This volume traces the impact of colonialism and Western philosophy on the dialogical structure of Indian thought and highlights the general tendency in contemporary Indian philosophy to avoid direct dialogue as opposed to the rich and elaborate debates that formed the pivot of the classical Indian tradition. It identifies three possible areas of debate: between Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi; V.D. Savarkar and Mahatma Gandhi; and Sri Aurobindo and Krishna Chandra Bhattacharyya—on state and pre-modern society, religion and politics, and science and spiritualism respectively. This book will be of considerable interest not only to students and scholars of Indian philosophy and religious studies but to scholars of politics and sociology as well. This volume] discusses the state of contemporary Indian philosophy...takes on the colossal task of surveying the contemporary scene both within the discipline of philosophy and outside it.
Why are there no significant debates in contemporary Indian philosophy when debates and dialogues were the nerve centre of classical Indian philosophy? This question has not been addressed in the standard works that reflect the contemporary philosophical situation in India, and hence this volume attempts to move outside and into the contemporary political domain in search of a viable answer. An attempt is made to highlight the points of difference for debate as available in the sphere of contemporary Indian philosophy. In this process, the work goes beyond (i) the ascendancy model proposed by Partha Chatterjee, namely, moments ascending from Bankim to Nehru through Gandhi, and (ii) the attempts, which sought to collapse the differences between, for instance, Vivekananda and Gandhi or Aurobindo and Krishnachandra Bhattacharyya. On the contrary, this work highlights the available differences, and not necessarily the postmodernist versions of difference. The postmodern version within the West is largely stuck within the prism of the 'romantic problematic', which need not be the predicament of difference in India. Difference in India can become a political programme. In highlighting the debates between different contemporary Indian philosophers, this work strives to break open the current terrain of philosophical discussions on classical Indian philosophy and contemporary Western philosophy, a la B.K. Matilal, J.N. Mohanty, and others. Exposing the underlying imbalance and ensuing politics is one of the implicit purposes of this work. Explicitly, my present endeavor is to elaborate the islands of difference within contemporary Indian thought, nurture them by rejuvenating debates, which set in motion the internal philosophical activity. One might indeed detect in this book the pervasive presence of the perceptions of the pre-modern non-classical India, embodied in the works of Mahatma Gandhi and Ashis Nandy.
I have, at places, reproduced long quotations, which I have chosen not to paraphrase, as some of these writings are not easily available. Further, I want the thinkers dealt within the work to speak for themselves as much as possible. This is necessitated because: one, I have serious problems with the way these thinkers are presented in certain well-known works; and, two, I strongly feel that in my work these thinkers have been presented in a new light thus necessitating extensive quotations to reinforce these points. Above all, extensive quotations can facilitate critical responses of the reader to my point of view. I have retained the spellings within quotations, such as K.C. Bhattacharya for Krishnachandra Bhattacharyya, as they are.
Here let me share a significant feature of this volume. The reader may find an obvious similarity in the line of argument and in my juxtapositions of various thinkers and scholars discussed here. But while this may look obvious after being written, this was not so when I first started working on the volume. I had no readymade material at my disposal while working on this book, and had to glean information from different sources and 'assemble' them. I also had to constantly come up with comparisons and contrasts, perhaps for the first time. I had to not only explicate the terms of the debate between major thinkers like Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi, V.D. Savarkar and Gandhi, and Sri Aurobindo and Krishnachandra Bhattacharyya, but also bring together, perhaps for the first time, scholars like Sudhir Kakar and Tapan Raychaudhuri, to compare and contrast. Though the ideas put forth in this book started taking shape in my mind at IIT Kanpur, they travelled with me to Goa University and grew substantially in the wonderful ambience there, helped by significant inputs from R.A. Sinari, A.V. Afonso, Sasheej Hegde, Alito Sequeria, R.V. joshi, Y.S. Prahlad, P.M. Reddy, and many others. The department of philosophy gave me an opportunity to teach the course on contemporary Indian philosophy, which helped me focus on systematic readings in this area. I continued to teach this course when I moved to the University of Hyderabad. Except Chapter 1, which was first written while I was still in Goa, the rest of the chapters were written in Hyderabad. They were presented in seminars at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, Sahitya Akademi, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Sri Shankaracharyya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, New Delhi. I wish to thank Mrinal Miri, U.R. Anantamurthy, K. Sachidanandan, Ashis Nandy, T.N. Madan, Madhu, Koshy Abey, and Helmut Reifield for their kind invitations. I would also like to express my gratitude to my teachers at the University of Hyderabad—Ramachandra Gandhi, Suresh Chandra, Y.N. Chopra, and S.A. Zaidi—for introducing me to philosophy.
Javeed Alam and S.G. Kulkarni gave me their detailed critical comments and suggestions for which I am thankful to them. I thank Jyotirmaya Sharma for generously helping me locate references on Savarkar. I would have perhaps finished this work many years later but for Arpita's encouragement and reminders, for which I am grateful to her. Thanks also to Venkat Rao, Hargopal, Haribabu, Sridhar, Alladi Uma, Bhargavi Davar, Nizar Ahmed, V. Sanil, Prajit K. Basu, Satya P Gautam, M. Krishnaiah, K. Laxminarayana, Manjari Katzu, Aniket Alam, Anindita Mukhopadhyaya, Vasanti Srinivasan, Naresh-Shobha, Harnoor, and my students Minu Mohan, Gautam Satpathy, and J. Antony Juno Jesa. Parul Nayyar made important corrections for which I am grateful to her. I am also thankful to the editors at Oxford University Press and the two referees for their critical comments. Some parts of the discussion, particularly on Savarkar and Gandhi, were earlier published in Mahatma Gandhi and Communal Harmony, edited by Asghar Ali Engineer and published by the Gandhi Peace Foundation in 1997. I also wish to thank the following publishers for allowing me to quote from their publications: Popular Prakashan, Mumbai; Manchester University Press, Manchester; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi; Palgrave Macmillan; Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan; Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi; and Springer Science and Business Media, Berlin.
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