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Ancient Indian Philosophy
This is a thread to get a discussion started on Ancient Indian Philosophy.

Indian Philosophy has evolved in 2. One which accept the authority of Sruthi "The vedas" the one which does not. 

Sruthi means heard, authority, etc, 

Sruthi is something believed to be permanent in this world and does not need any other source of knowledge to reveal itself, just like sun does not need a torch light's presence to announce its own presence.

Samkhya, Vaiseshika, Mimamsa, Vedanta, Nyaya, Yoga, forms the schools which accept the authority of vedas.

Jainism, Buddhism, and Materialism or Carvaka Philosophy constitute the class of schools which do not accept the authority of vedas.

Tantra forms another greater development of philosophy. This is said to be evolved as a distinct branch independent of vedas but later accepted the authority of vedas and got merged with it. Tantra stands independent and many of its ideas are unique. 

Ancient Indian Philosophy
Dear Rakesh,

I commend your efforts for creating this thread.But this thread need not dwell
too much on the glory of individual philosophers or to the schools they
belonged to.Instead it would be better to begin with a problem.And one
urgent problem is the identity of Indian Philosophy:are we really doing justice
to the depth and penetration of Indian thinkers by reading English translations of
their works.To what extent a language imported from a different
tradition-and this tradition,mind you,is far ahead of us in term of wealth
and economy-is alive to the nuances of our lifeworld, so that it could fairly
express it in philosophical language.To what extent can a translation keep
itself free from the corrosive effect of power  that somtimes threatens to rub
the otherness of the other.

Ancient Indian Philosophy
The notion that sruthi is a permanent truth that reveals itself in the world is immensely problematic from a philosophical perspective.  Just a few of these problems:
1. since there are many different sruthi, all claiming eternal reality manifesting to their hearers, and since they make claims inconsistent with one another, either Truth is inconsistent (and unintelligible) or some of these claimed sruthi are not actually what their adherents claim them to be (the problem is very similar for the 'revelations' found in the Western religions, each claiming to be the 'word of God' but inconsistent with one another -- and even sometimes internally inconsistent)
2. the above implies that there is some criterion/standard by which one can distinguish 'real' from illusory 'sruthi'; philosophically it is insufficient merely to claim that a particular content of one's 'hearing' is true because one has heard it. Nor is it sufficient to accept certain texts as articulations of 'sruthi' simply because they have been assembled in a revered tradition. 
3. the question of translations seems to be only secondary.  Along with it, there is an assumption that a particular language is somehow the 'true' language, a matter that seems to be unjustifiable and rather ethnocentrically naive.

Of course, these problems don't take away from the beauty and profound insight found in the Vedas.  However, I think that failing to be mindful of them may lead to rather unphilosophical conclusions.

Ancient Indian Philosophy
Well in My individual research my conclusion is that the concept of truth in Vedanta is something which has never been irrefutable. If there is a truth then that truth can be only one and cannot be 2 because if there are 2 truths one of them has to be false.

Vedanta means the end of knowledge. how does knowledge ends? the knowledge by which everything else is known is vedanta.

the knowledge of self in the same is self illumined all other knowledges of this world. because truth alone reveals truth.

now this is the cream of what we call as sruthi this is the eternal law, now the whole vedas are build upon this, the rest of it is necessary for the common man as for his symbols can represent the truth, but the seeker who is matured, he comes knowledge himself.

Ancient Indian Philosophy
From what I have heard Sruthi as opposed to revelations is not the words of God but his breath.  They also exist eternally like God and are considered as God's breath.  That is why the sages who have revealed parts of it are called mantra drashta or those who have 'seen' the mantra.  When some of the passages of the Vedas are examined they state that in the matter of God it is anirvachaneeyam or beyond any words/description.  In the Vaishnava siddhanta SriVaikuntam is considered as a state of mind by some of the preceptors.  This is similar to some of the concepts of the branches of philosophy that do not consider the vedas as the ultimate authority

Ancient Indian Philosophy

Dear Bijaya,<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


I am grateful that translations exist.  Without translations and the patience of the scholars who produce them, many of us would never get to acquaint ourselves--let  alone appreciate--philosophers, schools of thought, problems, and traditions different from the ones we are used to.  


