This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

(click to enlarge)

On the Hegemony of Western Research Methodology: Quest for Alternative Indian Perspectives

Avadhesh Kumar Singh

Part I

Let me at the very outset state that I have been concerned with the question of the hegemony of the Western/ American research methodology, as it perpetuates the tradition that perceives the west as the donor and the rest of the world as the receiver. After the second world war, as you might have noticed the center of creativity shifted to the non- First, pre- First or the so called Third World in absence of any ‘great’ moving communal / continental experience. This is discernible in the fact that most of the literary awards, though they hardly are the criteria for judging the true worth of a literary work, in the post-world war II have gone to the people from the non-First World. The West in such a situation sought to ‘control’ the creativity of the non-First World with its theory. Among other reasons, it accounts for the ascendance of theory and its growth as a separate discipline in the West in the 1960s and after. The West gleefully said to the non-West, “ O.K. You have creativity. But we have yardsticks of measuring you, for you can not do so.” And our academia in the so-called post-colonial period genuflected to neither theories and ‘isms’, which were in fact neither theories nor isms, but mere proposals. This is/was the theory of the western theoretical imperialism. (I say ‘was’ because the moment the recipients understand the colonial and imperial strategies, they begin to become a matter of the past.) This imperialism flourished, and still does so, for it pre-empts its criticism, constructs its response in advance, and spares some space for other voices. And if nothing works then it co-opts compelling voices like Edward Said, Homi Bhabha or Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak who are ingenious enough to justify whatever they do or say about. (I am not too sure about the ‘end’ of our endeavor. For that matter are we sure of any? Please forgive me, for there is no space for ‘foolosophising’ in a critical act, because it primarily aims at making sense out of unmaking of sense that literary discourse has already done.) The Western/American research methodology with its various versions PMLA Style sheet, Chicago or Oxford Manual is the handmaid of the Western/American intellectual imperialism. Let me mention it here that I have no hesitation in accepting the virtues of its disciplinary rigor, but its hegemony ignores other existing traditions and kills the possibility of other alternatives. As regards India we have committed intellectual suicide by linking Sanskrit, the principle culture bearing language of India for more than at least three millennia to a caste, and in the process of rejecting the caste, we abandoned the most unparalleled reservoir of knowledge systems. What an irony that when the 19th century Europe raved about Indian knowledge systems and revolutionized itself with them, we were either inveigled upon or compelled to drive these knowledge systems out of the main-stream education system. Despite being an oral tradition, the manuscripts in Sanskrit in these Indian knowledge systems number one hundred times more than those in Greek and Latin combined. (I have not invented it. Peter Scharf states it in the ‘Preface’ to the book Ramopakhyana- the Story of Rama in the Mahabharata, Routledge, 2003.)

The moot question then is: Could such a rich tradition of diverse knowledge systems with so many manuscripts have contributed, survived and continued without methodology? CERTAINLY NOT. To know more about it we will go a little close to the tradition with the help and guidance of our distinguished elders. Neither terms, categories nor idiom- nothing is mine in whatever I say in following paragraphs. All that I say is what I have learnt from others and is already there in the tradition, and quite a few of our distinguished scholars have worked on this aspect, as the bibliography would indicate. Credit we must give to the Western academic and theoretical industry for establishing its supremacy, currency and consequent acceptance in such a manner outside its shores that we have been convinced about the non-existence of our own traditions.

Research methodology is primarily concerned with hypothesis and its realization in a thesis, meaning/interpretation and sources of knowledge that one relied upon for reaching some conclusion(s). The last point can be summed up in terms of Foot/End Notes and Bibliography. It is primarily a mechanical process but it helps in authentication of statement because a statement unattended by authentication is no statement at least in criticism. Like other intellectual knowledge systems that were primarily oral for centuries, Indian tradition too did not care much for this aspect. (In fact there was no need, for there was no printing press.) It was taken care of by the poorva paksha without whose cognizance the paksha or uttarapaksha was inconceivable. The cognition of poorvapaksha did not mean mentioning page number(s) and publication details, for its need did not arise. It became part of the argument, and all those initiated, interested and participating in it knew it. (Such is the pressure of the tradition that the research in Indian languages still does not care much for style-sheet or Foot /End note details.) Those without patrata (competence) or who did not have access to it had no right or qualification to participate in the process. For example, as a student of literature I have no right to intervene in the debate pertaining to nuclear physics, for I lack in patrata, as I do not have knowledge either of physics or of the poorvapaksha of the topic of debate.

