[Buddha-l] Stanford scholar Tenzin Tethong could be the next primeminister of Tibet

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Sat Apr 30 16:24:47 MDT 2011

> Joanna writes:
>> Tenzin Tethong is a scholar, not a cleric............strikes me as a
>> positive development.
> Just out of curiosity, why?
>Richard Hayes

Add a pinch of respect to go along with the cynicism (see verse below), and 
maybe Joanna means something like the following, extracted from an essay by 
Dominik Wujustyk, concerned about India, not Tibet, but relevant 
nonetheless. Of course, Joanna can speak for herself if this misses what she 
had in mind.


Dominik Wujastyk

Two fundamentally different types of education have always been consciously 
distinguished in India: the "saastrika (scientific) and the vaidika 
(scriptural). This essay is exclusively concerned with the former. This 
resembles more closely our own patterns of education in Europe, in that the 
pupil has to widerstand the material which the teacher gives him. There is a 
great deal of rote learning too; much more than we are accustomed to in the 
West these days. Nevertheless, the "sâstrika education embodies an 
intellectual tradition of proposition, evidence, argument and conclusion 
which is on a par with any such tradition elsewhere in the world.

In stark contrast to this is the vaidika system whereby young boys are 
prepared to take up a position in society as religious functionaries. They 
will have to recite Vedic hymns from memory for hours on end at religious 
ceremonies. So they must learn these hymns by heart, or as the Sanskrit 
idiom has it, 'get them in their throats (kanthii-kr)'! The language of the 
hymns is difficult. It is full of archaic words, whose meanings are often 
unclear. So the priests will usually have only the vaguest idea of what it 
is that they are saying. More to the point, no one would ever think of 
asking them.

All this is not to say that a vaidika man will not be fluently 
conversational in Sanskrit; all those I met were. And, as mentioned, a 
"saastrika man will have reams by heart. But this is the result of a cross 
fertilisation of the methods which in themselves are essentially distinct.

The tradition itself sometimes jests on this distinction between vaidikas 
and "saastrikas, as in the following verse which describes the cunning 

A priest when with pandits
A pandit with priests;
When both are there neither,
When neither then both'.


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