The Philosophical Traditions of India

The Philosophical Traditions of India

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Book Specification

Item Code: NAC626
Author: R.T. Raju
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788120809833
Pages: 256
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8 Inch X 5.8 Inch
Weight 460 gm

Book Description

From the Jacket

One of the most readable and lucid introductions yet written, Dr. Raju’s new book is designed for the student or layman with little or no knowledge of Indian philosophy.

Dr. Raju explains the basic forms and the conceptual framework of Indian philosophy in simple language, gradually guiding the reader towards the more complicated or difficult concepts. He gives due weight to logic and metaphysics and refrains from the temptation of indiscriminately reading. Western doctrines into Oriental wisdom, yet draws astute comparisons with Western philosophy where justified. Both oversimplification and unnecessary complexity are avoided. No acquaintance with Sanskrit is assumed on the part of the reader and Sanskrit terms (which are given in brackets wherever useful) are kept to the minimum in the main text. New translations of many terms have been adopted in the light of the latest studies and research, and a full glossary and index have been provided for ease of reference.

P.T. Raju, a Professor of Philosophy and Indian Studies at the College of Wooster, Ohio, had taught Indian philosophy for over forty years and had taken pains to make this book useful for Western students, since so many introductions to Indian philosophy have proved too abstruse for Western students to use easily.


The author of the present work has a background of nearly forty years of teaching Indian philosophy to Indian students and of nearly twenty years of teaching Western students. The book attempts to overcome many of the difficulties which Western students encounter in studying Indian philosophy and also to remove many misunderstandings about it, such as that it is all pure mysticism without logic, that it is based upon some supernatural intuition, that it is only or mainly the philosophy of the worship of Sakti or Mother Goddess in the form of sexual energy, and that it has no academic side. The book tries to convey — within the scope of an elementary work which it is — that Indian philosophy has as intricate and complex metaphysical and epistemological theories as many others and that in fact these disciplines — epistemology and metaphysics — are an essential and necessary part of Indian philosophy, as they ought to be of any philosophy that claims to be a philosophy of life. And this claim of philosophy ought constantly to be kept before our minds. For if philosophy gives tip the task of being a philosophy of life, there is no other subject to undertake the task. Hegel’s view that a culture without philosophy — by which he means metaphysics — is like a temple without the holy of the holies applies well to Indian philosophy, which is the holy of the holies of India’s culture and way of life. We may also remember Santayana’s observation that there were only two metaphysical nations, the Greeks and the Indians. Metaphysics with all that it implies, particularly logic and epistemology, was a gift of nature to the Greeks and the Indians and points to the holy of the holies, however defined or described.

It is hoped that the book will be useful also as a basis for students and teachers of comparative philosophy, although it is meant mainly for beginners in Indian philosophy. However, Indian philosophy is studied in the West for mutual understanding and for purposes of comparison. Without implies it or explicit comparison, Western students cannot understand Indian thought. This book, it is hoped, can avoid the necessity of relying on prejudiced and one-sided presentations of Indian thought for comparisons. Comparisons based upon some superficial and apparent aspects of philosophies can only have superficial results — not to speak of prejudiced and cavalier presentations — if they do not grasp the conceptual frameworks of the systems. So the presentation of philosophies in this book gives importance to conceptual frameworks, albeit in an elementary way. Even those readers who are not interested in comparative philosophy should know the conceptual frameworks of the schools and systems and should not be content merely with oversimplifications and one- sided generalizations. Experience shows that, when Sanskrit technical terms are not adequately or are wrongly explained, enthusiastic Western students tend to jump to hasty conclusions and even wrong identifications with Western concepts.


