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Books > Hindu > Vedas > Brahmanas > Philosophy of Brahman
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Philosophy of Brahman
Philosophy of Brahman
Description
From the Jacket

This book is in one sense a critique of metaphysics usually viewed as an attempt to explain the existence of the world in terms of a reality which is regarded as the ultimate cause or source of the world, and in another sense to understand metaphysics as a profoundly significant attempt to know or understand the true or real nature of what is there, or what we all experience empirically, or the world. Most of the philosophers belonging to different schools of philosophy tried to understand the world in terms of a reality which is supposed to be the explanation of it. However, in the other approach to metaphysics which we discern in the philosophy of Sankara, and which is in tune with the basic insights of the Upanisads, a comprehensive attempt is made to know or understand the true or real nature of what we know empirically, or the world before any attempt is made to explain its existence. We therefore tried to analyse and understand critically the basic concepts involved in the ontological problem of Brahman, like the nature of the world, its causal explanation, nature and ontological status of matter, consciousness and its relation to spirit or self with a view to understanding the Advaitic insight that Brahman is the true nature of what we experience and know empirically, or the world.

A. Ramamurty is a retired professor of philosophy, University of Hyderabad. He has worked on classical Indian philosophy, particularly Vedanta, and on religion. His other publications are: Advatic Mysticism of Sankara; The Central Philosophy of the Rgveda; Advaita: A Conceptual Analysis; The Philosophical Foundations of Hinduism; Indian Philosophy of Religion, and Vedanta and its Philosophycal Development.

 

Preface

This book is in one sense a critique of metaphysics usually viewed as an attempt to explain the existence of the world in terms of a reality which is regarded as the ultimate cause or source of the world, and in another sense to understand metaphysics as a profoundly significant attempt to know or understand the true or real nature of what is there or what we all experience empirically, or the world. With the exception of Nagarjuna and Sankara, the philosophers belonging to different schools of philosophy tried to understand the world in terms of a reality which is supposed to be the explanation of it. In that they all have taken for granted that the world has no independent existence or cannot exist by itself, and the nature of the world is what it is known empirically. Thus without trying to understand whether the world requires any explanation for its existence, either metaphysical or theological, they tried to find a metaphysical explanation for its existence in terms of a reality which is other than the world. However, in the other approach to metaphysics which we discern in the philosophy of Sankara which is in tune with the basic insights of the Upanisads, a comprehensive attempt is made to know or understand the true or real nature of what we know empirically, or the world before any attempt is made to explain its existence. This kind of approach to metaphysics in which the object is not to find a causal explanation for the existence of the world but to know or understand its nature is free from the various formidable problems which are inevitable in the other kind of metaphysics.

We tried to analyse and understand critically the basic concepts involved in the ontological problem of Brahman, like the nature of the world, its causal explanation, nature and ontological status of matter, consciousness and its relation to spirit or self with a view to understanding the Advaitic insight that Brahman is the true nature of what we experience and know empirically. As the true or real nature of the world of empirical experience, Brahman is not a reality which is other than the reality of the world, and if the world is known in its true or real nature we may realize that the world and Brahman are not really different, A philosophical analysis of the world of empirical experience may give rise to the idea that there are no two things of world and Brahman, or matter and spirit ultimately. We thus tried to understand the Advaitic position by way of understanding the meaning of the world. Matter and spirit constitute the world of empirical experience, while Brahman is seen or known as pure consciousness. Therefore we have tried to analyse and understand the nature and reality of matter, and its relation to consciousness which is very crucial in understanding the nature of Brahman, as well as the significance of Advaita.

I take this opportunity to thank sincerely Shri Susheel K. Mittal, director, O.K. Printworld (I’) Ltd., New Delhi for his service through publications to project all that is noble and significant in Indian heritage and culture, including Indian philosophy and religion.

 

