Early indology of india
early indologists & indology of india
india indology continued from part 1
Fredrich Max Mueller
Mueller was first commissioned by the East India Company to translate the Rg Veda into English. The company agreed to pay the young Mueller 4 Shillings for each page that was ready to print. He later moved to Oxford where he translated a number of books on Eastern religion. His magnum opus was his series The Sacred Books of the East, a fifty volume work which he began editing in 1875. It goes without saying that by the end of his career, Mueller had amassed a comfortable sum of money.
It is ironic that the man who has Bhavans named after him all over India and is treated with so much veneration there, probably did the most damage to uproot Vedic culture.
At the time of his death he was venerated by none other than Lokamanya Tilak as ‘Veda-maharishi Moksha-mula Bhatta of Go-tirtha’ (Oxford).
Although Mueller is on record as extoling India’s ancient wisdom, his letters (printed in two volumes) tell an entirely different story. Generally personal letters give a true picture of the writer's inner mind. We present herein some of Mueller’s many statements in which his true view on Indian culture is glaringly obvious -
"History seems to teach that the whole human race required a gradual education before, in the fullness of time, it could be admitted to the truths of Christianity. All the fallacies of human reason had to be exhausted, before the light of a high truth could meet with ready acceptance. The ancient religions of the world were but the milk of nature, which was in due time to be succeeded by the bread of life.... 'The religion of Buddha has spread far beyond the limits of the Aryan world, and to our limited vision, it may seem to have retarded the advent of Christianity among a large portion of the human race. But in the sight of Him with whom a thousand years are but as one day, that religion, like the ancient religions of the world, may have but served to prepare the way of Christ, by helping through its very errors to strengthen and to deepen the ineradicable yearning of the human heart after the truth of God."
"Large number of Vedic hymns are childish in the extreme; tedious, low, commonplace."
"Nay, they (the Vedas) contain, by the side of simple, natural, childish thoughts, many ideas which to us sound modern, or secondary and tertiary."
"...this edition of mine and the translation of the Vedas, will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It (the Rg Veda) is the root of their religion and to show them what the root is, I am sure, the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last three thousand years" 9
"Hinduism was dying or dead because it belonged to a stratum of thought which was long buried beneath the foot of modern man. He continued: " The worship of Shiva, Vishnu, and other popular deities was of the same and in many cases of a more degraded and savage character than the worship of Jupiter, Apollo or Minerva. 'A religion', he said ' may linger on for a long time, it may be accepted my large masses of the people, because it is there, and there is nothing better. But when a religion has ceased to produce defenders of the faith, prophets, champions, martyrs, it has ceased to live, in the true sense of the word; and in that sense the old orthodox Brahmanism has ceased to live for more than a thousand years." (Speech at the Christians Missions in Westminster Abbey in 1873) 10
In 1876, while writing to a friend, Mueller said that he would not like to go to India as a missionary since that would make him dependent upon the government. His preference was this -
"I would like to live for ten years quite quietly and learn the language, try to make friends, and then see if I was fit to take part in this work, by means of which the old mischief of Indian priestcraft could be overthrown and the way opened for the entrance of simple Christian teaching…India is much riper for Christianity than Rome or Greece were at the time of Saint Paul."
