The Volume of the Project on the History of Science. Philosophy and culture in Indian Civilization aim at discovering the main aspects of India’s heritage and present them in an interrelated way. These Volume is spite of their unitary look, recognize the difference between the areas of material civilization and those of ideational culture. The Project is no being executed by a single group of thinkers and writers who are methodologically uniform or ideologically identical in their commitments. In fact contributions are made by persuasions and methodological approaches. The Project is marked by what may be called ‘methodological pluralism’.
In Spite of its primary historical character, this Project, both in its conceptualization and execution, has been shaped by many scholars drawn from different disciplines. It is for the first time that an endeavor of such a unique and comprehensive character has been undertaken to study critically a major world civilization like India.
The important message of all Pedantic systems is that the understanding of the nature of Brahman as the source and support of all beings must culminate not only in a new vision, but also in a new way of life. This volume on Theistic Vedanta, which is a sequel to the earlier volume on Advantage Vedanta, contains three sections: the fist one explains the heritage of Slavism and Vaisnavism; the second one highlights the God-man-world relation through a variety of doctrines and arguments as formulated by the illustrious preceptors of Vaisnava and Saiva traditions; and the third one gives an account of the teaching and practices of the mystic-saints who authenticated the heritage through varieties of Spiritual experience.
This volume will be of interest for all those who are concerned with the Vedic-Agamic heritage which has gone through a long span of time retaining its identity.
D. P. Chattopadhyaya, after obtaining his Ph. D. from Calcutta University and London School of Economics, taught philosophy at Jadavpur University, Calcutta. He is the founder Chairman of Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, Currently, he is the Chairman of the Centre for Studies in Civilizations, and General Editor of this project.
Chattopadhyaya is one of the profounder of interdisciplinary studies in the country with his wide knowledge of philosophy, political theory, economics, history and science. His publications include: Individuals and Societies: A Methodological Inquiry (1`967); Individuals and Worlds () 1976; Inquiry (1976); Individuals and Worlds (1976); Rupa, Rasa O Sundara (in Bengali, 1980; Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx (1988); Anthropology and historiography of Dciemce (1990); Induction, Probability and Skepticism (1991; Sociology, Ideology and Utopia (1997). Societies, Cultures and Ideologies; Analysis and Interpretation (2001). R. Bal Subramanian () Ph. D. and D. Litt., Madras University), a specialist in Advantage, phenomenology and Existentialism, started his career in 1950. He taught in Beast Theosophical College, Vivekananda Collage, and Annandale University before joining the faculty of Radhakrishnan Institute for Advances Study in Philosophy, University before joining the faculty of Radhakrishnan Institute for Advances Studies in philosophy, University of Madras, of which he was the Director for a number of years. He started Sri Aurobindo School of Eastern and Western Thought at Pond cherry University and was its first Chairman for five years. He spent a year at Stanford University as a Fulbright & Smith-Munds scholar for his post-doctoral philosophical Research for a term. He is at present Visiting Professor, Sri Aurobindo School of Eastern and Western Thought and President, Afro-Asian Philosophy Association. His publications include: Personality Existentialism of Berdyaev (1970); The Taittiriyuapanisad-bhasya-varitka of Suresvara (1974, 1984); Advaita Vedanta (1976); The naiskarmya- siddhi (1988); T. M. P. Mahadevan (1998).
The term “Vedanta” is comprehensive enough to cover all Vedantic systems, absolutistic as well as theistic. The present volume on Theistic Vedanta is a sequel to the previous volume on Advaita Vedanta. The Vedantic systems are divided into two groups on the basis of certain metaphysical, epistemological, and soteriological issues. White Advaita Vedanta is on one side, the other systems of Vedanta are on the other sie. The Upanisads, the Brahma-sutra, and the Bhagavad-gita, which are called prasthana-traya, are the basic sources for Vedantic systems. In addition to these three sources of authority, the Saiva Agamas and the Vaisnava Agamas have been acdepted as scriptural authorities by Saivism and Vaisnavism, respectively.
Section I of this volume gives an account of the heritage of both Saivism and Vaisnavism. The Vedantic systems examine the Upanisadic texts with the help of the Brahma-sutra, which itself provides scope for different interpretiations of the Upanisadic texts. SectionII of this volime highlights the doctrines and practices of the different systems of theistic Vedanta belonging to the Vaisnava and Saiva traditions. The Acaryas who formulated the doctrines and arguments of the systems carefully preserved the heritage. Also, the siddhas and saints, seers and spiritual masters representing different traditions have exemplified through their lives and teachings the unity of theory and practice, which is the hallmark of the sanatana-dharma of the Vedas and the Agamas. Section III of this volume gives a detailed account of the contribution of the mysticisms who are the authentic spokesmen of the Vedic-Agamic heritage.
