Why “The Battle for Sanskrit” matters for India?

By: Shrinivas Tilak

(It is a review written by Shrinivas Tilak of “The Battle For Sanskrit: Is Sanskrit political or sacred? Oppressive or Liberating? Dead or Alive?” a book by Rajiv Malhotra – 2016 HarperCollins Publishers India)

I Introduction

Why The Battle For Sanskrit matters

In chapter one of The Battle for Sanskrit the author Rajiv Malhotra succinctly explains his purpose (prayojana) in writing this book: Sanskrit has been the heartbeat of Indian civilization (sanskriti) for several thousand years. It could even be said that bharateeya sanskriti has Sanskrit embedded in its DNA. Put differently, Sanskrit provides the vocabulary with which Indian civilization is encoded. Even those who do not explicitly use Sanskrit often draw upon knowledge stored in Sanskrit texts—Shruti, Smriti, and epics (mahakavyas) such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. One would think, continues Rajiv Malhotra (hereafter RM) that major takeover of Sanskrit studies by Western scholars would not go unnoticed in India particularly when their works discount or undermine the core values of Sanskrit and sanskriti. In the United States it is Sheldon Pollock (Arvind Raghunathan, Professor of South Asian Studies at Columbia University, New York) who leads and shapes the anti-Sanskrit/Sanskriti brigade. After acquiring his Ph.D. in Sanskrit Studies from Harvard under the famous Indologist, Daniel Ingalls, Pollock spent the next four decades working diligently on a variety of Sanskrit texts. His publications cover a vast canvas of topics in Sanskrit studies. Chapter two of The Battle for Sanskrit (hereafter TBFS) provides a detailed account of Pollock’s activism. A leading Sanskrit scholar, Sheldon Pollock (hereafter Pollock) is regarded as a hero by many fellow academics and leftists in the USA and in India. He has trained and inspired an army of young American and Indian scholars, popular writers, and other opinion-shapers to use his interpretations of Sanskrit for a completely new analysis of Indian society. The new breed of intellectual leaders groomed under his aegis includes a number of young scholars across the world that pretend to claim newly earned authority on Sanskrit history, social structures, and their political implications.


Patrick McCartney

Patrick McCartney, a PhD candidate in the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University, is one such aspiring (‘good cop’) scholar inspired by Pollock. The topic of his dissertation sounds benign and innocuous: ‘Shanti Mandir: Authenticity, Emotion and Economy in a Yoga Ashram’ which is located in Melbourne, Australia. The title of his proposed post-doc research, however, is more ominous: ‘Imagining Sanskrit Land: A Sociolinguistic Study of Sanskrit Language Nests and the Hindu Rāṣṭra.’ Here, McCartney (the ‘bad cop’) intends to explain ‘how the symbolic capital of Sanskrit is utilized by the Hindu nationalists groups, i.e. the Sangh Parivar, as a way to usher in their ultimate goal of overthrowing the world’s largest secular democracy and replace it with a Hindu theocratic state. Due to its religious symbolism, McCartney speculates, ‘Sanskrit is the preferred linguistic vehicle that is apparently able to purify and sanitize space, right the historical wrongs of the Mughal and Colonial periods, and assist with the creation of a new social and moral order’ (see McCartney, n.d. Post-doc Research Proposal).


