Prof V N Jha Series for Indian Intellectual Tradition

I have written about Prof V N Jha and his passion for reviving Indian Intellectual Tradition, on this blog in the past. Since last 20 years he has been touring all of India at various universities, research institutes, IITs, and even abroad, talking of various aspects of this tradition, conducting workshops, seminars and inculcating knowledge of Sanskrit language, and also various associated systems of knowledge and philosophical systems such as Nayaya, Vaisesika, Mimamsa, along with philosophy of Bhakti.

Since last year, he also started conducting these sessions in and around Pune where he is living. These sessions are recorded and are available for sale for people who are interested to get benefited from them. I would like to share the details below.

Nyaya-Vaisesika system related session was on text called Tarksangraha by Annambhatta. The set of DVDs contains 12 DVDs and costs INR 2100/- including shipping. Under the Philosophy of Bhakti(devotion), Prof Jha conducted 3 sessions. Bhakti movement which was significant movement in India during the medieval period, has its roots in philosophy of Bhakti as outlined in the tradition of Veda and Puranas. That series of workshop covered various texts which form corpus of Philosophy of Bhakti. Here are the details:  Narada Bhakti Sustra set of 8 DVDs at INR 2100/- which was conducted in Pune July 2015, Shandilya Bhakti Sutra  set of 10 DVDs at INR 2100/- near Pune October 2015 at Mira Ghar. Bhakti Rasayana session’s set consists of 11 DVDs INR 2100/- and it was also held near Pune February 2016. It is a compilation of verses from the tenth canto of the Bhagavata Purana.

Jha-DVDs

There will be a discount in case one buys a full set of 4 at the INR 6400/-inclusive of packaging and shipping. The sets can be ordered by sending email to Mr.Mani on his email id maniapulimood@gmail.com or calling him on his phone number 09847435552. The bank details also can be obtained by sending contacting him. The DVDs are produced by Centre for Excellence for Studies in Philopsophical Systems(CESIPS) at Vallanad in Tamil Nadu. This is golden opportunity to learn and study these various aspects of Indian Intellectual traditions through the DVDs of Prod V N Jha’s workshop series on the same.

The next workshop in this series is taking place near Pune in month of June this year. The topic of this workshop is Purva-Mimamsa. This is structured in three levels. The June workshop will be covering first level. You may find more details here. The registrations are still open, so please hurry up!

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Open Debate on Vedic Science and Technology

When I was school going child, we used to have sometime open debates arranged, and we were asked to participate. Of course, topic of the debate would be known before hand. One of the speakers would be making a point and other would need make counter-point. This is a typical attack and defend style open debates. Everyone used to enjoy them. Since those school days, I never across such a thing again, until recently.

Couple of years back, due to my association with subject of Indology and my groups and people in Pune with similar interest, I got a notification about open debate program. The topic was vedic science and technology. The debaters were Shreenand Bapat and Satish Kulkarni. Shreenand Bapat was my teacher during my Indology course. He is known for his intense views, and most of the times corroborated with proofs. I was thrilled and attended the debate with keen interest. The house was packed. Looks like many of them had not witnessed, like me, an open debate. Plus it is always nice to watch two groups/people fight!

So this debate was organized by famous Marathi magazine Prasad, dedicated to Indian heritage. Satish Kulkarni was the first one to go with his points. He is technologist by profession and has been very passionate about exploring ancient Indian science and technology. He runs an organization focused on this effort. His organization’s name is Pradnya Vikas Shikshan Sanstha. He, obviously, was taking the audience through various examples what kind of evidences exist in Vedic literature and other sources, and kind of effort he has been involved in reconstructing them. Shreenand Bapat came in later with his counter points. He had more practical approach and advised not to day-dream about the superiority of Indians in science and technology due to the fact that we don’t get many materialistic evidences.

The debates of such nature are usually never black or white. They act as a tool to ignite the fire in all the involved to study harder in the quest of true knowledge. Any form or extreme approach, opinion, views and perception will cause this quest to get handicapped. All of us have learnt to not take anything for granted and evaluate all possibilities. Shreenand Bapat’s presentation focused more on war technology and also references to some entertaining statistics and scientific achievement(rather non-achievements), while the debate was about ‘shashtra’ wherein the expectation was to talk more about fundamental science. I felt Satish Kulkarni made good effort to present his work in front of us. Of course, he could have done it better in terms of accuracy, references and obviously he was not as fluent as Shreenand Bapat. The most important thing in his approach was that he had made efforts to conduct experiments based on references in ancient literature. The positive take-away for me out this debate was that community outside Indology is taking interest in such topics, without being ‘nationalistic’, using modern techniques and methodologies, they are trying to reinterpret and rediscover what might be hidden. Mankind is the only beneficiary in such an endeavor.

