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A Perspective on the Indian Tradition: Some Notes on Mohanty's Remarks Thereon

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A PERSPECTIVE OF THE INDIAN TRADITION

SOME NOTES ON MOHANTY’S REMARKS THEREON

 

Paper presented at International Conference on 'Contemporary Views on Indian Civilization', Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N-J, U.S.A., July 28-30, 2000.

 

                                                                     Shakuntala A. Singh

 

 

INTRODUCTION :

 

            The enigmatic Indian Tradition has been the inspiration, and the bane, of quite a few thinkers.  Its Indianness, its distinctiveness, (if any), its rationality, its differentiation from other tradition (notably the philosophia tradition of the West), its concerns, its linkages with the past, are all notable issues which have engaged the attention of quite a few contemporary thinkers.  In this paper, I shall try and tackle a few of these issues taking into consideration the views express by Prof. Mohanty on some of them.

 

            The paper is divided into three parts.  Part I tackles the issue whether asking the question, ‘what is Indian about Indian Philosophy?’ causes a rupture from the tradition. Part – II considers the issue of rationality as an overarch for  both the darsana and philosophia traditions.  Part – III concentrates on the essential differences, if any, between philosophies of the darsana and philosophia traditions.

           

I

 

I – 1     Anyone who asks ‘What is Indian Philosophy? What is Indian about it?’ has already situated himself outside the tradition that we call Indian.  None of the philosophers who shaped that tradition, and with whose writings we are acquainted, ever asks such a question.  They lived and thought within that tradition which today, by the very questions we are asking, we are categorizing. Through this act of categorization a rupture occurred.  Or, rather, it is only such a rupture that could make such categorization possible”1

 

I – 2     This paragraph appears to be making an important statement and yet somewhere it is making an equally disturbing one.  To ask the question, ‘What is Indian philosophy?’  or, ‘What is Indian about Indian philosophy?’ means to position oneself outside the Indian Tradition according to the author, for none of the earlier philosophers who shaped it ever asked such a question.  Now, the concept of something being outside the tradition must be clearly understood.  If outside means not belonging to, or foreign to, the tradition, and therefore not worthy of being incorporated into it, then we may end up nullifying a great mass of modern Indian Philosophizing as it is occurring today.  Outside, correctly interpreted, must mean not inside as related to a certain time and period.  It does not mean against, or not in favour of, a certain tradition.  And not in the tradition as related to a certain time and period really only signifies the time and period preceeding the modern one.  (Or the one being referred to).  For, in the modern time and period, such questions have been asked, and have already become part of the modern tradition which traces its linkage to the older one.  None of the earlier philosophers in the older traditions with whose writing we are acquainted asked such a question probably because they were actively involved in furthering a vibrant tradition and were not in the phase in which we are situated today.  Our situation is such that there has indeed been a rupture between Modern Indian Philosophy and Classical Indian Philosophy, caused no doubt due to historical and socio-political reasons.  The very attempt to ask such questions and answer them represented the modern Indian Philosophers' attempts to establish authentic linkages with the past and, by remedying such a rupture, to carry on from there.  Asking questions about the Indianness of Indian Philosophy, rather than causing a rupture, is an attempt to repair a certain rupture which has undoubtedly occurred. 2,3

 

I – 3     When we try to ‘categorize’ 4 we must, in a way, distance ourselves from that which we are categorizing.  To that extent, there is a split between the categorizer and categorized.  But such a split is a temporary one and related to a certain very specific need.  It is not, or at least need not be, a permanent split, or one that cannot become a legitimate part of the very tradition it is helping categorize.5

 

 

I – 4     To continue the discussion further, we must concentrate on the author’s next paragraph which follows it:

           

            “To ask ‘What is Indian Philosophy? is also by posing that question, to contrast it with non-Indian Philosophy.  Unless one transcends the tradition, one cannot, and need not, ask such a question.  Yet, unless one understands the tradition from within, one cannot answer it.  We are thus confronted by a paradox, a paradox which we need not resolved, but, by nature of what we, the modern Indian Philosophers, are, we have to live with.  We cannot escape this tragedy.”6

 

 