Introduction

In the history of Indian philosophy those who had seriously questioned the possibility of metaphysics was the Buddha, and the different schools of Buddhism inspired by the teachings of the Buddha. Any enquiry into the problems of metaphysics, like the nature of the world, the reason for its existence, the nature and existence of ultimate reality, the nature and destiny of man, is futile as there can be no clear and definite solution to the problems, and more importantly, the metaphysical problems have no relevance or significance to man, and his existential concerns. Instead of trying to understand the problems of metaphysics or ontology which have no significance in understanding the practical problems of man, philosophy should concern itself to understand and solve some of the practical or existential problems of man like suffering. However, if we try to know why philosophy should turn its attention to understanding practical problems of man, like suffering, but not to the theoretical problems like the nature of the world, the reason for its existence, the existence and nature of what is ultimately real, we find no convincing reasons, or sufficient justification in favour of practical approach. Moreover, who can decide what is practically significant to man? The philosophers who belong to the school of Purva-Mimamsa also deny the possibility of metaphysics, as according to them, metaphysical understanding of transcendental problems will have no objective validity, though it is meaningful to the extent it can help or encourage man to follow the path of righteousness as prescribed in the Veda. The materialist philosophers (Carvakas) are the first to question the possibility of metaphysics on epistemological grounds. However, these philosophers have tried to give reasons or justify their positions in denying the possibility of metaphysics. Though each system or school of philosophy has its own reasons for denying the possibility of metaphysics, broadly speaking the justification for denying the possibility of metaphysics is twofold. While some have denied the possibility of metaphysics on epistemological grounds, or in terms of man’s ability to know anything beyond the world of empirical experience, others consider metaphysics as a futile exercise because they doubt the utility of metaphysics or its significance to man, and his problems.

Most of the philosophers of Vedanta have tried to develop or construct their systems of metaphysics on the basis of the Upanisads as, according to them, the authority of the Upanisads, is sufficient to justify metaphysics. The fundamental problem of metaphysics, with which the Upanisads are concerned, is the existence and nature of Brahman, the explanation for the existence of the world. Therefore, the main concern of most of the Vedantins is to develop a philosophy of Brahman based on the Upanisads. However, after realizing that no systematic and consistent philosophy of the Upanisads or a logically coherent doctrine of Brahman cannot be developed on the basis of the Upanisads most of them have resorted to reasoning either to defend or justify their positions or in criticizing and demolishing the positions of others. Their main concern in invoking reason is not to find justification for the testimony of the Upanisads, but to criticize and destroy the claims of their opponents, as well as to reconcile and systematize the Upanisadic statements or ideas. However, they have not tried to understand how the Upanisads can provide or offer us knowledge about the transcendental realities, like Brahman. They have not tried to understand and explain in what way the Upanisads are better equipped to know Brahman, or what is the justification for us to accept the authority of the Upanisads in transcendental matters.

They accepted the authority of the Upanisads as final in transcendental matters, like Brahman, which is, however, contrary to the spirit of the Upanisads. The important thing which they wanted to achieve by accepting the authority of the Upanisads in understanding the metaphysical problems, like the existence and nature of Brahman, is to arrive at knowledge that is definite and beyond doubt which they think cannot be achieved in terms of rational understanding of man, as it is evident From the fact that there are as many systems of metaphysics as there are philosophers, and each system is in conflict with the other systems. However, the systems of Vedanta developed by the interpreters of Vedanta are equally in conflict with each other, and we find as many systems of Vedanta metaphysics as there are interpreters of Vedanta. And most of the systems of Vedanta are theological in nature, as each interpretation of Vedanta has given birth to a religious sect, or is associated with an existing religious sect, as most of the interpreters tried to provide scriptural basis or justification for some of the religious sects, and their beliefs. However, we have to admit that the nature of the metaphysical problems is such that philosophers cannot provide any definite solutions to them, but does not, however, diminish the value of metaphysics as a philosophical activity, if we understand the object or meaning of metaphysics differently.

The main concern of most of the philosophers belonging to different systems of philosophy developed in India is to find a causal explanation for the existence of the world. They tried to know or understand the reality that is supposed to be the cause of the world of empirical experience, or the main concern of metaphysics, according to them, is to find causal explanation for the existence of the world. And in almost all such attempts the purpose of knowing or understanding the cause of the world is to help man in understanding the nature of his destiny, as each system of philosophy has fried to understand the destiny of man in terms of its understanding of the cause of the world, and its nature. It is not, however, the case that the philosophers first conceived the destiny of man, and then tried to project the nature of ultimately reality accordingly. Even the materialist philosophers have not tried to justify sensual form of life in terms of their metaphysics. As, according to their philosophical investigation, the ultimate reality is known to be matter and the destiny of man will be to enjoy life in this world as the idea of something in man surviving the death is inconsistent with its ontological position. The Samkhya philosophers, who are least influenced by the Indian scriptures, fried to understand the destiny of man in tune with its dualistic metaphysics. However, our concern here is not to find logical fallacies in different systems of metaphysics, but to understand the basic presupposition which is common to most of the philosophers as far as their understanding of the meaning and object of metaphysics is concerned.

