Four tier model of purvapaksha and how framing RM as kshatriya and Ganesh as brahmin is wrong

By Rajiv Malhotra

The four tier model of purvapaksha

The relevant works of scholarship that critique western Indology in connection with Pollock may be organized as follows. From top tier (most superficial, general) to bottom tier (most narrow, specific):

Tier 1: Wide sweeping critique of western Indology. Cover lots of old scholars, from christian to aesthetic,clubbing all of them under a simplistic profile. Our team's responses are also bombastic, emotional, politicized. We have lots of this material from numerous writers over many decades. I wont spend time on this material except to write a history of western Indology. But this genre of ideology is not what we face today, They have moved on and other more sophisticated works have superseded.

Tier 2: Present ecosystem of Western Indology in specific details, and where the Pollock School fits in. Which institutions, ideologies, agendas, distribution channels, etc are now operative. Not only western scholars but their Indian collaborators and sepoys. Their strategies at work. Requires expertise in industry analysis.

Tier 3: Deconstruction of Pollock school's specific lens. Their meta-theories, narratives, key vocabulary, plans.What are the implications to dharma being seen in this way? How this knowledge has spread over the past 30+ years. Who is who in their army? Requires multi-disciplinary approach, knowledge of heavy English, Western thought and ability to decode multilayered (i.e. sly/deceptive) writing style typical of western scholars who are politically correct.

Tier 4: Analysis of specific verses of Indian texts as per Pollock school and as per our tradition. This supports our uttara-paksha. Requires serious knowledge of Sanskrit and also of texts in detail.

My interest is in tiers 2 & 3. I saw this huge gap in our home team's work thus far. Most of them regurgitate tier 1 repeatedly. But that writing is too superficial to make any impact.

Team spirit:

Tier 4 is not my strength. Traditional scholars must do this.

But they cannot do it properly until tiers 2 & 3 get done and explained to them in a way they can understand. Hence my focus on tiers 2 & 3, as that is the heavy lifting nobody did and that is important to do.
This is called identifying a market gap and filing it. Nothing wrong with this approach.
I can point out many other gaps out there, which our scholars must pursue, so there is no reason to get jealous. There is plenty of innovative work to be done still.

We must work in collaboration and leverage different kinds of strengths. One kind of specialist should not be jealous of other kinds of specialists. Such narrow thinking individuals make poor leaders or even team players.

My response to "issue-specific criticism" of TBFS: One man has made a lot of noise claiming that traditionalists already did what TBFS does, and hence I ought to have highlighted this in TBFS. He lists about 40 scholars under his claim. He calls this issue-specific criticism.

Below is (once again) my issue-specific response:

  • Many eminent traditional Sanskrit scholars praised TBFS saying explicitly that traditional scholars have never done this. A few such powerful statements are in the book's preliminary pages. Many more such letters are on file.
  • Videos of my talks (including one at Karnataka Sanskrit University) show eminent scholars saying there has not been such purva-paksha of the Pollock school.
  • I went around many Sanskrit centers in India asking for help during my research work for this book, but nobody said they knew of any prior work of this specific kind. Some supporters of mine even paid and hired traditional scholars to help me, but these scholars concluded that the study of Pollock that was required was too intensive. It would take at least a couple of years after the availability of his works and supporting western works many of which are simply not available in India.
  • Pollock himself told me he was unaware of anyone having done a rigorous analysis of his work from a critical point of view, especially from a Hindu point for view.
  • The persons claiming that at least 40 scholars they named have done this cannot come up with a bibliography of such works. If they make the claim with so much authority they ought to be able to produce evidence.
  • These critics of mine also claim that they personally already knew Pollock's works. But can they produce any shred of evidence of such knowledge in published form?
  • If they knew what he has been writing for the past 30+ years, why did they not blow the whistle on the Murty Classics Library prior to my exposing this issue?
  • Why did they never bother to complain about Sringeri's impending hijacking?
  • Why did they never write anything about Pollock being Jaipur Lit Fest's number one celebrated Indologist for 8 years prior to 2016?
What is wrong in framing the debate as RM=kshatriya while Ganesh=brahmin.

My 4-tier model on how to do purva-paksha of Pollock is explained above. Please read it in order to follow my points below. I will refer to it. I have explained in this model that without the critical tiers 2 and 3, no sensible purva-paksha of Pollock is possible.

The significance of this is that R. Ganesh and his list of 40 “experts” (who he claims already did purva-paksha of Pollock) simply did not do tiers 2 or 3. I have challenged him (or any spokesperson of his) to post a bibliography of any such works if they exist at all. Note that purva-paksha is not done in secret, but “in the face” of the opponent; this allows the opponent to respond if he wants to. My critiques of Pollock are very public, open and direct. Why is Ganesh claiming to have seen such purva-pakshas by others without being able to produce a single published example?

Unless and until such a bibliography is produced, I stand by my statement that R. Ganesh does not understand the significance of tiers 2 and 3 in my 4-tier model. Therefore, he is limited to producing tier-4 isolated/localized factoids criticizing Pollock, and then he is trying to contextualize them under tier-1. But the critical tiers 2 and 3 are missing. As a result, many of his criticisms of Pollock are out of context, as he fails to fully understand Pollock’s siddhanta/theoretical lens.

The next prerequisite to follow my argument below is that you must please read my article, “The challenge of understanding Sheldon Pollock”, posted at:

The 4-tier model tells you why tiers 2 and 3 are critical, and this article explains in a few pages what the main ingredients of these tiers 2 and 3 are.

With this background, I will now address what is drastically wrong with many well-intended posts, which say that RM is the kshatriya and Ganesh is the brahmin, and on this basis they must work together.

