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Revival of Sanskrit – Roadblocks and Strategy

Revival of Sanskrit

An acute need for promoting Sanskrit back into academics

The year 2016 saw my fourth book The Battle for Sanskrit: Is Sanskrit Political or Sacred, Oppressive or Liberating, Dead or Alive? or TBFS in short, finally being published and released. This book kindled interest, respect, and curiosity among the masses, as it dealt with reclaiming Sanskrit and Sanskriti from the clutches of the faulty theorization by western academia. However, it is only the beginning and there is a long way to go in terms of reclaiming the discourse. When I was writing The Battle for Sanskrit, Shri Chamu Krishna Sastry helped me by providing information, insights, and references to counter Sheldon Pollock, the western scholar whose theories I attempt to refute in the book. We also had extensive discussions on the problems that plague Sanskrit and its study in India. I will elaborate on the nature of the issues in this piece.

Sanskrit Bharati has approximately 5000 centres in India and branches in about 15 other countries. About 10000 volunteers are working selflessly to popularise Sanskrit

Brief Introduction: Shri. Chamu Krishna Sastry and Samskrita Bharati 

Shri. Sastry is the creator of Samskrita Bharati, an organization which was established to revive Sanskrit as a language of the common man. It has approximately 5000 centres in India and branches in about 15 other countries. About 10000 volunteers are working selflessly to popularise Sanskrit. This organization has taught spoken Sanskrit to about 10 million people and has trained around one lakh teachers since its inception 35 years ago. It has also published more than 500 books and CDs.

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Gandhi's Dharma and the West

Gandhis Dharma and the West

Mahatma Gandhi articulated his sva-dharma ("my dharma") using a few key Sanskrit words that do not have an exact English equivalent. One of these issatya, his practice of truth. Unlike truth in the Western sense, satya is not an intellectual proposition but a way of life which has to be actualized and embodied directly by each person. There is no place for the reification or codification of satya, because truth is not held in some book or set of laws; it lives in oneself, and cannot be separated from oneself. This philosophical distinction is at the heart of Gandhi's dharma.

He insisted that satya-graha, or "truth-struggle," is a civil disobedience method that has to be individually lived, as opposed to being theorized or institutionalized. Later, this method inspired the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights movement in the U.S. as well as revolutions in South Africa, Poland and elsewhere. He not only advocated a sustainable society, he lived sustainably. The Gandhi library in Delhi contains the sum total of all of his personal belongings: his glasses, a pair of sandals, a pen and a few dhotis.

Another fundamental component of his dharma is captured in the term ahimsa, which is translated too simply as "nonviolence" but is not the same as the common idea of "pacifism." It is much larger.Himsa means harming, and ahimsa means non-harming. Harming the environment is himsa, as per the very deep dharmic idea that all nature is sacred. Harming animals is also himsa, and so vegetarianism is an important quality of ahimsa. Gandhi argued that vegetarianism has a lower impact on the environment than a meat diet, and hence a vegetarian society is more eco-sustainable than a carnivorous one. The modern eco-feminism movement was galvanized by Gandhi's ideals brought to America in the 1960s.

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The importance of protecting our gurus

The importance of protecting

One of Hinduism’s most important and distinctive qualities is the widespread appearance of living masters throughout its long history. It is they who have kept the tradition alive and constantly refreshed with new insights and interpretations for each time and context. My book, Being Different, explains how the Vedic metaphysics of sat-chit-ananda helps to bring about such a powerful flow of gurus in diverse circumstances. Gurus have exerted very powerful influences in preserving and enhancing the tradition through time.

An institutionalized “religion of the book” is vulnerable because it can be wiped off by eliminating its physical infrastructure and burning/banning its books. But in the case of Hindu dharma, every such attempt at its destruction was followed by a renewal brought about by living gurus. Given the public’s faith in our sadhus, mahatmas and acharyas, it is clear that as long as we have dynamic gurus, we will thrive.

This is the reason why the gurus have frequently become the targets of vicious attacks by Hinduphobic forces seeking to undermine the tradition.

In recent decades, we saw vicious attacks against Osho in USA charging him with serious crimes, including murder. Then Swami Muktananda, over a decade after his death, was accused of sexual misconduct – ironically, by women who were his ardent devotees during his lifetime. After Swami Prabhupada died, ISKCON in USA was prosecuted for allegations of sexual harassment. Yogi Amrit Desai, one of the most prolific teachers of yoga for white Americans since the 1970s, was suddenly removed from his own institution, Kripalu Center, on similar charges. Attempts were also made to bring down Maharishi Mahesh Yogi when he was in his prime of success.

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AAP – a Reincarnation of Congress?

