[INDOLOGY] [mullaikramas at gmail.com: Fwd: Against the petition against Prof. Pollock]

Stefan Baums baums at lmu.de
Thu Mar 3 17:24:41 EST 2016


The below is forwarded to the list at the request of
Professors Ramasubramanian, Srinivas and Wujastyk.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Krishnamurthi Ramasubramanian <mullaikramas at gmail.com>
Date: 2 March 2016 at 12:29
Subject: Re: Against the petition against Prof. Pollock
To: Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com>
Cc: Mandyam D Srinivas <mdsrinivas50 at gmail.com>


Dear Prof. Wujastyk,

Thank you for your mail concerning the petition calling for a
reconstitution of the editorial board of the Murty Classical Library of
India. I am grateful to you for your kind words of appreciation on the work
of our group on the Indian tradition of Mathematics and Astronomy.

At the outset let me clarify, as I have done elsewhere too, that I was not
the prime mover behind this petition though I fully subscribe to it as a
signatory. It was by error that the petition was uploaded in my name at
change.org, an error which has been corrected subsequently.

I also appreciate your kind gesture to enclose the mail that you had sent
to the Indology Discussion Forum in response to some of the issues raised
in the petition. I just arrived in New Zealand as a visiting  Erskine
Fellow in the Department of Mathematics, University of Canterbury,  and it
took sometime for me to settle here. I also had to give a couple of
lectures, and hence the delay in responding to your posting in the Indology
Forum.

The following response is prepared by me in consultation with my colleague
Prof. M .D. Srinivas (cc-ed). We would greatly appreciate, if you could
post this response in the Indology Discussion Forum.

Thanks much, and
Best regards,
-ram.

--------------------
Response to Prof. Wujastyk's posting in Indology Discussion Forum
--------------------
We are surprised that Prof. Wujastyk's response to our petition is totally
silent on the main issue raised in the petition, which is that Prof.
Pollock has been a prominent signatory of two statements which have
strongly condemned the actions of the authorities of the Jawaharlal Nehru
University (JNU) and the Government of India in taking constitutionally
mandated legal actions against the anti-national slogans raised by an
unauthorized assembly of protesters at the JNU on the 9th of February 2016.
While castigating the actions of the democratically elected Government of
India as an “authoritative menace”, these statements do not condemn the
protesters who called for the dismemberment of India and abused the Supreme
Court of India for “judical killing”. Clearly Prof. Pollock and others who
were signatories to these statements have no respect for the unity and
integrity of India which has been won after a long struggle of the Indian
people against colonial rule. We are at a total loss as to how Prof.
Wujastyk could miss this central issue which was the `"main context" of
this petition calling upon the Murty Classical Library not to be mentored
by academics who have an ideological and political bias that does not allow
them even to respect the unity and integrity of India.

In the following, we shall only briefly respond to Prof. Wujastyk's point
that the petition has misconstrued the views of Prof. Pollock on “What
South Asian Knowledge is Good For”.

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/mesaas/faculty/directory/pollock_pub/What%20is%20South%20Asian%20Knowledge%20Good%20for.pdf

He has referred to the following passage cited in the earlier version of
the petition from the 2012 Heidelberg lecture of Prof. Pollock:

"Are there any decision makers, as they refer to themselves, at
universities and foundations who would not agree that, in the cognitive
sweepstakes of human history, Western knowledge has won and South Asian
knowledge has lost?  ...That, accordingly, the South Asian knowledge South
Asians themselves have produced can no longer be held to have any
significant consequences for the future of the human species?”

Prof. Wujastyk would like us to believe that, Prof. Pollock is only
presenting the above statement as a पूर्वपक्ष (purvapaksha). Sorry, if it
were so, all the theses presented in पूर्वपक्ष have to be completely
refuted before presenting the सिद्धान्त. Prof. Pollock  has only begun with
what he believes is a "statement of fact" that the leaders of Western
academia are unanimous in their conviction that “Western knowledge has won
and South Asian knowledge has lost” and that South Asian knowledge "has no
significant consequences for the future of the human species".

