Re John Smith's Mahaabhaarata

tatelman at tatelman at
Sat Oct 19 14:58:50 UTC 1996

Dear Indology List Members,

I have been following the discussion developing around John Smith's use of
Muneo Tokunaga's Mahaabhaarata files.

First of all, I wish to record my gratitude to Prof. Tokunaga for his
labours and Dr. Smith for his.

Secondly, I'd also like to mention Prof. Tounaga's valuable article on
metre in the Mahaabhaarata ('Statistic Survey of the "Sloka in the
Mahaabhaarata', Memoirs of the Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University no. 34,
March 1995, pp. 1-38), which I have found a precious resource in my own

Thirdly, I'd like to venture a few opinions. As I understand it, the whole
point of making the text of the Mahaabhaarata available on the Internet is
to facilitate study and research. If Dr. Smith is able, through a year's
hard work, to render Prof. Tokunaga's original texts more useful to
students and scholars, I think everyone gains and no one loses. At the same
time, considering the enormous labours to which Prof. Tokunaga went in
order to produce the Mahaabhaarata files, without which Dr. Smith would
have had no material revise, it strikes me as not unreasonable that Prof.
Tokunaga would wish to be consulted before such revised files were made
available to the public. If I were John Smith, I would wish to express my
regrets to Prof. Tokunaga that I did not do so. But I am not, and it is not
my business to tell Dr. Smith what to do.

Above all, I do not think this should be regarded as a matter of who is
right or wrong, or who is more right or more wrong or anything of the sort.
I think the most important consideration is mutual, ongoing good-will among
all those engaged in Indology and related disciplines; all other
considerations, to my mind, pale in comparison. We are a small discipline,
not particularly appreciated by the wider community and especially by such
bodies as provide funding. This is perhaps acutely apparent to a person
such as myself, who has just devoted a dozen years of hard study to a
discipline that I love, but who cannot expect to obtain employment in that
discipline in my own country, nor, perhaps, anywhere else.

It is not astonishing that Prof. Tokunaga was stung or at least taken aback
by Dr. Smith's criticism of his labours on the Mahaabhaarata. My impression
is that this is because Dr. Smith's comments did not acknowledge first and
foremost the enormous service that Prof. Tokunaga has performed for all of
us. Perhaps if Dr. Smith had described his own revisions of the files
simply as making useful changes to what was already an exceedingly valuable
gift to all those engaged in Indological study, no acrimony would have
arisen in the first place. I for one regard his revisions exactly in this

Let us, then, remind ourselves of the importance of being more than
ordinarily considerate to one another. If we do not do so ourselves, we can
be sure that no one outside the discipline will be. I can think of no
scenario more regrettable and deplorable than Sanskrit scholars falling out
with one another. Let us discuss, debate, share the fruits of our research,
but always endeavour to do in a spirit of great good will, grateful we have
companions on the long and not always comfortable journey for which, by and
large, no one outside the discipline will reward us for undertaking. Let
us, indeed, cultivate the four cardinal virtues of amity, joy in others'
happiness, compassion and equanimity.

Finally, if Prof. Tokunaga, Dr. Smith or anyone else should revise the
Mahaabhaarata files so that they can be read by an ordinary Macintosh word
processor, I, for one, would be truly grateful.

Regards to all.

Joel Tatelman

Joel Tatelman
#2-293A Roncesvalles Ave.,
Toronto, Ontario,
Tel.: (416) 535-4997

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