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Whither Sanskrit, whither classical Indology in the Western world?

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Ashok Aklujkar
University of British Columbia

1.1. Over the last two or three decades the following sequence of events has been
repeatedly witnessed:
(a) A university in the Western world lets its faculty know that it will abolish the
professorship in Sanskrit or classical Indology that once the present occupant of
the professorship retires, the position will not be refilled.
Sometimes the form of the announcement is this: The administrative unit
(department, institute or seminar) in which the professorship is located will be
discontinued or merged with another larger unit such as the department or faculty of
Oriental or Asian Studies.
(b) If it is a looming retrenchment of an individual professorship or impending
disbanding of an administrative unit, the present professor or some colleague of
his/her lets the national and international communities of kindred scholars know about
what is to be expected in the future.
(c) The national and international communities organize a letter writing or
signature drive. Communications go to the dean or vice-chancellor (or university
president) concerned, pointing out the importance of Sanskrit and/or India and
spelling out how highly the contributions to knowledge made by the university
concerned to Sanskritology or Indology are regarded by the specialists.
(d) In a few cases, the university administrators listen and agree to modify or
suspend the earlier decision.
In most cases, however, their acknowledgement of the appeal made to them does
not extend beyond thanking the letter writers for their interest in the university. They
write as if, despite all the degrees they received and despite the extensive experience
they had of the field of education, they do not comprehend the specific point made in
the letters. Their feigned ignorance then is a polite way of saying, 'Mind your own
business; your input is not welcome; we know what we are doing.
In some cases, not even an acknowledgement of the appeal made is sent. The
secretarial staff of the dean or vice-chancellor remains under-utilized. Silence speaks
loudly and clearly of the ineffectiveness and powerlessness of the specialists!

1.2 The sequence summarized above has, with minor variations, brought us to a
stage in which three officially recognized centers of Sanskritic/Indological studies in
the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Leiden, Utrecht) have shrunk to one centre (Leiden,
with threat to the separate existence of a distinctive institute and library at that centre),

1
As classical Indology primarily rests on Sanskrit, I will not always mention Indology and
Sanskrit separately. When one is mentioned, the other should be understood if the context so requires.
Also, my intention is not to play down the role played by Pli, Prakrit etc. in the formation of India. I
regard them as parts of the same stream as Sanskrit. Nor is any value judgment implicit in my use of
"classical or "Western. I am aware of the difficulties involved in defining such terms precisely and
use them here only as commonly and commonsensically understood shorthands.
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in which the B.A. program in Sanskrit and Hindi at the University of Cambridge has
disappeared and instruction in Sanskrit has entirely been entrusted to non-professorial
appointments, in which classical Indology will cease to exist as a department at Freie
Universitt in Berlin, in which ... (I leave it to more informed and up-to-date readers
to complete and correct my list).

1.3 To be sure, Indologists have become better at organizing the letter writing
and signature campaigns. Instead of expecting the sympathizers to put pens to paper
and spend time and money on mailing, now they write a collective letter and arrange
for electronic expressions of support. They also utilize the discussion lists existing on
the Internet to spread the news of impending retrenchment and to coordinate their
efforts to prevent that retrenchment.
As indicated above, they have a few success stories, full-scale or partial, to their
credit. Therefore, it will not be wise to advise them to desist from using such means as
open letters and signature campaigns. They should continue to do whatever they can
in a civilized way to serve and save their field. At the same time, a frank discussion of
why their field is suffering and why their success is limited and/or temporary is
needed. No strategy in the world succeeds optimally if the causes of why it is called
for in the first place are not correctly and fully understood.

2.1 In the discussions concerning impending loss of professorial positions or
academic units, the participants do not generally offer an analysis, beyond blaming
university administrators as 'bean counters, of why situations of loss arise or what
they could do in the future to avoid similar situations. The listing of items that make
their field of study important largely remains an exercise in preaching to the faithful
or converted; it is doubtful if the listing really sinks in the minds of the decision
makers. What is noteworthy is that the petitioners hardly say a word about where they
themselves could have gone wrong as a collectivity or what fundamental changes are
needed in the modern university as an institution if their field of study is to have a
future in that institution. Refrains like 'we have a new breed of administrators who do
not understand what the university is really about, 'universities have become
businesses, and 'classical studies are suffering everywhere are heard, but virtually
no discussion takes place about what can be done to change the situation in a lasting
way or to beat the administrators in their own game as an interim measure. Self-blame
and, consequently, an analysis of their way of handling the teaching side of
Sanskritology or Indology are conspicuously absent.