I find this too limiting and pejorative. I am not trying to be personally defensive. Rather, my goal is to point out a common fallacy in such thinking which is being applied to several instances. Below are my problems with this thinking.

  • By framing in this very abstract and high-level kshatriya/brahmin dichotomy, the person avoids dealing with the tiers 2 and 3 issue. Our folks remain unread, ignorant and superficial about the serious knowledge in tiers 2 and 3 which they better take time to learn. They feel the matter has been resolved with some politically correct appeal to kshatriya-brahmin unity. We can go home, nothing more to do.
  • This is why I complain that most of our folks are emotionally and psychologically weak and unfit to be intellectual kshatriyas. A very common way our folks avoid tapasya and facing challenges is by over-abstracting the situation to such an extent that no action is needed or even possible. “Sir, your atman cannot be harmed, so please do not worry about anything” – this is another example of similar escapism from a real situation by over-abstracting, rather than by dealing with it.
  • The approach of X = kshatriya and Y = brahmin is also divisive. It encourages people to say, “my hero is larger than yours”. The subject matter is lost, and it turns into a personality cult issue. Let us avoid turning the serious debate (which must be based on tiers 2 and 3) into a clash of personality cults, please.
  • I do not see birth-based criteria for determining varna applicable today. Is Dr. Subramanian Swamy a brahmin or kshatriya? Why can’t he be both? Is Bill Gates brahmin (intellectual), or vaishya (businessman) or kshatriya (politically engaged), or all three? In my own career, I started out as a very serious intellectual pursuing theoretical physics and philosophy, and then computer science. Then I became a successful corporate/entrepreneur (vaishya). Lately, I am more like a kshatriya trying to give my tradition a good political representation. But this is actually a hybrid role. Furthermore, I have always been very hands-on – a shudra quality. People who work with me closely are surprised how much I do personally which they feel ought to be tasked to other persons. So why do we wish to pigeonhole individuals like me? Why don’t we encourage individuals to become multi-varna today? It is the age of multi-disciplinary competences. Sri Aurobindo’s theory of planes and parts of being is all about broadening and deepening one’s consciousness.
  • I see varnas as core competences that one might regard as innate potentials. 
  • By the same token, just because your parents were accomplished in competence X does not give you the right to claim that you are by birthright an expert in X. I know idiots who come from great family backgrounds. I also know (and love to work with) individuals with unfortunate personal circumstances who do so much tapasya as to overcome their limits and become highly accomplished.
  • Once we reject bogus claims based on family heritage, we will begin to see just how much nepotism there is in people claiming to be brahmins. How many of them comply with the required lifestyle, the competence in their work, tapasya, accomplishments? Most so-called brahmins I know today are mixed up in vaishya (material pursuits of profession, business, etc.). The same is also true of most kshatriyas by birth. Most politicians (performing what was traditionally a kshatriya role) are corrupt, mixed up in vaishya (business), etc.
Where am I heading in my response to Ganesh? I am trying to clean from the table this nonsensical kshatriya/brahmin framework.

I am trying to refocus the debate back to discuss whether Ganesh and his 40-named scholars have done anything in tiers 2 and 3. These tiers are where all of you must spend serious time and energy pursuing.

I am looking forward to Prof Kannan producing a team of experienced purva-paksha scholars through his conference series. They will know tiers 2 and 3. These will be individuals with whom I will relish discussing for mutual learning. Those with great reputations in some other skills, but with little to bring to the table of Pollock purva-paksha, will get silenced even more, once Kannan has produced a few dozen solid scholars capable of responding to Pollock at the standard required.

Meanwhile, the noisemaker, hecklers, bombastic claimants are simply part of the background wanting the limelight without the required tapasya; they should not be allowed to hijack the serious work that a few persons are engaged in doing.

Internal sabotage of the Battle for Sanskrit and Sanskriti

Shrikant Talageri made an important contribution to the discussion forum which was turned into an article and posted here. We reproduce the article as is.

Rajiv Malhotra is fighting a battle for all Hindus. It (the battle against western, and specifically American Indologists, academic control of the study and discussion of Indian history, religion and culture) is a battle which has been initiated by him, and he is the only person who has managed to take the battle deep into the enemy territory, given this battle world publicity, and enlisted, organised and united possibly lakhs of Hindus into the actual intellectual battle. I myself would not agree with every single tiny point of analysis made by him on the subject of actual interpretation of the texts, but then:
1. Hindu texts are capable of umpteen interpretations, and any interpretation made by him, given that he is an insider to the tradition, has to be accepted as one more of them, and
2. Rajiv Malhotra has himself repeatedly pointed out that he is not an expert on Sanskrit, and his job is only to prod a sleeping traditional Indian Sanskrit scholarship to take up the battle.In light of this, particular interpretations made by him, right or wrong, are simply not the issue.

The point is that he is fighting a vital battle for Hindus, Hinduism and Hindu culture, and any so-called Hindu scholar who tries to start a mini-battle with him on the sidelines is very clearly doing it only in order to take the heat off Pollock and his anti-Hindu gang, and to divide Hindus so as to try and sabotage the Hindu side from within at the very source. This is totally unacceptable and unforgivable, and no-one should take this as anything but a sabotage act and should refuse to be a part of this treacherous act, whatever their personal admiration for the “Hindu” scholars attacking Malhotra.

I personally have very great admiration for Shatavadhani Ganesh, and have had friendly correspondence with his co-writer Hari Ravikumar. Their initial article against Malhotra was nevertheless a very bad move which must have had the Hinduphobic American academics involved in this battle in splits of gleeful laughter. Many people felt that the sometimes sharp reaction from many of Malhotra’s supporters further aggravated the situation, but then every action has its equal and opposite reaction. After that, both the sides could have joined hands and fought a united battle. But the vicious articles and writings of people like KalavaiVenkat have muddied the waters to an incredible extent. It appears that K Venkat is indeed determined to see that there is no Hindu unity, and it appears that the only (apparent) motive seems to be to avenge certain grudges from the past where he feels Malhotra failed to give due importance to suggestions made by him!

