Workshop on Rasa Theory in Manipal University, February 2017

Rasa wrkshop poster.jpg


Language Politics in South Asia: Hindi vs Urdu

We are talking about the languages in South Asia. If you are a South Asian, how do you feel when someone from a mono-linguistic culture asks you — “Do you speak Indian in India?” “Ya ya”, I usually answer. It becomes difficult to make them understand that I am a native speak of Kashmiri that I never learnt in school (now from the year 2005 the Government of Jammu & Kashmir has introduced Kashmiri into schools of the valley), but I can also speak Hindi-Urdu to communicate with people from most parts of Northern South Asia (including  Nepal and Pakistan) where they do not understand Kashmiri, and for rest of it I use English and some times if you land up in a place where only the regional language is spoken then one has to communicate with sign-language (as I usually do in Italy). Some reports say there are nearly 780 dialects spoken in India alone and some 250 dialects have died out in past 50 years. I also grew up speaking what is called Urdu in the State of Jammu and Kashmir (Urdu is the official language of the State) although I am not really good at reading the script, but when visiting Delhi or some other parts of India I was told it was Hindi. Hmmm…!!! I still recall my first day in St Stephen’s College in Delhi where I met a fellow interviewee from Bihar who spoke what I called Television language. For me it was the same language spoken by the characters of the TV Series of B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharat. Much later, I came to know that the so called pure Hindi never existed and the Hindi used by B.R. Chopra was basically artificial. There is hardly any much difference between Hindi and Urdu for me, but when I was in Delhi, in the beginning often there were problems in understanding the vocabulary of some college-mates arriving from Eastern India. This part that mostly constitutes of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is known as the Hindi Belt, and the so-called pure Hindi is mostly spoken is parts of this region.

Recently when I came across a newspaper report [read the report here] it made me think about the history of language politics in South Asia. How Hindi became Indian and Urdu became Pakistani! When I talk to young people in India today they seem to think Urdu is not spoken in India, but it is the language of Pakistan alone. If I meet younger people from Pakistan they believe Urdu is not spoken in India but it is Hindi that is. “It is different that we understand each other”, they say. The problem is the political boundaries. We are so used to looking at political maps alone. A friend one day asked me that how is the Bengali of Bangladesh different from the Bengali spoken in the Indian Bengal. I said his question was wrong. One answer is it is not at all different, but the Bengali spoken in border regions of both the countries those are in proximity would have more similarities than the diametrically opposed ends of these regions.

Let us have a glimpse of the languages of Northern South Asia:

Which is the fourth most spoken language in the world ? They say it is Hindi. Which is the nineteenth most spoken language in the world ? They say it is Urdu. What is the language spoken in India? They say it is Hindi. What is the language spoken in Pakistan? They say it is Urdu. Yet there are only 39-41% native speakers of Hindi in India and 8% people regard Urdu as their native tongue in Pakistan where 54-60% population speaks Punjabi. This makes us think that it is not only about language politics, but it also involves script politics. [Rahman, Tariq (2011) From Hindi to Urdu: A Social and Political History, Karachi: Oxford University Press]. Read, for instance, this abstract of Robert D. King’s paper titled “The Poisonous Potency of Script: Hindi and Urdu” [International Journal of Sociology of Language. 150 (2001), pp. 43-59].

Hindi and Urdu are variants of the same language characterized by extreme digraphia: Hindi is written in the Devanagari script from left to right, Urdu in a script derived from a Persian modification of Arabic script written from right to left. High variants of Hindi look to Sanskrit for inspiration and linguistic enrichment, high variants of Urdu to Persian and Arabic. Hindi and Urdu diverge from each other cumulatively, mostly in vocabulary, as one moves from the bazaar to the higher realms, and in their highest – and therefore most artificial – forms the two languages are mutually incomprehensible. The battle between Hindi and Urdu, the graphemic conflict in particular, was a major flash point of Hindu/Muslim animosity before the partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947.