AAP a Reincarnation of Congress

Delhi’s recent watershed event has far greater significance than the experts have appreciated. The rise of AAP should be seen as the beginning of a new nationwide phenomena, not limited to Delhi. One may think of AAP as Congress 2.0 – having the same base of popular as well as elite supporters, minus only the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

For the past century, certain communities used to combine their political voices under the umbrella of the Congress, until the party started to meltdown as a revolt against the dynasty. For a while, these ‘homeless’ communities of voters wandered in different directions, experimentally and opportunistically supporting different parties including the BJP. These forces – which I have termed ‘fragments’ – have now found a new home in AAP and have reinvented for themselves a Congress like new political entity in AAP.

Kejriwal wears a Gandhi cap. In the eyes of his support base, he projects a Mohandas Gandhi style simplistic lifestyle, humility and dharmic values. His integrity has been accepted by an immensely broad base in Delhi, and it may be expected to spread elsewhere.

It brings together caste groups and minorities by providing them a shared umbrella. It attracts many well-educated and wealthy supporters who prefer this choice on idealistic grounds. All this resembles the old Congress before Sonia Gandhi killed it. The collapse of Congress due to Sonia Gandhi’s misrule and too much family domination is what its support base has rejected, not the so called ‘big tent’ ideals it once had.

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Geopolitics And Sanskrit Phobia

Geopolitics And Sanskrit Phobia

Overview

This paper discusses the historical and contemporary relationship between geopolitics and Sanskrit, and consists of the following sections:

  1. Sanskrit is more than a language. Like all languages, its structures and categories contain a built-in framework for representing specific worldviews. Sanskriti is the name of the culture and civilization that embodies this framework. One may say that Sanskriti is the term for what has recently become known as Indic Civilization, a civilization that goes well beyond the borders of modern India to encompass South Asia and much of Southeast Asia. At one time, it included much of Asia
  2. Interactions among different regions of Asia helped to develop and exchange this pan-Asian Sanskriti. Numerous examples involving India, Southeast Asia and China are given.
  3. Sanskrit started to decline after the West Asian invasions of the Indian subcontinent. This had a devastating impact on Sanskriti, as many world-famous centers of learning were destroyed, and no single major university was built for many centuries by the conquerors.
  4. Besides Asia, Sanskrit and Sanskriti influenced Europe’s modernity, and Sanskrit Studies became a large-scale formal activity in most European universities. These influences shaped many intellectual disciplines that are (falsely) classified as “Western”. But the “discovery” of Sanskrit by Europe also had the negative influence of fueling European racism since the 19th century.
  5. Meanwhile, in colonial India, the education system was de-Sanskritized and replaced by an English based education. This served to train clerks and low level employees to administer the Empire, and to start the process of self-denigration among Indians, a trend that continues today. Many prominent Indians achieved fame and success as middlemen serving the Empire, and Gandhi’s famous 1908 monograph, “Hind Swaraj,” discusses this phenomenon.
  6. After India’s independence, there was a broad based Nehruvian love affair with Sanskrit as an important nation-building vehicle. However, successive generations of Indian intellectuals have replaced this with what this paper terms “Sanskrit Phobia,” i.e. a body of beliefs now widely disseminated according to which Sanskrit and Sanskriti are blamed for all sorts of social, economic and political problems facing India’s underprivileged classes. This section illustrates such phobia among prominent Western Indologists and among trendy Indians involved in South Asian Studies who learn about Sanskrit and Sanskriti according to Western frameworks and biases.
  7. The clash of civilizations among the West, China and Islam is used as a lens to discuss the future of Sanskriti across South and Southeast Asia.
  8. Some concrete suggestions are made for further consideration to revitalize Sanskrit as a living language that has potential for future knowledge development and empowerment of humanity.

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Gandhi: Quintessentially Different and Non-Digestible

Gandhi Quintessentially Different and Non-Digestible

My book brings to the foreground some fundamental differences between Indian and Western civilizations, and explored at length the spiritual, metaphysical, philosophical and historical basis for such differences. I argue, that to gloss over these differences, reveals a dismal lack of civilizational self-awareness and wishful thinking on the part of Westerners, and low self-esteem by Indians resulting in part of an education system that seems to be still fulfilling the mandates of colonial educators.

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Hinduism In American Classrooms

Hinduism In American Classrooms

Dave Freedholm teaches world religion and philosophy at a nationally recognized independent college preparatory school in the U.S. Recently, he was a delegate to the World Congress for the Preservation of Religious Diversity in Delhi, India. A frequent speaker on Hinduism and religious pluralism, Dave is currently co-authoring Hinduism: An Introduction for High School Students with Prof. Arvind Sharma.

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