In this second part, I muse on Rajiv Malhotra’s warnings about ceding control and authority on ancient traditions, to ‘outsiders’. He defines outsiders very carefully, not based on race, color, gender or national origin, but somewhat on inimical belief, inimical faith or atheistic arrogance, lack of immersion in tradition and very much on political antipathy towards the ancient traditions of India and their practitioners. There are certainly examples in my view and I am sure RM recognizes these too, of thousands of people born with no connection to India, who have become devout practitioners and believers in our traditions!!
One of the themes running through the book is his hard-earned certainty from decades of reading, watching and debating (with which I agree 100%) that far too many of the “outsiders” purporting to be deeply interested in studying ancient Indian traditions do so not out of love and devotion, but for the express purposes of enriching themselves at the expense of Indian tradition, while simultaneously destroying the traditions. They study the traditions of Sanatana Dharma as the ISIS studied the Yazidis of Iraq or the Christians of Syria. If you have any doubts on this account, or consider the above to be an extreme analogy, please take the time to read about, if not through (which is beyond the nausea-immunity of most decent people), the works of Professor Paul Courtright of Emory University of “Limp Phaullus” fame, or Professor Wendy Doniger of U. Chicago (latest work ordered pulped by the Courts in India for violating hate-crime law), or their ilk. The writings of Harvard University Sanskrit Professor and Linguist Michael Witzel and his sidekick Steve Farmer at their “Indo-Eura(cist/sian) Research Forum on, say, Indian dance traditions and on young Indian women practising classical dance. Yes, there is a reason they hurl the hate-moniker of “Hindu Right” at any of us who dare stand up and protest these atrocities. That reason is that we are indeed Right, and they are Wrong. Hilariously if not hatefully wrong.
Now this is not to agree that particular faculty researching Indian traditions should be subjected to sweeping generalizations based on guilt by association – although that is, to make a sweeping generalization, exactly what they do to us – sweeping generalizations. I know enough to sense why Rajiv Malhotra set out to write this book. I have not read the book enough to see if there is enough damning evidence inside this particular book to prove the case about the specific entities about which he set out to report.
To give an example of a similar situation, we are sure that it is a crime against Humanity to deliver weapons and dollars to terrorist groups operating inside Syria and Iraq. But that is not to say that we have specific knowledge of the specific actions or the specific mental makeup of every terrorist who might be receiving such misguided largesse. Not, of course, to imply that there is any connection between American university furniture and terrorist groups operating in Syria or Iraq.
In other words, I am only up to page 32. 🙂
Samskrtam, not ‘Sans krit’!
The values of my tradition connect straight back to the Vamana and Parasurama Avataras. Our idolized and ideal King of the Malayalees was not born Kshatriya or Brahmana, He was just one heck of a ruler. He ruled by self-sacrifice (on his part, not the type that corporate and university bosses exhort these days), not by sacrificing his subjects. He ruled by fairness and kindness, not the sword and the chain and the whip. Our other hero Parasurama nearly annihilated the entire Kshatriya line through his military prowess, before he invented the term “buried the hatchet” in the ocean, creating my native land. These in no way detract from our devotion to Sanatana Dharma. So much for the Pollock/PRC Fallacies.
So I will state my small peeve with Shri Malhotra’s nomenclature in all due humility, though I completely understand the pressures that forced him to adopt it. The word is Samskrtam. The truncated ending preferred by newbies such as Hindiwallahs, is not the original. As Shri Rajiv points out accurately, the language known as Hindi derived from Samskrtam, corrupted (some would say ‘enriched’ which is often the same thing) by Persian influence. Why was Hindi called Hindi? Because it was associated with “Hind” the illiterate foreigners’ version of Sindhu, from Sapta Sindhu. The fashionable but uncivilized “Sans-Krit” means nothing. From here on I will call it Samskrtam, as it has been called in our society since long before the South Asian Faculty’s Martial Aryans came clanking down the Khyber Pass in their horse-drawn Portoilets and supposedly drove my ancestors down to our mountain-walled perch in the deep South. But I digress.