However, the Indian tradition valued interpretation. And no civilization has more varied and powerful traditions of interpretations as the Indian. However, it did not consider interpretation as the core concern of literary discourse, for its primary prayojana (objective) in the long tradition was rasaswadana (relish). However, no one ever prevented any from inferring theories of interpretations of literature from theories of interpreting reality in darshan (philosophy).

Now let me move to interpretation and some of its theories in Indian tradition from which some possibility of inferring an alternative methodology can be explored.

In the Indian tradition the purushartha chashtuya i.e four purusharthas called dharma (righteous conduct), artha (material well-being), kama (gratification of desires), and moksha (emancipation from the cause of sorrow) form the core of all human endeavors including literary discourse. In other words, critical pursuit or interpretation of literary discourse should also have these objectives. (It is no religious business in the sense of organized religion, but it does not exclude way of worship as a part of life because the Indian tradition looks at life holistically, not in compartments or in the so-called secular manner because nothing in human life is secular.) As regards an individual’s conduct in life there are three guiding paths in life: karma (action), upasana (worship in general sense), and gyana (knowledge). The last is superior to all, yet dharma is the super-ordinate principle of life and it determines the validity and value of knowledge and conduct. The Indian mind accorded sanctity to properly acquired valid knowledge. The confluence of gyana and dharma led to scholarly pursuit of interpretation and its system as darshan or mimansa that can be traced in the 3rd century B.C. to Jaimini’s Mimansa Sutra. The interpretative pursuit included determining and explaining the meaning of the text; establishing the relevance and significance of, and sometimes to amend, the rules of conduct or the thesis of a shastra, whatever applicable, in cases where they grow out of tune with either the usage or the knowledge of the time; and articulating the rationale or / and rationality of the assertions to defend against counter philosophies or objections. Various types of discourses existing in early part of India were interpreted differently. For instance, the interpretations of shrutis dealt with metaphysical questions leading to emergence of different philosophical schools. The smrutis or sociological texts and their interpretations were concerned with framing and modulating the rules of conduct in accordance with time and place. The interpretation of shastras dealt with rigorous determination of meaning of words, sentences and their referential domains. And the interpretation of kavya concerned itself with the problem of indirect language.

The tradition of interpretation branched out in the various forms as annotations, paraphrase, elaboration/elucidation and exposition or vyakhyana. (At times an altogether new text was born out of a section from the original e.g. the Upanishad.) The first four came to be called Tika (commentary) and its different schools came into existence in the course of time. In the cumulative tradition of tika each succeeding tika took note of all preceding tikas or commentaries. These tikas were either interlaced (interpreting and building meaning of the object text from within a single school of thought) or chronologically sequential tika (considering the preceding commentaries but differing in their basic assertions from each other in some ontological categories and epistemologically in the relative ordering of the means of knowledge. Jaimini’s Mimansa Sutrai and Panini’s Ashtadhyayi, ‘the greatest monument of human intelligence’ according to Bloomfield, are the prime examples of diverse texts in the tika parampara and also of methodology in the tradition.

Different types of tike included virtue (that analyses the rules and explains their operations and their domain), and comments on the rule bringing out implicit contents of the rule). They together constitute vyakhya or explanation that is close to vartika e.g. Katyayana’s Vartikas. The vyakhya, when expanded, in the Paninean school becomes bhashya e.g. Shabara- bhashya. The Shabara-bhashya is divided into adhikaran ( Topic-divisions) and each adhikaran is further given head-notes. Each adhikaran is logically explained and discussed for and against the author’s view. Further, he has given lucid and copious notes on each sutra.

These categories and definitions were re-arranged and modified in the course of time. In his Kavya-Mimansa Rajshekhara enlists eight kinds of commentaries: the commentary that explains the ideational contents of a sutra is called vritti; analysis of a vritti is padhati; bhasya is a detailed analysis that takes into accounts the possible arguments and counter arguments; smiksha is an explanation of intended and implicit issues in a bhasya analysis; tika is mere indication of meaning in the simplest and briefest language; panjika is an explanation of difficult words; karika is a brief statement of the meaning of a sutra; and vartika is an analysis of the unexpressed or suggested meanings and implication of a sutra.

