Philosophy vs Theology or Liberal vs Orthodox?

A few days back when a fellow Stephanian shared an article mentioning that the St Stephen’s College in Delhi is thinking of ‘replacing’ its Philosophy course with Theology, I became immediately concerned about a number of things. Of course the first thing to create unease was how could an educational institute of the repute of St Stephen’s even think about something like this. But immediately afterwards I also concluded that these decision-makers themselves have no clarity about the stark distinction between Philosophy and Theology as two separate academic disciplines (I offer the benefit of doubt by calling ‘Theology’ an academic discipline even if not in a very strict sense). I do not see anything wrong for an educational institution to function autonomously as far as they do not turn that place into a meaningless space of redundant hegemony where rationality is not offered any room. Nor is there anything wrong in introducing the study of Theology as far as it is done within the parameters of academic (and thus rational) code of conduct and does not end up producing radical minds instead of liberal minds. But to think of doing this at the cost of Philosophy is indeed meaningless. 

It is not simply about Philosophy versus Theology, it is also about liberal versus orthodox study of a certain discipline. By no means am I suggesting that the study of Theology cannot be done liberally. In fact, this is precisely we have ‘Religious Studies’ (social scientific study of various religious traditions) constructed as an academic discipline (even if such disciplines do not generally find place in Indian universities). Here I wonder, if the torch bearers of St Stephen’s would have thought of replacing Religious studies (that does not exist in St Stephen’s anyway) with Theology or vice versa, it would still have made some logical sense. But to think of removing Philosophy and introducing Theology instead, holds no ground in rationality. 

Any rational being would know that Philosophy is the backbone discipline for all other disciplines. All disciplines work under the rubrics of a philosophy (thus we have philosophy of history, philosophy of economics or philosophy of sociology) and when Philosophy itself is discussed as a discipline, we talk about the meta-philosophical investigations, in other words—how is the philosophy of philosophy done. While philosophy as a discipline is not preoccupied with the idea of God alone, Theology falls under a very myopic domain of Philosophy that is concerned with the philosophy of God alone. The sphere of Philosophy is endless, while for Theology it is restricted to the study of God and God alone. You can literary philosophise everything. Everything can be an object of a philosophical inquiry including God, sex, food, gender so on and so forth. 

Traditionally, the study of Theology has been associated with a more orthodox approach towards the study of God (even though there is a difference between how Theology of various religious traditions like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc. is practised in universities and how it is done in orthodox traditional schools like seminaries, temples and mosques etc.) and everything falling within the domain of God including the ideas related to religion, spirituality etc. For Philosophy, however, everything is a problem and it tries to seek an answer to those problems. The existence of God or Absolute is also a philosophical (and not a theological) problem for them and that is precisely how they approach seeking an answer to this problem. Theology is traditionally restricted and even though it engages with the ideas of divine and sacred, it does not really problematise them and the antithesis created by the idea of profane (as opposed to sacred) is of no much concern for them. In a sense pure Philosophy begins where Theology ends. However, if Theology is to be understood as the rational analysis of the concept of God, then there is no need to distinguish between Theology and the ‘Problem of God’ as usually discussed in Philosophy at the first place. Philosophy does not focus on Philosophy of Religion alone. Like everything else, Philosophy does problematise the idea of God as well because it is not simply satisfied by the idea of the existence of the God alone.

A domain of study (a certain religion/religious ideology/religious culture) might be orthodox or absolutely unorthodox in itself, but we as academics cannot afford not to interpret it liberally. When we practice a discipline, we cannot practice it unidimensionally. We have to develop a multidimensional method to study it. It cannot be God and religion alone that I need to philosophise, I got to philosophise the social, literary, political ideas about God and religion as well. Besides, to begin with, I need to problematise these ideas in themselves outside the domain of religion. I can ignore them only if I accept that I am developing myself into an orthodox philosopher which is an oxymoron in itself. I might be religious to the core, but if I possess a sincere Will to study that religious traditional ‘critically’ (or liberally) then occasionally I should also be willing to be ready to step outside that belief system or in fact to step outside myself as a believer. If this is not acceptable to us, then we should also learn to remain content with whatever little we know without aspiring to know more about it and without claiming to be critical about it. Essentially, I should be willing to, as if, coming out of myself (again only occasionally) and looking at myself from outside me (possibly from a distance). This is what a philosopher would call a self-reflective or self-critical thought process or state of mind.

There is always a danger if one is dogmatic about Divine—it might produce radical minds, and to be philosophically critical about Divine might make the process of being undogmatic (and thus a strong believer in oneself) smoother. Unfortunately, academics all over India seems to be coming under the sway of ‘radical states of mind’ rather than ‘self-critical states of mind’. On the one hand where certain Indian academics are boasting (and rightly so) of brining revolutionary changes to Indian academic system even if so far only at a minuscule level, yet on another hand what public university systems are facing at the hands of the Power they are tied up with, is something to deeply ponder over. And to ponder about it, we need a systematic way of thinking—Philosophy.

Mrinal Kaul studied Sanskrit at St Stephen’s College, Delhi and is now Assistant Professor in Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities, Manipal.


A New Review of the ‘Linguistic Traditions of Kashmir’ by S. Bhuvaneshwari

Published in The Adyar Library Bulletin 2014-15.

