India's Intellectual Traditions - Attempts at Conceptual Reconstructions

India's Intellectual Traditions - Attempts at Conceptual Reconstructions

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Item Code: IDE100
Author: Ed. By. Daya Krishna
Publisher: Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR)
Language: English
Edition: 2003
ISBN: 8185636524
Pages: 294
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.8"
Weight 510 gm
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From the Jacket:


India is known for its sustained seeking and achievements in the realms of the spirit and arts over millennia. But, its intellectual enterprise in various fields of knowledge spread over more than 2600 years is almost terra incognita not only to scholars in the West, but also to those who work in these fields in India. This book is an invitation to scholars to look at the hard-core intellectual enterprise of India and to discover its rich potentials for further growth and development and to provide cognitive alternatives to current models in these fields. An attempt to explore the perspective in which indigenization in the social sciences and the humanities may possibly be carried on by Indian scholars in the future.

The work attempts to articulate conceptual structures in these domains on the basis of the foundational texts relating to them, and to make them available to the modern scholar so that he may use them creatively for his own purposes. It also attempts to present an overview of India's whole intellectual tradition in a nut-shell, something that has not been done before and, by doing so, challenges others to build their own picture of India's intellectual past so that its alternative visions may be available to those who try to think about such things in future.


About the Author:


Professor Daya Krishna was former Professor of Philosophy, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. He is currently the Editor of the Journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi. His recent publications include Developments in Indian Philosophy from Eighteenth Century Onwards: Classical and Western published by the Centre for Studies in Civilizations, New Delhi, 2002; New Perspectives in Indian Philosophy, published by Rawat Publishers, Jaipur, 2000 and The Problematic and Conceptual Structure of Classical Indian Thought about Man, Society and Polity, published by Oxford University press, New Delhi, 1997.


Preface to the Second Edition



It is almost fifteen years since the book was first published. 198'7 seems so far off and 1983, when the first formal meeting was held at Delhi, still farther. To read about the ‘Jaipur experiment’ and the interdisciplinary group which started meeting sometime in the early eighties seems to ‘enter’ some prehistoric past whose ‘reality’ is difficult to retrieve, were it not for the evidence that is found in the pages of the book itself. Where have all the ‘friends’ gone, and why has the ‘enthusiasm’ evaporated? Have the- ‘sceptics’ been proved right? Was the ‘enterprise’ unmeaningful, even impossible, just a waste of time as some had warned.

But the work has survived the passage of time; there has been a demand for it and that is why there has been felt the need for bringing out a second edition which otherwise would have been unnecessary. The awareness that India has had a long history of intellectual traditions and that these are differentiated depending upon the field of knowledge they were concerned with, has slowly grown over the period. There are sceptics still, as they were fifteen years before, but their arguments remain the same as they were before, showing little awareness of the sea-change that has occurred in the climate in the west regarding the enterprise of ‘knowledge’ during these intervening years. The first and foremost is the reluctant acceptance of the fact, or at least a suspicion, that the current western enterprise in the field of ‘knowledge’, particularly in the social sciences and the humanities, may be as ‘ethnic’ and ‘culture—b0und’i as those which were ‘produced’ by other civilizations earlier. The clearest evidence of this may perhaps be found in McKim Marriott’s article published in Contributions to Indian Sociology He not only attempts to construct an Indian Ethno-Sociology, but argues that all sociological constructions are basically "ethno-centric" and hence have to be ‘ethnic’ in character. He has tried to see India’s intellectual enterprisesas a unity by unifying them together around the theory of the purusarthas and relating them to the theory of the three gunas in Samkhya, the vata— pitta—kafa constitution of the human body in the Ayurveda and the five gross elements or the mahabhutas in the Indian theory of matter.

Dr. Virendra Shekhawat of the University of Rajasthan, on the other hand, has constructed a unified, integrated, ‘wholistic’ picture of India’s intellectual enterprise and traced the important paradigmatic shifts in it from the Vedic times onwards.? He has used Kuhn’s idea of paradigm-shift and the notion of ‘model’ for understanding the changes that have occured over this long period of time and pointed out the radical shifts that took place in late medieval times under the influence of tantra on the one hand and the departures that were taking place in the basic theory of disease in the Ayurveda, on the other. The bringing of all the Sastras together in one unitary focus and seeing the changes in them in a systematic manner, is a unique feature of this work and deserves to be critically examined and evaluated by historians of thought and culture alike.

The story of the Jaipur experiment of which this work was the fruit has been told in detail in the Introduction to the first edition of this book. The shape that the intellectual enterprise took after that may be seen in the Introduction to the work entitled The Problematic and Conceptual Structure of Classical Indian Thought about Man, Society and Polity?