Katherine Masis

San Jose, Costa Rica

Ancient Indian Philosophy
Reply to Geetha Anand
I think we need to distinct between Sruthi and Smriti. The vaikunta is actually mentioned in smritis. Sruthi has no mention of vaikunta. Smriti is something which may or may not be accepted but sruthi is considered to be eternal and accepted.
Also I think the author needs to point out where does this sentence appear in the scriptures "words of god but his breath" if we have a verse of sanskrit pointing towards that it would be great.

Ancient Indian Philosophy
Ancient Indian Philosophy Reply to Rakesh Ramachandran Hi everybody,

The more I visit this forum the more I get charged to reflect and respond to some of the insightful comments made by fellow members of this forum.For what is at stake here are a host of issues that many students of Indian Philosophy like me share.What is at issue here is the vexing question,"What is Indian Philosophy?"In what way is it different,say,From Iranian Philosophy or Costa Rican philosophy.Do we really do Indian Philosophy when we think about it in a language(English)that has a different socio-historical origin from that of Sanskrit.Surely,common ground can be sought after and in no way I am a believer of linguistic relativism.That said ,however the problem remains:Darsana is not exactly what philosophy,the English word connotes.For,the former has an intuitive dimension which the latter lacks.How far one can render a Sanskrit text into English without at the same time not changing(distorting/elevating) its semantics (the meaning the author originally wanted to convey).Mind you, these texts abound in archaic terms that do not have their exact English equivalents.I am afraid by doing some facile translation we may overlook the very distinctness of Indian Philosophy that we are seeking to understand:It is not characterized  by the high handed intellectualism of Europe rather intellect here gets complimented by intuition.This analysis makes an interesting observation:When Theodere Kneupper finds Philosophically problematic phrases such as "word of God","revelation"as used by Rakesh Ramachandran in his posts.Surely,Kneupper must have an idea of what is philosophical in order to question notions mentioned above.I am deeply sympathetic to the two positions.Both Rakesh and Geetha need to clarify what they mean by phrases such as "God's breath" when they use such value loaded terms.This is not to object their using of such terms. I am sure they must have some particular sense attached to those phrases.

I have given Kneupper the misleading impression that I am championing for the truthfulness of a particular language(see his response to Rakesh's first post).This is unfortunate! What I intended is to throw some light on the grey areas of translation.Two great philosophers(Gadamer and Heidegger) have taught us how we can learn and even understand antiquity better in the light of the present.Both were critical of the Latinised translation of Greek works as the translations were not able to illuminate what was hidden in Greek philosophy.This is not a reproach of the practice of translation but making it more accurate,self critical and open ended.

Katherine is absolutely right when she says that those who translate put lots of effort and insight to make their work as good as they are capable of making.And we mortals are the beneficiaries of their works.But I would not never like to see my Costa Rican or Indian thoughts/values get distorted just because some one wants to see them as exotic.            


Ancient Indian Philosophy
Hi All,

Thank you for starting a good discussion, but since the last post revolved around God;s Breath, I need to make it clear, I never believed in the pure exact meaning of God's Breath. There is no god as per the ideas of god what I find in most the scriptures. There is no breath for him either, if he is a creature who takes in breath then it wouldn't be god. This is a problem with translations. We fail to understand the real meaning of those words. The verses were written by sages who had a much developed intellect than us. For them it was quite customary to use symbols to represent things. I believe what was meant by God's Breath was veda or truth is the very essence of god. Now the god that is being pointed is not a creature or super human one who sits in one heaven and breaths and lives like a us. He is truth and there are no definitions for him. He is more exactly attributed in upanishads, the philosophical expansion of vedas. Isavasya midam sarvam, God is everywhere, So we need to distinguish the meanings when we do translations, atleast when we do it from a classical language like sanskrit.