Pandit Dinanath Yaksh (1921–2004), a humble Kashmirian scholar par excellence, rightly deserves to be honoured for his painstaking efforts to preserve and propagate the Sanskrit tradition of Kashmir in general, and the Kashmirian Grammatical tradition in particular. A brief life-sketch of this great scholar, by the editor Mrinal Kaul, should serve as an eye-opener to the condition and struggles of intellectuals in modern India and the additional responsibility of carrying the work, being a Kashmiri Pandit. This book, thoughtfully prepared by the editors, illuminates the glorious past of Kashmir and its intellectual contribution to Sanskrit studies, specifically in the field of Grammar and Linguistics. The book consists of twenty-one essays arranged alphabetically following the last name of the authors. Here, the contents are analysed in a thematic flow of topics, broadly classified as Vedic, Historical, Grammatical in relation to Linguistics, Philosophy and Poetics.

Paippalada recension of the Atharvaveda is known to be prevalent in Kashmir that constitutes several hapax legomenon and five such words are analysed by Hukam Chand Patyal in his essay titled “Some Peculiar Vocables in the Paippalada Samhita”. Rigveda has also received the attention of Kashmirian scholars and the commentarial contribution of Uvatacharya on Rigveda Pratishakhyais highlighted by Nirmala Kulkarni, which includes a revisit into the controversial historical account of Uvata.

In three independent as well as inter-connected essays, Ashok Aklujkar tries to establish Kashmir as the homeland of Patanjali in the background of the importance assigned to the study of the Mahabhashya by the royalties and the epithets associated with Patanjali, who came to be worshipped as Naga/Ananta. The Rajatarangini statements on the revival of the Mahabhashya study in three widely separated times are reinterpreted along with the Vakyapadiya II.486 by Johannes Bronkhorst in his essay titled “A Note on Kashmir and Orthodox Paninian Grammar”. In his second essay, the author gives an insight into the free thinking of Udbhata, drawing from his interpretation of rules of Ashtadhyayi and the Lokayatasutra.

About nine essays directly deal with grammatical nuances and technicalities as found in the writings of Kashmiri thinkers. George Cardona tries to show the presence of theoretical precedents to one of the earliest grammatical elementary text namely, Katantra attributed to Sarvavarman. P. Visalakshy in her paper gives a comprehensive note on the authorship and structure of Kashika with a detailed account of its influence of Candragomin’s grammatical thought. Malhar Kulkarni’s new research findings of the manuscripts of the Kashikavritti in Shrada script adds to the rich repository of grammatical literature.

The paper by M.G. Dhadphale deals with nama, akhyata, upasarga and nipata — the four basic grammatical categories that are fully treated by Kshirasvamin and also points out to the errors in his Kshiratarangini. Supporting Jayanta Bhatta’s interpretation of Panini’s aphorism namely, sadhakatamam karanam, V.N. Jha tries to gain a dual purpose of not abandoning logic and rationally explaining the said aphorism. In the explanation of iko gunavriddhi, Kaiyata cites an example referring to Panini’s sutra VI.3.108, which is misunderstood by Nagesha Bhatta as referring to Panini’s sutra VI.4.146. S.D. Joshi in his essay elucidates the position of Kaiyata and shows the unnecessary attack undertaken by Nagesha in this case.

Vincenzo Vergiani in his paper explores the procedure of language that organises the cognitive data oscillating between distinction and unification by studying the padavadhika and vakyavadhikamethods in Prakirnaprakasha of Helaraja. The essay by Oliver Hahn proposes to identify a Samanvaya grammatical tradition and hopes for a reconstruction of Kudaka’s text from the available fragments. The co-authors Estella Del Bon and Vincenzo Vergiani deal with the ninteenth-century Kashmiri Grammarian Ishvara Kaula’s Kashmirashabdamrita, a grammar of Kashmiri language in Sanskrit. This paper focusses on the treatment of the present tense in Kashmirashabdamrita.

Utpaladeva’s concealed favouritism to Bhartrihari’s Philosophy of language is succinctly brought out by Raffaele Torella in his paper titled “From an Adversary to the Main Ally: The Place of Bhartrihari in the Kashmirian Shaiva Advaita”. David Peter Lawrence draws some parallels between the Shaiva semantic concepts of action and contemporary Western theories and compares some aspects of philosophical kriyakaraka theory with grammar of motives as propounded by Kenneth Burke. Bettina Baumer highlights the relation between grammar and metaphysics based on Abhinavagupta’s Vivarana to ParatrishikaTantra and presents grammatical argument to establish the universality of Trika in which the absolute pure consciousness is said to be the One principle behind the three persons (I, You, It/He/She) and their relationships.

The essay by C. Rajendran analyses the fluctuating status of grammar in the hands of Poeticians, categorized as Pre-dhvani (Bhamaha, Vamana), Post-dhvani (Anandavardhana, Abhinavagupta) and Anti-dhvani (Mahima Bhatta). M.M. Agrawal highlights the grammatico-rhetorical question of abhidha and lakshana of Mukula Bhatta and the severe criticism that he faced in the hands of Mammata.

The book adds value by providing a list of available manuscripts related to linguistic tradition of Kashmir. Though the book may appear incomplete in terms of not venturing into the mine of information lying in the Aesthetic works of Abhinavagupta on the linguistic and grammatical traditions, it is expected to engage one’s intellectual quest in the field of grammar, linguistics, poetics and history as well. Some areas of research by Professor David Peter Lawrence listed in the introduction hopes to give a sense of direction for future research.

Arrivederci Napoli !

