Saturday, September 17, 2011

Amartya Sen on Nalanda's Progress

In an interview published in The Telegraph, Prof. Sen talks quite extensively about the progress towards the creation of Nalanda University, and addresses some of the concerns raised in media reports (like this one in Tehelka).

Along the way, Prof. Sen narrates this great story:

It is perhaps a matter of interest that when my friend Bimal Matilal was interviewed for becoming the Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics (a post that he held for many years with great distinction), he was asked by the vice-chancellor of Oxford whether he thought it was a limitation that he was not religious himself.

Bimal told me that the vice-chancellor very much agreed with him when he answered that this was neither here nor there, since he was supposed to educate people on the nature of — including beliefs and practices in — Eastern religions, rather than perform religious practices in his class.

Thanks to Ankur Kulkarni for the comment-alert.


  1. jbeck said...

    Amartya Sen is mistaken. While religious studies has emerged as an academic discipline in the Western Academy, this is an extension of the process of secularisation, which in turn owes its beginning to the Protestant Reformation. The idea that there is a one true religion - the one revealed and recorded in the Bible, but later corrupted by the priesthood (either the Catholic clergy, or the Brahmin priests, or mullahs, and even Buddhist bhikshus, take your pick) is at the center of the Protestant Reformation. Sen always loves to drop names, and glibly talks about Matilal, who is by no means the last word on Indian philosophy. If you want to convert Nalanda into yet another shadow of the traditional Western Academy, you could not do better than inviting Sen to run it. But if you want to build it up in the mould of the classical Indian or neighborhood academy, you should be inviting those who have tried to run something like that - the Dalai Lama for instance. The Tibetan monarchs supported Nalanda for centuries, and the Tibetan tradition maintained a rich exchange of ideas with Nalanda during that time. There is a simple reason, we all know, why Sen wouldn't want to invite the Dalai Lama. He is a shameless stooge (even patron?) of the leftist establishment, which controls the humanities in India. China is one of the contributors to the new Nalanda that is emerging and there are clear orders to all concerned that the Dalai Lama should be kept out. Sen makes a lot of waves in India, but in much of the continental academy, he is considered a poseur with no competence in the humanities. Abi, you would do well to read up the following titles,

    Eric Nelson The Hebrew Republic.
    Alan Charles Kors Atheism in France, 1650-1729: The Orthodox Sources of Disbelief