Making the Argument for Sanskrit : a Real Problem and Directions for a Solution

Alfred Collins acollins at GCI.NET
Thu Jan 4 12:35:16 UTC 2007

Aside from "Orientalism" (Pollock, and I add Ronald Inden, his colleague at Chicago for many years), the obstacle to Sanskrit (and this applies to Tamil as well) is our failure to use it culturally, whether in  reference to the India of today or the West (or China for that matter).  Classical Indian thought is eminently useful, and was used for instance in the popular culture of the sixties and before.  Less controversially, yogic and Buddhist practices are part of mainstream psychotherapy (I refer to biofeedback and meditation, particularly mindfulness).  Marriott's 3-M Samkhya-based analysis of Indian society has enormous practical implications for contemporary Indian social thought, though he has not written much if anything about this, and his Indian-based  ideas are even relevant outside India.  Buddhist thinking has been inspirational in the development of complexity theory (Francisco Varela, etc.), rightfully in my view. The general point is that Sanskrit culture (and 
Tamil) is good to think with, both in contemporary India and outside the subcontinent.  My own work focuses on a critical culture theory drawn partly from psychoanalysis, partly from Samkhya-yoga.  Again, the Indian ideas are useful today.  I note that Gerald Larson has made this point for years with reference to philosophy.

Al Collins

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