It must be remembered that Malhotra has never in any of his books or articles in general targeted other writers fighting for Hinduism, and certainly never at a point of time when they were fighting for the Hindu cause. So this attack on him is totally and absolutely an unprovoked and unforgivable one. While it is true that Malhotra has been fighting an unceasing battle since years, and must have been badly in need of a rest or a sabbatical, I feel this present temporary withdrawal by him from active participation is a reaction caused by deep personal mental mortification caused by these unprovoked and lethal attacks on him by people who should have been supporting him, and I can only hope and pray that we do not lose this battle for Sanskrit even before it starts in full swing because of internal (and not Leftist or Secularist but “Hindu”) sabotage!

Why did Kalavai Venkat abuse me?

Below is an article by Sejuti Banerjee which first appeared here.

A couple of days back, I heard of an interesting conversation about Rajiv Malhotra (RM), author of the phenomenal book “The Battle For Sanskrit” (TBFS) on Kalavai Venkat’s (KV) FB page, so I went on over to check it out. 
I had heard that KV was critical of RM’s work mainly because he was a big fan of Shatawadhani Ganesh (SG), so I considered it a golden opportunity to study the back-and-forth between the different parties and perhaps gain some new insights on the situation. It’s been a very old habit of mine to always test any idea I may have formed in my head with new inputs as and when available. I always felt this improved my understanding of things. 
So imagine my surprise, when I see that he has written the words “RM and semi-literate followers”. Yes, I follow RM’s work. Yes, I have been inspired by him. Yes, I think he’s managed to do what no one managed all these years. Yes, I think he has sacrificed his life for dharma. But how does this make me semi-literate?
At first, I was taken aback at this display of condescending animosity. Because what have I ever done or said to KV? I had never even heard of his name before in my life! I make a decent living and no one has questioned my literacy before!!! But then I decided to read on. Maybe he was actually a decent guy with a filthy mouth. I had seen a few of those after all.

