every time someone writes something that one or other group doesn't agree with, petition to get books banned, protests on the street, books burned, attacks on people,...

Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute!

Vidyasankar Sundaresan Why can't people in a society come together to challenge a private person over how he spends money? If there is a drought and a man with means hoards food, only to give it away to someone who is already well off, people will of course ask questions. Uncomfortable ones.


Sailesh Bhupalam Vidyasankar Sundaresan I respect your right to have an opinion, but that would also mean i respect the person who commissioned this, because he has his rights. But if it were to be a publicly finded project, i would agree with you that we ought to find an Indian scholar who is objective and understands our context better.

 Vidyasankar Sundaresan Yeah right! Do you know how pitiable the state of BORI was, long before a few people broke some tables and chairs there? Scholars have been chased out of India, but not by those whom you accuse. The chasing out happened twenty or thirty years earlier, by people who talked a lot of empty talk about liberty.

 Sailesh Bhupalam Vidyasankar Sundaresan Because when there is justice in acquision of that money there is no right for the society to command. If that were the case no person in his right mind will create utility for the society, because he knows he is, but a slave of the majority, and will be forced to do their bidding with the money that he earned with his labour. So, he might as well be free and not earn his wealth., simply put there will be more famines.

Vidyasankar Sundaresan Sorry, Mr. Murty is already a slave to the majority, which assumes that all good scholarship is to be found only in the West. People who wholeheartedly support this petition or have sympathy for it, even if they ultimately disagree with it, like I do, are definitely in the minority.
 Sailesh Bhupalam But it is Mr Murthy's opinion and he is free to choose it, and not thrust upon him. He might be socialized into the majority but he is not a victim of tyranny.

 T.R. Shashwath Vidyasankar Sundaresan "few people broke some tables and chairs there?"

Now you're justifying mob violence, and I think you need to step back and think of how wrong that is. And if you can't see that, I'm really sorry but there's no point talking to you.

Do you realise that precious manuscripts were destroyed? Do you even understand what that means for scholarship when people like you justify what people like that do to intimidate scholars?

What about the campaign against AK Ramanujam's 400 Ramayanas?

Sailesh Bhupalam well, i've made my points and i rest my case. After all this is just my opinion, i am entitled to it as you are to yours.

 Vidyasankar Sundaresan T.R. Shashwath, that is a deliberate and callous misrepresentation of what I said. Please read carefully and do not presume unwarranted stuff about other people.

 T.R. Shashwath Your statement was a deliberate and callous misrepresentation of what actually happened. The truth is, there doesn't seem to be place for any critical scholarship in today's India.

Vidyasankar Sundaresan And there never will be, so long as people like you view people like Ananya Vajpeyi as scholars and not those whom she airily dismisses as not being scholars. Really, go take another look at the number of Sanskrit scholars with genuine depth who have signed on to it. Forget about the CS and EE professors who have signed it. And if you know ms. Vajpeyi, please pass along some unsolicited advice. Her blind hero worship of Pollock has got to be massively embarrassing for him, personally and professionally. Yes, he matters, but not for the reasons she gives. And she doesn't matter at all, except as an academic version of a rabble rouser.

T.R. Shashwath First, you still haven't made any substantiative critique of her article. Second, you need to do some soul searching and decide whether you really want to be on the side of mobsters who desecrate places of learning.

Yes, there are a few scholars who signed it, but frankly, they're wrong. The petition as it stands is unsupportable, and everyone who signed it, and who supported it, is clearly in the wrong. For reasons, refer to what I said earlier.

Vidyasankar Sundaresan Sorry, not engaging with someone who thinks he's got a convenient stick to beat me up with. If you want to read up on my constructive critiques if various aspects of these issues, read my public fb posts. Or Google my name. Over and out.

 T.R. Shashwath I don't need a stick. You're supporting a position that's parochial and violent. Thankfully you can't influence the MCLI.

 Aparna Krishnan Vidyasankar Sundaresan our differences are not with Mr. Murthy or Mr. Shaswat. The entire tribe of Educated Indians have only disdain for themselves. It is at some other level we need to address. If Ms. Vaypeyi can claim centre space for tripe it is very indicative of the situation. I take heart from the fact that ordinary rural people are grounded in ways that the ducated cannot even imagine. But these Educated Indians are making inroads there also to school them - and I can see the effects of the schooling. In a generation they cultivate a contempt for themselves. Here it is contempt for the idea that there is scholarship in India. There in the villages it is a more basic comtempt they learn for their livlihoods, and their medicines. Somehow they have not gopt alienated from their gods and festivals thro' schooling yet .
  

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