the Gods

S Krishna mahadevasiva at
Fri May 30 03:27:01 UTC 1997

>From indology-request at Thu May 29 17:20:23 1997
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>From: Adi Hastings <amhastin at>
>This anecdote is not entirely relevant, but it does touch on some of
>the matters discussed in the current thread.
>  When I was an undergraduate, a Sanskrit professor of mine said to me:
>"Well, Max Mueller's theory of Rig Vedic religion being originally a cult
>of the sun makes complete sense if you realize that he got up every
>morning at the crack of dawn. He was one of those people who would today
>call people up on the phone at 7 in the morning!" On another occasion, he
>told me that Frits Staal's ideas about the meaninglessness of ritual stem
>from his strict Calvinist upbringing.
>Now these reported facts may or may not be true (although the do make some
>amount of sense), but they do raise the question (pertinent to the matter                           
>at hand) of the role of a scholar's personal biography in the work that                                
>they do. 
> --------
>Adi Hastings

 Yes, how very true. It would make logical sense for people reviewing
a paper/book etc to be influenced by their own background, perception
, pre-existing biases etc. This unfortunately extends all the way into
the highest realms of academia. As an example, you have the German
physicists Johannes Stark and P.B(?)Lenard who started the concept
of German science in the 30s. They apparently came from areas where
anti-semitism was widely prevalent. So, they would examine any piece
of research, any paper/tract by a Jewish author with the pre-concieved
idea that he was wrong. In order to prove them wrong on a consistent
basis, they came up with theories which were not based on any hypothesis, but 
simply opposed the viewpoint of a given Jewish scientist with whom they did not 
see eye to eye in their personal
     This idea is very humorously brought out in R.K.Narayans classic
"Swami and Friends" where Ebenezar, Swamis scripture teacher condemns
Hinduism on the basis that Krishna was a vagabond who did nothing better to do 
then to dance and make merry...."Where was he" Ebenezar
thunders "when Mahmud of Ghazni looted the temple in Somnathpur and 
carried the icons to Ghazni and used them as steps for his lavatory?"
Swami( the quintessential Brahminical lad) jumps up and asks him
"If your Jesus Christ is as great as you say he was, then why is it
that he was crucified like a common criminal?" Ebenezar bites his moustache and 
asks Swami to sit down. This only makes Swamis blood
boil and he asks his next question "If Jesus was the son of God,
then why did he eat meat and fish and drink wine?"(As RKN himself
remarks, as a Brahmin boy, it was inconcievable to Swami that
God could be anything but a vegeterian:-)). Humor apart, the reactions
of the two characters about each others religions illustrate how 
their pre-concieved notion of what is expected of a God affects their
judgement of another religious character/leader.
        I would like to end my comments with a personal anecdote. 
When in high school, I had friends who were brought up to think
that only Indians could write good books while the rest of the
world could only emulate/copy/steal  from the Indians. They happened
to discover the well known text book on high school algebra by S.L
Loney( Samuel L. Loney) of the Trinity College which they found
to be extremely useful. Since they were convinced that only Indians
could write good books , they decided that the S and L in S.L.Loney
stood for Shankar Lal i.e. "Shankar Lal Loney was a great professor"
Using the same kind of logic, they concluded that Jane "Iyer" was an
autobiographical novel of the first Tamil speaking girl to go to
England as a grad student and "Oak Ridge" was named after P.N.Oak
, the Hindutva theoritician:-).

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