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The Spiritual Heritage of India
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The Spiritual Heritage of India
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About the Book

The Spiritual Heritage of India is a brief history of the philosophy of a country that has never distinguished philosophy from religion. The account extends from centuries of which there is no historical record to the recent Sri Ramakrsna revival of the ancient Vedanta. This book brings together in one volume the spiritual magnificence of the sacred books such as the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita, three ancient Indian scriptures which are the foundation of the Hindu spiritual heritage.

In connection with each of the subjects taken up the author supplies sufficient quotation from the texts concerned, as incidental illustration and sometimes also as appended passages, to give body and force to the exposition. His approach is clear and practical, and at the same time profound and.richly poetic. This book takes the reader on a journey through the wisdom enshrined in these celebrated classics.

This book is both an excellent introduction for readers who are coming to the subject for the first time, and a Series of meditations for those who already know it well. The author has ably entered into the these ancient Indian treasure-houses of spirituality and offer their ancient wisdom to the modern spiritual seeker.

Preface

The Spiritual Heritage of India is a brief history of the philosophy of a country that has never distinguished philosophy from religion. The account extends from centuries of which there is no historical record to the recent Sri Ramakrsna revival of the ancient Vedanta.

In connection with each of the subjects taken up I have tried to supply sufficient quotation from the texts concerned, as incidental illustration and sometimes also as appended passages, to give body and force to the exposition.

My point of view is in one respect different from that of the Western scholar. I speak always as one born to the religious tradition of India, convinced of the profound truth of its essential message and familiar with its manifestations in the life of my people. Thus a religious " phenomenon that to the Western scholar might well seem remote and merely curious, an item to be scientifically noted but not to be taken seriously—I refer to the transcendental consciousness—is to me a living fact of supreme significance. I have lived in close association with most of the monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrsna, each of whom had attained that ultimate and blessed experience; and I have seen one of them, my spiritual master, Swami Brahmananda, living almost constantly—as a direct result of that experience—in a state of ecstatic communion with God.

I have just mentioned Sri Rimakrsna. As a representative of the monastic order founded more than half a century ago in his name, I may be forgiven for having often invoked him in this book. That I should do this was natural—indeed almost inevitable—since it is through Sri Rimakrsna, as reported by those who knew him, more than through anyone else, that I have come to whatever understanding I possess of the religion of India.

This religion has two aspects. There is its essential message, regarding which its leading representatives are in complete and obvious agreement. Then there are its many secondary elements, regarding which these same representatives often differ—or rather, as we shall see, appear to differ. Now in relation to this second aspect it may be well. to anticipate oriefly an important idea that will be set forth at greater length, again and again, in the course of the following chapters—an idea which constitutes a warning, especially to the Western reader. A Western reader, as he goes from one more or less intricate system of thought to another contrasting with it in detail after detail, may not unnaturally conclude that despite agreement in a few concepts these systems are mutually contradictory, and that one should speak not of Indian religion but of Indian religions. But this, to the Indian mind, would be to ignore the fact that finite views of the infinite are. necessarily partial, and the further fact that they are relative to time and place, to individual temperament, and to the plane of consciousness that they reflect. When therefore one teaching seems to contradict another, it may in fact not so much contradict it as supplement it, the total truth residing not in any one theory but in a synthesis in which all theories have their part. The flexibility suggested is, and has always been, a primary characteristic of Indian religion.

The passages from thé Upanisads are from the Prabhavananda Manchester translation, and those from the Bhagavad-Gita are from the Prabhavananda~-Isherwood translation. Passages from the Bhagavatam are from my translation entitled The Wisdom of God. The chapter on the Yoga Aphorisms of Patafijali has incorporated many of the comments on them contained in the book How to Know God, by Prabhavananda and Isherwood. The chapter on Sarnkara, though written for this volume, has--as rewritten by Christopher Isherwood been published as an introduction to the Prabhavananda—Isherwood translation, entitled Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination, of the Vivekacudamani.

Translations from Sanskrit and Bengali, throughout the volume, when not attributed to others, are by the present author.

Chapter and verse references for quotations from the Upanisads, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Bhagavatam, and the Vivekacidamani are to the Sanskrit originals.

