[INDOLOGY] The study of Sanskrit as the epitome of uselessness

Deven Patel deven.m.patel at gmail.com
Tue Mar 24 15:20:33 EDT 2020


>From a review of the Broadway play Spamalot in the New York Times in 2006.
I had an amusing email back-and-forth with the critic when I jokingly asked
him if he could've used another metaphor...

"In "Spamalot," of course, the horseplay's the thing. And in a world of
juvenile antics, a gift for Shakespearean tragedy would seem to be about as
useful as a doctorate in Sanskrit."


On Tuesday, March 24, 2020, Jesse Knutson via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Speaking of my dear friend Lee Siegel: he often tells the story that he
> only decided to study Sanskrit after hearing a speech of Richard Nixon the
> California senator (before he became president), in which the latter
> quipped that the University of California's budget should be slashed
> because 'instead of doing anything useful, they are studying things like
> Sanskrit'.
>
> On Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 4:30 AM Walser, Joseph via INDOLOGY <
> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>
>> One of my favorites, although I am having difficulty finding the source,
>> is: "A knowledge of Sanskrit is of little use to a man trapped in a sewer."
>> The internet tells me that this is attributed to Tom Weller, but I suspect
>> that he got it from someone else.
>> Greetings from the sewer.
>>
>> -j
>>
>>
>> Joseph Walser
>>
>> Associate Professor
>>
>> Department of Religion
>>
>> Tufts University
>> ------------------------------
>> *From:* INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at list.indology.info] on behalf of
>> Madhav Deshpande via INDOLOGY [indology at list.indology.info]
>> *Sent:* Tuesday, March 24, 2020 9:41 AM
>> *To:* Andrey Klebanov
>> *Cc:* indology
>> *Subject:* Re: [INDOLOGY] The study of Sanskrit as the epitome of
>> uselessness
>>
>> Here is my description of what we as Indoloogs do:
>>
>> खफछठथेति रटन्त: स्वशिरोभारेण गौरवं प्राप्ता: ।
>>
>> गणयन्ति काकदन्ताननिशं ते पण्डितंमन्या: ।।
>>
>>
>> Hope it makes you laugh at ourselves!
>>
>>
>> Madhav M. Deshpande
>> Professor Emeritus, Sanskrit and Linguistics
>> University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
>> Senior Fellow, Oxford Center for Hindu Studies
>>
>> [Residence: Campbell, California, USA]
>>
>>
>> On Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 4:56 AM Andrey Klebanov via INDOLOGY <
>> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>>
>>> “To study Sanskrit” (учить Санскрит) became a rather popular idiom (a
>>> kind of meme) in Russia in 2015, and it has been used since then
>>> frequently exactly as an epitome of a useless time-consuming and
>>> exhausting activity, which, in a long run, may be still more rewarding
>>> than engaging in Russian politics (especially as a member of the
>>> opposition). It was popularized by journalist Oleg Kashin
>>> <http://kashin.guru>, who has famously used this expression (the
>>> original wording was actually slightly different) in his debate with
>>> politician Alexey Navalny, who, in 2015, campaigned for opposition parties
>>> to participate at regional elections at any cost. See, for example, here
>>> <http://lurkmore.to/%D0%9E%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B3_%D0%9A%D0%B0%D1%88%D0%B8%D0%BD#.D0.9C.D0.B5.D0.BC.D1.8B>
>>> or here <https://echo.msk.ru/programs/klinch/1742522-echo/>. The
>>> original debate is here
>>> <https://echo.msk.ru/programs/klinch/1592616-echo/>.
>>>
>>> best,
>>> Andrey
>>> On Mar 24, 2020 11:57 +0100, Sven Sellmer via INDOLOGY <
>>> indology at list.indology.info>, wrote:
>>>
>>> Dear All!
>>>
>>> One may also add a passage of Hermann Hesse's "Glasperlenspiel" here,
>>> though also rather in the category of useful uselessness:
>>>
>>> … schon manche von ihnen haben ihr Leben an sehr entlegene und oft
>>> wunderliche Arbeiten gewendet, wie etwa jener Lodovicus crudelis, der in
>>> dreißigjähriger Arbeit alle überlieferten altägyptischen Texte sowohl ins
>>> Griechiche wie ins Sanskrit übersetzt hat …
>>>
>>> … not few of them devoted their lives to very marginal and often rather