I – 5    It is true that when one asks the question what is Indian Philosophy, one has to also contrast it with what is non-Indian Philosophy.  And by non-Indian, we need not only mean Western, which is what people commonly do. It means that which is not Indian, that is, which does not deal with problems dealt with by Indian Philosophers in the past and those problem in the present which can be linked with the problems that the Classical period dealt with.  Such concerns are articulated as much by Western as by some India born Philosophers whilst searching for the Indianness of the Indian Philosophy.  It is necessary to contrast with Indian Philosophy the work of some or all of these.  But this is not all.  The major purpose of asking a question is not only to contrast and thus establish clear-cut boundaries.  The greater need is to capture the essence of whatever went on during the earlier phases of Indian thought and find out relevant modern paradigms.  One may say this is of greater significance than establishing boundaries.  But to ask such a question, or to contrast it with non-Indian Philosophy, does not mean to transcend the tradition, unless by transcending we only mean the simple process of doing something that was not done earlier.  But by transcending we usually mean this and much more.  We mean something beyond and therefore which is desirable and worthy of being done.7

 

 

I – 6   One does not really transcend the tradition when one asks searching questions about its characteristics.  One in fact carries it forward by reinterpreting it, albeit to suit modern times and sensibilities.  This is one of the ways in which the earlier darsana tradition of interpretation and re-interpretation must indeed be furthered, to both suit modern times and make the tradition a living one.  For, the modern man, with all the alienation and anomie that surrounds him (paradoxically while being bombarded by a multitude or cross-cultural influence), in most places is engaged in tracing his roots to some secure foundation, which will help him weather the vicissitudes of destabilization and depersonalization which stare him in the face.  Hence, the rise and importance of metaphilosophy in all cultures.  Asking question about the Indianness of Indian Philosophy is one manifestation of such a global phenomenon.

 

I – 7    To ask this question, therefore, is not to transcend but rather to re-interpret tradition and understand it appropriately.  There is hardly any paradox which needs to be resolved.  The modern Indian philosopher does not really have to live with any such paradox.  And he does not have also to think of “escaping this tragedy”, for there is really no tragedy to escape from.  There is, in fact, a potentiality to be actualized.  All those who are asking these sorts of searching questions about the Indianness of Indian Philosophy – one may suggest that each modern Indian Philosophers must engage some of his energy herein -  are not manifesting any escape from any tragedy, but are in fact taking some very significant steps towards such an actualization.  Part of the proper culmination of this actualization should mean forsaking such negative connotations as rupture, paradoxes and tragedies.

 

 

II

 

II– 1     “…. if Philosophy is the highest and purest form of rational inquiry, is it at all permissible to speak of ‘European rationality’?  Does not an adjective such as ‘European’ impose a limitation which destroys the very sense of ‘rationality’?  If rationality is a universal, not limited by geographical regions, historical epochs, or cultural relativities then Philosophy as the purest form of rational inquiry must be, in its very conception, capable of being a universal pursuit of mankind.  Such a claim of universality is perfectly compatible with a great diversity of international differentiation.  European Philosophy itself is not a homogenous domain, but rather, contains methodological, substantive, and metaphilosophical differences of every imaginable degree.  It is, therefore, possible to speak of an over-arching sense of rationality and so of ‘Philosophy’ which will contain, within it, internal differentiation such as Indian darsana and Greek Philosophia”.8

 

II– 2     The first question we must address here is, if philosophy is the highest form of rational inquiry, can one speak in terms of European rationality, Indian rationality etc.?  Do such adjectives impose a limitation?  And is rationality, which is a universal, not to be limited by geographical-historical-cultural constraints?

 

II– 3     When we speak of Indian Philosophy, European Philosophy etc. we are not differentiating between Indian rationality and European rationality.  We are only describing how this rationality assumes a certain form in a certain geographical-historical-cultural milieu.  That rationality is essentially rationality wherever it manifests is almost a truism.  But that does not take us far because ultimately this rationality is harnessed to certain concerns and is woven into a certain methodological matrix.  These concerns and methods are guided by cultural, historical (and may be even geographical?) needs.  Hence, universal rationality assumes a certain local flavour, because of such influence at different times in different places. Such flavouring does not limit rationality.  Rather it highlights the myriad ways in which such rationality manifests at different places.  Therefore, whilst rational inquiry is a universal pursuit of mankind, such an idea does not negate its diverse manifestations at diverse places, and often at the same place at different times.  It is true to say that, “European Philosophy itself is not a homogenous domain (and) contains Philosophical differences of every imaginable dgree.”9 But, we must remember that such a statement can very well be made about the Indian Philosophical corpus as well.  Any attempt to reduce its vast diversity into a homogenous substratum should only result in failure.  Philosophy being what it is, and Philosophers being what they are, all attempts to classify them without giving sufficient lee-way for individual peculiarities must indeed suffer such a fate.