2.2 Among the classical Indology professors I have met over the years, it is very
commonly (but, thankfully, not universally) assumed that it is a duty of the
universities to support their subject regardless of how many students it attracts. This
is a right assumption to make (a) if the universities have money for every subject that
is considered to be important and (b) if the professors have made regular attempts to
ensure that the decision-making administrators have understood and noted the
importance of their subject. It is evident that (a) is never a reality or will never be
admitted as reality by the decision-making administrators. As for (b), universities are
indeed the only institutions in most of our present social set-ups that are officially and
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regularly charged with the responsibility of exchanging knowledge at the international
level. The knowledge and systematization pre-modern India produced is undoubtedly
very distinctive and worthy of being thought of as a part of mans global heritage. In
principle, it is certainly justifiable to expect that the universities would listen to the
specialists and make arrangements for informing students about the heritage made
available by India, at least to provide a useful springboard for comparison. To go by
enrolments alone and to ignore what the specialists say about a particular study area or
tradition is to subvert the mission entrusted to universities. If the universities go only
by the popularity of a certain subject and fail to bring internationally respected
knowledge to the taxpaying community, they will fall short in discharging their duty.
But this argument, correct and strong though it is, does not absolve the specialists of
the responsibility of attracting a fair number of students to their field, demonstrating
the truth of their assessment and earnestly ensuring that the tradition of the special
knowledge they were fortunate to acquire continues. Are the Sanskritists discharging
the specified responsibility adequately?

2.3 For a long time now, the attrition rate of students coming to first-year or
introductory Sanskrit has been very high. It is not uncommon at many universities to
have 12-20 students in the first class meeting and to see them dwindle to 5-6 by the
time the second class meeting takes place. The actual number of students completing
the introductory course and continuing with the intermediate course can be as low as
3-5.
I have come across some (highly respectable and otherwise admirable)
Sanskritists who see nothing wrong with this situation. They say: 'Even if more
students were to continue with the course, where would they find the employment to
support themselves? To such colleagues I have put and will continue to put the
following counter-questions: 'Will there not be more jobs if the student retention rate
goes up? Should our view of education be confined to creating specialist jobs? Is there
nothing in the Sanskritic heritage that is of value to humanity as a whole?
If 'yes, why should we not teach Sanskrit just to impart to our students the
capability of experiencing the joy of knowing a language and some of the literature in
it? Are there not a number of people who study history, geography, astronomy or
music simply as a hobby? In fact, should we not complement our teaching of Sanskrit
as a language universally and regularly with courses that introduce students to
Sanskrit literature (poetic, philosophical, mythic, scientific etc.) in translation? Would
such courses eventually not attract more students to our Sanskrit language courses as
the experience at some universities shows?
If, on the other hand, the answer to the question regarding value to humanity as a
whole is in the negative, should the respondent even be in the field of Sanskrit studies,
especially at the university level? Does his/her response not point to a problem within
himself/herself? Could it be the case that, contrary to the expectation made at the
universities, he/she has a disinclination to grow as a scholar or an unacceptably
narrow view of what growing as a scholar means?
The response will also conflict with the fact that there is so much attachment to
Sanskrit in India and beyond? There are many large organizations in India which
think that an irreparable damage will occur if Sanskrit disappeared from the Indian
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scene? Are they all made of extremist Hindus (who have, strangely, twice helped in
voting out of office Hindutva-leaning parties)? Furthermore, do we not need to
broaden our vision of education, especially in the present era of globalized villages, to
creating societies in which the members are exposed to more than one cultural
heritage, regardless of whether they reach a high level of expertise in that heritage?

