[INDOLOGY] Tagore, Aurobindo, and Malhotra

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at uni-muenchen.de
Wed Jul 29 08:46:34 UTC 2015

Dear Prof. Paturi,

Since these remarks of yours have until now remained unanswered, I am taking the liberty to write a few words.

Nagaraj Paturi wrote:

> Let us imagine traditional Sanskrit scholars of India build a new
> s'Astra called amerikAdhyayanas'Astra, amerikAs'Astra in short. The
> s'Astra follows praMANas, tarkapaddhati/vAdapaddhati, paribhAshAs, and
> all other essential features of a s'Astra to study American society.

The comparison is partly wrong, because (just to point out the most
obvious omission) in order to study America properly, one would need
knowledge of the English language – just as Indologists who want to be
taken seriously learn relevant Indian languages.

In reality there already exists an amerikādhyayanaśāstra: here in
Germany, my university offers a course of studies called "Amerikanistik"
(http://www.en.amerikanistik.uni-muenchen.de/index.html). The university
at Augsburg offers "Kanada-Studien"
(http://www.uni-augsburg.de/institute/kanada/ – apparently a word like
'Kanadistik' or 'Kanadologie' did not sound nice in the opinion of the
Augsburgers. See also http://www.kanada-studien.org/angebote-fur-studierende/virtual-canadian-studies/). Multiple parallel examples can be given from other
universities not only in Germany, but across Europe.

I am not aware of any American businessmen, enjoying the benefits of
living in Germany, who react to such studies in anger and revile German Amerikanisten.

(Nor am I aware of any Americans and Canadians who plagiarize several
portions from the writings of a German researcher and then state that in
earlier times the 'English character set' did not contain quotation marks.)

> Let us imagine s'Astra becomes THE method of study for all academics
> in America.

Is this realistic? Could you explain why and how this one method of
study would necessarily become the only one (in your illustration, not
only in India, which is already odd enough, but also in America?).

Perhaps I should repeat what I wrote last Friday: "Mr Malhotra shouts
that Indians must take back the study of Indian culture? What nonsense.
Real traditional studies were never taken away from them. Or did all the
pāṭhaśālās, the gurukulas, the Sanskrit Colleges disappear? And I know
of a fact that what is taught in Indian universities is not (and cannot
be) a mindless copy of what is taught in Western universities." I do not
know Hyderabad, but I find it hard to imagine that things are different there.

Amerikanistik, the discipline that seeks to improve the understanding of
America in the German-speaking part of Europe, is part of a much larger
humanistic effort to understand humanity (vasudhaiva kuṭumbakam, is it
not?), and Indology is another part of it.

Well-founded criticism from all sides is always welcome, and this
already is an established practice. What Mr Malhotra does is something else.


Prof. Dr. Robert J. Zydenbos
Institut für Indologie und Tibetologie
Department für Asienstudien
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)

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