When West fell in love with the India

Some scholars in Europe were, in their first contact with the India, deeply impressed with wisdom, amplitude and eloquence of the Vedic philosophy. By Juan Carlos Ramchandani.

Europe India

In 1784 was created in Calcutta the Asian Association of Bengal, to publish and disseminate historical, linguistic and literary studies. William Jones, Charles Wilkins and Thomas Colebrook they stood out as pioneers of studies indologicos in the West. Charles Wilkins was the first to learn Sanskrit, and is used to study with the pandits from Benares and translating Sanskrit works. In 1785 he published his translation of the Bhagavad-gita.

Several of the British colonizers with investigating trends began to sense that they had perhaps encountered religion primordial, preceding all found in the Middle East. In 1786 the brilliant judge Sir William Jones, recognized as linguistic, the Asian Association of Bengal announced his famous discovery that Sanskrit was connected with the latin and Greek, as well as Persian, Celtic and Gothic.

To be precise, Jones was not the first to observe the similarities. One hundred years earlier, a Florentine merchant in Goa, Filippo Sassetti, and an English Jesuit, Thomas Stevens, already detected, each on their own, the same phenomenon. However, it was Jones the first to introduce it in documented form. And he expressed his free attraction to Vedic literature and philosophy:

I'm in love with copy, delighted with Crishen [Krishna], and an enthusiastic admirer of Raamah and a worshipper devoted Brihma [Brahma], Bishen [Vishnu], Mahiser [Maheshvara (Shiva)]; not to mention that Judishteir, Arjen, Corno [Yudhisthira, Arjuna, Karna] and other warriors of the M 'hab' harat [Mahabharata] seem to my upper eyes to as Agamemnon, AJAX and Achilles found me the first time I read the Iliad.

Jones is described as "a devoted and convinced Christian", and as it is the case with current students, provided the Bhagavata Purana as "a motley story". However, quite Ecumenical ideas, didn't hide his enthusiasm for the Vedic knowledge concerning reincarnation: "I am not a hindu, but I think that the doctrine of the Hindus on the future of the soul is incomparably more rational, most pious and most suitable for" separate man from the vices that horrendous opinions inculcated by Christians about a punishment without end".

The German romance with the India

The work of the Asian Association of Bengal became cause for educated Europe talks. The journal of the Association gained immediate fame, and the English translations carried out by the scholars of Sanskrit in Calcutta soon translated into German and French. Germans scholars, in particular, wasted no time in approaching this new intellectual frontier. The Sanskrit and Vedic philosophy became the main pleasure of many German Romantics. While the British relations with the India were soon developed to colonialism and the conversion, the Germans, without economic nor political interests in the India grow, devoted themselves to deepen intellectual and emotional.

The first to wake up the German passion for the India was Johann Gottfried von Herder, philosopher and writer who dominated on the rational intuition, and that it influenced significantly the famous Goethe. Von Herder arose many of the ideas that formed the basis of German romanticism, and he was who encouraged the imagination of his fellow writers so that they worship to mother India. "The brahmanas [the spiritual intelligentsia of the India] have a wisdom and extraordinary power to educate its people at advanced levels of education, courtesy, temperance and chastity." They have consolidated these virtues so effectively that, in comparison, Europeans often seem bestial, drunk or crazy".

Friedrich von Schlegel, Another philosopher and writer whose essays contributed to consolidating the foundations of German romanticism, devoted himself to the study of Sanskrit. Since 1805, I used to use their newly-acquired knowledge to deliver a series of lectures at the University of Cologne. "Everything, absolutely everything, has its origin in the India," he said. He attributed to the Egyptian civilization spread the seeds of the India, and stated that Hebrew civilization was based on the remains of Vedic metaphysics. Schlegel published his essay on the language and wisdom of the Indians in 1808. The first two sections praised the beauty and antiquity of Sanskrit, as well as its ease to expose deep philosophical concepts. In another section was fond of stating that a migration of talent and intellect from the North of the India was responsible for the emergence of civilization in Europe.