2.4 As an explanation of the high attrition rate I have several times heard the
remark that Sanskrit is a difficult language it is but natural that the 'faint of the
heart students would drop out of its classes. Further reflection on the matter,
however, would reveal that there is really no scientific way of determining whether
language L-1 is harder to learn than language L-2. Some languages may be thought of
as harder because they have a large vocabulary (probably reflecting a highly advanced
material culture as is the case with modern English). But, lexemes do not constitute
the soul of a language, and the makers of teaching tools and the teachers are always
free to restrict their number in teaching the beginners in a language. In grammar
proper, languages have simply different devices (inflection, sequence etc.) for
indicating the relationships of sentence constituents. No type of device is inherently
harder or simpler than another. Also, if extensions of the same root meaning are
conveyed in one language through one device (e.g. post-positioning as in English
"give in, "give out, "give up etc.), another language may opt for some other device
(e.g. prefixing as in Sanskrit +d, prati+d etc.). Neither device is by nature easier
or more difficult. A good language teacher simply has to determine whether the
linguistic backgrounds of his/her students would make a particular grammatical
feature of Sanskrit difficult for them to master and then devise the appropriate
timetable and strategies for the features comprehension and inculcation. In addition, a
teacher can change the sequence in which grammatical features or other items
involved in language teaching are introduced and lighten any pressure that his/her
students may feel. For example, there is no harm in the case of Sanskrit if the teaching
of the Deva-ngar^ script is moved to a later stage for a particular batch of students.
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2.5 On the whole, the teaching of beginning Sanskrit in Western universities has
been too highly or unrealistically aimed. There has been no serious or sustained
examination of how much the students can reasonably be expected to learn in a single
course or in a specific time segment. The most commonly followed pattern is to
introduce almost all the grammar of classical Sanskrit in one semester and then
immediately, at the intermediate level, make the students struggle with Epic or
relatively simple classical Sanskrit, with explicit assistance provided only in the area
of vocabulary. Why there should be such a 'suicidal rush has puzzled me ever since I
first came across it. I find no parallel for it in the teaching of other languages. Even
the teaching of Greek and Latin, on the model of which the West initially based its
Sanskrit curriculum, has moved ahead and adopted a 'humane plan. India, where
students have considerable advantage over Western students in such aspects of

2
Personally, I would avoid doing so whenever I can. The Deva-ngar^ script is amazingly
scientific and its basic units are logically arranged (as are of other scripts used for Sanskrit in India over
the centuries). Teaching it along with the traditionally received sound sequence usually poses no
hardship for students. It can also be used to make the learning of inflection, sandhi etc. easy.
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learning Sanskrit as script and vocabulary, also does not impose on its students the
kind of straight-jacket that many Sanskrit/Indology departments in the West do!

2.6 Some textbook writers and teachers tighten the screws of the straight-jacket
under the belief that authentic Sanskrit can only be taught through sentences taken
from some well-known classical authors in their exact form. In the application of this
belief, the fact that the classical authors wrote their works for a very different
readership and purpose (certainly not as textbooks or review readers) is overlooked.
Also overlooked is the possibility that the Sanskrit of these authors may not have a
strong claim to being a native speakers language. It may be the Sanskrit of an
excellent second language user, not of someone who had Sanskrit as his first language
or mother tongue. It may not have any greater claim to authenticity or purity than
some other forms of Sanskrit. The crucial consideration behind the Sanskrit to be
included in a textbook for exercises should be whether the textbook users
acquaintance with it would give him/her the most effective and efficient access to a
large body of commonly read works or to a form facilitating movement to the earlier
and later forms of the same language (e.g., Vedic Sanskrit, Buddhist Sanskrit).
3
As a
consequence of insistence on taking sentences only from certain poets and
playwrights, however, a beginner is forced to learn a number of words he/she may not
again come across for a long time and to grope for probable contexts within which the
selected sentences would make sense.

2.7 As if the burden a beginner in Sanskrit faces is not diverse or heavy enough,
some Western textbooks complicate the learning situation further by including the
aims of introducing the beginner to Indo-European linguistics
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or P!inian
grammatical terminology. Some others, holding the view that the process of learning
Sanskrit is also a process for instilling a particular study regimen, expect the
beginning students to acquire the skill of consulting a Sanskrit ( European language)
dictionary as they learn the language. I am not aware of any other language teaching
set-up in which the aims are so many.
On top of the interfering hobby horses specified just now, we have a hobby horse
coming from another source. Ordinarily, the criteria of effective textbook writing or
efficient teaching should not be crossed with what scholars find interesting. However,
such a crossing is seen in the case of sandhi. The teaching of Sanskrit was
understandably initiated in the West on the pattern established in the case of Greek
and Latin. It was adjusted to the extent the special features of Sanskrit required.
Euphonic combinations or sandhi was one such feature. Pedagogically, the difficulty
with sandhi is this: If it is introduced right from the beginning, the students have to
learn the word forms changed in sentence context just as they are getting to know the