Elsewhere McCartney challenges the very mandate of Samskrita Bharati (an organization of dedicated volunteers founded in 1981 that strives for the popularization of Sanskrit, Sanskriti and the Knowledge Traditions of India): to undertake the ‘Revival of Samskrit as a mass communication language (janabhasha) and facilitation of common man’s access to its vast knowledge treasure.’ Samskrita Bharati, McCartney warns us, is a part of the Sangh Parivar, the collection of nationalist, political, social, paramilitary, religious and cultural organizations devoted to the furthering of its particular version of ‘patriotic’ Hinduism. The Sangh would like to see an ideal utopian Hindu nation and world with Sanskrit as its lingua franca. Samskrita Bharati’s role in this movement is linguistic and cultural; however, it is enmeshed in the political, religious, and para-military preoccupations of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), respectively. Sanskrit is a symbolic vehicle for the ideology and practices of the Sangh Parivar (McCartney 2014). Approvingly citing Sheldon Pollock, McCartney claims that speaking in Sanskrit was restricted or prohibited regardless of an individual’s linguistic inheritance. Punishments to prevent further transgressions included pouring molten tin and lac into the ears of women or non-twice-born males who dared listen to Sanskrit mantras, according to the ancient legal text Manava Dharma Shastra [i.e. the Manusmriti]. The punishment for a non-dvija learning or teaching Sanskrit was for their bodies to be hacked to pieces (McCartney 2014). For McCartney, the use of Sanskrit is deeply connected to the nationalistic patriotism of Hindutva ideology. The Hindu right, he concludes (in a manner clearly reminiscent of Pollock), has appropriated Sanskrit for its own moral and political agenda and is implementing it as part of its cultural hegemonic aims. For national unity and world peace, a Brahminical ideology and practice should be established under a Hindu kingdom with a hyper-masculinized Rama as its semiticized, monotheistic figurehead (see McCartney 2014).


Following his mentor Pollock, McCartney concludes that Samskrita Bharati represents a monolingual and mono-cultural hegemony bereft of sympathy for or interest in South-Asian cultural, linguistic and religious diversity. The imposition of their ‘tolerant’ and ‘harmonious’ goals result from adopting the Sangh’s moral and linguistic initiatives whose symbolic power comes through the sanitizing effects of Sanskrit. Therefore, the type of person found speaking Sanskrit generally seems to hold conservative and intolerant views towards multiculturalism and modernity, and is rooted in the ideology of Hindutva. This is problematic for the 99.99875 percent of India’s population who don’t [sic] speak Sanskrit and also, perhaps, don’t want to be sanitized in the way the Sangh would like them to be. The ‘intangible heritage’ found within the Sanskrit literary canon is a valuable body of knowledge that UNESCO believes should not be lost to humanity. It belongs to all of us, not just fascist ideologues with an agenda.


In his research proposal McCartney informs us that (1) he has been to India twenty two times over the past sixteen years spending a total of six years there, (2) that he did not encounter any resistance to his project amongst the communities he visited, (3) that as an outsider who shows interest in their culture he is generally treated as an honored guest (see McCartney 2014).No doubt, at some future date McCartney’s publications will be prescribed as required reading in Western universities where Sanskrit and Indian culture are taught. Like McCartney, several bright young Indians are being trained in Sanskrit studies who are then encouraged to occupy key posts in India and elsewhere. They control many journals, conferences, dissertation committees, and other fora that shape the approach to Sanskrit and sanskriti. The prestigious Murty Classics Library, which plans to translate five hundred volumes of Indian language works into English, is an example of the enormous power controlled directly by this group of US and India based Sanskritists and Indologists. The translations it is producing bear the ideological stamp of the very overbearing and bullying stamp whose fundamental positions RM targets in this book.


The raison d’ȇtre of TBFS is to discuss in depth some of these politically active scholars led by Sheldon Pollock. RM laments that Indians in general (and Hindus in particular) are blissfully unaware of the fact that studies in Sanskrit and sanskriti have been and being hijacked by Western (particularly American) Sanskritists and Indologists with a specific political agenda (as discernible in McCartney’s Post-doc proposal). Prominent leaders of the USA-based Sanskrit studies movement like Pollock occupy powerful academic positions in a number of fields in Indology from where they (1) control the editing and authoring of many influential works in and on Sanskrit and (2) initiate or support petitions that attack Hindu institutions and leaders. They also lobby in Indian political circles, exerting influence through the media. Alarmed by the increasing hostility among Western Indologists and Sanskritists toward Sanskrit and sanskriti. RM has initiated an ongoing debate with them. 


The long tradition of debates/verbal battles

In India, controversial philosophical and religious doctrines have been debated and verbally battled in public discussions from the earliest times. Debates (Sanskrit samvāda = dialogue) featured different schools of thought covering such areas as philosophy, jurisprudence, literature, and medicine. One reads about arguments in which important teachers advocated their opinions fearlessly and defeated (or lost to) opponents in verbal debates. One early Indian thinker, Kautsa, was bold enough to insist on the meaninglessness of the Vedas and was taken to task by the famous etymologist Yaska for it. Yaska nevertheless retained this dissenting opinion as well as many others in his dictionary of Vedic terms the Nirukta.