“Quann’ nu furastier’ ven’ a Napul’ chiagn ddoj vot’: na vot’ quann’ arriv’ e na vot’ quann’ part'”

But Neapolitans always over-do everything. So if it’s good, in Naples it is the best. If it is bad, in Naples it would scare the Devil. I never did hallucinatory drugs, but if I did, I bet the experiences would resemble a day in Naples. The food is amazing, the weather is hot, the women are even hotter, the clothes are the best, the city is on the water, Art is in the air Neapolitans breathe and in the blood that pumps through their veins, and the people will befriend you instantly.” (Piazza Life)World___Italy_A_walk_through_the_ancient_streets_in_Naples__Italy_062560_

Quas’ ogn’ juorn’ ri ll’urdm’ tre ann’ quann’ ij camminav’ pe’vvij’ pe’ gghì all’università, nu viecchj assettat’ ind’ a n’angul’ i nu vicariell’ me salutav’ ricennem’ “bongiorn'”. Nuj nce canusceven’ ma fovem’ comm’ duj cumpagn’. Purtropp’, ropp’ quacc’ semman’, ij stu viecchj’ nun l’aggj’ vist’ cchiù, ma crer’ ca pur’ iss’ sent’ a mancanza mij’. Ij sto lassann’ Napul’. A signor’ ri scal’ ca parlav spiss cu mmic ce mancarrà u uaglion ingles suj. Ess’ sapev’ ca ij nu capev tutt’ cos’, ma inda nu mod’ o n’at’ Ij riuscev’ a parlà cu ess’. Ce crir’ ca ij saccj nu sacc’ i cos’ ra famiglia soj? M’ mancarrann’ i’ criatur’ ca s’appiccican’ alluccann’ annanz’ a casa mij’ – comm’ er’ cattiv’ un’ i llor, Antonij! U verdummar’ chiatt’, ca me vulev tant’ bben’, mo’ nun me ver’ cchiù; ij jev’ dda’ iss’ a ‘ccattà a frutt’ e a verdur’, po’ m’aggj addunat’ ca me mbrugliav! Me mancarann’ a zengar’ cu criatur’ ca cantaven’ comm’ dduj’ angel’ cercann’ a carità. Me mancarrann’ i cumpagn’ ru bar ca m’hann’ ‘mbarat’ u napulitan’ e spiss’ m’hann’ offert’ u cafè. Fors’ nun me mancarrann Salvatore Esposito e signora ca facevn’ i tutt pe me scassà a uallera.

Napul’ è nu paravis’ senza penzier’ e a vit’ a Napul’ te pò mbrssiunà: quas’ a stessa cos’ m’è capitat’ in India, a Benaras. Ra Delhi a Benaras è comm’ ra Montreal a Napule. L’antichità i’ Napule a rutt’ tutt’ i suonn’ mij de l’Occidente moderno e brillante. A vit’ a Napul’ è comm’ a vij i’ miez’ ri’ buddhist’, viecchij e nnuov’ ‘nziem. Avit’ mai vist’ nu criatur’ appen nat’ ca tocc’ cu i manell’ soj i man’ arrappat’ ra’ nonn’? Proprj chest’ aggj vist’ ij camminann’ pe vvij re’ sta antica città greca. Ind’a sti vicariell’ a vit’ addvent’ viv’. Addvent’ viv’ cu addor’ ro’ cafè, ri’ crocchè, arancin’ a vij ri’ tribunal’. L’aria di Napoli ti inebria con una sensualità senza pari che si può sentire anche nella sua antichità. naples-street-770

Ogn’ ppart’ ‘ddo so’ stat’ fin’ a mo’ maj aggj sentut’ a vit’ comm’ l’aggj sentut’ a Napul’. Delhi, Pune, Oxford, Montreal nun t’zegnen’ nient ra’ vit’ comm’ fa Napul’. Ij me sent’ comm’ na bambul’ i’ sal’ ca ‘nfunn u mar’ nun è capac’ cchiù r’ ricer’ chell ca sent’. Pur’ si chell ca sent’ nun o saccj ricer’, i sicur’ è cchiù ddoc’ r’ na sfugliatell e r’ nu babbà. Comm’ a ritt’ nu poet’ ingles’, John Keats, “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard. Are sweeter”. Ma qual’ song sti mutiv’ mai sentut’?

Spiss’ m’aggj maravigliat’, pecché Nietzsche cagnaj accussì tant’ ropp’ vist’ Napul’ e Surrient’. Tant’ ca cagnaj totalment’ ra tann’. Comm’ ricett’ iss’: “A Surrient’ m’aggj luat’ a cuoll’ nov’ ann’ r’ scuorz’ [In Sorrento, I shook off nine years of moss]. Ij me sent’ nu poc’ comm’ iss’, ma i scuorz’ mij nun song viecchj comm’ i suoj e ij nun song cert’ u livell’ suoj, però tutti dduj simm’ stat’ a Napule (e tutti dduj’ vulimm’ pruvà ca Ddij è muort’ – speriamm’ cu Pap’ nun ce sent’). A trentaruj ann’, quann’ Nietzsche abbandunaj a carrier’ i filologo latino, pe ffa sul’ u filosf’, ij sto accumminciann’ a carriera mij e nun saccj si song filologo o filosofo, o forz’ tutti dduj oppur’ nisciun’. E Napul’ me rà nu barzam’ p’adducì sta lott’ rint’ u cor’ mij. A maraviglj ru sudd nun se pò ddicer’.

