On Teaching Philosophy

A certain man exhibits the best art through his performance;

another has the power of communicating as his special qualification.

He in whom both these qualities are combined

deserves to be the head of the teachers.

(Kālidāsa in Mālavikāgnimitra 1.16)

My teaching philosophy is simple – putting ones soul into what one is teaching. I agree with Kālidāsa above when he says that it is a challenge to be a good scholar (performance) and a good teacher (communication) at the same time. Best teaching method is the simplest way of teaching. Kālidāsa himself, unlike many other ostentatious poets of Sanskrit literature, owes his glory to his lucid style and clear and beautiful expressions. The success of a teacher lies in – as one of my teachers would put it – making otherwise tedious Indian logic understood to a primary school student. Simplicity of style and accuracy of expression is the best policy for a teacher. That said I would like to share some thoughts and concerns.

I am indeed too impressed by the social cause that the newly emerging universities like Azim Premji (APU) in India stand for. I always thought that one thing that would give me an inner satisfaction in life was social service, but I could never indulge into it for the reasons unknown to me. I don’t know if my belongingness to the breed of “children of conflict” has something to do with it. As one of my friends one day said – “your conflicted past is shaping your future where you are questing for resolving those conflicts even though unknowingly.” This indeed is one reason why I think there can be no better opportunity than doing social service through education, especially in case of the conflicted zones like Kashmir. If I can ever help a disadvantaged child living in a remote village bereft of opportunities to think through his/her own ideas and make him/her learn exploring himself or herself, I would be very happy.

There is a gradual, but steady competition emerging amongst the newly manifesting social scientific academies in India. These certainly are the sings of a positive change. At the same time one wonders how the ideas like bringing “Ivy League education here in India” would sound to a student who should learn about Said’s Orientalism in the same “Ivy League of India”. Doesn’t this sound like what Sheldon Pollock would call ‘Deep Orientalism’. It might be easy to be ones own friend rather than being ones own ‘intimate enemy’. Polishing a beautifully carved marble statue is easy. What is difficult is to chisel a beautiful shape out of a crude piece of marble. What potent role does a top class educational institute play in shaping its students who are already the top creamy layer? I do agree these issues are problematic and they deserve deeper thinking. After all higher education in India is going through a process of churning right now.

I think we all agree that education in India has suffered in the past and continues to experience hardship while still trying to make a steady progress. However, India cannot afford to stick to premodern, colonial or nationalistic methods of education anymore. The idea of education was very different in premodern era: guros tu maunaṃ vyākhyānaṃ śiṣyās tu chinna saṃśayāḥ | (“For the silence of the teacher is the discourse [itself] that takes away the doubts (ignorance) of the students”). The idea of ‘transmission of knowledge’ did bring down the Vedic scriptures to us, but today there is no place for the idea of ‘transmission’ in education. ‘Although physically resident in the twenty-first century we cannot mentally inhabit in ancient India with considerable enjoyment.’ I think the idea of education should be perceived through an epistemological insight and not simply inferred from a metaphysical eye.

While APU believes that the focus in India should be making good teachers at the school level, I believe that the priority should be given to students who in turn will make better teachers tomorrow. My first priority has always been students. I have always stood up by my students. I am fanatically caring about students and their academic needs. For producing better students who could be even better teachers in future, while the emphasis certainly should be on education and development, I think there are more dynamic dimensions attached to it. That is to say that I believe disciplines like Education can also be taught and made more stimulating by means of bringing students closer to literary traditions those they are already a part of. Was it T.S. Eliot who said – “Literature is the hand maiden of philosophy”? Here I have the literary traditions of South Asia in mind — the stuff Sheldon Pollock has been discussing in his works, for instance. Besides the classical literary traditions in Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Prakrit etc., I would also like to see students doing a critical study of vernacular literary traditions in India. This, I think, broadens the idea of Education we are talking about.