In the Upanishads there are dramatic scenes of men and women ascetics, kings and brahmins regularly debating and disputing over the ultimate nature of brahman, the transcendent reality. This they did publicly before an equally erudite audience in rounds of challenge and counter-challenge. The famous debate where Gargi challenges her sage husband Yajnavalkya on the nature of the self (atman) is one such instance.


Over time, a distinct discipline of debate and dialogues (Vadashastra) emerged with set conventions about how such debates were to be held, which rules were to be followed to conduct the debates and when a debater could be declared the winner in a verbal contest. Unfortunately, manuals on debating per se from ancient India have not survived. Nevertheless, two sources–the Carakasamhita (Vimanasthana 3:8) and the Nyayasutra (chapters one and five) with Pakshilatirtha’s commentary Nyayabhashya, provide an adequate account of the rules that were to be observed in actual arguments and an indication of what handbooks or manuals of debate may have contained.


Samvada (sambhasha in Carakasamhita) can mean dialoguing in a variety of modes including ‘face to face,’ and ‘confrontation between two adversaries presided over by a referee.’ Many suktas in the Rigveda featuring such debates are called ‘Samvada suktas.’ The Bhagavad Gita too styles itself as samvada—between Shrikrishna and Arjuna about the nature of ultimate reality and how to attain it. The Mahabharata uses the term samvada to describe harmonious exchange, say, between Draupadi and Satyabhama (one of Krishna’s wives), or the more contentious one between Draupadi and Yudhishthira before they set for the forest.


Generally, a debate proceeded in three stages—Purva paksha, Uttara paksha, and Siddhanta. Purva paksha refers to the faithful depiction and critical examination of the views (mata) held prima facie by one’s opponent concerning a key idea about a major precept or practice in philosophy, jurisprudence, or medicine (pariksha). Uttara paksha involved critical assessment and subsequent refutation of the point of view of the opponent on the subject under scrutiny (nirnaya = decision).  Siddhanta meant putting forth of a ‘provisional’ conclusion (i.e. a conclusion subject to revision after subsequent round/s of debate).


Debates regularly took place among the leading scholars of the six philosophical systems (darshanas; meaning philosophical visions or views about different aspects of reality) over the merits and demerits of each system. Typically, the losing scholar would renounce his lineage to join the winner’s school. The losing scholar’s disciples were expected to follow him. This is how Mandana Mishra, the leader of the Mimamsa School, had to join the Vedanta School led by Shankaracharya after losing in one such debate.


II Opposing camps on the battlefield

The outsider and the insider

RM refers to the two antagonists in the debate/verbal battle over Sanskrit as Outsiders and Insiders. It was Kenneth L. Pike who coined the new terminology of ‘etic’ and ‘emic’ to refer to the ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’ respectively. While etic refers to a detached, trained observer’s perception of the un-interpreted ‘raw’ data; emic refers to how those data are interpreted by an ‘insider’ to the system. An emic unit is a physical or mental item or system treated by insiders as relevant to their system of behavior in terms of the context (Pike 1967). Thus, in the etic perspective, the color ‘white’ is perceived as equal presence of light of all wave-lengths by an average human eye. In the emic perspective, white is the color of festivity and joy in Western cultures. In India it denotes the notion of purity and auspiciousness; while in China it is the color of mourning. On the whole, therefore, the distinction between the etic and emic views parallels the distinction between the outsider and insider and the absolute and the relative respectively. The outsider allegedly brings with him/her a detached observer’s view, which is one window on the world. The view of the local scene through the eyes of a native participant is a different window. Either view by itself is restricted in scope and may lead to distortion. The ‘Outsider’ looks at Sanskrit from an Orientalist and Social/anthropological studies point of view; while the ‘Insider’ camp holds a traditional Indic view of Sanskrit and tries to understand a culture the way the insiders see it.