 

 

 

II– 4     If the rationality is the prime characteristics of philosophy, then surely all that goes on in the name of Philosophy must be subsumed under its over-arching structure.  And it is apt to say that whilst there are, and will remain, internal differentiations between the Indian darsana and the Western philosophia traditions, if one does not lose sight of this over-arching character of rationality, one is hardly likely to do either of these traditions any injustice.  Needless to say, therefore, at any stage, if a philosopher abandons his rationality, or his strand of  “philosophy” tempts or forces him to abandon it, he must be on his guard and label it as unphilosophical.  That need not deny its relevance or its importance, for it may be well suited to other pursuits.  All it means is it is not of philosophical importance.

 

 

III

 

III– 1    Let us continue the discussion further with another quotation that follows the one above. 

 

“……. Greek philosophia is love of wisdom, an eros which by its nature generates ceaseless inquiry and search aiming at wisdom.  Indian darsana is systematic elaboration of truth, or an aspect of it, which has already been grasped; it is not search for truth but exposition of it, intellectual vindication, conceptual fixation, and clarification of what has been received.  In philosophia, the individual thinker, captivate by the love of wisdom, plays the decisive role.  In a darsana, the individual thinker, great or small, plays a subordinate role.  He does not found system but carries its explication forward.  The darsana is a perception of truth, or a possibility of its perception, which antedates any individual thinker or expositor.  Criticism, classificatory-explicative as well as destructive, is either intrasystemic or interasystemic.  Common to both the philosophia tradition and the darsana tradition is critical thinking, thinking which looks for evidence justifying cognitive empirical and rational claims, and elaborates principles of such justification, logic in the one case and the science of the means of true cognition (pramana-sastra) in the other; and which, using the tools thereby made available, reflects on the nature of what is, resulting in ontology in the one case and science of the objects of true cognition (prameya-sastra) in other.”10

 

 

III– 2    If Greek philosophia is “love of wisdom,” “ceaseless inquiry” and “search” to gain wisdom, and Indian darsana is a “systematic elaboration of truth…. which has already been grasped”, it may appear of first reading to mean that ceaseless inquiry and search aiming at wisdom is present in the philosophia tradition and absent in the darsana one while a systematic elaboration of truth already grasped is present in the darsana tradition but absent in the philosophia one.  But such an understanding must fly in the face of evidence available from both these traditions.  Isn’t there ceaseless inquiry and search aiming at wisdom present in all the darsanas?  What are all the arguments and counter arguments of each of the darsanas which continuously inquire into the subtleties and nuances of various cognitive phenomena that they consider important if not a ceaseless search aimed at gaining wisdom?

 

III– 3    And let us look at the philosophia tradition.  Granted that primacy is given here to inquiry and search aiming at wisdom.  But isn’t there also present a “systematic elaboration of a truth, or an aspect of it, which has already been grasped”?  What are concepts like Plato’s “Idea’ or ‘Ideal’ (the later designation), Leibniz’s ‘windowless monads’, Socrates’ concept of arÍte (Insight), Aristotle concept of essence (or intelligible essence, notional essence, or form), entelechy and of God as unmoved mover, Descartes’ Cogito, Kant’s Synthesis of a priori – a posteriori, or, for that matter the epoche principle of the Sceptics and the adiaphora of the Stoics?

 

 

III – 4        It will be clear to any serious researcher that these concepts no doubt are arrived at by their own means of rational inquiry.  But having arrived at them, they become almost like guiding factors which influence and pervade the whole of the philosopher’s thinking thenceforth.  In fact, the major part, if not the whole, of the Philosopher’s thinking is only a systematic elaboration of the truth of some such concept which he has grasped as the essence.  Does this not then become something similar to the darsanika’s drsti which guides his whole thinking after its has influenced him?

 

III – 5       It is not also plausible (we must say plausible, because we have not authentic historical evidence to prove anything either way) that the Indian darsanika, before he arrives at a drsti, must indeed have been involved in a ceaseless inquiry and search for wisdom, which, having been gained, is then systematically elaborated for the benefits of others?  Isn’t the darsanika’s truth which he grasps first and them elaborates, also the result of an inquiring mind, a ceaseless search?  Can it be otherwise, except for those transcendentalists who believe in transmitted knowledge alone?

