[INDOLOGY] Tigers and Goats: A quick report on the World Sanskrit Conference, Bangkok 2015

Jan E.M. Houben jemhouben at gmail.com
Wed Jul 8 10:31:50 UTC 2015

Dear McComas,
Thanks for this quick and, I think, quite appropriate report.
I would take exception to two formulations: neither Indology nor
linguistics and other major relevant disciplines are in a universally
accepted progressive research programme, but perhaps you did not intend it
that way:

in THE broader theoretical or academic context >>> in A broader theoretical
or academic context (to be specified)

how it contributes to THE big picture >>> how it contributes to A LARGER

Regarding your last point (nice prospect):
as you explained in your Sanskrit interview in Bangkok that Australia is
nowadays full of sanskrit-, yoga- and other teachers,
I would like to ask in an ardhaśloka:

वयमौस्त्रेलियंगत्वा कंकंगुरुमुपास्महे ?

Best, Jan


Directeur d’Études

Sources et histoire de la tradition sanskrite

*École Pratique des Hautes Études*

*Sciences historiques et philologiques *

54, rue Saint-Jacques

CS 20525 – 75005 Paris

johannes.houben at ephe.sorbonne.fr



On 7 July 2015 at 08:26, McComas Taylor <McComas.Taylor at anu.edu.au> wrote:

>   Tigers and Goats
>  A quick report on the World Sanskrit Conference, Bangkok 2015
>  McComas Taylor
>  Western Marxist Orientalist scholars are chewing up Sanskrit as a tiger
> would devour a goat, digesting what is needed and excreting the remains. So
> said well-known Indian fire-brand Rajiv Malhotra at the opening of the 16th
> World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok on 28 June 2015. Many of the 600 or so
> attendees were also surprised to learn that international scholarship on
> Sanskrit is fundamentally perverted by the ideas of Giambattista Vico
> (1688–1744).  The world is neatly divided into secular leftist
> ‘outsiders’ (Westerners and many Indians who have been coopted by the
> system) who regard Sanskrit as dead, oppressive and political, and
> ‘insiders’ for whom Sanskrit as alive, liberating and sacred.
>  The conference, which received a very substantial subsidy from the
> Indian government, was officially opened by HRH Princess Maha Chakri
> Sirishorn, herself a student of Sanskrit. Held in the glitzy Renaissance
> Hotel over for five days, papers began at 8am and ran until 6pm, but there
> were plenty of good meals and cultural entertainment to leaven the
> scholarly dough.
>  My colleague Prof Elizabeth Rohlman from the University of Calgary and I
> co-convened the first ever independent panel on purāṇas (foundational texts
> of Hindu mythology), which produced excellent results. There is a growing
> awareness that the purāṇas represent a gold-mine of understudied texts
> (note the exploitative ‘outsider’ turn of phrase here).
>  As is usual with these mega-events, there was a full spectrum of papers
> and conversations. The presentations ranged from paradigm-changing to
> time-wasting. I jotted down eight Really Good Ideas in the front of my
> notebook, which constitutes an overall success.
>  Among the many high points were the formal disputation in Sanskrit by
> tradition scholars on the significance of *śabda* – ‘word’ or ‘sound’,
> and a very lively Sanskrit poetry reading session, including poems in Haiku
> format and a humorous take on mobile phones. Spoken Sanskrit was
> everywhere–it is always a pleasure to it used as a lingua franca among
> scholars who have no other language in common, as has been the case for the
> last two or three millennia.
>  The recurrent problem with many papers is that scholars consistently
> fail to place their work in the broader theoretical or academic context.
> Papers either consist of data with no theory, theory with no data and those
> with neither (i.e. story-telling). Sometimes it seemed as if no one read
> anyone else’s work. Of course we all love to chase down our own
> rabbit-holes, but if we can’t explain why our work is important or
> interesting, or how it contributes to the big picture, one wonders why it
> is presented at all.
>  It was sad to see a changing of the guard–many of the grand old scholars
> of Sanskrit studies are too old or unwell to travel, but on the plus side,
> a pleasing number of young scholars are coming up the ranks.
>  There was general excitement and widespread approval when at the final
> session it was announced that after the 17th conference in Vancouver in
> 2018, the 18th World Sanskrit Conference will be held in Canberra in 2021.
>  Had he attended the rest of the conference, Mr Malhotra would have been
> highly displeased: there is a great deal of excellent scholarship going on
> around the world. He would also have been surprised to learn that many of
> us are vegetarians and that we don’t eat goats of any description.
>   ------------------------------
> McComas Taylor, Associate Professor and Head
> Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, CHL, CAP
> The Australian National University, Tel. + 61 2 6125 3179
> Website: https://sites.google.com/site/mccomasanu/
> Address: Baldessin Building 4.24, ANU, ACT 0200
> ------------------------------
> *Enrol now for the Spoken Sanskrit Summer School 2016:*
> https://sites.google.com/site/spokensanskrit16/
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