Leaving the types of interpretation here, let me move to core concern of interpretation. Interpretation is concerned with meaning, determining it and establishing its rationality. The whole endeavor of vyakhyana pertains to arthanirdharana ( determination of meaning). The artha is of two kinds: yatartha or meaning as it is, and tattvartha the significance or purport. The interpreter has to establish both kinds of meanings. To achieve this, he has to bring in prasang for context as an instrument of exegesis along with other instruments like grammar, metarules, evidence, etymology, metaphysics, and symbolic nature of language. ( For the study of symbolics of meaning please see the 9th century Indian poetician Anadavardahana.) arthanirdharan However, it is not easy to determine the yathartha, for texts make varied use of figurative language, and use of recurrent symbols is difficult to decipher, the old texts may use archaic language and the ideas involved may be abstract making the meaning esoteric, as Shrimant Anirvan has remarked :

“ In all such cases when the yathartha has been stated and we find that it does not make sense, it is the ‘suggestion that lies behind it' that is exclusive, and when the nature of experience or ideas that have been expressed are metaphysical or mystic—as is case with the Vedas for example—‘ we need canons of interpretation (other) than mere intellectual ones.’” (312)

After establishing the yathartha the interpreter shifts his attention to tattvartha, an interpretative exercise in which s/he uncovers deeper layers of purport or meanings by invoking the multiply complex context(s) existing in the text. Thus, the arthanirdharan consists explication of a clearly worded statement, focusing on particular lexical use, if necessary; establishment of the meaning of a seemingly clear or of a multivalent statement; and determination of the symbolical meaning of a transparent statement.

Moving further in our endeavor of alternative methodology or shodha-paddhati, we can take recourse to shastra-paddhati, a universally accepted method of reading texts.

For centuries there existed two traditions of interpretation in India simultaneously and also in relation as well – (i) lok-paddhat, the popular tradition and (ii) shastra-paddhati, the learned tradition. The former existed, and still does rather more vigorously with the advent of electronic media particularly channels, in the form of katha ( narration of stories with commentary from / on a text like the Ramcharitmans or Bhagavat) , saptah ( katha organized for a week), (Akhand)path ( continuous recitation of a text) and pravachana ( lecture with elucidation from the learned tradition).

The shastra- paddhati, referred sporadically, needs to be inferred and constructed. From references available in different texts it can be seen as having four parts: (i) the formal organization of the discourse in terms of prakaran and adhikaran, (ii) the logical mode of discussion and argument or tarka-paddhati, (iii) pramanas and epistemologies including nature of proofs and evidence(s) , and (iv) strategies or instruments of interpretation or upakaran. The learned tradition strives to determine the meaning of the text in accordance with the accepted paddhati or method in shared metalanguage. It puts certain premium on the interpreter, as s/he has to be a adhikari or be equipped with the adhikar or competence to interpret. To Anirvan, it is “a process of saturation, resulting in participation mystique ” that “must set in before the eyes are ready to see and the mind to grasp.” (326) This “process of saturation” demands acquiring all related and relevant knowledge because no decision can taken by studying just one domain of knowledge, as Sushruta in his Samhita, a treatise of medicine, states “ Ekamshastram adhiyen na nirnayam gachchhet.” ( One should not reach any conclusion any conclusion by studying just one Shastra or discipline or domain of knowledge).Rajshekhara, the 9th century poetician, in the second Chapter "Shastranirdeshah” of his Kavyamimansa, drew the boundaries of this universe of knowledge that included the four Vedas—Rigveda ( study of Scriptures), , Yajurveda( study of various yagna I practices), Samveda ( devotional cults based on music), and Atharveda ( source book of worldly knowledge); the five Upvedas or sub-Vedas-- Itihasaveda ( historical narratives) , Dhanurveda ( science of archery then, now military science), Gandharvaveda ( science of fine arts) , Ayurveda ( medicine and surgery in common usage but in reality ‘science of life), Ganveda ( singing and music); seven auxiliary sciences/ disciplines or upangasshiksha ( the science of proper articulation and pronunciation or Phonetics), Kalpa ( rituals), Vyakaran ( grammar), Chhandas ( the science of prosody or metrics), Jyotisha ( astrololgy), Nirukta( etymology or explanation of difficult words particularly from the Vedas and Alamkasshahtra ( rhetoric); and six vidhyas or disciplines-- Vartashastra ( in general study of common usage, and in particular commerce, agriculture and husbandry), Kamasutra ( erotics), Shilpashatra ( sculpture, painting and architecture), Arthashastra ( study law or polity), Anvishiki (philosophical disputations) and Sahityavidya ( poetics or study of literary discourse). Further, Anvishiki is of two kinds-- Poorva paksha comprising of three philosophical schools i.e Charvaka, Buddhists and Jaina and Uttarpaksha comprising of Samkhya ( based on numerical discriminative tendencies), Nyaya ( Logic ), and Vaishaishik (Atomic School). These six schools of philosophy are collectively known as tarka. The arguments on which tarka relies are of three kinds-- vada, jalpa, and vitanda. They are respectively ‘Exposition’, ‘ Disputation adopted to gain victory over the opponent’, and ‘ fallacious controversy used for finding faults with the opponents of defence’. A learned man has to master all this universe of knowledge, if s/he is to interpret a shastra and make a lasting contribution to knowledge. About the nature of Shastra , Rajshekhara remarks:
“Saritamiv pravahastuchchhah pratham yathottaram vipulah,
Ye shastrasamarmbha bhavanti lokasya te vandhyah.”