 

III – 6       The whole problem then narrows down to the fact that both philosophers in the philosophia tradition and darsana tradition were inquiring mind in search of wisdom.  They grasped a certain aspects of this wisdom which they considered the most significant, and utilized such a grasp and concept to elaborate the truth as they visualized it. But this was usually applicable to the great master and the original visualizer of these traditions.  The later day philosophers in both traditions have often been such who, having accepted one or more of such “truths” of the original masters, ceaselessly inquire into its various ramifications, or critically evaluate it to offer fresh insights into what the original masters said, or decide to depart from them and lay down a fresh system based on their own grasp of what the truth should in reality be. Most second and lower order philosophers fall in all but the last category. It is a handful who can really lay claim to the last category (howsoever great their own claims, and their own ambitions), precisely because of the difficulty that they come in time later than the original masters, and the germ of the thoughts they elaborate upon can often traced back to the earlier thinkers by any diligent researcher.11

III – 7       To say that Indian darsana is not a search for truth but an exposition of it or an intellectual vindication or conceptual fixation or clarification of what has been received, is really speaking to accord a very passive role to the whole corpus of inquiry and arguments with which the darsana literature is actually replete. The truth in the form of a drsti having been grasped of course needs to be exposited, vindicated, fixated or clarified. But it is only drsti or the truth, a vision, which is thus grasped, not the whole system of arguments which follows it. And although it is true that the drsti guides the subsequent philosophizing done by a darsanika, it does not mean that both drsti and the arguments that follow it are only “what has been received”. For to say that something has been received is to make the receiver a passive object of someone else’s instrumentality.12


We must understand that in achieving this drsti, the darsanika himself is not a passive receiver. He is also an active instrument who is responsible for his drsti, specially so in the less transcendentally oriented ones. It this be true, then it is necessary to remove the non-active role that the darsanika is supposed to play in our understanding of how he achieves his drsti.  He must receptive, true, but not passive. He must actively carry out all those processes cognitive, physical and practical, which make him suitable to experience such a drsti. 13

 

III – 8       In the philosophia tradition, the individual thinker is supposed to play the decisive role, while in a darsana the individual thinker plays a subordinate role. What do we mean by a subordinate role?  Subordinate to what?  Subordinate to his drsti? One can hardly say that the drsti is such that subordinates individuals to it. The drsti, rather, is such that is guides the individual so that he does not commit the error of less enlightened beings. The drsti is like the torch that an individual has in a dark night on an unlit street. Does the torch subordinate an individual or does it guide him to his proper goal? It is true that the torchbearer must accept the help of the torch and therefore be thankful to it. But that hardly means that his individuality is extinguished or is subordinated to that of the torch.14

 

III – 9       The individual thinker, therefore, does not gain importance here not because he is not important, but because he is intellectually honest enough to accept that his drsti is similar to that of an earlier master’s. In this, there is a lesson for all those who are pre-occupied with the fetish of establishing new systems. But more important for us here it to answer the question: is a new darsana possible in the present and the future? The answer to this must be an unequivocal yes. But, before one gets carried away any further, this possibility can arise only if a darsanika, well versed with the drsti and the anviksiki of all systems present till date, experiences a drsti totally different from any of the earlier masters. And this drsti is followed by a systematic elaboration of thought processes which consistently go along with it. Is this just a possibility? Can one find any modern paradigm? The philosophy of J. Krishnamurti comes close to achieving such a status. One may or may not agree with both his drsti and the arguments that are guided by it, for that is the fate which all darsanas have to face from their opponents. But his thought carries that potential. It will be for its modern day, and future, proponents, and critics, to help actualise it, if at all.

 

III – 10        Finally, to say that “the darsana is a perception of truth, or a possibility of it perception, which antedates any individual thinker or expositor”, could be better understood if one says that the drsti is the perception of truth, not the darsana, which antedates the anviksiki that the individual thinker or expositor propounds. The darsana is a composite of drsti and anviksiki.15  The drsti must antedate the anviksiki. How can the anviksiki antedate the thinker? For the atviksiki must be articulated by and through the thinker and expositor. This point must be clarified to remove the common misconception that the idea of a darsana produces in the mind of both the uninitiated and the ones who should be better informed. It is not the whole of any darsana which comes in a fully revealed form to any darsanika. It is only the drsti which is of that nature, whilst the rest of the arguments that the same thinker gives, or the other thinkers who follow him give, are of the nature of typical critical rational thinking which would qualify to be called philosophy, and academic philosophy, anywhere in the world. And nothing antedates any individual thinker or expositor. Even the drsti does not antedate the thinker or expositor. It antedates his expository thinking, which is as it should be, for it is his drsti which must guide his thinking and exposition.