We know very well that basically Hindi and Urdu are the same language, but it is the nationalistic absolutism of the two countries that has lead them believe that languages belong to religions and religions belong to nations. The ephemerality of this notion also became clear when the federal government of India had to face a deep dismay from it’s southern States first during 1937-40, and then again in 1946-50, 1965, 1968 and 1986 for imposing Hindi on the non-Hindi speaking people of India. Thanks to these movements that India has no national language. And in case of Pakistan, the West Pakistan had to face the revolts of Bengali speaking people from the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and one of the major reasons of this revolt was the imposition of Urdu (the so called national language, even though before 1971 Bengali was also officially recognized by Pakistan) on Bengali people. This lead to what came to be known as Bengali Language Movement. This was one more proof of the fact that language and religion should be understood as two different segments under a single canopy of ‘Culture’, but the linguistic identity should not be confused with religious identity or vice versa.. In case of India, the Nagari Pracharini Sabha was implementing all the Urdu works to be transcribed into Devanāgarī. I mean, come on, if you cannot de-Persianize (which had become the policy of the Government of India after 1947) ‘the Hindi language’, at least it is worth trying to de-Nastalique it.

The Directive for development of the Hindi language of the Constitution of India (Part XVII.—Official Language—Arts. 349—351. Chapter IV—Special Directives) in its directive No. 351 says:

It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.

Urdu, the language of the cultured in Awadh, was subjected to hatred and dismay in its land of birth. On the other hand it was obviously impossible to imagine that Hindi and Sanskrit would continue to be studied in Pakistan after it officially became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The 1973 version of the Constitution of Pakistan says this about its language policy:

The rationale for this privileging of Urdu, as given by the government of Pakistan, is that Urdu is so widely spread that it is almost like the first language of all Pakistanis. Moreover, since most jobs are available through Urdu, it is only just that all children should be given access to it. Above all, it is a symbol of unity and helps in creating a unified “Pakistani” identity. In this symbolic role, it serves the political purpose of resisting ethnicity, which otherwise would break the federation. As for the provision that other Pakistani languages may be used, it is explained that the state, being democratic and sensitive to the rights of the federating units, allows the use of provincial languages if desired.

I think the notion of Indian Government of having one language for India is unrealistic. Have you observed that often when we visit websites there is an option on the top corner highlighting some flags for languages. For instance if we want to read that website in French, we click on the French flag and the website would be shown in French language and so on and so forth. Now the idea India has is exactly this that it also wants to have that little flag there for Hindi (in fact, on many websites you do have such option) which does not make sense at all. There is Orientalism in play and countries like India and Pakistan, instead of recognizing their own diversity of cultures and languages, are becoming the victims of their ‘intimate enemy’.

Coming back to the news paper report that I mentioned above, it makes one think – is the Sanskritization of Hindi  and Persinization of Urdu still continuing. And where do you make this distinction of what is Hindi and what is Urdu, and who will make that. Yes, both India and Pakistan are trying very hard to make Hindi ‘Hindi’ and Urdu ‘Urdu’ respectively, but can they change the language of Bollywood–I mean the language of the common people. Did you read this recent article, by the way –

While I think Bollywood is still that speaks the language of the masses (because it is not controlled by the government, but keeps in mind what common people would understand), but if you listen to the official news or official TV channels both in India and Pakistan, you will observe the gradual development Hindi and Urdu have undergone in all these past decades. And now it is that that most of the Northern Indian and Pakistanis can talk to each other, but they cannot read each other’s writings unless that re written either in English or in Roman transliteration of Hindi-Urdu. Thanks to the British legacy that there is English.

Suggested Readings:

1. One Language, Two Scripts: The Hindi Movement in Nineteenth Century North India, by Christopher R. King, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1994.

2. The Politics of Language – Urdu/Hindi: An Artificial Divide, Abdul Jamil Khan.

3. From Hindi to Urdu – A Social and Political History by Tariq Rahman, Oxford University Press.

4. Hindi Nationalism by Alok Rai, Sangam Books.

5. Hindu Nationalism and the Language of Politics in Late Colonial India by William Gould, Cambridge University Press.

Prof Navjivan Rastogi’s Hindi Book – “abhinavagupta kā tantrāgamīya darśana”

Title: abhinavagupta kā tantrāgamīya darśana: itihāsa – sanskṛti – saundarya aur tattva-cintan Author: Navjivan Rastogi

Publisher: Viśvavidyālaya Prakāśana, Sāgara (Madhya Pradeśa). 2012. Price INR 1150

One of the worst trajectories of what is called ‘Indian philosophy’ is that it has been studied as a ‘thing of the past’. Contemporary philosophers like Daya Krishna have repeatedly emphasized this fact. ‘Indian philosophy’ 

Abhinavagupta ka Tantragamiya Darshan I (dragged)has been studied or understood more in terms of history rather than philosophy per se. What constitutes ‘philosophy’ in South Asia is another completely different question which deserves an exquisitely different platform for a candid discussion. The philosophy in South Asian context needs a closer scrutiny at the hands of ‘philosophers’ rather than the ‘historians of philosophy’. In other words we should learn about the past of philosophy in South Asia, understand it ‘today’, and then analyze and assess how and what can we contribute to it.

