From the Back of the Book
This extremely scholarly piece of work performs a unique service to modern mankind by introducing Western scholars views of ancient India's rich spiritual culture. Swami Tathagatananda, the author of Journey of the Upanishads to the West, shows an absolute mastery of the subject matter of the Vedas, the Upanisads and other related writings. He has done painstaking research on the long history of the origins of these writings and their discovery and presentation by the inspired Western scholars. This is an excellent resource book for any student of religion and is possibly the most prolific reference on this subject.
The author begins by explaining the spiritual doctrines of the Vedas and Upanisads through the writings of several prominent Indian and Western philosophers. This lays the foundation for the notable fact of the eternal charm of Vedanta. The Well-researched and documented chapter. Classical India and classical Greece is devoted to an exploration of their ancient, enduring confluence. The next three chapters establish the role of European scholars-particularly those from France, Germany and England, in the dissemination of Indian philosophy through their mastery of Sanskrit and study of the Vedas and Upanisads. The subsequent chapter is a fascinating historical account of the American Transcendental Movement, the advent of Vedanta Societies in America and the broad impact of Hinduism in the culture of the United States through the influence of Vedanta on its eminent writers. Poets and educators. The final chapters documents and Discusses the Russian interest in Indian studies and spirituality.
This monumental work is a must for any research scholar-not only in the disciplines of philosophy and theology but of history and social studies as well. The author has presented us with a virtual West Meets East at the spiritual and philosophical levels.
Professor Emeritus, Kent State University
From the Jacket
India's spiritual thoughts and ideas, as well as the high quality of her spiritual culture and prosperity attracted the attention of foreigners in the earliest days of their first Indian encounters. The fact that Indian spiritual thought and ideas were able to create an impact in the minds of those outside Asia is clearly documented in this new book by Swami Tathagatananda. Through the voices of Western scholars, the Author brings attention to the insightful, universal message of eternal spiritual thoughts as embodied in Vedanta.
In the sweeping account of the arrival of Vedanta philosophy in the West and its impact on the minds of Western philosophers, the author provides (a) an introduction to the novice student and (b) an elaboration on the way in which India's philosophical outlook and quality of her culture in its secular achievements in trade, commerce, mathematics, astronomy, language and logic reflected the country's philosophical outlook, for the more advanced scholar.
I had the pleasure of going through are that the painstaking research of the author will be a valuable treasure not only for scholars but also for lay readers. The author of Journey of the Upanishads to the West successfully brings his passion and deep commitment to the subject and to the task of unveiling its beauty and passion.
Many generations will live to thank this earnest scholar for sharing the wealth of scholarship and his sincere commitment to the dissemination of this ancient wisdom.
Professor Joanne Kilgour Dowdy
Kent State University, Ohio
Vedanta's universality makes it accessible to spiritual seekers throughout the world who are attracted by its practical, meaningful answers to humanity's basic questions. Vedanta philosophy does not create dogmatic barriers to spiritual seekers from any of the world's great religions. Vedanta has no creed, no rigid system of beliefs which potential Vedantists may be asked to accept. Vedanta is a way of life.
Vedanta's sympathetic approach to the world's religions is facilitated by the strong conviction that the founders of all religions experienced the same Truth in their deepest contemplation and that this Truth is at the core of their religions. Although many different interpretations of that essentially inexpressible Truth seem to have been more or less obscured it is still present and has been experienced by sincere devotees like Sri Ramakrishna. Vedanta's teaching of the unity of religions and Sri Ramakrishna's experiences supporting it are among Vedanta's potentially fruitful contributions to the modern age. The universality of the Vedantic outlook, its humanistic approach, and its catholic temperament emphasizing the divinity of life and the harmony of religions appeal to the modern human being for their rational temper and spiritual outlook.
Journey of the Upanishads to the West by Swami Tathagatananda is remarkable for its scholarly research of Indology in general and Vedanta in particular in six Western countries. Although the scholarship is thorough, it is not dry and boring, as one might expect it to be. The text is replete with relevant quotations by distinguished persons, including Leo Tolstoy, Romain Rolland, Will Durant, Max Muller, Paul Deussen, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Honore de Balzac and Hermann Hesse. These quotations, which are at once factual and convincing, amply support Swami Tathagatananda's account of the great contribution the Upanishads have made to the West through the agency of many scholars and also, in recent times, through the agency of many scholars and also, in recent times, through the agency of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vevekananda and the dedicated monks of the Ramakrishna Order.
The book documents the great impact of the translations of the Upanishads and of Sanskrit literature dealing with Indian lore, which inspired not only some of the greatest Western scholars but also many common individuals through the media of poetry and prose. It brings a wealth of inspiration and guidance to the reader and is a significant contribution to the understanding of Vedanta in the West. It can have broad application in any course on Indian civilization and comparative religion.