3
Starting the teaching of Sanskrit with what is commonly regarded as classical Sanskrit is thus a
good move. What is problematic is to restrict the selection of practice exercises only to the works that
have come down to us; new Sanskrit close to the classical model should also be allowed to ensure that
the textbook author will give enough material for each learning phase or exercise and will be able to
write stories, essays etc. that suit his plan of introducing grammar.
4
I do not object to pointing out related words in European languages. They do help a student in
remembering the meanings of Sanskrit words.
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forms; they have to contend with a word and its incarnation with an element added or
deleted even when their familiarity with the former is yet to emerge. On the other
hand, if we allow the word forms (derived in isolation) to remain unchanged, that is, if
we do not effect (external) sandhi, students learn an unnatural form of Sanskrit and
then have to replace it with the natural one at a later stage. Most textbooks give
priority to the introduction of sandhi and make the beginning students simultaneously
grapple with word forms by themselves and word forms changed in sentences. This
state of affairs must primarily be a consequence of the facts (a) that early Western
Sanskritists were charmed by the novelty of the sandhi phenomenon and the phonetic
insights implicit in the Indian account of the phenomenon and (b) that the established
traditional authorities like the Siddhnta-kaumudi had placed the sandhi chapters
almost at the beginning of their descriptions of Sanskrit. What was interesting to
scholars came in the way of finding a pedagogically preferable solution. It was not
realized as sharply as it should have been that students unaccustomed to Indian
languages and alphabets would need to be introduced to sandhi at a different stage of
their learning and in a different manner.
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2.8 On the whole, the present mix of aims, textbooks and instructor attitudes
found in the basic teaching of Sanskrit worries me. Once I was told that some
Sanskritists consider it proper to make all but the very best students leave their
introductory Sanskrit course. At another time I heard that one Sanskritist used to
declare proudly that his students did not enjoy their lunch if they had a class with him
after the lunch. These may be exceptional cases, but taken with the analysis I have
presented above they make me wonder if there is a 'mother-in-law syndrome at
work. In some families (especially in India because there joint or extended families
are still a common phenomenon), a mother-in-law will give a hard time to her
daughter-in-law simply or mainly because her own mother-in-law treated her
unkindly and harshly. Could Sanskrit professors be maintaining a situation of
hardship in the case of their new students because they themselves went through it?
Are they really incapable of recalling how they felt when they began to study
Sanskrit? I hope that such indeed is not the case and that my speculation is baseless.

2.9 The message of what has been noted in the last few sections is that Sanskrit
textbooks prepared with a realistic and sharp view of where the students should be at
the end of the introductory and intermediate courses are rare. The processes (a) of
working out the method from the goals set and (b) of jettisoning everything that is not
immediately useful in the realization of the goals do not frequently take place,
although they should take place in the context of teaching. The notions and details put
before the students in introductory Sanskrit courses generally far outweigh the notions
and details brought to the attention of students in introductory courses of most other
languages. If at all some textbook writers show awareness of the 'tall order the
beginners face, they either remove the constituents of that tall order in a half-hearted
way or end up in oversimplifying the presentation. If the latter happens, they devote
too many pages to some easily graspable information and leave little space for other

5
For one attempt in this direction, see Aklujkar 1992, Sanskrit: an Easy Introduction to an
Enchanting Language, Richmond, B.C.: Svadhyaya Publications (latest edition published in 2005).
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topics that call for extensive and well-graduated treatment.
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3.1 Beyond the surface-level conclusion 'Sanskrit professor, heal thyself
contained in the preceding paragraphs, there are some deeper causes for the lagging
behind of Sanskrit and Indology in Western universities. The West has felt itself
closer to the Greek and Roman traditions for a long time and has appropriated them
(with considerable justification). However, there are also old connections of India
with Greece and Rome. Indologists have not been emphatic enough in pointing them
out and using them to create a feeling of brotherhood with a subject that already
enjoys prestige in the Western world. They have, in particular, not been persistent
enough in demonstrating how what is preserved in India serves to explain things
Greek and Roman and how it, in some cases, can provide an enriching perspective to
the classicists.
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3.2 In addition to not exploiting the Greek and Roman connections for
domiciling their discipline, most Indologists have given little evidence of noticing
how a modern university works. Unbeknownst to them, the institutions of higher