German romanticism, apart from his fascination with the India, put the seed to consider Germany as the first European recipient of civilization. "If the regeneration of the human species originated in the East, Germany has to be considered the East of Europe," said the brother of Friedrich von Schlegel, August Wilhelm von Schlegel. August Wilhelm, scholar of great influence, became the first Professor of Sanskrit in the University of Bonn. In 1823 Julius von Klaproth He coined the term "indo-aleman", and many German writers adopted it. Naturally, intellectuals from outside Germany of the time preferred to the term "Indo-European", and Franz Bopp, in 1833, he instituted that preference even in the eastern part of the Rhine.

The Minister of education of Prussia, Wilhelm von HumboldtHe began to study Sanskrit in 1821. Humboldt, also known as one of the founding fathers of Linguistics, published a comprehensive study of the Bhagavad gita where described it as "the most deep and high thing that the world we must show". The widespread fascination towards the India also affected the famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven. His manuscripts contain fragments of selections from the Upanishads and the Gita.

The philosopher Georg Hegel He compared the discovery of Sanskrit to contemplate a new continent. He warned of the "historical ties between the Indian people and the German". Although the complex Hegel admitted not to estimate the India too, and criticized the romantics by idolizing her, however in his book Lectures on the philosophy of history He praised the Indian subcontinent by calling it "home of the Western world".

Another famous German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, was delighted with the Upanishads. After reading a translation into latin, he called them "product of the highest human wisdom". Schopenhauer, whereas the Upanishads contained almost superhuman concepts, he said: "it's more satisfying and high (with the exception of the original text) reading it is possible to find in all the world;" It has been my comfort in life and will be at my death."

Was so famous and international magnitude of the immersion of the Germans in the Vedic studies which, when in 1871 the different German States were consolidated at last to set up the German Empire, some British officials of the India attributed the unification to the extended German love for Vedic knowledge. Even if it were an exaggeration, this notion indicates the reputation of Germany enjoy the ancient texts of the India. Sir Henry Maine, a member of the Council of the viceroy of India, stated emphatically: "A nation has been born because of the Sanskrit".

The energetic German commitment to the cause of Indian studies continues today. Almost all major German libraries have a reserved Department to the India. Each University maintains a departmental library dedicated to the Indology. There are chairs of Sanskrit at six universities: Bonn, Tübingen, Hamburg, Munich, Marburg and Gšttingen. Almost all universities offer studies of Sanskrit in its Department of Comparative Linguistics. Three German universities published a magazine devoted exclusively to the Indology.

Otras naciones se unen al viaje

Los franceses no quisieron quedarse fuera de esta adopción de la India. Voltaire, el pensador por excelencia de la Ilustración, quedó fascinado. En 1775 afirmó: “Estoy convencido de que todo ha llegado hasta nosotros desde las orillas del Ganges: astronomía, astrología, metempsicosis, etc.”. También parecía pensar que todo lo relacionado con Adán y el Génesis provenían asimismo de la India. Bel filósofo y escritor francés famoso por su obra La Enciclopedia, sugirió en su artículo dedicado a la India que las “ciencias podrían haber aparecido antes en la India que en Egipto”. En 1787 apareció la primera traducción en francés de la Gita (based on the English translation of Wilkins) The first University Chair in Sanskrit was created in Paris in 1816. Soon the French scholars translated the works of love Germans of the India. Jules Michelet, the French historian famous for his Herculean History of France in 17 volumes, he believed with certainty that the India was "the cradle of the world".

