Endo and Exo

Tue Oct 31 16:50:00 UTC 2000

Exo and Endo: Some Demarcation Criteria
In answer to a letter from an Indologist-friend, I am formulating below some
demarcation criteria between Endo and Exo Indologists in the form of some
questions and answers. Comments, criticisms, objections, improvements are
welcome. Let me state at the outset (a) that this the classification implies no
value judgment,
(b) that the criteria below are applicable to present-day scholars, and not
necessarily to past ones: I mean, many Indologists who wrote and spoke in, say,
the first half of the 20th century may not fit into the categorization of Endo-
as presented below;
(b) that these are broad, and not rigid criteria; in other words, there might
be exceptions in either group. Thus, each answer may be preceded by <by and

1. Has Western scholarship contributed anything positive to Indology:
Endo: Not really. Indology was practiced by Hindus long before the intrusion of
Westerners into India.
Exo: Most definitely. Modern Indology would perhaps have been impossible
without Western scholarship.

2. What has been the effect of Western scholarship on our understanding of
Endo: Disastrous. Western (mis)interpretations of Indian history and culture
have distorted, devalued, and denigrated Indian culture and Hinduism. Their
negative effects continue to this day, and have to be routed out.
Exo: We have come to know a good deal about India's past, from Ashoka to the
time-frame of Vedic compositions, let alone archaeological finds and
translations into worldwide understood languages. Knowledge about Hindu culture
and civilization has spread all around the globe, thanks to the Indology
initiated by Western scholars.

3. Are the Vedas and the Bhagavad GIta divine in origin, or are they
writings/reflections of human beings?
Endo: There is more than elements of ordinary human components in these works.
They are very probably revelations from a higher source.
Exo: They (like the Bible, the Avesta, the Koran, the Illiad, Einstein's
papers, etc.) are essentially human in origin, inspired by the local culture
and belief-systems of the period.

4. What about the scientific component in the Vedas, the UpaniSads, etc.
Endo: Ancient Hindu writings embody some of the most recent findings of quantum
physics, cosmology, psychology, consciousness science, genetics, and more. We
need to study esoteric Vedic hymns and UpaniSadic aphorisms from a higher
perspective to understand the scientific truths implicit in them.
Exo: There is no question that the authors of those works were extraordinarily
keen minds who (like their counterparts in other cultures) formulated some very
interesting views and obtained some profound insights into the nature of the
mind, consciousness, and cosmology. But most of those theses have long been
improved upon, modified, discarded, or replaced by the vast knowledge and
insights that have arisen as a result of post-16th century modern empirical
science. The ancients had no notion whatever of galaxies and molecular
structures, let alone quarks and quanta, as claimed by some Endo-Indologists.

5. What about language families within India?
Endo: All languages within India, Tamil and Munda included, and most languages
beyond, are Sanskritic in origin.
Exo: The matter is extremely complicated. As of now, there is every reason to
believe that the Dravidian languages belong to a totally different language
family from the Sanskritic.

7. What has been India's contribution to the world?
Endo: Practically everything worthy and  noble in human culture may be traced
to some element or other in ancient Hindu thought, writing, epics, and
civilization. In many instances, these have been stolen and appropriated as
their own, by others.
Exo: India has been the source of great wisdom, many visions, and much
philosophy. A good deal of this has been absorbed (consciously or otherwise) by
other cultures and civilizations over the ages. However, this is not a unique
phenomenon in world history. Other great ancient civilizations, like the
Mesopotamian, the Egyptian, the Greek, the Chinese, and the Arab, have also
contributed to the world, as does Western civilization in our own times.
Moreover, Indian civilization has also been enriched and enhanced by knowledge
and insights from others.

8. What is the motivation of mlecchas in their pursuit of Indology?
Endo: Superficially, to learn about the rich and ancient storehouse of Indian
culture. But there are quite a few in the crowd who have a hidden agenda: to
keep Hindu civilization at a lower level vis-a-vis the European, to be able to
denigrate Hindu practices and culture by out-of-context quotes from Hindu
works, to persist in 19th century European racism.
Exo: Indology is an enormously fascinating field: intellectually rewarding, and
profoundly revealing of factors and forces that give rise to and maintain a
dynamic and vibrant civilization. It would be a sad day, for the world would be
the poorer, if/when  people beyond the borders of India lose interest in

9. Can we bridge the gap between the two?
Endo: Rather difficult, because the Western (and Western-indoctrinated Indian)
mind-set simply cannot understand the deeper elements of Hindu culture. As a
result of this incapacity it keeps confusing issues.
Exo: Rather difficult, because  Endo-scholars have difficulty distinguishing
between cultural affiliation/patriotism and scientific/scholarly analysis. They
imagine that anything even remotely negative about Hindu civilization by a
non-Hindu arises from arrogant, racist attitudes. However, Endo-writings can be
very valuable for Exo-scholars as they provide valuable data for our subject.

It is important to realize that though it seems as if both (Endo and Exo) are
playing the same game, they are actually following different rules. It is as if
two groups are both  playing bridge. One is playing contract bridge, and the
other auction bridge, say. They can play separately, but not together, much
less claim that one is right and the other wrong. The value in my analysis lies
in this: As long as each group understands where both come from, one can avoid
at least some unpleasantness.

V. V. Raman
October 31, 2000

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