This book, consisting of thirteen philosophical essays, bears witness to the author's significant scholarship, painstaking research and deep reflections on a number of fundamental themes that are crucially important for an appreciation of the 'Indian Conceptual World'. In today’s India concerns for modernity and change demand an authentic understanding of her philosophical traditions that have shaped India's culture through the centuries. The readers will find here illuminating discussions on various notions of time and consciousness as well as on those of compassion (karuna), affliction (klesa) and habit (abhyasa) - all based on original sources. This collection of essays also contains critical deliberations on the traditional views about women's values and women's rights as well as on the issue of religious pluralism. This readable and informative work makes one aware of some of the intricacies of the social cum ideological situations just as of the distinctive features of the Indian culture.
Anindita N. Balslev is a philosopher of international repute. As the Initiator of the forum, 'Cross Cultural Conversation' she has organized several key international conferences. With Master's degree from Calcutta University and Ph.D from University of Paris, her research and teaching experience span over India, France, USA and Denmark. She serves on the board of important international organizations and is a founding member of the International Society for Science and Religion.
To mention a few of her many publications:
She is the author of A Study of Time in Indian Philosophy, 3rd ed.,
New Delhi, 2008, The Enigma of I-consciousness (in press: OUP), 2012;
Co-author of Cultural Otherness, 2nd ed. OUP, USA, 1999: Italian trans. Noi E Loro il Saggiatore, 2001; editor, Cross Cultural Conversation, OUP, USA 1999, Toward Greater Human Solidarity, Kolkata, 2006, On India: Self-Image and Counter Image, (in press: Sage), 2012; co-editor, Religion and Time, Brill, The Netherlands, 1993; Compassion in the Religions of the World, Germany 2010. She has published many papers in reputed journals.
The Indian conceptual world is intricate and profound. Records from ancient times onwards show an amazing zeal in the exploration of alternative venues for investigations in a wide range of domains, displaying utmost respect for all forms of human queries (Jijnasa). Leaving aside other areas of enquiry, the enormity of the philosophical literature alone is overwhelming. We can only focus on selected texts and works of particular authors as we pursue specific areas of our interest. Debates and discussions abound, giving rise to many variations and internal differences with regard to a host of issues and their eventual crystallization into forms of full- fledged theories. However, there is a distinct character about the alternative network of ideas that bear the unmistakable stamp of the Indian cultural soil. As one probes into the Upanisadic, the Jaina or the Buddhist traditions, there is a remarkable structural resemblance where certain concepts act as poles for metaphysical constructions which have their own peculiar features distinguishing one from another.
In this conceptual world, notions of Karma, Dharma, Punarjanma are interwoven in a tapestry where the thesis of Anadi Samsara is unanimously accepted, An over-all view of this awe-inspiring panorama shows these few basic core ideas to be conspicuously pan-Indian. These render the Indian conceptual world a characteristic flavour of its own. No matter how far back in history we go, the sources of these readings cannot be traced back to anywhere else than to the Indian cultural soil. Here search for knowledge is indeed of paramount importance. However, knowledge is sought not only because 'knowledge is power' but also because it leads to ultimate Freedom. The distinction between 'para-' and 'apara vidya' is therefore recognized. Note that even in the very early documents of the Upanisadic tradition it is boldly stated that quest for Freedom must entail openness to the possibility of different paths (vahudha). No claim of exclusivity is made on behalf of any single tradition for reaching that goal. Indeed, it is India's indigenous philosophical imagination that nourishes the capacity to inspire, articulate, preserve and protect diversity in multiple spheres of human expression. With a vast sense of time and an impressive record of an ardent inquiry into what consciousness is all about, this is a captivating conceptual world.
Perhaps living in this conceptual world can be felt to be both comforting and disturbing. It is comforting because it fills us with a sense of wholeness, leaving out no concerns that are part and parcel of life as insignificant. It is a world where delving into philosophy is cherished certainly not for indulging into any ivory-tower speculation but as an enterprise where even the most abstract theory-making endeavors invariably touch upon one or another aspect of life or the world in which we live. These reflections have eventually bearing on the choices that we make, whether in the process of discerning any of the various theoretical options that are before us or in the sphere of practical decision-making. This conceptual world may also be a bit disturbing since it does not allow us either to rest or to act in an unthinking posture; neither does it permit us to avoid the responsibility of having to face the cousequences of our actions. Indeed, the very notion of Karma rules out any such reading where events can be seen to be arbitrary or simply pre- destined, thereby highlighting the idea of efficacy of all actions - be that speech, thought or bodily actions (kaya- mana-vakya),
I have especially referred to the themes of time and consciousness, since over the years I have been preoccupiedwith the variety of views on these topics as documented in the philosophical literature. This resulted in the writing of two monographs. The monograph on time entitled. A Study of Time in Indian Philosophy. New Delhi. 2009 is now in its third edition and that on The Enigma of I-consciousness is in press. My deep interests in these themes have led to invited presentations in international forums and journals where I have discussed these issues. Five of the thirteen philosophical essays included in this volume focus on various aspects of the themes of time and consciousness, three deal with the ideas of Klesa (affliction), Abhyasa (habit) and Karuna (compassion). Of the remaining essays two concern the question of values and rights of women two are about religious pluralism and the last one is on Indian culture and its distinct character.
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