The task of conceptual articulation of traditional thought in the contemporary context has however taken a significant turn in the work of Kapil Kapoor who has tried to build a conceptual framework for literary theory based on Indian thinking on the subject His work gets an added importance as it suggests that the contemporary trends in western literary theory are themselves rooted in Indian thinking on the subject. The person who perhaps became the unconscious transmission—source of this cross—civilisational influence was de Saussure, Professor of Sanskrit at the Universities of Geneva and Sorbonne who shifted the attention of linguists from language as written to language as-spoken from ‘langue’ to ‘parole’ and initiated the movement called ‘structuralism’ in the study of language. Prem Singh in an article entitled "Rethinking history of linguistics: Saussure and the India connection" has argued in detail regarding this and Professor Kapil Kapoor has placed this in the general context of Indological studies pursued with vigour and depth in different centres of learning in Germany, France and the U.K at that time. There is thus some indirect evidence of a possible influence of Indian poetics and linguistics on contemporary literary theory. But the importance of Kapil Kapoor’s work lies not just in pointing out this. Rather, it consists in a sustained attempt to articulate the theoretical concerns and the conceptual structures of Indian thought in the realm of Poetics.

The work of articulation of conceptual structures and finding the cognitive puzzles and problems that lay behind them in some other fields of knowledge has been attempted in the author’s Problematic and Conceptual Structure of Classical Indian Thought about Man, Society and Polity. The work carries the task that the Jaipur Experiment had set for itself further, and challenges one to develop India’s intellectual enterprise in these fields, including that of law, in the contemporary intellectual milieu that prevails in modern times.

Professor M.P. Rege had already attempted this in his pioneering experiment of a bilingual dialogue between traditional and modern scholars on a contemporary philosophical issue whose results have been published in the volume entitled Samvada: A Dialogue between two philosophical traditions, Indian and Western?

The exploration of the rich complexity and baffling diversity of India’s diverse Intellectual Traditions and a dialogue with them has been attempted by the author in two works, one of which forms part of a multi-volume Project on History of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture, under the General Editorship of Professor D.P. Chattopadhyaya. The volume is entitled Developments in Indian Philosophy from Eighteenth Century Onwards: Classical and Modern and deals with the creative innovations in thought in the field of Mimamsa, Samkhya, Vedanta, Nyaya, Dharma Sastra, Alamkara Sastra and Jaina thought during this period. Normally, this period is supposed to be intellectually barren and bereft of any new insights regarding the issues discussed in these disciplines during the earlier periods. The investigations undertaken in the course of this project and presented in this volume suggest that this widespread belief is unfounded.

The dialogical strategy exemplified in Samvada has been carried in a new direction, with results that are even more startling than the ones achieved in this dialogue. Living practioners of traditional knowledge are, after all, carriers of an ‘orthodoxy’ frozen and fossilised at some period in the past. They generally view themselves, and are viewed by others, as ‘preservers’ of the tradition so that it may not be lost to the present and future generations. A dialogue with them results generally in a restatement of these positions. A retrospective look at the way tradition ‘developed’ however, tells a different story, and a ‘return’ to the ‘original’ founding text of the tradition and a ‘dialogica1 engagement’ with it tells a different tale. ‘Thought in the making’ has a living quality and a close questioning of it rooted in the desire to know and understand reveals aspects ignored or underplayed or forgotten for various reasons. A detailed scrutiny of successive commentaries from this point of view reveals the shifting focus that mirrors the changing intellectual and cultural history of the times. The idea of a ‘prasthana bheda’ is known in the tradition, but it has not been seen that the so—called ‘prasthana’ undergoes radical modification and even distortions as it is carried forward by those who have their own ‘interests’ and ‘insights’ to foster and axes to grind.

Such a ‘return’ to the foundational text of a tradition and the questioning-dialogue with it has been attempted in the case of the Nyaya—Sutra. A methodology has been developed where the movement of thought in the text is sought to be grasped as it develops sutra by sutra and then is seen in the light of the whole of which they form a part. The inner conflict in the text, the tensions and the pulls and counter- pulls gradually reveal themselves along with the internal evidence of the context in which the thought of the thinker took shape and achieved a more or less definitive form, laying the foundation of a sastra in the tradition.

The methodological strategy of a dialogue with the text, however, cannot cease with the text alone. It has to go for- ward and see how the ‘text’ was seen by successive commentators in the tradition. In the case of the Nyaya Sutras, Vatsyayana, Uddyotakara, Vacaspati Misra I and Udayana are the obvious examples. One may add Jayanta and Bhasarvajna to the list though, in the strict sense, they cannot be considered as commentators on the founding text of the Nyaya tradition. The prospective and the retrospective perspectives create a dialogical understanding of a kind that is very, very different from the one achieved in the Rege experiment. The two are, however, complementary and need to be carried together.