The Importance of the Non-Translatables
Reading on, a big concern is that ‘western’ or ‘outsider’ dabblers refuse to recognize the oral traditions of Sanatana Dharma and hence of Samskrtam. Malhotra refers repeatedly to the knowledge that only exists as “vibrations”, a non-translatable series of knowledge communication protocols that are nevertheless an utterly vital part of Samskrtam and our entire line of knowledge. There are non-translatable words denoting cultural concepts that have no equivalent in English, and there are non-translatables that are simply not translatable into any language.
Just this morning I was studying a paper written by someone from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army on how to use millimeter waves focused on someone’s throat to detect and decode what they were saying. Speech decoding by vibration analysis. Come to think of it, that was 94 GigaHertz, a frequency that gets absorbed in the skin and causes extreme pain. So the subjects of that research, whose speech – probably screaming or 400% Voluntary Confessions – was recorded, may have been Tibetan Splittists or other Bourgeoise Revisionist Camp Followers of the Paper Tigers of Capitalist Imperialism, whom the PLA fights with its might to protect good People’s Politburo Members and their small trillion-dollar sweatshops in the Gobi Desert Re-Education and Rock-Breaking Resorts. Then again, I remember some of my friends who ventured out to see if the Vaimanika Sastra indeed contained detailed instructions on how to cut titanium and build hypersonic, VTOL amphibious transatmospheric vehicles light and pretty enough to be called a Pushpaka Vimana, starting with dog-eared Xerox copies of Samskrtam verses.
All futile endeavors. The learning, what little we can achieve is in the studying and practice. Great minds regardless of geography, race, religion or epoch, have understood this.
“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”
as Alfred Tennyson imagined the dying King Arthur telling his grieving ale-sodden Crusader buddies.
This is the Faith part. The knowledge that each ancient sloka and rk and oth convey is not necessarily in the words, nor indeed in acoustic signatures for translation. It is probably in the nonlinear system-level interactions that these have with the minds and bodies and the genes and the whole inner being of those transmitting and receiving them. Do you understand the psuedo-techno-gibberish I just wrote? It sounds good but I don’t. 🙂 And unfortunately, in my field, editors don’t publish papers unless reviewers can understand them 😦
I have tried to discuss what I can, from the 10 percent of my limited brain that I am supposedly able to use, to explain this concept, in the introductory book mentioned at the end of this post, so I will not belabor the point here.
While the great minds have understood this, inflated egos and university furniture are not necessarily in that category, their gifted minds are too clouded by pomp and power and pelf.
This sacred knowledge, as much as I can understand, is the crux of the ‘sruti’, entrusted from long before there were humans, through myriad generations and mutations and evolutions, to be transferred and preserved for posterity. As science advances, and human brains perhaps improve, perhaps those who follow us might make sense of more and more of this. Remember that the succinct Vedas, and particularly the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, were the devices to spread at least parts of the knowledge as far and wide as possible among humans, rendering it difficult for the Rakshasas to steal, hide and monopolize it. This is an exceptionally important point, very little appreciated by most of us because we take it so much for granted. But if you look at the first 2 or 3 Avataras, they were all about incessant struggles, wars, fought over thousands of years to recover and protect the knowledge base from the Rakshasas. A point that, with all veneration and humility, I would commend and emphasize to Their Holinesses at Sringeri and all other centers of study on Sanatana Dharma.
Malhotra points out accurately that entrusting translation and decoding of such traditions to outsiders is as smart as (my analogy, not RM’s: giving your AMOLED-screened Smartphone to very highly trained ourangutans to translate). Dear, energetic and intelligent creatures that they are cannot be expected to see much beyond the colors on the screen, send a few text messages, and that not for long before they smash it and move on to something new to mess up.