>>> strange occupations, like one Lodovicus crudelis, who in the course of
>>> thirty years translated all preserved Old Egyptian texts both into Greek
>>> and into Sanskrit …
>>>
>>> Best wishes,
>>> Sven
>>>
>>> ****************************
>>> Sven Sellmer, PhD
>>> Adam Mickiewicz University
>>> Institute of Oriental Studies
>>> Department of South Asian Studies
>>> ul. Grunwaldzka 6
>>> <https://www.google.com/maps/search/Grunwaldzka+6+%0D%0A+60-780+Pozna%C5%84+%0D%0A+POLAND?entry=gmail&source=g>
>>> 60-780 Poznań
>>> <https://www.google.com/maps/search/Grunwaldzka+6+%0D%0A+60-780+Pozna%C5%84+%0D%0A+POLAND?entry=gmail&source=g>
>>> POLAND
>>> <https://www.google.com/maps/search/Grunwaldzka+6+%0D%0A+60-780+Pozna%C5%84+%0D%0A+POLAND?entry=gmail&source=g>
>>> sven.sellmer at amu.edu.pl
>>>
>>> Am 24.03.2020 um 11:24 schrieb patrick mccartney via INDOLOGY <
>>> indology at list.indology.info>:
>>>
>>> Sort of related, on page 100 of chapter 5, of Amazing Stories (1943)
>>> issue 17 no 05, the following is said:
>>>
>>> She put her hands on her hips, her
>>> face thoughtful. Then she grabbed hold
>>> of the grab-rail on the side of the door-
>>> way, stepped into the bipedomobile.
>>> She wasn’t a tall girl, but she had to
>>> stoop.
>>>
>>> Her eyes were grave. Suddenly she
>>> pointed into the distance.
>>>
>>> “Godwa te lele!”
>>> “It’s all Sanskrit to me, Jamie,” he
>>> said sadly. “They’ve sure done you up
>>> brown, haven’t they — ^you’ve forgotten
>>> entirely, haven’t you? Well, if you want
>>> to go in that direction, okay. It’s as
>>> good as any, and maybe we’ll solve a
>>> few mysteries while we’re at it. We
>>> might even find out how to get your
>>> memory back again.”
>>>
>>> She smiled dazzlingly. She pointed
>>> again.
>>>
>>> This link will take you to the relevant page -
>>> https://archive.org/details/Amazing_Stories_v17n05_1943-
>>> 05_cape1736/page/n99/mode/2up/search/sanskrit
>>>
>>> All the best,
>>>
>>> パトリック マッカートニー
>>> Patrick McCartney, PhD
>>> Research Affiliate - Organization for Identity and Cultural Development
>>> (OICD), Kyoto
>>> Research Associate - Nanzan University Anthropological Institute,
>>> Nagoya, Japan
>>> Visiting Fellow - South and South-east Asian Studies
>>> Department, Australian National University
>>> Member - South Asia Research Institute (SARI), Australian National
>>> University
>>>
>>> Skype / Zoom - psdmccartney
>>> Phone + Whatsapp + Line:  +61410644259
>>> Twitter - @psdmccartney @yogascapesinjap
>>>  Yogascapes in Japan <http://yogascapes.weebly.com/> Academia
>>> <https://patrickmccartney.academia.edu/> Linkedin
>>> <https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=241756978&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile>
>>>  Modern Yoga Research <http://www.modernyogaresearch.org/events/>
>>>
>>> *bodhapūrvam calema* ;-)
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>    -
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> On Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 6:38 PM Matthew Kapstein via INDOLOGY <
>>> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>>>
>>>> This reminds me that one of my teachers, the great Prof. Padmanabh
>>>> Jaini, lost several students in the late 70s because the job market seemed
>>>> particularly bad. They switched to law and easily passed the special
>>>> examinations, the "Law Boards," for entering American Law Schools. Jaini
>>>> joked that the field could be saved and even expanded by converting
>>>> Sanskrit to a pre-law required course.
>>>>
>>>> Matthew Kapstein
>>>> Directeur d'études, émérite
>>>> Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris
>>>>
>>>> Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
>>>> The University of Chicago
>>>> ------------------------------
>>>> From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info> on behalf of
>>>> Christophe Vielle via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info>
>>>> Sent: Tuesday, March 24, 2020 4:32 AM
>>>> To: Tieken, H.J.H. <H.J.H.Tieken at hum.leidenuniv.nl>
>>>> Cc: indology <indology at list.indology.info>
