Friday, April 27, 2007

Sanskrit Conference - McGill

I spent all day at the university for the Sanskrit conference. Third annual. Sanjaya put me as the first speaker. तिक्तेन समारभ्यताम् ! In fact, I was very tired and my talk was not very well prepared. So I just talked off the cuff.

I attempted to discuss Mel Gibson's film on the passion of the Christ from the point of view of the Bhakti-rasa tradition of Rupa Goswami, analyzing the sthayi-bhavas, vibhavas, anubhavas, etc. Something that could only be done with hours of time available. Too ambitious and not narrowed down sufficiently for the purpose of the conference.

Sanjay followed; he was well-prepared with a Power Point presentation about Bhishma's आश्रमधर्म. He is very eloquent and droll.

Next speaker was Giribharatan, the Sanskrit Bharati missionary. Sanskrit Bharati has come out with a very nice book on scientific advances and found in the Sanskrit literature, which was the basis of his talk.

Ajaya Rao, a young professor at the University of Toronto, spoke about making Sanskrit a living language. All of these speakers were followed by lively question periods and discussions, which was perhaps the best feature of this year's conference. Arvind Sharma said to me that it seems everyone is losing their inhibitions.

An elderly engineering professor from India named Brij Kashyap read some Sanskrit poems he had written. Then Saraswati Sainath, who was the MC for the entire day, gave an enlivening talk on Madhusudan Saraswati, particularly about his discussion of ahimsa. She nicely recited Madhusudan's Krishna-bhakti oriented verses from the Gita-bhashya. I expressed appreciation with a sadhuvada and she laughed and said, "I thought you would enjoy that."

The morning session was completed by a first-year Sanskrit student reciting some verses from Kumara-sambhava. Another student read a rather lengthy life of Vasubandhu he had himself written. His accent was difficult to follow, but I was impressed that these two students had the nerve to participate in this way.

Hema Murty was the first speaker in the afternoon, on the evolution of yoga teaching in the West (she is herself a part time yoga teacher in Ottawa).

Arvind Sharma spoke without notes in his usual concise manner, drawing an analogy between the four kinds of dvandva-samasa, which he used as relational models, and four different kinds of attitudes to the relations between religions.

Sharada Varadarajan, an elderly woman from Bangalore, who has been teaching Sanskrit all her life. She gave a very clear and entertaining talk on the Valmiki Ramayana. Again, this was the source of a lengthy discussion, as Ajaya Rao's doctoral research is based on the Sri Vaishnava commentary traditions around the Ramayan.

Ratnakar Narale, who came last year also, gave a brief talk, handing out a printout of a Sanskrit poem he had written on the Satya Narayana Katha.

The conference ended with Rishiram Sharma, who is the pandit at the biggest Hindu temple in Montreal. He made a very dignified presence, being the most formally dressed (amongst the men, anyway). He gave a very learned presentation on dharma, peppered with quotations from the Upanishads and Mahabharata. मधुरेण समापयेत् ।

I was pretty tired by the end of the day and hightailed it home and went straight to bed. I took a two hour nap and now I am writing this. The next order of business would be to produce some kind of document with the contents of the various speakers' talks. The state of my own paper is a total mess, but I think I could get it together... But then, do I have anything else on my plate?