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Re: ARTICLE : Modern Discoveries in Ancient Works

Posted By Kishore Krshna (kishore@mail.utexas.edu)
4 Jan 1997 07:17:04 GMT

In article <ghenE3GrH8.AI0@netcom.com>, parrikar@spot.Colorado.EDU says...
>>In article <ghenE3EvA4.6u1@netcom.com>, <Madhava.Kumar@lana.zippo.com> wrote:
>> Modern Discoveries in Ancient Works
>> ===================================
>> By : Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati

> The aim of this effort
>should be to document, highlight and put on a firm footing (in modern
>scientific terms) the indigenous contributions and NOT to repudiate or
>diminish the worth of the impressive feats of modern western scientific
>thought (universal in character today).
>Which brings me to the main purpose of this rejoinder. Such silly, sloppy
>and slippery writing as witnessed in the quoted article does more harm
>than good to the cause I just described. Every nugget of this flapdoodle
>makes the task of the genuine conscientious student of ancient Indian
>scientific/mathematical thought that much harder. For besides discrediting
>legitimate Hindu achievements it also provides muscle to the perception that
>the only thing we were good at was handwaving and mouthing recondite
>philosophical jargon.

The late paramAcharyA of Kanchi used to give discourses and I believe
these were later summarized in two/three paragraphs written down by
various disciples in the Math and published later in weekly periodicals.
This piece to which you're raising objections is one such, since I've seen
the original tamil version in Kalki. Given the limitations of space, I
would be surprised if he laid out his arguments more elaborately.
The intent of these short pieces is (apparently) to inspire readers to
think about their heritage, excel in their pursuits, and hopefully to instil
a sense of duty/devotion.

I doubt that he meant to denigrate Newton's accomplishment as you're
claiming - had he wished to do so, he could have easily said outright that
Newton does not deserve any credit. His point, and I believe it is a
valid one is the following (I don't think you disagree given the initial part
of your post that I snipped):

"There are many such precious truths embedded in our ancient sastras.
Because of our ignorance of them we show inordinate respect for ideas
propounded by foreigners, ideas known to us many centuries before their
discovery by them".

>See for instance how the great intellectual accomplishment that Newton's
>generalization, the law of gravitation, represents is here dismissed and
>substituted with a facile one or two-liner purporting to convince us
>of an Indian precursor to the idea. And following that the entry of the
>Upanishads as fonts and repositories of scientific knowledge. What is
>conclusive from all this is the author's tenuous grasp of science and the
>scientific method. Also suggestive is the author's innocence of the nature of
>Upanishads themselves. The track eventually winds up trivializing the
>profoundity of Upanishadic thought while simultaneously contributing zilch
>to the advancement of any scientific material of historical value.

You can come to the Upanishads with religion on your mind, and come away
with devotion. This is what the Shankaracharyas do. You claim to have scaled
sublime heights that are inaccessible to them while also advancing the study of
ancient Indian science (as defined on Western terms). I would be interested to
read your rebuttal of what the paramAcharyA said.

>Before I quit here's another piece of nonsense:
>>"BhoogOLa SAStra", not just "bhoo-SAStra". We have known
>>from early times that the earth is a "gola", a sphere.
>>we call the universe, with all its galaxies, "Brahmanda".
>>It means the egg created by Brahma (the cosmig egg). An egg
>>is not exactly spherical in shape, but oval. According to
>>modren science the universe too is oval in shape.
><rest deleted>
>Let us for the moment assume that you've gotten the last sentence
>right. Then, quackass, modern science may tomorrow, due to newer
>theoretical imperatives or fresher rounds of observation, alter its
>hypothesis and propose a different shape for the universe. If it turns
>out to be, say, cuboid, I can tell that Brahma ain't going to have
>a very pleasant time laying those eggs.

With the literal-midedness you display, I have to wonder if you've
heard the expression "pregnant with thought" - I hope you don't think
that someone in this condition is going to give birth literally.

Kishore Krshna
Remember, obsolescence isn't an accident, it's an art form.
                                        - The Usenet Oracle

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