Rajaram's bull: background considerations

Jan E.M. Houben jhouben at RULLET.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Fri Aug 4 09:48:34 UTC 2000

In the aftermath of the "horse seal" exposure, a brief reaction on the
excellent comments of Luis Gonzalez-Reimann and Vidyasankar Sundaresan on
underlying sociological conditions.

I would like to support Vidyasankar's warning against underestimating the
gigantic redefinitions of the tradition that are taking place in smaller and
larger, Indian and worldwide, movements of "Hindu humanism"  or
"neo-Hinduism" with claims that now the real or an older or a more properly
understood tradition is being followed.  A little reading of RSS
publications (and of related organizations) shows the truth of Vidyasankar's
statement that "The Hindutva-vAdi definition of what is "Hindu" is neither
very Brahminical nor traditional" (even when the "tradition" is constantly
cited and referred to). One example (I cite from an article by C.J.G. van
der Burg, in Ideology and Status of Sanskrit, Leiden 1996: 380) : "the
spread of Sanskrit knowledge has been "democratized" [JH: at least within
the Hindu nation] instead of being reserved for a religious elite, as in the

It is interesting to note that gigantic redefinitions seem to have taken
place in the crucial transition period for Sanskritic culture, around the
beginning of the first millennium when (citing S. Pollock in Ideology and
Status of Sanskrit, p. 204) "the brahmanical Satavahanas insistently
employed Prakrit for their public records, while their adversaries, the
out-sider Sakas, had begun to use Sanskrit." (Luis Gonzalez-Reimann justly
draws our attention to the importance of the centuries which preceded, but
emphasized only tradtionalist reactions, not the redefinatory

The discontinuities of thorough redefinitions and recreations of the
tradition seem to be a non-recognized part of the "life" of that tradition.

And then Brian Aker's question:
"is this a temporary phenomenon, the proverbial last gasp? Or will
rationality soon be gasping?"

Both according to philosophers of science and according to Bhartrhari (it
was Ashok Aklujkar's creative idea to compare the two; reformulation is
mine) any "knowledge tradition" (small or great)  requires some rationality
(tarka), some usually unquestioned paradigms (aagama),  some directly
perceptible (and hence usually unquestioned) reality (pratyakSa) (whether or
not computer enhanced). Let's hope the mix of these will remain healthy and
in the long run self-correcting.

Best whishes to "all who work for peace by peaceful means" (I cite from
Jan Houben

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