S. N. Balagangadhara

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S. N. Balagangadhara (born 3 January 1952) is a Belgian Indologist.

Quotes[edit]

  • “Orientalism is reproduced in the name of a critique of Orientalism. It is completely irrelevant whether one uses a Marx, a Weber or a Max Müller to do so. (…) the result is the same: uninteresting trivia, as far as the growth of human knowledge is concerned; but pernicious in its effect as far as Indian intellectuals are concerned.”
    • quoted from Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015. Ch. 3. The Lost Honour of India Studies
  • [About caste,] “Nehru used Orientalist descriptions of the Indian society of his day and made their facts his own.” [the Western India-watcher] “is not accounting for the Indian caste system by using the notion of fossilized coalitions in India; he is trying to establish the truth of Nehru’s observations (that is, the truth of the Orientalist descriptions of India)”, [because the social sciences] “where uncontested, (…) presuppose the truth of the Orientalist descriptions of non-Western cultures.”
    • quoted from Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015. Ch. 3. The Lost Honour of India Studies
  • “When Indian intellectuals use existing theories about religion and its history – for example, to analyse ‘Hindu-Muslim’ strife – they reproduce, both directly and indirectly, what the West has been saying so far. (…) the ‘secularist’ discourse about this issue can hardly be distinguished – both in terms of the contents or the vocabulary – from Orientalist writings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.” (p.47) [Secularism is the direct heir of the colonial dispensation.]
    • quoted from Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015. Ch. 3. The Lost Honour of India Studies
  • “The secular state assumes that the Semitic religions and the Hindu traditions are instances of the same kind”
    • quoted from Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015. Ch. 3. The Lost Honour of India Studies

Invading the sacred[edit]

Antonio de Nicolas, Krishnan Ramaswamy, and Aditi Banerjee (eds.) (2007), Invading the Sacred: An Analysis Of Hinduism Studies In America (Publisher: Rupa & Co.)
  • Here, India will be a global player of considerable political and economic impact. As a result, the need to explicate what it means to be an Indian (and what the ‘Indianness’ of the Indian culture consists of) will soon become the task of the entire intelligentsia in India. In this process, they will confront the challenge of responding to what the West has so far thought and written about India. A response is required because the theoretical and textual study of the Indian culture has been undertaken mostly by the West in the last three hundred years. What is more, it will also be a challenge because the study of India has largely occurred within the cultural framework of America and Europe. In fulfilling this task, the Indian intelligentsia of tomorrow willhave to solve a puzzle: what were the earlier generations of Indian thinkers busy with, in the course of the last two to three thousand years? The standard textbook story, which has schooled multiple generations including mine, goes as follows: caste system dominates India, strange and grotesque deities are worshipped in strange andgrotesque ways, women are discriminated against, the practice of widow-burning exists and corruption is rampant. If these properties characterize India of today and yesterday, the puzzle about what the earlier generation of Indian thinkers were doing turns into a very painful realization: while the intellectuals of Europeanculture were busy challenging and changing the world, most thinkersin Indian culture were apparently busy sustaining and defendingundesirable and immoral practices. Of course there is our Buddha andour Gandhi but that is apparently all we have: exactly one Buddha and exactly one Gandhi. If this portrayal is true, the Indians have butone task, to modernize India, and the Indian culture but one goal: to become like the West as quickly as possible.
    • Foreword by S. N. Balagangadhara in "Invading the Sacred" (2007) [1]
  • Going deeper into the history of these disciplines (with respect to India) drove home some lessons very deeply: in both form and content, there was pretty little to differentiate between the Christian missionary reports of the eighteenth to twentieth centuries and the Indological tracts.
    • 124
  • Modern psychoanalysis of India, beginning with Carstair’s ‘The Twice Born’ through ‘The Oceanic Feeling’ of Mussaief-Masson (another Indologist using psychoanalysis to understand Indian religions), had already told our tale: Indian culture was ‘narcissistic’ (in the sense of ‘secondary narcissism’) and thus pathological in nature.
    • 124
  • Most of our so-called social sciences are not ‘sciences’ in any sense of the term: they are merely bad Christian theologies
    • 130
  • If this is true, it also helps us understand why both ‘conversion’ and the notion of ‘secularism’ jars Indian sensibilities. Somehow or the other, Nehruvian ‘secularism’ always connotes a denigration of Indian traditions; if you look at the debates in the EPW and SEMINAR and journals like that, one thing is very clear: none of the participants really understands what ‘secularism’ means. In India, ‘secularism’ is counter posed to ‘communalism’ whereas ‘the secular’, in European languages, has only one contrast—‘the sacred’.
    • 130-1
  • Zydenbos launches personal attacks on me, on Jakob De Roover, and on those coming from the University of Ghent. He tries to make my credentials appear suspect because, heaven forbid, www.bharatvani.org provides a link to an article I wrote and published elsewhere! Koenraad Elst hails from Belgium, I teach at a Belgian University, my article is referenced to by a ‘Hindutva filth factory’ and, voila, he suggests, ‘perhaps a glance at Bharatvani helps us hermeneutically to gain an insight into the intentions behind the writings coming out of Ghent.’
    • 299

