General Guidelines for Authors of Papers
(Swadeshi Indology Conference Series)
Here are a few hints for our scholars writing papers for the ensuing conference.
As we all know, every author builds his thesis on certain assumptions. So with Prof. Pollock. Some of them are openly stated by him, but many are not explicit. It is important to get hold of them, for it is they that form the basis of his assertions. It becomes sometimes important to read his works, especially the ones pertaining to your topic, in a chronological manner. For, what he has proved in one article, he assumes in the later ones. An author’s assumptions/premises/axioms constitute his starting point.
Pollock also has to start, like others, with a set of facts. The word ‘fact’ can sometimes be misleading. Many times our wishful thinking makes us like to believe certain statements as facts. So we must be careful with regard to the “facts” selected by an author like Pollock. That is because, those who have a specific agenda, present distorted facts as though they are axioms. Indians, and Sanskritists especially, are often weak in history. But history is the strong point of Westerners. Historical approach to problems is perhaps in their blood, as their religion is also history-centric. (Read Malhotra’s Being Different in case you do not know what this implies).
Every author pursues his own logic. So again, with Pollock. Different kinds of logic applied to the same set of premises yield different results. There are many types of fallacious logic. One particular type of logic often found in Pollock is the selective statement of facts. For example, he cites a statement from the Mahābhārata, with reference, and you go and check, and you will find it true, and so you tend to accept his statement/ conclusions. But it does not occur to us sometimes that he has only partially quoted. There are other statements in the same text where a contradictory position is also stated.
After all, there can be opposite proverbs (Penny-wise, pound foolish – is one proverb. Take care of the penny, and the pounds take care of themselves -is an opposite proverb). And similarly,
a same text may have opposite statements. Rāma now speaks like a man, but now acts as a divinity. Our regular rules of conduct change in the context of an āpat (emergency). There are many types of fallacies, and many of them are well employed by him in many places.
Another type of argument that is frequently employed is pointing towards lack of attestation etc. However, we must remember the rule that “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. In many such cases it may be possible to ferret out corroborations to a contrary position drawn from different/unexpected sources. Our eyes must be open to such sources which may demand creativity/out-of-the-box thinking.
The conclusions reached by Pollock are sometimes startling. Their sole intention, or at least ultimate effect, is to hurt Hindu sensibilities. A trick adopted by many Westerners is to praise Hindu heritage, so we feel he is right, but suddenly somewhere they pull the rug from under our feet. “The Veda-s are the greatest….” greatest what ? “Greatest and oldest records of nonsense” etc. etc. So sometimes we have to work backwards. Where exactly did he (or we) lose track to come to a nonsensical conclusion, because we did tend to agree with one or two prior statements.
The conclusions reached have two implications – one, academic, the other, non-academic. The first ones
help future scholars come to establish more dangerous “truths”. And the second, lead to great social upheavals. “Respect elders” was an elementary norm in our heritage; but recent laws have made terrorists out of daughters-in-law. How? Cry “Human Rights Violation”or “Feminism ki Jai”! - all West instigated, basically! Thousands of animals are butchered every day for food; but cry “Hinduism kills animals in sacrifices”, make movies out of them; but not a word uttered if hundreds of them are slaughtered for Bakr-id! Examples can be multiplied.
So then, please look into the premises, the logic, and the conclusions. You will see many mischiefs at many points. But be also careful to adopt some of their good methods. When you cite a text, cite properly and fully. Whether you quote Pollock or Pañcatantra, give the exact reference. You are not giving a public speech. You have to establish things here. So be rigorous in your logic. Take care of your language. As you know, ad hominem attacks are unwelcome here. Your approach has to be academic. Your language has to be lucid. That does not mean it should not be idiomatic.
Let that be a small inspiration for you. The great point of inspiration is the cause of our Dharma. So work hard. Quality is of high importance here. And one important technique for improvement of quality is revision. Each revision, it is said, improves the quality of the paper by 20%. Make at least 4 revisions. Check your references. Cite literature. Do not depend too much on secondary/tertiary sources or translations. It is best to go to the originals.
Most of you do not need these tips or guidelines. But as Sītā told Rāma at one point, I am only reminding you of what you already know, not teaching you something you did not know :
smāraye tvām, na śikṣaye !
Best of luck!