 

III – 11     If we may now come back to our earlier concern. What shall we then do to our earlier dichotomy, between the philosophia and the darsana traditions mentioned in the quotation given at the beginning of this section? Closer examination reveals that the distinctions are not that clear cut as they earlier appeared to be, which only forces us to reiterate the truism, that philosophy is philosophy, whether in the East or in the West.16

III – 12     The last question, whether anything new will ever be possible in Indian philosophy must now be answered. If by new we mean that which rejects everything of the old and presents a totally different picture (this can be the secret wish and ambition of at least some philosophers), let it be amply clear that what is involved in new is more an attitude. The new thinker first of all does not accept just because something is old. But he also does not reject it just because it is of the old. What he rather does is keep an open mind and allow for various legitimate inputs to work on his mind and offer him solutions relevant to his times. In searching for such solutions that something is old is neither a merit nor a hindrance. The important thing is whether it is a solution or not. The Vedic thinkers in their times were modern. The Upanisadic thinkers, Gautama the Buddha etc., were modern in their times. The Sutra-Karas, the Tikakaras etc. were modern in their times. They cannot be modern in our times. We have to be modern in our times. But this modernity does not mean rejecting them wholesale, or even being preoccupied with them. It only means living in our times, with our concerns, with our problems, and keeping our mind open for solutions both from the past and from the contemporary present. The past cannot be lived in, but it can offer certain pointers. And such pointers can be grasped today only if we remove the blinkers both of orthodoxy and modernity. Then Indian philosophy will be new, harmoniously blending within itself that of the old which can survive in today’s times and also blending with many other concepts coming from different traditions in other geographical areas, old and new. It is very much like the human being. A young man cannot live like a child. But he cannot also forget that he was once a child. And that his childhood has contributed in no mean measure to what he is as an adult today. And his adulthood, if lived well, should harmoniously blend with a ripe middle age.

 

III – 13         Modern Indian philosophy is in its infancy. Its pedigree is excellent, but it needs proper nurturing so that its youth is as resplendent as that of its forefather’s. It’s a question of how many able brains are ready to shoulder such a formidable but exciting task.


CONCLUSION


Permit me to briefly summarize here the salient points of this paper:

 

1)          Asking questions about the Indianness of Indian Philosophy represent the contemporary Indian Philosophers’ earnest attempts to establish authentic
linkages with the Classical tradition. Rather than causing a rupture, it attempts to remedy a certain rupture caused no doubt due to historical and socio-political reasons.

 

II)          Whilst it is untenable to talk of ‘European rationality’ or ‘Indian rationality’, it is perfectly legitimate to talk of ‘European Philosophy’ and ‘Indian Philosophy’. Although rationality is a universal, this does not take us far unless this rationality is harnessed to certain concerns and woven into a certain methodological matrix. Hence, universal rationality must assume a local flavour which we may call the tradition, and philosophy, of that place. But the over-arch must continue to remain rationality, both in the darsana and the philosophia traditions. Which means if rationality has to be abandoned, it cannot remain philosophy, although it may continue to remain very important for man.

 

III)          The Indian darsana tradition also involves a ceaseless enquiry and search aiming at gaining wisdom, just as the philosophia tradition also involves systematic elaboration of a truth, or one aspect of it, which has already been grasped. And vice versa. The darsana thinker does not pay a subordinate role. He is receptive, true, but not passive. This means although he may carry forward the explication of a tradition, he is not averse to a fresh drsti which may help found a new system. Moreover, the darsana does not antedate a thinker. The drsti and anviksiki (which go to compose a darsana) of a predecessor antedate that of a successor. But the latter’s drsti and anviksiki are integral to the thought movement in a darsana. The differences, if any, that one finds in the approaches in the darsana and the philosophia traditions have more to do with the different developmental stages in which the traditions exist as at present. The philosophia tradition has passed from the stage of systematic elaboration to the stage of ceaseless enquiry. The darsana tradition has still to traverse this path.

 

IV)          To the question whether a new darsana is possible now or in the future, the answer has to be an unequivocal yes. This is possible if a darsanika, well versed with the drsti and anviksiki of all systems present till date, experiences a dristi (that is a vision which is an intuitive grasp of the nature of ultimate reality, which later becomes almost axiomatic for that particular thinker/system) totally different from that of the earlier master/s. This is then followed by a systematic elaboration of thought process (anviksiki) which consistently goes along with it. What is involved is more an attitude, an open mind which allows for various legitimate inputs to work on and offer solutions relevant to his times.  In this the old is neither a merit nor a hindrance, as is the input from other traditions, whether of the East or the West. The essential criterion is whether it is a well-systematized and totally new solution or not. For this one must remove the blinkers both of orthodoxy and of modernity.