Grateful acknowledgements are due to a number of publishers for permission to reprint material from their books: to Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, India, for passages from The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda; to George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, for passages from Indian Philosophy, by S. Radhakrishnan, and for passages from Outlines of Indian Philosophy, by M. Hiriyanna; to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India, for passages from Essays on the Gita, by Sri Aurobindo Ghose; to the Cambridge University Press for a passage from What is Life’, by Erwin Schrédinger; to Ginesh & Co. Ltd., Madras, for passages from Sakti and Sakta, by Sir John Wocdroffe; to Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd., for a passage from Ramanuja’s Idea of the Finite Self, by P. N. Srinivasachari; to the Oxford University Press for passages from The Dhammapada, translated by Irving Babbitt; to the Sri Ramakrishna Centenary Committee, Belur Math, Calcutta, for passages from The Cultural Heritage of India; and finally to the Vedanta Society of Southern California, Hollywood, for passages from the following works, all mentioned above: Shankara’s Crest- Jewel of Discrimination, the Bhagavad-Gita (translated by Prabhavananda and Isher-vood), How to Know God, The Upanishads (translated by Prabhavananda and Manchester), and The Wisdom of God.

Iam happy to record my obligation to several persons who have given assistance in the production of this work. To the late Percy H. Houston I am indebted for editing a considerable portion of the original manuscript; and to the late V. Subrahmanya lyer for reading a large section of it and making valuable suggestions. To the memory of those two scholars, one of the West, one of the East, I offer my homage. To the physicist Joseph Kaplan I am indebted for a series of notes showing the parallelism between the cosmological ideas of Kapila, the Samkhya philosopher, and the findings of modern science.

By special arrangement, the final draft of this history has had much attention, as regards form, from Frederick Manchester. He has rewritten the Preface, the chapters on the Vedas, the Upanisads, the Auxiliary Scriptures, the Nyaya-Vaisesika, Sri Rimakrsna, the chapter entitled Epitome, and in addition—except of course for matter previously published and here reproduced unaltered—he has edited the remainder of the book.

Finally, for much painstaking labour in preparing the manuscript for the press, lam indebted to a member of my immediate household, Brahmacharini Usha.

Introduction

The word darsana, which is usually translated ‘philosophy’, means in Sanskrit seeing or experience. From this we may gather that Indian philosophy is not merely metaphysical speculation, but has its foundation in immediate perception. God and the soul are regarded by the Hindu mind, not as concepts, speculative and problematical, as is the case in Western philosophy, but as things directly known. They can be experienced not merely by a chosen few, but, under right conditions, by all humanity.

This insistence upon immediate perception rather than on abstract reasoning is what distinguishes the Indian philosophy of religion from philosophy as Western nations know it. Immediate perception is the source from which springs all Indian thought.

This perception, it must be made clear, is not of the senses, nor must it be confused with the operations of the intellect, nor of the emotions; it is supersensuous, transcendental—something not to be explained in rational terms.

The Mandikya Upanisad speaks of three states of consciousness— waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep.! These are common to all men. In addition, there"is turiya (The Fourth), the transcendental state—known also as samadhi—which may be described as the ultimate consciousness. Though it is realizable by all men, they do not experience it in their spiritually ignorant condition. Indian philosophers call the transcendental state by various names, but all of the names unmistakably point to the same concept.

‘Turiya, or samadhi, is a phenomenon well known throughout the history of Indian life. Today, as well as in earliest times, it is experienced. Sri Radmakrsna, the greatest saint of modern India, though not a learned man, attained samadhi, and having realized the highest illumination spoke words of solace and wisdom to all men. The state is conceivably attainable by anyone who strives hard to free himself from the dross of worldliness.

The Hindu, however, is careful not to confuse reveries, dreams, hallucinations, and hypnotic spells with transcendental experience. Before a state is recognized as genuinely transcendental, it must pass certain tests.

The systems of Indian philosophy fall into two main divisions according as they do or do not accept the authority of the Vedas. All systems except Buddhism and Jainism are pronounced astika— meaning, in effect, orthodox; these two, which deny the authority of the great primary scriptures, are nastika—unorthodox. If, however, we interpret astika literally—belief in existence after death—then all systems of thought, with the exception of the system attributed to Carvaka, are astika.

What Carvaka really taught, or whether there was a philosopher named Carvaka at all, it is dificult to know, for we hear of him only through the refutation, by various other schools of thought, of a philosophy of sensualism attributed to him. This philosophy was, in effect, but the simple philosophy of scepticism which appears as a crosscurrent in every age and every country. The name Carvaka literally means sweet word.

Some Oriental scholars translate nastika as atheist. But if this "meaning of the word is applied to Buddhism and Jainism because : they reject an anthropomorphic God, then it should be applied also to many of the orthodox schools. The Sarhkhya philosophy, for example, denies God as creator, yet it is held to be orthodox.

Curiously, there is no equivalent in Sanskrit for the word atheism. In the Gita mention is made of those who do not believe in God, the intelligent principle, but these are spoken of merely as of ‘deluded intellect’.