I have to acknowledge first of all my indebtedness ot Professor D. P. Chattopadhyaya, Director of the project of History of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture (PHISPC) AND Professor Bhuvan Chandel, Project Co-ordinate, for their support, suggestions, and guidance in the preparation of this volume. When I took the responsibility for the preparation of this volume, I knew that this work could be completed only with the help of the academics who are specialists in the different areas of Vedantic philosophy. Hence, I sought their help which was readily available. I take this opportunity to express my grateful thanks to all the scholars who have contributed papers to this volume. Professor D. N. Shanbhag took the responsibility not only to contribute, but also to collect and edit the papers relating to Dvaita Vedanta, for which I am extremely thankful to him. The papers on Dvaita Vedanta balance against those on visistadvaita on the one hand and those on Slavism on the other.
I am thankful to Professor V. K. S. N. Raghavan, Head of the Department of Vaishnavism, University of Madras and Dr. G. Mishra, Reader, Department of Philosophy, University of Madras, for their help and suggestions in the preparation of this volume. I thank my brother, Venkitu, and Dr. Chitra Madhavan for proof reading a coulpe of chapters. Ms. Bindu Menon deserves special mention in connection with the prepration of the final draft of the script. She went through and checked the entire script, and helped me in editing all the papers of this volume. I express my appreciation and thanks to her for the constructive comments and useful suggestions which she gave from time to time.
On the administrative side, I received a lot of help from Shri S. Sreekumaran of the Project office, for which I am thankful to him.
When I had difficulty in writing my papers for the volume, my children, Ramesh and Dharini, volunteered to type my papers part by party as I dictated them. I thank them for the timely help. Finally, I have to thank Jayanthi for the care and patience shown by her in the preparation of the typescript for the press.
From the Vedic ideas on cosmology, philosophy and religion, as we know, many schools of thought emerged in India. Among the many schools of Vedanta, the Advaita tradition, traced mainly to Gaudapada and Sankara, proved acceptable to many people and for a very long period till date. Another tradition of comparable imporaded by various thinkers like Ramanuja, Nimbaraka, Madhava, Vallabha and Caitabnya. Also, Saivism representing different sampradayas is another major tradition in this county. All of them were more or less critical of the Advaita line Of thought. But among themselves and their followers, there had been many points of difference.
In the non-dualism of the Vedantic thinkers, Brahman has been recognized as the supreme, unique and differences less Reality. In contrast, all the non-Advaitic acaryas argued in their own ways asserting the difference between God as the supreme Reality and man as his manifestation. Besides, from the ontological point of View, the world received a clearer articulation in the writings of these preceptors.
Ordinarily, it is rightly said that the defenders of Vedanta attach highest epistemic importance to the cognitive mode of consciousness and that the non-Aviations highlight he importance of worship and devotion as means of attaining the highest Reality. If the former primarily emphasize the concept of maya, the latter mainly speak of lila. These general observations, on scrutiny, may appear not only textually unsupportable, but also partly misleading. Some writers have rightly pointed out that one can easily trace the elements of deviationism in the Vedanta itself. Secondly, it has been stated that most of the non-dualists have their own unified world-views, showing the relation among God, man and world.
In the modern period one finds theoretical and practical followers of both the non-dualist and the dualist types of thought. Often a subtle combination of the two approaches is available. In the writings of Tagore, Vivekananda, Gandhi, Sri Auribindo, K. C. Bhattacharyya and Radhakrishnan, we come across different forms of synthetic approach.
Many of these questions, and much besides, have been discusses in studied details by the contributors to this Volume, Theistic Vedanta, edited by Professor R. Balasiubramanian. The contributors to this Volume have presented their authoritative accounts of different aspects of the theistic position. The Editor himself by his Introduction and own contribution has enhanced the value of this Volume.
I am sure that both scholars and general readers will enjoy reading this admirable Volume.
It is understandable that man, shaped by Nature, would like to know Nature. The human ways of knowing Nature are evidently diverse, theoretical and practical, scientific and technological, artistc and spiritual. This diversity has, on scrutiny, been found to be neither exhaustive nor exclusive. The complexity of physical nature, life-world and, particularly, human mind is so enormous that it is futile to follow a single method for comprehending all the aspects of the world in which we are situated.