Two important caveats may be entered here: (1) RM is categorical in stating that the ‘Outsider’ vs ‘Insider’ division is not based on race, ethnicity, or nationality. Thus, while in general the Western view looks at Sanskrit and sanskriti with an Orientalist lens, any Westerner holding the traditional viewpoint on Sanskrit would be called an ‘Insider.’ By the same token Indians holding an exclusively Social/anthropological science point of view while denying the traditional view would come under the ‘Outsider’ camp; (2) RM’s battle for Sanskrit is not physical but verbal and metaphysical. The structure of his overall argument developed in TBFS–attack, defense, and counter-attack is verbal and intellectual; not physical.


The camp opposing Pollock’s is led by RM. It wants to see Sanskrit regain and retain its power as a living language driving sanskriti and dharma. Rather than dismiss Sanskrit as a dead language, Hindus celebrate Sanskrit as a living language for its enduring sacredness, aesthetic powers, metaphysical acuity, and ability to generate and support knowledge in many domains (Malhotra 2016: 30). Unfortunately, advocates of the inside view are dispersed and not well-resourced. They are for the most part practitioners of one or the other form (pantha) of Hinduism and tend to cluster in small groups where they feel safe as they relate to one another. Many of them are ignorant of the battle at hand and hence unwittingly become complicit in the agenda pushed by Pollock and his troops.


III Purva paksha

RM’s TBFS, which ‘provides a careful survey of the ongoing contentious debate over Sanskrit, sanskriti, and dharma, provides a worthy continuity to that illustrious line of debating tradition of India by challenging Professor Pollock and his school. Initially, skirmishes took place at various seminars, public lectures, and on line followed by a meeting between RM and Pollock in latter’s office in Downtown Princeton. After cordial exchange of views the two decided to meet again after TBFS was published. TBFS narrates the history of how RM built his Purva paksha around four key propositions put forth by Pollock:


I : Decoupling Sanskrit from the Vedas by removing the mystic aura surrounding it. Scholars then must direct their gaze through the window of Sanskrit into the history of India to expose the toxic role Sanskrit has had in social oppression as claimed by select historians.

II: Secularizing the Sanskrit kavya tradition (particularly the Ramayana) by peeling away its paramarthika (transcendental) dimension

III: Interpreting the Ramayana as a social and political weapon of oppression against women, shudras, and Muslims as claimed by some select historians

IV: Declaring the death of Sanskrit and the rise of vernaculars (Pollock’s term for languages derived from Prakrit). Per Pollock, Sanskrit was dead as a living language by about the twelfth century. The cause of its death was the structures of abuse that were built into it and Hindu kings accelerated that process. Pollock absolves Muslim invaders and British colonizers from any hand in the death of Sanskrit.


Pollock’s posse 

RM charges that over the past few decades a group of ideologically and politically motivated American Sanskrit scholars with commitment to Marxism have successfully fused expertize of Sanskrit onto the leftist lens on India. This fusion, led by Pollock, is at the heart of what RM calls ‘American Orientalism phenomenon.’ It is important to note that the deep and systematic study of Sanskrit carried out by Pollock and his posse is not being driven by any kind of respect or attachment for Sanskrit as a language of an ancient civilization. Rather, it is motivated by a political agenda as several chapters of TBFS explain in detail (Malhotra 2016: 61ff). RM charges that Pollock and his posse (many of them being Hindu scholar recruits) have set up for themselves the task to exhume, isolate, analyze, and theorize about the modalities of domination rooted in Sanskrit as the medium of brahminical ideology of power and domination. RM’s Purva paksha (i.e. scrutiny = pariksha) occupies the major portion of TBFS (in my opinion this material could be divided into the following six fields: (1) Sanskrit pariksha; (2) Shruti pariksha; (3) Kavya pariksha (4) Shastra pariksha; (5) Sanskriti pariksha; and (6) Orientalism pariksha).RM’s presentation of Purva paksha is masterly. There is ample evidence that he has carefully and diligently studied the principal writings of Pollock and his henchmen/women displaying for all to see their assumptions, detailed arguments, and conclusions that are detrimental to Sanskrit, sanskriti, and dharma. He has exposed the etically derived agenda of Pollock and his posse–to divide Hindus and fracture their composite sociocultural identity by artificially decoupling Sanskrit from the Vedas on the one hand, and from the ‘vernaculars’ on the other. 
  