E maj vist’ i culur’ ca cagnen’ ru Vesuvj’ ra fenest’ ra casa toj? Pur’ si mo’ sta rummenn’, ten a t’ ricer’ centinaj e’ migliaj e cunt quann’ u guard’ ra vicin’ o nu poc’ cchiù luntan’. Pur’ si tutt’ u munn’ è u stess’ a tutt’ part’, Napul’ è n’ata cos’. Sta zitt’, eppur’ te ric’ tanta cos’. A vit’ a Napul’ te rà na gioj ca rur’ tutt’ a vit’ e a cos’ cchiù bell’ o cchiù brutt’ è ca chesta gioj te paralizz’ tant’ ca tu nun può dicer’ o forz’ nun t’ n’ mport’ ru dicer’. A Napul’ tu addevient’ schifettus’: u cafè e a pizz’ si nun song i’ Napul’, nun song bbuon! Ij song ancor’ canusciut’ comm’ chill ca bev’ acqua sporc’. I friariell’ song u mmeglj c’aggj mangiat’ ccà. Antonj m’ha ‘mparat’ l’importanz’ ra past’ e fasul’, u piatt’ ra povera gent’. Naples

Comm’ ric’ Paulo Coelho nell’Alchimista “quann’ vuò ca succer’ na cos’ tutt’ l’universo se rà ra fa pecché succer’ comm’ vuò tu” è [when you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true], i napulitan se rann’ ra fa pe te fa sta bbuon’. Pur’ a gent’ ca tu nun canuscj e ca maj canusciarraj se rann’ ra fa pe t’aiutà. Quann’ jev’ cercann’ a residenza, pur i surient’ mij hann’ spiat’ ai genitor’ si me putevn’ ospità. Tutt’ l’università s’è preoccupat’ pe me e ttutt’ quant’ me ricevn’ “tu nun te preoccupà”. I sturient’ mij m’hann’ purtat’ ddu’ mierc’ lor’ pecché u lor’ professor’ nun ten’ nu mierc’ pe iss’. Luca m’ha purtat’ tant’ vot’ e Rosin’ traducev’. I colleg’ mij me vulevn’ fa ‘nzurà cu quaccun’ ri sturient’ lor’ o mij pe rummanì semp’ ru lor’. Magari! I rimang semp’ ru lor’ e mi dispiac’ averl’ fatt’ mmlinà pe’ essr’ stat’ cussì scurnus’.

Si ce sta na cos’ ca n’omm’ s’adda ‘mparà ra vit’, è r’ se scurdà chell’ ca s’è ‘mparat’: Napul’ te fa scurdà chell’ ca t’è ‘mparat’ fin’ a mo’. Forz’ è proprj chell’ ca ha fatt’ Nietzsche cu i scuorz’ suoj. Pe quant’ me riguard’, ij odj e vogl’ ben’ a Napul’. Pe chistu cuntrast’ ij ric’ ca Napul’ è nu velen doc’. U Vesuvj è accussì bell’, eppur’ è tant’ periculos’. Nun saccj quant’ i vuj hann’ mai volut’ bben’ a na cos’ pericolos’, ma bell’. Napul’ è a signora mij, bell’ e pericolos’.

Spiss’ nuj nun ce rendimm’ cont’ quant’ aval’ chell’ ca tenimm’. Assaj napulitan’ nun veren’ Napul’ comm’ a verimm’ ij e Nietzsche. Nisciuna sorpres’: lor’ nun sann’ chell’ che tenen’ e perciò nun sann’ chell’ ca tenen’ nient’ ra perder’. Nu pesc’ s’accorgj ral’acqua quann’ ven’ piscat’. Pur’ assaj sturient’ mij nun apprezzan’ Napul’. Vonn’ ì for’ Napul’ e va bbuò. Ammor’ mij pe Napul’ pò esser’ romantic’ ma ij aggj volut’ bben’ a ogn mument’ c’aggj passat’ cà. A Napul’ aggj vist’ dal vivo chell’ c’aggj leggiut’ in Gayatri Spivak quann’ aggj vist’ i pat’ e i mamm’ ru Vommer’ alluntanà i figlj ra i scugnizz’ i Napul’. Per esempij ind a Circumvesuvian’ i uagliun ru Vommer’ nun putevan cantà cu l’at’ uagliun’. Chest’ però succer’ pe tutt’ u munn’, a Napul’ comm’ in India. Napul’ m’ha fatt’ veré chell’ ca n’aggj vist’ in India. A Napul’ song maturat’ e aggj acquistat’ cchiù pacienz’. Napul’ m’ha aiutat’ a capì tanta cos’ e a sciogòlier’ nurec’ ‘durcigliat’.

Se Napoli mi ha insegnato la pazienza, Fra mi ha incoraggiato con una fiducia ai massimi livelli. Quest’uomo di eccezionale valore è un maestro par excellence. Grazie Fra, per avermi dato la possibilità di vivere a Napoli. Tu mi hai insegnato, non solo accademicamente, come e perché sia più importante essere innanzitutto ‘umani’. È per questo che noi ci dedichiamo agli studi umanistici. Non posso assolutamente immaginare di lavorare con qualunque altro studioso del tuo calibro come ho fatto con te. Come hai potuto soprassedere ai miei stupidi errori? Se penso di potermi definire anche solo un poco uno studioso, lo devo solamente a te. Vivere e imparare insieme a te mi ha reso davvero una persona migliore. I tuoi continui suggerimenti e i tuoi consigli, quei tragitti dopo le lezioni verso la stazione, i frequenti scherzi e battute mentre lavoravamo su Abhinavagupta mi saranno sempre cari per tutto il tempo avvenire. La tua franchezza e la tua amicizia, la tua fiducia e il tuo insegnamento, retaggio che da te ho ricevuto, moriranno solo insieme con me. Ti saluto con fervida gratitudine.


