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Aaron Richardson
Aaron Richardson

An Introduction To Indian Philosophy

Indian philosophy refers to philosophical traditions of the Indian subcontinent. A traditional Hindu classification divides āstika and nāstika schools of philosophy, depending on one of three alternate criteria: whether it believes the Vedas as a valid source of knowledge; whether the school believes in the premises of Brahman and Atman; and whether the school believes in afterlife and Devas.[2][3][4]

An Introduction to Indian Philosophy

Ajñana was one of the nāstika or "heterodox" schools of ancient Indian philosophy, and the ancient school of radical Indian skepticism. It was a Śramaṇa movement and a major rival of early Buddhism and Jainism. They have been recorded in Buddhist and Jain texts. They held that it was impossible to obtain knowledge of metaphysical nature or ascertain the truth value of philosophical propositions; and even if knowledge was possible, it was useless and disadvantageous for final salvation. They were sophists who specialised in refutation without propagating any positive doctrine of their own.

Jain philosophy is the oldest Indian philosophy that separates body (matter) from the soul (consciousness) completely.[19] Jainism was revived and re-established after Mahavira, the last and the 24th Tirthankara, synthesised and revived the philosophies and promulgations of the ancient Śramaṇic traditions laid down by the first Jain tirthankara Rishabhanatha millions of years ago.[20] According to Dundas, outside of the Jain tradition, historians date the Mahavira as about contemporaneous with the Buddha in the 5th-century BCE, and accordingly the historical Parshvanatha, based on the c. 250-year gap, is placed in 8th or 7th century BCE.[21]

Jainism is a Śramaṇic religion and rejected the authority of the Vedas. However, like all Indian religions, it shares the core concepts such as karma, ethical living, rebirth, samsara and moksha. Jainism places strong emphasis on asceticism, ahimsa (non-violence) and anekantavada (relativity of viewpoints) as a means of spiritual liberation, ideas that influenced other Indian traditions.[22] Jainism strongly upholds the individualistic nature of soul and personal responsibility for one's decisions; and that self-reliance and individual efforts alone are responsible for one's liberation. According to the Jain philosophy, the world (Saṃsāra) is full of hiṃsā (violence). Therefore, one should direct all his efforts in attainment of Ratnatraya, that are Samyak Darshan (right perception), Samyak Gnana (right knowledge) and Samyak Chàritra (right conduct) which are the key requisites to attain liberation.[23]

Buddhist philosophy is a system of thought which started with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, or "awakened one". Buddhism is founded on elements of the Śramaṇa movement, which flowered in the first half of the 1st millennium BCE, but its foundations contain novel ideas not found or accepted by other Sramana movements. Buddhism and Hinduism mutually influenced each other and shared many concepts, states Paul Williams, however it is now difficult to identify and describe these influences.[24] Buddhism rejected the Vedic concepts of Brahman (ultimate reality) and Atman (soul, self) at the foundation of Hindu philosophies.[25][26][27]

The etymology of Charvaka (Sanskrit: चर्वक) is uncertain. Bhattacharya quotes the grammarian Hemacandra, to the effect that the word cārvāka is derived from the root carv, 'to chew' : "A Cārvāka chews the self (carvatyātmānaṃ cārvākaḥ). Hemacandra refers to his own grammatical work, Uṇādisūtra 37, which runs as follows: mavāka-śyāmāka-vārtāka-jyontāka-gūvāka-bhadrākādayaḥ. Each of these words ends with the āka suffix and is formed irregularly". This may also allude to the philosophy's hedonistic precepts of "eat, drink, and be merry".

Brihaspati is traditionally referred to as the founder of Charvaka or Lokāyata philosophy, although some scholars dispute this.[51][52] During the Hindu reformation period in the first millennium BCE, when Buddhism was established by Gautama Buddha and Jainism was re-organized by Parshvanatha, the Charvaka philosophy was well documented and opposed by both religions.[53] Much of the primary literature of Charvaka, the Barhaspatya sutras, were lost either due to waning popularity or other unknown reasons.[54] Its teachings have been compiled from historic secondary literature such as those found in the shastras, sutras, and the Indian epic poetry as well as in the dialogues of Gautama Buddha and from Jain literature.[54][55] However, there is text that may belong to the Charvaka tradition, written by the skeptic philosopher Jayarāśi Bhaṭṭa, known as the Tattvôpaplava-siṁha, that provides information about this school, albeit unorthodox.[56][57]

One of the widely studied principles of Charvaka philosophy was its rejection of inference as a means to establish valid, universal knowledge, and metaphysical truths.[58][59] In other words, the Charvaka epistemology states that whenever one infers a truth from a set of observations or truths, one must acknowledge doubt; inferred knowledge is conditional.[60][61]