If this were to be a पूर्वपक्ष in Pollock's paper, the rest of the paper
would have been devoted to the खण्डन (systematic refutation), of this
पूर्वपक्ष in its entirety. Here, we do not even see Prof. Pollock
expressing his deep shock or strong condemnation that such a Western
supremacist view is prevalent in the exalted circles of Western academia.


It is true that Prof. Pollock does concede (these are the examples that
Prof. Wujastyk also cites) that there are some South Asian “forms of
knowledge that may be thought of to possess a truth value for the
contemporary world (the nature and nomenclature of nominal compounding or
aesthetic response) or at least a truth value for some people in the
contemporary world (the benefits of yogic asanas and pranayama)”.  However
it is Prof. Pollock's considered view that the “greater part of South Asian
achievements and understandings” have “no claim whatever ... to any
universal truth value in themselves, and precisely because they pertain to
what are specifically South Asian modes of making sense of the world.”


Prof. Pollock is indeed very forthright in expressing his opinion that he
does not believe that “South Asian contribution is the most important ever
made to world knowledge” and that “What the region does provide is a record
of achievements of human consciousness” which “allows us to frame a strong
hypotheses about the nature of that consciousness and the conditions of its
transformation”. These need to be studied   “*in and of themselves*” and
not because they “enable us to live intelligently in the world."


Clearly, Prof. Pollock sees little role for “Indian knowledge” *qua*
“knowledge” in the contemporary world or for the future of human species.
Its relevance is mainly as a historical expression of human consciousness
which could help “us” (namely, the Western academia) to learn something
about the nature of that consciousness. After arguing for such a
thesis (सिद्धान्त),
it is indeed ironical that Prof. Pollock makes a claim in the end of his
talk that "our understanding of 'usefulness' and 'truth' [of South Asian
knowledge] has grown substantially in the time since Marx and Weber".


It was this thesis that was summarised in the petition by the statement
that Prof. Pollock holds the view that “the shastras generated in India
serve no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express
themselves.” It is indeed a fairly accurate summary of the thesis presented
by Prof. Pollock in the Heidelberg lecture.


As regards Prof. Pollock’s 1985 paper, we would also not go into details,
except for drawing attention to the following pronouncement in the abstract
of the paper:


“The understanding of the relationship of Sastra (“theory”) to Prayoga
(“practical activity”) in Sanskritic culture ...Theory is held always and
necessarily to precede and govern practice; there is no dialectical
interaction between them. “

Any scholar who has studied the standard texts of Indian sciences such as
Jyotisha or Ayurveda would not fail to see how these texts advise the
practitioner of their sciences to be acutely aware of the limitations of
the theories expounded in the sastras which are only thought of as means
(उपाय ). The Jyotisha texts emphasize the need for continuous examination
(परीक्षा ) of the procedures taught through observations. The Ayurvedic
texts, as Prof. Wujastyk is indeed well aware, go to the extent of
declaring that “the entire world is a teacher of the intelligent” and that
the “Sastra is a light which serves to  illuminate. It is ones own
intellect that perceives the correct course of action.” In his monumental
work Narayaniyam, Narayana Bhattatiri succinctly summarizing an important
section of Bhagavata observes:

त्वत्कारुण्ये प्रवृत्ते क इव नहि गुरु: लोकवृत्तेपि भूमन् ?

Prof. Pollock only betrays his deep prejudice against the Vedic culture
when he concludes the abstract with another pronouncement that

“... [In sastras,] progress can only be achieved by a regressive
re-appropriation of the past The eternality of the Vedas, the sastra par
excellence, is one presupposition or justification for this assessment of
sastra. Its principal ideological effects are to naturalize and
de-historicize cultural practices, two components in a larger discourse of
power.”

>
It is precisely scholarship of this genre that Mahatma Gandhi aptly
characterised in his seminal work  *Hind Swaraj* over a hundred years ago:

    "The English ... have a habit of writing history; they pretend to study
the manners and customs of all peoples. God has given us a limited mental
capacity, but they usurp the function of the Godhead...  They write about
their own researches in most laudatory terms and hypnotise us into
believing them. We, in our ignorance, then fall at their feet."