Se sono stato capace di sopravvivere a Napoli, il merito va a Stefi. Questo fiore di donna è come il burro, morbida e solida allo stesso tempo. Non potrò mai ripagare in questa vita i debiti che ho con lei, ma ci proverò. Ella è dolce nella sua innocenza e ha una personalità assai toccante. Grazie per aver speso ore con me all’ufficio immigrazione, per avermi  prestato del denaro senza volere alcun interesse, per avermi guidato nel mio lavoro di docente e soprattutto per essere stata un capo meraviglioso.

Io vivo a Napoli, ma sono di Bacoli. Probabilmente il primo (e altrettanto probabilmente l’ultimo) Kashmiro che abbia trovato posto nei registri dell’anagrafe di Bacoli. Grazie a Genna e ai suoi genitori. Ho un grosso debito con questa cara famiglia per l’amore e le cure che mi hanno offerto. Genna, non posso mai dimenticare tua madre dirmi ogni volta “sei magro!” e rimpinzarmi con una enorme quantità di cibo assolutamente delizioso.

Grazie France, per avermi mostrato Palermo. Vorrei aver potuto trovare lavoro lì e viverci per il resto della mia vita. La tua famiglia è tanto cara come lo sei anche tu. Grazie per essere un amico meraviglioso. E grazie per avermi prelevato insieme a Flori all’aeroporto e avermi trovato una sistemazione fantastica nel centro storico.

Grazie Flori, per tutto. Il tuo consiglio mi ha cambiato la vita: “non permettere a dei manoscritti senza vita di rovinarti l’esistenza”. Grazie per avermi accolto qui. Ho ancora copie del tuo passaporto nel mio computer e sono sicuro che anche tu terrai le copie del mio nel tuo. Grazie davvero per aver organizzato questo fantastico evento per me. Ne ho goduto ogni momento, condividendo il mio affetto e il mio tempo con coloro che amo. 🙂

Grazie Dani (Daniele), se non altro per le tue visite. Ho goduto della tua presenza nel mio letto. 🙂

Grazie Gianni, per essere ciò che ho trovato in te – un immortale amico. gānd marāo, chole khao. 🙂

Grazie a Tatiana e alla sua famiglia che hanno reso il mio primo soggiorno indimenticabile per tutto il tempo avvenire. Non posso mai dimenticare quegli infiniti pranzi e cene a casa tua. Grazie per le attenzioni e l’aiuto offertomi in quei primi giorni. Sarebbe stato impossibile gestire le cose senza di te.

Grazie Dani (Daniela) per avermi accompagnato una volta in ospedale. Non posso mai dimenticare quella drammatica notte.

Grazie Chiara per amarmi così tanto. Il tuo amore mi ha dato calore. Grazie Pietro per le segnalazioni riguardo il Qawwali. Spero che continuerai a mandarmene altre.

Grazie Serena, per tutto.

Khan Sahab, vorrei che tu potessi continuare a vivere a Napoli e che noi avessimo avuto più tempo per parlare e condividere i nostri interessi per l’Asia meridionale.

Grazie Lukes, per tutto, per avermi portato tante volte dal tuo medico e per i tuoi piccoli consigli. Grazie per avermi sempre accompagnato all’ufficio postale insieme ad Annalisa e Rosina.

Grazie Anto, per le infinite passeggiate a Piazza Bellini con la Peroni. Dobbiamo ancora cercare ragazze Estoni in giro e sono certo che non saremo più affamati troppo a lungo. Mi ricordo ancora quante sigarette ti ho rubato. Era gioia pura stare con te, Vero e Eugen.


Grazie a tutti i miei cari studenti. Se alla fine ho potuto apprendere un po’ di italiano, il merito va tutto a loro. Tutti voi siete stati per me un’ispirazione che io non dimenticherò per tutta la vita. Ricordate che un insegnante non può essere tale senza i suoi studenti. Probabilmente io ho imparato da voi quanto voi da me. I miei studenti hanno avuto un gran peso nella mia vita. Sono stati i miei maestri quanto io lo sono stato per loro. Sono stato particolarmente felice di osservare la crescita intellettuale degli studenti della “magistrale” e del terzo anno. Anche gli studenti del primo e secondo anno sono eccezionalmente promettenti. Auguro a tutti voi buona fortuna qualunque cosa decidiate di fare nella vita.

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.


“I sometimes hold it half a sin

To put in words the grief I feel;

For words, like Nature, half reveal

And half conceal the Soul within.”

(In Memoriam V)

My paternal grandfather stood as a great inspiration for me when I was a teenager. I lost him when I was in high school. Like they are for all of us teenage years were an important stage of my life where I craved inspiration from a role model. The death of my grandfather had created a sort of void for me; I sought guidance from someone outside my family. I made an unaccustomed choice of studying humanities and joined the Gandhi Memorial College (GMC) that used to offer courses for eleventh and twelfth classes of high school. Both the teachers and authorities in the GMC were helpful and inspiring for students. But I was to discover a rare personality in this college that would eventually inspire me throughout my life. I would eventually rediscover the inspiring personality of my grandfather in him.