IV Uttara paksha

Malhotra, the musketeer: lone defender of Sanskrit and Sanskriti RM modestly claims that the Purva paksha component of this book is more important than the Uttara paksha. I beg to differ. His Uttara paksha is as important as the Purva paksha because it is destined to awaken Hindu intellectuals and instill in them the urge to provide their own versions of spirited and creative Uttara paksha in response to the gauntlet thrown by Pollock. I would suggest to the reader that RM’s energetic Uttara paksha (albeit not as elaborate as his Purva paksha) should be understood and explained (to others) in terms of the following six verdicts or decisions (nirnayas) delivered on points of order raised in the Purva paksha of Pollock’s thesis that Sanskrit is dead, oppressive, and politically motivated: (i) Nirnaya on Sanskrit and Prakrit, (ii) Nirnaya on Shruti, (iii) Nirnaya on Kavya and Shastra, (iv), Nirnaya on Sanskrit, (v) Nirnaya on Sanskriti, and (vi) Nirnaya on Orientalism.


V Siddhanta

Every tradition faces existential challenges from time to time, and its adherents must consider (and develop) ways to maintain its viability as they enter new epochs and eras. On the whole, this is a healthy process of maintaining dynamic equilibrium. A tipping point, however, comes when opponents begin to dominate the discourse from the outside so overwhelmingly that the defenders of the tradition from within simply capitulate. Sanskrit and sanskriti are facing this challenge and plight right now. In order to ensure the revival and survival of Sanskrit and sanskriti Indians need to assemble what RM calls a ‘home team’ to represent their views collectively in debates with Pollock and others over Sanskrit and sanskriti. RM reached this crucial conclusion (siddhanta) after waging a lonely battle against Pollock and his posse for over two decades.


Building the ‘Home Team’ of musketeers

The ‘home team’ of RM’s dream would consist of those who would work toward seeing Sanskrit flourish as a living language, and as a pathway into the transcendent realms of experience  and the knowledge systems based on them. He suggests setting up training academies that are on par with those built upon vast research and educational apparatus controlled by the opposite side. They will sponsor academic conferences and journals, not for regurgitating old materials but for generating new ones. The context and institutions within which Sanskrit is taught today will have to be entirely revamped and re-envisioned. There, the traditional web of sanskriti could be approached critically, using a wide range of tools–from philology and social science to metaphysics and cosmology. All this would be approached from within the traditional cosmology and be lived as the ‘lifestyle’ issuing out of it.


From the mouse clicker to the musketeer = intellectual kshatriya

Another major conclusion (siddhanta) of TBFS that I found most inspiring is RM’s endorsement of the traditional adage—a true scholar is he who acts on his convictions (yah kriyāvān sa paņḑitaḩ).  Indeed, RM’s latest book is concerned to transform mouse clicking armchair Hindu of today into an intellectual kshatriya (musketeer activist) in the cause of Sanskrit, sanskriti, and dharma. It would be instructive to learn how RM himself came to acquire the adhikara to lead the mission he took upon himself two decades ago. At the age of forty-four, RM heard a call from within to serve his homeland and his people. Before long, he had summoned enough courage to come out of his cushy, comfort zone and take voluntary retirement from the lucrative business he had been operating quite successfully in the United States taking enormous personal and financial risks in the process–continuing to support and bear the responsibility of his homemaker wife with two young children aged thirteen and ten.


He next put himself totally in the hands of the guru he had chosen. This is how his true tapasya (ascetic practice) started and continues. His tapasya involved internal meditation + ascetic practices (tapas), self-initiated and guided studying (svadhyaya) and devotion to God (ishavara-pranidhana). Initially, his guru did not allow RM to go public with his experiments or experiences or saying anything about what he was doing explaining it would only inflate his ego. When his guru realized that RM had cultivated the necessary adhikara, he was allowed to go on the mission that he had chosen for himself—battling for Sanskrit, sanskriti, and dharma.