(Kavyamimansa, Ch.II )

(Just as rivers are thin and narrow in the beginning and gradually widen , similarly shastras are brief and in the passage of time gradually increase in dimension, and are revered by one and all.)

A learned scholar’s exegetical pursuit of the exegetical literature i.e. bhashys, vritti, tika, samiksha, panjika, karika and vartika leads to refinement, extension, extension, precision and profundity of knowledge , as was achieved by great Indian minds like Yaska, Panini, Patanjali, Shabara, Kumarila – Bhatta, Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanuja and Madhavacharya among others.

However, keeping the present topic of methodology for literary discourse in view, it is congruous to know Rajshekhara’s views on literature and its interpreter. In the second Chapter he defines sahityavidya or literature as “ Shabdarthayoarthvatsahabhaven vidhya sahityavidhya” ( The literary discourse is a discipline that studies the co-extension of words and meanings.) The shastra of literature in particular as a work is organized in different parts or sections. Rajshekhara states that a part of the shastra is called a prakaran or a subject. The subjects of extrananeous subjects are denoted by means of words like adhyaya, sarga, and parichheda. Different acharyas have named them differently, for the texts are constructed differently and also they are indescribable. It is possible to infer a methodology of constructing or composing a thesis, as one appreciates Rajshekhara’s acceptance of multiplicity of ways and approaches of/ to (hypo)theses. He describes the function of his shastrakavi or poetic interpreter of shastra :

“Bhavati prathyannartham leenam samabhiplutam sphutikurvan,
Alpamanalapam            rachayannanalpam ch       shastrakavi. ”       
(A shastrakavi is one who expounds the profound meaning of words. He clarifies the difficult discourse, details the brevity of matter and concentrates the detailed exposition.)

A word is the core unit of composition, its extension is pada or phrase. Phrases (arranged grammatically) make a sentence, and sentences a paragraph. Paragraphs lead to a chapter, and chapters to a thesis, dissertation, book or text. The exposition of meaning, clarification of difficult discourse, detailed consideration of the subject matter, and its exposition but with brevity are the stages and attributes of a good thesis. However, it would be gross injustice to the immense contribution of Rajashekhara by concentrating on a chapter of one of his texts and call him a research methodologist.

Besides Rajashekhara, it is possible to find out a general pattern for conducting (research) inquiry for an interpreter ( researcher) by understanding vyakhyanaprakriya, a part of shastrapaddhati ( shodhapaddhati in our case). Interpretation as a self-contained act includes (a) what has already been said by the earlier thinkers of the same school, (b) matantara or the differing opinion or idea, (c) prasang or context. It includes in it paraphrase, explanation, example, and counter-example/ point. Interpretation necessitates vi-vad or controversy, but the shastrapaddhati allows only one kind of katha, the vada or controversy at a time. The vadakatha continues till the truth is reached. On the other hand, vijigisukatha i.e. discussion for winning over the opponent, includes jalpa and vitanda that have been discussed above. It is used not for ascertainment of truth but for exposing the contrary conviction of the opposite disputant. (Please refer to Bagachi 563-65 for its discussion.) Thus, vada, a well-reasoned controversy, is postulation of a thesis, and a counter-thesis in relation to the object of inquiry. Since contradictory qualities should not exist in the object, an argument follows and continues till the resolution of the contradiction. To quote Bagachi:

“When Indian philosophers write treatise or expound certain truths in the seclusion of their seminaries, even then they present the prima facie objections of their opponent (poorvapaksha) and meet them. While doing so, they assume the presence of these opponents and invest them with the freedom of advancing contrary arguments. They also assume the presence of neutral persons, give expression to the latter’s doubts , and suggest solutions. When an author writes a ‘treatise, he thus imagines himself to be present in an assembly of the enlightened.” (564 ) This tradition of vada in the shastrapaddhati, according to vachaspati Mishra, produces (i) knowledge of unknown truths, (ii)removal of doubts, and (iii) confirmation of previous knowledge. ( Nyayavarttika-tatparyatika, 1.2.1)

