Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Apotheosis of the Avadhani as Silly Ass.

The Swadesi Indologist- part II
Shatavadhani Ganesh writes-
'In the battle for Sanskrit, Rajiv Malhotra is like an enthusiastic commander of a committed army whose strengths and weaknesses he himself is sadly unable to reconcile.'
There is something mysterious about this sentence. It begins by taking a completely novel figure of speech- 'the battle for Sanskrit'- as a concrete reality and then assumes the equally real existence of a Commander in that battle who, ineluctably, has certain traits. Moreover, an actually existent person- the one who created the metaphor 'the battle for Sanskrit'- is said to have a mere likeness or semblance to this wholly imaginary Commander in an entirely metaphorical battle of whose existence most people would be hearing for the very first time.
This is all very strange. An imaginary person may be said to be like some actually existing person known to us. There is some point to the use of such a simile. It provides a prop to our imagination. Similarly, it makes sense to say a certain person, currently a stranger to us, is like an imaginary character from a well known work of art.  Once again, the simile serves the purpose of enabling us to picture this unknown person more clearly in our minds. 
However, Ganesh has done something entirely different here. He takes up a novel figurative expression- ' the battle of Sanskrit'-  invented, it appears, by Malhotra- and, completely forgetting that it is merely a metaphor, proceeds to imagine it as something that is really occurring and as possessing an 'enthusiastic commander' who has some lamentable deficiency.  He does not say Malhotra is this commander. No. He says he is like  this commander. Why? How can a real person be like an imaginary person in an imaginary battle which no one has as yet described?

If some one were to say- Vivek Iyer is like the enthusiastic commander in the battle for the catachresis of the purple cat under conditions of stochastic domination- how is anybody's knowledge advanced? What is the point of such rococco 'meta-metaphoricity'?

I suppose the reply may be given, relying on an argument of Ganesh's, that the epistemic element in the proposition re the purple cat mentioned above, though wholly imaginary, nevertheless has a 'svarupa'- id est, a Platonic form.
For Theists, this 'svarupa' would consist in the service it performs for the Supreme Personality of the Godhead and, as such, is well defined. However, the 'catachresis of the purple cat' has no 'rupa'- no actual representation- known to men. Yet, Ganesh says, a grievous error is made, as for example by Malhotra, when the 'rupa' of inter-subjective things or persons is emphasized and non inter-subjective 'svarupa' is neglected.
Since the 'svarupa' can't be known, at any rate for Theists, by any action of their own- thus, there is no 'pramana' or mode of acquiring valid, inter-subjective, knowledge about it- we can say a priori that whereas Ganesh talks nonsense, Malhotra, on Ganesh's evidence, doesn't necessarily do so.

But look at what nonsense on stilts it is!

How is it that this Commander, just this moment invented by Ganesh, already has incurred the lamentable disability of doing something, prima facie, impossible or, if possible, then highly undesirable- viz. 'reconciling strengths and weaknesses' within his army?

A General has a duty to eliminate weakness and reinforce strength among his ranks. Why would he want to reconcile the brave and doughty soldier to the cowardly poltroon who failed to rally to his aid? Does any such thing happen on actual battlefields? Apparently, in Ganesh's imagination, it is absolutely routine to see, prior to the commencement of hostilities, the Commanding General ride up to a group of arguing soldiers and say- 'Look here, those of you who are doing your duty properly should forgive and be reconciled to those of you who are shirking your duty, selling off your weapons to the enemy, and sodomizing the sentries at their post with the result that the encampment has become vulnerable to surprise attack'!
Ganesh expresses great sadness that Malhotra is like an enthusiastic commander who isn't spending his time in this delightful way.
Why? What is his major malfunction?
But let us hear more from Ganesh-
'Doubtless there is a battle for Sanskrit and one must wholeheartedly applaud Malhotra’s efforts for Sanskrit. Without hesitation, we shall stand shoulder to shoulder with him and fight this war till the end. We too are opposed to “those who see Sanskrit as a dead language… [and those who] would ‘sanitize’ Sanskrit, cleansing it of what they see as its inherent elitism and oppressive cultural and social structures…” (p. 30). But before the clash of weapons, an objective assessment of our ancient tradition is imperative.'
Wow! So Ganesh says there really is a battle and he and some other like minded people must stand shoulder to shoulder with Malhotra and 'fight the war to the end'.
Far from being some sort of Quixotic character, Malhotra, it appears, is not simply indulging in overblown rhetoric or tilting at windmills. He is warning of a clear and present danger.