thank you

Ancient Indian Philosophy
In a way I do agree with the difficulties that arise by translating. Bijaya Mahapatra is refering to Heidegger which is typicaly a German philosopher whose texts are difficult to translate into English. Nevertheless quite some people do have some understanding of his works thanks to the translations.
Concerning Indian philosophy I am mainly interested in Buddhist philosophy. I don't read Pali, Sanskriet, Japanese or Tibetan, and  I am afraid it would take me more time to learn all these different languages, including its subtilities, than to get such an understanding of Buddhist philosophy that I can understand whether the English, German or Dutch translation is acurate or not. Understanding the language in which a text originaly is written on the other hand does not mean you understand the meaning of the text. So interpretation is always a hazardous task.

About the differences between different cultural philosophies I am not capable to say anything about Costa Rican philosophy, but about Indian philosophy there are specific things to be mentioned. Indian philosophy is besides western philosophy the only system that knows formal logic. Where western philosophy can be driven by curiosity only, Indian philosophy is always, directly or indirectly, connected to the question how to gain happiness and avoid suffering. The relation between the unity of everything that exist and the differentiations of it (or the duality), what, to my understanding, seems to be important within Indian philosophy (which can be found in the relation between Brahman and Atman or the buddhist interdependent origination) isn't a real issue within western philosophy.

Philosophy is a western word which, of course, might not be exactly aplicable to what we refer to as Indian philosophy, but I think it is about the best we have. Indian 'philosophy' is as well a longing for knowing how things are existing and functioning.

Robert Keurntjes
the Netherlands

Ancient Indian Philosophy
Dear Bijaya,

I am interested in the concept of the divine, and just exactly what people of religious faith experience in terms of the divine. The very little I know of eastern culture and religion interests me: its concept of one-ness, its understanding of intuition over European logicism, and its acceptance of the possibility that we can understand that which is ineffable.   I have also read a very little concerning the difficulties of translation, that there are often cultural expressions for which an equivalent word in another's culture just does not exist, and therefore, something is always lost in translation.   In terms of Gadamer's hermeneutics there is much that European philosphy can learn from Eastern philosophy. 

Ancient Indian Philosophy
Reply to Dilys Marsden
Hi Everybody

There can hardly be any denial of the fact that Indian philosophy looks at life as a whole:the analytic attitude that takes life as to be the
locus of conflict among our instincts,dispositions and thoughts can not sustain itself when confronted with a situation where the whole of our being human
gets questioned.Reason sometimes tricks us to believe that it can be its own master.The idea of prudence,wisdom,phronesis resist any attempt at their getting
subsumed under an algorithmic discourse.This is where Indian philosophy exhorts us to show humility in acknowledging the pain and pleasure of what it means to be a human.
The famous saying reads:Sa vidya ya vimuktaye( it is Wisdom that liberates us).

Some philosophers tend to deemphasize this aspect of Indian philosophy at the of cost of highlighting its critical and analytical side as if there exists a smooth division
between theory and practice.This disowning has its aim in making the world believe that Indian philosophy is no less critical and analytic than that of Europe.     
Let's face it:Indian philosophy is unique because of its concern with the whole,not just with the part(reason).Limiting reason is not to embrace unreason.

Ancient Indian Philosophy
It is not my impression that European philosophy places any greater trust in reason and logic than that of Tibet, India or China. It is only that the former traditionally refuses to face up to the results of its own analysis and does not acknowledge the limitations of the intellect. Kant, Hegel, Bradley, Spencer Brown, etc. show us that when we take logic seriously we end up at the doctrine of the Upanishads. Maybe this confuses the issues.