It was my first day in the GMC and I was eagerly looking forward to see someone who, I was told, used to be a very good friend and junior colleague of my grandfather in the D.A.V. High School (Jawahar Nagar) in Srinagar and also a teacher of my father. I had heard of his magnetic and charismatic personality both as a teacher and humanist. It was these traits I sought of professors I encountered. While looking forward and waiting for my Sanskrit class in the main corridor of the college, I saw a tall man approaching in a stately gait walking towards principal’s office with a cheerful smile on his face. His hair was coal-black and he had grey moustache. Neatly dressed, holding a small black leather pouch in his underarm, he would give a charming smile to everyone whom he would have an eye contact with. There was something about his smile that I find difficult to express in words; it was the smile of an innocent intellectual. I would realise it much later in life that the vacuum created by my grandfather’s death was filled by gentle and scholarly personalities like him and a few others like Pandit Dinanath Yacch, Prof A.N. Dhar, Prof Ashok Aklujkar, Dr Bettina Bäumer, Prof N.B. Patil and Prof Nilkanth Gurtu.

I was never an outstanding student, but that was not what mattered for him since unlike many other professors who usually liked only the most meritorious students and ignored the back-benchers, he treated the most notorious and the most brilliant students alike. And he was the only professor who was respected equally well by both extremes of the student groups. As a teacher he hardly cared about students being good or bad. Even the most notorious student would come and touch his feet, and listen carefully to his noble and touchy advice. We have often heard the stories like that of the notorious  dacoit Angulimal who came chasing Buddha to kill him and when he saw him (Buddha), he turned his devotee. During the troubled times in Kashmir valley, both the armed forces and militants would want to protect him. Such was the charisma of his unfathomed innocence. According to him there was nothing like a “bad boy”. We created ‘good’ and ‘bad’ boys. He viewed a ruffian and the most decent student alike. He used to offer equal treatment to a duffer and a brilliant student. He regarded his students like his own children and would share most intimate episodes of his life with them while, for instance, trying to make them understand literary subtleties of a certain poem.

But that was not all. I would often see him talking to the peons of the college sharing some intimacies with them. He would say that he enjoyed speaking to them. They never manipulated whatever he spoke to them about. How many teachers care about the plight or the joy of a peon in a college? I never ever saw him sitting in a group of professors enjoying some free time in the sunshine of winters in the college compound. He would arrive on time for his classes and leave just after finishing off his classes. He would never be a part of any gossip groups. For me this was the most inspiring characteristic of a professor that I learnt from him – and since then I have never wasted my time unnecessarily gossiping around either with my colleagues or students. We always forget the main purpose of an educational establishment, he would think. The GMC or such other educational institutions are primarily established for the students and the first priority of such institutions should be always to be ready to serve students in whatever way possible. He strongly believed in social service through education. He would always think how GMC could serve as a better institution for young Kashmiri students who might use it as a launching pad for taking off their future flights. On the first day of college he would introduce the fresh batch of his students to Gandhi’s life and philosophy after whom the GMC was named. He would make it a point that all his students in the GMC should know the favourite song of Gandhi – “vaishnava jana to tene kahiye je peera parayi jaane re. para dukhe upakara kare toye mana abhimana na ane re”. Even though he did seem to be deeply influenced by Gandhi as most of his generation would be, but in my opinion deep down his heart it did not matter for him whether these lines were the favourite of Gandhi or were written by Narasinh Mehta. The moving idea expressed in these lines was what was pulling him towards it – to feel the pain of ‘Other’ and serve them without generating conceit about the selfless service whether that was through the word of mouth, or an altruistic act. This altruistic professor was unaware of his own altruism. Had he been aware of it he would not have spent all his life in the GMC considering the heights of literary achievements he had accomplished as a self-made scholar.

He was a teacher par excellence. His style of making English literature understandable in Kashmiri language was not only amusing, but also revealing the critical method of translation. Once teaching me a line from Doctor Faustus of Christopher Marlowe he asked me how we could translate the expression like “Fie on thee” into Kashmiri. He translated it as “hay oyi vobah”. When I said that I was still unable to understand the character of Doctor Faustus, he replied that it was the story of every human being – me and you and everyone else is a Doctor Faustus. We are all Doctor Faustus, and all of us come across such stages in life and we have to learnt to face it. His loud voice still echoes into my ears as I write these lines:

Settle thy studies, Faustus, and begin

To sound the depth of that thou wilt profess:

Having commenc’d, be a divine in shew,

Yet level at the end of every art,

And live and die in Aristotle’s works.

Sweet Analytics, ’tis thou hast ravish’d me!

Bene disserere est finis logices.

Is, to dispute well, logic’s chiefest end?

Affords this art no greater miracle?

Then read no more; thou hast attain’d that end:

A greater subject fitteth Faustus’ wit:

Bid Economy farewell, and Galen come,

Seeing, Ubi desinit philosophus, ibi incipit medicus:

Be a physician, Faustus; heap up gold,

And be eterniz’d for some wondrous cure:

Summum bonum medicinae sanitas,

The end of physic is our body’s health.

Why, Faustus, hast thou not attain’d that end?

Is not thy common talk found aphorisms?

Are not thy bills hung up as monuments,

Whereby whole cities have escap’d the plague,

And thousand desperate maladies been eas’d?