This is as true about the philosophy written in Sanskrit texts in South Asia, as it is about the philosophy written in Persian, Arabic, Kashmiri, Hindi-Urdu, Tamil, and other classical and vernacular languages. Is not the plethora of ideas those were born and developed in South Asia as a part of Islamic culture a component of Indian philosophy ? Those old-school scholars who believe that the Islamic, Christian and other cultures are foreign to Indian culture must shed their pseudo-garb of colonial interpretations of Indian philosophy. If we accept their theory then the Vedic philosophy too should be regarded as foreign to India like Islamic philosophy, because the composers of the Vedas also ‘invaded’ the indigenous people of India and imposed upon them the so called Vedic culture. Or, for instance, since Christianity arrived in South Asia much before Islam did – what about the ideas those developed as a part of Christian culture in South Asia ? This is as true in case of many other smaller religious cultures in South Asia as it is about the vast literatures produced in vernacular languages. Were, for instance, Kabir, Ghalib, Lal Ded, or the creative philosophers writing in South Indian languages not philosophers?

Here I will focus on the philosophy of India as discussed in the Sanskrit texts. One of the major reasons for studying ‘Indian philosophy’ as a ‘thing of the past’ is that the Sanskritists in India have studied this philosophy either mostly from philological point of view or simply as knowing about the facts listed in these systems. This, however, does not seem to be the case with the traditional paṇḍit scholarship, where in the majority of the cases as witnessed by me personally, since the tradition is understood as continuing and alive, there is an attempt to make the study of philosophy ‘as the thing of the present’. A critical reflection that evaluates this system engaging with contemporary thinking systems (by contemporary I do not necessarily mean Western philosophy alone) in the Indian sub-continent is what is needed. Is philosophy dead in contemporary South Asia? Are there no contemporary philosophical systems existing in South Asia and if at all there are, how have they evolved from the past and how are they engaging with the present. An attempt to answer such questions will help us in understanding the present of the philosophy in Sanskrit sources or what is sometimes misleadingly called ‘Indian philosophy’.

There were, nonetheless, a few exceptional scholars in the 20th century who besides having training in traditional learning were also equally good at modern scholarship. Professor Kanti Chandra Pandey was one such scholar who combined in himself an erudite philosopher and an informed historian. His remarkable work on Abhinavagupta is a testimony to this combined scholarship. His student Professor Navjivan Rastogi who has authored the book in question is another such rare Sanskrit scholar in whom one can see the reflection of his teacher. Rastogi’s book that is written in terse Hindi language (at least that is what I felt, but I may be wrong since Hindi is not my mother tongue) is a collection of various research papers he has written in his long scholarly career of about fourty-five years. The book is not strictly focusing on Abhinavagupta as Pandey’s work is, for instance, but nonetheless it is certainly addressing Abhinavagupta’s system in a very broader sense. Today, unfortunately, where we witness that the ‘critical’ Sanskrit scholarship is rare in India, this book is coming as a welcome-item.

Rastogi does not only have a remarkably deep sense of Abhinavan philosophy, but he also masters the matters of Kashmirian Śaiva traditions meticulously. He has reflected upon his understanding of Abhinava with an informed depth, and has thrown light on many aspects of Abhinavan research. Today, Abhinavan studies are progressing slowly, but critically. Students of Abhinavagupta all over the world are carefully looking at the scholarship being produced on him. He is easy to be loved, but difficult to be understood. Rastogi’s work is an erudite attempt to introduce and discuss some key features of Abhinavan studies. Abhinava is equally important for both the students of the Tāntirc literature and the poetic aesthetics. Rastogi, equally well versed in both these domains of Abhinavan epistemology, has discussed sections on both these topics in his book.