One need not feel bewildered by the variety and complexity of the worldly phenomena. After all, both form traditional wisdom and our daily experience, we know that our own nature is not quite alien to the structure of the world. Positively speaking, the elements and forces that are out there in the world are also present in our body mind complex, enabling us to adjust ourselves to our enviourment .Not only the natural conditions but also the social conditions of life have instructive similarities between them. This is not to underrate in any way the difference between the human ways of life all over the world. It is partly due to the variation in climatic conditions and partly due to the distinctness of production-related tradition, history and culture.
Three broad approaches are discernible in the words on historiography of civilization, comprising science and technology, art and architecture, social sciences and institutions. Firstly, some writers are primarily interested in discovering the general laws which govern all civilizations spread over different continents. They tend to underplay what they call the noisy local events of the external world and peculiarities of different languages, literatures and histories. Their accent is on the unity of Nature, the generalist or transcendentalist ones; attach primary importance to the distinctiveness of ever culture. To these writers’ human freedom and creativity are extremely important and basic in character. Social institutions and the cultural articulations of human consciousness, they argue, are bound to be rejecting concepts like archetypal consciousness. By implication they tend to reject concepts like archetypal consciousness, universal mind and providential history. There is a third group of writers who offer a composite picture of civilizations, drawing elements both from their local as well as common characteristics. Every culture has its local roots and peculiarities. At the same time, it is pointed out that due to demographic migration and immigration over the centuries an element of compositeness emerges almost in every culture. When, due to a natural calamity or Political exigencies, people move from one part of the world to another, they carry with them, among other things, their language, cultural inheritance and their ways of living.
In the light of the above facts, it is not at all surprising that comparative anthropologists and philologists are intrigued by the striking similarity between different language families and the rites, rituals and myths of different peoples. Speculative philosophers of history, heavily relying on the findings of epigraphy, ethnography, archaeology and theology, try to show in very general terms that the particulars and universals of culture are ‘essentially’ or ‘secretly’ interrelated. The spiritual aspects of culture like dance and music, beliefs pertaining to life, death and duties, on analysis, are found to be mediated by the material forms of life like weather forecasting, food production, urbanization and invention of script. The transition form the oral culture to the written one was made possible because of the mastery of symbols and rules of measurement. Speech precedes grammar, poetry, prosody. All these show how the ‘matters’ and ‘forms’ of life are so subtly interwoven.
The PHISPC publications on History of science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, in spite of their unitary look, do recognize the differences between the areas of material civilization and those of ideational culture. It is not a work of a single author. Nor is it being executed by a group of thinkers and writers who are method-logically uniform or ideologically with, and been influenced by, the writings and views of many Indian and non- Indian thinkers.
The attempted unity of this Project lies in its aim and inspiration. We have in India many scholarly works written by Indians on different aspects of our civilization and culture. Right from the pre-Christian era to our own time, India has drawn the attention of various countries of Asia, Europe and Africa. Some of these writings are objective and informative and many others are based on insufficient information and hearsay, and therefore not quite reliable, but they have their own value. Quality and view-points keep on changing not only because of the adequacy and inadequacy of evidence but also, and perhaps more so, because of the bias and prejudice, religious and political conviction, of the writers.
Besides, it is to be remembered that history, like Nature, is not an open book to be read alike by all. The past is mainly enclosed and only partially disclosed. History is, therefore, partly objective or ‘real’ and largely a matter of construction. This is one of the reasons why some historians themselves think that it is form of literature or art. However, it does not mean that historical construction is ‘anarchic’ and arbitrary. Certainly, imagination plays an important role in it.
But its character is basically dependent upon the questions which the historian raises and wants to understand or answer in terms of the ideas and actions of human beings in the past ages. In a way, history, somewhat like the natural sciences, is engaged in answering questions and in exploring relationships of cause and effect between events and developments across time. While in the natural sciences, the scientist poses questions about neuter in the form of hypotheses, expecting to elicit authoritative answers to such questions, the historian studies the past, partly for the sake of understanding it for its own sake and partly also for the light which the past throws upon the present, and the possibilities which it opens up for mounding the future. But the difference between the two approaches must not be lost sight of. The scientist is primarily and processes can be connected and anticipated. His interest in the conditions or circumst5ances attending the concerned events is secondary; Therefore, scientific laws turn out to be basically abstract and easily expressible in terms of mathematical language. In contrast, the historian’s main interest centers round the specific events, human ideas and actions, not general laws. So, the historian, unlike the scientist, is obliged to pay primary attention to the circumstances of the events he wants to study. Consequently, history, like most other humanistic disciplines, is concerted and particularistic, this is not and actions show some trend or other and weave some trend or other and weave some pattern or other, if these trends and patterns were not having been profitable or instructive. But one must recognize that historical trends and patterns, unlike scientific laws and theories, are not general or purported to be universal in their scope.
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