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Comparative Methods in Indological
Studies of Germany
by
Albrecht Frenz

In his article Cultural Relations of India, W. Halbfass remarks that 'the
cultural meeting between India and the West initiated crucial impulses for
the development of several comparative disciplines, especially in com-
parative linguistics, comparative research of mythology, science of relig-
ion and recently in comparative philosophy'. The relationship between
India and the West has been strengthened by the Moslems. Long ago they
had brought the Indian figures along with the “null” and the decimal system
to Europe. In the 11th century Indian tales and legends found their way into
western countries and literature through al-Biruni's itineraries.

Since the beginning of the last century Philologists have done a lot
of research especially concerning old Indian scripts by translating them
and composing grammars and dictionaries. Like the other philological dis-
ciplines-including Old and New Testament philology-German Indol-
ogy, mainly Sanskrit philology, used the literary historical method to make
the old texts accessible. The intensive study of the Old Testament Hebrew
led to a new method of interpreting these texts: the form-critical method.
This method opened new ways for a comparative approach to old and new
texts. One of the first Old Testament scholars who developed this method
was Hermann Gunkel in his commentary on Genesis.

As time passes more and more scholars of Indian philology are
becoming aware of the form-critical method, especially when comparing
similar texts and Ideologies. In his article Cit and Nous, Paul Hacker,
theologian and indologist, compares Vedanta and Vedantism with Neopla-
tonism. Hacker starts with the explanation of the words cit and nous. He
says, "The meanings of the two words are connected by little more than the
fact that both are usually translated by one and the same Western word...
I wish to explain, or at least to make a first attempt at explaining, to students
of Neoplatonism, what is meant by cit, and to the Indologist, by what means
Neoplatonism... tried to give approximate expression to that reality which
the Indian term faces.' Hacker felt that there was a need of comparison, yet

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