The book begins with a discussion on the relationship between the Vedic and the Āgamic discourse followed by a historical assessment of the Kashmirian Śaiva systems, evaluation of its philosophical ideas and an analysis of how the contemporary scholars like Gopinath Kaviraj and others were influenced by such systems of thought or vice versa.

As far as the stylistic features of the book are concerned, I think I should not hesitate from making some extremely important points. And these points should be understood as the criticism towards the publisher and not towards the author of the book. I say this because I also had a chance to have a look at the digital version of the press copy that Professor Rastogi had sent to the publishers. In his press copy Rastogi had put the elaborate notes and annotations as ‘footnotes’ and not as ‘end notes’. In my strong, but very candid opinion, I believe all those publishers who encourage the endnotes instead of footnotes, or compel the authors to do so in their books, should be completely abandoned. At least this should be done in Indological publications where we often have to use long notes and elaborate annotations and the publishers convert all these foot notes into end notes possibly because it deprives the main body of the book of its aesthetic looks. At least this is how an indological publisher justified himself while talking to me some years back. I am purposely emphasizing this point because as an indologist myself I am  aware of the deep pain I have to go through searching for all those notes in a book flipping and flapping back and forth just because a publisher (who presumably never has to use the book for scholarly purposes himself) chose an option that could please his eyes. This is completely unacceptable to me, and I request all other indologists not to encourage publishers who may persuade them to convert all the footnotes in their books into end notes. This has been a grave problem with the books published in many prestigious series also and this book also suffers from the same problem. Another minor problem is the font used for the titles of the chapters which instead of being clear and catchy is sometimes deluding to eyes. The publisher should take the serious note of such suggestions.

To conclude, I think, I am not at all a qualified person to review this book. However, I have done so at the request of Prof Rastogi himself. In Hindi, it is indeed rare to find such comprehensive essays of international quality on Kashmirian Śaiva philosophy. I will not try exploring for what reasons this book was written in Hindi, but I earnestly hope that Prof Rastogi’s works those he has chosen to write in Hindi, like this book, would also be translated into English in future. After all, how many people have studied Andre Padoux’s famous work “Vāc” in French, but several generations of the students of Kashmirian Śaiva systems have greatly benefited from its English translation. In the European context same is true about the theorists and philosophers like Foucault, Derrida, Kant, Sartre etc. This book should certainly become available in English.

The “Pizza Effect” in Indian Philosophy

We all know what “the pizza effect” means. For those who do not, let me elaborate. Pizza was first exported to the United States, processed and reshaped by Americans, and then exported back to Italy thus becoming the popular Italian food. What Italians know or what the world knows today as the Italian Pizza is basically the form that Americans gave it. Likewise what we today know as “Indian philosophy” is mostly the understanding that is significantly influenced by European elaborations. The term “Indian philosophy” used to sound an extremely loaded word to me some years back and our recent course on comparative philosophy has made me realize how significantly hollow this term is. Nonetheless, we cannot but use this expression for want of a better term. In this paper I am going to show how eclectic the term and concept “Indian philosophy” is using a post-colonial method. I will argue that it is only using a comparative method that it is possible to discuss the authentic and holistic “Indian philosophy”. I must say that I have been influenced by what Daya Krishna calls a “comparative ‘comparative method’” and I am trying to use this method in explaining what is “comparative” about the “comparative method”. I think Daya Krishna made assiduous efforts through all his writings on Indian philosophy to take it out of the model of understanding that Europeans had tried to fit it in and what was, under the spell of Orientalism, followed by modern Indian writers of the history of Indian philosophy. In other words European Orientalists made unceasing efforts to understand Indian philosophy from the perspective of Western philosophy. Now since it was this understanding of Indian philosophy that was accessible to modern Indian intelligentsia, the modern understanding of Indian philosophy suffered or in some sense is still suffering from what we call “the pizza effect” here.

