This is the inside cover of a book I got some time ago--of all places in Iowa--at an antique fair. It offers something of a theme for the dissertation whose research is presented, as it is developed, in the following pages. It is also a theme under which the content of both the dissertation and vedavid.org are organized. In essence, as the early Vedic Max Muller inscribed in this edition, and elsewhere in his thoughts on his work: "know the beginnings."
For non-Indologists, this image is the inside cover of a first edition copy of translations from the Rig Veda, a text whose origins reach even as far as 5,000 tracable years ago. It's a collection of hymns, stories, and riddles about life in Ancient India (South Asia). It contains the root ideas and themes of the religion and thought which has shaped India, and influenced the world, for nearly as many years. It contains speculations about the origins of language, the functions of the mind, and the beginnings of a diagram of that most ellusive, eliptical and potent of all ideas: the self.
This volume represents the early ideas of one of the earliest translators of Ancient Indian texts, the Vedas (coming from a word meaning knowledge, implying seeing). Frederich Max Muller was one of the first widely-read translators of Vedic materials.
If a dissertation represents the following of an uncharted path (hopefully without getting lost and being able to tell others how you did it--a good one makes others want to check it out to see what other new paths it opens), mine began with a curiousity about the transition from sacrificial to meditative ritual in Vedic India. With more knowledge about Sanskrit, I settled upon the early developing words used in discussions of the self, or identity, in Vedic Literature. A chance ambling with my mouse in a late-night bleary-eyed session of entering verses for the study lead me to HTML in WordPerfect DOS 6.0. Hypertext seemed a fine way to navigate hundreds of selected passages, and so it all began for me.
It is becoming a matter of survival for Humanities disciplines academia to enliven themselves by finding or following the uncharted path. Computer technology promises much for humanities research. After years of deconstruction-inspired dwindling of funding sources, suddenly a plethora of grants are available again in the Humanities- for technology. The vitality of each discipline will depend on how diligently--before the "proper" software is written--apply existing tools to Humanities research to stimulate development of more advanced resources. Accordingly, when it was suggested that my plan of action for using HTML with Sanskrit was "crazy," my decision to do so was thereby set in stone. In so doing, I am offering the following study as a suggested methodological use of hypertext technology.
Only by taking chances--measured with a rational grasp of the risks--do advances of any kind occur. Max Muller was tracing uncharted ground in his own eyes as he notes in the preface to this volume:
It is an irony both that these words of praise for the "promised land" of Indological scholarship he describes, and the biases with which he has been identified both were spawned from his own pen. I include this quotation both as a point of interest, and testimony to the fact that the Vedic tradition nonetheless inspired such awe in one whom modern society has come to regard as destructive. Of course, considering the impact of those studies he DID do, I'm sure some might well be relieved he oriented himself to making the text resources available in the first place.