Ancient Indian Philosophy
Reply to Peter Jones
 Hi Peter,

Right.Recently I was reading Gadamer's book on religion,ethics and hermeneutics and the lesson I drew from it is that once one accepts the human limitation in grasping the nature of Reality one can not be far away from acknowledging the role some greater force in giving meaning to our lives.Now who is this greater force?I guess Kant's idea of morality is a prime example of a highly secularaised version of this greater force.To put it in Gadamer's phrases,the divine is a way of 'being' rather than 'being' believed.


Ancient Indian Philosophy
Hi Bijaya

Apologies. I lost this discussion. In case you're still around ...

I did not mean to suggest that there are any limitations which prevent us from understanding the nature of Reality, although there are of course endless obstacles. My view is that logic leads us inevitably to the view that such knowledge is possible, and that the application of logic produces a significant part of that knowledge. I would agree, of course, that logic cannot in itself produce such an understanding, but it points straight to where it can be found. (E.g. Nagarjuna, Bradley).   

The physicist Paul Davies demonstrates this in his MInd of God when by analysis he arrives at the view that the universe must be understanding as a whole if it is to understood properly, by an act of 'oneness' with the Mindscape' (not quite his words). David Chalmers also shows us how to do it by his analysis of the mind-body problem, which I see as ending precisely (and inexplicably) where ancient Indian philosophy begins.  

I was suggesting that there is no conflict between logic and experience in these matters, or not unless we are idiosyncratic in our use of logic. 

I would certainly be against the idea that our inability to understand the nature of Reality implies a greater force that can understand it. Would this idea not make a mockery of Indian philosophy?


Ancient Indian Philosophy
Reply to Peter Jones
Hi Peter
I absolutely agree with you.But to extend logic(theoretical reason)to ethical spear has its limitation.To seek a universal rule to guide our ethical conduct or for that matter our practical affairs is to overestimate the power of reason.Morality is a presupposition we have to begin with and morality is always in need of a theoretical justification.Even if we are able to justify it  it always seeks an exception where it could have gone different.This is where we have to choose our own God to guide us.


Ancient Indian Philosophy

Yes, I would agree that morality is always in need of a theoretical justification, at least if we are to put it to the test of logic. But I doubt that morality is a presupposition we have to begin with.
I'd rather say that if a world-theory does not ineluctably give rise to a moral scheme then it is inadequate to its purpose. A world-theory may or may not be founded on presuppositions, (since if Indian philosophy has any truth at all in it then presuppositions would be unnecessary in the long term). I see a central message of this philosophy as being that we shouldn't presuppose things.   

Ancient Indian Philosophy
Rakesh ji
Thanks for your reference to 'meaning of vedanta'. Well, what do we intend to discuss about 'Vedic Philosophy' seems always a problem. Is it that the 'Vedas' carry on truth for ever and without question on anything, or they simply provide ways or premise for us to seek 'truth' on issues discussed in them? Is this question fully settled in Vedic Philosophy? Second important question is 'Is truth defined' by the vedas? If yes, what is that? Veda, pronounced by Russian as 'weid' means 'a knowledge that is fully establsihed', and vedanta in this sense literally means what you said 'end of the knowledge'. But I don't think so. The 'Vedanta philisophy' is rooted on upanisada, that is the last part of Veda, or the end part of Veda. The philosophy which is rooted on upnisada is what is vedanta. Upanisada are varying as they represent interpretaions by many of what exists as knowledge in Veda. It so simply implies that 'varying interpretation is possible or acceptable to Veda'. Now, does not  it mean that 'what is establsihed as shruti in Veda are not words of God,  but something meant to be eternal knowledge. But ethernity is infinite. Now the question is 'Vedanta' is simply a premise to approach reality, and I think it is a premise that beleives on 'metaphysical truth'. The debate on absolutism of Veda does not hold ground. The vedic philosophy needs to concentrate on inqueries about 'the issues being raised in Vedas'. The Rig veda for instance talks of 'Usha'--morning. Why so dense importance is given for 'morning' as there are many songs dedicated to USHA? There are many other issues like this which naturally create interests of human mind. With this background, what I am interested to know from you is,  'Is it possible to use science to test  reality of vedic propositions?