The Slavic peoples also agreed. At the beginning of the 19th century, scholars from different regions Slavic began to question their origins. Some published works by comparing Sanskrit terms with the Slavic languages. The Czech scholar Pavel Shafarik escribió que los pueblos eslavos tenían sus orígenes en la India. Un científico polaco Valentin Mayevsky describió muy elaboradamente las conexiones entre los pueblos eslavos y los antiguos indios. Rusia publicó su primer texto en sánscrito en 1787. N. I. Novikov tradujo la interpretación que había hecho Charles Wilkins al inglés de la Bhagavad-gita. Se creó en San Petersburgo una Academia Asiática en 1810, con profesorado de sánscrito. Rusia continuaría produciendo famosos indólogos durante el siglo diecinueve, como V. P. Vasilyev y V. P. Minayev. El húngaro Csoma de Kšršs (1784-1842) visitó la India y estudio allí lenguas y literatura.

Al otro lado del Atlántico los americanos también se unieron a esta atracción por lo védico. En la universidad de Yale se iniciaron estudios índicos en 1841. Elihu Yale, antiguo gobernador de la Compañía de las Indias Orientales británica en Madrás, fundó la universidad en 1718, con la ayuda de los donativos que trajo de la India. La nueva universidad, en agradecimiento, adoptó su nombre. En la universidad de Harvard, en 1836, se reunió un grupo de autores y poetas para fundar el Club Trascendental de América. La crema del mundillo literario de América —Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and others - studied Vedic texts available, as well as the ideas of Goethe, Kant, and the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Persian.

American Transcendentalists, as they were baptized, searched and studied English translations of the Bhagavad gita, Upanishads and the Vishnu and Bhagavata Puranas. Emerson delivered his classic loa of the Gita: "Owe a grand day to" Bhagavad-gita. It was the first of the books; "it was as if an Empire was opened before us, nothing tiny or insignificant, but broad, calm, consistent, the voice of a former intelligence that another was and environment had weighed up and prevented the same questions that concern us".

Henry David Thoreau, the still-revered author of Walden, también expresó su euforia intelectual: “Los extractos de los Vedas que he leído se derramaron sobre mí como la luz de una luminaria superior y pura, que describe una elevada trayectoria a través de un nivel más puro”. También: “Por la mañana baño mi intelecto en la fantástica y cosmogónica filosofía de la Bhagavad gita, desde cuya composición han transcurrido años de dioses y en comparación a la cual nuestro moderno mundo y su literatura parece débil y trivial”.

Thoreau, calificando la Gita como el mejor tratado intelectual, dijo: “En ningún otro texto es el lector elevado y situado en una mayor y más pura región del pensamiento que en la Bhagavad gita”. Aún tratándose de un americano de una época cristiana muy conservadora, hizo una evaluación muy audaz: “La religión y filosofía de los hebreos son las de una tribu salvaje y rústica, falta de la civilización y los refinamientos intelectuales de la cultura védica”.

Otros gigantes de la literatura americana que reconocieron la influencia de la filosofía védica son T. S. Eliot, Paul Elmer e Irving Babbitt. Todos ellos estudiaron en Harvard bajo la guía del famoso estudioso del sánscrito Charles Rochwell Lanman, He was teaching for 40 years and published books dedicated to the Sanskrit and Vedic philosophy. Another factor that contributed to the Vedic interest in America was the founding in 1842 of the Eastern American Association.

Certainly, in all these Nations, it is possible to find also scholars with a negative perception and even racist of the Vedic texts. But the truly amazing thing is the sublime freshness to the emerging air of the Indology brought the majority of College classrooms throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. "India, yes!" "The Vedas, yes!"

Los intelectuales europeos, especialmente durante el cambio del siglo XVIII al XIX, esperaban un “renacimiento oriental”. La idea consistía en que, del mismo modo que el estudio del griego había dado lugar al primer Renacimiento, el estudio del sánscrito y los Vedas provocaría el segundo. El antiguo orientalismo —basado en los estudios europeos del árabe, persa y hebreo— dieron paso a la India y los Vedas.

Juan Carlos Ramchandani smallWho is

Es sacerdote hindú (purohit), maestro de yoga (yoga-acharya) Doctor en filosofía clásica de la India. Autor de 10 libros y numerosos artículos sobre en prensa y revistas.


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By • 28 May, 2013 • section: Signatures