Ethos, pathos, and logos in TBFS

RM’s experience in community service, his tireless commitment to the wellbeing of his people, and his willingness to reach across the aisle and cooperate with the opposition have made him an ideal activist pandit to lead (1) the battle for Sanskrit and (2) to mobilize the masses through his writings. It is instructive to study how he deploys a three-fold strategy based on the traditional concepts of adhikara, sahrdayata, and samjna (roughly equivalent to Aristotle’s ethos, pathos, and logos respectively) in order to mobilize his readers to accept and act on his abiding message.


Ethos (adhikara)

Adhikara (ethos; Greek for ‘character’) refers to how trustworthy, credible, and qualified the writer/speaker is and how knowledgeable s/he is concerning a subject. Since the reader is familiar with RM as the writer, his reputation is relevant and important to the message he is sending through TBFS. Ethos is often conveyed through tone and style of the message and through the way the writer refers to differing views and voices. Persuasion from ethos involves the appeal from the author’s acknowledged life contributions within a community. Ethos is conveyed through tone and style of the message. It can also be affected by the writer’s reputation as it exists independently from the message—his/her expertise in the field, previous record or integrity, and so forth.


Readers are naturally more likely to be persuaded by a writer who, they think, has personal warmth, consideration of others, a good mind, and solid learning. RM’s potential readers already know something of his adhikara ahead of time thanks to the availability of dozens of videos and audio tapes in which he has developed the basic argument in defense of Sanskrit. His experience and previous performances eminently qualify RM to speak on the various issues pertaining to Sanskrit, sanskriti, and dharma.


RM’s authoritative voice marshals other qualified voices in a conversation with his readers by the device of direct and indirect quotation.  In TBFS, the quotation marks signal that someone else’s words are erupting into the text, replacing temporarily his lead voice. Carefully creating a proper perspective and context for the material he is quoting, RM makes sure how the reader will interpret the quoted passage while retaining control over the message being delivered. Since through indirect quotations the writer can exert even more control over the other voice than in direct quotation, RM extensively uses a large amount of indirect quotations as well as paraphrasing a large number paragraphs where warranted.


In representing his argument or story in particular ways RM, the activist promoting Sanskrit, sanskriti, and dharma energetically (i.e. in the spirit of an intellectual kshatriya), portrays the voices expressing the need to preserve Sanskrit exposing the voice of Pollock and his supporters as short-sighted and socially irresponsible.


Pathos (sahridayata)

Sahridayata is an abstract noun made by fixing the Sanskrit prefix ‘sa’ meaning ‘similar or together’ to hridaya = heart. Sahridayata is the state of common orientation, commonality or oneness and sahridaya is one that has attained this state wherein the heart of the ‘communicator’ and the heart of the ‘receiver’ of communication have become ‘one.’ Vedic teaching “Be humane and humanize others” (Rigveda 10:53.6) is significant for understanding sahridayata: all should be mutually bound with each other; each one affectionately attracting the other, the way a cow showers her love and affection for her new-born calf” (Atharvaveda 3:30.1). Everyone should look upon each other with a friend’s eye (Yajurveda 36:18). The Samanjasya Sukta (Atharvaveda 6.64) conveys a similar message: Live in harmony, in accord with each other, understanding each other, suffused with each other, with your hearts co-mingling.


Kalidasa in his Abhijnana Shakuntalam describes a sahridaya person as paryutsuk, that is, someone who was ensconced in his/her genial environment (or comfort zone as RM would have it) but has now become edgy and restless and filled with angst as a result of the call and the pull of the message received (Misra 2008: 94). Thus, it is sanskriti that provides the basis for sahridayata; however it is not an elitist notion because one does not have to be an intellectual to imbibe that quality.


Like pathos, sahridayata is an appeal that draws upon the reader’s emotions, sympathies, interests, and/or imagination. With an appeal to pathos, the reader is encouraged to identify with the author – to feel and experience what the author feels. As the meaning of pathos implies, the reader ‘suffers,’ (in the realm of the imagination that is–) what the author suffers. An appeal to sahrdayata (bandhuta) causes the reader not only just to respond emotionally but to identify with 
the author’s worldview and voice–to feel what the author feels.