However,  Ganesh tells us, though he wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with Malhotra- who is ready and willing to advance to meet the enemy- Ganesh himself is not willing to advance because he thinks it is imperative to immediately do something that doesn't involve fighting the enemy at all- viz. making an objective assessment of 'ancient traditions'.
Notice, that if Ganesh had said 'In the Battle of Sanskrit, Malhotra- as Commander- has committed such and such mistake, by reason of excessive enthusiasm'- he could not claim to be standing shoulder to shoulder in the War unless he had actually done so, thus gaining the moral right to criticize his Commander.
Alternatively, he could have said 'I think Malhotra, as Commander, is making such and such mistake which is why I am not standing shoulder to shoulder with him.' and escaped, if not censure, then the stain of mendacity.
Instead Ganesh has chosen a different tack. He says Malhotra is related merely by a simile, a figure of speech, to the Battle for Sanskrit in which Ganesha himself is genuinely about to engage- and will always remain, cross my heart and hope to die, about to engage.
But for the use of that cunning simile,  Ganesh's subtle dialectics would be immediately dismissed as puling cowardice or an egotistical refusal to observe military discipline.

Now it becomes clear why Ganesh went in for the meta-metaphoric mystification I drew your attention to in my first paragraph. Malhotra is not the 'rupa' of the commander and thus gets no say in determining its 'swarupa' because he has a mere semblance to the relevant 'rupa' and Ganesh himself is the only one has some inkling regarding that 'swarupa'.

I should mention that, for Advaitins- i.e. people of the sect Ganesh and I belong to- a conceptual 'rupa' constructed within the I-consciousness, and thus subject to vritti modifications, can nevertheless disclose its inerrant and unchangeable 'svarupa' if metaphysical liberation has supervened. However, Sanatan Dharma contains other sects who deny that a 'jivanmukta' can exist. Ganesh knows this. Yet he says 'means of transcendence may be through text, ritual, or art, but adherents aim to go beyond Form and internalize Content (by means of reflective inquiry into the Self), thus attaining what the Taittiriya Upanisad calls ‘brahmananda.’ T

Ganesh is either being foolish or disingenuous. The fact is, Vaishavs don't want to attain the bliss of Heaven or Moksha or whatever- they want to humbly serve the Lord, that is all. Like the Mussar, fulfilling the material needs of 'Daridra Narayan' fulfills their spiritual need to serve the Lord. Generally, they deny that any one actually attains this God-like 'svarupa' knowledge in this life. However, even if this knowledge were attained or vouchsafed by the Lord, nothing observable would change. In particular, no needful act- including the defense of something necessary for those in need- would be postponed just because some 'objective assessment' has not been seen to be done.

 Ganesh says '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.' Ganesh is lying. He knows that Sanatana dharma can only be a 'transcendental system' for sects which admit the attainability of jivanmukti- though even in those sects, the emphasis is now on doing selfless social work or other actions pleasing to the Lord.  Otherwise, Sanaatan dharma is perfectly at liberty to embrace Occassionalism, Deontologism, Pluralism etc.

I don't say that Ganesh has a flawed understanding of which sects are included in sanaatan dharma, nor do I suggest that he doesn't know that Iyengrars ridicule Iyers for believing in jivanmuktas.
What I do say is he telling stupid lies.

Malhotra, on the other hand, is not trying to pass off the beliefs of his own sect as obligatory on all Sanaatanists. Whether or not his 'Battle for Sanskrit' is well-founded, we can at least agree he is not waging war on Hindu unity. No doubt he has perpetrated a howler or two in the course of his voluminous writings but nothing as egregious and utterly riddled with bad faith as this- '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'. 
Ganesh knows full well that the truth value of the sentence (it is abominably written, but we know what he is getting at) remains unaltered by substituting the Holy Name of Sri Ramanujacharya for Malhotra in the above. Furthermore, he speaks of enemies. All that pious pi-jaw about being inclusivist and harboring no negativity was hypocrisy simply.
I suppose this is why, in disputation, pious Hindus are forbidden to descend to such low tactics. If you have a grudge against your Iyengar neighbor just call him a cock-sucking whore and leave it at that. No need to stir up theological controversies re. the scandal of divya rupa being left un-reconciled to svarupa in Vedarthasangraha, because that can only create sectarian tension and divide our own Tambram community. Incidentally, we now have the solution to the puzzle as to why Ganesh castigated Malhotra for being like a General who doesn't reconcile 'weakness and strength' in his Army. Ganesh was taking a dig at the founder of the Iyengar sect, who- we are proud to say- started off as one of us. In other words, Ganesh is writing about the 'Battle of Sanskrit' not because he cares about Hinduism but because he wants to work off his grudge against a rival sect. Either that of he is simply a very subtle comedian and the whole thing was tongue in cheek.