In particular, it is easy to understand the fundamental incompetence of the Marxist-influenced PRC and their fundamentalist counterparts in places such as Emory or U. Chicago or Princeton Seminary, in grasping or respecting our oral traditions. The Fundamentalists, the Marxists and the ISIS all go by The Book: either The Book (aka Bible or Holy Quran) or Das Kapital. All reduce everything to WRITTEN commandments. Let me paint a picture, with deep apologies for any sentiments I may offend unintentionally, but with a need to state a succinct point:
Moses came down from Mt. Sinai carrying a set of heavy stone tablets, not pieces of palm leaves with papyrus reed scrawls on them. Understandable. Had those instructions been oral, or scrawled, the Commandments might have got a bit confused. Imagine!
Moses, ol’ buddy, r u sure He didn’t say “Thou shalt Love Thy Neighbor/ Covet His Wife as Thine Own?” Did He say “Thou Shalt, or Shan’t Commit Adultery?” “Do or Don’t Take in Vain the Name of Thy Lord”?
No wonder those had to be written in stone. Fixed. Non-negotiable. Slam-dunk. Standard Operating Procedure. No thinking or debate tolerated. Duh! Soon after, the Christians started writing down their Testament, branching out from the Chronicles then available in the Middle East. The later belief system of Islam, likewise, got things written down in their Book, the Holy Quran. One is not allowed to post quotes from that gentle Religion of Peace, so I won’t.
So did Karl Marx, much admired at the PRC, come to think of it, write down precise procedures. To paraphrase and avoid morbid phrases:
“The Idol-Worshipping Capitalists Will Send Us the Donations With Which To Destroy Their Own Traditions”.
Did this solve their problems and get them to actually observe these Written SOP? Search Google with terms such as “Crusades”. “Inquisition”. “South American Genocide”. “Native American Genocide”. “African Slavery”. “Sir Francis Drake, Pirate”. “Bolshevik Revolution”. “Gulag”. “Shia-Sunni”. “Armenian Genocide”. “Tartar Invasions”. “Vijayanagaram”. “Mohammed of Ghazni”. “Islamic Invasions”. Oops! Now corrected in California’s textbooks, by the kind intervention of the South Asia Faculty, staunch supporters of the PRC and co-Petition-Signors of Dr. Sheldon Pollock to “Gentle expansions of influence into India”.
HD 4K or bust!
If you think a bit, you see that this was the natural progression of technology. My esteemed niece’s generation, for instance, abhors paper books, and believes nothing unless it is on Facebook, or sent as SMS, now via WhatsUp. A few years from now, with most ‘hardcopy’ libraries demolished or turned into video game arcades, their Great Historical Debates will be on whether WhatsApp came first, or Twitter. They will accept nothing that is not rendered in HD 4K, 3D. Paper books? Bah-Humbug!
So those brought up in Book-dictated, latter-day belief systems such as the Furniture at the PRC, cannot be expected to have any aptitude for accepting oral traditions. Q.E.D.
Stay tuned… I’m beginning to get the gist of this book…
Note: My serious views, and the very limited scope of my understanding on Religion are explained in my role as co-author of “Sanatana Dharma: Introduction to Hinduism”. Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Sanatana-Dharma-Introduction-Narayanan-Komerath-ebook/dp/B00XDN83V4
On the other hand, I HAVE learned Catholicism from a Catholic Convent, St. Joseph’s of Gampola, Sri Lanka, nationalized in bloody riots the day I ended kindergarten and was passed harmlessly over the locked gates by the rival mobs who took a ceasefire to do that. I learned Islam for 5 years in an Islamic College, the #1 Ranked College in Gampola. And I have attended enough sermons in the Protestant Churches in America to know the difference in standards of religious understanding and acceptance: y’all in yore hi-falutin’ collegiate furniture and yore Vasco Da Gama costumes with dem frilled sleeves and powdered wigs, cyaint hold a candle to the gentle, civilized people of Gampola or Trissur of decades ago.