 

 

REFERENCES AND NOTES

1)      Jitendra Nath Mohanty, ‘Indian Philosophy’ Between Tradition and Modernity’, in
Reason and Tradition in Indian Thought An Essay on the Nature of Indian
Philosophical Thinking, 1992, p7, Clarendon Press, Oxford. The word ‘Indian’ not in
italics in the original, but in inverted commas.

2)      While it is true that by asking such questions we are categorizing the traditional corpus, it is hardly proper to consider that such a categorization involves a rupture. In fact, as we saw earlier, it involves precisely the opposite. It involves remedying a rupture, the other, socio-political one, caused because of foreign rule.

3)      Hence, even to the point of sounding repetitive, let it be reiterated that to ask questions about the Indianness of Indian philosophy need not involve a rupture at all. A rupture signifies not just a break. It signifies rather a violent breaking away from a certain entity. Asking questions about the Indiannness of Indian philosophy do not at all involve a violent breaking away from Indian philosophy. They are rather a manifestation of the modern Indian philosopher’s intense desire to establish linkage with it.

4)      Or ‘thematize’, which was the concept the author mentions in an earlier version of the same article published ten years back, in 1982, and it is worth reflecting how in ten years the author moved from thematization to categorisation- a movement the author himself must seriously consider as an item for self-reflection, see J.N. Mohanty, ‘Indian Philosophy: Between Tradition and Modernity, ‘In, Indian Philosophy: Fast And Future by S.S. Rama Rao Pappu and R. Puligandla (eds), 1982, P.233, Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi.

5)       Or, thematize.

6)      Cfr. (1) above p-7.

7)      And because the tradition earlier did not do so, not only does this add to its richness, it also reflects on the poverty of the tradition as it earlier existed. This means that we pass a judgement on earlier authors and say that the very fact that they did not ask such a question, and did not feel the need to ask it, implies somewhere a deficiency which we, by our present day enterprise, are helping remedy. Now, this need hardly be the case, or it can be, if looked at from a certain angle. One can always say that in philosophy, if self-reflection on the nature of philosophizing and its characteristics is not done, in a way it means one has left a deficit. But such gaps or deficits are understandable in those who were not faced with the problems that the modern Indian philosophers are facing. A person who is secure does not have to prove his identity - he just goes ahead and performs his action. It is the insecure who must prove and reprove his identity till he feels it is sufficiently established and becomes a launching pad for subsequent action. While the former example is applicable to the Classical Indian philosophers, the modern Indian philosophers are best exemplified by the latter.

8)      Cfr. (1) above, p-7.

9)       Ibid, p-7-8.

10)    Ibid, p 8.

11)     It must be obvious, therefore, that there is great similarity between the first order thinkers and originators both in the philosophia and the darsana traditions. And there is a great dealing of similarity between the later order thinkers both in the philosophia and darsana traditions. What tends to happen is we compare the first order thinkers of the darsana tradition with the later order thinkers of the philosophia tradition. Hence, we may make statements wherein darsana is said to proceed from a drsti while philosophia is said to proceed to a drsti. For all thinkers of any merit, there has to be thinking which proceeds to a drsti (and in thinking we include all modes of thought, rational inquiry, intuition, meditation etc.) - which they may or may not elaborate upon (the darsanika may not, a philosophia philosopher does). But it has to be inevitably present. The drsti having been achieved, it tends to guide subsequent philosophizing until replaced by another drsti of the same or another philosopher. Such a movement of thought can be seen more commonly in the philosophia tradition. But it would not be difficult to find examples of the same even in the darsana tradition. For where each sub-group from amongst the various darsanas themselves depart from each other is ultimately related to the drsti of its founder, Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva are Vedantins but it is their dristi which makes them fall into the different sub-groups. The Hinayana, the Mahayana and their sub-divisions are all Buddhists. But it is the drsti of the originators of these sub-systems which makes them project different thought systems (of course this drsti is of the nature of insight or grasp of the truth of what Buddha meant, and therefore is a second-level drsti).