Logos (sapramanata) 

Logos (Greek for ‘word’) refers to the internal consistency of the message or argument–the clarity of the claim, the logic of its reasons, and the effectiveness of its supporting evidence (sapramanata). RM’s logic is impeccable and TBFS (as well as his other publications) is a testimony to it.  Consider, for instance, the following exchange from TBFS–During RM’s meeting with Pollock in his office in Princeton, the latter cited an impressive list of his publications and awards received and asked RM: ‘How could you think I hate Hinduism when I have spent my entire life studying the Sanskrit tradition?’(Malhotra 2016: 13). This logic, observes RM, would certainly have worked with the vast majority of Indians. The mere fact that a famous Westerner is working so hard to study Hinduism would be enough to bring awe into the minds of most Indians. In reply RM said “…there are scholars in many disciplines who study some phenomenon for the purpose of undermining ‘(emphasis added) it, not because they love it. People study crime in order to fight it. There are experts on corruption who want to expose it, not because they love corruption. There are public health specialists who study a disease with the intention of being able to defeat it.” It was fallacious, concluded RM, to assume that merely studying Sanskrit made Pollock a lover of Sanskrit and sanskriti (Malhotra 2016: 14).


VI Concluding comments

RM concludes TBFS with the hope that the world has much to learn from the long Hindu tradition of critical learning from debate and dialogue. Many of the ancient debates were about deeply felt, controversial matters particularly in philosophy and literature. Since the two camps hold widely different views on Sanskrit and sanskriti, and dharma each can profit from a dialogue with the other and appreciate both the uniqueness and commonalities of each side. Dialogues (whether performed in public or written down) have been an indelible feature of Hinduism because its voice is multi-vocal and multi-lingual. Its doctrines, practices, and institutions have not had only one voice of authority. In almost every region of India, dialogue has been embedded in Hinduism through texts, doctrines, histories, rituals, ceremonies and in  architecture and art. For thousands of years, Hindus have been debating over gods and deities, how best to represent them, and what their true nature is. Thus dialogue and debate, and critical thinking too has been a defining feature of Hindu traditional texts, rituals, and practices.


Kenneth Pike saw the outsider (etic) and insider (emic) approaches as complementary, rather than conflicting ways of achieving an understanding. In order to apply comparative concepts appropriately, therefore, it is necessary to follow the research carried out from an etic perspective by an emic one. Pike draws our attention to the two perspectives that are present in a stereographic picture. Superficially they look alike, on closer inspection they are notably different, but taken together the added perspective is startlingly novel because the same data have been presented through a bi-focal vision (see Pike 1967: 41). 


RM believes that a dialogue carried out in a ‘stereographic’ manner would not only uncover commonalities as may exist but also creatively develop them bringing the two camps closer in a spirit of mutual respect. An inclusive framework might then emerge that will draw upon the synergy existing between emic and etic approaches generating a balanced perspective on Sanskrit, sanskriti, and dharma.


A harmonious sharing of a common cultural space and labor between Sanskrit and Prakrit based languages existed in the past. Available epigraphic evidence suggests that while the genealogical account in many inscriptions is in Sanskrit, the ‘business’ portion (i.e. details of the land grant etc) are in the regional language. Today, while Sanskrit would be used to interpret, supplement, and re-describe the constitutional and legal reality; in the pragmatic day-to-day affairs regional vernacular languages would prevail. Sanskrit phobia will evaporate in thin air as soon as Indic scholars find a place of honor in Sanskrit and Indic studies.


Bharunda: Bird with two heads

RM might consider adding to his debating points the urgent need to persuade those Hindu scholars that have joined the Pollock camp to return home (ghar wapasi). The purport of the following story from the Panchatantra may be used to impress upon them that in unity lives the wellbeing of the duality of Sanskrit and Prakrit, Kavya and Shastra, Sanskrit and Sanskriti: 

Once upon a time, there lived a strange bird named Bharunda, on the banks of a lake. It was strange because he had two heads fused on to the same body. One day, as the bird was wandering, it found a delicious looking golden fruit. One of the heads started eating the fruit with pleasure. The other head requested, “Oh dear, please let me taste too the fruit that you are so praising.” The first head just laughed and said, “We share the same stomach. Whichever mouth between us may eat the fruit, it goes to the same stomach. Moreover, since I am the one who found this fruit in the first place, I have the right to eat it myself.” This selfishness of the first head hurt the second head very much.