"The rotten tree for some time had artificial supports ...but if the English man comes to see that the tree must fall...he will mind no sacrifice either of blood or of land...I would like to lay down my life, or at least lend my hand to bring about this struggle" 11
"I do not claim for the ancient Indian literature any more that I should willingly concede to the fables and traditions and songs of savage nations. I simply say that in the Veda we have a nearer approach to a beginning, and an intelligent beginning, than in the wild invocations of the Hottentotes and Bushmen, " 12
"This edition of mine and the translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent... the fate of India, and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3000 years." 13
When Duke of Argyll was appointed Secretary of State for India in December 1868, Max Mueller wrote to him-
"India has been conquered once, but India must be conquered again and that second conquest should be a conquest by education…the ancient religion of India is doomed, and if Christianity does not step in, whose fault will it be?" 14
In another letter, Mueller wrote to his son:
'Would you say that any one sacred book is superior to all others in the world? ....I say the New Testament, after that, I should place the Koran, which in its moral teachings, is hardly more than a later edition of the New Testament. Then would follow according to my opinion the Old Testament, the Southern Buddhist Tripitaka, the Tao-te-king of Lao-tze, the Kings of Confucius, the Veda and the Avesta.' 15
In an audacious letter to N.K. Majumdar, Mueller wrote –
'Tell me some of your chief difficulties that prevent you and your countrymen from openly following Christ, and when I write to you I shall do my best to explain how I and many who agree with me have met them and solved them...From my point of view, India, at least the best part of it, is already converted to Christianity. You want no persuasion to become a follower of Christ. Then make up your mind to work for yourself. Unite your flock - to hold them together and prevent them from straying. The bridge has been built for you by those who came before you. STEP BOLDLY FORWARD, it will break under you, and you will find many friends to welcome you on the other shore and among them none more delighted that you old friend and fellow labourer F. Max-Muller.' 16
Mueller harshly criticised the view of the German scholar, Dr. Spiegel, who claimed that the Biblical theory of the creation of the world is borrowed from the ancient religion of the Persians or Iranians. Stung by this statement Max Mueller writes:
‘A writer like Dr. Spiegel should know that he can expect no money; nay, he should himself wish for no mercy, but invite the heaviest artillery against the floating battery which he has launched in the troubled waters of Biblical criticism.’
Dr. Spiegel was not the only target of Mueller’s bigotry. In 1926 the French scholar Louis Jacolliot, Chief Judge in Chandranagar, wrote a book called 'La Bible dans l'Inde'. Within that book, Jacolliot theorised that all the main philosophies of the western world originated from India, which he glorified thus:
Mueller said while reviewing Jacolliot’s book that, 'The author seems to have been taken in by the Brahmins of India.'
Mueller may also be credited with the popularization of the aryan racial theory, Writing for the Anthropological Review in 1870, Mueller classified the human race into seven categories on an ascending scale - with the Aborigines on the lowest rung and the "Aryan" type supreme.
However, he recanted later on when his professional reputation as a Sanskrit scholar was in peril.
"I have declared again and again that if I say Aryas, I mean neither blood nor bones, nor hair, nor skull; I mean simply those who speak an Aryan language...to me an ethnologist who speaks of Aryan race, Aryan blood, Aryan eyes and hair, is as great a sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary or a brachycephalic grammar." 17
Although Mueller cannot be placed in the same category as inexperienced Indologists such as Christian Lassen and Albrecht Weber whose Aryan race conceptions were chiefly fueled by their ardent German nationalism, Mueller’s motivations were just as diabolical. Mueller had been paid to misinterpret the Vedic literatures in order to make the Indians look, at best silly, and at worst, bestial.
However, not everyone was taken in by the academic prowess of the man who was known as ‘Moksamula Bhatta’. Swami Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaja, was so disgusted with the level of Mueller’s knowledge of Sanskrit that he likened him to a "toddler learning to walk". He wrote:
"Prof. Max Mueller has been able to scribble out something by the help of the so called 'tikas' or paraphrases of the Vedas current in India." 19
Another revealing incident of Mueller’s glaring ignorance was when a brahmana came from India to meet the famous Sanskrit scholar. When he came face to face with Mueller and spoke to him in chaste Sanskrit, Mueller admitted that he couldn’t understand what the gentleman was saying!
No wonder Schopenhauer acerbically said, "I cannot resist a certain suspicion that our Sanskrit scholars do not understand their texts any better than the higher class of school boys their Greek and Latin."
Sir Monier Monier-Williams and the Boden Chair
‘I must draw attention to the fact that I am only the second occupant of the Boden Chair, and that its Founder, Colonel Boden, stated most explicitly in his will (dated August 15, 1811 A.D.) that the special object of his munificent bequest was to promote the translation of Scriptures into Sanskrit; so as to enable his countrymen to proceed in the conversion of the natives of India to the Christian religion.’