**Contents and Sample Pages**











The Spiritual Heritage of India

Item Code:
NAV289
Cover:
PAPERBACK
Edition:
2003
ISBN:
9788129200563
Language:
English
Size:
8.50 X 5.50 inch
Pages:
364
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 0.32 Kg
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$23.00   Shipping Free
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About the Book

The Spiritual Heritage of India is a brief history of the philosophy of a country that has never distinguished philosophy from religion. The account extends from centuries of which there is no historical record to the recent Sri Ramakrsna revival of the ancient Vedanta. This book brings together in one volume the spiritual magnificence of the sacred books such as the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita, three ancient Indian scriptures which are the foundation of the Hindu spiritual heritage.

In connection with each of the subjects taken up the author supplies sufficient quotation from the texts concerned, as incidental illustration and sometimes also as appended passages, to give body and force to the exposition. His approach is clear and practical, and at the same time profound and.richly poetic. This book takes the reader on a journey through the wisdom enshrined in these celebrated classics.

This book is both an excellent introduction for readers who are coming to the subject for the first time, and a Series of meditations for those who already know it well. The author has ably entered into the these ancient Indian treasure-houses of spirituality and offer their ancient wisdom to the modern spiritual seeker.

Preface

The Spiritual Heritage of India is a brief history of the philosophy of a country that has never distinguished philosophy from religion. The account extends from centuries of which there is no historical record to the recent Sri Ramakrsna revival of the ancient Vedanta.

In connection with each of the subjects taken up I have tried to supply sufficient quotation from the texts concerned, as incidental illustration and sometimes also as appended passages, to give body and force to the exposition.

My point of view is in one respect different from that of the Western scholar. I speak always as one born to the religious tradition of India, convinced of the profound truth of its essential message and familiar with its manifestations in the life of my people. Thus a religious " phenomenon that to the Western scholar might well seem remote and merely curious, an item to be scientifically noted but not to be taken seriously—I refer to the transcendental consciousness—is to me a living fact of supreme significance. I have lived in close association with most of the monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrsna, each of whom had attained that ultimate and blessed experience; and I have seen one of them, my spiritual master, Swami Brahmananda, living almost constantly—as a direct result of that experience—in a state of ecstatic communion with God.

I have just mentioned Sri Rimakrsna. As a representative of the monastic order founded more than half a century ago in his name, I may be forgiven for having often invoked him in this book. That I should do this was natural—indeed almost inevitable—since it is through Sri Rimakrsna, as reported by those who knew him, more than through anyone else, that I have come to whatever understanding I possess of the religion of India.

This religion has two aspects. There is its essential message, regarding which its leading representatives are in complete and obvious agreement. Then there are its many secondary elements, regarding which these same representatives often differ—or rather, as we shall see, appear to differ. Now in relation to this second aspect it may be well. to anticipate oriefly an important idea that will be set forth at greater length, again and again, in the course of the following chapters—an idea which constitutes a warning, especially to the Western reader. A Western reader, as he goes from one more or less intricate system of thought to another contrasting with it in detail after detail, may not unnaturally conclude that despite agreement in a few concepts these systems are mutually contradictory, and that one should speak not of Indian religion but of Indian religions. But this, to the Indian mind, would be to ignore the fact that finite views of the infinite are. necessarily partial, and the further fact that they are relative to time and place, to individual temperament, and to the plane of consciousness that they reflect. When therefore one teaching seems to contradict another, it may in fact not so much contradict it as supplement it, the total truth residing not in any one theory but in a synthesis in which all theories have their part. The flexibility suggested is, and has always been, a primary characteristic of Indian religion.

The passages from thé Upanisads are from the Prabhavananda Manchester translation, and those from the Bhagavad-Gita are from the Prabhavananda~-Isherwood translation. Passages from the Bhagavatam are from my translation entitled The Wisdom of God. The chapter on the Yoga Aphorisms of Patafijali has incorporated many of the comments on them contained in the book How to Know God, by Prabhavananda and Isherwood. The chapter on Sarnkara, though written for this volume, has--as rewritten by Christopher Isherwood been published as an introduction to the Prabhavananda—Isherwood translation, entitled Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination, of the Vivekacudamani.

Translations from Sanskrit and Bengali, throughout the volume, when not attributed to others, are by the present author.

Chapter and verse references for quotations from the Upanisads, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Bhagavatam, and the Vivekacidamani are to the Sanskrit originals.

