Ragini Sharma responds to Shatavadhani GAnesh

Here is another response to Shatavadhani Ganesh from Ragini Sharma.

Dear Ganesh,
I am writing in response to your recent review of Rajiv Malhotra’s new book, Battle for Sanskrit.  I am sorry to say, but Rajiv Malhotra (RM) certainly did not need or deserve, what appears to me, your dramatic put down. Your insinuation that he has been ‘unprepared’ or ‘hasty’ in the kurukshetra is simply ridiculous given that RM has spent 25 years doing his purva-paksh of western Indology. How many years, may I ask, have you spent in doing that? Your review comes across as passive-aggressive when you first chide him to not “act in haste” but at the same time you state that you “wholeheartedly applaud his efforts and we shall stand shoulder to shoulder with him.” I don’t know about others, but to me your response to RM’s major review of Pollock’s political philology is not one would expect from someone who claims to support RM.
I am unsure what you were trying to achieve or to prove by your extensive explanation of the qualities of a ‘great scholar’. Your insinuation that Malhotra is not a great scholar is not something one would expect from someone who is willing to “stand shoulder to shoulder” with RM. Your suggestion that in order to do purva paksh of Indology of outsiders, the insiders must first understand the full corpus of Hinduisms underlying philosophy seems to me a scheme for you to excuse yourself for not doing purva paksh of Indology yourself. Have you read Pollock’s work the way RM has? What is your response to Pollock’s political philology of Hindu dharmic texts? That is what RM’s sole purpose is – to engage Sanskrit scholars.
Your insinuation that RM suffers a “narrowness of mental outlook” is shameful given that RM has written four major books, is the main protagonist of another major book and thousands of tweets, blogs and articles in numerous spheres – a rather incredible depth of work. As well, RM has appeared in hundreds of interviews to engage with, explore and clarify why Hinduism is under attack from every side. There is a huge awakening among Hindus about the issues, threats and challenges facing dharma due to his hard work. Do you deny his major contributions or his influence?
That you are a varisht Sanskrit scholar is evident in your article but it seems self-serving rather that as a review of RM’s TBFS book. What I mean is that your article skirts around the main issue that RM raises – that of Pollock’s political philology. YOU DO NOT STATE WHAT IS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF POLLOCK’S WORK and that makes me wonder if you have read Pollock’s work in the depth that RM has. Does your ego prevent you from giving credit where it is deserved? I could at this point cite a verse from the Bhagavad Gita on the perils of ego but that would be rude, just as you were to RM in this review.
You go on to say that Malhotra’s intent is “noble”. What makes you think that RM needs your approval of his intent? Who are you judge his intent and what is the role of intent in scholarship? Can we let his work speak for itself as should yours? RM has clearly laid out the purpose of his book in the concluding chapter of his book. Prominently he talks about the need for a “home team” of insider Sanskrit scholars, like you, to provide the uttar-paksh which he openly acknowledges he is not trained to do since he is not a Sanskrit scholar. He clearly stated that he is only providing the purva paksh in this matter.
Your lecture to him on Hinduism having a tradition of ‘dissent’ is well known to RM (he’s written extensively about it) and most others – that is not the point of RM book on Sanskrit. The point of TBFS book is to impress upon insiders that outsiders like Pollock, who do not have shraddha etc. have gained control on the discourse on Sanskrit and by extension, on Sanskriti. His assertion is not that outsiders do not have a right to write on Sanskrit/Sanskriti but rather that the adhikara to explain the meaning of the sacred Sanskrit texts such as the Ramayana belongs to the insiders. The need of the hour, according to RM, is for the insiders to provide a robust response to the outsiders about the meaning of dharmic texts such as the Ramayana.
The stark differences between the understanding of our dharma/Sanskriti by outsiders and insiders hit me recently when I viewed Pollock’s Tehelka video interview. In this interview he was asked how he came to develop an interest in Sanskrit. Pollock’s shocking response was something to the effect that he wished that Goddess Saraswati had come in his dream as his lover to entice him. I don’t think I need to process this further, you get the picture.
Also, I would like to add that in the appendix, in the section on “Partially incorrect claims” in which you have critiqued RM’s work, I draw your attention to your point #7 on the “four levels of speech”. You state that Malhotra’s explanation that there are four “levels” of speech is incorrect. You state.
They are not four ‘levels’ of speech but rather the four ‘stages.’ From conception to utterance, an idea is said to pass through four stages – paraa (before thought), pashyanti (thought), madhyamaa (on the verge of utterance) and vaikhari (utterance). The ancient seers were able to go from paraa to vaikhari instantly (see Vicaraprapañca of Sediapu)
 I would like to inform you that perhaps you are incorrect and RM is correct in his explanation. I say this not because I am a Sanskrit scholar but because of how His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has explained these terms, and I quote Sri Sri below.
There are four levels of speech:
1.           Vaikhari is the level of speech that we are all using now to communicate.
2.           Madhyama is subtler than Vaikhari, where you don’t need language to communicate, but just intentions or feelings help to communicate. It is like you would communicate with people who don’t understand your language or with babies who throw tantrums to tell you that they are hungry or sleepy, or communicate through different signs. Madhyama is subtler than speech, even animals and trees use Madhyama to communicate.
3.           Pashyanti is where you simply recognize the knowledge without words or language. It is like deep intuition. Sometimes, when you go deep into meditation, you may hear some chanting or words, or you might get some ideas. When ideas come without language, it is called Pashyanti. A seer would recognize a little bit of that, from somewhere deep. All scientific discoveries happen from the Pashyanti level.
Para, beyond Pashyanti, is the universal language or the source of all expressions. In deep Samadhi or total stillness, you are connected with Para. No verbal communication is needed. Actually, real communication happens from Para, it is just the vibration that communicates. All the other talking that we do, from the Vaikhari level, is only to keep the mind engaged. The mind cannot capture communication from the level of Para, only the soul understands it. Para is the language of the soul. The mind needs some entertainment; the entertainment of the mind is Vaikhari, the language that we speak.

This indicates that it is not essential that speech necessarily goes through the four stages as you have stated and instead, speech can be viewed as "levels". In this way His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's explanation is aligned more with the way RM has explained speech.
My intention here is not to put you down but to show that while you were so quick and loud in challenging RM on his interpretation of Sanskrit, there are others who are equally able to challenge your explanation. Such diversity of interpretations is welcome in our tradition!
The point that RM is making in TBFS is that the threat to Sanskrit and Sanskriti is from outsiders such as Pollock who have taken control of the academic discourse on the meaning of Hindu dharma shastras and that the insiders need to wake up and work together to provide a strong response and to reclaim the adhikar to speak for Hindu dharma, including Sanskrit, as the language of many our shastras.
From what I have heard from RM, he respects you as a Sanskrit scholar and he has invited you on numerous occasions to join the home team towards this collective yagna. I do hope you will join the ‘home team’ towards this worthwhile effort. Will you walk your talk of working shoulder to shoulder with RM? I do hope so. Om Shanti.
Warm regards,
Ragini Sharma, MSW, PhD Candidate

Krishna Chivukula responds to Shatavadhani Ganesh's article on Rajiv Malhotra

Below is forum member Krishna Chivukula's response to Shatavadhani Ganesh's critique of TBFS.