But the rest was not much better. In fact, to put it in a single sentence, I was disappointed. What was happening there was basically some venomous RM bashing with some protests from those who know him better. I noticed some things KV seemed to be doing persistently: 
Passing Value Judgments 
Some commentators were concerned about the security breach at Sringeri that informed Pollock about what was transpiring between RM and Sringeri. Without knowing anything about the situation, KV immediately jumped to attack RM. “Always take such anecdotal claims from RM with a pinch of salt”, he said. In fact others had to tell him how wrong he was, because he didn’t know the ground situation, didn’t know the facts, that actually, the situation was far worse than RM let on out of respect. 
On the other hand, when it came to SG, KV said with great sureness that “Ganesh declined and gave a very pointed, honest and compassionate answer, in private to the intermediary, for declining”. Elsewhere, he also said that he didn’t know SG personally, hadn’t met him, etc. So he didn’t know SG, he wasn’t there when SG refused the invitation and yet he was all praises for his behavior.
So in this case one can only conclude that passing value judgments is his nature, at times he supports people with it and at other times, he attacks people with it. 
Trying To Divide People 
In his attempt to alienate people from RM, KV tried every trick:
  1. He said “Traditionalists have gone out of the way to rally behind RM, perhaps out of ignorance” (one wonders if this is a tremendous show of respect for traditionalists on KV’s part), then “despite canards he spreads about them”. He asks, “Why should that be tolerated? Why should we stand behind someone who is throwing traditionalists under the bus time and again”. This after RM has repeatedly said that he is doing purva paksha and he wouldn’t be able to do uttara paksha without them. After he also said that “I want to provoke the insiders in order to get rid of me and then they will start doing this work because if the insiders start doing this work I can retire finally, but until the insiders do this job I’m going to be around”. To distort such pure intentions seems unethical.
  2. He says, “It is also important to remember that RM is also positioning himself as an alternative to Sitaram Goel et al and actively discounts them. Those individuals made contributions orders of magnitude higher than RM”. This sounded like sly praise while attacking RM, pretending not to know about RM’s extensive bibliographies and the specialized nature of his work, which requires expediency. KV did the same with Aditi Banerjee and Aravindan Neelakandan, praising them and asking how RM would have coped without them (as if RM had not credited them for their contributions). 
  3. Direct attack: “I would oppose any traditionalist from supporting RM unless he publicly apologizes for his unethical conduct vs. Ganesh. I would also want to see those traditional scholars, who endorsed TBFS, to retract their endorsement for the reasons given toward the end of my critique”. This on the assumption that SG has never slighted or insulted RM in the past. Why does KV get into personalities? There may be so many things that may have transpired between two people, why is it fair to assume that SG has never wronged RM? 
Downplaying The Severity Of The Situation 
KV says “But why this obsession with Indology...Look at the phenomenal contributions of Ganesh on aesthetics. Who would do those things? How many on this planet can even discuss something like alaṇkāra lakṣaṇa with erudition? Why should the finest battle Indologists? That should rather be the job of tier 2 intellectuals.”
Then again, “Why this obsession with Pollock and a bunch of Indologists? Why is refuting such works more important than reviving precious traditions as Ganesh has been doing?”
In Bangla we have a saying that goes like this “shaat kanda Ramayan pore Sita kar pita” (after reading all 7 parts of the Ramayana you are asking whose father is Sita).
KV doesn’t seem to understand that BOTH these things are equally important. We enjoy our lives within the boundaries of a country because those boundaries are protected. If no one fights the war against Indology, there will BE no aesthetics to discuss with erudition. Only watered-down ghosts of what they once were. Is this desirable? Quite honestly, reading these lines makes me think that KV hasn’t read TBFS. And he’s now produced a review of a review of a review of TBFS. Great.
He says, “Hindu battles have just commenced and they will last another 60 years against the academy. So, I wouldn't like to protect a writer on day 1 of the battle and weaken the forces in the long term”. One commentator openly said that it was this bickering that was the problem, that he was losing all hope. But KV continued with his tirade possibly because he had a mission to accomplish. He had to demoralize all the people and cause a rift between traditionalists and RM (because so many of them are in fact grateful for his work and supportive of him). This would help Pollock and party. So on the pretext of weakening the forces in the long term, he is destroying their morale today, which doesn’t make any sense at all! 
Fooling Gullible Hindus 
At one point, one of the speakers mentioned that SG had been seen sharing stage with Sudha Murthy of MCLI fame. KV tried to brush this aside as insignificant, forgetting that every society agrees that a man’s association is indicative of his nature. In English we say, birds of the same feather flock together. In Bangla we say, sat sanga swarga vas asat sanga narak vas (with the right association you land in heaven and with the wrong association you land in hell). The point is, association has always been an indicator of who or what a person represents. Besides, kshatriya dharma may require a person to go everywhere out of expediency. But when a person has dedicated his entire life to selfless study, he is considered by all as practicing Brahmin dharma in which case his hobnobbing with deshdrohis and sanskriti drohis becomes suspect. Does this mean that SG is automatically vindicated of colluding with the enemy? Of course not. Does it mean we should keep an eye on such future activities? Absolutely. This was not the stand taken by KV so one can only assume that he was being far from objective while also creating the impression that there was no danger. 
Insulting RM 
“with due respects let me say that it is a travesty to even equate Ganesh and RM by stating that they represent two sides of SME. That is like saying a Nobel Prize winning physicist and a Powerpoint slide maker from a PR firm represent two sides of SME”
It’s well appreciated that there will be differences of opinion in any situation and actually, it’s the differences in approach that bring richness to a debate and help all of us understand the situation better. But when there is such open unbridled animosity, you don’t help anyone.
It’s impossible to deny the impact RM has had on the general public, coaching them on our civilizational threats, encouraging people to talk back, as well as in increasing their interest in our sanskriti and in Sanskrit studies. At the end of the day, that’s what a movement is about. It is these “illiterate people” who will be left to carry the torch of Hinduism and it is we who must be prepared. We must recognize that each contribution is precious.
In RM’s case, we should think about this: why would a man give up all the pleasures of life, in complete disregard of his own health and life situation, plunge into this trauma of being the lone person facing day in and day out rooms full of adversaries? More people are realizing the danger and joining in now, but he has been and still continues to defend dharma alone in many hostile situations. People can’t and shouldn’t be painted black or white. If there are issues with his approach, we should be able to discuss like mature adults without resorting to a public brawl that disrupts the entire movement thus defeating our purpose. 
Covering Up SG’s Mistakes 
KV says, “Ganesh is very familiar with the works of Pollock and understands the global context very well.” Can we honestly say that if SG knew how dangerous Pollock is, he would have been sitting quietly? Can anybody sit quietly when he sees another systematically and very strategically destroying the very roots of the thing he studies with such passion? So no, in all probability, SG didn’t know about it. He’s probably not to blame for it because he doesn’t live there and is not exposed to the situation directly. But if he knew, it would amount to gross negligence on his part. Then why is KV claiming that SG knew? 
Elsewhere, KV says, “I only see honest critique not condescension in Ganesh's critique”. Then how would he account for SG’s assertion that RM suggested appropriating works into Sanskrit? He picks up a section on spoken Sanskrit and makes this allegation. Any spoken language imbibes words from outside and also creates words of its own. It’s a characteristic of spoken language. SG should point out the exact page and sentence where RM mentioned that we should “appropriate works”. Otherwise we can’t call it honesty. As for the condescension, it was apparent throughout, even illiterate and semi-literate people could figure it out.
Still, we can and should be charitable about it. SG was working with a group of others and one of them may have slipped in that word and it escaped his attention. He doesn’t need to publicly apologize or anything. That is just an ego-booster and makes us a laughing stock in front of Pollock and company. But what is really hard to understand is why we can’t provide a united front to the people attacking us despite our internal differences.
I also looked at KV’s article called “The Straw Man Fallacy and the Battle for Sanskrit” where he concludes that abandoning RM is the most effective strategy for dealing with Pollock. For all the erudition he claims he has, he implied that traditionalists’ time is better spent critiquing people on their side rather than confronting the people who are trying to destroy them.
The awareness RM has created is growing into quite a movement now and continues to awaken more people every day. It is reasonable to assume that this will generate more students for traditionalists thus taking them out of their “lives of penury” as KV calls it.
So, the field is open. No one is preventing anyone from doing anything. But if someone suggests that we are more effective when we are divided and less organized, if he says there’s something insulting about building a home team, if he condones infighting as the correct strategy to win mega wars when we are anyway so small in numbers, if he deliberately misreads intentions, one can only conclude one thing: Not everyone is action-oriented. Some people theorize, others do the things that get the job done. I will choose the one that gets the job done. Any day. And hopefully, so will many others.

Rajiv Malhotra's contribution to sanskriti is unique

Below is a post on the RM discussion forum by Vedic Desi

Curry smells, eating with hands, not using toilet paper, squat toilets, public defecation, pollution, caste system, accent, 33 million gods, driving in India, Paan spitting, vegetarianism, reincarnation, British gave you everything, and other clichés.

