Indian Philosophy-A synoptic View-II

Prof. M.L. Koul

April 2011

A way of thinking which enables one rationally to understand the reality experiened by self-fulfilled personalities, and thereby to lead one to realisation of truth. In this light, philosophy is seen as art of life and not a theory a bout the universe”.

Despite such views and evaluations of Indian philosophy, it can be safely put that Indians have woven philosophical systems that are thoroughly coherent, compact and systematic. They have devised certain physical and mental constructs and also devised concomitant tools to test and verify their validity. If the constructs whether physical or mental are coherently  built step by step with a view to erect the edifice, it is not fair to say that Indian philosophy is lacking in logic. The Buddhist philosophy in its broad contours is highly logical. It has set up certain categories which it elucidates and estabalishes by attempting to furnish proofs with a view to prove their validity. Sankhya philosophy sets up two categories of Purusa and Prakriti and elucidates and explains them by furnishing and marshalling sound proofs. The inner logic underpinning the Sankhya system leads it to the stand ponit of pure dualism even if the predominance of Purusa as the ultimate reality is maintained. The Vaishesika system in its essentials is  realistic pluralism and has given a scientific analysis of the ‘catalogue of categories’ that it has drawn to establish its fabric. Nyaya as a system is known as taraksastra or science of logic. It gives a logical discussion and elucidation of the problems of perception, inference, comparison and causation. All the systems of Indian philosophy by and large have a spirit of logic running through them and that is why they are not perpetually teetering on the verge of collapse. Each system appears to be a monolith with least visible cracks in it.

It is not out of place to put that the dominance of over-intellectualism and reason in philosophy was challenged by and was not acceptble to the thinkers who in philosophical paralance are called existentialists. Reason, according to them, puts fetters on the understanding of an existing and living individual, who in the classical philosophy of the west, was lost in corrosive and uprooting universalism and homogenising abstractions and generalisations. Most of the existentialists began as Hegelians but finally ended by denouncing Hegal and his philosophical postulates. Fichte, Joseph schelling and Hegel despite differences in their systems objectified thought as reality and equated it with being. Existentialists protested against any attempt to objectify thought and made a willing, striving, suffering and above all existing individual the focal point of their philosophy. The upanishadic seers had put emphasis on and at the same time signalled the importance of self-knowledge (Aatmanam Vidhihi as the supreme wisdom and the same thread of thought is found oft-recurring almost in every sphere of Indian philosophy and religious thought. The entire line of Indian thinking though distanced by mighty time-spaces is in quest, has raised and discussed all vital issues of human existence and human  condition. The individual as such is not ignored; instead is made deeply conscious of his essential and inevitable destiny. The Indian existentialism generates from a consideration of life vis-a-vis its ultimate destiny. It also asserts its essential stand point by not accepting the divorce and dichotomy between ‘theory and practice,’ doctrine and life, truth and its practical realisataion. With the emphatic assertion of the supremacy of human mind or self, the Indian thinking raises a protest against votaries of reason, who altogether overlook the fact that human mind has the potentia of soaring to lofty heights of consciousness if and when it is properly initiated and put to the rigour of discipline where reason ceases to have any importance and actually proves a fetter or restraint. In fact, heightening of human consciousness after crossing beyond the trammels and limitations of body and the world is the leit motif of Indian philosophy. Reality as such is not only to be explained and expounded theoretically but it is to be realised and appropriated by heightening the level of consciousness to the point where it has a full and intense feeling of identity with the reality as the only ultimate truth.

The fact has to be recognised that Indian philosophy has its peculiar manner of handling and dilating upon the essential problems of human existence and world. It is unfair to evaluate it by the tools of Fitchte, Kant and Hegel tradition or Erdman, uberweg academical tradition. The reality is that Indian thinking has raised the question of ‘Atman’ according to its own angle of vision’. ‘In the words of Max Muller’, puts Hiriyana, ‘philosophy was recommended in India not for the sake of knowledge, but for the highest purpose that man can strive in this life’. Darshan while discarding the key-hole vision of man presents an uplifted vision of him. It does not only rivet man’s attention on the perceptible world outside him but also acquaints him with and develops in him an awareness of his own mental and spiritual nature by transcending the methods of physics. Darshan, to the Indian mind, is not only a matter of weaving a web of theories and structuring systems, but, more than most, it is essentially a spirit or method of fathoming and experientially realising the inmost depths of one’s own being.

Indian philosophy is not all spiritual. It embraces a broad but chequered history of materialism within its ambit. No evaluation of Indian thinking can afford ignore Lokayat system in ‘a catalogue of the philsophic forces of India’. Lokayat as a system of thinking simply afirms that all is matter. It in direct contrast to spiritualism denies the primacy of spirit over matter. Lokayat is bold and fearless in total rejection of Vedic authority and belief in theism and attaches the greatest importance to the world of senses which was the greatest casualty at the hands of idealists and spiritualists. The principal character of Lokyat system was ‘practical, rather than metaphysical’, teaching utilitariansm and crude materialism in an outspoken way. Being atheists in their approach and premis,

Lokayat thinkers have been contemptuously rejected, but as thinkers, they invested their thinking to denounce theories invested with spiritual aura and grandeur. Lokayat, infine, has raised questions and framed opinions of real import and value.  It understands the world from a different angle of vision and furrows a new path by raising new issues and putting them on the pedestal of common sense realism. The statement that ‘philosophy in India is essentially spiritual’ is belied by Lokayat.

Rigveda-as the first written record of mankind is the repertoire of philosophical ideas. It is not a book, but a compilation of books. It records and provides an insight into that hoary past of India of which scanty notices are available. The Rigvedic seers reflect a thinking that in its essentials centres round “religion, myth and mystery”. Most of the hymns of the Rigveda contain germs of thought, hints at guesses of truth and flashes of insights into supreme being. In the hymns questions of perennial significance are raised, but not answered. Ideas as espoused by the Rigveda are not regular and consistent, yet they reveal and reflect a mind that is vivacious, this worldly and down to earth. Observes Swami Ranga Nath Nanda, “In the Rigveda, we are already face to face with the emergence of the life of the mind, the life of thought, not merely in the field of literature, but also in the field of bold philosophical speculation’.