SaG Quote:Malhotra’s intent is noble (and something that we too share) but his understanding of the nature of sanatana dharma as a transcendental system is flawed. He aims to show that Hinduism is exclusivist in its own way and its exclusivism is somehow better than other exclusivist faiths like Christianity or Islam (see his previous book, Being Different). His line of reasoning would reduce this battle to a Communist vs. Theologist type scuffle (and yet he accuses his enemies of being anti-transcendence; see pp. 97, 116). His approach goes against Gaudapada’s observation – “Dualists have firm beliefs in their own systems and are at loggerheads with one another but the non-dualists don’t have a quarrel with them. The dualists may have a problem with non-dualists but not the other way around.” (Mandukya Karika 3.17-18)
There is enough in this opening line to consider SaG an insider. Therefore, formally it also qualifies him to question RM's understanding of Sanata Dharma. What follows is inconsistent. RM devoted a whole book, Indra's Net, to show why it is not exclusivist. SaG must take a more complete approach to studying RM and his works. To many current Hindus, RM's works must be treated as sound bases of Hindu understanding, and qualified insider expositions of Sanaatana Dharma. This reduction of RM's works to some dvandvas such asexclusivist vs non exclusivist or Communist vs. Theologist is unfair. As Einstein said "Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler"
SaG Quote:Malhotra’s understanding of Sanskrit and Sanskriti seems second hand since he puts a premium on form (rupa) as against content (svarupa) and uses pseudo-logic instead of non-qualified universal experiential wisdom to counter the enemies (see pp. 44-49 for an elaborate but hazy diagnosis of the problem).
This interpretation of RM's understanding of Samskritam/Sanskriti is not relevant to the discussion in the book. This is another instance of SaG losing sight of RM's intent in this work. RM has demonstrated phenomenal application of western logic to develop a lethal attack model against the Western Indologists. I see his work as the function of German panzer spearheads of the Wehrmacht of early WW2 – lethal clearing of the enemy defenses and prepare ground for the long term occupation. SaG must join the long term forces, dig in, and establish firm defense lines for the future. He (RM) has never claimed to be a know all and has always invited quality debates with open arms. Sniping does no good to anyone.
SaG Quote:Further, he is also confused with some of the basic terms like sastra, kavya and veda. The irony is that Malhotra himself doesn’t know as much formal Sanskrit as the Indologists he is out to battle. Now, this is not a problem for a spiritualist who is unaffected by form. But Malhotra is fighting the battle on the arena of form, so he has no option but to become thorough with Sanskrit and Sanskriti in form.
RM has openly admitted that his knowledge of Samskritam is not where it needs to be. Not sure what the whining here is about RM's staunch defense of samskritam. He is not proposing to battle these Indologists himself and is advocating a qualified team of insiders. What is so wrong there?
SaG Quote:"For Malhotra, the starting point of this battle is European Orientalism. And since he tends to ignore the strong internal differences – often clubbing all insider views as ‘the traditionalist view’ (see p. 6, for example) – his argument is rendered weaker. In the Indian tradition, different schools of Vedanta – advaita, dvaita, dvaitadvaita, shuddhadvaita, vishishtadvaita and others – revere the Vedas equally but claim that the ..
This is exactly what RM means by Traditionalists not understanding English! SaG fails to see RM's thrust in the book.
SaG Quote:Also, his suggestion for the revival of Sanskrit is to produce new knowledge in Sanskrit. Is this even practical given that scholars from many mainstream non-English languages (like Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Spanish, etc.) are finding it hard to make a name for themselves in the academic community, which is under the firm grip of English?
This worries me most about this Scholar. This one paragraph will want to make me not call him by the Samskritam word "पण्डितः " . True पण्डिताः are not worried about fame or making a name. पण्डिताः produce knowledge to defend dharma.
SaG Quote:When Malhotra speaks about American Orientalism appropriating the Indian Left, some of his claims sound like conspiracy theories. Further, he seems to be ignorant of the voluminous writings of D D Kosambi, Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, R S Sharma, and Rahul Sankrityayan, who opposed Sanskrit and/or Sanskriti long before this supposed American collusion (and even when he mentions Kosambi and Sharma, it is in passing).
A lot of truth unfortunately is stranger than fiction. BTW, RM has acknowledged the volume of DDK's writing and his intellect. Argument is about how all of that empowers Breaking India elements. SaG and many traditionalists have no clue about American propaganda machinery and its sophisticated power.
SaG Quote:Tucked away in the second chapter is a veiled disclaimer – “Both Indian and Western scholars have extensively criticized the European approaches towards India that prevailed during the colonial era.” (p. 52) but this cannot, sadly, absolve Malhotra of his blatant disregard to the past masters (in spite of his ostentatious dedication line to “our purva-paksha and uttara-paksha debating tradition…”) Not stopping at ignoring the remarkable scholars of the past and present, in several places in his book, Malhotra directly accuses Indian scholars of either being unwillingly complicit with the enemies (p. 68), or being irresponsible (p. 15), or being uninterested (p. 44), or being unaware of Western scholarship (p. 1). He lacks empathy for the numerous scholars who are deeply involved in their own research – be it a specific aspect of Sanskrit grammar, or the accurate dating of an ancient scholar, or preparing a critical edition of a traditional text. And to top it all, Malhotra writes in several places that he is the first person to undertake such a task (see pp. 27, 44, or 379, for example), which as we know is false.
I have seen no "blatant disregard to past masters" in any of RM's works. Indra's Net assiduously works to defend Shankara and Vivekanda alike and in fact delves into the underlying unity in the works of those two "past masters". There is also no denying that a lot of Scholars of the past were responsible for teaching the William Joneses, Mullers and the other European Indologists for making a name. They were scholars, notपण्डिताः. The Kshatriya in RM is doing today what the older generations failed to do - defend the ideological ground. If what RM says is known to be false (as the claim in the last line says), SaG should prove it.
SaG Quote:The assiduous efforts of Malhotra in writing The Battle for Sanskrit bears fruit in one department – a meticulous analysis of the works of Sheldon Pollock. While it is the saving grace of the book, it is also an indicator of Malhotra’s obsession with Western academia, to the extent that the reader gets the impression that Hinduism will not survive unless Western academia views it in a better light.
While this reflects the grace of an insider, the ignorance of the Western Academia within the Indian Intelligentia is producing a mutant sepoy community of the Ananya Vajpeyi kind. These are Breaking India forces that only a few true Kshatryias understand better than the scholars - RM is a modern IK. He is not advocating to see Western Academia in better light - he is showing logically that it is not a force you ignore. Pretty soon you will left with a noxious environment where Hinduism is dead if you do not defend it.
SaG Quote:The battle for Sanskrit and Sanskriti is not a new one. Sanatana dharma has survived years of onslaught from many quarters in many guises. But this doesn’t mean that we should ignore the current threats. Malhotra has given a new shape to the debate and because of his influence, this message has spread widely. As he himself writes, it is hoped that more Indian scholars will get on board and provide fitting responses to Malhotra’s red flagging of problematic areas in Pollock’s discourse.
This is one of the many instances of Malhotra’s monolithic view of Indian culture and tradition.
Huh! So there have been battles before then, Mr. SaG? Has SaG fought any of the “not new” battles for Sanskrit? Even as a foot soldier? SaG knows nothing about such battles with Academia for he is holed up in his merry arrogance of gross literary entertainment and glowing in the laurels fools shower him in. Is he really capable of reading through one paper of Pollock? Granted his English may be a couple of grades better than then kitchen grade that 90% English-knowing desis know, but that is hardly enough to sift through Pollock's language (which I think SP uses to mask logic, but that is RM's job). And, how is RM's a Monolithic view of culture and tradition? Another case of lamenting if very childish and futile, by a deeply peeved “drunk” Scholar.
SaG Quote:The four ‘levels’ of speech (p. 108)
Malhotra’s explanation is incorrect (and he doesn’t give any references for this too). They are not four ‘levels’ of speech but rather the four ‘stages.’ From conception to utterance, an idea is said to pass through four stages – paraa (before thought), pashyanti (thought), madhyamaa (on the verge of utterance) and vaikhari (utterance). The ancient seers were able to go from paraa to vaikhari instantly (see Vicaraprapañca of Sediapu Krishna Bhat).
Above is an example of a totally irrelevant digression from the topic of the book.
SaG Quote:Malhotra’s pseudo-logic is like the trap of Nyaya that later advaitis fell victim to. See Shankara’s comment on nayyayikas in his commentaries on the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad and the Brahma Sutra. [..] Nyaya operates at the level of adhibhuta, but Vedanta operates at the level of adhyatma.
What is psuedo logic? At least name the fallacy here, SaG - I would like to learn!
SaG Quote:The same applies to the Western Orientalists or the Indian Leftists, who are crass materialists. And why should we use Western jargons and systems to study Indian works? We must work out our own way. [followed by BLAH BLAH BLAH!]
This is silo mentality that RM is cautioning against. Coupled with the previous statement in his Conclusion [The battle for Sanskrit and Sanskriti is not a new one. Santana dharma has survived years of onslaught from many quarters in many guises.] this is pure taamas.
There is a lot more in this writing that proves beyond doubt SaG is upset he will end up being a foot soldier even if he chooses to be an insider. SaG is very concerned he will not get the fame of having started this battle with the Western Academia even though he is a scholar of Samskritam. May be this IK just called him out of some self gratifying Avadhaanam revelry and told him he is only drunk with Samskritam, not serving its ultimate cause. Shame!