I had covered a conference which took place in Pune on the same theme sometime back. You might be interested in that. I must state that India has a tradition of argumentation. In fact the whole philosophical systems was evolved out of points and counter points, dialog and scope for arguments. This is covered, as many of you must have read, in Amartya Sen’s famous book Argumentative Indian. Prof V N Jha, the famous expert on Indian intellectual traditions, also believes that the tradition evolved through systematic argumentation and inquiry. Plus the format used had 3 different sections-purva paksha(point, पूर्वपक्ष), khandana(counter point, खंडन) and siddhanta(thesis, सिद्धांत). To conclude, I liked the debate and it has underlined the need to not ignore the ancient knowledge system and the need to evaluate rationally and re-purpose. I am, myself, particularly interested in Indian Logic system as it is referred to one of philosophical systems called Nyaya Darshan, and its applications towards problems of computer science and information technology. Such deliberations need to happen and should keep happening.

Murty Classical Library and Sheldon Pollock

Sometime back when I had learnt about the announcement of Murty Classical Library(MCL), it was seen as great news for Indian intellectual tradition. Despite efforts of various organizations in this regard, there was still a huge gap and lot was desired to be done. I know organizations such as Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute(BORI) being on such organization. It was also delightful to see folks who have been pioneers of Indian IT industry giving back to the society in this way. It is now very well know that Rohan Murty developed interest in Sanskrit and other Indological aspects during his study days at Harvard. There are many like him who have started this journey of discovering, re-discovering India’s past, specifically in intellectual tradition. I have talked of my own association and journey in this field which started about a decade back. I have been writing on this blog on those topics.

mcl-sheldon

I am part of a Google group called Indian Intellectual Tradition which is started by Prof V N Jha sometime back while he was director at Center for Advanced Studies of Sanskrit in University of Pune. The other day I was surprised to see plethora of emails and message flooding the group message board on the topic of MCL and someone named Sheldon Pollock who was appointed as head of MCL. Members were protesting the appointment sighting background of Sheldon Pollock. I spoke to Prof Jha on this topic and also researched a bit about Sheldon Pollock. It seems that his views and approach towards Sanskit language is debatable and biased. So these members and experts were concerned about the quality and authenticity of the translations which will get produced.

Experts also have been not quite happy about the MCL being setup outside India. The logic is simple. India is a place where you will find experts in the field for which the MCL wants to work, plus it would be lot cheaper to do it here in India. As some one said, this exactly opposite of the reasons of why Indian IT industry flourished which was to bring in the cost advantage. So why not ride on that and set up the MCL here in India. We keep seeing western Indological experts getting caught into debates once in a while due to radical views, research, book they publish. Incidents involving authors such as James Laine, Wendy Doniger, are still fresh. Sheldon Pollock case seems different. Instead of opposition from some political or religious faction, the opposition is coming from research community in India. There petition filed against this which I have signed. I request you to take a look at it and consider signing it.

What Harvard educated Rohan Murty did by donating and funding a center at Harvard, is something many other Indian western educated entrepreneurs have done in the past-way of giving back to USA for their success. We see many doing same for Indian universities also, like donations by first generation Indian-American entrepreneur Kanwal Rekhi to IIT Bombay. But MCL was different case, as it involved work in the area of Indian intellectual tradition which can be naturally be done best by Indians. Not doubt, in this world of globalization, experts are available all over. The approach could have been to involve them, but under expert and head from India, with neutral and unbiased approach. As Prof V N Jha says many time, Indian intellectual tradition is characterized by inclusiveness, difference of opinion, deliberation, debates for advancement. Why not follow that when we talk of work involving preservation of the same?

 

Philosophy of Bhakti

Bhakti Movement which took place in India during medieval period, is significant part of India’s history and psyche. Leave aside the debate on negative impact it created making the society move away from action-oriented life, resulting into missing Industrial Revolution bus. This movement had its roots in Vedic culture. As a student of Indology, I am very curious to understand this aspect of Indian history.