 

Contents

 

  Preface v
  Introduction 1
  1. Approach to World I 21
  2. Approach to World II 41
  3. Brahman 61
  4. Matter 85
  5. Consciousness 101
  6. Spirit or Self 121
  Bibliography 137
  Index 139

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Philosophy of Brahman

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From the Jacket

This book is in one sense a critique of metaphysics usually viewed as an attempt to explain the existence of the world in terms of a reality which is regarded as the ultimate cause or source of the world, and in another sense to understand metaphysics as a profoundly significant attempt to know or understand the true or real nature of what is there, or what we all experience empirically, or the world. Most of the philosophers belonging to different schools of philosophy tried to understand the world in terms of a reality which is supposed to be the explanation of it. However, in the other approach to metaphysics which we discern in the philosophy of Sankara, and which is in tune with the basic insights of the Upanisads, a comprehensive attempt is made to know or understand the true or real nature of what we know empirically, or the world before any attempt is made to explain its existence. We therefore tried to analyse and understand critically the basic concepts involved in the ontological problem of Brahman, like the nature of the world, its causal explanation, nature and ontological status of matter, consciousness and its relation to spirit or self with a view to understanding the Advaitic insight that Brahman is the true nature of what we experience and know empirically, or the world.

A. Ramamurty is a retired professor of philosophy, University of Hyderabad. He has worked on classical Indian philosophy, particularly Vedanta, and on religion. His other publications are: Advatic Mysticism of Sankara; The Central Philosophy of the Rgveda; Advaita: A Conceptual Analysis; The Philosophical Foundations of Hinduism; Indian Philosophy of Religion, and Vedanta and its Philosophycal Development.

 

Preface

This book is in one sense a critique of metaphysics usually viewed as an attempt to explain the existence of the world in terms of a reality which is regarded as the ultimate cause or source of the world, and in another sense to understand metaphysics as a profoundly significant attempt to know or understand the true or real nature of what is there or what we all experience empirically, or the world. With the exception of Nagarjuna and Sankara, the philosophers belonging to different schools of philosophy tried to understand the world in terms of a reality which is supposed to be the explanation of it. In that they all have taken for granted that the world has no independent existence or cannot exist by itself, and the nature of the world is what it is known empirically. Thus without trying to understand whether the world requires any explanation for its existence, either metaphysical or theological, they tried to find a metaphysical explanation for its existence in terms of a reality which is other than the world. However, in the other approach to metaphysics which we discern in the philosophy of Sankara which is in tune with the basic insights of the Upanisads, a comprehensive attempt is made to know or understand the true or real nature of what we know empirically, or the world before any attempt is made to explain its existence. This kind of approach to metaphysics in which the object is not to find a causal explanation for the existence of the world but to know or understand its nature is free from the various formidable problems which are inevitable in the other kind of metaphysics.

We tried to analyse and understand critically the basic concepts involved in the ontological problem of Brahman, like the nature of the world, its causal explanation, nature and ontological status of matter, consciousness and its relation to spirit or self with a view to understanding the Advaitic insight that Brahman is the true nature of what we experience and know empirically. As the true or real nature of the world of empirical experience, Brahman is not a reality which is other than the reality of the world, and if the world is known in its true or real nature we may realize that the world and Brahman are not really different, A philosophical analysis of the world of empirical experience may give rise to the idea that there are no two things of world and Brahman, or matter and spirit ultimately. We thus tried to understand the Advaitic position by way of understanding the meaning of the world. Matter and spirit constitute the world of empirical experience, while Brahman is seen or known as pure consciousness. Therefore we have tried to analyse and understand the nature and reality of matter, and its relation to consciousness which is very crucial in understanding the nature of Brahman, as well as the significance of Advaita.

I take this opportunity to thank sincerely Shri Susheel K. Mittal, director, O.K. Printworld (I’) Ltd., New Delhi for his service through publications to project all that is noble and significant in Indian heritage and culture, including Indian philosophy and religion.

