On Shatavadhani Ganesh’s tirade against RM’s Battle for Sanskrit

In a world increasingly dominated and constricted by Judeo-Christian family of thought, Rajiv Malhotra [RM] through his works (Breaking India, Being Different, Indra’s Net and Battle for Sanskrit) has established a modern framework within which to cast Hinduism. The methodical construction of this framework seeks, in my opinion to develop and revive a comprehensive understanding of Hinduism and more importantly to pose it as a potent pre-existing, eternally  relevant and a very Open Architecture for human life

Malhotra’s latest work, The Battle for Sanskrit is garnering some unprecedented attention among Indologists everywhere. Many reviews, comments, video clips by experts to novices abound. One scholar, Shatavadhaani Ganesh [SaG] has decided to throw in his comment in as well, pretending to write a review of the book. It can be found here:

http://www.sandeepweb.com/the-bhagavad-gita-before-the-battle/

Alas, SaG’s review misses the point of the book and sadly reflects a dominant tamasik aspect of the current state of academic scholarship in India. I did an initial read of RM’s latest work and will go back for a study. I have also read RM’s other works – Breaking India, Being Different and Indra’s Net.

I present some observations on that critque by SaG. Here is a Summary of what I mean to get at:

  • Overall, SaG is very upset that RM is the Battle General despite his superior Sanskrit scholarship.  It hurt his Texas sized ego. Many many flaws in his critique, very unbecoming of anyone claiming to be logical.
  • SaG just reduced himself  to only  a “Scholar” not to be addressed by the non translatable word PanditaH of Samskritam
  •  I propose that he is just as dangerous as Pollock himself a Sepoy in denial.
 Here are my first reactions to his review/critique :
[In what follows his writing is in italics with the “SaG Quote” tag. Some basic observations of mine follow his text].

SaG Quote:Malhotra’s intent is noble (and something that we too share) but his understanding of the nature of sanatana dharma as a transcendental system is flawed. He aims to show that Hinduism is exclusivist in its own way and its exclusivism is somehow better than other exclusivist faiths like Christianity or Islam (see his previous book, Being Different). His line of reasoning would reduce this battle to a Communist vs. Theologist type scuffle (and yet he accuses his enemies of being anti-transcendence; see pp. 97, 116). His approach goes against Gaudapada’s observation – “Dualists have firm beliefs in their own systems and are at loggerheads with one another but the non-dualists don’t have a quarrel with them. The dualists may have a problem with non-dualists but not the other way around.” (Mandukya Karika 3.17-18)

There is enough in this opening line to consider SaG an insider. Therefore, formally it also qualifies him to question RM’s understanding of Sanata Dharma. What follows is inconsistent. RM devoted a whole book, Indra’s Net, to show why it is not exclusivist. SaG must take a more complete approach to studying RM and his works. To many current Hindus, RM’s works must be treated as sound bases of Hindu understanding, and qualified insider expositions of Sanaatana Dharma. This reduction of RM’s works to some dvandvas such as exclusivist vs non exclusivist or Communist vs. Theologist is unfair. As Einstein said “Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler”

SaG Quote:Malhotra’s understanding of Sanskrit and Sanskriti seems second hand since he puts a premium on form (rupa) as against content (svarupa) and uses pseudo-logic instead of non-qualified universal experiential wisdom to counter the enemies (see pp. 44-49 for an elaborate but hazy diagnosis of the problem).

This interpretation of RM’s understanding of Samskritam/Sanskriti is not relevant to the discussion in the book. This is an instance of SaG losing sight of RM’s intent in this work. RM has demonstrated phenomenal application of western logic to develop a lethal attack model against the Western Indologists. I see his work akin to the function of German panzer spearheads of the Wehrmacht of early WW2 – lethal clearing of the enemy defenses and prepare ground for the long term occupation. SaG must join the long term forces, dig in, and establish firm defense lines for the future. He (RM) has never claimed to be a know all and has always invited quality debates with open arms. Sniping does no good to anyone.

SaG Quote:Further, he is also confused with some of the basic terms like sastra, kavya and veda. The irony is that Malhotra himself doesn’t know as much formal Sanskrit as the Indologists he is out to battle. Now, this is not a problem for a spiritualist who is unaffected by form. But Malhotra is fighting the battle on the arena of form, so he has no option but to become thorough with Sanskrit and Sanskriti in form.