The Jaipur experiment whose results were presented to the wider public in the first edition of India’s Intellectual Traditions has, thus, not been entirely fruitless. Some of the persons associated with it are now no more. Their absence is a loss, both personal and otherwise, though it is difficult to say whether even they fully shared the belief in the feasibility or desirability, or even in the worthwhileness of the project. The ‘understanding’ and articulation of the conceptual structure of India’s intellectual enterprises in different fields of knowledge is one thing; their internalisation and utilisation for understanding of the same phenomena in modern times, another. Without the latter, the former is meaningless. And, if it is to genuinely fecundate the intellectual understanding today, it must result in policy recommendations for bringing about change in the private and public life of the people. If this cannot be done, then it is at best, a historical exercise, an intellectual luxury which can be indulged in only by those who have little concern with the ongoing life around them.

It may seem strange that anyone can seriously entertain even the ‘possibility’ of such a change occuring in the intellectual climate today. Even in India, the interest in India’s past has visibly declined. The lure of the west, the desire to go abroad and settle there, the dream of getting a ‘green card’ and find a ‘place’ in the U.S. and the overwhelming obsession amongst the ‘young’ for getting an M.B.A. degree even if they have specialised in science or engineering or anything else, is an evidence of this. And though one would have expected a different situation in the arts or literature but, to one’s surprise, what dominates the scene is the latest fad in the west, as if there had been no ‘thinking’ about these things in any non-western civilisation and as if that thinking threw no light on man or his creations.

Yet, though these are the dominant trends, there are counter-indications also. And, ‘fashions’ do not last, however widespread they may seem to the consciousness that ‘lives’ in the present. A little retrospective look may reveal a different truth and the emerging popular thinkers in the west such as Ken Wilbur and Rudolph Steiner suggest that the attraction and ‘engagement’ with ‘older’ forms of thought has not entirely ceased. It is true that the attraction and the fascination is for forms that are anti-intellectual or trans-intellectual in nature. But it would be well to remember that the spiritual traditions of the non-western world are not only rooted in a tradition of ‘rationality` that is both ratiocinative, argumentative. and dialectical in nature, but was accompanied by sastric formulations in many fields of knowledge which showed an intense awareness of the problems and dilemmas that are posed for man who has to ‘live’ in a world that does not seem very ‘spiritual’ in nature. The realms of polity, economy and legality have been explored and the fact that they are antagonistic in some fundamental sense to the ‘spiritual’ seeking of man attempted to be dealt with and resolved to the extent it seemed possible.

In any case, large parts of the conceptual apparatus evolved by man to understand himself and his situation is Early neutral in respect of temporality as the ‘demand’ for the second edition of this work shows. It is being reprinted without any change except for a ‘longish’ note at the end which tries to give a unified and unitary picture of India’s Intellectual Traditions as seen through the eyes of one person. It is hoped that others will build their own ‘picture’ and that something ‘objective’ and ‘unified’ will emerge out of the ‘Collective effort’ of all who will take the work of each other seriously.

Similar enterprises, let me add, are needed for other civilisations and if this pioneering attempt helps in bringing that about, it will be something to be thankful for, as what more can one wish, at least at the intellectual level, than that the intellectual traditions of the world become the common heritage of mankind today.



About four years ago, Professor S.C. Dube, the well-known social anthropologist, visited Jaipur and delivered three lec- tures which were later to be presented at the World Congress of Sociology at Mexico. I happened to be present at the occasion and when asked to comment upon the presentation, said something to the effect that we would discuss the matter when the baby was born.

There has been so much talk of 'indigenization', and so little real attempt at doing it, that one wonders if those who talk are really serious about it. It reminds one very much of those who talk and write incessantly about 'revolution' and 'praxis' without engaging in any action to change things where they happen to be located. Yet, reflecting the next day on what I had said, I felt why should we not start the game ourselves. And so, what may be called 'The Jaipur Experi- ment' was born. Sometimes in early eighties, a meeting of persons from various disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities was called and, initially, the group met every week to keep the flame alive and the enthusiasm going. The group called itself 'The Interdisciplinary Group' and later met at more infrequent intervals, fortnightly or monthly. Since my retirement from the University, the meetings have become even more infrequent, though these are still held to remind ourselves of the promises that we had made and the task we had undertaken. Many of the early members of the group have lost interest; some even turned 'hostile' to the very spirit of the enterprise. One such person recently remark- ed to me that it was a 'racist enterprise'. But a 'hard core' remains and, hopefully, might attract new enthusiasts in the future.