We are not upset by Prof. Wujastyk's claim that “Prof. Ramasubramanian has
misunderstood Prof. Pollock's views by 180 degrees”, though it is totally
incorrect. But we are deeply dismayed by his insinuation that many of
those who have signed this petition (most of them eminent Indian
scholars) “have
signed Prof. Ramasubramanian's petition, presumably without having read
Prof. Pollock's work for themselves, or having failed to understand it.”
As indicated by Gandhi, statements exhibiting such condescension borders
almost on racial prejudice.

K Ramasubramanian,
Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay

M D Srinivas
Chairman, Center for Policy Studies, Chennai and Member ICHR

---------------------


On Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 9:31 PM, Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Dear Prof. Ramasubramanian,
>
> Yesterday I became aware of your petition against Prof. Pollock.  I was
> saddened to see what you had written, and I have responded in the email
> below, sent to the INDOLOGY discussion forum.
>
> As you know, I deeply respect the work you do in researching and teaching
> ज्योतिःशास्त्र.  In a similar way, I admire the work Prof. Pollock does in
> reseaching and teaching various शास्त्राणि.  It is regrettable that you
> have attacked the work he does with the Murty Library, to make known the
> wonder that is India.
>
> Sincerely,
> Dominik Wujastyk
>
> --
> Professor Dominik Wujastyk* <http://ualberta.Academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>
> Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity
> Department of History and Classics
> <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
> University of Alberta, Canada
>
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com>
> Date: 27 February 2016 at 08:52
> Subject: Against the petition against Prof. Pollock
> To: Indology <indology at list.indology.info>
>
>
> I discovered yesterday that there exists a petition
> <https://www.change.org/p/mr-n-r-narayana-murthy-and-mr-rohan-narayan-murty-removal-of-prof-sheldon-pollock-as-mentor-and-chief-editor-of-murty-classical-library>
> launched by Prof. K. Ramasubramanian that asks for Prof. Sheldon Pollock to
> be removed from his editorial leadership role with the Murty Library.
>
> The argument against Pollock is based on the idea that, "he has deep
> antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in
> our civilization." The most prominent evidence given to support this
> assertion is a quotation from a 2012 lecture that Prof. Pollock gave at the
> South Asia Institute in Heidelberg, titled, "What is South Asian Knowledge
> Good For?"  Prof. Ramasubramanian states that Prof. Pollock "echoes the
> views of Macaulay and Max Weber that the shastras generated in India serve
> no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express
> themselves."  Unfortunately, Prof. Ramasubramanian has not correctly
> understood these passages in Prof. Pollock's paper, nor the meaning of the
> 2012 lecture as a whole.
>
> Prof. Pollock cites Macaulay and Weber as पूर्वपक्ष positions to his own,
> opposite view.  Prof. Pollock presents Macaulay and Weber as examples of
> the worst kind of misunderstanding of Indian wisdom.  He does this in order
> to build his own argument that there is a deeper knowledge in India than
> Macaualy or Weber realized, the knowledge that is the "South Asian
> Knowledge" of his title.  This is the knowledge of the Indian शास्त्राणि,
> the Indian knowledge systems that Prof. Pollock is defending.
>
> Prof. Ramasubramanian then cites a passage in which Prof. Pollock says,
>
> Are there any decision makers, as they refer to themselves, at
> universities and foundations who would not agree that, in the cognitive
