Seminar: "Symptoms of Withdrawal: Hegel’s and Schopenhauer’s Conceptual Structuring of Hindu Religion and Philosophy" by Prof.Sai Bhatawadekar
Her paper examines G.W.F. Hegel's and Arthur Schopenhauer's interpretation of Indian thought and their role in streamlining a conceptual definition of Hinduism. She argue that even though Hegel rejects Indian thought as primitive and savage, and Schopenhauer embraces it as timeless wisdom, they both isolate three tenets as its defining features: 1. brahman as the absolute divine principle; 2. the manifest world as an impermanent illusion; and 3. the oneness of all things in brahman as ultimate knowledge. This analysis is crucial in tracing how the school of Advaita Vedanta came to homogenize the variety of schools in Hindu religion and philosophy. Her study, however, does not simply unveil an image of the East in the West, neither is it judging Hegel's and Schopenhauer's “misunderstanding” against a supposedly unified definition of Hinduism. With Gadamer’s “hermeneutic consciousness” I examine Hegel's and Schopenhauer's philosophical “prejudices” that prompt their interpretation; with Postcolonial “hermeneutic suspicion” She uncover their appropriation of the then available German, French, English, and Latin sources on Hinduism, and their selective reading and restructuring of the given material. However, claims of one-sided appropriation of another culture can no longer contain cross-cultural dynamic interaction. Eastern thought, for Hegel and Schopenhauer, is not peripheral or passive; it indeed has agency in this encounter, influencing the direction and on occasion subverting the conceptual consistency of Western systems. However, even beyond East and West, we must engage with the politics of representation itself: 19th century European re-construction of Hinduism came back into 20th century Indian reformulation of it themselves, and it was as instrumental in the self-definition of Europe at the time, as it is in the self-projection of India today. In the comparative philosophical quandaries of globalization, in which, not only Hegel and Schopenhauer, but we ourselves constantly communicate and understand one tradition in the vocabulary of another system, negotiate being universalists and relativists of culture, and create and subvert power relations, my study self-reflexively presents the truly interdisciplinary and transregional emergence, consumption, and history of ideas.
Sai Bhatawadekar is an Associate Professor of Hindi-Urdu and the Director of the Center for South Asian Studies at University of Hawaii. In addition to Hegel and Schopenhauer’s reception of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, Prof. Bhatawadekar's current group project is on Apophasis (Negative Theology) in major world religions. She has also worked on film adaptations of literature in German cinema and on Bollywood's global orientation. After teaching German for a few years, she created Hindi-Urdu language programs at the Ohio State University and University of Hawaii, with creative performance based learning, which includes student made parodies and documentary films. Her Indian dance group –AajaNachle– sprung out of Hindi classes, and is now a thriving and free community space in Hawaii. These varied aspects of Sai's work essentially embody the cross-cultural creative movement of Indian philosophy, languages, and art and are now being recognized within Positive Peace Studies.