Gopinath Kaviraj (1887-1976), on whom the title of Mahamahopadhyaya was conferred by the British Government in 1934, is regarded as an authority on Indological Studies. Equally at home in English, Hindi, Sanskrit and Bengali and an unparalled combination of tradition and modern, India and Western learning and spiritual wisdom, he was among those renaissance figures who in the midst of colonial rule and its attendant denigration of Indian tradition helped to revive India’s pride in her past and infuse it with the best tradition of British liberalism.
An insatiable thirst for knowledge coupled with an open and analytical mind led him to search for something new in the ancient Sanskrit texts and various commentaries on them. He wrote with a rare insight whether it was on Tantra, Philosophy, Religion or Culture. His biographies on saints and teachers, though religious and philosophic in content, have the flavour of real literature.
In this monograph, an attempt has been made to place some of his salient ideas in a historical perspective highlighting their contemporary relevance.
G.C. Pande (b. 1923), the author of this monograph, began his career in 1947 as a lecturer in Allahabad University. He was also Professor of Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology at the University of Gorakhpur (1957-62); Tagore Professor of Indian Culture, Rajasthan University (1962-78); Visiting Professor at Banaras University (1984-85); Vice-Chancellor, Rajasthan University (1974-77); and finally retired as Vice Chancellor of Allahabad University in 1984. Recipient of honours such as the Vidyavaridhi and Samsthana-Sammana Prof. Pande is also the author of numerous books and research papers.
After having accepted the task of producing a small monograph on Gopinath Kaviraj at the behest of the Sahitya Akademi, I felt daunted by the magnitude of the task for a long time. As is well known, the vastness of kaviraj’s erudition, the death of his thought, the compact abstruseness of his style and the sublime nobility and richness of his personality would make it difficult for anyone to give a satisfactory account of his life, thought and writings. To do so briefly and within a short period of time would be well nigh impossible. That despite near despair, I persisted with effort has been due entirely to my faith in the grace of kaviraj himself who was not only my teacher’s but a saint of the highest and rarest order with whom I had the good fortune of associating from time to time.
However, what I present to the readers in the following pages lays no claim to comprehensiveness or adequacy. It is not merely the intellectual difficulty of kaviraj’s thought and style which makes him unapproachable to the common reader and scholar but the fact of his writing and talk being only partly published adds greatly to the difficulty of writing about him with any degree of authority in the present stage of research. From this point of view it may be stated that the greatest difficulties are presented by the topic of ‘Akhanda Mahayoga’. My account of the idea derives mainly from its exposition by kaviraj in his Bengali work entitle Akhanda Mahayoga , though I have also consulted his later expositions.
My account of kaviraj’s ideas is, thus, unavoidably inadequate. I have only attempted to place some of his salient ideas in a historical perspective seeking to bring out their contemporary relevance. If it whets the appetite of some readers and leads them to study the works of kaviraj, my effort would be amply rewarded.
As for kaviraj’s life I have contented myself with a short sketch. For those who are interested, the Hindi work of Dr. B.P. Singh will provide more material. Actually, Kaviraj’s life was too full of spiritual adventure within for ‘social’ adventure without to find room in it. He was untouched by worldly ambitions and faced worldly suffering with rare fortitude.
My thanks are due to the Sahitya Akademi for enabling me to engage in this work.
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