RM has openly admitted that his knowledge of Samskritam is not where it needs to be. Not sure why this whining about RM’s staunch defense of samskritam. He is not proposing to battle these Indologists himself and is advocating a qualified team of insiders. What is so wrong there?

SaG Quote:“For Malhotra, the starting point of this battle is European Orientalism. And since he tends to ignore the strong internal differences – often clubbing all insider views as ‘the traditionalist view’ (see p. 6, for example) – his argument is rendered weaker. In the Indian tradition, different schools of Vedanta – advaita, dvaita, dvaitadvaita, shuddhadvaita, vishishtadvaita and others – revere the Vedas equally but claim that the ..

This is exactly what RM means by Traditionalists not understanding English! SaG fails to see RM’s thrust in the book.

SaG Quote:Also, his suggestion for the revival of Sanskrit is to produce new knowledge in Sanskrit. Is this even practical given that scholars from many mainstream non-English languages (like Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Spanish, etc.) are finding it hard to make a name for themselves in the academic community, which is under the firm grip of English?

This worries me most about this Scholar. This one paragraph will want to make me not call him by the Samskritam word “पण्डितः ” . True पण्डिताःare not worried about fame or making a name. पण्डिताः produce knowledge to defend dharma.

SaG Quote:When Malhotra speaks about American Orientalism appropriating the Indian Left, some of his claims sound like conspiracy theories. Further, he seems to be ignorant of the voluminous writings of D D Kosambi, Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, R S Sharma, and Rahul Sankrityayan, who opposed Sanskrit and/or Sanskriti long before this supposed American collusion (and even when he mentions Kosambi and Sharma, it is in passing).

A lot of truth unfortunately is stranger than fiction. BTW, RM has acknowledged the volume of DDK’s writing and his intellect. Argument is about how all of that empowers Breaking India elements. SaG and many traditionalists have no clue about American propaganda machinery and its sophisticated power.

SaG Quote:Tucked away in the second chapter is a veiled disclaimer – “Both Indian and Western scholars have extensively criticized the European approaches towards India that prevailed during the colonial era.” (p. 52) but this cannot, sadly, absolve Malhotra of his blatant disregard to the past masters (in spite of his ostentatious dedication line to “our purva-paksha and uttara-paksha debating tradition…”) Not stopping at ignoring the remarkable scholars of the past and present, in several places in his book, Malhotra directly accuses Indian scholars of either being unwillingly complicit with the enemies (p. 68), or being irresponsible (p. 15), or being uninterested (p. 44), or being unaware of Western scholarship (p. 1). He lacks empathy for the numerous scholars who are deeply involved in their own research – be it a specific aspect of Sanskrit grammar, or the accurate dating of an ancient scholar, or preparing a critical edition of a traditional text. And to top it all, Malhotra writes in several places that he is the first person to undertake such a task (see pp. 27, 44, or 379, for example), which as we know is false.

I have seen no “blatant disregard to past masters” in any of RM’s works. Indra’s Net assiduously works to defend Shankara and Vivekanda alike and in fact delves into the underlying unity in the works of those two “past masters”. There is also no denying that a lot of Scholars of the past were responsible for teaching the William Joneses, Mullers and the other European Indologists for making a name. They were scholars, not पण्डिताः. The Kshatriya in RM is doing today what the older generations failed to do – defend the ideological ground. If what RM says is known to be false (as the claim in the last line says), SaG should prove it.

SaG Quote:The assiduous efforts of Malhotra in writing The Battle for Sanskrit bears fruit in one department – a meticulous analysis of the works of Sheldon Pollock. While it is the saving grace of the book, it is also an indicator of Malhotra’s obsession with Western academia, to the extent that the reader gets the impression that Hinduism will not survive unless Western academia views it in a better light.

While this reflects the grace of an insider, a deliberate ignorance of the Indian Intelligentia with regard to Western Academia is producing a mutant sepoy community of the Ananya Vajpeyi kind. These are Breaking India forces that only a few true Kshatryias understand better than the scholars – RM is a modern IK. He is not advocating to see Western Academia in better light – he is showing logically that it is not a force you ignore. Pretty soon you will left with a noxious environment where Hinduism is dead if you do not defend it.