However, the confluence of several global currents — religious, social, political, and economic — both violent and peaceful, has turned our age into one of earnestness for mutual understanding. This necessitates presenting Indian philosophy to Indian and Western students in mutually understandable terms. It is also being recognized, though slowly, that we have to be self-critical as well as being critical of others. It is said by many great philosophers that the gap between Eastern and Western philosophies has to be bridged. But one hears also that Indian philosophies are mere religious doctrines and have little or nothing to contribute to metaphysics, ethics, logic and so forth. It is heard, furthermore, that every Indian philosopher contradicts whatever is said about Indian philosophy, thereby creating an impossible situation in research and evaluation. Such reaction to Indian philosophers is often due to lack of right acquaintance with Indian philosophies, which cannot be classified under any single concept except that of ‘philosophies of life’. But philosophies of life can be many and no single metaphysical term can cover all. And evaluation has to be not in terms of any Western philosophy as the standard, but in terms of experience, truth, and reality. To classify Indian philosophies as religious can be, though not necessarily, as misleading as to classify them under a single epistemological or metaphysical term. Religion for the Indians is not a revealed religion like Islam or Christianity; and if either of the two is taken as the standard, then Indian religion has to be pronounced defective. But in fact, neither should treat the other as the standard. We have on our hands, then, the question; what is the standard? Self-reflection, as a result, becomes necessary as reflection on the other. One may safely say that classical Indian philosophy is a handmaid to religion that is not understood as revealed, but as a religion of intuition and reflection on life and Being, on man’s inwardness and outwardness. To teach it as some doctrinal theology can again be misleading; for theology in the West originated in a particular revelation and its dogmatics, and so distinctions are drawn among revealed theology, natural theology, philosophical theology, and philosophy of religion. But no such distinctions apply to Indian religious thought. One may say that, in the West, Greek philosophy is a direct handmaid to life, medieval philosophy to theology, and much of contemporary philosophy to science. And it is the latter trend of contemporary philosophy that has more or less forgotten about its roots in human life and existence, with the consequent protest of existence philosophies which tend to discard reason and science. The tension between philosophy and religion, religion and science, and science and philosophy has become characteristic of the West, which cannot be applied to Indian thought. During the author’s student days, he heard it often asked by some professors: If metaphysics is not meant to show the ultimate truth which we have to become, what else is it meant for and what can be its purpose? One Sanskrit pundit, whose knowledge of English was little or nothing, asked the author: ‘Is philosophy needed to tell me that the book I am holding is real? Do I not know it without philosophy?’ He meant that philosophy is needed to tell us the implications of our life; the elucidation of the implications is metaphysics, and the realization of them in our life is religion. As metaphysics and religion are understood thus by the Indian thinkers, they never felt any tension between philosophy and religion, and philosophy and science. The elucidation of the implications of our existence is found in both science and philosophy and covers the whole field of thought’s endeavour.

Whatever be the reason, Indian philosophy had a more complex and profound development than the Chinese, is older than the Western, and can compare favourably with the Western in many aspects up to about the time of the. European Renaissance. As much patience, perseverance, and humility are needed to study and understand Indian philosophy as for studying and understanding Western philosophy. The advantages of a profound study of Indian thought can be as great for the Western philosopher as those of a profound understanding of Western thought for the Indian, provided neither adapts the dilemma, attributed to the Sultan of Baghdad, before burning the Alexandrian library: If the library says what the Koran says, it is unnecessary; if it says what the Koran does not say, it is false.


‘There is hardly any height of spiritual insight or rational philosophy attained in the world’, wrote Radhakrishnan with a dissatisfaction with some western attitudes to Indian thought, ‘that has not its parallel in the vast stretch that lies between the early Vedic seers and the modern Naiyayikas.” A suppressed reaction to this statement is that it makes too vast a claim. But Radhakrishnan does not mean that Indian philosophy contains the formal logic of Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica, but only that all the possible traditions of thought, which the thinking man’s life generates, can be found in Indian thought and that no cavalier over-simplification is true of it. And each of these traditions had a systematic and elaborate development from about the fourth century B C, to about the fifteenth or sixteenth century AD. Nearly two thousand years of systematizing and development — if we omit the early Vedic period — of philosophical ideas by a variety of philosophers cannot properly be characterized by a single term.

Philosophical traditions are continuations of the drives of formative thought generated by human life, and of its problems and questionings — perspectives or strands of the Platonic Eros — even if in contemporary times thought tends to forget its roots in human life and to forfeit its original claim to being a guide to life. To speak of traditions is not the same as to speak of traditionalism. The difference between the traditions of the traditionalists and philosophical traditions lies in the latter being avowedly self-reflective. Otherwise, even thorough-going logicalism will have to be called a type of traditionalism. Many thought- forms and their impulses are rooted in our life, and aim at throwing light on the different aspects of life. Sometimes they overlap and become confused. To remove the confusions, thought generates forms of self-reflection and creates traditions of methodology, epistemology, and logic like the Nyaya in India. These methodological traditions overlap other traditions, penetrate of necessity the metaphysical and ethical traditions, and create new problems; then philosophical thought may be pushed farther and farther from its origins. When the forms of philosophical thought do not lose contact with their origins and retain the consciousness of the originative forces that have been driving them on, thinkers in India speak of them as traditions (Sampradayas), and often as schools also.