Astonishing! When people hear about India this is all they will get to know. As if somebody carefully trains them. Although there are many facts on India readily available thanks to the development in couple of years, the “Third World” image is carefully crafted and nurtured.

There is another set of people who are totally in love with India. They love yoga, and they want this "SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE" from India. In between the spectrum there are the people, who are still formulating an image about what is India. These form the think tanks, universities who know the reality on ground and know how to spin it, wherever and whenever needed.

At some point, if you feel you need to correct these stereotypes and get a true picture, you need to understand who you are in the first place to present yourself and the facts. Sadly most Indians neither have the depth of knowledge nor interest to explain about themselves. History is distorted. Media is biased. Cultural festivals have ended up being all about bollywood song and dance. 

It is Rajiv Malhotra who brought it all together. Nobody has integrated the current geopolitics and its effects on India as done by Rajiv. He authored Breaking India, which is a seminal book that explains the role of US and European churches, academics, think-tanks, foundations, government and human rights groups in fostering separation of the identities of Dravidian and Dalit communities from the rest of India. The research tracked the money trails that start out claiming to be for education, human rights, empowerment training, leadership training, but end up in programs designed to produce angry youths who feel disjointed with their Indian identity. More importantly everyone should think about what it takes to put this together. When the problem is explained in such clarity, 50% of it is solved.
Rajiv Malhotra ji is unique because the integrated understanding his works provide is unparalleled. Dr. Subhash Kak's work is creditable when it comes to Myths of Aryan Invasion and others for other specialties in Indology. But to understand the full spectrum of Indology, you have to come to Rajiv Malhotra.

On why the West works on specialization? 

Simple, America has a goal of global dominance. If the traditional scholars and their pawns understand the foreign policy of US, they would just be glad that someone like Rajiv exists and would put their force behind him to save our Sanskriti.

Not just study of religions regions and languages, do look up, US has an expert on almost everything imaginable on earth. Experts on Science, geopolitics, Religion, regions, languages, cultures, sports, Mathematics, Space, etc list goes on and on. Recently there was an alarm in The US on dwindling Russian experts and this was seen as responsible for hampering the policy decisions.

In US Universities, at the top level the research direction is determined by National Science Foundation and the topics are split into small sections for research by different universities. This may be seen as a mundane practice by the uninitiated, but it is effective to obtain mastery. Do our traditional scholars know this?

It is the US which is the only country in the world that can print currency continually to fund its needs. As a supplement of the global dominance agenda, there is the goal of some to have Pan Christian world. If you want to dominate the world, you need to understand it thoroughly, only then you can control it. So where are the traditionalist doing the Purva Paksha to understand the US?

Rajiv in his new book – The Battle for Sanskrit has laid open all his years of work and encourages the traditionalists to know the battlefield and join in to save Sanskriti.

In such a complicated situation, if someone like Rajiv is offering a way to fight back, why are traditionalists attacking him? This whole outcry about not crediting previous Indologists is just comical. It is Rajiv Malhotra’s humble attempt and request that others have to take it forward. What more do the critics want? The attacks on Rajiv are unwarranted. All Dharmic minds need to help stop these illogical attacks by traditionalists and start contributing to save our Sanskriti.

In my personal view, an even bigger aim of Swadeshi Indology, as Rajiv Malhotra suggests we work on (not Indology, which is a western view) is to help in spiritual advancement.

In a world, where Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavatham are totally distorted, imagine what lies ahead for the future generations to tackle and develop faith and understanding of Dharma. Today it’s Sheldon Pollock, tomorrow someone else, but the battle has to be fought with a unified front. And the battlefield is best studied and explained by Rajiv Malhotra. Let’s stay on the path of Dharma, let’s unite to support and contribute to The Battle for Sanskrit.

Ganesh on TBFS: A poor model of scholarship

Below is a post by Ragini Sharma which was originally published here.

Dear Kalavai,

This is in response to your April 8, 2016 article on  in which you “take your gloves off” (FB comment) to forcefully support S. Ganesh’s (SG) critical review of Rajiv Malhotra’s (RM) ground-breaking book, The Battle for Sanskrit (TBFS). But, before I get into the substantive matter, I’d like to observe that I am amazed at what comes across as your double-speak and double-standards, which I can see from your FB posts, you have a blind spot about.  Your article, as does SG’s, heaps numerous ad hominem attacks at RM while complaining that RM is disrespectful to traditional scholars. This negative approach to RM comes in the way of the reader appreciating SG’s and your intended contribution to the discourse about Pollock, which is the topic of TBFS. Regardless, you are a non-entity in this scholarly debate.