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Even the few students who persevere and complete the introductory course usually come out of it
retaining very little beyond a few exotic grammatical terms. They do not develop a firm grasp of basic
vocabulary or form a judgment as to the grammatical categories on which they should concentrate in
order to improve their reading ability efficiently. they should be better prepared to recognize. They
remain weak in their command of syntax. They get little or no sense of the beauty of the language and
literature, unless they are already in the habit of looking at the sentences in an unfamiliar language for
its inherent aesthetics.
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(a) It is true that the study of classical languages has lost ground or is losing ground in most
Western universities. This is not a new phenomenon. There are spurts of numerical strengthening
because movements such as 'write and speak Latin come into being or because the departments of
classical studies introduce courses such as 'Latin and/or Greek for medical students. However, the first
development rarely, if ever, leads to increase in academic positions. It is to be lauded because it may
increase the competence of those who are already attracted to Latin, but, as far as I can ascertain, there
is no evidence to the effect that it has increased the number of Latin students at the universities and
thereby the number of teaching positions for Latin. The second development, by its very nature, is a
response to the expectation of university administrators that the faculty in classical studies handle more
students. It is more an attempt to cover up the shortage of students and save professorial positions in a
department than a means to enhance the quality of what the department is primarily expected to
accomplish.
(b) If the modern Western university as a social institution did not have its roots in a primarily
Christian culture, particularly in the monasteries and theological seminaries of that culture, the fate of
Greek and Latin at it would probably not have been much different from that of Sanskrit. There is an
understandable emotional attachment with Greek and Latin in the Western world, and the view that a
university, to be truly respectable, must enable at least some of its students to approach cultural
antiquity directly in the antiquitys major languages is fairly widespread.
(c) The view summarized in (c) is more firmly anchored in Europe than in North America, but with
the growing americanization of European universities its future has become uncertain.
(d) In India, the situation is not only reversed, it is reversed to the extent of making the historical
relationship of Sanskrit, Greek and Latin meaningless. The latter two languages have virtually no
standing in the universities, except in some sparsely offered courses on Indo-European or historical-
comparative linguistics. The relationship with and affection for Sanskrit, on the other hand, is far wider
and much deeper than the one found for Greek and Latin anywhere in the Western world, despite the
growing anglicization of Indian languages and their increasing distance from the traditional Sanskrit
base.
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learning have changed and acquired a proneness to sensationalism that we normally
associate with the news media. As a consequence, something that is considered a
basic or expected truth tends, in the hands of present Western academics, not to bring
glory to the tradition in which it is articulated, even if it happens to be noble in nature
and far ahead in time. Academia has developed a cynical strain, and the time of
intellectual generosity in which Greece (rightly) got publicity for introducing or
instituting certain good things (e.g., democracy, philosophy) is no longer available to
countries like India.
The Indian tradition, in addition to developing several analytical systems, sciences
and technologies, gave expression to many great humanistic ideas. It declared that
differences in the names for the supreme truth or Godhead are immaterial. It instituted
whole classes of individuals (brhma!as, rama!as) capable of speaking truth without
having to worry about how the political masters would react. It integrated ecological
considerations with religious practices. It made the preservation of varied local
customs possible even when a unifying great tradition was spreading. It either did not
allow discrimination based on skin colors to develop or replaced it very early in its
history with social classes based on need, inclination and capability. Further, it
declared all denizens of the world to be members of a single family (vasudhaiva
kuumbakam). However, in the academic world of the present, India rarely receives
any approbation for these achievements of its culture. The academia now considers it
a mark of methodological sophistication to be skeptical about all claims of greatness.
Not to have suspicion about greatness is thought of as naivete, if not as abnormality,
in a historian. Noble thoughts are dismissed as motherhood truths, implying that they
are uninteresting, or as not truly meant, implying that they are not worthy of further
exploration. The contribution they can make to social harmony, world peace etc. is
simply not taken into account.
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3.3 The fact that Indias depiction in the news media and in economic and
political publications in the last 70-80 years has largely been negative does not help
the study of classical Indology. Although the situation has dramatically changed in the
last decade or so, primarily because of the revolution in information technology and
the special space occupied therein by Indian engineers, business managers and
entrepreneurs, the impact of Indias image as a poor and backward country, plagued
by problems of caste and superstition, is yet to be sufficiently removed. Of the major
Asian countries, Japan and South Korea have received a major make-over of their
public image because of the wealth they have attracted and the political alliances they
have formed with the major powers of the Americas and Europe. China has attracted
interest and gained respect as a mighty and secretive adversary, capable of becoming
the next or parallel super-power. India, on the other hand, as a disorganized