The span of life is short but the horizon of knowledge ever increases with the passage of time. Nevertheless, a seeker of knowledge is anxious to have it available in the periphery of his vision. Most of us, if not all, see the objective world or gather information through the prism of our own mind. Obsessive identification with opinion can be the worst type of attachment. Swami Vivekananda says, "The mistake is that we want to tie the whole world down to our own plane of thought and to make our mind the measure of the whole universe." (C. W., II:71).
We are proud of our phenomenal success in science and technology, but we are miserably ignorant about the concept of our own life. We lack a single overarching purpose and consistent direction to our life and activities. The vast sweep of events over time is headed in no discernible direction. We exist in the very shadow of the magnificent temple of life.
The remarks of some eminent scientists of our time are worthy of notice. In his book on cosmology, Nobel physicist Steven Weinberg writes, "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems meaningless." In the words of Julian Huxley, "the sense of uselessness is the severest shock that any organism can sustain" for any long period. In his Introduction to Science. J. Arthur Thomson quotes Thomas Huxley:
The longer I live, the more obvious it is to me that the most sacred act of a man's life is to say and feel, "I believe such and such to be true." All the greatest rewards and all the heaviest penalties of existence cling about that act" (J.A. Thompson, Introduction to Science, 22).
Here we find the great relevance of the statement of Einstein, who highlights the dire necessity of having some viable, satisfying understanding of the mystery of human life. Lincoln Barnett writes:
Man is thus his own greatest mystery. He does not understand the vast veiled universe into which he has been cast for the reason that he does not understand himself
Least of all does he understand his noblest and most mysterious faculty: the ability of transcend himself and perceive himself in the act of perception (L. Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein, 117).
As a result of tapping the resource of nature and human elements in our wanton pursuit of material success in life, we have landed in a very precarious situation. This is being accepted by the scholars. Bertrand Russell wrote:
Man has been disciplined hitherto by his subjection to nature. Having emancipated himself from this subjection, he is showing something of the defects of slave-turned-master. A new moral outlook is called for in which submission to the powers of nature is replaced by respect for what is best in man. It is where this respect is lacking that scientific technique is dangerous. So long as it is present, science, having delivered man from bondage to nature, can proceed to deliver him from bondage to the slvish part of himself (Bertrand Russell, The Scientific Outlook, 228-29).
Indian culture is rooted in and inspired by the immortal and the impersonal Supreme Truth envisioned in the Vedas and Upanishads. The Upanishadic search for the meaning of life and experience has imparted the quality of universality to its philosophy and eternality to its religion. The sages of the Upanishads realized in their pure hearts the timeless Reality behind the manifoldness of Nature. Brahman, Timeless Spirit, is the innermost Self of all. The human being is Divine. The goal of life is to realize the immortal and impersonal Self within us all. The Supreme Reality is behind the manifold universe transcendental over all and immanent in all.
A group of enlightened European scholars were inspired to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the study of eastern languages, literature, religion and culture with the zeal of the adventurous. They exhibited remarkable enthusiasm in acquiring the gems of hidden treasure buried in ancient Indian literature. The story of their bold effort, heroic perseverance and tremendous ardor is a romantic sage of the insatiable human thirst for knowledge.
The amazing vitality, patience and perseverance invariably entailed in such studies, especially in the mastery of Sanskrit, Pali and other Oriental languages, demands our infinite gratitude and respectful homage. These scholar-missionaries of immortal fame lit a beacon of hope for all humanity.
The pioneers of Oriental research developed the scientific study of Indian culture. They systematically collected and interpreted the data. They introduced unique methods of thorough investigation and scientific preservation of these hoary and extremely rare manuscripts. Through painstaking archeological research they discovered many hitherto forgotten, valuable materials and sheltered them in museums. In addition, the immense benefit of introducing Western education, particularly in English, in India, was of momentous significance in the creation of an Indian Renaissance.
In this humble work, readers will find the magnificent record of achievement of some of the Western scholars. Their discovery of the Sanskrit language created an enormous impact amongst them and led to the establishment and development of the sciences of comparative philology and comparative religion. The Asiatic Society in Bengal that was inaugurated by Sir William Jones in 1784 during Warren Hastings' time, is a great landmark in the recent history of intellectual progress. Professor Max Muller's lecture at Cambridge University, "India, What Can It Teach Us?" published in 1882 and delivered with boundless enthusiasm before the candidates for the Indian Civil Service, speaks highly of his integrity, moral character and tremendous love for the ancient Indian heritage.