One final mystery remains. Why does Hindu tradition, according to Ganesh's account, refuse to license any action in its own defense till everyone involved has completed an 'objective assessment of it'? Is Hinduism stupid ab ovo?
But there is one other possibility.
The fact is, if there is any truth in what he writes, it is clear that Ganesh himself hadn't bothered to do the requisite 'objective assessment' of Hindu tradition prior to writing this article, otherwise he'd have been ready to give battle right away. As a matter of common sense doing such an assessment could never have been a supererogatory duty- yet why does it occur to him to do it only now?

Does Ganesh think we can neglect 'objective assessment of our ancient traditions' at all times save when we have a duty to fight for their protection?
Apparently so. 
He and his like-minded ilk can't march forward because they have to start doing this 'objective assessment' which has only now become very urgent, and Malhotra should be blamed for this because he is 'like an enthusiastic commander' who has 'failed to reconcile' the fighters and the shirkers such that nobody fights and everybody shirks and Ganesh gets to propound his own theory of how to 'objectively assess our ancient traditions' w.r.t Sanskrit.

Ganesh does this by claiming
1) 'To ably carry out such an assessment, we must understand Hinduism’s underlying philosophy.'

In other words, only those who understand Hinduism's underlying philosophy can be allowed to fight for Sanskrit and that too only after they have waited for everyone else who claims they want to fight for Sanskrit to reach an equal level of understanding- otherwise 'weaker and stronger elements in the Army' won't be properly reconciled- which Ganesh thinks is very very important for some reason unknown to Military Science.

Notice, Ganesh has upped the stakes once again. Not only must Hinduism have an univocal underlying philosophy, everyone must grasp this philosophy- know its 'svarupa' or manner of serving the Supreme Personality of the Godhead- before actually doing any fighting in a particular battle regarding which only Malhotra, not Ganesh, has given an inter-subjective acceptation or 'rupa'.

This is batshit crazy! Unviocity of this type may exist among the choirs of Heaven, or the Sangha of the Saints, or for those who have attained kevalya, it can't arise at any moment of historical time for ordinary mortals by any method of 'objective assessment' that can actually be carried out; otherwise everything in the mind of God would be as easily knowable to all creatures as which of us is taller as opposed to which of us is more like unto the catachresis of the purple cat under conditions of stochastic domination.
Suppose Ganesh were to critique this post of mine in the same manner that he critiques Malhotra's book, then he might say 'Vivek Iyer is like an enthusiastic commander in the battle for the catachresis of the purple cat under stochastic dominance. Since he is a Hindu, and thus potentially a source of strength or weakness in the battle for Sanskrit, we have a duty to reconcile him in some way which involves delaying the commencement of hostilities (because otherwise we act like that impetuous Malhotra fellow). Iyer too has a similar, symmetric, obligation with respect to the battle in which he is like an enthusiastic commander- viz. that involving the purple cat. 
'By an argument given below, we can establish that 'reconciliation'- which I alone hold needful- can only be on the basis of 'objective assessment'. Thus, whether a Hindu is involved in the battle for Sanskrit or for the catachresis of the purple cat or for incentive compatible Human Rights or whatever, it must always be the case that objective assessment be first undertaken of not just Hindu traditions but also those that concern the catachresis of the purple cat under conditions of stochastic dominance. 
'If this were not the case, then what I am saying is not in accordance with Hindu traditions. I am talking nonsense and should be ignored.
'Since I am a Shatavadhani and have appeared on You Tube, this is unlikely to be the case. Thus let us do an objective assessment of the catachresis of the purple cat, because it is part of the wider battle for Sanskrit.
'Commencing this 'objective investigation' the first thing we find is that Vivek Iyer has only concerned himself with the 'rupa'- the phenomenological form- not the 'svarupa'- the noumenal form in the mind of God- of the catachresis of the purple cat under conditions of stochastic dominance. This is why he very lamentably failed to reconcile the weaknesses and strengths in his army.
'I, myself, however am free of this defect because I am able to transcend the phenomenal world by having recourse to a specific Hindu text thus gaining the noumenal knowledge necessary for the final victory to be gained in the battle for the catachresis of the purple cat.
'Indeed, there is no subject under the Sun, even obviously nonsensical ones, about which I can't make a similar claim.'

Does Ganesh not understand he is talking nonsense? No. Not at all. It turns out that Ganesh, though trained in the Sciences, believes there is a supernatural workaround, whose efficacy is 'Common Knowledge' such that he isn't talking nonsense on stilts at all.

