Sapiens and Sthitaprajna studies the concept of a wise person in the Stoic Seneca and in the Bhagavadgita. Although the Gita and Seneca's writings were composed at least two centuries and a continent apart, they have much in common in recommending a well-lived life. This book describes how in both a wise person is endowed with both virtue and wisdom, is moral, makes right judgements and takes responsibility for actions. A wise and virtuous person always enjoys happiness, as happiness consists in knowing that one has done the right thing at the right time.
Both Seneca and the Gita demand intellectual rigour and wisdom for leading a virtuous and effective life. They provide guidelines for how to become and be wise. Both systems demand a sage to be emotionally sound and devoid of passions. This leads to mental peace and balance, and ultimately tranquillity and happiness. While surveying these similarities, this study also finds differences in their ways of application of these ideas. The metaphysics of the Gita obliges the sage to practise meditation, while the Stoics require a sage to be a rational person committed to analysing and intellectualizing any situation.
This comparative study will be of interest to students of both Ancient Western and Ancient Indian Philosophy. Practitioners of Stoicism and followers of the QM should find the presence of closely-related ideas in a very different tradition of interest while perhaps finding somewhat different prescriptions a spur to action.
Ashwini Mokashi was educated at the University of Pune and at King's College, London. She taught Philosophy at Pune in Wadia and Ferguson colleges and as a guest lecturer at the University of Pane, she taught a comparative course in Ancient Greek and Sanskrit during 1993-95. She now lives in Princeton, New Jersey and works on her writings in philosophy as an independent research scholar. She has served two terms as President of the Princeton Research Forum. Her next project is a personal and philosophical account of a meditational community in Pune and Nimbal.
Trams work began in the fall of 1992, when I envisioned comparing the Stoics with the Gets given what I saw as their apparent similarities in thinking, their ways of addressing the social and societal challenges, and their goals of raising a morally sound community despite all the wars and chaos surrounding them. I worked on these ideas for many years, finally concluding the thesis in 2002. Then I took a long break from the academic studies, went to work in the corporate world, in other words went to the school of life - experienced various ups and downs of life - and realized how important these ideas and ideals are and yet how difficult it is to practice them, to implement them in our lives and to appreciate detachment (vairagya). Pursuit of wisdom, virtue and happiness is a lifelong goal and the process of attaining it is a worthwhile experience. This realization helped me become an improved person at each step of life, with each new challenge teaching me to return to the principles I had already learnt. The themes in the ancient texts continue to dominate the conversation, while the quest for happiness is pursued anew with each new generation. Nevertheless, the ancient wisdom has stood the test of time and it behooves us to apply these principles to modern situations. When I revisited my old writings after a decade or more, I realized the academic work of the comparison between the Stoics and the Gila is not just for the scholars of philosophy, but it has major implications for all. One can evaluate the current challenges in our global community in a cohesive way using these lenses.
A mere hundred years ago, people referred to philosophical and spiritual wisdom for answers to their daily dilemmas. Now in 2018, we are less clear about the purpose of life, about philosophizing an issue and rising over our challenges. Rather we are more into psycho-analysing issues with the modern tools of analytical psychology and as a result even our daily rhetoric is about whether our stress levels are within normal range or abnormal range, what mental disorders people may have and how to treat those, how to control the epidemic of emotional disorders in our schools, workplaces or families. There is a serious lack of in-person communication, a lack of parental authority and a lack of available grandparents or extended family members, who are interested in passing on the ancient wisdom to the new generation. Not to mention a lack of ideal seers, who can guide us in crisis.
At this point, this book attempts to fill that gap by providing some moral, philosophical or spiritual food for thought, so that the new generations can refer to our ancient seers from different parts of the globe and reach their own moral solutions. It is important to find our own paths in life and make principled decisions, understand the constraints of our situations and figure out an optimum solution. If we understand the principles of science and morality, then morally sound solutions will become dear to us. Our knowledge of science will help us understand how things essentially work and our knowledge of morality will help us understand how it ought to be done, clearing a path to attain peace and happiness at least at some optimal level.
In a global sense, the world is divided among those who are working members of a society and those who are not. Productive members of the society have very little time at their disposal to pursue development of virtues in their leisure. They have no leisure. Others do not have the confidence or the luxury of understanding how important it is to pursue the development of virtues. Hence other than looking towards a few ideals in the society - if any - most people are in search of ideals or seers that are not available readily. They look up to the world of celebrities, but celebrities are simply known for being famous and not for being the epitome of virtue or wisdom. We face this gap daily.
Very rarely do we ask, can we develop virtues and become self-reliant to find one's own answers to challenges of life? What does it mean to develop such qualities and how does it lead to the pursuit of happiness? On the one hand, we are aware of our stress levels or anxiety levels, and we try to optimize benefits and minimize challenges of all kinds in conscious or subconscious ways. Sometimes it seems like a zero-sum game.
On the other hand, when we look at the teachings of Stoics and the Gild, we realize that they try to bring us all to a higher plane by creating a positive thought wave, providing goals, showing a path to follow to reach those goals, creating a good ambience both inside in our psyches and outside in our knowledge base trying to create happier circumstances.
The central problem in all the ancient and modem cultures is how to behave, what is virtue and wisdom, and how to inculcate it in society, how to maintain discipline by using law and order, how to encourage people to become good, how to achieve happiness and well-being. The ancient societies tried to address some of these issues by asking people to turn into good ideal human beings who then will enable to create a good society sans criminal activity. The modem societies use force through law and order situations. The police force distinguishes people as good or bad based on their actions/records. Hence it is always important to stay on the good side of the law. Once your record is tainted, there is very little chance to convince others that you are still a good person. These challenges are faced by every new generation. This was true 2,000 years ago and it is true now. We can perhaps find some guidance in these teachings and try to use the ancient wisdom to work on the internal dynamic of an individual as well as a community of such individuals, which will create a better society.
This book puts two great texts together - Seneca and the Gild in a dialogue on these questions. Their dialogue addresses their methods and tools, and discusses their solutions in attaining the goal of individual as well as societal well-being. Whether they succeed compared to each other is not the major point of concern. The concern is how do they succeed in their own spheres and whether together we can create some solutions for our global world that consider some of their strategies for achieving happiness, peace and well-being by creating virtue and wisdom pathways. Given what a global society we live in, where the ways of the East and ways of the West are seriously intertwined in the world, whether one lives in the US, Europe, India or any other country/continent, most urban areas experience some form of cultural mishmash.
There are still a few places in the world, such as villages or small cities, where cultural norms and bonds are very strong and so the expectations of behaviour are very clear. As a result, it is also very clear what misbehaviour is. In such cases, communication is straightforward, as all members have similar values and principles. Any wrong behaviour has a genesis of wrong thinking. Therefore, if the thinking is set straight, the behaviour is also controlled.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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