In reviewing the Facebook dialogues between you and Aditi Bannerjee and others, I noted that you speak of some deeply held resentments against RM over your past interactions. This leads one to wonder if you have an axe to grind with RM due to the perceived wrong you feel RM has done to you (you do not give details). This bias discredits you as a scholar in your review of RM’s work and allows one to cast aspersions about the motives behind your strong stand against RM. It can be argued that you used SG’s review as an opportunity to attack RM for ulterior motives. This impression is further deepened when you seek RM to apologize to SG, placing SG on a pedestal and relegating RM somewhere very low with respect to their scholarly work. I strongly object to and chide you for your disrespectful behaviour and strongly assert that each scholar has his own sphere of influence and adhikara and both are worthy of full respect in their respective areas. I find it absurd that, given your own biased and unfair approach to RM, you appeal to the readers to express their outrage towards RM for his writing style and approach! Like I said earlier to SG, one needs to walk the talk: if you want others to take the higher road, your own work needs to model that first.
Moving on to the substance of my response, in the section that follows I comment further at the message and content of SG’s review of TBFS and your defence of them.
Let me begin by first recounting that RM’s impetus for writing TBFS was the proposed establishment of the Shankara Chair in Hindu Studies at Columbia University under Sheldon Pollock’s guidance. The purpose of his book is twofold:
  1. To explain/expose the complex theories of Sheldon Pollock, an atheist, Marxist philologist who is established as world’s most eminent Sanskrit scholar today. Pollock has a serious influence on the discourse on Sanksrit and Hindu dharma in the academe, media and social-political arena in India. RM critically analyses how Pollock is different from previous Indologists, such as Doniger, Max Muller and so on, in the way that he presents his theories and ideas about Sanskrit/Sanskriti and why his control over Sanskrit is a serious concern to Hindus.
  2. To spur the development of a “home team” that can further engage “dharmic insiders” to strategically respond to Pollock’s double barrelled strategic attack: “While political philology is used to diagnose, liberation philology is used to liberate the Indian masses from the diseases being carried in their sanskriti for thousands of years” (RM, article 1, response to SG). The “home team” will need to respond by using “sacred philology” to reclaim Sanskrit as a sacred and living, not dead, language that nurtures Sanksriti. 
Having gone over both SG’s and your articles, it is clear that indeed until RM’s current book, no insiders, including the traditional scholars including SG, have written directly on Pollock in the detailed analytical way that RM has. His claim to be the first one to do so is undisputed, despite SG’s or your wailings about the large amount of work done by traditional scholars, including in regional languages in other related areas. Does that mean RM is dissing the work of others? No! He is pointing to the serious gap in purve-paksh in their work to date and asking them to take up that challenge. SG’s referral to the previous scholars who have written about threats to Hinduism is acknowledged by RM; that he does not give enough credit to these previous scholars is debatable but not sufficient to discredit RM’s current work. So again, the question is: Among the lengthy list of authors that SG provides, has even one of them written on Pollock despite his work being out there since 1980s? The answer is: None!

Instead of giving credit upfront to RM for his original important work in TBFS, SG begins his review with great condescension: he uses the first one and half pages to give a lecture from the Holy Gita about “Not acting in haste, but with viveka”. He sanctimoniously declares, “In the battle for Sanskrit, RM is like an enthusiastic commander of a committed army whose strengths and weaknesses he himself is sadly unable to reconcile”. He then goes on to claim that RM’s book has a lot of ‘useless words’ and he lacks “historical perspective” and knowledge of dharmic “underlying philosophy”. Such criticism is ludicrous given that RM four previous books provide deep insights into these topics. Did SG need to create this drama? Where is SG’s own viveka and vairagya and all the scholarly ethics he lectures others to follow? As Krishna Chivukula has noted, SG’s review “sadly reflects a dominant tamasik aspect of the current state of academic scholarship in India” (

