[The Lack of Interest in Sanskrit Studies]
Theosophist, September, 1880
Noticing the sad fact of the impending dissolution of the “Sanskrit Text Society,” founded at London in 1865, through the exertions of the late Professor Goldstücker, Professor Albert Weber, the learned Sanskrit Professor at the University of Berlin, mournfully asks the Editor of the Times:
“Can it be possible that, among the hundreds and thousands of English gentlemen who have spent a large part of their lives in India, in what one often hears called ‘the most splendid service in the world,’ a sufficient number cannot be induced to support a society, founded for the purpose of making available to European scholars the authentic documents for Indian literary research . . .?”
A moment’s reflection would have induced Professor Weber to spare himself the trouble of asking such a question. What proportion of the English gentlemen, who take up an Indian career, care one rap about Indian history or authentic documents? How many real scholars have developed in the Indian branches of service since John Company’s first ship arrived? Great names, doubtless, there are to be recalled; but, when the entire list is written, what percentage does it embrace of the educated, even highly educated men who have been to India? If the Professor were to poll the civil and military branches of the public service today, he would find that not one percent even of the lusty young chaps fresh from the scholastic forcing-houses, would trouble themselves, whether or not the Sanskrit language itself, to say nothing of the Sanskrit Text Society, were extinguished tomorrow. Badminton, lawn-tennis, flirtation, racing, pig-sticking, billiards, and the bubbling peg interest them, and there is always plenty of money to support clubs and that sort of thing. But Asiatic literature, Aryan religion or philosophy—these are not their “fad;” and, out of all these thousands upon thousands who have passed across the Indian stage, few have turned their backs upon fashionable pleasures and sought their happiness in study. At Kandy, Ceylon, for instance, in the English library which stands just opposite the Dalada Maligawa temple, among the collection of some 7,000 volumes there is, or was a few weeks ago, just one book on the Buddhists or their religion—Schlagintweit’s observations in Tibet. That tells the story; and Professor Weber need not waste time in wondering that such societies as the one he names enjoys so precarious a tenure of life. If European scholars would show a more respectful and fraternal disposition towards their native Asiatic contemporaries, the case might be different. And if the “enlightened Indian princes and gentlemen” whom he mentions in the same letter to the Times, could see that their patronage of such learned bodies would secure them as much consideration with the ruling race as do their subscriptions to monuments and giving of entertainments, no doubt their aid would be generously afforded.