Rajiv Malhotra's preliminary response to Shatavadhani Ganesh

Shatavadhani Ganesh reviewed The Battle for Sanskrit here.

Rajiv Malhotra's preliminary response to the review is as below. A more detailed response is to follow soon.

I just read Shri R. Ganesh's critique of my book closely. I am going to develop a detailed point by point response. But meanwhile, I wanted to say a few things for now:

I wish to start by thanking him for showing so much interest in my work. It is a very useful criticism for various reasons. For one thing, all such responses, regardless of their substance or reliability, serve to wake up the traditional scholars and compel them to pay attention to the prevailing intellectual battlefield. Furthermore, such criticisms also give me a chance to take my book’s debates deeper. His criticism is well-intended, and he seems to want to “outsmart” my purva-paksha of Pollock. That is most helpful and welcome.

However, there are numerous serious errors, misunderstanding and contradictions, both in substance and in the logic used by him.

For one thing, he does not seem to have read much (if anything) of Pollock directly, and uses my work as secondary access to the subject matter. (Ironically, he criticizes me for relying upon secondary works on Sanskrit texts.) This deprives him of the full context of Pollock's writings that I am evaluating. He also lacks an adequate understanding of the broader Western idiom and theories in which Pollock's work is couched. It is misleading (though a common bad habit) to surgically pluck out a sentence here and there and comment on it. Pollock's work has to be understood holistically first, and it becomes clear that Ganesh has not taken the time to do that. My detailed response will show this shortcoming of Ganesh in specific cases.

Nor does he seem to have understood my book correctly. He also cites one of my prior books, but misunderstands it on important issues. For instance, he asserts that I am against the diversity of Indian traditions. Nobody who has followed my work would say such a thing. In fact, my earlier book, Being Different, which he cites, says the exact opposite: it contrasts Indian diversity with the Western normative quality and Abrahamic emphasis upon "one truth".

Actually, a central highlight of Being Different is that it goes beyond the common platitudes we read about our diversity, and proposes a comprehensive theory on why this is so. The contrast between what I call history-centrism and adhyatma-vidya are key building blocks I have introduced to explain not just the diversity in our traditions, but more importantly why this diversity exists. This insight as to the underlying causes of diversity in one civilization and monoculture in the other civilization is worked out in considerable detail in my work. I doubt that Ganesh has understood the depth of this theory.

Later on, in my subsequent book, Indra's Net, I develop this thesis further into what I call the open architecture of dharma systems. Not only is there immense diversity, but at the same time there is profound underlying unity - hence there is no fear of chaos as in the case of the Abrahamic systems. There is no control-obsession in our culture to the extent of the West. I explain why this is not, whereas most writers have been content merely stating that this is so, without adequately asking why.

Given that this theory of our diversity has been one of my important areas of work, I find it disappointing that Ganesh not only remains ignorant of it, but that he misrepresents me in exactly the opposite direction.

Besides his inadequate understanding of both Pollock’s and my writings, Ganesh is also making some illogical statements. Ironically, these are made with the stated purpose of exposing "Malhotra's pseudo-logic". I will explain this in my detailed article.

I will also argue against Ganesh's understanding of our tradition in specific instances, the area where he should be much more qualified than I am. No doubt he has immense memory and citation expertise. I admire him greatly for these accomplishments. But just as an ipod machine can recite millions of things without always understanding them, I will show where he lacks proper understanding of our traditional worldview on the very topics he discusses very explicitly in this article.

Finally, I will address the issue he starts out with: whether I am qualified to do such a project. Our tradition has encouraged and even valorized innovative thinkers who seemed to lack formal training, but who successfully challenged those with eminent “credentials”. This is an instance of his arrogance, and I shall dwell upon the merits of a given individual’s background. I will explain what exactly the project here is about (which he does not seem to grasp properly), and my relevant experience and expertise in doing it; I will let the reader decide for himself.

In fact, I will question whether Ganesh has the required intellectual training in specific areas of competence that are necessary for this kind of work that I have undertaken. I doubt he has much real-world experience in the global intellectual kurukshetra, which is not to be confused with meetings of “like-minded people” sitting in India. For the global battlefield, what would be the relevant experience equivalent to his 1,000 avadhanas? I submit it is the experience of going into the line of enemy fire, surrounded by a hundred opponents or even more, and being able to hold one’s ground, and come out wiser for the next encounter. I have had these (well over 1,000) live experiences in audiences where I have been the only Indian or Hindu, where there is blatant intimidation and mockery, where every attempt has been made to belittle such attempts, and where I had nothing personal to gain and all my reputation and social credibility to lose.

These are two entirely different types of yajnas Ganesh and I have done. In my case, it entailed a sacrifice of my thriving professional life in order to dedicate myself for 25 years to do this with full intensity. I will explain what I have learned that is critical for the present undertaking, and how the lack of this capability is a handicap Ganesh is blissfully oblivious of. While I am aware of my shortcomings and explain in my book the necessity for qualified insiders like Ganesh to join as team players, he seems to lack the self-reflection required to appreciate his own limitations in this battle. So the appreciation and respect is one-way, unfortunately: I appreciate his value as an intellectual warrior.

I am preparing a more detailed response to some of the glaring errors in Ganesh's article. I shall do this in the same spirit as the article by Ganesh – i.e. in keeping with the Indian tradition to debate opponents with mutual respect. We must set aside issues of personality, who is who in credentials or public image. Let us focus only on facts and arguments.

I will be back in a few days.



Response to Shatavadhani Ganesh

Shatavadhani Ganesh wrote a review of The Battle for Sanskrit.

Praveen after reading it had some questions and Rajiv Malhotra has provided some answers. Rajiv's answers are highlighted in yellow.

My Honest Thought after reading the article of R Ganesh regarding Rajiv Jis Book. Indeed there was a personal touch of R Ganesh to Rajivji, but article as a whole was questioning the way of considering the Indian Tradition by RajivJi.

1. R Ganesh makes point that , Transcendence would not happen without the Text, art etc as pramaanas and internalizing those would lead to Liberation/Transcendance.Indeed care should be taken that it would not become an mere intelelctual excersise!. Hence those are necessary without which transcendance is not possible what he claims!. In Rajiv Talks even I have heard many times, that even there are no texts or any form of pre-existing "Thing" are not needed for transcendence for Rishis State.

Does pre-existing Eternal Truth knowledge is required as pramaana to transcendence ?

