Eighty year old Professor Nicholas Kazanas is a Greek Scholar of Sanskrit and Vedic civilisation and a long-time opponent of the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). In the second part of his interview, he speaks about Indology as a Soft Power, rituals and mantras in the Rig Veda, whether the Out of India theory can ever become mainstream and his experience with Swami Dayananda Sarasvati.
Part 1 of the interview can be viewed at
Would you say Indology can be a soft power with an increase in the global pool of scholars researching India's civilizational values effectively on the global stage?
Indology could well be a most powerful instrument for promoting high civilisational values (in soft power and any other way). But how?
Here is the rub: how?
Indological studies have been going on in the West for more than two centuries and, of course, much much longer in India. There has been an astonishing, immeasurable amount of publications on every aspect of the Indian civilisation. So what?
Millions and millions of volumes, many of them of serious intent, are not of the slightest consequence any more. There are innumerable studies on Yoga, Vedānta, Buddhism, and other philosophical teachings. The five kleśas (ignorance, egoism etc) that torment people so incessantly are well known. The way to overcome them, the therapy, is also well known and declared in all sound philosophies and religions for thousands of years and now in the common, most accessible, free library of the Internet. But have people become any better? Is there less conflict, less pursuit of selfish ends, less ambition, cruelty, envy, hatred? Not at all!
In the 20th century we had the most bloody wars and genocides in our known history with millions of dead - and the trade in human flesh for organs and sex flourishes as never before!
So what is wrong?
There is much information and most of us like to think that "I know” but hardly anyone, including those who often discourse about ethics and philosophy, put into daily practice the information that makes us feel so puffed up with “knowing”.
Very few people really want to follow guidance for Self-realisation, find Schools that offer such guidance and stay applying it in their daily life and changing their mentality and behaviour.
Sridhar Chari: Would it be possible to say definitely that the bulk of the mantras of the Rig Veda as well as the liturgy/ritual of the Veda evolved simultaneously or was there the practice of liturgy and ritual from which the mantras came or is it possible to see evidence to say that the mantras including the liturgical ones came first and the ritual complex was derived from it."
Mantras, liturgy and ritual. Here, I think, we must take a different approach - a common-sense one.
Since, according to the Revelation of the Veda and simple logic, man descends from the Absolute Brahman (or the divine primordial Puruṣa) and in his true Self ātman is the Brahman, but in his present condition has fallen from and forgotten his true nature, then man's very first concern should be to realise fully, with his whole being, this reality. Consequently, the first teaching would be directions (or injunctions) how to achieve this in a practical way and recall his true nature; it would be guidance regarding the practices and disciplines sādhana he should follow in daily behaviour and social life to strengthen his memory and purify mind and heart. An excellent formulation is found in the 5 yamas (and 5 niyamas) in the Yogasūtras 2.30 ahiṃsā etc. These five then (not injuring anyone, speaking truth, non-stealing, purity or non-adulterating and non-accumulating) constitute the first and basic discipline for return to one’s original nature.
These are found in different formulations in the RV, the Brahmanas and the Upanishads. But the mantras or sūktas do not form a handbook for Self-realisation (with yogic practices). The RV is a collection of poems that contain references to guidance and evidence that people followed the practices and did achieve Self-realisation (e.g. RV 8.6.10); they contain mantras for liturgy, as well, for those who preferred devotion and sacrificial ritual, rather than ascetic discipline pursued in the common daily life and, of course, philosophical utterances .
Personally, I don’t think the sacrificial ritual, although much augmented in subsequent texts, played such an important role in the RV as some believe. It was just another legitimate way to reach the Supreme. In this, I am probably in the minority.
Sridhar Chari: When will the Out of India theory become mainstream? What will it take?
The Out of India Theory will attain the mainstream status only when a sufficient number of scholars are convinced of its truth. To give a date would be foolhardy.
Judging by the many confrontations I and the few other indigenists had in Conferences, the violent reactions I met in some audiences and the irrelevancies and falsifications written by opponents in debates in learned Journals (like the one in The Journal of Indo-European Studies 2002-2003, when I duelled against 8 adherents of the AIT and a neutral one), most scholars are not much interested in truth, are deeply attached to their pet views and don’t abandon them except in very exceptional circumstances. I personally started off with full acceptance of the AIT as it was taught in the University. However, when later I began to investigate the adduced evidences, I found that the AIT was based on a conjecture by Max Müller in the mid-nineteenth century and its strength was simple mechanical repetition: there was no evidence at all but only sophistry and casuistry to maintain the mainstream view; on the contrary, the different kinds of evidence supported (and, of course continue to support) the indigenist idea. If the miserable AIT were to be abandoned, millions of “respectable” publications would have to be consigned to the dustbin of History and many academic reputations would be severely injured.
I, therefore, not without considerable doubt and vacillation at the time, abandoned it and faced the attacks of mainstreamers. My own old Professor abjured me and stopped corresponding with me.
Attachment and prejudice are especially strong in the people who claim to search for and promote truth, i.e. the academics. So a change in the mainstream doctrine will not come easily. It would help if Indian scholars stopped aping Western “authorities” like Prof Witzel and examined practically and carefully the actual (not hearsay and conjectural) evidences - literary, linguistic and genetic.
A note of caution here. Genetic evidence alone, or geophysical aspects like the route of the old river Sarasvati, will not convince Westerners because their doctrine is a linguistic one, they claim. But In my 2015 publication, Vedic & Indo-European Studies (the linguistic evidences for Indigenism), I furnish abundantly all the necessary linguistic evidences. The difficulty is in the fact that Indian scholars do not understand such stuff.
What do you think Vedanta offers the world in the 21st Century? How were your experiences with Swami Dayananda at his ashram?
Vedānta offers to the world today what it always offered - a satisfactory view and interpretation of the Cosmos and its forces and phenomena as a Unity in the intelligence and substance of Brahman, the Spirit Absolute. Also a valid and well-tempered way of Self-realisation that enables one to come to a gradually deepening understanding and experience of one’s unity with the Self of the Universe.
Of course, one needs first a good guide and then a good company of people with the same aim and sincerity of work. I was very fortunate in having both for many years and eventually was given permission to set up a School in Athens to provide the same for those who want such a discipline.
When I met Swami Dayananda in his Ashram, he was unwell and very weak. He spoke well and exuded great generosity. I read some of his publications and found them most useful utilising some of his ideas in my own talks.
However, his main assistant seemed to be a rather young American-educated man (with an American wife) who showed much aggressiveness in attacking the Western approach to Sanskrit, about which he did not know much, and Christianity which he considered inferior to Hinduism, although he did concede that it had a good ethical code. Here I should say that I noticed a similar aggression on the part of some other American-educated young Hindus.
As far as I am concerned a religion that has a good ethical code is as good as any other religion. They all have their dogmas and rituals and saints but it is the ethics that matters. They should advertise their existence but not strive to proselytise others.
Moreover, I do not find that the Vedic Tradition or Vedãnta is the same as the Hindu religion. A religion demands faith and devotion. A philosophical tradition demands questioning and testing.
Shri Krishna in The Bhagavad Gītā says in 7.3 "One in thousands sahasreṣu strives for realisation” and in 3.29 “The man of perfect knowledge kṛtsnavid should not unsettle vicālayet the deluded ones”. So no aggression or pressure should be exercised.