Few days later, as they were wandering the second head spotted a poisonous tree laden with fruit. It declared to the first head, “The other day you did not share with me the delicious fruit. Now I am going to eat this fruit without sharing it with you. The first head pleaded in desperation, “Please don’t eat this fruit; it is poisonous. We share the same stomach. If you eat it, we will both die.” The second head replied in a mocking tone, “Since I am the one who found this fruit in the first place, I have the right to eat it.” Knowing what would happen, the first head began to cry. The second head ate the poisonous fruit regardless. As a consequence of this action the bird died with both the heads coming out losers. The wise indeed say: Union is strength (see http://www.talesofpanchatantra.com/shortstories_bharunda_bird_two_heads.php.; accessed on Oct 20, 2015).


References

Acharya, Poromesh. 1996. Indigenous education and Brahminical hegemony in Bengal. In The 

Transmission of Knowledge in South Asia: Essays on Education, Religion, History, and Politics 

edited by Nigel Crook, 98-118, Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Bagchi, Shrabonti. 2014. Indian tradition of debate, dialogue has much to teach us, America’s 

Indologist says: Interview with Laurie L. Patton. Times of India, April 14, 2014. 

Henning, Martha L. Friendly Persuasion: Classical Rhetoric–Now! Draft Manuscript. August, 

1998. http://www.millikin.edu/wcenter/workshop7b.html; accessed on October 27, 2015.

McCartney Patrick. 2014. The sanitising power of spoken Sanskrit. 27 February 2014 Himal: 

Southasian. http://himalmag.com/sanitising-power-spoken-sanskrit/; accessed on Feb 15, 2016.

McCartney Patrick. n. d. Post-doc Research Proposal. 

https://www.academia.edu/19566419/Post-doc_Research_Proposal; accessed on February 21, 

2016.

Misra, V. N. 2008. Foundations of Indian aesthetics. Gurgaon, Haryana: Shubhi Publications.

Patton, Laurie L. 2014. The Biggest Loser in the Doniger Controversy? Indian Traditions of 

Debate. Posted on Huffington Post Blog. 02/26/2014; accessed Oct 25, 2015. 

Pike, Kenneth L. 1967. Language in relation to a unified theory of the structure of human 

behavior [1954]. The Hague: Mouton.

Pollock, Sheldon. 1993. Deep Orientalism? Notes on Sanskrit and Power Beyond the Raj. In 

Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament: Perspectives on South Asia edited by Carol A. 

Beckenridge and Peter van der Veer, Sheldon, 76-133, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania 

Press.

___________.1996. ‘The Sanskrit Cosmopolis, 300-1300: Transculturation,Vernacularization, 

and the Question of Ideology.’ Ideology and Status of Sanskrit. Contributions to the history of 

the Sanskrit language edited by Jan E.M. Houben, Leiden: E.J. Brill, pp. 197-247.

——, 2006. The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in 

Premodern India. Berkeley: University of California Press.

* Shrinivas Tilak (Ph.D. History of Religions, McGill University, Montreal, Canada) is based in 

Guelph, Ontario, Canada. His publications include The Myth of Sarvodaya: A study in Vinoba’s 

concept (New Delhi: Breakthrough Communications 1984); Religion and Aging in the Indian 

Tradition (Albany, N. Y.: State University of New York Press, 1989); Understanding karma in 

light of Paul Ricoeur’s philosophical anthropology and hermeneutics (Charleston, SC: 

BookSurge, revised, paperback edition, 2007); and Reawakening to a secular Hindu nation: M. 

S. Golwalkar’s vision of a Dharmasāpekşa Hindurāşţra (Charleston, SC: BookSurge, 2008). 

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