[Rajiv: A) Ramana Maharshi said after attaining realization that the texts confirmed what he had already realized. B) if text is pre-requisite to attainment then how did the first rishi attain insight of shruti? Also, would you dismiss the non-text based attainments of bhaktas, tantrics, etc? C) Is ULTIMATE realization all that matters, or do 99.99% of us expect to advance at levels less than that. I find this approach by Ganesh characteristic of bookworms citing "ultimate" states, when in fact our issues here and now are to get ordinary folks moving ahead from whatever their starting point is. When I meet such lofty folks, I congratulate them for their "attainment" (though I find them chasing the most mundane things in their daily lives), and then I request they leave the rest of us alone who are trying to improve daily lives using dharma. I find this snobbish pretense of discussing the ultimate states a form of escapism and no more. It is this attitude that enabled western indologists and evangelists to brand Hinduism as being incapable of addressing practical problems; hence the need for foreign interventions to save our fellow Indians. D) Bottom line: I reject this as the starting point criteria to evaluate my purva paksha of Pollock, which is not premised on whether his or my work leads to moksha.]

2. He states, Rajivji is making a claim that he is a first out to study this field and argue back and Rajivji is disowning the Past Masters who have also argued back to such blatent studies! I also had tweeted some of the thoughts matching with Sri SL Bhairappa. But question is where does the Gap resides ?

i)Is really Rajivji disowning the past masters who are argued back "Especially" The traditional scholars? or is it that even though they argued it was only in academic circle not reaching the mass! or is it that Systematic Study of Indology mis-interpritation/representation was only started after Rajivji?

Things to be considered here is , even though there may be little bit phylosophical difference in understanding! Rajiv Ji has always accepted that he is no expert in it, but working his best on his spiritual path understanding. Where does the Gap resides? what shoud bother us in this regard? Phylosophy or Defending and Arguing back for Distortion of Phylosphy based on traditional views what we know?

[Rajiv: My approach to past masters is to practice under guidance of living gurus, and texts do not comprise the main access to the past. I access the past through the living present in sadhana, in gurus, in deities. I am not history-centric or text-centric.
3.Ganesh is bit disturbed about Calling Scholars Soldout! as he says Rajivji is discrediting so many scholars who are doing Good to their best. Remark: I think Ganesh has not read him correctly as he only discredits those who are soldout and not those who are not!

4.Ganesh says that Rajivji has not gone through the regional texts and scholars, Expecting something from a person, that too who has taken self initiative to inform the masses to study in depth and doing bit and asking him to do more work without helping him in any way is not a way of a Good Scholar what I believe. [Rajiv I have worked hard and at great risk to myself to promote the cause of traditional scholarship in the form of Swadeshi Indology. Where has Ganesh been all these decades when he enjoyed all the glamor, credibility and know how to be able to champion the cause of swadeshi Indology? Why not a single purva paksha by him of Western Indology? Why does he not channel his energy in thie matter to target Pollock instead? Has his insecurity become exposed becasue I am asking traditional scholars to get out of their silos?]

5.He asks why divide Sacred and Beauty ? Indeed we know there is beauty involved in the Sacred Set, Beauty is subset of Sacredness. But what he fails to understand is The Beauty that SPs are talking is not only about Sanskrit Text which are worldy affirming n not connected to Transcendence! But they are trying to bring down the Sacred&Beauty of Transcendance knowledge to merely worldly more than that insert some of their own thinking which does not exist here. [Rajiv: Correct. Ganesh violates the method of purva paksha by not reading Pollock before jumping to conclusions about his work.]

6. Ganesh is critical of some of the Sanskrit words and their meaning used , I thought which must be welcomed with right critics. But reducing rajiv ji to nobody and one of the normal is indeed a mistake ! Because the critics of Traditional Scholars and issues did not reach the masses! now its Digital Age hence mass reaching has become critical to progress in it. Not only work with Academic but also Mass. Making a network of right thoughts which are of right views is indeed necessary to servive.

Apart from above , he indeed talk in favour of Rajivs thoughts, also questioning is not a bad thing! I would urge Rajivji also not to dismiss this S Ganesh critics so easily as just a personal review! Indeed we need chanaakya Neeti applied to onboard.[Rajiv: I have tried and tried to engage Ganesh for the past decade. Dr TS Mohan in Bangalore who organizes my events has approached Ganesh on numerous occasions. Pls convey your sentiments to him and ask him to stop being so cynical toward anything I do. I want him on our home team and he must stop feeling threatened by my call to action by traditional scholars to do their job i purva paksha.

Finally: A hidden war has started in recent weeks by the Western Indologists to co-opt Indian scholars and do their dirty work. One prominent scholr at a prestigious Sanskrit university in Karnataka first endorsed my work and promised to join the purva paksha (on video); but then a couple of days later wrote in an email that criticizing Pollock should be avoided in order to get a few crores from Sudha Murty!!! Wow!]

Sheldon Pollock's 'Aestheticization of Power' Targets Tamil Pallavas

(shared by HemaC, forum member. Comment by Rajiv Malhotra at the end of this post)
Dear All,

Literary, Arts and Heritage Forum
Indian Institute of Science Campus,
Bengaluru - 560 012

is pleased to invite you to a talk on

“The Aesthetics of Power: Representations of Kingship within the Early Pallava Imperium”


​​Mekhola Gomes
Doctoral Scholar, Centre for Historical Studies,
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Chairperson : Naresh Keerthi, NIAS

Date:               Monday, 21st March, 2016
Time:               4:30 pm
Venue:             Lecture Hall, NIAS

Abstract:   The period of Pallava rule in Tamil Nadu was a dynamic time in South Indian history, with innovations in several spheres. These included the construction of cave-shrines, structural temples, creation of new iconographies, and inscriptional encomiums. In this talk, I attend to the changing aesthetics of power in the Pallava kingdom through a juxtaposition of texts and images. Starting the 4th century CE, inscriptional genealogies praised Pallava kings in innovative ways. These innovations were elaborated within and through the construction of royal cave-shrines and structural temples beginning the 7th century CE.  Through inscriptional  panegyrics, the construction of cave-shrines, and structural temples, the Pallavas inaugurated a new aesthetics of power. This emergent aesthetics of power was created within and through a larger field of representation. I will compare representational strategies of kingship within inscriptions of the Early Pallavas with visual delineations of power in rock-cut cave- shrines and stone temples.  I suggest that the Pallavas created a new aesthetics of power in early south India, through both the textual and visual and it is only through the interpretation of text and image together that we can fully appreciate the emergence of this new aesthetic.

About the Speaker: Mekhola Gomes is a doctoral scholar in early Indian history at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her thesis, explores representations and practices of political power in the Deccan, between the 3rd and 8th centuries CE. She is co-editing a forthcoming volume on the epigraphical (re)turn in the study of ancient Indian history.

* * * * * * * *

All are cordially invited

For further information, please contact. Naresh Keerthi

K S Rama Krishna

N.I.A.S., I.I.Sc Campus
Bengaluru 560012
Ph:   2218 5000
Fax: 2218 5028

Rajiv Malhotra: Thanks for this post. It shows my claim that Pollock's thesis has spread far and wide, getting installed deep into our intellectual institutions. Yet our side has very few IKs bothering to read my response, as that entails serious study. Also, note that NIAS did not want to invite me whereas the Pollock side gets hosted there. I would love to debate this fellow whose job seems to be to implement Pollock's theory by supplying Indian examples.

What the Buddhist translation project can teach Rohan Murty and the rest of us

By Rajiv Malhotra

The Buddhists have been diligently at work on a massive translation project that is expected to continue for a few generations. There is a lot to learn from this. Please visit this site for an idea of the well organized long-term Buddhist translation project: http://84000.co/about/vision

The translators are from across the world. So its not about ethnicity/race/citizenship. The point is that 56% of them are from dharma ashrams, and the remaining 44% are academics mostly initiated by Dalai Lama or some other major Buddhist guru. Hence almost all of them are insiders to that tradition.