In what we are going to discuss in the forthcoming pages, one thing is absolutely clear: the notion of Indian philosophy as we know it today is broadly based on the misconceived notions of European-understanding of it and their Indian followers. In this post-colonial world we want to come out of that colonial hangover and explore what Daya Krishna calls “authentic Indian philosophy”. In fact there is nothing “authentic” about any philosophy at all. Philosophy is beyond “authentic” and “not-authentic”. But here we intend to explore how and why were the ideas manipulated; ideas those grew out in ancient and early medieval India as a part of thought process of the intelligence that used the method of expression as the Sanskrit. In this paper I shall be dealing with India philosophy, nay South Asian philosophy, only in its Sanskrit sources because I also believe that Orientalism has also offered an undue advantage to Indian philosophy of only including within its arena the Sanskrit sources, be it Hindu, Buddhist or Jaina. Philosophy written in any other language barring Sanskrit in what we now know as South Asia does not seem to find a place in books on Indian philosophy. Scholars like Daya Krishna and Andrew Nicholson have also felt this concern vacuum. In my discussion with some commoners from India I have often come across the romantic idea that “philosophy in India is hidden in Sanskrit alone” which to me is outrightly unacceptable. This is the result of the Brahmanic hegemony and I plead for the inclusion of the philosophical works written in whatsoever South Asian languages in the main-stream discourse on Indian philosophy. Now getting back to our point of trying to understand how Indian intellectuals were trying to understand their own philosophical systems , I cannot help but quoting Daya Krishna:

The deepest anguish of the Indian intellectual is that he is unrecognized in the West as an equal, or as an intellectual at all. (p. xiv)

We have already known how the ideologies of the minds of colonized people work and what Daya Krishna points out above is in fact the central theme of how colonized Indian mind was working in making its efforts to understand itself through Other’s eyes. One of the dilemmas of Indian intellectuals writing on “their own” philosophy was that they were writing at a time when India was experiencing a strong cultural flux under the British colonial rule. To illustrate my point and also the one made by Daya Krishna above I add from Bhushan and Garfield:

The failure of recognition is tragic. These philosophers wrote in a context of cultural fusion generated by the British colonial rule in India. They were self-consciously writing both as Indian intellectuals for an Indian audience and as participants in a developing global community constructed in part by the British Empire. They pursued Indian philosophy in a language and format that could render it both accessible and acceptable to the Anglophone world abroad. In their attempt to write and to think for both audiences they were taken seriously by neither”. (p. xiv)

In their recently edited volume titled Indian Philosophy in English From Renaissance to Independence Bhushan and Garfield have brought forward to us the Indian authors who played a prominent role in shaping modern India and its understanding of its own philosophy. This anthology of the essays on Indian philosophy was written by those Indian intellectual of the 19th century who “demonstrate that the colonial Indian philosophical communities were important participants in global dialogue, and revealing the roots of contemporary Indian philosophical thought”. This sounds contrary to what Daya Krishna might have to say;

“Anybody who is writing in English is not an Indian philosopher…..What the British produced was a strange species–a stranger in his own country. The Indian mind and sensibility and thinking [during the colonial period] was shaped by an alien civilization. [The British] created a new kind of Indian who was not merely cut off from his civilization, but was educated in a different way. The strangeness of the species is that their terms of reference are the West ….. They put [philosophical problems] in a Western way. This picture of Indian philosophy that has been presented by Radhakrishanan, Hiryanna and others …..[each of whom is an Indian, writing philosophy in English during the colonial period] is not the story of Indian philosophy. We have been fed on the Western presentation of Indian philosophy, which hardly captures the spirit and history of Indian philosophy…..If I were not to know Indian philosophy myself, I would say that [their presentation] is wonderful, that it presents it clearly, with great insight and understanding. Now I know a little Indian philosophy, I say that they did not……They are not concerned with the problems that Indian philosophers were concerned with.”

These words of Daya Krishna are very challenging for a modern student of Indian philosophy. Being himself an adapt in Indian philosophical literatures he knew how slowly and strongly, but deeply and remarkably the Orientalism has transformed the South Asian minds and what can they see today when they look at their own thoughtful literature. Exploring this deep psychological state of loss and recovery of Self under Colonialism, Asis Nandy says;

Colonialism is also a psychological state rooted in earlier forms of social consciousness in both the colonizers and the colonized. It represents a certain cultural continuity and carries a certain cultural baggage……… It also explains why colonialism never seems to end with formal political freedom. As a state of mind, colonialism is an indigenous process released by external forces. Its sources lie deep in the minds of the rulers and the ruled. Perhaps that which begins in the minds of men must also end in the minds of men (p. 2-3).