What has often struck me deep is why the social scientific study of religious traditions of South Asia is not encouraged in India. Here, I am not trying to import the idea of establishing departments of religion in every Indian university following the American model. What I am thinking, instead, is if Indian subcontinent continues to face a huge number of problems emanating from extreme religious ideologies and where diverse religious identities come into a conflict with each other, is it not vital for new generations to have a better, clearer and unbiased understanding of various interpretations of all the religious traditions practiced in South Asia from a social-scientific perspective? The socio-political dynamics of a country like India is so closely connected to the concepts of several religious ideologies and for what reason does India choose to ignore them in academia. Was it after partition India became haunted by the idea of religion and they never bothered to talk about the social scientific study of religion. No one ever cared seriously about humanities and social sciences, as Pollock has repeatedly pointed out in his lectures. Having said what I wanted to, it is my dream to establish two such centers in India in distant future one each for the study of South Asian religions and South Asian literary traditions. This may sound too ambitious at this time, but it is just my dream. I am already happy to see that there are various academic bodies in India coming up with such mandates.


Details of the two Pratibimbavāda Manuscripts in Sayaji Rao Gaekwad Central Library, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), India}

When Georg Bühler wrote his famous ‘Kashmir Report’, [Bühler, Georg. (1877) A Detailed Report on a Tour in Search of Sanskrit MSS made in Kaśmir, Rajputana and Central India, Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Extra Number. 34a. Bombay.] he thought the manuscript titled the Pratibimbavāda that was attributed to Abhinavagupta was perhaps one of his separate works, but later Pandey [Pandey, Kanti Chandra. (1962) Abhinavagupta. An Historical and Philosophical Study. Second edition revised and enlarged, Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series, Vol. I. Second Edi- tion. Revised and Enlarged (First edition 1936, Revised 1951, reprint 2003).] noted in his famous book on Abhinavagupta that the work Pratibimbavāda which is often attributed to Abhinavagupta is nothing but a selection of first twenty-two or twenty-three verses (number of verses varies in some manuscripts) of the chapter three of the Tantrāloka of Abhinavagupta. There are at least four manuscripts of the Pratibimbavāda of Abhinavagupta available to us. One is obviously what is a part of the Bühler Collection (1875-76) in the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute of Pune. This is No. 469 of the Bühler Collection. The other two are a part of Sayaji Rao Gaekwad Central Library in Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. These are Nos. 14/7739 and 14/7740. There is one more uncatalogued manuscript from the Ranbir Sanskrit Research Library in Jammu. This is a part of a bigger bundle of uncatalogued manuscripts titled ‘Works of Abhinavagupta’. The first three manuscripts are written in Śāradā script while the last one is written in Kashmirian Devanāgarī style. Unlike the first three manuscripts where the text of the Tantrāloka is written in the middle of the page and the commentary of Jayaratha follows on margins (not complete in all cases), the last manuscript contains full commentary of Jayaratha and it is not written on margins. Below is the description of the two manuscripts from BHU. Since I have only the scanned images of the manuscripts available to me, I have depended on Tripathi [Tripāṭhī, Ramā Śaṅkar. (1971) Descriptive Catalogue of the Samskrit Manuscripts in Gaekwada Library, Bhārat Kalā Bhavana Library and Samskrit Mahā-Vidyālaya Library, Banaras Hindu University. Banaras Hindu University Samskrit Series 6. Varanasi: Banaras Hindu University.] for their physical details.

Acc. No. 14/7739, C4779
Script: Śāradā
Folia: 7.

Title: Bimba-Pratibimbavāda
Source: Tantrāloka of Abhinavagupta and Tantrāloka-viveka of Jayaratha
Size: 197×14.5.

Details: This is a collection of first 23 verses from the third āhnika of the Tantrāloka. The -viveka, the only extant commentary by Jayaratha is written on margins.

Begins: (main text) oṃ namaḥ śrī gurave | oṃ prakāśamātraṃ yat proktaṃ……}
(Commentary) oṃ namaḥ śivāya antar vibhāti sakalaṃ jagadātmanī iha}

Ends: (main text ends in) iti bimbapratibimbavādaḥ samāptaḥ śubhaṃ bhavatu ||
(commentary on margins ends in) iti śrī tantrāloke bimbapratibimbavādaḥ samāptaḥ |

Remarks: The commentary on the margins begins with a maṅgala of Abhinavagupta antar vibhāti sakalaṃ jagadātmanī hi…… instead of Jayaratha’s maṅgala and then immediately follows the commentary from TĀ 3.1. prakāśamātramiti prādhnyāt | na hi nirvimarśaḥ ….. skipping the earlier part of the commentary.

Acc. No. 14/7740 C1198
Script: Śāradā
Folia: 3.