'Brahmanism, therefore, must die out. In point of fact, false ideas on the most ordinary scientific subjects are so mixed up with its doctrines that the commonest education - the simplest lesson in geography - without the aid of Christianity must inevitably in the end sap its foundations.'
'When the walls of the mighty fortress of Brahmanism are encircled, undermined, and finally stormed by the solders of the cross, the victory of Christianity must be signal and complete.'
In 1870 Monier-Williams wrote a book based on a lecture called 'The Study of Sanskrit in Relation to Missionary work in India' which was obviously written in order to promote Christianity and discredit the Vedic scriptures. He also wrote another work in 1894 called ‘Hinduism which was published and distributed by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. He is known mostly for his ‘Sanskrit-English Dictionary’ and for spending twenty-five years to founding an institution in Oxford disseminating information on Indian religion, philosophy and culture.
In is interesting to note that Monier-Williams disagreed with the ‘evolution to Christianity’ theory of Max Mueller. Refering to this he wrote –
‘There can be no doubt of a greater mistake than to force these non-Christian bibles into conformity with some scientific theory of development and then point to Christian’s Holy Bible as the crowning product of religious evolution. So far from this, these non-Christian bibles are all developments in the wrong direction. They all begin with some flashes of true light and end in utter darkness.’
‘It seems to me that our missionaries are already sufficiently convinced of the neccessity of studying these works, and of making themselves conversant with the false creeds they have to fight against. How could an army of invaders have any chance of success in an enemy’s country without a knowledge of the position and strength of its fortresses, and without knowing how to turn the batteries they may capture against the for?' 20
At that time Arthur Schopenhauer (1845-1917), the great German philosopher, read the Latin translation of the Upanisads which were translated by a French writer Anquetil du Perron from the Persian translation of Prince Dara Shikoh named as ‘Sirre-Akbar’ (The Great Secret). He was so impressed by their philosophy that he called them 'The production of the highest human wisdom', and considered them to contain superhuman conceptions. The Upanisads was a great source of inspiration to Schopenhauer, and writing about them he said:
It is well-known that the book 'Oupnekhat' (Upanisad) always lay open on his table and he invariably studied it before sleeping.at night. He called the opening up of Sanskrit literature 'the greatest gift of our century', and predicted that the philosophy and knowledge of the Upanisads would becomes the cherished faith of the West.
In 1925 The Professor of Indian Studies at the German University of Prague, Moriz Winternitz (1863-1937), denounced Schopenhaur for his admiration of the Upanisads with the following words -
'Yet I believe, it is a wild exaggeration when Schopenhauer says that the teaching of the Upanishads represents 'the fruit of the highest human knowledge and wisdom' and contains 'almost superhuman conceptions the originators of which can hardly be regarded as mere mortals...'
On the subject of the Vedas, Winternitz had this to say -
'It is true, the authors of these hymns rise but extremely seldom to the exalted flights and deep fervour of, say, religious poetry of the Hebrews.'
‘A qualified European is better off to arrive at the true meaning of the Rg Veda than a brahmana’s interpretation.’
Of course, for European, one should read ‘German’.
Garbe edited many Sanskrit works. Besides these, in 1914 he wrote a work meant for missionaries, entitled 'Indien und das Christentum'. His religious bias is quite evident in the book.
Weber, Boehtlingk, Kuhn and Goldstucker
When Humbolt lauded praise upon the Bhagavad-gita, Weber became disgusted. His immediate response was to speculate that the Mahabharata and Gita were influenced by Christian theology -
‘The peculiar colouring of the Krishna sect, which pervades the whole book, is noteworthy: Christian legendry matter and other Western influences are unmistakably present...’
Two Sanskrit scholars, Franz Lorinser and E. Washburn Hopkin, were quick to support Weber’s postulation. However, their theory lacked any hard evidence and was considered so ludicrous that most scholars in European universities rejected it, despite their Christian leanings. Nevertheless, the propagation of this eroneous hypothesis played its mischief and was mainly responsible for the hesitation of the Western scholars to assign to the Mahabharata a date, earlier than that of the Christian era.