SG’s begrudging acknowledgement of RM’s ground-breaking work comes in stages beginning with his comment that RM’s “intent is noble”. However, it is couched between platitudes and finger-wagging comments such as RM’s “understanding of the nature of sanatana dharma as a transcendental system is flawed” because it sets up the duality of “Marxism vs Theologist”. One fails to understand the relevance of SG’s reference to Gaudapada’s observation about transcendence and unity of non-duality? What has that to do with RM’s critical analysis of Pollock’s discussion of Ramayana and Sanskrit as tools of oppression of women, Muslims and other minorities based on his application of Marxist, atheist theories of human rights to Hinduism. Is SG suggesting that Pollock’s ideology fits into the transcendence frame of Advaita unity? This suggestion sound like another form of escapism to allow traditional scholars to avoid taking action. The rationale is as follows, as RM has explained: no one and nothing is ultimately evil or can harm sanatana dharma – all is One; no point getting embroiled with such ideas, its all illusionary maya anyways. No need to analyse Pollock’s work or do anything. Instead, SG suggests that its his kind of “non-qualified universal experiential wisdom” that will “counter the enemies” of dharma such as Pollock. Anyone know why that approach has not worked to date? Why do we have an atheist Marxist outsider as the leading world adhikari for Hindu Shastras? SG takes great pains to paint RM as ignorant of Sanskrit terms – I guess it makes him feel superior! Pathetic, indeed.
SG’s complaint against TBFS appears to be threefold: first, that it disrespects traditional scholars; second, that his knowledge of Sanskrit and shastras is deficient and third, that RM does not provide a pramana. I will respond to each one of these charges in detail below.
Regarding SG’s question as to why purve paksh of Pollock is critical at this historical moment, SG appears to not understand the main point of RM’s book. SG laments about RM’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”. This is the question that RM’s TBFS is all about and the reason why RM’s has strongly criticised the failure of traditional scholars for their lack of interest on this subject of purva paksh. To respond, here are some questions RM raises. What weakness among insider scholars and Indian systems has led to an “outsider” claiming the seat of ‘head Pundit’ in Sanskrit studies in India and the world? What internationally acclaimed academic works are the great traditional scholars doing on purva paksh of western Indology? Why is there not a single school of Indology in India, or internationally respected journal or scholarship by insiders? Why are chairs of the cherished gurus of Hindu dharma being proposed to be set up in western universities under Pollock instead of in India? Why are millions of dollars going to Pollock, for example for the Murthy Classics library and not to traditional scholars or Indian scholars to translate Sanskrit texts? These alarm bells ring not because Pollock is an “outsider” being given authority to explain the meaning of the Hindu shastras but because this high pundit’s work undermines Sanskrit as a living language (read: Death of Sanskrit) and denies the sacredness of the Sanskrit dharmic texts (read: Ram). Yes, as GS says, its not about “playing a blame game”, its about what RM says: Insiders taking up the responsibility to take action to meet this challenge. Why does SG take the critique of traditional scholars personally? Perhaps, it has hit a nerve of guilt for what he could have done? That would be his cross to bear.
The fact is that the traditional scholars have failed to do purva-puksh is well established. The call from many leading Sanskrit scholars is that the now “besieged” traditional scholars (Elst) need to get out of the comfort zone of their silos to confront this reality (S. R. Bhatt). Fifteen eminent scholars, many of the heads of Dept. of Sanskrit Studies, whose reviews are present in the beginning of TBFS, acknowledge that traditional “are either blissfully unaware of these subversive projects or are living in isolation and are afraid of debating them” (Dayanand Bhargava). SG’s “poor me” response is that RM “lacks empathy for the numerous scholars who are deeply involved in their own research”. This is a feeble and uninspiring response to the serious challenge that dharma faces in loosing adhikara over the discourse on Sanskrit and Sanskriti to the likes of Pollock and Doniger.
And, one might add, on what basis can SG claim to be the self-appointed spokesman for all traditional scholars? What about the eminent traditional scholars who have acknowledged this weakness of the traditional scholars? Is SG also claiming to trump their views by regarding himself as the monopoly view of traditional scholars?
Further, SG’s dismissal of the urgency of the issues RM raises is exactly symptomatic of what RM analyses is the disease that ails insiders: escapism (TBFS, p. 370). SG presents these escapism themes in his review of TBFS: we have faced this battle for so long and have won, nothing can harm Hinduism. SG’s even admonishes RM to meditate and let things go – suggesting his is getting all tied up in knots for nothing and that how that will come in the way of his sadhana. SG admonishes “if we allow ourselves to be too troubled by such scholars and such debates, we will never be able to attain the peace of a contemplative mind.” Another route to escapism!
SG’s approach can be confusing to those insiders who wish to inject the Kshatriya aspect in to intellectual response to threats to Hindu dharma – SG appears to throw cold water on their enthusiasm to take action rather that go on with business as usual.
Compare that to the response of RM to the threat posed by the establishment of the Shankara’s chair to Columbia: he flew to Shringeri to explain to him the importance of maintaining the insiders’ authority on the legacy of Shankara and urge the Shankarachara there to reconsider this move and then burned the midnight oil for a year to put out TBFS. Yes, that fight appears to be one battle for Sanskrit won by RM’s tapasya!  If RM would have taken the approach suggested by SG, ‘not to be hasty’, etc, it may have been too late to stop the Shankara’s Chair at Columbia, and for that matter the many other chairs that are still planned in the US. It is actually significant that SG does not appreciate the importance and urgency of responding to the threats of Sanskrit outsiders’ attempt to claim authority to speak for the tradition. Compare that to the response of the Kumbh Mela Akhara’s who upon reading the Hindu translation (done by some smart, fast-action oriented RM volunteers) immediately issues a letter of support to RM for informing them of threat and planning to respond to them accordingly. RM refers to Satyajit Ray’s film Shatrang ke Khelari to explain the SG attitudes of escapism – get busy playing a game of “petty and pedantic arguments” while dharma’s treasures are lost, stolen or broken.
Much of SG’s criticism of RM’s work is centered on complaining that RM has not understood Hinduism well and nit-picking on his use of Sanskrit terms. To analyse this further, I refer to an article by SG on the dharmic tradition of discourse (
A useful framework to have while embarking on a discussion is found in the anubandha catuṣṭaya, ‘the four bindings’ that Sadānanda Yogendra Sarasvati puts forth (Vedāntasāra 1.5) for the study of vedānta, which can be easily applied to discussions in general:

adhikāri – one who is qualified to study or speak about a subject
viṣaya – the subject matter; the scope of the discussion
saṃbandha – the connection of the adhikāri to the viṣaya
prayojana –the purpose of the discussion
Some of the biggest gaffes in today’s debates are because one or more of these four criteria aren’t taken into consideration by the debaters.
Indeed, SG’s complaint against RM regarding his knowledge of Sanskrit terms is a big gaffe on SG’s part: RM has clearly said that, regarding the book BFS, his purpose is to provide purva paksh of Pollock’s work, which due to its dense and complex language, is difficult for non-academics and non-English speakers to understand. His subject matter or scope is on Pollock and the sambandha is that he has spent 25 years studying and understanding western academe and their work on India, which makes him an adhikari in the subject area. The purpose of his book, as mentioned earlier, is to wake up Indians, including the traditional scholars, to the social, political and religious threat posed to Sanskrit/Sansksriti by the control of the dominant discourse on Hinduism by likes of Pollock et al. (TBFS p. 21). RM calls the book his “humble attempt as a starting point only. There are many shortcomings in my purva paksh and uttar paksh from my own limitations” and given the limitation of time (p. 49) and that it will be up to others, including the traditional scholars, to build on it.
SG, on the other hand, clearly, is not an adhikari in the area of purva paksh of western Indology. His adhikara is in the area of traditional knowledge – as an eminent Shatavadhani. So, where is the conflict or competition? Why the attempt to pull RM down from the important work he is doing to bring these matters to the attention of insiders? It is undisputed that no one prior to TBFS had done a similar analysis of Pollock’s work. The same malicious attempt was made on RM some years ago when the book, Invading the Sacred, came out which exposed Wendy Doniger’s work of denigrating Hindu deities, gurus and symbols. TBFS shows that while Doniger’s work was overtly denigrating Hindu civilization, Pollock’s work is more covert and insidious – more like the Shakespearean “snake underneath the flower”. For example, Pollock speaks about the beauty of the Sanskrit language, but at the same time prefers to study it as “dead” language, devoid of its sacred connections. In fact, Pollock describes the the sacredness itself as the “serpent underneath the flower” – a guise to entrap Hindus while aiming to suppress the human rights of women, Muslim and other minorities.
I am incredulous that SG is unable to get the point that RM makes about Pollock’s ‘serpent underneath the flower” approach of praising Sanskrit, while covertly twisting the meaning of its texts using Marxist and Euro-Christian lens of human rights. As RM exposes, these filters historically were used in Europe to separate the role of Church and state due to the Church’s hegemonic hold over the politics of the time and its inability to support science. Marxism was a virulent response to Christianity’s long history of oppression of women and minorities, all over the world in pre-modern times. Pollock projects these rationales, that were used against Christianity, onto the Ramayana in unique ways. RM provides an exceptional analysis of his work to show why Pollock is different in his approach: he appears to be someone who loves and respects Sanskrit, but with a hidden “poison pill” inside. So, while appearing to be ‘love Sanskrit’, Pollock’s work proposes the cultural genocide of Hindu Sanskriti it inspires. Despite a lengthy explanation of Pollock’s ideology in the TBFS, SG questions why RM has arbitrarily divided Sanskrit into ‘sacred’ and ‘beautiful’. SG denouces such distinctions, saying they are “rather shallow and even impertinent”. Well, it appears that SG did not read the relevant section (p. 210-17) in the TBFS. RM did not invent that distinction, Pollock did. SG did not appear to have read the section on Pollock’s theory of “aestheticization of power” and its application to the Ramayana.