> sweepstakes of human history, Western knowledge has won and South Asian
> knowledge has lost?  ...That, accordingly, the South Asian knowledge South
> Asians themselves have produced can no longer be held to have any
> significant consequences for the future of the human species?
>
> In this passage, Prof. Pollock is *criticising* the administrators of
> western universities who do not give proper recognition and value to Indian
> knowledge systems, and only view India as a place to make money or to make
> practical applications of knowledge systems of the West.  Again, this is
> the पूर्वपक्ष.  Prof. Pollock's central argument is that the special,
> unique knowledge systems developed in India, mainly recorded in Sanskrit,
> are of great value, and that this fact is not recognized by "universities
> and foundations" who, like Macauley and Weber, think that Indian knowledge
> systems have been superseded by Western ones.   Prof. Pollock's point of
> view is that the शास्त्राणि , representing South Asian Knowledge, are
> precious, worth studying, and still have much to offer modern cultural
> life.  On pages six and seven of his lecture, he gives the examples of
> व्याकरण and the theory of रस as forms of knowledge that were developed to a
> uniquely high degree in early India, and that still have the power to
> enrich thought today.  On the subsequent pages, he begins to make the even
> more difficult argument for finding modern value in even more
> internally-oriented Indian sciences such as मीमांसा, अलङ्कार  and
> नाट्यशास्त्र.
>
> The larger point of Prof. Pollock's article is that the institutions of
> higher education in America and elsewhere have found it difficult over the
> last fifty years or more to develop institutional structures to support the
> study of *Indian* knowledge systems, and that the South Asia Institute in
> Heidelberg is a model of success in allowing those who develop knowledge *about
> *India to work in harmony alongside those who deepen their appreciation
> of the knowledge that was developed *by *India.
>
> It would be possible to make similar arguments for the other evidence
> referred to by Prof. Ramasubramanian, e.g., Prof. Pollock's 1985 paper on
> the character and importance of शास्त्राणि, of South Asian knowledge
> systems.  In that paper, Prof. Pollock says that, "Classical Indian
> civilization, however, offers what may be the most exquisite expression of
> the centrality of rule-governance in human behavior" and that śāstra is "a
> monumental, in some cases unparalleled, intellectual accomplishment in its
> own right."  One could discuss this paper further.  But to cite it as an
> example of a criticism of India is the opposite of the truth.
>
> It is regrettable that Prof. Ramasubramanian has misunderstood Prof.
> Pollock's views by 180 degrees.  Prof. Pollock is a champion for the same
> values of Indian culture as Prof. Ramasubramanian.  That is why Prof.
> Pollock devised and brought into being the Murty Classical Library.
>
> Many people have signed Prof. Ramasubramanian's petition, presumably
> without having read Prof. Pollock's work for themselves, or having failed
> to undestand it.  The damage done by this misunderstanding is likely to
> last a long time, and hamper the efforts of Prof. Pollock and others who
> seek to bring the glory and subtlety of ancient Indian knowledge to the
> attention of the modern world.
>
> --
> Professor Dominik Wujastyk* <http://ualberta.Academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>
> Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity
> Department of History and Classics
> <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
> University of Alberta, Canada
>
>