The funding is from diverse sources of practicing Buddhists. There is no one money bag in control, nor one larger-than-life editor who decides and who is too big to criticize (such as Sheldon Pollock).

The standards, policies and ideological guidelines, are set by Buddhist insiders. Each translation gets reviewed to check for compliance with this.

The project is explicitly seen as having its central purpose to protect the spiritual legacy - i.e. no question of secularizing the texts or looking for "human rights violations" in them.

Note there is a similar very large project in China to build a library of ancient Mandarin works, another project in Korea for their legacy, in Japan, etc.

Why did Rohan Murty not survey similar projects before deciding how to proceed with his MCLI? Why has no journalist writing on the MCLI controversy mentioned these other role models we can learn from?

I thought it is standard practice that before embarking upon a massive undertaking that will last decades, it is a good idea to closely examine other similar projects.

I am so glad that Dr. Sampadananda Mishra, originator of the Vande Mataram Library initiative, is going to look at this Buddhist project for ideas.

Bill Gates' new dangerous project in India

Rajiv Malhotra wrote:

Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate and one of the richest men of his time, had the long term vision of building a few thousand libraries that would loan out books about American greatness. Ordinary citizens would learn about history through the white man's lens, about the founding fathers, etc. The publicly stated stated purpose was to spread education.

Now Gates has announced a plan that Indians need to examine quickly and closely. We must put in place some checks and balances as to what kind of books will be available there. If it is the Jaipur Lit Fest variety or what the leftist media-wallahs will decide, then watch out. Maybe their favorite NGOs will get the job to do.

I am unsure if the authorities even understand how such strategies work. Like in the case of co-opting Kumbh Mela officials with nice talk and personal PR, it wont be difficult for Gates to get Indian authorities lined up to shower their gratitude.

Literature is not ideologically neutral. The choice, the tilt, spin, etc will matter. This coud turn unto another battle front just like NCERT books and mass media.


Errors and distortions in the MCLI translated Surdas poetry called Sur's Ocean

Professor Gopinath has started analysing translations from MCLI. In this post he analyses Sur's Ocean, translated by John Stratton Hawley, of the original Hindi collection of poems of Sant Surdas.

He says:

--- Q: Have you got a chance to read any of the Murty Library books? If yes, what do you think of them?

I have ordered some but only one has arrived (Surdas's). I randomly selected poem no. 364 (p. 618) of this book for a closer look. There is something afoot here already:

While Lakshman is calling the boatman as “bhaiyya”, the boatman also refers to Lakshman as “bhaiyya” in the original Hindi text (and all the different versions of the original text seem to agree on this; see p. 911). Curiously, the boatman calling Lakshman as a “bhaiyya” is not reflected in the translation. Is it that the translation/translator wants us to believe that the Indic world is strictly hierarchical? To my ("untutored") mind, the Hindi text (Surdas’s) has the boatman respond to Lakshman in a bantering and familiar tone but the translation makes it look very “proper” and respectful! Also, note that Lakshman calls out “bhaiyya” 3 times while the boatman 4 times in the original Hindi text!

The book is certainly attractively produced (printed in India!) but one aspect struck me also. The name of the translated book as “Sursagar" is nowhere on the title page and starts to appear, if you hunt for it, only from p. xii (and only on the sideflap, etc); only the name “Sur’s Ocean” appears prominently. A casual reader may miss the connection with Sursagar. Luckily, this volume has both Devanaagiri on the left page and the translation on the right page for the poems itself. But in the introduction only Roman is used; for example, where the metre is being discussed, Devanaagiri would have been far more appropriate and should have been given side-by-side with Roman. I believe that such a situation is unsatisfactory and it will be nice for any serious translation exercise to ensure that an Indic script version (not just with roman diacritical marks) is placed side-by-side of any Indic word in any “English” document. For eg. no [Nitish] by itself but [నీతీష Niitiish], or [नीतीष Niitiish], or even [नीतीष నీతీష Niitiish] for multillingual contexts. This ensures accuracy of pronunciation, etc.

I am personally mortified that Paanini who took such painstaking efforts to get the minutest grammatical aspects right is dishonoured by all of us (esp in the English world) by not even taking the efforts to write/pronounce isolated words like Niitiish correctly. (I have seen a few Hindi newspapers and they are doing fine.) This is especially true for any effort that is supported partially or fully with Indian funds (incl. GoI). Adding to all this, in the Lib. of Congress catalogue, as per the frontmatter of the book, the author is "Suradasa" (2 extra a's)!

Distortions in Sheldon Pollock's translations

A twitter user put out the below critique of Pollock's work

The term used for this state by Bhatta Nāyaka, apparently for the first

time at least in the literary-critical context, is visrānti (which will becomes so important for Abhinawagupta). This absorptive experience is an event unique to the aesthetic and completely different from normal experience (anubhava) and memory. It is, as Mammata restated it, "a full repose in the true nature of one's own consciousness", rendered so completely joyful and luminous that it is akin to the ecstasy of religious self-transcendence given that “the self other differentiation has vanished", as Dhanika says.” We should remember, however, what Bhattanāyaka himself tells us in one of the few preserved fragments, that this religious experience is in fact inferior: “Nothing can compare with [aesthetic rasa], not even the rasa spiritual adepts bring forth" (appendix #3).

In above para, Pollock very cleverly appropriates and rejects Parmarthika bliss as inferior by comparing with "spiritual adept"?
In terms of the three-part Mīmāmsā paradigm, these components represent the means (abhidhá), the method (bhāvakatva), and the what (bhogikrttva) of literary “reproduction", and we may synthesize as follows: Aesthetic experience (this is the kim or sādhya) arises thanks to a conceptual transformation of the literary elements (the foundational factor and so on) via "commonalization" (this is the kena, or sadhana or karana), which for its part is made possible by the unique powers of literary language (this is the katham oritikartavyata).” The term of art by...

51. Abhinava tries, quite shamelessly, to reappropriate this triad for his own view (DhAL, p. 189; Ingalls et al., p. 225).

The reference 51 calls Abhinawa Gupta as shamelessly appropriating!! Anyone who has read Prattignya and Trika Shastra understands the importance and use of Triads is much older and a fundamental spiritual approach to understand world

Purvapaksha of Wendy Doniger edited 'Purana Perennis'

Chatsinn, a member of the Rajiv Malhotra discussion forum discovered when browsing through the MCLI website, the CV of Velchuru Narayana Rao who is part of the translation team for the 'Story of Manu' or Manucharitra in Telugu.

Velchuru was also one of the contributors of the book Purana Perennis, edited by Wendy Doniger. Chatssin says that a reading of the book throws up the same biases that are seen in Pollock's work. Apart from the biases, there are also very fundamental errors in the translation. He says there is a very casual attitude in the writing which discounts the sacred dimension of our texts. He also observes that the tool of political philology is predominantly used for the interpretation of the texts.

He says:

-When talking about the objective of the book below is her [Doniger] statement, tone was so demeaning and devoid of any shraddha. And the statement also shows colonial hegemony of projecting themselves as saviours who are reviving the puranas. But In India these are already widespread and well read by common man.

"If Vedic texts were Brahmins of Indology, the puranas were the untouchables. We all felt that study of these neglected traditions was long overdue as a kind of puranic affirmative action. The essays in this book represent a first step in that direction." (pg 59)

There is another chapter titled “Purana as Brahminic Ideology” by V Narayana Rao who looks like a sepoy of the Cabal. For him our civilization is a Brahminic civilization and he is looking even the scientific Hindu calendar from Marxist lens.

