Gentoo studies

Shrisha Rao shrao at IA.NET
Sat May 22 11:30:52 UTC 1999

On May 5, 1999, Robert Zydenbos <zydenbos at BIGFOOT.DE> wrote:

>> Date:          Tue, 4 May 1999 18:33:58 -0500
>> From:          Shrisha Rao <shrao at IA.NET>
>> On Tue, 4 May 1999, Lars Martin Fosse wrote:
>> > That is an important prerequisite for their scholarship, and they
>> > are proud of it. They have no faith in Western scholarship such as
>> > philology, linguistics etc, and they prefer to construct their own
>> > version of scholarship.
>> [...]
>> Then, too, there certainly is more than a slight tendency among
>> proponents of "Western scholarship" to rely excessively on each
>> other's secondary sources and form incestuous intellectual cliques
>> with little outside input.  It used to be said that in the days of the
>> British Raj, Western writers who pictured India would primarily deal
>> with the few Europeans there, and the "natives" would rarely figure,
>> except perhaps as servants, villains, or the occasional Maharaja.  The
>> very same trend is certainly present to a large degree in recent
>> Indological scholarship (such as with the late Jan Gonda, who had
>> never been to India, but was perfectly content to theorize about it
>> extensively from his armchair).
>I do not know how many writings of Gonda you have read,

The ones I have some familiarity with are `Epithets in the Rgveda', `Change
and Continuity in Indian Religion', and `Aspects of Early Visnuism'.

>but he was precisely one of those researchers who did not deal with sundry
>Englishmen and other Europeans, nor maharajas and 'native villains'. He
>went straight to the Vedas and all the other texts he worked on. He
>also had a firm grounding in Greek, Latin and Avestan, which made him
>well equipped to make pronouncements on, e.g., 'Aryan' matters.

However, to assume that a grounding in Greek, Latin and Avestan is much or
all of what it takes to make pronouncements re, e.g., the Rg Veda, is more
than we can agree upon, at least at this point.  Even if Gonda "went
straight to the Vedas," he did not "go" to any classical scholar of the
Vedas and get trained, and because he had not studied them and their
ancillaries himself, was obliged to draw upon many writings of other
"Western" scholars, who also, it turns out, did not have have a grounding in
classical Vedic studies.  Thus my observation that the setting up of a faux
"version of scholarship," as originally observed of Frawley, et al., by
another writer, was also a valid accusation in re Gonda, et al.

>[As an aside: I wonder whether those notorious proponents of the
>'Indic paradigms of knowledge and scholarship', whose names keep
>popping up in messages on this list (and are they not an 'incestuous
>intellectual clique'?), are anywhere nearly as qualified as Gonda was.

They certainly are such a clique, and they're probably not at all qualified,
we can agree.  However, I hold no brief for them, as I previously stated, so
let's stick to Gonda, et al. for the moment.  Even if there are other
ignoramuses, it does us no good to simply point to their warts and ignore
our own.

>His qualifications may not be an absolute guarantee against errors --for
>what could be an absolute one?--, but they are very significant.]


>As for the armchair: when one works on philological material from the
>farthest edge of history, or even from the middle ages, why not sit
>comfortably? :-) Does it matter whether the armchair is in Utrecht,
>Poona, or anywhere else? I am afraid that I do not understand this
>criticism of Gonda.

Well, if Gonda had been merely content to study the RV from the perspective
of IE studies or such, and leave aside all social aspects arising out of it,
or presumed in it, etc., the location of his "armchair" would perhaps not be
as critical, although I would not call it insignificant.  It is common
knowledge in academia that one needs to go through a period of
apprenticeship and interaction with senior scholars in order to gain
scholarly maturity, and I doubt there was a community of RV scholars located
in the vicinity of Gonda's armchair in Utrecht.  However, even ignoring this
point, Gonda's writings in "Change and Continuity of Indian Religion" are
certainly concerned with contemporary Indian society, and I do not accept
that Gonda's having no first-hand feel for his subject would be a negligible


Shrisha Rao

>> Shrisha Rao

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