Within the compass of this relatively modest boom Professor Paul Younger of McMaster University. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, has brought the entire range of the Indian Religious Tradition. The book is not intended to present new material, but to arrange the material according to a new method in the study of human cultures. This new method combines the approaches of the phenomenologist, who tends to look at phenomena out of context, and the historian, who describes the phenomena in chronological order.
As a result of following this method Professor Younger has suggested some important new interpretations of the phenomena of Indian religion. He has divided the development of Indian religion into four major phases : a "background" period consisting of the Indus and dig Vedic Civilizations, a "Formative" period in which the cultural creativity of Buddhism is emphasised, a period of "Consolidation", and finally a period of "Survival" in which the Indian response to the confrontations with Islam, Christianity, and Technology is traced. Throughout Professor Younger attempts to show the relationship between the underlying theological commitments of India and the cultural forms of art, philosophy and society through which those commitments were expressed.
While this book presents some radically new theses, it was written in such a way that even students and laymen should be able to follow the argument
Professor Younger has been teaching Indian Religion at McMaster University since 1964. He went to Banaras Hindu University first in 1957 and has been back to India five times since. He took his M.A. from Banaras in 1959 and his PhD from Princeton in 1965. He has taught at lafayette College and Princeton University as well as at McMaster.
When I first came to India, some thirteen years ago, I was amazed at the strength of the stream of continuity which held ancient India and modern India together. Nothing I had read about either the ancient period or the modern period had adequately conveyed to me this sense of continuity. Looking first for the spirit underlying this continuity I spent a number of years studying the idea of duhkha or suffering, which it seemed to me had played a major role in helping ancient India formulate a unified world view.' This study in turn led me to ask how ideas like dutikha were used later in the tradition, and, finally, how the tradition, developed in relative isolation, was able to survive the major encounters with Western religion which began with the coming of Islam in the Tenth Century.
To discuss the whole of the Indian Religious Tradition in the course of one small book is indeed an ambitious task. It should be clear to the reader from the beginning that what is presented here is not a complete history of the tradition with all the details included. It is rather an anthropological analysis of the nature of "tradition" as it developed in India. What was the basis for this stream of continuity, and what was the course of its development? I use the phrase "religious tradition" in a very special sense to mean "a conscious authoritative expression of religious experience." The range of phenomena to which we commonly ascribed the adjective "religious" might usefully be distinguished into a number of concentric circles moving out from a center, which is the mysterious experience itself. Nearest to the center are the actions (ritual) and words (myth) which are spontaneous expressions of the mysterious experience.
A little further removed from the experience is the authoritative summary of ritual and myth which provides a basis for continuity and is here called "tradition." Even further removed from the original experience are the cultural forms of art, philosophy and society. The concern of this book is to illustrate the character of the ring of "tradition" and to see how it developed in India. The development pattern in the religious tradition of India seems to be a pattern that is found elsewhere as well. The character of the background Period was "mythological" in the sense that the various mythical explanations of reality had not yet been sorted out or differentiated.
The period of Formulation as "prophetic" in that a somewhat exclusive religious message was set forth by great creative figures. The period of Consolidation was "dogmatic" in the sense that there was a looking back to the central dogmas that had been established even as there was also a broadening of the base to include the whole social order and a reaching out to express the dogma in terms of philosophy and art. Finally, in the period of Survival, when the tradition is under attack, the religious spirit is called "critical" in the sense that it is forced to question and modify its character but as the same time is able to develop new depths in the areas investigated. I trust that those who are not familiar with this approach to the study of religion or who feel that they disagree with one or another of my interpretations will read far enough to understand the general character of my approach. No doubt this interpretation of the range of the Indian Religious Tradition and of its pattern of development will be modified by subsequent scholars. Such modification is both inevitable and welcome for the territory is at present largely uncharted and the best paths are not always obvious. It is time that the stream of continuity which has been preserved in India for centuries through the oral tradition be interpreted by modern scholars, but such scholars of necessity begin with the awareness that they are taking of something the depths and breadths of which are mysterious and quite often hard to define. I am indebted to all of India for the years of reflection which underlie this study.
I learned a lot from my teachers at Banaras Hindu University, and even more from the Harijans of Chittupur with whom I lived. But I owe the most to my wife in the depths of whose life the stream of the Indian tradition is continually reflected for me. The interpretations I present are very much my own, but I hope they can be seen as a part of the living tradition of India, of which I would only be too glad to be considered a part.
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