"India has three different ways of conceptualizing time and space, all of which are still at work in the lives of Indian people. The low-caste, nonliterate people have folk concept of time/space, uppercaste Sanskrit-educated Brahmins have a puranic concept of time/space, and the western educated Indians have a modern concept of time/space." (pg88)

But if you go deep into the further chapters it is not a dharmic study of puranas but a crass political study. She [Doniger] is referring to Skanda Purana as “Scrap Purana”.

"In this world of ever-shifting puranic sands, the Skanda Purana is surely the shiftiest, or perhaps the sandiest, of all. The longest and most sprawling of all the puranas, though it was usually grouped with the Maha -rather than the Upapuranas it was regarded even by the native Indian tradition as a scrap-bag; its name forms a pun to this effect in Tamil, where it is the “scrap” Purana (Kantal-Puranam)." (Pg 59)

I googled for Kantal Puranam did not got any results. But got for Kanthal (note the additional h) and means flower. Not sure if she is removing h and mentioning as Kantal. Tamil people in this forum can confirm this.

To the above research, Senthil added his comments:

What shoddy authorship!!!! And Wendy is supposedly an "authority" on Hinduism... Pathetic that such illiterates are occupying prestigious chairs in top US universities.

Kantha-Puranam in Tamil narrates the birth and story of Kantha. Kantha is another name for Muruga/Karthikeya, the son of Shiva and it's common meaning is "The Beautiful One". If I twist my brain like Wendy then I can infer that she's mixing "Kantha" with "Kanthal" a Tamil word meaning "Torn". Even then it is not same as "Scrap". A torn piece of cloth can be used as scrap cloth in kitchen, but that does not mean Torn = Scrap. And stretching it even further to say Kantha Puranam = Scrap bag is ridiculous.

Even with my basic knowledge on Skanda-Purana, I can tell that there are HUGE differences between Skanda-Purana(Sanskrit) and Kantha-Puranam(Tamil).
Skanda purana is massive and there are so many Khandas and Samhitas that comprise the Sanskrit body of the purana. Its subject matter is diverse.
Kantha puranam is a Tamil work that was inspired by a specific Khanda of a specific Samhita from the Sanskrit version. It is much smaller in size and has a more focused subject matter. All the more reason why it makes no sense why Tamils would call it a scrap bag.

Also, there are many other Tamil literary works like "Kanthar Alangaram", "Kanthar Anubhoothi", "Kantha Sasti kavacham", "Kantha Guru Kavacham" etc. Why would Tamils call all these works as scrap??

In fact the purana about Kantha-puranam, tells us about the rigorous intellectual debates that went behind, before it was accepted as a purana.
Here's the version:

Katchiappa Shivacharyar was born in Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu in the Kaumaram sect that worships Kantha(Murugan). Once he had a vision in which the Lord asked him to bring his sacred purana to the Tamil people, from the Sanskrit version. HE gave clear instructions on the source material: Shiva-Rahasya Khanda of Shankara Samhita of Skanda Purana. HE also gave the author, the first few Tamil words with which to start the purana (Thigada-sakkara...).

Every day the author would prepare 100 verses and keep it at the feet of Muruga's murthi at Kumarakottam temple at night. The next morning he would find it corrected for grammar and poetic usage of language.
Once he completed his work, Shivacharyar went to the learned assembly of scholars and submitted it for peer-review. To his disappointment, the very first words (incidentally given by Muruga) of the book were rejected by the scholars stating that it contradicted the rules-of-union of words as per Tamil grammar. He went back home dejected to re-work on his product.

The next day, an old scholar (Muruga Himself or someone blessed by Him) appeared in the assembly in defense of the choice of words of Shivacharyar. He provided citations from another Tamil work called Veera-Choliyam (Sandhi chapter, 15th verse) where such grammatical unions were used and were approved by the learned scholars. The assembly was satisfied at that point and the work became published for mass consumption as a purana.

Calling such a purana, a scrap-bag?

Divya J writes another blazing rebuttal on the views of Sheldon Pollock

Below is a post by Divya J, a member on the forum. She had tried posting a truncated version of the same under Rohan Murty's article in the Times of India. It was rejected. The full version is being reproduced here.

Sheldon Pollock proclaims that “the characters of the ‘Ramayana’ believe themselves to be denied all freedom of choice; … and consequently can exercise no control.” He laments the dire consequences our epics have had on our civilization and wants to set things right by liberating us Hindus from our fatalistic beliefs. If only we could see things through his lens we too would understand that we have free will and can exercise our agency. This attitude betrays a dismal lack of understanding about the very essence of our culture and traditions. As we would say back home, “after listening to the entire Ramayana, he doesn’t even know who Rama is!”

Before we get into how badly wrong Pollock is, it would be helpful to know a brief history of the idea of “free will”. Free will as a concept did not feature in the rich intellectual traditions of the pagan philosophers of Greece and Rome. Similarly, the idea of “free will” is completely alien to the Indian traditions which have always held a decidedly deterministic stance. Of course the western world uses the derogatory term “fatalistic” instead of “deterministic” when speaking of the Indians, but let's overlook that for now. One thing we do know is that the Indian philosophers excelled in their understanding of human psychology and spoke at length about a variety of mental states. They broadly categorized manas, buddhi, and chitta along with other more nuanced mental states and mental processes. Nowhere did they identify anything such as “free will”. Instead they came to the conclusion that we are not the agents of our actions and that the idea of agency is an illusion.

So why is Pollock so confident that free will exists? Whatever his secular pretensions may be, “free will” is actually a very Christian idea. It turned up in the literature around the 4th century after the birth of Christianity. Christian doctrine tells us that God created the world and that everything that happens in this world happens in accordance with His will. This claim, and every other claim made by Christianity, is presented as a truth claim. In other words, just as it is true that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, it is true that the Christian God created the world and governs it. Naturally this “truth” had its consequences and soon enough gave rise to what is commonly referred to as the “problem of evil”. If God is perfect and good and if everything happens according to his will, then how can we explain the fact that there is so much evil in this world? Enter, free will. The problem of evil was conveniently explained by the fact that God gave human beings the freedom to choose between good and evil. Because human beings are sinners they often choose to do evil. Therefore, even though God is perfect, there is evil in the world because of our God-given free choice. This explanation about the world is absolutely crucial to Christianity otherwise their doctrine of a perfect God falls apart. This Christian idea of free will has now become so deeply entrenched in the western psyche that it is taken for granted. “Freedom” and “choice” are words frequently used in the West as if it is the most natural thing in the world to be free and to be able to choose.

However, with developments in science, with the understanding that matter and energy are interchangeable, as a challenge to the notion of mind-body duality, and with developments in cognitive science and neuro-science, some western scientists and philosophers began to question the existence of free will. The debate has been raging ever since. In the overarching folk psychology of the West and among the religious believers, the concept of free will is very much alive. However, among the scientific community it is strongly disputed, if not outright rejected.

The question to consider is this: what exactly are we free from? We are subject to the laws of physics in the same way that rocks and water and mice and dolphins are. Yes we have a subjective experience of ourselves but this “self” of ours exists only because life exists. Otherwise, we are just what the universe happens to be doing in a place called the here and now that we localize for ourselves with the pronoun “I”. We split up the world into different parts and give different names to different things. We consider our “self” as being separate from the world and believe we go around doing things independently of the “world”. But as our sages have pointed out, this split of “doer-action-deed” is just our human perspective and is our way of making sense of the world. They try and show us that this is only a superficial understanding and that the separate feeling of “I” is only an appearance but is not actually real.

The same laws that govern the world govern our bodies as well as the thoughts and feelings that we believe to be inside of us. But there is no “inside”; there is no dividing line between us and the world. So in a way we are just like puppets, without any agency, but from another perspective, these laws of the universe constitute our very selves and determine how we act and react. We have the illusion of making choices and of being agents, but our wants, preferences, and needs are determined by the way the universe is. In reality there is no individual agency that is separate from the flow of the entire universe.