It might sound like I am getting off the main theme of our paper, but I want to emphasize the fact that Daya Krishna had understood this problem of the “colonized state of mind” where people simply have fossilized their ‘philosophy’ by regarding it as ancient and thus letting it die deep in the past. In other words, what Indian philosophy is today is that one can study it as a subject of past, say history, but not as a subject of present. And this is one of the major problems when we look at Indian philosophy today. I think we must note Chakravarthy’s comments here:

Faced with the task of analyzing developments or social practices in modern India, few if any Indian social scientists or social scientists of India would argue seriously with, say, the thirteenth-century logician Gaṅgeśa or with the grammarian and the linguist philosopher Bhartṛhari (fifth to sixth centuries), or with the tenth-or eleventh-century aesthetician Abhinavagupta. Sad though it is, one result of European colonial rule in South Asia is that the intellectual traditions once unbroken and alive in Sanskrit or Persian or Arabic are now only matters of historical research for most – perhaps all – modern social scientists in the region. They treat these traditions as truly dead, as history” (p. )

For the serious students of Indian philosophy the challenge is to think how it could be brought out from the dead chamber and make it alive by making people think through it. It sounds indeed so ironical that Indian philosophy is often tagged with the expression “it is more of a way of life”, but it has simply remained confined to its death. A good example could be the state of Indian philosophy in Indian universities today. From my personal experience having been a part of a number of Indian universities, I feel that the courses are designed such that students “know” about Indian philosophy, but do not develop an edge to see what it is. Nicholson further adds;

Students in literary theory today, whether in Calcutta or Cambridge, take more inspiration from Aristotle than from Abhinavagupta. If they are acquainted with Indian philosophy at all, it is regarded only as a historical curiosity, not as a vital philosophical tradition (p. 21).

Daya Krishna had a deep realization of the above mentioned fact and he emphasized that the Indian philosophy should not be regarded as something full and final. In addition to this he also raises another problem related to the various schools of thought belonging to different traditions and the individuals who contributed to these schools or traditions. The problem precisely is that we have never thought of looking at for instance Śaṅkara independently from his tradition. Reading Śaṅkara as a representative of the Advaita Vedānta is simply compromising his personal philosophical genius at the cost of the affiliation with his traditional school. Daya Krishna says:

No distinction, therefore, is ever drawn between the thought of an individual thinker and the thought of the school. A school is, in an important sense, an abstraction. It is a logical construction springing out of the writings of a number of thinkers who share a certain similarity of the outlook in tackling similar problems……Basically, this is the reality of the ‘schools’ of Indian philosophy. Yet it is never presented as such. Śāṁkhya, for example, is identified too much with Īśvarakṛṣṇa’s work, or Vedānta with the work of Śaṅkara. But this is due to the confusion between the thought of an individual thinker and the style of thought which he exemplifies and to which he contributes in some manner. All that Saṁkara has written is not strictly Advaita Vedānta. Nor is all that Īśvarakṛṣṇa has written, Sāṁkhya. Unless this is realized, writings on Indian philosophy will continuously do injustice either to the complexity of thought of the individual thinker concerned, or to the uniqueness of the style of thought they are writing about (p. 14).

This and many other problems persist in Indian philosophy because we never explored the historiography of Indian philosophy in detail. This exercise has only started to begin recently with scholars like Richard King and Andrew Nicholson. For someone like me who is based in textual studies of the Sanskrit sources of Indian philosophy, knowing that Arthur Schopenhauer read the Latin translation of the Upaniṣads which had been translated by French writer Anquetil du Perron from the Persian translation of Prince Dara Shikoh entitled Sirre-Akbar (“The Great Secret”) was a shock. It was a shock because my first teacher of Indian philosophy had told me that I should read Arthur Schopenhauer and Paul Deussen if I really wanted to understand Indian philosophy. Paul Deussen who was highly influenced by Schopenhauer and his ideas about Indian philosophy, had its most direct influence of the nineteenth-century German idealism on the young discipline of Indology through his writings particularly on Upaniṣadas. Deussen played an important role in shaping what we today know as Indian philosophy. He regarded Upaniṣads as unambiguously Vedāntic in their outlook and also claimed that the Sāṁkhya was a school that later grew out of the Upaniṣads. He seriously treated Indian philosophy in a comparative way and made philosophical claims based on insights from Eastern and Western philosophy. His widely read translations of the Upaniṣads had an enormous effect in scholarly opinion of Vedānta in the twentieth century, and it was he more than any one else who was responsible for the opinion that Advaita Vedānta was the genuine representation of the Upaniṣads. (Nicholson: p. 134). Here is exactly where we understand the value of Daya Krishna’s “comparative ‘comparative method’” lies. Deussen used a comparative method to understand Indian philosophy and today we understand that his comparative method needs to be looked through an authentic or a more refined comparative method. Nicholson’s comments about Deussen’s approach are worth a note here;