His argument consists of two parts

1)  'The Hindu worldview is that of using a (scriptural) text and then transcending the text (see Rgveda Samhita 1.164.39).'
If this is the case, texts are purely instrumental. They are used, then transcended and this is a wholly mechanical procedure.
 If texts are encoded in a language- even language as sublime as this-
ṛco akṣare parame vyoman yasmin devā adhi viśve niṣeduḥ | 
yastan na veda kiṃ ṛcā kariṣyati ya it tad vidusta ime samāsate ||
that language has no special sanctity. Transcendence is all that matters. The 'Battle for Sanskrit' is not worth fighting because the proper 'objective assessment of Hindu cultural traditions' shows it is worthless even as an instrumentality because easier, less contentious, methods of gaining Transcendence have not been foreclosed.
Moreover, Hindus, for some reason known only to Ganesh, have a duty to reconcile 'stronger' and 'weaker' elements in their ranks, not on the basis of raising the weak to the level of the strong but doing the reverse. Thus, if I, though claiming to be Hindu, say 'Transcendence is more easily achieved by contemplating the catachresis of the purple cat under conditions of stochastic dominance' then Malhotra and Ganesh and all these other other vaunted 'battlers for Sanskrit' have to stop everything and concentrate on 'objectively assessing' my claim till univocity in this matter is achieved.

Is Ganesh pointing to some genuine defect in Hindu Scripture which enjoins such absurdity? Nope. He is displaying his own stupidity, nothing more.
The verse he cites does not say the text is to be transcended but that it has univocity with what can not be sublated and this truth is firmly established in those properly assembled there. Any other view of the text, like that of Ganesh, is labelled 'na veda' and considered to be utterly useless.

However Ganesh has a second string to his bow-
'On the one hand we have a tradition of the “ever-growing text” and on the other we have a tradition of “transcending the text.” The growing body of knowledge (made possible by the varied and original commentaries of scholars, e.g. Shankara) helps prevent the text from getting outdated. Going beyond the text (as demonstrated by avadhutas, e.g. Ramana Maharishi) helps prevent the text from becoming an imposition.'

Ganesh is making a vulgar error. He thinks textual cascades are like a Fibonacci sequence. There is an ur-text, then a commentary which yields an interpolated text, then we have commentaries on commentaries and, as a result of geographic dispersion, ultimately an 'ever-growing text'.

This account doesn't square with modern research or, indeed, the testimony of our ancient texts.
 The truth is there were far more sacred texts of any given level of antiquity known to our forbears and this winnowing process continues. The same point may be made about mystic lineages e.g. those of Avadhuts. However, there is no link at all between whether 'texts become an imposition' and the presence or absence of Avadhuts. Ganesh knows this very well just as I do because we are of the same age and sect. There were many more Avadhuts, like Ramana Maharishi, at a time when, to our own certain knowledge, 'texts were a huge imposition', than we commonly encounter nowadays.
In any case, there is no method of 'objective assessment' which permits us to determine who is or is not an Avadhut. I may claim to be one and Ganesh's argument might be used, with equal validity, to counsel the abandonment of Hinduism because meditating on the catachresis of a cat is an easier path to Transcendence- but nobody, hopefully not even Ganesh, would be convinced.

The problem with Ganesh is that he doesn't think before he writes. Why is he so lazy? Apparently, it is because he believes that 'When we enter into a debate with our opponents, we must ensure that the pramanas (valid proof methods) are mutually agreed upon.' In other words, don't debate unless there is nothing to debate about but, in that case, just utter any nonsense that chances upon your tongue and demand equal treatment with those who speak sensibly because 'Hinduism is inclusivist'.
This is as stupid as Ganesh's belief that the General should reconcile strong elements in the Army, that is courageous and conscientious soldiers, to the weak elements in the army, i.e. scoundrels and poltroons, on the basis that the Army as a whole should not move till the weakest and most cowardly have been persuaded to advance. 

The Swadesi Indologist, it seems - though trained in the Sciences and with a sound knowledge of Sanskrit- can taken up the gauntlet thrown down by Pollock, Witzel, Doniger, Pee Wee Herman et al and successfully show that he can say even sillier things and get away with an enhanced reputation.

Jai Hind!


  1. 'If you have a grudge against your Iyengar neighbor just call him a cock-sucking whore and leave it at that. No need to stir up theological controversies re. the scandal of divya rupa being left un-reconciled to svarupa because that can only create sectarian tension and divide our own Tambram community.'
    Utterly false!
    Shameless ignoramus, are you really too stupid to understand that 'cock' can have the acceptation 'linga'- i.e. sign- and so cock-sucking whore- can have the acceptation- 'promiscuously sucking up the pollen of the flower garland of symbolic adoration so as to distill and make universally available the honeyed nectar of satcitanandam'?
    How dare you suggest we should address our Iyengar colleagues or neighbours in such terms?!
    What was so greatly wrong with our traditional epithet for them- viz badava rascal- or scoundrel of a pimp?

  2. Bastard! I will beat you with my hockey stick!