Types of Indology

Thu Oct 26 04:32:57 UTC 2000

Types of Indology
1. Whether we like it or not, Indian culture and civilization (like Western
culture and civilization) are too interesting, fascinating, and enticing for
foreigners to keep away from. Countless people outside of the Western cultural
matrix have studied, critiqued, appreciated, disparaged, have enriched and been
enriched by Western culture. The same is true of Indic culture too. So, even if
we ask them to please go away, outsiders, and certainly Westerners, will keep
coming to discover, savor, understand, interpret, admire, appreciate, appraise,
and sometimes also disparage Indian culture and civilization, as they have been
doing over the ages.

2. Now, people who are legitimate (genealogical) heirs to the Hindu tradition,
are very sensitive about how they are understood or misunderstood, interpreted
or misinterpreted, portrayed or mis-portrayed. Because of several specific
known instances in the past, we are inclined to suspect mischievous and
sinister motives behind any non-pleasing comment that an alien commentator
might make about our culture.

3. I had drawn attention earlier to etic and emic perspectives in the study of
any culture, and we know that the so-called etic approach, for all its
proclaimed objectivity,  could also carry with it, consciously or unbeknownst
to the author, some heavily biased undertones; at the very least it might lack
the sensitivity and inner experience that can be part of only a participant and

4. Given all this, it seems to me that in the coming century there will be two
very different kinds of Indology which I describe below:
        (a) Endo-Indology: which will be practiced only by people who have deep
respect, reverence, sensitivity and love for the Hindu tradition.
Endo-Indologists would include: (a) Practicing Hindus, whether trained as
scholars or not; (b) Hindu scholars who are highly trained as scholars, with a
deep understanding of Sanskrit and/or other Indian languages, and perhaps also
of English; (c) non-Hindus (by birth) who have adopted one or more aspects of
Hindu life and culture in their every-day lives, who have settled down in
India, and have deep empathy for Hinduism; (d) Hindus who have settled down
beyond the shores of India, but who have acquired a significant body of
knowledge and understanding of Hinduism through their readings (mostly via
English books) and/or practices, and have also a deep commitment to furthering
the cause of Hindu civilization beyond the shores of India.
        (b) Exo-Indology: which will be practiced by cold-blooded scholars who
may or may not have an emotional attachment for India, but who are versed in
Hindu lore and literature, in historical scholarship and Indian languages
(especially Sanskrit). Exo-Indologists would include: (a) Indians/Hindus who
regard Hinduism, the Vedas and the Gita, the Upanishads, the epics and Puranas
in historical/literary/cultural rather than in
religious/spiritual/divine-origin  terms, who have no problems applying
"Western" categories of chronology, literary criticism, psychoanalytical
interpretations, two-way intercultural influences, etc. (b) Foreigners
(non-Hindus) with the same mind-set, who may have great respect and admiration
for some aspects of India/Hinduism, but may be quite critical of other aspects,
who may have no significant emotional attachment for Hindu culture, and who may
be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, or whatever; (c) Probably many non-Hindu
students studying Hinduism in foreign colleges and universities, even though
they may or must read the works of Endo-Indologists.
        I like to think that Endo-Indologists and Exo-Indologists will both
read and be mutually enriched by, the fruits of their each other's efforts, and
will respect one another even if they (unavoidably) draw different conclusions
and provide different interpretations. Endo-Indologists need not be shy of, nor
apologize for, their "soft corner" for the culture they are studying. Nor need
they disparage or ascribe only mischievous motives to exo-Indologists.
Likewise, as long as Exo-Indologists do not come with any evil intentions to
malign or disparage Indic culture, they need not be constrained in their
studies by fears of being rebuked or vilified by some Endo-Indologists.
        Indeed one may hope that by clearly identifying oneself as an
Endo-Indologist or Exo-Indolologist one can better serve the larger cause of
Indology, for the field can only be enriched by the commitment of both groups.
Where there are marked differences in conclusions, one may explicitly state the
category to which a specific conclusion belongs (Endo or Exo) and then agree to
disagree. There will of course be no unqiue solution to certain problems.

V. V. Raman
October 26, 2000

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list