This idea that “I” am not the thinker of my thoughts and that “I” am not the doer of my deeds lies at the heart and soul of Indian civilization and forms its very foundation. It permeates our folk traditions as well as our intellectual traditions and our artistic traditions, and is woven into the fabric of all the metaphors all over the place. Our sages repeatedly tell us that the idea of subject-object-verb is an illusion and that the only way to lasting happiness is to understand this fact. Our traditions provide us with many ways and means to help us come to this realization. One of these ways is through the stories told in our itihasa and puranas. Our stories of Arjun and Rama, of monkeys and jackals, of sages and fools, convey these same ideas and have the same power to lead to enlightenment as does the chanting of Vedic mantras or the pursuit of logic.

However, this does not mean that once the sages had this realization they expected everyone in the world to stop in their tracks and give up on the world because we had no agency anyway, so why bother. They understood that such knowledge dawns at its own pace and that it is the human condition to live with some illusions about the nature of the self. So our traditions also teach us how to live in the world, in society and in communities and within families. The very same stories and rituals that help us in overcoming worldly illusions also teach us about living in the world since we are an integral part of the leela. What Sheldon Pollock fails to notice is that Rama was educated to live in the world, he was educated to govern, and he was trained for battle. He was taught the right manners and nurtured with the right attitudes towards the world and towards his family. And when the time came to go to war he did not just sit back and let the universe take its course. He consulted with his ministers, he strategized and planned, coaxed and pleaded, connived and cajoled and did everything it took, and in the end, after all this effort, he won the war.
Not only does Pollock suffer from a severe disconnect with the Indian traditions that he has been superficially immersed in for decades, he also betrays a lack of understanding of modern science. He seems not to have the capacity to distinguish a Christian idea from a scientific one. His beliefs about agency and free will belong somewhere in seventeenth century Europe. Oblivious of this, and armed with his “theories” he is trying to force-fit the presuppositions and prejudices of his own religion and culture on to our traditions, while claiming all the while how secular he is. There would be no problem if Pollock named his project “The Biblical Interpretation of the Ramayana”. But that is not what he is doing. The Indian intellectual traditions have a lot to offer to the world. If all Pollock can do is reproduce Biblical themes or Marxian theories it simply defeats the purpose.

Vishal Agarwal responds to the Wire article

In response to The Wire article, Vishal sent in this response as a comment:

The writers get it wrong. The issue is not videshi versus swadeshi school of Indology, but between a Hinduphobic Eurocentric interpretation of the classics on one hand and an authentic and culturally informed interpretation on the other. Let me clarify with an example. In the Chhandogya Upanishad, there is a story of a cart driver Raikya approached by King Jaanashruti for obtaining Brahmavidya. Jaanashruti offers him increasing amounts of gold etc but Raikya turns the king away contemptuously. Finally, when the king returns with his daughter and offers to Raikya as a wife, the cart driver looks at her face and says, 'With this alone, you could have obtained the Vidya from me.' The likes of Wendy Doniger, who see sex in everything interprets this story to say that Raikya parted with his knowledge only when the king offered his own daughter for providing sex to Raikya! And to top it all, she finds nothing grand in Raikya's teachings. In both of her claims, she has totally missed the point because of her erotic lens and materialistic hermeneutics. The Upanishadic story starts with a statement that though the King was virtuous, he had this ego, 'It is due to me that subjects get to eat' etc. It is with this ego that he approached Raikya and offered to 'buy' his wisdom. But only when, he accepted Raikya's superiority and approached him in humility (because in the Hindu tradition, you offer your daughter's hand in marriage only to someone who is superior - a cultural element that Doniger totally misses), Raikya parts with his wisdom. And what is this wisdom? Raikya says that the same enabling Prana/Vayu that flows within him flows within the King and in all creatures. The import is that it is (to put it in the words of Gita), all the doing of Paramatman. Then why have the ego, "I did this great task, I am the doer?" While doing good karma, we must think of ourselves merely as an instrument of the Divine. The next story in the text, further elaborates on the Antaryamin Brahman (as Prana) and how, when we ill-treat others, we ill-treat the same Brahman who is present within everyone. Doniger completely misses the mark in every way, and converts this profound Vedantic episode into one of sex slavery. And the first miss (as to what is the significance of Jaanashruti offering his daughter to Raikya as his bride) is a clear case of her not getting the cultural nuances even after her 50 year engagement with Indic studies. This is a classic example of how an etic understanding can only result in crass interpretations, and an emic perspective is a must to understand spiritual scriptures. Even the Amar Chitra Katha gets this story right, whereas Doniger doesn't! Similar types of errors due to cultural insensitivity (or plain mediocrity) abound on Pollock's translations. The authors of this article might also want to read the recent book "The Nay Science" (Adluri et al) that demonstrates how hollow the claims of western (in particular German) Indology on its so called objectivity are. The fact that the authors of this article prefer to brand all the 132 professor and 15000+ other signatories of the petition as 'foolish and dangerous' reflects their own ignorance and hatred.

Should our texts be called as 'Classical' and hence dead?

Should our texts be called "Classical" and hence assumed dead like Greek/Latin Classics?

This post has also been blogged here.

After a Change.org petition titled “Removal of Sheldon Pollock as mentor and Chief editor of Murty classical library” dated Feb 26, 2016, initiated by 132 human beings from diverse walks of life (including academicians from fields of Sanskrit, Science, Mathematics and others), with 15993 signatories (as of Mar 10 0830 hrs (GMT +5:30)), many popular media houses had carried a response, apparently from Rohan Murthy, which includes the following:

"It is quite rich to sit in the peanut gallery, pass comments and throw empty shells at those who are actually rolling their sleeves up and working on the ground...I want to hear in which book we have published, in which line or page there is a problem, and in what context, and why."

Since what Rohan Murthy is purported to have said includes his generous consideration to hear “...in which line or page there is a problem, and in what context, and why”, here are two lines (one from the website and one from all of the books):

  • The Line 1 of MCLI’s 'Our mission': “To present the greatest literary works of India from the past two millennia to the largest readership in the world is the mission of the Murty Classical Library of India."
  • The name of the library: “Murty Classical Library of India”
What is the problem and in what context? 

1. In Line 1 of the mission statement, usage of the word “Greatest” in the first line of “Our Mission” (without qualification of what constitutes “Greatest” and therefore presumably in the general sense of the word), especially in context of Sheldon Pollock’s introduction to the series “Why a Classical Library of India?” and more specifically, in context of the ‘nuance’ ascribed to the word “Classical”
by Sheldon Pollock

2. In the name of the Library, usage of the word “Classical” without including a * (or any other symbol) after the word or without adding something visual to indicate upfront, the highly nuanced (almost antonymic-to-itself, counter-intuitive. alternative) usage of the word “Classical”

Why is it a problem?

Is it not a problem (of misleading "the greatest readership in the world", for one) to go ahead and make a claim (with the weight of credibility such as that of Sheldon Pollock and the Murthys), of presenting the “Greatest” literary works of India, as part of a Library that includes the word “Classical” in its title, where what is implied by “Classical” is nuanced to such a degree by the General Editor (and author of “The death of Sanskrit”) Sheldon Pollock, that the word “Classical" becomes, in some strategically crucial way, an antonym of itself, both in the general sense of the word in every day life and in academia.

To better understand the implications of what is at stake in using “Greatest” and “Classical” in the same sentence (where one seems to mean what it generally means and where one deliberately defined to mean, in some ways, its own opposite), let us start by revisiting the meaning of the word “Classical”, in the general sense of the word (Oxford definition).