2022 Interview[edit]

Interview : part 1part 2 part 3 part 4
  • Brahminism is an invention of western Indology. Indology which is fond of ‘-isms’ has created quite a few: Brahminism, Vedism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and so on.
  • All you need to know at this stage is that while it is true that people subjugate people, so does a religion. The latter’s colonisation is an entirely different process from conversion into a religion.
  • Superficially speaking, Islamification looks very much like religious conversion, but it is not. The violent subduing of socio-cultural phenomena and attempts to deform them make this phase (or aspect) of Islam different from religious conversion. Conversion is an individual religious process, whereas Islamification is a secularisation process at a social scale driven by violence.
  • Take the example of the reaction of most Indian intellectuals to the movie The Kashmir Files and the massive response of ordinary people. If the first aspect demonstrates anything, it lays bare the absolute barrenness of Indian intellectual landscape. I have not read a single reflection or review that even minimally tries to understand what people are responding to when they respond to the movie. Like everything else, this too is another occasion for moralising lectures about communalism, posturing against the imputed hatred the movie apparently propagates combined with expressions of pseudo-horror about an allegedly partial portrayal.
    Very few things can move the entire population like this movie did and I am still thinking about it. And perhaps will also write on the movie. Tragedies or violence are not new, especially when they are in the news every day. So, it cannot be that the overwhelming response of people had only to do with the horrors faced by the Pandits in Kashmir or the treachery of our ruling classes (politicians, intellectuals, and media). Shortly after the movie came out, I saw it in Belgium, I remember telling my daughter that this movie would enter the national consciousness of India.
  • What I hope will happen in India is that a generation will come which can look at the ravages wrought by colonialism and the post-independence institutions and start dismantling the useless and dangerous structures and start building anew. They will have to be intellectuals and builders, formed and shaped by the consequences of the current generation’s failures. Perhaps the grandchildren of the millennials. They will need intellectual tools and frameworks. It is for that posterity that I write.

About S.N. Balagangadhara[edit]

  • Balu is a Kannadiga Brahmin by birth, a former Marxist, and his discourse has a very in-your-face quality. In his latest book, Reconceptualizing India Studies, the attentive reader will see a critique of the Indological establishment in the West and the political and cultural establishment in India. Like Rajiv Malhotra’s recent works, it questions their legitimacy. The reigning Indologists and India-watchers would do well to read it.... Balu’s theses are uncomfortable and sure to provoke debate. So far, the attitude of the India-watching class and of the elites in India has been to ignore any criticism of their worldview. … On the whole, Balu’s thesis is optimistic. He offers solutions to the problems he analyzes, mostly solutions that he himself has already worked out or has been practising for years. It is not as if any fate condemns Indian policy and academic India-watching to their present prejudices. He also believes in the promise of the age of globalization, and thinks Indians and Europeans genuinely have something to offer each other.
    • Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015. Ch. 3. The Lost Honour of India Studies

External links[edit]

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  1. Balagangadhara, S.N. (2007), "Foreword." In Ramaswamy, de Nicolas & Banerjee (Eds.), Invading the Sacred: An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America . Delhi: Rupa & Co., pp. vii–xi.