Yet art thou still but Faustus, and a man.

Couldst thou make men to live eternally,

Or, being dead, raise them to life again,

Then this profession were to be esteem’d.

Physic, farewell!

Before teaching me “Good Morrow” of John Donne I was obviously offered three lectures on metaphysics. But his style of teaching metaphysics was not making it sound like a jargon to a high school student. He said “say for instance if we are travelling from one place to another in a bus. You are bing metaphysical if you are not sure whether you will reach the destination or not. If you say you ’will’ reach your destination, you are not being metaphysical”. All my class mates still remember when he taught us Shakespeare’s sonnet titled “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day”. I wish I could infuse life into this piece of paper and make you listen to the following words in his majestic loud melodious voice those he would recite like a minstrel of balmy life:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” (Sonnet-18)

His eloquent and flowery English sounded very professorial to all of us. Shakespeare was a metaphysician, he used to say. A million times have I quoted his words in Urdu – “Shakespeare ko zindagi ki napaydari ka bahut gehra ehsaas tha”. This deep ephemerality (nāpāydārī) was the crux of the Shakespearean metaphysics according to him. Reading and re-reading the dramas of Shakespeare, he had developed a profound understanding of his (Shakespeare’s) philosophy of life. I learnt more about Philosophy from him than in my philosophy classes, both oriental and occidental, and I learnt more about History from him than I could have learnt from any historian. What academic branch did he not specialise in? In his free time at home he used to tutor students in Mathematics and Economics.

Wordsworth was a mystic for him and so was Coleridge. I deeply remember him when even today I open my high school books and read Wordsworth’s “An Ode to the Intimations of Immortality from the Recollections of Early Childhood” or Coleridge’s reply to the former in the “Dejection: An Ode”.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: 

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,     

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,” (Ode to Immortality)

My genial spirits did fail when I heard that this paragon of virtue and cheerfulness is no more, but is he no more? This is what I asked myself immediately. His living is the immortal living and his death is the mortal death.

My genial spirits fail;

And what can these avail

To lift the smothering weight from off my breast?

It were a vain endeavour,

Though I should gaze forever

On that green light that lingers in the west:

I may not hope from outward forms to win

The passion and the life, whose fountains are within.” (Dejection: An Ode)

I still recall that brilliant day of my life when I studied the “Ode to Skylark” by P.B. Shelly with him. I was literally feeling like flying in the deep depths of the endless blue firmament like a Skylark. Was it the power of Shelly or Shelly’s Skylark or my teacher who was guiding me through this flight of Skylark ?

What thou art we know not;

What is most like thee?

From rainbow clouds there flow not

Drops so bright to see,

As from thy presence showers a rain of melody: –


Like a Poet hidden

In the light of thought,

Singing hymns unbidden,

Till the world is wrought

To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:


We look before and after,

And pine for what is not:

Our sincerest laughter

With some pain is fraught;

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.” (Ode to Skylark)

I wish I could have recorded his explanations of John Keat’s pangs of separation from his fiancée Fanny Brawne or how such love-miseries were being reflected in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn” or “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” or “The Eve of St Agnes”. He made me fall in love with Shelley and Keats and Wordsworth and Coleridge. His explanations of Alfred Tennyson’s “Lady of Shallot” in the light of Arthurian legends and his (Tennyson’s) intimate relation with his friend Arthur Henry Hallam revealed in the “In Memoriam”, one of the three great English elegies, created in me an everlasting passion for English literature.

That loss is common would not make

My own less bitter, rather more:

Too common! Never morning wore

To evening, but some heart did break.” (VI, In Memoriam)

The lesser griefs that may be said,

That breathe a thousand tender vows,

Are but as servants in a house

Where lies the master newly dead;” (XX, In Memoriam)

It was least the charm of the English literature itself, I think, and mostly his way of teaching that let me to truly appreciate the literature of England. He could make you feel English and England while sitting in Jammu & Kashmir. Those who have been his students will know how well he knew England just because he was so intimately associated with the literature of that land and its people. So he would tell you where a particular street was in a particular area in medieval London, for instance. The man who had hardly been outside the State of Jammu & Kashmir would know most streets of medieval England simply because he was astonishingly familiar with the literature of that country. Such is the potent power of dedicated study and such is the alluring charm of a worthy scholar.

He always regretted that he did not know enough Sanskrit to read the texts in original and he would have liked to read this ancient classical literature because it had inspired so many domains of knowledge. If fact, he said to me once, that he considered marrying a woman with traditional degree in Sanskrit because he wanted to learn from her about this ancient knowledge system. Does it not reflect his passion for literary traditions? How can I not mention his contributions to Kashmiri literature in the form of his critical essays published in various journals in past couple of decades? He believed that the insignificant corpus of existent criticism in Kashmiri language is dominated by age-old and backyard historical and sociological concerns. He was attempting to evolve a new critical idiom in Kashmiri language in the light of the opinions of Sir Percy Lubbock  (Craft of Fiction) and Northrope Frye (Anatomy of Criticism).

If we have more mortals like him surviving the mundane existence, the earth will be a heaven, but it is not. Men like him are like gold dust. Even though they are thin on the ground, they exist but rarely exceptionally, but when they do, they live for ever. I would like this earth to be full of such people who make this world a loving and charming place to live in, but I am asking for too much. Let such people be rare and let many of us learn from their occasional existence. Like a tiny earthen lamp attempting to illuminate every corner of a dark room. Let us not miss him, but live him following his unique philosophy – the philosophy of humanity.