The development of these perspectives of thought in time constitutes history of philosophy. Does Indian philosophy have a history? Both an affirmative and a negative answer seem to be possible. As Indian philosophy has stuck to the idea of traditions and as almost all Indian philosophers claim that they are developing an original tradition, it can be said that India has had no history of philosophy. But one German indologist, Dr Paul Hacker, said to the author that the Indians had been unfair to themselves in thinking that they had had no history of philosophy; for although they had only traditions, these were developed stage by stage in history — schools generating sub-schools — through self-criticism and mutual criticism; so, it could be said, there had been a historical development in time. In support of Hacker one may say that if Christianity has a history, then Indian philosophy has one. But a book showing this history has yet to be written. S. N. Dasputa calls his book History of Indian Philosophy; but it follows the usual pattern of presentation and is not divided into historical periods. The present work, being very elementary, follows the usual pattern, but in its own way.

The aim of the new arrangement of the chapters is first to remove the misunderstanding that India has no philosophy of action and second to show the relevance of the main traditions to one another. Whitehead said that Western philosophy is a series of footnotes of Plato. We may add that all post-Kantian philosophy up to the present is a series of footnotes to Kant. Similarly, Indian philosophy can be considered to be a series of footnotes to the Upaniads. That the different traditions are series of footnotes to some philosopher or his work may be acknowledged, unacknowledged, or even denied by some followers of the traditions. Some philosophers, for instance, may only elaborate a point of Plato or Kant, or may make it a new point of view and develop a whole philosophy out of it, or may criticize and reject it and in opposition develop a rival philosophy. Generally when this rival philosophy can have no standing except as an antidote or complementary to the first considered as a philosophy of the whole life, then such development can be treated as an indirect footnote to the original. However, ultimately all are footnotes to life and reason in different perspectives and become traditions to the overall observer. When this primary and basic nature of philosophies is recognized, unity of understanding and mutual understanding become possible. After all, all philosophies, Eastern and Western, are footnotes to the living Logos in its different aspects and dimensions.

Classical Indian philosophies may be characterized as philosophies of life. They form different traditions, representing different aspects and constituents of human nature, which form the many philosophical perspectives. The traditions are the articulations, direct or indirect, of man and the world in the different perspectives or from different points of view. They are needed for a complete understanding of man and his world or rather man in the world, and the deep underlying unity holding the two in its grip is the Logos in its philosophical meaning. Philosophy is meant — Kant said the same long ago — to understand what one is, what one can and ought to become in this world, how one can become it, and what the nature of the world is in which one has one’s being and can attain the ideal of life. It is necessary to understand both oneself and the reality in which one has one’s being; for one has to know whether the nature of oneself and of reality allow the achievement of the ideal. To these questions several answers are possible from the many standpoints. These questions and answers, and their implications determine the nature of the traditions of thought which human life has generated in its history of self-reflection.

If something is to be achieved, man in general thinks that it can be achieved only through action, i.e. by working for it. But action implies a pluralistic universe, the nature of which is to be explained in terms of action and in the philosophy for which action becomes the supreme principle. Such a philosophy is the Mimamsa. To understand reality, thought has to work methodically and logically without turning imagination and hopes into methods. Logic implies also a plurality; for if all is one, there is no need of thinking. The philosophy in which logic and methodology play the primary role belongs to the Nyaya; and the main defense of pluralism belongs to the philosophy of the Vaisesika. In the basic works of these two schools, logic and method are the main concern of the Nyaya and the defence of pluralism that of the Vaisesika. The philosophy of action of the Mimamsa is also pluralistic; but its main purpose is the explanation of right action. Next, understanding oneself can be understanding oneself as apart from that which is not one’s self and which can be regarded as one whole massive object. This understanding leads to a kind of qualitative dualism, winch we find in the Sankhya and the Yoga. But thought does not stop here. It asks: If the world, the alien object, is an other to oneself, how can one be sure that it permits the realization of one’s ideals? Are the ideals empty hopes and longings or are they realizable? They can be realized only if there is a unity underlying oneself and the world. Man has to search for it. The philosophies of such unities are the Vedanta and later Buddhism. Early Buddhism and Jainism are somewhat similar to the Nyaya, the Vaisesika and the Mimamsa in their conceptions of the world except for some differences of detail. And both Buddhism and Jainism rejected the Vedas as scriptural authorities. The Carvaka system worked out its philosophy in opposition to scriptural authority and to every form of other-worldliness. It also is a significant and possible philosophical tradition, the significance of which can be seen in periods when the other-worldliness of an outlook reaches extremes, develops excesses, and man wastes his energies for other-worldly fancies and ignores this life and existence.

We may so understand these traditions, so far as they were formed in India: For life there has to be a tradition of action and of its metaphysical implications; that is the Mimamsa tradition. Then there has to be a tradition of the forms and methods of understanding and of their implications: such a tradition is that of the Nyaya, and the Vai4eika. Next, there has to be a tradition of the self and of the methods of knowing the self: that is the Sankhya, and the Yoga tradition. Lastly, there has to be a tradition for explaining the underlying unity of the self and the surrounding world: that is the tradition of the Vedanta. The others are reactions to some of the excesses and extremes of the Mimamsa in some form or other. The basic elements or concepts and doctrines of Indian philosophy can be understood the best in the context of these traditions.