[ˈklasək(ə)l] ADJECTIVE

1. of or relating to ancient Greek or Latin literature, art, or culture: 
"classical mythology" synonyms: ancient Greek · Hellenic · Attic · Latin · ancient Roman

2. (typically of a form of art) regarded as representing an exemplary standard; traditional and long-established in form or style: 
synonyms: traditional · long-established · serious · highbrow

3. of or relating to the first significant period of an area of study: 
"classical mechanics”

In light of the above, the literature of Rig Veda (in Sanskrit), I opine, will be considered (by hundreds of millions in India and the world) “Classical”, on 2 out of  3 “Oxford" expansions above (second and third, to be specific), i.e., 'exemplary standard, traditional and long-established in form or style, of or relating the first significant period of an area of study', and certainly “Greatest", to hundreds of millions of Indians (particularly Hindus who believe in Vedanta)

Now, before getting to the rationale, included in Sheldon Pollock’s introduction, on what makes MCLI "a library of “classical” literature" and what makes "Indian literature “classic”", it might not be out of place to revisit:

> what the Minister of Tourism & Culture Ambika Soni told the Rajya Sabha as the criteria laid down to determine the eligibility of languages to be considered for classification as a "Classical Language” by Government of India, namely:

"High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500–2000 years; a body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers; the literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community; the classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots."

> the languages declared "classical language" by Government of India (GOI), till date: Tamil (in 2004), Sanskrit (in 2005), Kannada (in 2008), Telugu (in 2008), Malayalam (in 2013) and Odia (in 2014)

Though the above criteria from GOI is for Languages and not for Literature, this was included above to facilitate each reader to quickly assess for oneself, whether or not GOI’s interpretation of the word classical is by and large in keeping with its general import.

As for Sheldon Pollock’s “Classical”, let us read first read an excerpt from his introduction in the MCLI website:

"The transformation of Indian languages in the modern period and the ever-increasing gap in knowledge of their premodern varieties explain MCLI’s cutoff point of 1800. But what makes this a library of “classical” literature? The word itself has its origins in a tradition very distant from India, namely Latin, and thinkers as diverse as C.-A. Sainte-Beuve, T. S. Eliot, and Frank Kermode who have tried to gauge the meaning of that term for our era have used the Western tradition as their touchstone. The key characteristics of their “classic,” namely “universality” and “perpetual contemporaneity,” turn out, unsurprisingly, to be Western, and hence not so universal or contemporary after all.

What do we think makes Indian works “classic”? It might in fact be their very resistance to contemporaneity and universality, that is, their capacity to communicate the vast variety of the human past.”

In his “brief reflection of the ideas of “Classic” itself, Pollock writes (see Crisis in the Classics) “I follow an entirely different logic, abandoning the “normative significance” of “classical” and the subjectivism and illegitimate generalization of the present that such normativity always smuggles in.”

In the same article, he goes on to add: “We may unhesitatingly grant the premise that classical culture, Sanskrit for example, offers at one and the same time a record of civilization and a record of barbarism, of extraordinary inequality and other social poisons. Once we all agree on the toxicity of this discourse, however, there will be contestation over how to overcome it.”

He then makes his position clear by stating “ In my view, you do not transcend inequality, to the degree it is a conceptual category taking some of its force from traditional discourse, by outlawing the authors and burning the discourses, or indeed by trying to forget them; you transcend inequality by mastering and overmastering those discourses through study and critique. You cannot simply go around a tradition to overcome it, if that is what you wish to do; you must go through it. You only transform a dominant culture by outsmarting it. That, I believe, is precisely what some of India’s most disruptive thinkers, such as Dr. Ambedkar, sought to do, though they were not as successful as they might have been had they had access to all the tools of a critical philology necessary to the 

Let us now refresh how we got to all this in the first place: Rohan Murthy asking “in which line or page there is a problem, and in what context, and why” and the response articulated at the top of this piece (reproduced immediately below to help reader avoid going back and forth):

What is the problem and in what context?

1. In Line 1 of the mission statement, usage of the word “Greatest” in the first line of “Our Mission” (without qualification of what constitutes “Greatest” and presumably in the general sense of the word), especially in context of Sheldon Pollock’s introduction to the series “Why a Classical Library of India?” and more specifically, in context of the ‘nuance’ ascribed to the word “Classical” by Sheldon Pollock

2. In name of the Library, usage of the word “Classical” without including a * (or any other symbol) after the word or without adding something visual to indicate upfront, the highly nuanced (almost antonymic-to-itself, counter-intuitive, alterative) usage of the word “Classical”

Why is it a problem?

Is it not a problem (of misleading "the greatest readership in the world", for one) to go ahead and make a claim (with the weight of credibility such as that of Sheldon Pollock and the Murthys), of presenting the “Greatest” literary works of India, as part of a Library that includes the word “Classical” in its title, where what is implied by “Classical” is nuanced to such a degree by the General Editor (and author of “The death of Sanskrit”) Sheldon Pollock, that the word “Classical" becomes, in some strategically crucial way, an antonym of itself, both in the general sense of the word in every day life and in academia.

Perhaps the solution/clue to the problem of usage of “Classical” in MCLI’s title, lies in the one word that is common in two other titles - Wendy Doniger’s book “The Hindus: An Alternative History” and Sheldon Pollock’s paper “The alternative classicism of classical India” – the common word being: “Alternative”!

In avoiding the word “Alternative” in the website yet using the word “Classical” in the title of the Library, but cleverly changing its import to mean almost the opposite of itself (and implying “Alternative”); and even more cleverly legitimizing the need to change the import on the pretext of not applying a “Western” lens to an Indian context (to earn credibility), is perhaps where lies the root of the problem of “Murty Classical Library of India” using the word “Classical” as-is in its title and claiming to present “the greatest literary works of India”

In view of all the above, let us look at one serious implication – the existential crisis of the Rig Veda (in Sanskrit), in the MCLI world.

If Rig Veda is deemed ineligible to be part of the MCLI world, in light of the “alternative” import ascribed to the word “Classical” by Pollock, will not:

  •  “The largest readership in the world” be deprived of top-notch translation of what UNESCO has considered “memory of the world”?
  • MCLI be seen as “misleading” by millions, in usage of the word “Greatest” in its mission statement and the word “Classical” in its title without qualification?
If Rig Veda (in Sanskrit) is included eventually in MCLI, will not MCLI be subtly imposing the “dominant” chronology and force-fitting Rig Veda into the “…last two millennia” when the chronology from many of the traditionalists may vary?

In view of the existential criteria of a “memory of the world” Rig Veda in the MCLI world, and the political identity and purport that Professor Pollock has induced into some of the “Classical” literature by nuancing the word “Classical”, are the four questions raised by in the petition not legitimate?

1. How will certain Sanskrit words that are non-translatable be treated?
2. What will be the posture adopted towards the “Foreign Aryan Theory” and other such controversial theories including chronologies?
3. What will be assumed concerning the links between ancient texts and present-day social and political problems?
4. Will the theoretical methods developed in Europe in the context of the history of ancient Europe, be used to interpret Indian texts, or will there first be open discussions with Indians on the use of Indian systems of interpretations?

The petition begins with “We the undersigned would like to convey our deep appreciation for your good intentions and financial commitment to establish the Murty Classical Library of India, a landmark project to translate 500 volumes of traditional Indian literature into English. We appreciate the motives of making our civilization’s great literature available to the modern youth who are educated in English, and who are unfortunately not trained in Indian languages.” and the petition ends with “We urge you to invite critics of Sheldon Pollock and the approaches being followed in his project, for open and frank discussions. We are convinced that this would lead to a dramatic improvement in your project and also avoid any adverse outcome.”
Rohan asked to hear “in which line or page there is a problem, and in what context, and why”: One answer is – the “Title” itself (for the as-is usage of “Classical”), and the first line of the Mission statement (for the usage “Greatest” and “Classical”). How about starting with “Classical”, Rohan? Should texts still being used in every day lives be called “Classical” at all?