Indian Organizors in Beijing Philosophy Meet: Why No Translation of Hindi?


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By: Dr. Koenraad Elst, Orientalist
Greetings from the World Congress of Philosophy in Beijing, a huge event of eight full days with 40+ parallel sessions, where I am participant 7058.
I borrowed and saved up to get here, and I treasure every minute of it. But that is not why I am writing these lines.
Presently I am listening with a half ear to a lecture by some fellow of the Bharatiya Akhil Darshan Parishad, the All-India Philosophy Council, all in Hindi.
Though this conference has state-of-the-art facilities of simultaneous translation, Hindi is not provided for, just as the UN doesn’t recognize Hindi, second language of the world before the official languages Spanish, English, Arabic, Russian and French. Nor have the organizers of the Indian sessions negotiated with the main organizers to arrange translation for Hindi into English and Chinese.
The Chinese people present are proverbially polite and let it all happen, but by now they all have either left or are engrossed in their cell-phones.
Though I myself can more or less follow, I find this whole performance positively boorish. It is very impolite to the Chinese hosts and to the many Latin-American, Japanese etc. guests.
This is a session by and for Hindus and could just as well have been held in Delhi.. Here you get a unique opportunity to let India shine, with a sympathizingly disposed international audience, and you are throwing it away. Or rather, you are throwing it in your hosts’ faces.
I perfectly understand that the Hindi layer in these English-trained scholars is struggling under the surface to assert itself, and comes out whenever it can, including at inappropriate occasions. I have seen it in Delhi, where the “victims” are usually Western conference-goers (like the many Western scholars expert in Sanskrit but ignorant of Hindi), and given the animus against the British colonizers and American “Breaking India” forces in some circles, I somewhat understand.
But there again, it’s just bad publicity, as if you already had too much of good publicity and can afford it.
Now, someone is busy justifying the use of Hindi in Hindi (rashtrabhasha and all that), saying stuff that every single Indian in the audience has heard a hundred times before, and that is lost on the (by now just two) Chinese now remaining in the hall. Then announcing the next speaker, who is again taking the floor in Hindi.
If you want to talk Hindi, excellent. The way to make it possible, is to legaly upgrade the status of Hindi. Unlike the other vernaculars, it happens to have the Constitutional status of national language, only the implementation of this article, provided for 1965, was blocked by the Nehruvian elite. It takes no constitutional amendment to implement it.
Has your BJP government in the past 4 year done this, or anything in this direction? Once this was a party wedded to the cause of Hindi, led by Raghu Vira, author of the authoritative dictionary of Shuddh Hindi. Has the foreign minister done anything at all to upgrade the status of Hindi in the UN (where the late lamented AB Vajpayee gave a Hindi speech 40 years ago as a curiosum calculated to increase his popularity in India, but did nothing real for Hindi), or in private platforms such as this philiosophy organization?
And this brings us back to the by now old saw that this government totally refuses to perform on the cultural front.
In matters with religious consequences, they hide behind the sensibilities of the minorities, even in matters that have nothing to do with the minorities. Well, this is a different matter, and here too it is a proven disappointment. In other respects than language too, this is a missed chance for Hinduism and India.
Thus, a session on Deendayal Upadhyay’s Integral Humanism, featuring Ram Madhav (with whom I had a friendly but intentionally superficial talk), consisted mostly of hagiographies, not of creative actualizations of his fifty-year old thoughts, nor of ‘critical’ (even if positive) assessments.
But the really repulsive part was a lecture mostly just expanding on Deendayal’s digressions on the dichotomy between India and the West (also somewhat present in Vivekananda and Gandhi), with the West being materialist, dualist and everything bad, and India the reverse.
Sorry, but this is plainly silly. Samkhya is a dualist philosophy, but the Indian one, etc. For a clear example known to all of you: the Portuguese came for “pepper and souls”, gainfully acquiring and selling back home Indian spices, and on the other hand conferring upon you benighted heathens the precious gift of Salvation.
Yes, they were barbaric, but to their own mind, they were also generous, saving you from eternal hellfire and gifting to you eternal heaven, a gift infinitely greater than any earthly riches they may have taken from you. Now, whatever the truth of their belief, it was ‘not materialistic’.
The dichotomy East/West is just silly. The Chinese participants, though having their own accounts to settle with the West, looked predictably bored. As they did with the (for me also predictable) bouts of Hindu self-praise.
Is there no one in India who prepares these occasions for heightening your stature in the world?
2 of 2:
By: Come Carpentier