In fact, it was to attract such new enthusiasts that we pers- uaded the Indian Council of Philosophical Research to fund a seminar on the subject. The idea that there is a hardcore intellectual tradition in India, and that it is differentiated according to different fields of knowledge is so alien to the prevailing intellectual ethos of the country, that we did not even know who amongst the scholars in the social sciences and the humanities would be interested in the enterprise. To find out and locate such persons, I wrote to a number of friends and every person whose name was suggested was invited to the preliminary meeting. As most of the names suggested were of persons who were clustered around Delhi and Pune, we decided to hold the preliminary meetings there. Professor T.N. Madan kindly took the responsibility of organ- izing the first meeting at the Institute of Economic Growth and Professor M.P. Rege at the Institute of Education, Pune. The Delhi meeting was held on 5 February 1983 and was attended by Professor S.C. Dube, Dr Leela Dube, Prof. Ashish Nandy, Professor A.N. Pandeya, Dr Veena Das, Dr Devahuti, Dr Bhuvan Chandel, Professor Ravinder Kumar, Professor Rajni Kothari, Professor T.N. Madan, Professor P.C. Joshi, Professor Satish Chandra, Dr Mukund Lath and some others.

The Pune meeting was attended by Professor KJ. Shah, Professor Ashok Kelkar, Professor R.N. Dandekar, Professor M.P. Rege, Professor R.B. Patankar, Dr S.S. Deshpande, Dr S.E. Bhelke, Dr Mukund Lath, Professor K. Krishnamoorthy, Professor Indra Deva, Professor V.Y. Kantak, Shri P.K. Nijhawan, Shri A.M. Ghose, Pandit Laxman Shastri Joshi, Professor Raghavendra Rao and some others.

The idea of these preliminary meetings with persons from various disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities was to acquaint them with the enterprise and invite them to participate in it, if they thought it worthwhile. The initial response of most of the participants was of deep scepticism about the whole endeavour. Prof. Ravinder Kumar said at the Delhi meeting held on 5 February 1983: 'I always find the term "Indian tradition" problematic. Also, the term "Intel- lectual tradition" does not make sense to the historian.' He also said that he 'would like to know why one should stop at just identification of Indian concepts; why not try to under- stand the categories of thought in a more universal condition? Should we not try to see this undertaking in a wider sense? Are there existential specificities which can be related to wider generalities? Ideas should be universal, though born of specific contexts. We already have universal ideas-from wherever we might have them. Developing our own con- ceptual framework will only create an unnecessary island within a universal world of concepts and ideas.' And Dr Dube had remarked: 'This debate is old. It is not a question of the recovery of the tradition. What is important is to ask, for whom are we doing this exercise.' Dr Veena Das had objected that 'Daya's methodology is problematic in that he seems to be looking at concepts as if they are frozen. But we have to allow for a development of these con- ceptual structures. In Daya's conception the implication is that there was no structure of argument in ancient texts.' And Dr Bhuvan Chandel had warned that 'as long as we speak in English, how can we think of the process of indigenization?' Even earlier, some persons had warned of the 'obscurantist and revivalist' possibilities inherent in the enterprise.'

The participants at both the meetings were asked if they would be willing to join the enterprise and write a paper for the final seminar which was to be held at Jaipur. Those who agreed to do so were formally invited to the Jaipur Seminar. The following persons attended the meeting from places out- side Jaipur: Professor S.C. Dube, Professor Indra Deva, Professor M.P. Rege, Professor V.Y. Kantak, Professor. R.B. Patankar, Prof. K Raghavendra Rao, Prof. KJ. Shah, Prof. K. Krishnamoorthy, Professor Lloyd Rudolph, Dr Rekha Jhanji, Shri S.E. Bhelke and Dr P.K Nijhawan. Besides, research students and faculty members participated in the discussions which were held from 2nd to 4th October, 1983. Sixteen papers were presented, out of which ten papers were selected for publication as they seemed to address them- selves relatively more focally to the central concern of the seminar, that is, the conceptual articulation of India's Intellectual Traditions in different fields of knowledge. The other papers were interesting, and at least two of them- those of Dr Virendra Shekhawat and Professor Raghavendra Rao have already been published elsewhere. All the papers, except that of Shri A.M. Ghose, have been revised by the authors for publication. Some editorial corrections have been made, mainly linguistic in nature.



Preface to the Second Edition ix
Introduction xvii
Some Issues in the Conceptual Articulation of the Indian Intellectual Tradition with Special Reference to the Arthasastra
Hermeneutics in the Mimamsa Sutras of Jaimini: Principles of Interpretation and Authority of Smrti Texts
Manu's Conception of Man and Society
The Articulation of Juridical Concepts in Later Smritis
The Conceptual Structure Underlying the Natyasastra
The Natya as Conceived by Bharata
The Theory of Rasa: Its Conceptual Structure
The Natyasastra: Dramatic Mode
The Conceptual Structure of Dhvani in Anandavardhana's Dhvanyaloka
Madhusudana Sarasvati's Sri Bhagavad-Bhaktirasayana
Natya Again
The Search for a Conceptual Structure of the Natyasastra
India's Intellectual Tradition: An Overview
Contributors 237
Index 239

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