On Sat, Feb 27, 2016 at 9:31 PM, Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Dear Prof. Ramasubramanian,
>
> Yesterday I became aware of your petition against Prof. Pollock.  I was
> saddened to see what you had written, and I have responded in the email
> below, sent to the INDOLOGY discussion forum.
>
> As you know, I deeply respect the work you do in researching and teaching
> ज्योतिःशास्त्र.  In a similar way, I admire the work Prof. Pollock does in
> reseaching and teaching various शास्त्राणि.  It is regrettable that you
> have attacked the work he does with the Murty Library, to make known the
> wonder that is India.
>
> Sincerely,
> Dominik Wujastyk
>
> --
> Professor Dominik Wujastyk* <http://ualberta.Academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>
> Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity
> Department of History and Classics
> <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
> University of Alberta, Canada
>
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com>
> Date: 27 February 2016 at 08:52
> Subject: Against the petition against Prof. Pollock
> To: Indology <indology at list.indology.info>
>
>
> I discovered yesterday that there exists a petition
> <https://www.change.org/p/mr-n-r-narayana-murthy-and-mr-rohan-narayan-murty-removal-of-prof-sheldon-pollock-as-mentor-and-chief-editor-of-murty-classical-library>
> launched by Prof. K. Ramasubramanian that asks for Prof. Sheldon Pollock to
> be removed from his editorial leadership role with the Murty Library.
>
> The argument against Pollock is based on the idea that, "he has deep
> antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in
> our civilization." The most prominent evidence given to support this
> assertion is a quotation from a 2012 lecture that Prof. Pollock gave at the
> South Asia Institute in Heidelberg, titled, "What is South Asian Knowledge
> Good For?"  Prof. Ramasubramanian states that Prof. Pollock "echoes the
> views of Macaulay and Max Weber that the shastras generated in India serve
> no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express
> themselves."  Unfortunately, Prof. Ramasubramanian has not correctly
> understood these passages in Prof. Pollock's paper, nor the meaning of the
> 2012 lecture as a whole.
>
> Prof. Pollock cites Macaulay and Weber as पूर्वपक्ष positions to his own,
> opposite view.  Prof. Pollock presents Macaulay and Weber as examples of
> the worst kind of misunderstanding of Indian wisdom.  He does this in order
> to build his own argument that there is a deeper knowledge in India than
> Macaualy or Weber realized, the knowledge that is the "South Asian
> Knowledge" of his title.  This is the knowledge of the Indian शास्त्राणि,
> the Indian knowledge systems that Prof. Pollock is defending.
>
> Prof. Ramasubramanian then cites a passage in which Prof. Pollock says,
>
> Are there any decision makers, as they refer to themselves, at
> universities and foundations who would not agree that, in the cognitive
> sweepstakes of human history, Western knowledge has won and South Asian
> knowledge has lost?  ...That, accordingly, the South Asian knowledge South
> Asians themselves have produced can no longer be held to have any
> significant consequences for the future of the human species?
>
> In this passage, Prof. Pollock is *criticising* the administrators of
> western universities who do not give proper recognition and value to Indian
> knowledge systems, and only view India as a place to make money or to make
> practical applications of knowledge systems of the West.  Again, this is
> the पूर्वपक्ष.  Prof. Pollock's central argument is that the special,
> unique knowledge systems developed in India, mainly recorded in Sanskrit,
> are of great value, and that this fact is not recognized by "universities
> and foundations" who, like Macauley and Weber, think that Indian knowledge
> systems have been superseded by Western ones.   Prof. Pollock's point of
> view is that the शास्त्राणि , representing South Asian Knowledge, are
> precious, worth studying, and still have much to offer modern cultural
> life.  On pages six and seven of his lecture, he gives the examples of
> व्याकरण and the theory of रस as forms of knowledge that were developed to a
> uniquely high degree in early India, and that still have the power to
> enrich thought today.  On the subsequent pages, he begins to make the even
> more difficult argument for finding modern value in even more
> internally-oriented Indian sciences such as मीमांसा, अलङ्कार  and
> नाट्यशास्त्र.
>
> The larger point of Prof. Pollock's article is that the institutions of
> higher education in America and elsewhere have found it difficult over the
> last fifty years or more to develop institutional structures to support the
> study of *Indian* knowledge systems, and that the South Asia Institute in
> Heidelberg is a model of success in allowing those who develop knowledge *about
> *India to work in harmony alongside those who deepen their appreciation
> of the knowledge that was developed *by *India.
>
> It would be possible to make similar arguments for the other evidence
> referred to by Prof. Ramasubramanian, e.g., Prof. Pollock's 1985 paper on
> the character and importance of शास्त्राणि, of South Asian knowledge
> systems.  In that paper, Prof. Pollock says that, "Classical Indian
> civilization, however, offers what may be the most exquisite expression of
> the centrality of rule-governance in human behavior" and that śāstra is "a
> monumental, in some cases unparalleled, intellectual accomplishment in its
> own right."  One could discuss this paper further.  But to cite it as an
> example of a criticism of India is the opposite of the truth.
>
> It is regrettable that Prof. Ramasubramanian has misunderstood Prof.
> Pollock's views by 180 degrees.  Prof. Pollock is a champion for the same
> values of Indian culture as Prof. Ramasubramanian.  That is why Prof.
> Pollock devised and brought into being the Murty Classical Library.
>
> Many people have signed Prof. Ramasubramanian's petition, presumably
> without having read Prof. Pollock's work for themselves, or having failed
> to undestand it.  The damage done by this misunderstanding is likely to
> last a long time, and hamper the efforts of Prof. Pollock and others who
> seek to bring the glory and subtlety of ancient Indian knowledge to the
> attention of the modern world.
>
> --
> Professor Dominik Wujastyk* <http://ualberta.Academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>
> Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity
> Department of History and Classics
> <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
> University of Alberta, Canada

----- End forwarded message -----

-- 
Dr. Stefan Baums
Institute for Indian and Tibetan Studies
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich



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