Advaita Vedanta: History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization

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Item Code: NAD329
Author: R. Balasubramanian
Publisher: Centre For Studies In Civilizations
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9788187586043
Pages: 725
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.5 inch x 8.5 inch
Weight 2.30 kg
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Book Description
About the Book

The volumes of the PROJECT ON THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE, PHILOSOPHY AND CULTURE IN INDIAN CMUZATION aim at discovering the main aspects of India's heritage and present them in an interrelated way. These volumes, in spite of their unitary look, recognize the difference between the areas of material civilization and those of ideational culture. The Project is not being executed by a single group of thinkers and writers who are methodologically uniform or ideologically identical in their commitments. In fact contributions are made by different scholars with different ideological persuasions and methodological approaches. The Project is marked by what may be called 'methodological pluralism’.

In spite of its primary historical character, this Project, both in its conceptualization and execution, has been shaped by many scholars drawn from different disciplines. It is for the first time that an endeavour of such a unique and comprehensive character has been undertaken to study critically a major world civilization like India.

Rooted in the Vedic heritage, the systems of Vedanta emphasize the importance of, and the way to, spiritual transcendence. They are divided into two groups on the basis of certain metaphysical, epistemological, and soteriological issues. While Advaita Vedanta which is monistic in the strict sense of the term is on one side, other systems of Vedanta, which are pluralistic, are on the other side.

The present volume which deals with Advaita Vedanta consists of three sections: the first one covers classical Advaita; the second one examines the impact of Advaita on contemporary Indian Philosophy; and the third one gives an account of Advaita in vernaculars. There are two dimensions in Advaita. While the empirical dimension known as the vyiivahiirika shows Advaita is a rigorous, systematic philosophy, the trans-empirical aspect known as the piiramiirthika brings out its mystical outlook. Advaita holds that there is no incompatibility between the empirical and the trans-empirical; because Brahman which is trans- empirical is the ground of the empirical; and there cannot be any contradiction or incompatibility between the ground and the grounded.

The book will be of interest to scholars of Advaita philosophy and general readers alike.


About the Author

D.P. CHATTOPADHYAYA, MA, LL.B., Ph.D. (Calcutta and London School of Economics), D. Litt. (Honoris Causa), studied, researched on Law, philosophy and history and taught at various Universities in India, Asia, Europe and USA from 1954 to 1994. Founder-Chairman of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (1981- 1990) and President -cum-Chairman of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla (1984-1991), Chattopadhyaya is currently the Project Director of the multidisciplinary ninety-six volume Project of History of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture (PHISPC) and Chairman of the Centre for Studies in Civilizations (CSC). Among his 36 publications, authored 18 and edited or co-edited 18, are Individuals and Societies (1967); Individuals and Worlds (1976); Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx (1988); Anthropowgy and Historiography ofScience(1990);Induction, Probability and Skepticism (1991); Sociology, Ideology and Utopia (1997); Societies, Cultures and Ideologies (2000); Interdisciplinary Studies in Science, Society, Value and Civilimtional Dialogue (2002); Philosophs of Science, Phenomenology and Other Essays (2003);Philosophical Consciousness and Scientific Knowledge: Conceptual Linkages and Civilimtional Background (2004); Self, Society and Science: Theoretical and Historical Perspectives (2004); Religion, Phiwsophy and Science (2006) and Aesthetic Theories and Forms in Indian Tradition (2008). He has also held high public offices, namely, of Union cabinet minister and state governor. He is a Life Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a Member of the International Institute of Philosophy, Paris. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1998 and Padmavibhushan in 2009 by the Government of India.

R. BAlASUBRAMANIAN, (Ph.D. and D. Litt., Madras University), a specialist in Advaita, Phenomenology and Existentialism, started his career in 1950. He taught in Besant Theosophical College, Vivekananda College, and Annamalai University before joining the faculty of Radhakrishnan Institute for Advanced Study in Philosophy, University of Madras, of which he was the Director for a number of years. He started Sri Aurobindo School of Eastern and Western Thought at Pondicherry University and was its first Chairman for five years. He spent a year at Stanford University as a Fulbright & Smith-Mundt scholar for his post-doctoral studies. He was Chairman of Indian Council of Philosophical Research for a term. He is at present Visiting Professor, Sri Aurobindo School of Eastern and Western Thought and President, Afro-Asian Philosophy Association. His publications include: Personalistic Existentialism of Berdyaev (1970); The Taiuiriyopanisad-bhiisya-oiirtika of Suresuara (1974, 1984); T.M.P. Mahadeoan (1998).



