Making the Argument for Sanskrit

Ithamar Theodor theodor at RESEARCH.HAIFA.AC.IL
Wed Jan 3 05:42:45 UTC 2007

 It is not unlikely that Skt. sources will play a greater role in the 
future, as sources for ideas concerning global ethics and nonviolence.

 Ithamar Theodor

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Dominik Wujastyk" <ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK>
Sent: Wednesday, January 03, 2007 2:14 AM
Subject: Making the Argument for Sanskrit

> The closure of Skt and Hindi undergraduate teaching at Cambridge, and of
> Skt at Berlin, reminds us all of the crisis facing our field.  There are 
> sub-critical but still serious threats to the subject at many other 
> universties in Germany and elsewhere.
> I would like to initiate here on the INDOLOGY list a conversation about 
> the aims and values of Sanskrit teaching in western universities.  If we 
> can jointly develop a set of plausible arguments for the value and 
> importance of our field, then I will post it as a document on the INDOLOGY 
> website for general information, use and reference.
> I have been heartened and interested to see in The Economist's "The World
> in 2007" magazine, currently on the bookstands, p.39, an article that
> mentions the Cambridge closure in the following terms:
>   In October 2006, for example, Cambridge University awarded India's Prime
>   Minister, Manmohan Singh, an honorary doctorate.  As such things go,
>   this was a fairly high-profile affair.  There was much talk of the
>   university's strong historica connection with India and its plans for
>   deepening that relationship.  There was less talk about the fact that,
>   for the first time since the 1860s, new students are no longer able to
>   take a BA in Hindi or Sanskrit.  Surely a case not so much of looking
>   to the future as turning your back on the past.
> If we can develop the right kind of statement about the value of classical 
> Indian studies, I would be willing to explore the possibilities of 
> releasing it as a press release, though I have no experience in doing 
> this.
> As a start, I give here the three reasons I stated in my letter to the
> Berlin authorities for supporting the study and teaching of Sanskrit.
> ------------------------------------
> 1. Indology is a field of study that offers students a rigorous 
> intellectual training that is applicable to almost any of their future 
> fields of study and employment.
> 2. It is a field full of fascination, since it introduces a beautiful, 
> profound culture that viewed the world very differently from us today. 
> This experience is inherently enlarging and promotes inter-cultural 
> tolerance and understanding.
> 3. And Indology is a field that has assumed a special relevence and
> importance due to the contemporary international politics of global
> conflict in Asia, and the extraordinary economic rise of China and
> India. This is precisely a time where Asian studies, including Indology,
> should be encouraged and developed.
> ------------------------------------
> I invite you to add to this list, or to change or improve the wording in 
> any way you wish.
> I consider argument 3 to be the weakest from the internalist point of 
> view.  But the fortunes of Asian studies have often risen and fallen in 
> tune with the politics of the day.  Although it may be opportunistic, I 
> think it is still worth attempting to make use of the contemporary 
> fascination with the rise of India as a world economic power.
> Best,
> Dominik Wujastyk

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