But historically the traditions in India do not seem to have arisen and grown in the simple logical way mentioned above out of one another. They represent perpetual needs of man’s life and thought, and their root ideas may have been present right from the beginning with or without recognized conflicts among them. In the schools and sub- schools there have been several permutations and combinations of the root, elemental ideas; and such schools and their subdivisions are quite many, as may be expected. The early Aryans who entered India believed in action for obtaining things of this world and the next; and the first two parts of the Veda contain their ideas, on which the Mimamsa philosophy is based. As these ideas are the earliest, the Mimamsa philosophy is given first in this book. This was originally the true orthodox tradition; to belittle it is to belittle half the Veda. The Carvaka, Jainism, and Buddhism are reactions to the Mimamsa and are, therefore, given next. After them the Nyaya, the Vaisesika, the Sankhya, and the Yoga, all of which more or less nominally accept the Vedic scriptural authority but rose and developed as traditions independent of the Vedas, are presented.

The Vedanta, which is based. on the last two parts of the Veda, is claimed — indeed the original Mimamsa rejects the claim — to be a completion and fulfilment of the Mimamsa and is really a development of its spiritual implications. It represents also the final form of the philosophy of life for the majority of the men of thought in India. By the time the Vedanta was systematized into aphorisms (of Badarayana), several paths or ways of life (margas, yoga) came to be recognised and the need for reconciling them was keenly felt. This reconciliation with the recognition that the ways in their isolation from one another are inadequate to the total life of man is presented by the epics and the ethical codes; and so the chapter on them is given next. In the end a general idea is given of contemporary philosophical developments.


Note on Pronunciation of Sanskrit Words 8
Introduction 11
Aim of the Book 11, Ours an age of mutual understanding 12, Philosophical traditions 14, Plan of the work and some conventions 18
I: Nature and Development of Indian Thought 25
Philosophy and religion 25, Growth of Indian religion 27, Growth of Indian philosophy 33
II: The Vedas and Other Sources 39
The Vedas 39, The Formation of castes and of the divisions of life-career 40, Accessories to the study of the Vedas 43, Non-Vedic religious influences 44, The aphoristic sources 45, Minor schools 46, The epics as sources 45, Minor schools 46, the epics as sources 48
III: The Central Ideas of the Upanisads 49
Nature of the Upanisads 49, Pre-Upanisadic philosophical ideas 50, The main doctrines of the Upanisads 54
IV: The Activist Tradition and the Mimamsa School 66
Introduction: activism and contemplation 66, Theory of knowledge 68, Metaphysics 77, Human life: its nature and aims 82
V: The Materialistic Tradition of the Carvakas 86
Introduction 86, Epistemology 87, Metaphysics 89, Way of life 90
VI: The Heterodox Tradition of Jainism 93
Introduction 93, Theory of knowledge 94, Metaphysics 100, Nature and aim of life 106
VII: The Heterodox Tradition of Buddhism 113
Introduction 113, The four basic truths 115, Philosophical implications 118, The main schools of Buddhism 121, Nature and aim of life 132
VIII: The Logical Tradition of the Nyaya 134
Introduction 134, Epistemology 135
IX: The Pluralistic Tradition of the Vaisesika 143
Introduction 143, Metaphysics 143, Life’s ideal 154
X: The Dualistic Tradition of the Sankhya 155
Introduction 155, Epistemology 156, Metaphysics 158
XI: The yoga tradition of Patanjali 165
Introduction 165, Metaphysics 165, Nature and forms of Yoga 166, Stages of inward concentration 170
XII: The Vedanta and the Monistic Tradition of the Spirit 175
Introduction 175, The Vedanta of Sankara 177, The Vedanta of Ramanuja 188, The Vedanta of Madhva 197, The Vedanta of Nimbarka 198
XIII: The Epics and the Ethical Codes 201
The three main ways of life 301, The synthesis in the epics 202, The significance of the ethical codes 203, The philosophical synthesis in the Bhagavadgita 210
XIV: The Tradition and Contemporary Trends 219
Introduction 219, M.K. Gandhi 222, B.G. Tilak 225, R.N. Tagore 226, Dayanand Sarasvati 227, Aurobindo Ghose 228, Vivekananda 230, Radhakrishnan 230, Bhagavan Das 234, J.Krishnamurti 235, Muhammad Iqbal 236, Other trends 236
Glossary of Sanskrit Terms 238
Further Reading 241
Index 245

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