Monday, 26 September 2016

Why Western Scholars Don't Understand India?

Why Western Scholars Don't Understand India? Because they are like one studying fish as an animal on land.

Can you understand fish if you ignore its existence in water, treat it as an animal on land, and study it? It is like studying Red Cross after excluding its humanitarian aspect, or like studying aeroplanes treating them as cars. If you study what is common between cars and aeroplanes, you will not understand aeroplanes meaningfully. To understand something, one has to study what distinguishes it from others and not just what is common between it and everything else. But many western scholars have been trying to study India, after excluding her distinguishing feature. 

Knowledge consists of two parts. Studying the world as an object is the first half of knowledge, called materialism or lower knowledge. The second half is inquiry into the self or subject, called spirituality or higher knowledge. India has specialized in this investigation into the self, the subject. This is the core, distinguishing feature of India (read my previous blog on "What is India's Core, Like Existence-in-Water is to Fish?". Ranganathananda (2005) explains how the latest scientific discoveries have made it grossly inadequate and unscientific to confine oneself to only the lower knowledge.

Swami Vivekananda (Complete Works Vol 3: 184-185) said: "Two minds in the dim past of history, cognate to each other in form and kinship and sympathy, started, being placed in different routes. The one was the ancient Hindu mind, and the other the ancient Greek mind. The former started by analysing the internal world. The latter started in search of that goal beyond by analysing the external world."

Experts on Indian thought and culture hold that investigation of the internal world is the core aspect of India, like existence in water is to fish. Those who have confined their investigation to only the lower half of knowledge, cannot understand India. There are possibly two reasons why Western Indologists don't seek to understand the core aspect of India.

1. Bias Against Religion. Any means of acquiring higher knowledge or inquiry into the self or subject is called religion, and it often, though not necessarily, involves a personal god. Swami Vivekananda (Complete Works Vol 2: 66) said: "This effort to get beyond the limitations of the senses -- out of matter, as it were -- and to evolve the spiritual man -- this struggle itself is the grandest and most glorious that man can make." However, the western scholars are part of a religious environment that is based on belief rather than self-realization, and holding on to the unscientific claim that one god/messenger/book/path/religion is true and others are false. Hence, they may be too biased against the domain of religion and spirituality, and too closed to be able to pursue higher knowledge.

2. Inappropriate Method. The Western Indologists appear to have succumbed to the 'boy with hammer' syndrome. Just as the boy with hammer assumes that everything needs to be fixed with the hammer, the Western Indologists assume that everything needs to be studied using sensory or objective data. They cannot comprehend that a new tool is needed to delve into higher knowledge, using subjective datum from subjective experience (Ranganathananda, 2005). Higher knowledge, and India whose core is higher knowledge, cannot be studied objectively, like one studies the world of objects. It is known that the sense organs are naturally tuned to go outside into the world of objects. It requires extraordinary will and effort to turn them inward and focus on self-inquiry. Western Indologists may not have been trained for doing this. 

R. C. Majumdar wrote in "The history and culture of the Indian people" (Vol 1: 42-43): "So far as available evidence goes, there cannot be the slightest doubt that Indian civilization manifests itself in a way and a form very different from that which we are familiar in the rest of the world. We have consequently to approach the history of India in a different spirit, and adopt a different scale of values in order to appraise her culture and civilization."

Inquiry into the self or subject is for India like existence in water is for fish. Excluding that core and studying India is as meaningless as studying fish after excluding its existence in water. May be the Western Indologists shy away from doing self-inquiry or analysing subjective experiences because of their cultural baggage. Rajiv Malhotra's "The Battle for Sanskrit" provides a summary of their psychological blinders and their compulsive obsession to use irrelevant frameworks to look at India.

If experts on cars were to write books or deliver lectures on aeroplanes, would we take them seriously? But, the Western Indologists seem to be doing something similar. So, isn't it strange that they have been given India's major awards like Padma Shri, given charge of the $5.6 million Murty Classical Library of India, and their opinions are included as facts by authors, teachers, journalists, and movie producers?

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