It is also necessary here to demystify the whole concept of drsti. Whilst the deep spiritual insight gained by sravana, manana and nididhyasana of the Upanisadic precepters is definitely one of the important methods of gaining drsti, that is so only for darsanas which are predominately transcendentally oriented. For, here, drsti is transcendental vision or sight. But if Carvaka is also to be considered a darsana, where is their transcendental vision? So, it is not its transcendental nature that is the essential criterion for something to be called a drsti. Its essential quality is that of being a vision which is more an intuitive grasp of the nature of ultimate reality, which is almost axiomatic for that particular thinker or system. Now, somebody may raise an objection here. How can intuitive grasp be considered valid for the Carvaka system, for they don’t consider intuition as a valid means of gaining knowledge? The answer is that the very fact that somebody who has not perceived the ultimate nature of reality talks of it as being of a certain type cannot so speak except by utilizing intuition or some related method of thought. For whom is it possible to sensually perceive the ultimate nature of things or entities ? For whom is it possible to say that such an ultimate reality is matter and matter alone, unless he has perceived the ultimate’s reality? And which scientist of today, who has no doubt made great advancement in the study of matter can put his feet down (without putting it into his mouth) and say that he has really understood the ultimate nature of matter? After all the centuries of methodical research if such an answer cannot be given, how could the Carvakas manage to make this their truth except for the fact that they considered it to be intuitively so, which in their time was difficult to disprove and in course of time would, hopefully, get systematically proved.

A drsti properly put, therefore, is more a deep insight into the ultimate nature of the diverse appearing phenomena observed by man. It always involves either a mystic vision, like a revelation for the transcendental philosophies, or an intuitive leap for the non-transcendental ones. This leap must be taken otherwise a vision cannot be achieved. This leap is difficult to quantify and equally difficult to analyse. But it is the product of a continuously searching mind which, while observing phenomena, wishes to get to the heart of the matter, right to the core of the concepts it studies; and wishes for some concept or formula which suddenly re-arranges all the earlier diverse looking entities into some sort of harmony. The suddenness is important only in so far as it stresses the way in which such an evident manifests on deeper analysis. It should be possible to see how this intuitive grasp of the truth is really speaking the ultimate stretching of the cognitive mental set that has characterised the individual. It is this mental stretching which brings it about and also accounts for the leap that the drsti takes. Now, such a stretch or leap is dependent on the ability of the individual philosopher. Some takes smaller leaps than others; therefore both their drsti and darsana so based are of that level. Others, whose scope is greater, take a much bigger leap which makes their drsti that much the more profound. But for none of these can ever an empirically verifiable proof be found before the drsti is manifest. The drsti in its thinking aspect must involve a rational speculation. The more rational it is, the more philosophical it will be. But the more speculative it is, the more profound it will be. Therefore, one would find that the more profound philosophers indulge in greater amount of rational speculation. It is for the later day philosophers, and scientists, to verify the truth claims of these speculations, and fmd out whether they are pure flights of phantasy or based on firmer grounds. In this, if the philosophy itself is being put to test, no doubt also being put to test is the level of sophistication of the tools of its appraisers.

12)   And this is precisely the reason why the more transcendentally oriented amongst the classical Indian philosophies brought in the active agent of some transcendental variety which revealed itself to the darsanika and therefore became a beacon light which guided and often pervaded the whole of his subsequent philosophizing.

13)   It is his humble and reverential attitude, more than anything else, which makes him say that he only explicates and elaborates what he has achieved as a drsti. This must be clearly grasped, for it has implications for the modem man who wishes to forward the darsana tradition. He must quit being passive and must be actively receptive to a fresh drsti, if there can be one, having created the proper conditions for its reception, so that his drsti results in a darsana well suited to modem times. This is not as impossible as it may seem, both to orthodoxy and to anviksikins. For this, it is essential to place in proper perspective the role of the individual thinker.

14)    Again, to say that the individual thinker “…does not found the system but carries the explication forward’, only means that each individual thinker is not pre-occupied with founding a new system but rather understands that in interpreting and explicating what the earlier master has already done, he is helping in forwarding the system no less. For, to found a system does not necessary mean to start a new one. For that one must say to found a new system. A system is not something which exists before the work that goes into it. It is a product of that work, a result of and convenient way of labeling a certain homogeneous appearing corpus of conceptual issues. Its goals, therefore, are as much philosophical as social, and political, for it involves the convenience of grouping philosophies and philosophers into identifiable slots. And in so far as a system goes on’ attracting newer proponents, it continuously goes on founding itself.