SG asserts that RM’s work is a failure because he has not established the “pramanas (methods and means by which knowledge is obtained)” prior to doing purva paksh is one of the most perplexing parts of SG’s review.  It is at this point that he finally at the end of two pages, he gives credit to RM: “for attempting a puvapaksha. And this is why TBFS is a valuable work. SG then sets up a loose-loose situation for RM: SG insists that proper purva paksh requires opposing sides to agree to the pramanas that are to be used. However, he acknowledges that western scholars are not familiar with the dharmic approach which allows ‘differences to be reconciled and transcended’ as indicated by diversity of dharmic traditions. While one could reasonably expect that Pollock is fully aware of these dharmic traditions of debate, the question is this. How does RM engage Pollock in a dharmic style debate when the man refused to do engage with him at any level, despite being personally asked by RM to do so? Who can compel Pollock to agree to dharmic style of debate? Pollock’s theories are western based and he is not looking to work towards ‘transcendence or unity’ of the kind GS has in mind. While Pollock’s ideology can be seen as a darshana – RM refers to it at Charvak 2.0 – its not something RM would support. If GS is suggesting to bring Charvak 2.0 into the Hindu dharmic fold, it seems ludicrous. Perhaps its for this reason that GS then moves on in this discussion to give credit to RM: “That said, Malhotra’s analysis of European Orientalism…and ‘American Orientalism’ is reasonably accurate”. It is not much later, that SG acknowledges that “The assiduous efforts of Malhotra in writing TBFS bears fruit…- a meticulous analysis of the works of Sheldon Pollock.”
SG goes on to complain that RM has repeated himself in his discussion on Pollock’s political ideology and “could have saved many pages” if he had not done so. Here, SG has failed to understand how RM has laid out the book. In the introduction RM clearly states that the book is set up in way that each chapter stands on its own and he suggests readers read the first and concluding chapter first and then go to any other chapter that interest them to delve deeper. This has required him to repeat key ideas in each of the chapters.  SG also complains that it is not “practical” RM suggests a revival of Sanskrit to produce new knowledge in Sanskrit. Why not? If sufficient scholars begin to speak fluently in Sanskrit, as a spoken language, would it not be natural for them to create new smritis? They could be songs, plays or stories in Sanksrit language about traditional culture or modern culture.  Its one of Pollock’s assertion that Sanskrit is a “dead” language and is not capable of producing creative works (see chapter 9 of TBFS).
In the conclusion part, SG continues with his lecture on Sanskrit and Sanskriti terms and ideas. I have called it self-serving because it does not add to the discussion on Pollock that RM’s book is about but rather shows SG’s expertise in the area, which is well recognized by RM already. RM has without hesitation invited SG, and all others, to join together to respond with strength to the Pollockization of Indian history, language and culture, most powerfully through media and academia.
Regarding the many criticisms of RM’s use of key Sanskrit words or dharmic concepts, I suspect RM has not responded to them because many of them represent either missing the point that RM is making or are just plain minor to the battle at hand. For example, SG’s concerns about RM’s use of the term “Sanskrit non-translatable’ is an important topic that RM has devoted a whole chapter to in his book Being Different (p. 220-306). I guess SG did not read it because his comments do not add anything to this topic. As I wrote in my previous response to SG, there are other area where his criticism is mere nitpicking. For example, in the appendix, in the section on “Partially incorrect claims that you point out in RM’s work”, I draw your attention to point #7 on the four levels of speech. SG states that Malhotra’s explanation 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 Krishna Bhat).
I would like to point out that perhaps SG is incorrect and RM is correct. I say this not because I am a Sanskrit scholar but because of what I have heard my Guru His Holiness Sri Ravi Shankar explain, and I quote as follows.
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.
My intension here is to show, as SG has said, there are different interpretations of Sanskrit texts. I do not see the need to make this issue a critique of RM’s book.
In conclusion, I would say that it is unfortunate that SG allowed his ego to come in the way of appreciating the inspiring, important and timely work that TBFS represents. Its unsavoury condescending language is against everything he professes to others. He has set a bad example and the impact of it is evident in Venkat’s support for this poor scholarship. The ball is firmly in the court of SG to clean up his act and take positive action towards what RM has beautifully referred to as our collective yajna to protect and serve our dharma. Om Shanti.