>>>> Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] The study of Sanskrit as the epitome of
>>>> uselessness
>>>>
>>>> The Classicist Nuccio Ordine has published a stimulating (useful) essay
>>>> "De l'utilité de l'inutile" (English translation: The Usefulness of the
>>>> Useless").
>>>> where Sanskrit studies, together with Classics, are given as an example
>>>> of (useful) usefulness, cf. p. 95 of the Engl. Transl.:
>>>> https://books.google.com/books?id=NCArDgAAQBAJ
>>>> <https://books.google.be/books?id=NCArDgAAQBAJ&pg=PA95&lpg=PA95&dq=nuccio+ordine+the+usefulness+of+the+useless+sanskrit&source=bl&ots=JmMiqWAORS&sig=ACfU3U0_SDl4ZpYaNsGhUnflgLpFvJYTDg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj-rMSM5bLoAhXEMewKHYVdDp4Q6AEwAXoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=nuccio%20ordine%20the%20usefulness%20of%20the%20useless%20sanskrit&f=false>
>>>> See also it in his oral presentations:
>>>> https://uclouvain.be/en/research-institutes/incal/
>>>> conference-du-pr-nuccio-ordine.html
>>>> Quel danger courons-nous actuellement ? Dans une université-entreprise,
>>>> quand un professeur de sanskrit aura deux étudiants, le Conseil
>>>> d’administration de l’Université pourra dire que celle-ci ne peut pas se
>>>> permettre le luxe de payer un professeur de sanskrit pour deux étudiants.
>>>> Demain, cela sera pour dix étudiants en grec, et après-demain pour quinze
>>>> étudiants en latin.
>>>>
>>>> Le 24 mars 2020 à 09:49, Tieken, H.J.H. via INDOLOGY <
>>>> indology at list.indology.info> a écrit :
>>>>
>>>> Dear List members,
>>>> Last night I started reading Ever After by Graham Swift. On p. 3 of the
>>>> pocket edition (Vintage International) of 1993 we hear the protagonist
>>>> think:
>>>>
>>>> "Before they [academics] are sixty, they are emulating one of the many
>>>> varieties: ... the wide-eyed, latter-day infant, helpless in all mundane
>>>> matters but possessed of a profound understanding of Sanskrit."
>>>>
>>>> A few months ago I was reading Nader tot U (1969) by Gerard van 't Reve
>>>> gain. One of the characters has to fill in a profession on an official
>>>> paper. In the end he decides to fill in "indoloog", which is considered to
>>>> be better than "general in the Hungarian army" or "stratenmaker of zee"
>>>> (general dogsbody) (p. 113). There is some confusion if indoloog refers to
>>>> a civil servant in the Dutch Indies here (Indie verloren, rampspoed
>>>> geboren) or to an indologist, which is later resolved by remarks about
>>>> gurus and bhakti. I was amazed to see that I had bought the book in the
>>>> summer of 1970, just a few months before I started with the study of
>>>> Sanskrit.
>>>>
>>>> Are there more accidental references of this type to sanskritists or
>>>> indologists in literature?
>>>> (Leaving aside Lee Siegel's novel about Professor Roth being killed by
>>>> Monier-Williams Sanskrit dictionary.)
>>>>
>>>> With kind regards Herman
>>>>
>>>> Herman Tieken
>>>> Stationsweg 58
>>>> <https://www.google.com/maps/search/Stationsweg+58+%0D%0A+2515+BP+Den+Haag+%0D%0A+The+Netherlands?entry=gmail&source=g>
>>>> 2515 BP Den Haag
>>>> <https://www.google.com/maps/search/Stationsweg+58+%0D%0A+2515+BP+Den+Haag+%0D%0A+The+Netherlands?entry=gmail&source=g>
>>>> The Netherlands
>>>> <https://www.google.com/maps/search/Stationsweg+58+%0D%0A+2515+BP+Den+Haag+%0D%0A+The+Netherlands?entry=gmail&source=g>
>>>> 00 31 (0)70 2208127
>>>> website: hermantieken.com
>>>> <https://eur03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fhermantieken.com%2F&data=02%7C01%7Cchristophe.vielle%40uclouvain.be%7C2ebe73edfa3d487755a208d7cfd05574%7C7ab090d4fa2e4ecfbc7c4127b4d582ec%7C0%7C0%7C637206365997980559&sdata=knZj3KCyfVrhEl8UT1nRa97QamdqJ1dnMK8PR5N0U9A%3D&reserved=0>
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>>>>
>>>> –––––––––––––––––––
>>>> Christophe Vielle
>>>> <https://uclouvain.be/en/directories/christophe.vielle>
>>>> Louvain-la-Neuve
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
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>

-- 
Deven M. Patel
University of Pennsylvania
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