SaG Quote:The battle for Sanskrit and Sanskriti is not a new one. Sanatana dharma has survived years of onslaught from many quarters in many guises. But this doesn’t mean that we should ignore the current threats. Malhotra has given a new shape to the debate and because of his influence, this message has spread widely. As he himself writes, it is hoped that more Indian scholars will get on board and provide fitting responses to Malhotra’s red flagging of problematic areas in Pollock’s discourse.
This is one of the many instances of Malhotra’s monolithic view of Indian culture and tradition.

Huh! So there have been battles before, Mr. SaG? Have you, SaG, fought any of the “not new” battles for Sanskrit? Even as a foot soldier? SaG knows nothing about such battles with Academia for he is holed up in his merry arrogance of gross literary entertainment and glowing in the laurels fools shower him in. Is he really capable of reading through one paper of Pollock? Granted his English may be a couple of grades better than the kitchen grade language that 90% of English-knowing desis are at best capable of, but that is hardly enough to sift through Pollock’s language (which I think SP uses to mask logic, but that is RM’s job). And, how is RM’s a Monolithic view of culture and tradition? Another case of lamenting if very childish and futile, by a deeply peeved “drunk” Scholar.

SaG Quote:The four ‘levels’ of speech (p. 108)
Malhotra’s explanation is incorrect (and he doesn’t give any references for this too). They are not four ‘levels’ of speech but rather the four ‘stages.’ From conception to utterance, an idea is said to pass through four stages – paraa (before thought), pashyanti (thought), madhyamaa (on the verge of utterance) and vaikhari (utterance). The ancient seers were able to go from paraa to vaikhari instantly (see Vicaraprapañca of Sediapu Krishna Bhat).

Above is an example of a totally irrelevant digression from the topic of the book.

SaG Quote:Malhotra’s pseudo-logic is like the trap of Nyaya that later advaitis fell victim to. See Shankara’s comment on nayyayikas in his commentaries on the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad and the Brahma Sutra. [..] Nyaya operates at the level of adhibhuta, but Vedanta operates at the level of adhyatma.

What is psuedo logic? At least name the fallacy here, SaG – I would like to learn!

SaG Quote:The same applies to the Western Orientalists or the Indian Leftists, who are crass materialists. And why should we use Western jargons and systems to study Indian works? We must work out our own way. [followed by BLAH BLAH BLAH!]

This is silo mentality that RM is cautioning against. Coupled with the previous statement in his Conclusion [The battle for Sanskrit and Sanskriti is not a new one. Santana dharma has survived years of onslaught from many quarters in many guises.] this is pure taamas.
There is a lot more in this writing that proves beyond doubt SaG is upset he will end up being a foot soldier even if he chooses to be an insider. SaG is very concerned he will not get the fame of having started this battle with the Western Academia even though he is a scholar of Samskritam. May be this Intellectual Kshatriya [RM] just called him out of some self gratifying Avadhaanam revelry and told him he is only drunk with Samskritam, not serving its ultimate cause. Shame!
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4 thoughts on “On Shatavadhani Ganesh’s tirade against RM’s Battle for Sanskrit

  1. Critical view of anything is always good leading to further churning into d subjects taken for discussion. But adding expletives is spoiling d spirit of discussion. It simply changes d color and complexion of d debate conveying personal animosity between two individuals which is not existing I hope. So pl b united and fight Pollocks et al. It’s time for unity to win d battle for Sanskrit and sanskrti

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  2. वागर्थाविव संपृक्तौ वागर्थ: प्रतिपत्तये । जगत: पितरौ वंदे पार्वती परमेश्वरौ ।।

    भाषासु मुख्या मधुरा दिव्या गीर्वाण भारती । तस्माद्धि काव्यं मधुरं तस्मादपि सुभाषितं ।।

    मंदं निक्षिपते पदानि परित: शब्दं समुद्वीक्षते
    नानार्था हरणंच कांक्षति मुदालंकारमाकर्षति
    आदत्ते सकलं सुवर्ण निचयं धत्ते रसांतर्गतं
    दोषान्वेषण तत्परो विजयते चोरूपमस्सत्कवि: ।।

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  3. Completely agree with Mr. Venugopalan above. Shatavdhani Ganesh together with RM would make a formidable team as IKs and as mentors to the interested new lot of IKs. Time to join hands than continue bickering infights.

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