Prof V N Jha, well known expert on Sanskrit and Nyay Darshan(Indian Logic), former director of Center for Advanced Studies in Sanskrit(CASS) in University of Pune, had conducted session on it recently. That included reading of Sanskrit text of Narada Bhakti Sutra. I was able to attend first few modules of that. We also tried our hands with live webcast. Here is the link to YouTube video of the first day’s session.

As part of the same series, session on reading of another doctrine called, Shandilya Bhakti Sutra has been organized in Pune in the week of October 26. This will be at a scenic location called Mira Ghar near Lonavala. Here is what Prof V N Jha says about this program, ‘Certain programs are not routine ones. This program is one such program which is meant for transformation in life. We began with Narada Bhakti Sutra at Pune  and we continue this with the same idea in mind. It is the need for the survival of humanity and inculcating human values and a very deep sense of service.  We are living in a world where very few come forward to do charity to serve others . The worst part is,  such people do not stop at that; they are not happy when others do it.This program will give one a chance to clean one’s inner dirt.   You need to spread this . Experience the depth of Indian classical wisdom. The philosophy of Bhakti is the greatest contribution of India to mankind. You will encounter a rational discourse of this in Shandilya. You will have arguments why Bhakti is greater than knowledge.’

It is not very clear as to whether Shandilya Bhakti Sutra precedes Narada Bhakti Sutra. But Narada Bhakti Sutra is certainly smaller and rather simple to the beginners. Here is golden opportunity to learn and hear Prof V N Jha again, explain this philosophy in his easy and lucid style. He is going to refer Shandilya Bhakti Sutra text published by Ramakrishna Math and translated by Swami Harshananada. There is no need to have prior understanding of Sanskrit.

Please contact here for more details-Mobile: 09890215441 E-Mail : vnjha1946@gmail.com.

Updates on Oct 27, 2015:

I also learnt over the weekend two things while visiting the link on newly relaunched Sanskrit Department website of University of Mumbai. I thought sharing on this topic here:

  1. There was a workshop on Gaudiya Bhakti Tradition at the university where I learnt some interesting facts on Bhakti in Gaudiya tradition. I am quoting here from that page related to this workshop: “He took an analytical overview of origin and development of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in a very lucid and intellectual manner. He expounded various concepts like Bhakti, philosophy and literary tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. He explained how the philosophy of achintya bhedabheda stands different from other Bhakti cults. Sources for this cult are Bhagavadgita and Bhagavata Purana.Bhakti is the end and means for Gaudiya Vaishnavas and Krishna as Supreme Reality and not the avatara of Vishnu. Bhakti is defined in very unique manner as ‘participation or sharing’ with the Lord. It’s a doctrine which makes one act and not a passive one. He explained the spiritual significance of Krishna’s rasa lila and how divine love between Radha and Krishna indicate the mystic relation between jiva and Ishavara as they are one as well as different.Significance of rituals, samkirtana and surrender to God are different dimensions of Gaudiya Bhakti. He also touched the topic from social perspective, spread of Gaudiya Vaishnavsim in different parts of country and outside country.”
  2. The second interesting thing I learnt that the department has a course on Bhakti Literature.

Two workshops on Indological topics in Pune in July

Narada Bhakti Sutra Textual Workshop

Renowned Nyaya philosophy and Sanskrit expert, Prof V N Jha is conducting a week long workshop in Pune. He has a long cherished dream of starting a research institute in Pune for Indian intellectual tradition. He has formed a trust under his guru’s name-Pandita Shrinivasa Shastri Memorial Trust, Pune. This workshop is a first under that trust. This particular text is significant in the context of Bhakti movement which flourished in the medieval years in India. Few years back, I was fortunate to attend his workshop on Nyaya philosophy wherein Annambhatta’s Tarkasangraha text was studied.

Elaborating further on the need of this workshop, he said, “Looking at the increasing unrest and violence all around the world, I feel , never before the necessity of spreading the deep analysis of weakness of man in Indian Philosophical systems has increased. The only answer to this problem is transformation of man from within. The emergence of Bhakti Vedanta in India was a concrete example of it. Bhakti is the intense love of God which is nothing but the entire Existence. To adopt this mode of inner transformation no qualification is required. One and all, the able and the weak, the learned and the uneducated, the rich and the poor, can choose this path for creating a better world to live in. This message must reach every human mind. As a humble beginning of this movement I have decided to teach Narada Bhakti Sutra, the original Sanskrit text in this Workshop”

Here are the details of the schedule for Narada Bhakti Sutra textual workshop:

  1. Jul 24: Introduction : Vedic Spiritual Culture; Indian Philosophical Systems : Purpose of Life
  2. Jul 25: Spiritual Paths to attain the Goal : Jnana, Karman, Yoga, and Bhakti; The Philosophy of Bhakti Yoga : Bhakti Vedanta
  3. Jul 26: Concept of Bhakti : Bhakti as Means and Bhakti as Goal; Types of Bhakti
  4. Jul 27: Bhakti Literature : Sutras; Narada and his Bhakti Sutra
  5. Jul  28 till Jul 31: Reading of the Narada Bhakti Sutra

The live webcast of this session(which is free) is available here.