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(a) The power of the 'iconoclastic tendency mentioned here should not be underestimated. It
attracts greater attention just like the sensational news items appearing in newspapers. Other scholars in
the same or related fields rarely have the time needed to check the accuracy of the iconoclasts
evidence. The modern university, furthermore, encourages, by its very modus operandi and structure,
quick, attention-grabbing publications and being with 'the latest.
(b) I am not arguing against refusal to think of any researcher, regardless of his/her reputation in
the field, as infallible. Nor am I advocating that the relevant evidence should not be revisited and
rigorously checked.
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democracy refusing to be allied with any particular power block, displaying baffling
diversity and maintaining a virtually open-door policy for the international news
media has, for the West, not become an equally respectable politico-economic entity
or an object of large-scale public curiosity. The difficulty of approaching it
categorically as a rich friend or as a dimly known adversary and the easy access it
provides to its present state through the international language of English come to
mean, in practical terms, a devaluation of the study of its own languages and
intellectual-cultural institutions. I used to say in the late 1970s that the study of India
and its languages would begin to receive massive support in North America if any of
the following three events took place: (a) India declared itself a Communist country.
(b) India blockaded itself, allowing very few foreigners to come into the country. (c)
Indians stopped using English with the outside world.
Humor apart, the situation has not changed, essentially or significantly, and it is
unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Besides, This means that if scholars
studying India in the West wish to see their field of study preserved or better
supported for a long time to come if they are looking for a long-term solution to
the problem of losing academic positions articulated at the beginning of this article,
they have only the following courses of action open to them:
(a) They work toward changing the way priorities are set in their universities and
ensuring that humanities do not suffer because the available resources are heavily
committed to technology and science.
(b) They contribute to the discussion that is already under way to rethink the
university as a social institution. They ask themselves if it is possible to retain the
good parts of what we have got and to create a different set-up that suits the changed
or so far undervalued and neglected needs of the world.
(c) They raise the profile of the tradition they study as a human heritage. This does
not mean that they only glorify that tradition and stop subjecting it to a critical
inquiry. It primarily means that, as they continue to study what India has as its
heritage and what it has given to the world, they maintain an awareness of what
Indias cultural achievements and experience could mean to the world outside the
academy. Their expertise developed in handling very specific philological or
historical problems does not come to rest in naval-gazing or end in burying their heads
in sand. It acquires a larger dimension and an infectious enthusiasm comes to be
associated with it. They stop expressing cynicism and employing provocative negative
titles for their publications. They take care not to lower the respectability of their area
of scholarship in public eyes without sacrificing objectivity and critical examination.
They remain aware of the fact that nothing professionally valued is compromised if a
scholar shares with his/her students and the rest of the world his/her enthusiasm for
the field of his expertise and speaks of the valuable things he has learned from the
tradition he studied.

4.1 The basic suggestion of the preceding sections is that if Sanskritists wish to
survive in the Western academic world, they need to carry out, in addition to letter
writing and signature gathering, a self-examination. This examination should, first and
foremost, pertain to something under their control, namely how they teach their
subject, how they project it in the community of non-specialists and how they relate it
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to other subjects that are taught in the university. After more than forty years of
experience of the Western academic world (at the University of British Columbia and
at least six other world-class universities) with some years spent in intense
involvement in administration, I have come to feel that there is a disturbing similarity
between most professors of Sanskrit at Western universities and most str^s or
pandits in India: both have tragically failed in accurately understanding the nature of
change that came about and the way the 'other side thinks;
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both have, as groups if
not as individual members of the groups, held on to a false sense of security; both
have implicitly assumed that the powers that decide their economic well-being and/or
social status are aware of their and their subjects importance and will continue to
possess that awareness, even if they make no efforts to support, strengthen or deepen
that awareness; both have largely proceeded on the assumption that they do not need
to change their ideas or methods in order to save their cherished field of scholarship.