In Chapter 4 of his book Krishnacharita, the famous Bengali writer, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya, spoke about Weber as follows –
'The celebrated Weber was no doubt a scholar but I am inclined to think that it was an unfortunate moment for India when he began the study of Sanskrit. The descendants of the German savages of yesterday could not reconcile themselves to the ancient glory of India. It was therefore, their earnest effort to prove that the civilization of India was comparatively of recent origin. They could not persuade themselves to believe that the Mahabharata was composed centuries before Christ was born'.
Weber and his collegue Otto Boehtlingk prepared the famous Sanskrit dictionary called the 'Sanskrit Worterbuch'. Prof. Ernst Kuhn was also one of their assistants. Being mainly based on speculative and incorrect principles of philology, the work was unreliable and misleading. The dictionary was subject to severe criticism by Theodore Goldstucker (1821-1872), who was professor of Sanskrit at the University College in London. Weber was so disturbed by Goldstucker’s criticism that he resorted to abusing the Professor with the coarsest words possible. He added that the views of Goldstucker on his Worterbuch showed ‘a perfect derangement of his mental faculties’, since he was not willing to dismiss the authority of the Vedic scholars so easily. Replying to their undignified attacks, Goldstucker exposed the ‘scholarship’ of the likes of Roth, Boehtlingk, Weber and Kuhn and wrote:
'It will, of course, be my duty to show, at the earliest opportunity, that Dr. Boehtlingk is incapable of understanding even easy rules of Panini, much less those of Katyayana and still less is he capable of making use of them in the understanding of Classical texts. The errors in his department of the Dictionary are so numerous... that it will fill every serious Sanskritist with dismay, when he calculates the mischievous influence which they must exercise on the study of Sanskrit philology'.
He further remarked:
'....that questions which ought to have been decided with the very utmost circumspection and which could not be decided without very laborious research have been trifled with in the Worterbuch in the most unwarranted manner…When I see that the most distinguished and most learned Hindu scholars and divines - the most valuable and sometimes the only source of all our knowledge of ancient India - are scorned in theory, mutilated in print, and, as a consequence, set aside in the interpretation of Vaidik texts; ...when a clique of Sanskritists of this description vapours about giving us the sense of the Veda as it existed at the commencement of Hindu antiquity; ...when I consider that those whose words apparently derive weight and influence from the professional position they hold...then I hold that it would be a want of courage and a dereliction of duty, if I did not make a stand against these Saturnalia of Sanskrit Philology.’
Refering to Prof. Kuhn, Goldstucker was positively venomous –
‘(Professor Kuhn) was 'an individual whose sole connection with Sanskrit studies consisted in handing Sanskrit books to those who could read them, a literary naught, wholly unknown, but assuming the airs of a quantity, because it had figures before it that prompted it on, a personage who, according to his own friends, was perfectly ignorant of Sanskrit'.
However, we should not make the mistake that Herr Goldstucker was championing the cause of the Vedic literatures. Goldstucker’s skirmish with his fellow indologists was purely on an academic basis. Goldstucker was of the opinion that the people of India were burdened by Vedic religion which had simply brought them world-wide ‘contempt and ridicule’. He thus proposed to re-educate the Indians with Western values. Goldstucker wrote –
‘The means for combating that enemy is as simple as it is irresitable: a proper instruction of the growing generation of its ancient literature.’ 21
In his book, ‘Inspired Writings of Hinduism’ Goldstucker attacked the validity of the Vedas, stating that his aim was to inspire the new generation of Indians that their religious superstitions were backwards. This could only be achieved by scholastically destroying their sastras. The only recourse for the new generation would be to adopt European values in order to improve their character.
