re Kalanos the gymnosophist

lusthaus at lusthaus at
Tue May 7 12:52:34 UTC 1996

Robert Zydenbos, who seems to have more time on his hands than I can muster
at semester's end, writes:

>Does this "outgrowing" and "regaining intellectual significance in the world",
>in your opinion, imply that India should at once dump all its own linguistic
>heritage and Anglify / Americanize completely, by any chance?...
>And again: please quote me correctly. I never wrote about a "Sanskrit-only"
>movement... Where did you get THAT idea?

I wasn't "quoting you" re: Sanskrit-only. I had just replied to another
posting on our mutual thread, and didn't think my replies to each separate
participant had to be isolated or structured in isolated quotations. I
trusted you knew what you did or didn't say, and would recognize such while

As for putting words in someone's mouth, where in my post - which did
discuss cosmopolitanization - did you get the impression that I was
promoting re-anglisizing India? If my post said anything, it said that
India has to expand beyond its love/hate mirroring of a British image kept
alive in India that has not existed in Britain for decades. That's
particularly true of India's elites and English speaking/writing

>Is anything that is not Anglo-American "provincial", perhaps? Why should we not
>allow people to take pride in their own heritages?

Since when does cosmopolitanization require (1) self-hatred or (2)
fastening on only a single foreign entity?

>As for the knowledge of Sanskrit among Indians: have you ever noticed the
>percentage of words in each and every living Indian language...

Yes, which is why I added the caveat that they did understand Sanskrit
words or phrases that their own language incorporates or allows. That's not
the same as being able to read and understand the Tantravarttika or
MadhyamakakArikA. That also doesn't deny that there are pundits well-versed
in certain Sanskrit texts - usually accompanied by a professional modesty
that they *only* know/teach those texts, even when others fall into the
same category.

My initial claim was that Sanskrit has, since the time of the Vedas, been
an acquired, not a native tongue. That does not entail the claim (or
absurdity) that some of the posters (not just Robert) are trying to push me
into, viz., that Indians never knew, used, spoke, or conversed in Sanskrit.
Those fortunate and intelligent enough to be trained in Sanskrit could use
it, and some did to good effect. But when they went home to visit mom and
talk to their sisters, they did not converse in Sanskrit. The fact that
there are some who are trying to make that a reality *now* does not
magically anoint those efforts with a history they never had.

> [re: some Indians fearing America vis-a-vis nuclear weapons] Nor do I
>wish to say that such
>views are held by a majority of Indian decision-makers. I merely wish to bring
>to your attention that such views exist and are circulating in India.

That information was interesting. And while it indicates that in some
quarters the "need" for nuclear weapons has come to include winning respect
from the US, the original and more pressing "need" in the Indian psyche
remains Pakistan.

> le> I question the legitimacy of the word "reviving" in that
> le> sentence.
>But of course it is a reviving. What else would you call it?

Creating something that has never been while believing it has always been.

>(Actually, both those phrases can mean more than one thing, can they not?)

Yes. The same range of things.

>I had some difficulty in understanding your "turned to Sanskrit [...] and even
>then often in Prakrit forms", since in my view Sanskrit is one thing and
>Prakrit another, hence we cannot have Prakrit forms of Sanskrit. So I concluded
>that you meant something like 'Sanskrit with Prakritisms', or forms of Sanskrit
>like Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit.

I meant - in quick emailese - both: Buddhist hybrid Sanskrits (Buddhist
"Sanskrit" deviates in more than one way from the paninian standard) and
the various Prakrits.

>This depends on what we are willing to include as "formative". Living Jainism,
>as we know it today, is much closer to the weltanschauung and ritual practices
>which we find described in Jaina Sanskrit texts than in any Prakrit texts I
>know of.

The other side of this coin is that Jainas are the first to admit that they
know and remember very little about their actual tradition prior to the
advent of Islam in India. The old sites with their monuments and their
significances remain a mystery to most present day Jains. Jainism survived
Islamic persecution in large part by transforming from a monastic to a lay
tradition, and much was lost in the transition. "Living Jainism," sadly
like much of India, is hoping to recover its lost past.

> I fully agree that Western researchers, in general in the past, have
>not given non-Sanskritic sources their due. But the pattern repeats itself over
>and over: movements that develop within a geographically relatively limited
>area, using a non-Sanskrit medium, after some time Sanskritize.

Yes, there are these moments of homogenization, for a variety of factors.
One of their results - even occasionally for Hindu traditions - is that
these moments of homogenization either mark the decline of intellectual
creativity, or gradually lead in that direction. That is not to say that,
for instance, the moment Buddhism began to speak Sanskrit it immediately
lost its creativity. On the contrary, Mahayanic Buddhism was quite
innovative for a long period of time, and some of the grandest moments in
Buddhist philosophy and literature occurred within the Sanskrit mode. But
the process of homogenization finally sapped the distinctive thinking that
was Buddhist; the popular version became more and more "hindu-ized", and
the elite version became more and more specialized and rarified, until
Buddhism disappeared (with the help of unsupportive muslims).

SO maybe that means, in your model, that Buddhism was not Indian enough to
survive as a distinct tradition?

> le> Similarly, are Sikhs not Indians
> le> simply because
> le> they never Sanskritized the Adi Granth (and have no plans to
> le> do so,
> le> according to the latest I've heard)? What about the Sants,
> le> Kabir, etc.?
>I hope you are aware that a section among the Sikhs wants to create Khalistan,

I asked:  "Do you want to reduce Sikh political actions and motives to mere

It's also interesting that you are willing to dismiss the Sants, etc., as
something less than fully Indian. Although less obvious from the secondary
literature, one could show that such thinkers as Ramanuja were also deeply
influenced by Islamic thought. Not only does his theology mirror themes
found virtually contemporaneously in the Islamic world - from Andalusia to
India - but some of his arguments, and their style, also mirrors Islamic
counterparts. On the other hand, by the second Muslim century, many Indian
elements start to crop up in Islamic thought, so there was a two way
influence. Put Sharia and Dharma'sastra aside, strip off the practices most
blatantly distressing to Muslims or Hindus by the other (e.g., idol
worship), and temper the more extreme orthodox positions of each, and on
the common level Hinduism and Islam did have much in common, especially in
the ascetic/aesthetic searching for spiritual insight. The Sants were
perhaps more Indian than you are willing to allow.

>Let me now turn the question around and ask you: if "Indianness" does not exist
>as a cultural phenomenon, closely linked with the Sanskrit language, then why
>should there be a "Speak Sanskrit" movement at all?

For the same reason Ayatolla Khomeini wanted to establish an Islamic state
in Iran, even though historically Shi'ism has always been differentiated
from Sunnism by the former's utter distrust of the legitimacy of any
worldly government. In other words - moha.

Dan Lusthaus
Macalester College

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