Title: Bimbapratibimbavāda
Source: Tantrāloka of Abhinavagupta and Tantrāloka-viveka of Jayaratha
Size: 12.3×13.5.

Details: This is a collection of first 23 verses from the TĀ-3. The -viveka, the only extant commentary by Jayaratha is written on margins.

Begins: (main text) oṃ namaḥ śrī gurave oṃ prakāśamātraṃ yat proktaṃ……
(Commentary) oṃ antar vibhāti sakalaṃ jagadātmanī iha \\

Ends: (main text ends in) iti bimbapratibimbavādaḥ samāptaḥ |
(commentary on margins ends in) śrī tantrāloke viśvapratibimbavādaḥ samāptaḥ oṃ śubham 

Remarks: The commentary on the margins begins with a maṅgala of Abhinavagupta antar vibhāti sakalaṃ jagadātmanī hi..…. instead of Jayaratha’s maṅgala and then immediately follows the commentary from TĀ 3.1.prakāśamātramiti prādhnyāt | na hi nirvimarśaḥ ….. skipping the earlier part of the commentary.

Photo of Pandit Mukund Ram Shastri

Pandit Mukund Ram ShastriFrom Aurel Stein, Eugen Hultzsch, John Marshal, Alfred Stratton to George Grierson, all of them were helped in their studies of Kashmir by a man in Srinagar named Pandit Mukund Ram Shastri. In early 1900s, 23 of the 29 books of “Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies” were brought out by Research Department of Jammu and Kashmir under his editorship. Books that are still read and shared in academic circles. And yet, if you Google Image Search, you will find no photograph of Mukund Ram Shastri. You can easily find Stein, Hultzsch, Marshal, Stratton and George Grierson, but no Mukund Ram Shastri. Given here is a photograph of Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Mukund Ram Shastri, found in the biography of Stratton, ‘Letters from India, by Alfred William Stratton, with a memoir by his wife Anna Booth Stratton and an introductory note by Professor Bloomfield’ (1908).

Courtesy: http://www.searchkashmir.org/2015/02/photo-of-pandit-mukund-ram-shastri.html

(This post is reproduced from Search Kashmir with due permission from its owner).

Prof Raffaele Torella (Roma) with Pandit Dinanath Yacch (Srinagar).

18R 29

Two Sanskrit Letters of Pandit Dinanath Yacch

Thanks to Mr Chetan Pandey. Here are the two letters (one written in 1965 and another in 1971) Pandit Dinanath Yacch (1921-2004) wrote to Srī Amritvāgbhavācārya. Just note the eloquent Sanskrit written by Pandit Yacch.


Dinanath Yaksha Letters In Skt to Swamiji (dragged) 2Dinanath Yaksha Letters In Skt to Swamiji (dragged)






Dinanath Yaksha Letters In Skt to Swamiji (dragged) 1

Encyclopaedia Iranica on ‘Persian in Kashmir’.


Persian was the basis of administrations all over western Asia and the highly prestigious language at the courts. Hence, Persian learning radiated into Kashmir and found a fertile soil after the initial impulse.

Read the full text:


New Release: Kashmir’s Contested Pasts by Chitralekha Zutshi

Kashmir’s Contested Pasts: Narratives, Geographies, and the Historical Imagination

This is an extended chronicle of the historical imagination in Kashmir. It explores the conversations between the ideas of Kashmir and the ideas of history taking place within Kashmir’s multilingual historical tradition. Contrary to the notion that the Indian subcontinent did not produce histories in the pre-colonial period, the book uncovers the production, circulation, and consumption of a vibrant regional tradition of historical composition in its textual, oral, and performance forms, from the late sixteenth century to the present.

History and history-writing, as the book illustrates, were defined in multiple ways—as tradition, facts, memories, stories, common sense, and spiritual practice. Analysing the deep linkages among Sanskrit, Persian, and Kashmiri narratives, this book contends that these traditions drew on and influenced each other to define Kashmir as a sacred landscape and polity. Within this interconnected narrative tradition, Kashmir was, and continues to be, imagined as far more than simply an unsettled territory or a tourist paradise.

Offering a historically grounded reflection on the memories, narrative practices, and institutional contexts that have informed imaginings of Kashmir and its past, this book depicts how Kashmir’s history and its territory seem especially embattled in its present political culture. It thus places these contemporary debates over territory, identity, and sovereignty in a much longer historical context.

Follow the links for more details.