Rooted in the Vedic heritage, the systems of Vedanta emphasize the importance of, and the way to, spiritual transcendence. They are divided into two groups on the basis of certain metaphysical, epistemological, and soteriological issues. While Advaita Vedanta, which is monistic in the strict sense of the term, is on one side, other systems of Vedanta, which are pluralistic, are on the other side. The present volume which deals with Advaita Vedanta consists of three sections: the first one covers classical Advaita; the second one examines the impact of Advaita on contemporary Indian phi- loopy; and the third one gives an account of Advaita in vernaculars. There are two dimensions in Advaita. While the empirical dimension known as the vydvahdrika shows Advaita as a rigorous, systematic philosophy, the trans-empirical aspect known as the piiramarthika brings out its mystical outlook. Advaita holds that there is no incompact- stability between the empirical and the trans-empirical, because Brahman which is trans- empirical is the ground of the empirical; and there cannot be any contradiction or income- ratability between the ground and the grounded. .

What makes a book important and interesting is its form and matter. It is well-known that form and matter are inseparable: there is no matter without form, and form is implicit in matter; the two together contribute to the value and beauty of any work. While I took the responsibility for imaging the form of this volume, a major part of the matter contained in it was made available by the contributors whom I invited to share with me the burden of this volume. I take this opportunity to thank all the contributors to this volume for their help and co-operation. .

I express my grateful thanks to Professor D.P. Chattopadhyaya, Director of the Project of History of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture (PHIS PC) and Professor Bhuvan Chandel, Project Co-ordinator, for their suggestions, support, and co-operation in the preparation of this volume. .

I must express my thanks to Shri S. Sreekumaran, who took care of the administrative travails incidental to the preparation of a multi-authored volume and to Dr. Bhagat Oinam for liaising closely with the press. .

I am thankful to Professor V.K.S.N. Raghavan, Head of the Department ofVaishnavism, University of Madras and Dr. G. Mishra, Reader, Department of Philosophy, University of Madras, for their help in the preparation of this work. Finally, I have to thank Jayanthi for the care and patience shown by her in the preparation of the typescript for the press. .


General Introduction

It is understandable that man, shaped by Nature, would like to know Nature. The human ways of knowing Nature are evidently diverse, theoretical and practical, scientific and technological, artistic and spiritual. This diversity has, on scrutiny, been found to be neither exhaustive nor exclusive. The complexity of physical nature, life-world and, particularly, human mind is so enormous that it is futile to follow a single method for comprehending all the aspects of the world in which we are situated.

One need not feel bewildered by the variety and complexity of the worldly phenomena. After all, both from traditional wisdom and our daily experience, we know that our own nature is not quite alien to the structure of the world. Positively speaking, the elements and forces that are out there in the world are also present in our body-mind complex, enabling us to adjust ourselves to our environment. Not only the natural conditions but also the social conditions of life have instruct- tive similarities between them. This is not to underrate in any way the difference between the human ways of life all over the world. It is partly due to the variation in climatic conditions and partly due to the distinctness of production-related tradition, history and culture.

Three broad approaches are discernible in the works on historiography of civilization, comprising science and technology, art and architecture, social sciences and institutions. Firstly, some writers are primarily interested in discovering the general laws which govern all civilizations spread over different continents. They tend to underplay what they call the noisy local events of the external world and peculiarities of different languages, literatures and histories. Their accent is on the unity of Nature, the unity of science and the unity of mankind. The second group of writers, unlike the generalists or transcendentalists, attach primary importance to the distinctiveness of every culture. To these writers human freedom and creativity are extremely important and basic in character. Social institutions and the cultural articulations of human consciousness, they argue, are bound to be expressive of the concerned people's consciousness. By implication they tend to reject concepts like archetypal consciousness, universal mind and providential history. There is a third group of writers who offer a composite picture of civilizations, drawing elements both from their local as well as common characteristics. Every culture has its local roots and peculiarities. At the same time, it is pointed out that due to demographic migration and immigration over the centuries an element of compositeness emerges almost in every culture. When due to a natural calamity or political exigencies people move from one part of the world to another, they carry with them, among other things, their language, cultural inheritance and their ways of living.