More than one hundred Western scholars devoted themselves to this arduous pioneering work. We have cited but a few of the glorious achievements of these savants. Of those dedicated scholars, we mention the names of Max Muller, Johann G. Buhler, Rudolf von Roth, Otto Bohtlingk, Albrecht F. Weber, Friedrich and August W. von Schlegel, Hermann Jacobi, Paul Deussen, Maurice Winternitz, Hermann Oldenberg and Franz Bopp among those in Germany; Sir William Jones, Sir Charles Wilkins, Henry T. Colebrooke, Horace H. Wilson, Monier Monier-Williams, R. T. H. Griffith, Sir Edwin Arnold, Arthur B. Keith and T. W. Rhys Davids and Mrs. Rhys Davids among those in Great Britain; Eugene Burnouf, Sylvain Levi and Louis Renou among those in France; Edward E. Salisbury, William D. Whitney, Charles R. Lanman, Maurice Bloomfield, Edward W. Hopkins and Franklin Edgerton in America; and Count Novarov, Pavel Petrov, Ivan Minayev, Theodore Stcherbatsky, Otto Rosenburg, Mikhael I. Tubyanski, Sergei Oldenburg, Alexei Barannikov and Pitirim A. Sorokin among those in Russia. In almost all the Western countries, Eastern philosophical studies have grown considerably in recent years. Many devoted scholars in recent years. Many devoted scholars in each of these countries have produced magnificent works on the Indian and Asiatic heritage.
More than one hundred Western scholars devoted themselves to this arduous pioneering work. We have cited but a few of the glorious achievements of these savants. Of those dedicated scholars, we mention the names of Max Muller, Johann G. Buhler, Rudolf von Roth, Otto Bohtlingk, Albrecht F. Weber, Friedrich and August W. Von Schlegel, Hermann Jacobi, Paul Deussen, Maurice Winternitz, Hermann Oldenberge and Franz Bopp among those in Germany; Sir William Jones, Sir Charles Wilkins, Henry T. Colebrooke, Horace H. Wilson, Monier Monier-Williams, R. T. H. Griffith, Sir Edwin Arnold, Arthus B. Keith and T. W. Rhys Davids and Mrs. Rhys Davids among those in Great Britain; Eugene Burnouf, Sylvain Levi and Louis Renou among those in France; Edward E. Salisbury, William D. Whitney, Charles R. Lanman, Maurice Bloomfield, Edward W. Hopkins and Franklin Edgerton in America; and Count Novarov, Pavel Petrov, Ivan Minayev, Theodore Stcherbatsky, Otto Rosenburg, Mikhael I. Tubyanski, Sergei Oldenburg, Alexei Barannikov and Pitirim A. Sorokin among those in Russia. In almost all the Western countries, Eastern philosophical studies have grown considerably in recent years. Many devoted scholars in each of these countries have produced magnificent works on the Indian and Asiatic heritage.
The chief objective of this book is to present a broad account of the achievements of the civilization and spiritually oriented culture of India as it is revealed through the works of Western scholars. Indeed, their works throw a floodlight on ancient India's glorious past of philosophical thought and activity down the centuries. I am certain this work will partially remove the die-hard prejudice prevailing in the minds of Westernized Indian scholars as well as in the minds of Western scholars. The reader will discover innumerable unacknowledged contacts from the dim past between the East and the West, and their reciprocal benefits.
Finally, I offer my humble and respectful pranams to Most Revered Swami Ranganathanandaji, President of the Ramakrishna Order and an orator and writer of international repute, for kindly giving his benediction to the present publication. I am also grateful to Prof. Leta Jane Lewis, who kindly read the whole portion of the book in spite of her failing health, for writing the Foreword. I am immensely obliged to Prof. Huston Smith an internationally known scholar for kindly going through some portions of the book and writing the comments that have been quoted on the book jacket. It is a pleasure to acknowledge my obligation to many Western scholars whose works I have consulted and cited. I also want to thank Dr. Mahesh Tirumkudulu, Dr. Namita Deo, Dr. Prasenjit Ghosh and Dr. Yogesh Joshi all postdoctoral students at Princeton University, Columbia University, the University of UCLA at Santa Barbara and New York University, respectively for ungrudgingly supplying me with books. The Vedanta students Dora Barbera, Barbara Horton and Professor Joanne Kilgour Dowdy of Kent State University helped me in various ways. Professor Jayanta Sircar of Harvard University and Professor Tapan Sarkar of Syracuse University, both longtime friends of the Vedanta Society of New York, gave moral support throughout the ongoing work leading to publication. I am also grateful to Swami Bodhasarananda of Advaita Ashrama for helping me to get the book printed. I express my hearty thanks to all of them.
The Vedanta student behind this work, whose unflagging dedication and Herculean perseverance in helping me in the typing, preparing the Index, and bringing me books from the library, among other various tasks incidental to the manuscript, prefers to remain anonymous. I am grateful for the sustained help and sincere, wholehearted and painstaking labor of love of that student of Vedanta.
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