He is not here; but far away

The noise of life begins again,

And ghastly thro’ the drizzling rain

On the bald street breaks the blank day.” (In Memoriam, VII)

My teacher wanted me either to be a judge or join the Indian Administrative service. Unfortunately, I could do neither and ended up being a teacher like him. I recall his emphatic eloquent voice – “Mrinal ! I want you to be a judge.” He even made me write the entrance examination of the bachelors programme for law in the University of Delhi. He infused and invigorated his students with passion for learning. And this passion for learning was not simply reading as many books as one could. This learning was the true learning of life. What do we learn when we study the subjects like history, philosophy and literature? We learn how to live – how to live the life of a ‘human being’ – live for ourselves and others. I am sure even the so called ‘bad boy’ or the most notorious student will also be able to tell you something about the ‘way of life’ that he/she might have learnt from him.

Then fancy shapes, as fancy can,

The grief my loss in him had wrought,

A grief as deep as life or thought,

But stay’d in peace with God and man.” (In Memoriam, LXXX)

Why should I not think that his personal life was not less than the life of an ascetic? He once told me that he neither allowed his wife to clean the dishes in the kitchen nor did he allow her to clean their house. He made it sure that he would do it himself and he justified this unusual act by saying that The Prophet in the Holy Quran has said that he does not like people with smooth hands. He likes only people with rough hands because smooth hands belong to people who do not do hard work and he always attempted to keep his hands rough. We think men in robes are more powerful than men in the usual dress. We imagine mystics with long braided hair wearing flowing robes instead of men common in outlook. We are mistaken. Men like my teacher are far more powerful than any men on the earth. They don’t say what they are, they be what they are. They are innocent intellectuals. “Moza Sir” (Professor Kanhaya Lal Moza) was one such rare personality who will continue to live with me in my life and in my death. Even if I let him die, he will only die with me when I find my own grave. I am neither mourning his death nor elegising his memory as I did of my grandfather. This remarkable literary craftsman matured me into what I am and his humanitarian philosophy will inspire me what I will continue to be.

My Arthur, whom I shall not see

Till all my widow’d race be run;

Dear as the mother to the son,

More than my brothers are to me.” (In Memoriam, IX)

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.
  2. 2. Halbfass, W., (1990) India and Europe, An Essay on Philosophical Understanding, MLBD, Delhi.
  3. 3. Halbfass, W., (1985) India and the Comparative Method. Philosophy East and West 35.I (1985): 3-15
  4. 4. Bhushan, Nalini and Garfield, Jay. L., (eds.) (2010) Indian Philosophy in English – from Renaissance to Independence, OUP, New York.
  5. 5. King, Richard., (1999) Indian Philosophy, An Introduction to Hindu and Buddhist Thought, Edinburg University Press, Edinburg.
  6. 6. King, Richard., (1999) Orientalism and Religion, Post-Colonial Theory, India, and ‘The Mystic East’, Routledge, London / NY.
  7. 7. Krishna, Daya., (1991) Indian Philosophy – A Counter Perspective, OUP, Delhi.
  8. 8. Larson, Gerald,., (1989) Introduction: The ‘Age-Old Distinction Between the Same and the Other Interpreting Across Boundaries. Larson and Deutsch, eds. MLBD, Delhi.
  9. 9. Nandy, Ashis., (1983) The Intimate Enemy – Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism, OUP, Delhi.
  10. 10. Nicholson, Andrew, J., (2010) Unifying Hinduism – Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History, Columbia University Press: New York.
  11. 11. Breckenridge, Carol. A. and van der Veer, Peter (1993) Orientalism and the Post-Colonial Predicament – Perspectives in South Asia, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.
  12. 12. Raghuramaraju, (2006) Debates in Indian Philosophy – Classical, Colonial, and Contemporary, OUP, Delhi.
  13. 13. Pappu, Rama Rao, (1982) Indian Philosophy : Past and Future, MLBD, Delhi.
  14. 14. Smart, Ninian, (1989). The Analogy of Meaning and the Tasks of Comparative Philosophy, Interpreting Across Boundaries. Larson and Deutsch, eds. MLBD, Delhi.

Can I be Personal-II (janāzā-e-ilm)


is ishq-e-janāzā-e-ilm main
makbūl hum hue
apne hī āp se nafrat kī dehshat main
mām’ūr hum hue
ilm se dostī karne kī sāzish main
badnasībī humpe savār ho gai
hum mis-mār ho gaye
khudī ke ilm se khudī bīmār ho gaye
ai ilm ! tujhpe humne zindagī nisār kī
par yu tūne hamārī bekhudī darkār /? kī
ishq-e-janāzā-e-ilm ke tūfān
pe hum savār, makbūl hue
badnāmī, be-gairat, badnasībī kā ālam
be-ilm hum apne hī āp main qayām kar gaye
hamāre armāno kī thandī rākh tak na bachī
yun bebas, bedīn, bīmār kī ek ānh se shor bhī na machī
bas bahut jee li zindagī, bahut hue armān pūre
bahut kar liyā hāsil ilm, bahut chāhat rahī adhūre
ishq kā paigām, ilm kā ilhām
maut pe yaqeen, khudī afreen
madhoshi-e-ishq-e-ilm main fanā
zehan ke khayālāton kī sanā
in-na-lillahe-va ina-raja-un