The structure of argument takes a given logical process. The process or pattern would change from school to school to school e.g. in the Mimansa, Buddhist or Nyaya school. The school of Nyayaformulates it as (i) sansaya, (ii) hetu-stahapana, (iii) vyapti, (iv) upanaya, and (v) nigamana.Dealing with them Bagchi says: “…..after the presentation of the point at issue, the disputant will take one of the paksas and his opponent will take up the other. That is to say, the two contrary positions appearing in the vipratipattivakya will be taken up by them. The disputant after having taken his position, should state the hetu (reason or middle term) that is capable of establishing has own position. This is called sthapana. To do this the disputant has to adduce a fact which is to be ‘a case of’, and which has to be in the ‘locus’ of, what is sought to be proved. As for instance a doubt has been generated by the vipratipattivakya- “Is sound non-eternal or not?” the disputant seeking to prove ‘non-eternality’ will employ the hetu ‘having an origin’. That which has an origin is called krtaka. This hetu (‘having an origin’) is ‘a case of’ ‘non-eternality’ and exists in sound, which has been accepted as the ‘locus’ of ‘non-eternality’. These two facts represent what is called vyapti (‘invariable concomitance’ and paksadharma (condition of being an attribute to the subject), which constitute the strength of a hetu. With the help of these two, the hetu establishes what is sought to be proved (the sadhya). That the hetu is ‘a case of’ the sadhya has also to be demonstrated and this to be done by sighting instances from experience, as for example, ‘whatever has a origin is non-eternal, e.g. a pot’. This example shows that there is an invariable relation of the sadhya to the hetu. Now a sadhya comes to be established in a paksa (subject of syllogism), if the hetu with the vyapti of that sadhya is found in that paksa. The disputant therefore will have to employ the upanaya (application). This will be done by saying that the hetu (here, ‘having an origin’) with the vyapti of the sadhya (here, ‘non-eternality) is actually found in the paksa(here, ‘sound’). The disputant will next end with the nigmana (conclusion). ‘Therefore sound is non-eternal’. The original thesis regarding the non-eternal character of the sound is thus established on the grounds of Krtakatva, i.e. ‘having an origin’, for the mark krtkatva establishes anityatva i.e. non-eternality. These statements constitute the five parts (avayava) of the comprehensive statement called the nyayu.” (Bagchi:567-568).

This structure of logical disputation is invariably followed in determining controversial prepositional meetings. Evidently, the syllogistic reasoning in India is different from that of the west: the syllogism itself has five parts., as against the three of Aristotelian logic, and more importantly ‘ the Indian syllogism is not, as with us( the Western logicians) an affair of pure deduction, but a sequence of inductions and it is characteristic of India’s practical outlook and its practical conception of proof that not only some positive example, but generally one or more negative examples also, and inserted to demonstrate that hetu ‘is a case of sadhya).’ (Betty Heimann :87) Speaking of the significance of the traditions of shastrapaddhati Heimann continues,’ “ …their importance arises from their applicability and use…from the earliest period of Indian thought discussion has been considered the most effective of all means of scientific research.” (89)

Apart form the mode of discussion, the shastrapaddhati deals with the structuring of argument as well, discernible as it is in the formal textual divisions—(a) Vishaya (subject-matter), (b) Samasya (doubt arising in relation to the matter, (c) Purvapaksha ( the point of the opponent), (d) Uttara ( demonstration of the validity of that stand point) , and Siddhanta and Nirnaya ( demonstration of the validity of the standpoint being upheld or accepted and the Conclusion. Pundit Ganganath Jha opines that this system of discussion ‘is adopted, more or less, in all the Sanskrit philosophical systems.’ (Jha, 1900) It can further be put as (i) Pakshantaropanyasa or explication of the other opininion, (ii) Khandana ( rejection of the posited opinion), and (iii) Saravamatasthapana ( establishment of the siddhanta, the accepted position or the goal of yatharthanirdharana i.e. determination of meaning as truth.

After the structure of disputation or argument comes the question of Pramana or evidence which is more than the mere Foot End Notes or Bibliography of research methodology. In our discourse the pramana include Pratyaksha (Perception or memories of knowledge acquired through perception), Anumana ( inference, the secondary measure), upamana (analogy), Aptavachana ( testimony of the texts). (It does not ignore neither abhyasa or experience or antragyan or intuition.) Here, I avoid discussing ten strategies or instruments of exegesis in the practice of the exegetes. These strategies can be employed as instruments in our research practices.

If this paddhati can effectively and successfully work in case of shastras, can it not work in case of shodh-paddhati and pranali that is a mere trickle of the river called Shastra?