Previously, early indologists openly expressed their biased opinions that the Vedic scriptures were fraudulent and nonsensical. We have quoted many examples of such statements, however we will present one more from Prof. Monier-Williams –
‘Yes, after a lifelong study of the religious books of the Hindus, I feel compelled to publicly express my opinion of them. They begin with much promise amid scintillations of truth and light and occasional sublime thoughts from the source of all truth and light , but end in sad corruptions and lamentable impurities.’ 22
Today scholars are not so blatent and arrogant in their dismissal of the Vedic texts, though they express the same conclusions in a more moderate language, often giving the impression that they are favorably disposed towards Vedic culture. In a much more subtle way, modern indologists have inherited the pioneers’ bias, and although todays bias is ‘empirical’ rather than ‘imperialist’ or ‘evangelical’, it amounts to the same thing.
Some of the one-sided prejudices that they have inherited can be summed up as follows:
(A) Due to religious prejudice, early indologists were reluctant to give the Vedas a higher antiquity than the earliest portion of the Old Testament and place them beyond 2500 B.C. In fact, the dating that they did give to the Vedas was totally speculative and unfounded.
(B) Due to a poor fund of knowledge, early indologists relegated all the Vedic texts and the personalities found in them to the realm of mythology. Furthermore, these texts were written by some very late anonymous persons who attributed their works to 'mythical' sages.
(C) Early indologists were responsible for creating the outlandish and groundless theory of the aryan invasion, according to which the very existence of the Solar and Lunar Dynasties of kings are totally denied. Such a assumption was solely based upon racial, religious and political motivations. Ironically, this theory is taught in every school throughout the Subcontinent to this day!
(D) Early indologists were responsible for the corrupt translations of Vedic works, and misrepresentation of the Vedic culture.
(E) Early indologists were responsible for rejecting the idea that Sanskrit was the mother of at least the Indo-European languages; as at first very ably propounded by Franz Bopp, and often mentioned by ancient Indian authors.
It is extremely lamentable that some modern-day Indian Sanskrit scholars continue to glorify such European indologists as unbiased students of Sanskrit literature, whose sole aim was to aquire knowledge for its own sake. The above facts in this essay show very clearly the true motivations of these so-called pioneers of indological studies.
However, what is even more lamentable is that the dream of Macaulay has come true—his vision of creating a caste of ‘Brown Sahibs’ has become a reality. Nowadays, whilst the western world turns it’s face towards Indian philosophy for the answers to life’s complexities, the greatest adversaries of Vedic culture are the Indians themselves—the ‘secular’ politicians, the journalists, the educationalists, in fact the whole Westernised cream of India. And what is even more paradoxical, is that most of them are supposedly Hindus.
Upon gaining independence, such people denied India its true identity by retaining the British education and judicial system, without trying to adapt it to the unique Indian mentality and psychology.
The result of this is a youth which apes the West.
Some may argue that in order for India to progress materially, it is important for her to accept western education and ethics. In the last ten years in India, violence, rape, theft and other social problems have increased to a massive extent. This is only due to the atheistic western-oriented education that India has forced upon its’ youth. In fact, in every sphere of material activity, India tries to imitate the west with farcical or disasterous results.
In the realm of entertainment, India produces more films than any country in the world, yet the content of those movies is likened to imbeciles, since the substance of these films incites lust and violence. That is because they are based upon western movies. India has also been introduced to cable-TV so it can see how the rest of the world behaves.
Since the British left India, Indian dress code has also changed considerably. Indian men wear western trousers and shirts. If they wear something traditional, they are thought of as ‘old-fashioned.’ Nowadays in major cities in India, it is not uncommon to see young women wearing T-shirts and jeans rather than the sari. Such a drastic change in lifestyle reflects the Indian psyche today.
In essence, the youth of India today are taught to be ashamed of being Indian.They are ashamed of their religion and the ethics given by their forefathers. They have been made to believe that embracing westernization is the only way they can progress in life. In this way, the British are still masters of India and the proselytizing Christian indologists have won the day.
Until India wakes up to her mistake and strives to rediscover her spiritual heritage, she will continue to produce ‘Brown sahibs’ and will remain under the yoke of the ghosts of Macaulay and the British educational system.
The Aryans and Ancient Indian History by Subhash Kak
1 Ram Swarup's Introduction to the Reprint of 'Muhammad and the Rise of Islam' by Dr. D.S. Margoliouth; Voice of India, 1985, pp. v-vi