Grateful acknowledgements are due to a number of publishers for permission to reprint material from their books: to Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, India, for passages from The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda; to George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, for passages from Indian Philosophy, by S. Radhakrishnan, and for passages from Outlines of Indian Philosophy, by M. Hiriyanna; to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India, for passages from Essays on the Gita, by Sri Aurobindo Ghose; to the Cambridge University Press for a passage from What is Life’, by Erwin Schrédinger; to Ginesh & Co. Ltd., Madras, for passages from Sakti and Sakta, by Sir John Wocdroffe; to Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd., for a passage from Ramanuja’s Idea of the Finite Self, by P. N. Srinivasachari; to the Oxford University Press for passages from The Dhammapada, translated by Irving Babbitt; to the Sri Ramakrishna Centenary Committee, Belur Math, Calcutta, for passages from The Cultural Heritage of India; and finally to the Vedanta Society of Southern California, Hollywood, for passages from the following works, all mentioned above: Shankara’s Crest- Jewel of Discrimination, the Bhagavad-Gita (translated by Prabhavananda and Isher-vood), How to Know God, The Upanishads (translated by Prabhavananda and Manchester), and The Wisdom of God.

Iam happy to record my obligation to several persons who have given assistance in the production of this work. To the late Percy H. Houston I am indebted for editing a considerable portion of the original manuscript; and to the late V. Subrahmanya lyer for reading a large section of it and making valuable suggestions. To the memory of those two scholars, one of the West, one of the East, I offer my homage. To the physicist Joseph Kaplan I am indebted for a series of notes showing the parallelism between the cosmological ideas of Kapila, the Samkhya philosopher, and the findings of modern science.

By special arrangement, the final draft of this history has had much attention, as regards form, from Frederick Manchester. He has rewritten the Preface, the chapters on the Vedas, the Upanisads, the Auxiliary Scriptures, the Nyaya-Vaisesika, Sri Rimakrsna, the chapter entitled Epitome, and in addition—except of course for matter previously published and here reproduced unaltered—he has edited the remainder of the book.

Finally, for much painstaking labour in preparing the manuscript for the press, lam indebted to a member of my immediate household, Brahmacharini Usha.

Introduction

The word darsana, which is usually translated ‘philosophy’, means in Sanskrit seeing or experience. From this we may gather that Indian philosophy is not merely metaphysical speculation, but has its foundation in immediate perception. God and the soul are regarded by the Hindu mind, not as concepts, speculative and problematical, as is the case in Western philosophy, but as things directly known. They can be experienced not merely by a chosen few, but, under right conditions, by all humanity.

This insistence upon immediate perception rather than on abstract reasoning is what distinguishes the Indian philosophy of religion from philosophy as Western nations know it. Immediate perception is the source from which springs all Indian thought.

This perception, it must be made clear, is not of the senses, nor must it be confused with the operations of the intellect, nor of the emotions; it is supersensuous, transcendental—something not to be explained in rational terms.

The Mandikya Upanisad speaks of three states of consciousness— waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep.! These are common to all men. In addition, there"is turiya (The Fourth), the transcendental state—known also as samadhi—which may be described as the ultimate consciousness. Though it is realizable by all men, they do not experience it in their spiritually ignorant condition. Indian philosophers call the transcendental state by various names, but all of the names unmistakably point to the same concept.

‘Turiya, or samadhi, is a phenomenon well known throughout the history of Indian life. Today, as well as in earliest times, it is experienced. Sri Radmakrsna, the greatest saint of modern India, though not a learned man, attained samadhi, and having realized the highest illumination spoke words of solace and wisdom to all men. The state is conceivably attainable by anyone who strives hard to free himself from the dross of worldliness.

The Hindu, however, is careful not to confuse reveries, dreams, hallucinations, and hypnotic spells with transcendental experience. Before a state is recognized as genuinely transcendental, it must pass certain tests.

The systems of Indian philosophy fall into two main divisions according as they do or do not accept the authority of the Vedas. All systems except Buddhism and Jainism are pronounced astika— meaning, in effect, orthodox; these two, which deny the authority of the great primary scriptures, are nastika—unorthodox. If, however, we interpret astika literally—belief in existence after death—then all systems of thought, with the exception of the system attributed to Carvaka, are astika.

What Carvaka really taught, or whether there was a philosopher named Carvaka at all, it is dificult to know, for we hear of him only through the refutation, by various other schools of thought, of a philosophy of sensualism attributed to him. This philosophy was, in effect, but the simple philosophy of scepticism which appears as a crosscurrent in every age and every country. The name Carvaka literally means sweet word.

Some Oriental scholars translate nastika as atheist. But if this "meaning of the word is applied to Buddhism and Jainism because : they reject an anthropomorphic God, then it should be applied also to many of the orthodox schools. The Sarhkhya philosophy, for example, denies God as creator, yet it is held to be orthodox.

Curiously, there is no equivalent in Sanskrit for the word atheism. In the Gita mention is made of those who do not believe in God, the intelligent principle, but these are spoken of merely as of ‘deluded intellect’.

**Contents and Sample Pages**











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