The Indian traditions subscribed to diverse philosophies, significantly disagreeing with each other as well as orthodox Indian philosophy and its six schools of Hindu philosophy. The differences ranged from a belief that every individual has a soul (self, atman) to asserting that there is no soul,[62] from axiological merit in a frugal ascetic life to that of a hedonistic life, from a belief in rebirth to asserting that there is no rebirth.[63]

The Arthashastra, attributed to the Mauryan minister Chanakya, is one of the early Indian texts devoted to political philosophy. It is dated to 4th century BCE and discusses ideas of statecraft and economic policy.

The political philosophy most closely associated with modern India is the one of ahimsa (non-violence) and Satyagraha, popularised by Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian struggle for independence. In turn it influenced the later independence and Civil Rights movements, especially those led by Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar's Progressive Utilization Theory[106] is also a major socio-economic and political philosophy.[107]

In appreciation of complexity of the Indian philosophy, T. S. Eliot wrote that the great philosophers of India "make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys".[108][109] Arthur Schopenhauer used Indian philosophy to improve upon Kantian thought. In the preface to his book The World As Will And Representation, Schopenhauer writes that one who "has also received and assimilated the sacred primitive Indian wisdom, then he is the best of all prepared to hear what I have to say to him."[110] The 19th-century American philosophical movement Transcendentalism was also influenced by Indian thought.[111][112]

An Introduction to Indian Philosophy is the definitive companion to the study of Indian philosophy. The book offers an accessible and comprehensive introduction to all the major philosophical concepts and issues in Indian thought. Ideal for undergraduate students the book is written and structured to reflect as closely as possible the way the subject is taught and studied. The book offers lucid coverage of Indian philosophy and breaks new ground, considering the latest directions in this growing area of philosophical interest. The book describes the various relationships and disputes between Indian traditions of thought in a chronological framework. All the major philosophical schools are covered. Key topics and controversies are illustrated by annotated translations of primary sources that are otherwise difficult to access. Christopher Bartley's rigorous analysis is supplemented by useful study features, including key examples from philosophical writing, summaries of core concepts, study questions, and guides to further reading.

Most will agree that there is no ideal textbook for Indian philosophy. For decades the only useable anthology that one could build a course around has been Radhakrishnan and Moore's A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy (Princeton, 1967). But it only provides brief summaries of the literature and teachings of the major thought traditions or "schools" (more precisely, "points of view," darśana-s) as introductions to the readings. For a survey of their main doctrines and arguments, many teachers of introductory courses in Indian philosophy still rely on Mysore Hiriyanna's The Essentials of Indian Philosophy, published in 1949, or the even earlier Outlines of Indian Philosophy (1932). The excellent two-volume Geschichte der indischen Philosophie by the great Austrian Indologist Erich Frauwallner, whose problematic political affiliations have recently become a topic of heated discussion, is available in English translation (Motilal Banarsidass, 1973, 1997), but it is an ungainly one. Moreover, Frauwallner's History is incomplete, covering only the Upaniṣads, early Buddhism, Jainism, Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Nyāya, and Vaiśeṣika, and it was originally published a long time ago, too, namely in 1953. Fortunately, his Philosophie des Buddhismus, almost as old (1956) yet still definitive, has now been translated into English under the supervision of Ernst Steinkellner (Motilal Banarsidass, 2010), so that at least we have a comprehensive, reliable guide to Indian Buddhism accompanied by lucid translations of key texts. (Steinkellner's preface to the volume contains his own reflections on Frauwallner's involvement with National Socialism.)

Some more recent surveys of Indian philosophy by Stephen Phillips (Classical Indian Metaphysics [Open Court, 1995]), Jonardon Ganeri (Philosophy in Classical India [Oxford, 2001]), and J. N. Mohanty (Classical Indian Philosophy [Rowman and Littlefield, 2002]), are more focused in scope and tend to treat Indian philosophical ideas from unconventional, though often quite interesting and philosophically sophisticated, perspectives. Richard King's Indian Philosophy: An Introduction to Hindu and Buddhist Thought (Georgetown University, 1999) is also excellent -- nicely written, accurate, and up to date -- but its thematic organization leaves a lot out. Sue Hamilton's Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2001) is, well, very short. Thus, a current, comprehensive survey is still needed -- one that covers the entire range of Indian philosophical theories and arguments thoroughly and accurately, is devoid of pedantry, yet at the same time reflects advances in our understanding of Indian thought that have been achieved in the last fifty years. 041b061a72


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