In the light of the above facts, it is not at all surprising that comparative anthropologists and philologists are intrigued by the striking similarity between different language families and the rites, rituals and myths of different peoples. Speculative philosophers of history, heavily relying on the findings of epigraphy, ethnography, archaeology and theology, try to show in very general terms that the particulars and universals of culture are 'essentially' or 'secretly' interrelated. The spiritual aspects of culture like dance and music, beliefs pertaining to life, death and duties, on analysis, are found to be mediated by the material forms of life like weather forecasting, food production, urbanization and invention of script. The transition from the oral culture to the written one was made possible because of the mastery of symbols and rules of measurement. Speech precedes grammar, poetry prosody. All these show how the 'matters' and 'forms' of life are so subtly interwoven.

The PHISPC publications on History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, in spite of its unitary look, do recognize the differences between the areas of material civilization and those of ideational culture. It is not a work of a single author. Nor is it being executed by a group of thinkers and writers who are methodologically uniform or ideologically identical in their commitments. In conceiving the Project we have interacted with, and been influenced by, the writings and views of many Indian and non-Indian thinkers.

The attempted unity of this Project lies in its aim and inspiration. We have in India many scholarly works written by Indians on different aspects of our civilization and culture. Right from the pre-Christian era to our own time, India has drawn the attention of various countries of Asia, Europe and Africa. Some of these writings are objective and informative and many others are based on insufficient information and hearsay, and therefore not quite reliable, but they have their own value. Quality and view-points keep on changing not only because of the adequacy and inadequacy of evidence but also, and perhaps more so, because of the bias and prejudice, religious and political conviction, of the writers.

Besides, it is to be remembered that history, like Nature, is not an open book to be read alike by all. The past is mainly enclosed and only partially disclosed. History is, therefore, partly objective or 'real' and largely a matter of construction. This is one of the reasons why some historians themselves think that it is a form of literature or art. However, it does not mean that historical construction is 'anarchic' and arbitrary. Certainly, imagination plays an important role in it.

But its character is basically dependent upon the questions which the historian raises and wants to understand or answer in terms of the ideas and actions of human beings in the past ages. In a way, history, somewhat like the natural sciences, is engaged in answering questions and in exploring relationships of cause and effect between events and developments across time. While in the natural sciences, the scientist poses questions about nature in the form of hypotheses, expecting to elicit authoritative answers to such questions, the historian studies the past, partly for the sake of understanding it for its own sake and partly also for the light which the past throws upon the present, and the possibilities which it opens up for moulding the future. But the difference between the two approaches must not be lost sight of. The scientist is primarily interested in discovering laws and framing theories, in terms of which different events and processes can be connected and anticipated. His interest in the conditions or circumstances attending the concerned events is secondary. Therefore, scientific laws turn out to be basically abstract and easily expressible in terms of mathematical language. In contrast, the historian's main interest centres round the specific events, human ideas and actions, not general laws. So, the historian, unlike the scientist, is obliged to pay primary attention to the circumstances of the events he wants to study. Consequently, history, like most other humanistic disciplines, is concrete and particularist. This is not to deny the obvious truth that historical events and processes consisting of human ideas and actions show some trend or other and weave some pattern or other. If these trends and patterns were not there at all in history, the study of history as a branch of knowledge would not have been profitable or instructive. But one must recognize that historical trends and patterns, unlike scientific laws and theories, are not general or purported to be universal in their scope.

The aim of this Project is to discover the main aspects of Indian culture and present them in an interrelated way. Since our culture has influenced, and has been influenced by, the neighbouring cultures of West Asia, Central Asia, East Asia and South-East Asia, attempts have been made here to trace and study these influences in their mutuality. It is well known that during the last three centuries, European presence, both political and cultural, in India has been very widespread. In many volumes of the Project considerable attention has been paid to Europe and, through Europe, to other parts of the world. For the purpose of a compre- hensive cultural study of India, the existing political boundaries of the South Asia of today are more of a hindrance than help. Cultures, like languages, often tran- scend the bounds of changing political territories.