Now, this can hardly be the motivating factor in a person who is guided by a drsti. His motivation, if at all, is solely a manifestation of the myriad ways in which his drsti can possibly guide him, and mankind in general, including its cognitive, practical and spiritual ways. That such a guidance and such an activity may attract followers and therefore found a system is not necessary for a drsti, although this need not negate its occurrence (that is, the founding of a system into a darsana), if and when it does. In fact, systematizing, if any, is incidental to the elaboration of a darsana. Although the original drsti may not so claim, if and when followers join in and study his work, they do consider him to be the founder of the system that they elaborate upon. Which is as it should be, because if one accepts the authority of the drsti of the original darsanika, it stands to reason that one must harness one’s critical philosophical abilities to the exposition of its ramifications. How can a follower avoid doing this? It is possible for him to avoid it only if his own drsti conflicts with that of the original master’s. Then he must indeed depart, and this is precisely how the different darsanas were originally founded in the first instance. But if his drsti only corroborates the drsti of the original masters, it is his duty both to accept the master’s views and to defend it against its opponents, as well as clarify it to those who do not understand it, or misunderstand it. And this is exactly how the different darsanas moved during the sutra-period.

15)   If not the rest of the entities which Kautilya and Vatsyayana talk of as belonging to the four sciences i.e. trayi (Vedic scriptures), vartta (agriculture and commerce), dandaniti (politics and law) and anviksiki (philosophy).

16)   Even if this be true, it must be clear to any astute observer that in all such comparative statements, a common method is often seen (which could be considered erroneous from a certain point of view). An Indian researcher may compare and contrast ancient or Classical Indian thought with comparatively more recent Western thought. Probably this is to make the ancient Indian thought contemporaneously relevant. Would it not be more proper if Classical Indian and Classical Western thought are compared, and modern Indian and modern Western thought similarly? While most would agree that the first is important, and would cite any number of examples to show that this indeed is being done, the problem arises while answering the second question. How does one compare modern Indian thought with modem Western thought is the crux of the problem. For, while modern Western thought has continued to remain in touch with a living tradition of philosophizing with hardly a break of any significant degree, the Indian is not so comfortably placed. He has had to renew his linkages with a past which was in some sort of cold storage for centuries because of alien rule. The attempts at renaissance during the last century have been more to stress and reiterate the linkages with the once vibrant Classical tradition. We are still in the process of establishing these links. For various reasons, and the structure of our polity being one of them, ancient and Classical thought before the Moghul invasion never become a predominant instrument of study by a large number of dedicated and dynamic minds. It rather remained closeted in few traditional gurukulas and some centers of modern learning sympathetic to their cause. Therefore, modern Indian philosophy is still struggling to revive a dormant but potentially vibrant Indian tradition. Since it is non-vibrant today, it harps back to the days of yore, when the socio-cultured milieu was amenable to its growth. This is much like the mediocre son who harps on the greatness of one of his ancestors. Therefore, what the modern Indian does is he compares the modern Western with the Classical Indian feeling thereby that he would be able to present the Indian image in a much better light.

Both such an attitude and approach need to be forsaken. For, ancestors are ancestors, and neither can the ancestors live today nor can we live in their times. And the ancestors cannot live our lives for us. But they are our ancestors. We need not give them up as ancestors. For, they may have very many significant things to say. But they couldn’t have said everything for us. They cannot offer readymade, pre-cooked solutions for the modern Indian philosopher. He must search for his own answers, but he must first establish a living continuity with his tradition. He must not despair of the effort involved, by either giving it up or accepting everything of the old in toto. For both are manifestations of such despair and impatience. He must rather persevere with a critical sifting which must proceed after a comprehensive study of the Classical texts. And aim for modern paradigms suited both for man in general and India in particular.


            Does it means that Indian Philosophy will always be wedded to the past? That, it is our tradition which will continuously influence and manifest itself? That nothing new will ever be possible in Indian philosophy? We are linked to the past, not wedded to it. This linkage, howsoever much one wishes to, cannot be denied. Such a linkage, if it can be health giving, need not be repugnant to our modernist sensibilities. (And to be wedded, if taken in its positive connotation, also stresses this aspect of the linkage - why should a wedding always be considered an inconvenience?)

It is not tradition which manifests itself. It is we who manifest ourselves, and so manifesting, further, or depart from, some tradition. That tradition influences us is true.  And it is our task to see that it does not influence us negatively, which means it does not hamper rational inquiry and does not make us immune to our drawbacks. But it also means that we accept that which is robust in it and relevant to our times as well, and contemporize it. This is what a living tradition does and, in so doing, it is philosophy that lives. It is improper to mythify and personify tradition. For what is tradition after all except for a mass of work done by philosophers in a certain geographical area? It is hence the product (philosophy) and the producers (philosophers) who play the roles, and tradition is the by-product. If this is realised, the philosopher will understand both the importance of the work he has to do and stop clutching at non-existing props in the tradition.

 

20/9/2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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