Please contact Prof V N Jha on 0091-20-27201458/09890215441 and on email at vnjha46@yahoo.co.in or vnjha1946@gmail. com for registration and other details.

Avesta Language Workshop

Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute(BORI) of Pune does not need any introduction to those who are interested in Sanskrit, Indology. BORI is conducting a 10 day workshop on Avesta language starting next week. BORI is nearing 100 years of existence. This is the first time it is organizing such workshop. Relation between Veda and Avesta is widely known. The workshop starts on July 6 and runs through July 17. It will cover aspects of Avesta religion and language. BORI has organized exhibition of rare Avesta language manuscripts as well.

Prof Almut Hintze from London University subject matter expert for this workshop. I always have found BORI website is sorely lagging behind with updates. I am providing a link which I found giving more details of this workshop for those interested. Please contact 9272-296556 or BORI for details.

I wish I could attend both these workshops. It would have meant me remaining absent from work for about a month which is not possible. Both of these workshops are unique in their own respect. Please spread information about them and also check if you are interested in participating.

Indian Logic and its application

The title says Indian Logic. Can logic be Indian or Chinese or American? Read on to find that out.

Due to my general interest towards philosophy and particularly Indian philosophy, and also because of formal exposure I got on this subject during my Indology course curriculum, I got drawn deeper into exploring it more which typically involves buying books, visiting libraries, attending conferences and workshops on those topics. I happened to attend one such workshop in 2009 in University of Pune(UoP) where Prof V N Jha was one of the speakers and his topic was Indian Logic and Epistemology. I got the same question which I have mentioned at the beginning. With that thought in my mind, I attended the session, where he explained Indian Logic and Epistemology as term for Nyaya, Navya Nyaya and parts of Vaisesika philosophical system.

Few days later I bumped on him around my housing complex and was taken by surprise that he lives in the same area. During my subsequent discussions with him, I learnt more about him and Indian Logic and its applications, especially in semantic analysis, natural language processing(NLP) and artificial intelligence. As technologists, I, of course, was aware of possibilities of NLP, machine learning, computational linguistics, semantic analysis, semantic web, knowledge management and the evolution it is creating in a way. But I was taken by surprise how concepts of ancient Indian philosophical system such as Nyaya-Vaisesika system can be applied to help in solving problems in those areas.

Prof V N Jha is an international authority on subject of Nyay(and of course, Sanskrit language and its grammar). He is has been trained in a traditional way and a staunch Naiyyayik. Has been a former Director Center of Advanced Studies in Sanskrit(CASS). He has written numerous articles, books, papers on these and related topics, presented, spoken all over the world at various settings.  Post retirement, his is on a mission to bring back Indian intellectual tradition back to the foray, of which Sanskrit, Nyaya and related topics are very much part. He has designed Foundation of Indian Logic and Epistemology, Navya Nyaya Language and Methodology(level 1, 2 and 3). unique courses and has been delivering them all over India and abroad, since last 6-7 years. He is conducting one such course next month in Bengaluru. I happened to attend a foundation course at the serene and pristine place called Chinmaya International Foundation(CIF) in Kerala, which is a Indological research organization of Chinmaya Mission. It covered textual study of Tarksangraha written by Annambhatta which covers fundamental concepts Nyaya and Vaisesika system.

Now coming back to the question raised at the beginning. The reason why Nyaya/Navya Nyaya is called Indian Logic is because this Indian philosophical system is an embodiment of thought on logic by ancient Indians. Besides, concepts on world view, it contains epistemology, ontology related thoughts and It is a method of reasoning along with theory of inference. Experts have been trying to compare Indian logic with Western formal logic and on the other hand, few others say Indian logic is no logic at all. A simple search on Internet, on those terms would yield results pointing to amount of research going on this.

I wanted to introduce to this topic today. Watch out this space for more on this topic.