If the inconstant political geography is not a reliable help to the understand- ing of the layered structure and spread of culture, a somewhat comparable problem is encountered in the area of historical periodization. Periodization or segmenting time is a very tricky affair. When exactly one period ends and another begins is not precisely ascertainable. The periods of history designated as ancient, medieval and modern are purely conventional and merely heuristic in character. The varying scopes of history, local, national and continental or universal, somewhat like the periods of history, are unavoidably fuzzy and shifting. Amidst all these difficulties, the volume-wise details have been planned and worked out by the editors in consultation with the Project Director and the General Editor. I believe that the editors of different volumes have also profited from the reactions and suggestions of the contributors of individual chapters in planning the volumes.

Another aspect of Indian history which the volume editors and contributors of the Project have carefully dealt with is the distinction and relation between civilization and culture. The material conditions which substantially shaped Indian civilization have been discussed in detail. From agriculture and industry to metal- lurgy and technology, from physics and chemical practices to the life sciences and different systems of medicines-all the branches of knowledge and skill which directly affect human life-form the heart of this Project. Since the periods covered by the PHISPC are extensive-prehistory, proto-history, early history, medieval history and modern history of India-we do not claim to have gone into all the relevant material conditions of human life. We had to be selective. Therefore, one should not be surprised if one finds that only some material aspects of Indian civilization have received our pointed attention, while the rest have been dealt with in principle or only alluded to.

One of the main aims of the Project has been to spell out the first principles of the philosophy of different schools, both pro-Vedic and anti-Vedic. The basic ideas of Buddhism, Jainism and Islam have been given their due importance. The special position accorded to philosophy is to be understood partly in terms of its proclaimed unifying character and partly it is to be explained in terms of the fact that different philosophical systems represent alternative world-views, cultural perspectives, their conflict and mutual assimilation.

Most of the volume editors and at their instance the concerned contributors have followed a middle path between the extremes of narrativism and theoreticism. The underlying idea has been this: If in the process of working out a comprehen- sive Project like this every contributor attempts to narrate all those interesting things that he has in the back of his mind, the enterprise is likely to prove un- manageable. If, on the other hand, particular details are consciously forced into a fixed mould or pre-supposed theoretical structure, the details lose their particu- larity and interesting character. Therefore, depending on the nature of the problem of discourse, most of the writers have tried to reconcile in their presentation, the specificity of narrativism and the -generality of theoretical orientation. This is a conscious editorial decision. Because, in the absence of a theory, however inarticu- late it may be, the factual details tend to fall apart. Spiritual network or theoretical orientation makes historical details not only meaningful but also interesting and enjoyable.

Another editorial decision which deserves spelling out is the necessity or avoidability of duplication of the same theme in different volumes or even in the same volume. Certainly, this Project is not an assortment of several volumes. Nor is any volume intended to be a miscellany. This Project has been designed with a definite end in view and has a structure of its own. The character of the structure has admittedly been influenced by the variety of the themes accommodated within it. Again it must be understood that the complexity of structure is rooted in the aimed integrality of the Project itself.

Long and in-depth editorial discussion has led us to several unanimous conclu- sions. Firstly, our Project is going to be unique, unrivalled and discursive in its attempt to integrate different forms of science, technology, philosophy and culture. Its comprehensive scope, continuous character and accent on culture distinguish it from the works of such Indian authors as P.C. Ray, B.N. Seal, Binoy Kumar Sarkar and S.N. Sen and also from such Euro-American writers as Lynn Thorndike, George Sarton and Joseph Needham. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to suggest that it is for the first time that an endeavour of so comprehensive a character, in its exploration of the social, philosophical and cultural characteristics of a dis- tinctive world civilization-that of India-has been attempted in the domain of scholarship.

Secondly, we try to show the linkages between different branches of learning as different modes of experience in an organic manner and without resorting to a kind of reductionism, materialistic or spiritualistic. The internal dialectics of organicism without reductionism allows fuzziness, discontinuity and discreteness within limits.

Thirdly, positively speaking, different modes of human experience-scientific, artistic, etc. have their own individuality, not necessarily autonomy. Since all these modes are modification and articulation of human experience, these are bound to have between them some finely graded commonness. At the same time, it has been recognized that reflection on different areas of experience and investigation brings to light new insights and findings. Growth of knowledge requires humans, in general, and scholars, in particular, to identify the distinctness of different branches of learning.

