Who is a scholar?

Recently there came a heated debate on ‘Caste’ and ‘Race’ after a Conference at Chennai held in 2010 January in a Forum.  Due to miss communication and lack of understanding few speakers were accused as if promoting ‘casteism’ etc.  Few, who never participated in the full day Conference, after (partially) observing (or listening) and making some comments and statements, left without having no time for further question and clarification.  As they had some other important pre-commitments they could not stay for the whole day meeting.  Whether everyone is satisfied or not with the responses, in the evening finally session an opportunity was provided to ask questions and get response.

People like these who came in half way in a meeting and who (for various reasons) leave in the middle are not only going to get wrong information but will spread it.  Well, it is not going to affect speakers much, as they are not responsible for this.

But what is more important is the way they began to write and criticize the view of the speakers in the name of ‘Scholarship’.   As I am not a scholar, I observed one disturbing trend among some scholars.  They fix a thesis first and try to fix everything—texts, references, historical facts, interpretation etc. within that frame.  The immediate victim to this process apart from truth is ‘texts and history’.  Of course no one can avoid this snare. But a true scholar, after using (or misusing) all the material for her thesis, has to read and even refer the counter argument which she quoted.  Then alone she can arrive to a right conclusion about her thesis.  Even if she is not convinced about the counter argument of her interpretation, at least she should refer them to show that she is not using the materials without considering their counter argument.  This is one of the two important marks of scholarship.

The next is, according to me, a scholar is one who has done research after reading the Original source than reading others work on the original.  For example, a Manu scholar should have read the original text in Sanskrit and various other manuscripts to have firsthand information about them.  Others, however they might have read all the books under the sun about Manusmrti are only learners and students. Of course they can write whatever they want about Manu, but should refrain from thinking themselves as a scholar.

Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam, July 20, 2010