The dichotomy between spiritual India and materialistic Europe can indeed be made to an extent provided it is explained through between the literal historicity of Christianity which relies on a specific unprovable and supernatural but unquestionable event: the incarnation of God in the flesh once only as a child in Palestine at a given date. On that basis the Christian faith is claimed to have the exclusive power to save the souls of those who believe in every aspect of the story and relinquish their earlier religions to worship solely Jesus-Christ as God the Son and his virgin mother.

On the other hand the Hindu-Buddhist-Jain-Sikh traditions emphasize the intemporal, eternal (sanathana) and universal experience of the Divine in the Self and its adoration in many forms (istadevatas). That is indeed a spiritual vision as opposed to the very material, documentary-based and juridical interpretation of the Immaculate Conception, Incarnation, Mission, Death and Resurrection of the one (Judaic) God made flesh.
Obviously there are personalised forms of the Divine in the Indian tradition (Sri Rama, Sri Krsna etc…) but there are many paramparas, darsanas and sampradayas and the mahavakyas (Om Tat Sat, Aham Brahmasmi et al.) are fundamental, not the historical and legendary accounts of Avataras in the past.
Yet such an explanation must be given. Saying merely that Indians are spiritualists who are not interested in money, wellbeing or wordlly pleasures unlike greedy westerners is obviously inviting discredit and even in theory it is reducing Hinduism to Advaite Vedanta.
The ability to use one’s language abroad reflects the power of one’s country. Even though China is not an English speaking country it is able to send its message abroad far and wide because of its might. India is not yet in that league and since it is regarded as English-speaking few abroad take the trouble to learn Hindi or provide facilities for its translation.
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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. IPC
    Aug 24, 2018 @ 22:21:58

    We agree with the points that Dr. Koenraad made in his post here. The points he made are:

    1. It was inexcusable failure on the part of Indian ‘Session Organisers’ that DID NOT tell the Beijing organisers to ensure simultaneous  translation of ‘Hindi address’  into English / Chinese as these facilities were already available in this Philosophy Meet. I would add: Shame on these Indians!

    2. Ages old rant of ‘Indian spiritualism versus Western materialism’ is out of tune with the modern scientific age. India needs to grow up to put its ‘Philosophy’ in the context of modern science.

    3. ‘Dualism’ too does not belong to West. Sankhya philosophy has age-old concept of dualism: Prakarti and Purusha. Indian participants could not highlight this Indian philosophical achievement.

    4. Even 50 years old thoughts of Deen Dayal Upadhyay on ‘Humanism’ could not be put in the modern context by the speakers  Here I would add: There was an article recently in Swarajya magazine that highlighted the need for RSS and BJP to come out of its traditional mode of ‘Pracharaks and Sakhas ONLY’ to include those individuals who are ORIGINAL THINKERS and working individually without means. One such example is Shri Rajiv Malhotra. And, there are many more in India.

    5. It was a foolish thing for those Indian participants in this meet who were ‘advocating the Rashtrabhasha Hindi in Hindi language before the (only two left) Chinese audiance!’ What would the Chinese have thought of such Indians? Poor impression of India!

    6. It was rightly said: Is there nobody in India to tell to the world the greatness of Hindu philosophy? I would add: India must grow to be competitive.

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