Despite his recognition that India contained a multiplicity of philosophical voices, not just one, through his historical typology he was able to uphold the notion inherited from Schopenhauer of a “concordance of Indian, Greek, and German metaphysics; the world is māyā, is illusion, says Śaṅkara;-it is a world of shadows, not of realities, says Plato;-it is ‘appearance only, not the thing in itself’, says Kant”. This unified vision of the world’s philosophies championed by Deussen became enormously popular in the twentieth century, and its influence is still felt today” (p. 138).

Deussen was constructing “his” understanding of Indian philosophy surrounding Vedānta system alone. He even thought that the “whole Sāṁkhya system is nothing but a result of the denigration of the Vedānta by means of the growth of realistic tendencies” (p. 136). According to him the Yoga and Sāṁkhya were simply the lower stages of development of the highly polished philosophy namely the Vedānta. We will see later in the paper how his ideas were solely based on the Sarvadraśanasaṃgraha of Mādhava, a fourteenth-century Advaita Vadāntin.

Coming to another issue that Ninian Smart has raised is related to the problem of categorization of the Indian philosophy into the āstika and nāstika schools. This is another example that makes us think how eclectic the categorization of Indian philosophy is. I think this is an important issue and there are many examples one can offer about the inconsistent ways in which this categorization of Indian philosophy has been implements. This concept was vaguely present in the early Sanskrit texts like the Mahābhārata and the Buddhacarita of Aśvaghośa, but the present classification was of central significance to the late medieval doxographers. Uniquely enough a sixth century Tamil text titled Maṇimekalai seems to offer such an idea that culminates in regarding the Buddhist logic as the final school. This text has been completely overlooked by historians of Indian philosophy because it was not written in Sanskrit (p. 149). Haribhadra Suri (eighth century), a Jaina author enumerates the six schools of Indian philosophy as Buddhism, Nyāya, Sāṁkhya, Jaina, Vaiśeṣika, Mīmāṃsā (p. 155). Later, the most famous doxography was composed by the fourteenth century scholar Mādhavācārya in his famous text titled the Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha. He discussed fifteen schools of Indian philosophy in this book using a hierarchical order starting from the materialists and culminating in the Vedānta. Being himself a Vedāntin he propounded that all schools of Indian philosophy culminate in Vedānta. In his opinion only the Advaita Vedānta was the authentic Vedānta, and he regarded the other schools of Vedāntas as the nāstika schools. It was Mādhava’s popular classification of āstika and nāstika that Deussen had inherited, explains Nicholson;

Although it has been praised in the past for the clarity with which it presents philosophical doctrines, for my purposes it is most interesting for its ideological slant, and the techniques and the dominance of Advaita philosophy in the modern period that the Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha has often been considered an accurate depiction of the Indian philosophical schools, so much so that Deussen’s volume on India in his Allgemeine Geschichte der Philosophie is largely based on Mādhava’s text (p. 159).

In conclusion I think in the post-colonial world today we have started realizing where the flaws of our approach and understanding a colonial ideology lies and the comparative method as shows above is a remedy if applied carefully makes us realize that we study Indian philosophy in disguise. In the recent times the philosophers like Karl H. Potter and Alex Watson have advocated for the study of Indian philosophy as Indian philosophy and I think I agree with them in the sense that we should first try to understand the native philosophical systems of any culture without comparing them with the systems those we may already know of. And only after we try to learn the basic skeleton of a system should we we using the comparative method. I would prefer calling the former “the internal comparative method” and the latter “the external comparative method”. In the context of Sanskrit sources it becomes an imperative task to go back to the original Sanskrit texts of Indian philosophy and not depending solely on the understanding of the translations. The time also demands revised translations of the important Sanskrit texts in Indian philosophy so that we cannot be mislead by the Deussenian approach.


  1. 1. Daya Krishna, (1989) Comparative Philosophy: What is it and What it Ought to Be in Interpreting Across Boundaries. Larson and Deutsch, eds. MLBD, Delhi.
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