Early Giithaa sculptures

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at BLR.VSNL.NET.IN
Wed Dec 30 09:59:00 UTC 1998

Narayan S. Raja wrote:
> On Tue, 29 Dec 1998, Robert Zydenbos wrote:
> > Eastern Peoples_), the attitude that says we should pick up an old text,
> > ardently believe in it and construct the whole of history on that text
> > is not exclusively Hindu. But percentagewise, it seems more a Hindu
>                             ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> > problem today than, e.g., a Muslim or Christian one.
>   ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> I'd be interested to know why you make
> this observation, because it is the
> exact opposite of my experience.  In
> fact, the Western controversies over
> evolution, the age of the universe,
> the non-specialness of human beings,
> abortion, contraception, etc. are
> simply not found among Hindus.

Right here, on the Indology List, and in this thread, there was a list
member who claimed that the Bhagavadgiitaa was written at the beginning
of the Kaliyuga. On the basis of what? This is the kind of
antihistorical attitude I was referring to.

> In my experience, Hindu scriptural literalists
> are negligible in number.

Quite the contrary. It happens over and over that I try to start a
historical discussion with traditional pundits about, e.g., the relative
dating of puraa.nas, and the reply will be that such a question cannot
arise because all puraa.nas have been written by Vedavyaasa, who is
Vi.s.nu himself, hence they are all equally old. Similarly, there are
other questions of a historical or textually critical nature which are
practically not discussable: e.g., the actual (small) number of works
that are truly by ;Sa:nkaraacaarya (despite the writings of Paul Hacker
and Agehananda Bharati); that Madhvaacaarya wrote not 37, but 39 works
which have been preserved till today (because some other old author
wrote '37', and this idea remains current, despite the publication of
those 2 other works by the editor of Madhva's collected writings,
Bannanje Govindacharya). I am quite sure that any researcher working on
any Indian religious scriptural tradition can report more such matters
(because I have yet to see a tradition in which this is not the case).

> On the other hand,
> political pseudo-Hinduism (e.g., the BJP) is
> clearly a problem.  But this is not based on
> literal interpretation of any text.

But neither are those Western (or do you mean 'American'?) controversies
to which you referred above. What matters is that the persons who
present such 'interpretations' _believe_ that they are literal and (what
is more important to them) objective.

It is rather characteristic of various fundamentalisms that they are
_not_ based on a critical reading of texts, taking into consideration
the general circumstances under which the texts were created, but rather
on some later ideology that is projected onto a text or texts. And the
'psychological' or 'emotional' investments (to use expressions from
Agehananda Bharati) made in those ideologies are so great that they are
not open to critical investigation and discussion. As a result, criteria
for determining the appropriateness of a view or interpretation or
theory are based neither on a text, nor on logic, nor on a comprehensive
view of history, but on other things: ethnic / communal hatred and
arrogance, or vested political interests, or chips on the shoulders of
certain sections of society, or an ongoing culture shock from which in
some cases Indian expatriates sadly suffer, etc., or combinations of
these. Unfortunately, some of this keeps cropping up in this List.

> Every Western problem doesn't have to have an
> exact Indian counterpart...

I, for one, never said so (and I fully agree with you on that point). At
the same time, we can see that some problems do have their counterparts,
and in the interest of general modesty it helps to point this out.

> Regards, and best wishes for a happy new year,

The same,


Dr. Robert J. Zydenbos
Mysore (India)
e-mail zydenbos at bigfoot.com

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