Fourthly, to follow simultaneously the twin principles of: (a) individuality of human experience as a whole, and (b) individuality of diverse disciplines, are not at all an easy task. Overlap of themes and duplication of the terms of discourse become unavoidable at times. For example, in the context of Dharmasiistra, the writer is bound to discuss the concept of value. The same concept also figures in economic discourse and also occurs in a discussion on fine arts. The conscious editorial decision has been that, while duplication should be kept to its minimum, for the sake of intended clarity of the themes under discussion, their reiteration must not be avoided at high intellectual cost.

Fifthly, the scholars working on the Project are drawn from widely different disciplines. They have brought to our notice an important fact that has clear relevance to our work. Many of our contemporary disciplines like economics and sociology did not exist, at least not in their present form, just two centuries ago or so. For example, before the middle of nineteenth century, sociology as a distinct branch of knowledge was unknown. The term is said to have been coined first by the French philosopher Auguste Comte in 1838s. Obviously, this does not mean that the issues discussed in sociology were not there. Similarly, Adam Smith's (1723-90) famous work The Wealth of Nations is often referred to as the first authoritative statement of the principles of (what we now call) economics.

Interestingly enough, the author was equally interested in ethics and jurisprudence. It is clear from history that the nature and scope of different disciplines undergo change, at times very radically, over time. For example, in India by arthasiiastra does not mean the science of economics as understood today. Besides the prin- ciples of economics the arthasiistra of ancient India discusses at length those of governance, diplomacy and military science.

Sixthly, this brings us to the next editorial policy followed in the Project. We have tried to remain very conscious of what may be called indeterminacy or inex- actness of translation. When a word or expression of one language is translated into another, some loss of meaning or exactitude seems to be unavoidable. This is true not only in the bilingual relations like Sanskrit-English and Sanskrit-Arabie, but also in those of Hindi-Tamil and Hindi-Bengali. In recognition of the impor- tance of language-bound and context-relative character of meaning we have soli- cited from many learned scholars, contributions, written in vernacular languages. In order to minimize the miseffect of semantic inexactitude we have solicited translational help of that type of bilingual scholars who know both English and the concerned vernacular language, Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Bengali or Marathi.




  Table of Transliteration xi
  Preface xiii
  Contributors xv
  General Introduction xix
  D. P. Chattopadhyaya  
  Introduction xxix
  R. Balasunbramanian  
  Section One: Classical Advaita  
1 Pre-Sankara Advaita 3
  S. L. Pandey  
2 Advaita in the Epics 29
  N. Gangadharan  
3 Advaita in the Puranas 51
  N. Gangadharan  
4 Sankara 66
  R. Balasunbramanian  
5 Sankara vis-à-vis Other systems-I 125
  G.C. Nayak  
6 Sankara vis-a vis Other System-II 148
  N. S. Dravid  
7 Mandana and Suresvara: Two Complementary Poles 175
  R. Balasunbramanian  
8 Post-sankara Advaita: The Vivarana Tradition 242
  N. Veezhinathan  
9 Post-sankara Advaita: The bhamati Tradition 285
  S. Sankaranarayana  
10 The Illusoriness of the World 340
  S. Revathy  
  Section Two: Advaita and Contemporary Indian Philosophy  
11 Advaita and Contemporary Indian Philosophy from the beginning of the Nineteenth Century 379
  Section Three: Advita in Vernaculars  
  Ramakant Sinari  
12 Advita in Tamil 443
  S. N. Kandaswamy  
13 Advaita in Telugu 470
  P. Sri Ramachandrudu  
14 Advita in Malayalam 512
  A. S. Narayana Pillai,S. Omana,K. Padmaja and V.S. Sarma  
15 Adviata In Kannada 534
  T. B. Siddalingaiah and V.S. Sheshogiri Rao  
16 Advita in Marathi 544
  S. R. Talghatti  
17 Advaita In Guharati 569
  H.M. Joshi and C. V. Raval  
18 Advaita in Hindi 582
  Surendra Kumar Shrivastava  
19 Advaita in Punjabi 600
  Nirbhai Singh  
20 Advaita in Bengali 613
  Minati Kar  
21 Advaita in Priya 646
  G. Mishra  
  Index of Subjects 667
  Index of Names 675

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