4.2 On this background, what I indicate in note 7 may be profitably spelled out.
Sanskrits loss of ground is of a piece with that of Greek and Latin, although as a
language it did not and does not enjoy the same degree of affection or publicity in the
Western world as its sister languages. While being cognizant of this ground reality,
however, we should not delink our efforts for the preservation of Sanskrit studies
from the efforts being made for the preservation of Western classical studies. True,
one does not get the feeling that the classicists of the West have really warmed up to
Sanskrit. Even after more than two hundred years of awareness of the historical
relationship of Sanskrit, Greek and Latin and the impressive results obtained in such
fields as comparative-historical linguistics, mythology, religion and philosophy, the
classicists and Sanskritists have largely remained apart. After the first few decades
when Sanskrit was taught in the same departments as Greek and Latin in European
universities, the classicists have behaved as if the greater antiquity, continuity, variety
and volume of Sanskrit was a threat to the standing their specializations enjoyed. In
fairness, it must also be pointed out that Sanskritists have made no particular effort to
make their field easily accessible to classicists. Those specialists of Greek and Latin
who managed to develop a respectable understanding of Sanskrit did so in spite of,
rather than because of, the tools they found to learn Sanskrit. Very few of them went
beyond what they needed to become scholars of Indo-European linguistics. Two
solitudes came into being. The potential for mutual enrichment of Sanskritology and
classical studies and for mutual professional benefit of Sanskritists and classicists
remained under-utilized.

9
I see no need to distinguish between str^s and pandits in the present context. I have discussed
their case briefly in 2.2 of Aklujkar 2001, "Pa!"ita and pandit in history, in Axel Michaels (editor),
The Pandit. Traditional Sanskrit Scholarship in India. Festschrift Parameshvara Aithal, pp. 17-40. My
intention is not to suggest that the failure to sense the changed circumstances has occurred in the same
periods or for the same causes. The devaluation of pandits began roughly in the second millennium
A.D. as the entry of Islam in India resulted in large-scale displacement and decimation of traditional
intellectuals. Their plight continued through the British period of Indian history, although not on the
same scale, as new knowledge branches replaced the old ones and more and more traditional scholars
were forced by the loss of traditional patronage sources to accept clerical and administrative jobs. In
India, the creation of professor as a social institution was also responsible to some extent in the
diminution of pandits.
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4.3 Finally, two more suggestions of a down-to-earth nature. It is a fact of
university life anywhere that, despite the talk of egalitarianism and praise of scholars
respected by their peers, university administrators primarily listen to fellow
administrators. The administrators at various levels (department heads, deans and so
on) need each other directly and frequently at least during their terms of
appointments. Such is not the case with the rest of the faculty. Indologists should,
therefore, seriously work at greater involvement in the administration of their
university. This way they will bring a greater visibility to their field and get more
support for it. They should explore the possibility of taking turns in handling
administrative responsibilities. In most cases, if they accept these responsibilities, they
will be given secretarial, teaching or research assistance, and the time they spend in
administration and developing public relations will not come in the way of their
pursuit of scholarship, at least not to a serious extent.
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Secondly, the faculty involved with classical Indology should ascertain if they can
establish endowments at their university in support of students wishing to specialize
in their field. Such endowments cost much less than the endowments for
professorships. They can serve to convince the university administration about student
interest and to create an obligation on the part of the university to continue teaching in
the area concerned. These endowments can be established gradually over a long
period through annual donations (which reduce the amount of income tax to be paid
by the donor). They can also be set up in such a way that even persons outside the
Indology departments and outside the university can contribute to them. The specialist
faculty members donation convinces them about the importance of the subject and
inspires them to lend a helping hand. Yes, it is true that almost all of us need to leave
some money or estate for our family members, but there is no reason why this should
mean that we do not do anything for the vidy-vaa. What we give is usually
negligible in comparison with the comforts and pleasures a life at the university
makes available, with the hours of joy and solace that Sanskrit provides, and with the
intellectual excitement and enlightenment we experience at the international
gatherings made possible by Sanskrit.
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10
My intention in this essay is not to suggest that what happens to Sanskrit or classical Indology in
the West is unrelated to what happens to these subjects in India or in other parts of Asia. In several
universities, particularly in North America, the issue of losing ground to East Asian studies is serious,
just as the help received from East Asian studies (especially through Buddhism) in precious. It is
particularly important that Asia should come out of its enthrallment with the West and adapt Western
institutions such as the university to its needs and the good of the world, instead of simply adopting and
following them. The present practice of measuring progress exclusively in terms of gross national
product and technology must also cease.