 

Introduction

In the history of Indian philosophy those who had seriously questioned the possibility of metaphysics was the Buddha, and the different schools of Buddhism inspired by the teachings of the Buddha. Any enquiry into the problems of metaphysics, like the nature of the world, the reason for its existence, the nature and existence of ultimate reality, the nature and destiny of man, is futile as there can be no clear and definite solution to the problems, and more importantly, the metaphysical problems have no relevance or significance to man, and his existential concerns. Instead of trying to understand the problems of metaphysics or ontology which have no significance in understanding the practical problems of man, philosophy should concern itself to understand and solve some of the practical or existential problems of man like suffering. However, if we try to know why philosophy should turn its attention to understanding practical problems of man, like suffering, but not to the theoretical problems like the nature of the world, the reason for its existence, the existence and nature of what is ultimately real, we find no convincing reasons, or sufficient justification in favour of practical approach. Moreover, who can decide what is practically significant to man? The philosophers who belong to the school of Purva-Mimamsa also deny the possibility of metaphysics, as according to them, metaphysical understanding of transcendental problems will have no objective validity, though it is meaningful to the extent it can help or encourage man to follow the path of righteousness as prescribed in the Veda. The materialist philosophers (Carvakas) are the first to question the possibility of metaphysics on epistemological grounds. However, these philosophers have tried to give reasons or justify their positions in denying the possibility of metaphysics. Though each system or school of philosophy has its own reasons for denying the possibility of metaphysics, broadly speaking the justification for denying the possibility of metaphysics is twofold. While some have denied the possibility of metaphysics on epistemological grounds, or in terms of man’s ability to know anything beyond the world of empirical experience, others consider metaphysics as a futile exercise because they doubt the utility of metaphysics or its significance to man, and his problems.

Most of the philosophers of Vedanta have tried to develop or construct their systems of metaphysics on the basis of the Upanisads as, according to them, the authority of the Upanisads, is sufficient to justify metaphysics. The fundamental problem of metaphysics, with which the Upanisads are concerned, is the existence and nature of Brahman, the explanation for the existence of the world. Therefore, the main concern of most of the Vedantins is to develop a philosophy of Brahman based on the Upanisads. However, after realizing that no systematic and consistent philosophy of the Upanisads or a logically coherent doctrine of Brahman cannot be developed on the basis of the Upanisads most of them have resorted to reasoning either to defend or justify their positions or in criticizing and demolishing the positions of others. Their main concern in invoking reason is not to find justification for the testimony of the Upanisads, but to criticize and destroy the claims of their opponents, as well as to reconcile and systematize the Upanisadic statements or ideas. However, they have not tried to understand how the Upanisads can provide or offer us knowledge about the transcendental realities, like Brahman. They have not tried to understand and explain in what way the Upanisads are better equipped to know Brahman, or what is the justification for us to accept the authority of the Upanisads in transcendental matters.

They accepted the authority of the Upanisads as final in transcendental matters, like Brahman, which is, however, contrary to the spirit of the Upanisads. The important thing which they wanted to achieve by accepting the authority of the Upanisads in understanding the metaphysical problems, like the existence and nature of Brahman, is to arrive at knowledge that is definite and beyond doubt which they think cannot be achieved in terms of rational understanding of man, as it is evident From the fact that there are as many systems of metaphysics as there are philosophers, and each system is in conflict with the other systems. However, the systems of Vedanta developed by the interpreters of Vedanta are equally in conflict with each other, and we find as many systems of Vedanta metaphysics as there are interpreters of Vedanta. And most of the systems of Vedanta are theological in nature, as each interpretation of Vedanta has given birth to a religious sect, or is associated with an existing religious sect, as most of the interpreters tried to provide scriptural basis or justification for some of the religious sects, and their beliefs. However, we have to admit that the nature of the metaphysical problems is such that philosophers cannot provide any definite solutions to them, but does not, however, diminish the value of metaphysics as a philosophical activity, if we understand the object or meaning of metaphysics differently.

The main concern of most of the philosophers belonging to different systems of philosophy developed in India is to find a causal explanation for the existence of the world. They tried to know or understand the reality that is supposed to be the cause of the world of empirical experience, or the main concern of metaphysics, according to them, is to find causal explanation for the existence of the world. And in almost all such attempts the purpose of knowing or understanding the cause of the world is to help man in understanding the nature of his destiny, as each system of philosophy has fried to understand the destiny of man in terms of its understanding of the cause of the world, and its nature. It is not, however, the case that the philosophers first conceived the destiny of man, and then tried to project the nature of ultimately reality accordingly. Even the materialist philosophers have not tried to justify sensual form of life in terms of their metaphysics. As, according to their philosophical investigation, the ultimate reality is known to be matter and the destiny of man will be to enjoy life in this world as the idea of something in man surviving the death is inconsistent with its ontological position. The Samkhya philosophers, who are least influenced by the Indian scriptures, fried to understand the destiny of man in tune with its dualistic metaphysics. However, our concern here is not to find logical fallacies in different systems of metaphysics, but to understand the basic presupposition which is common to most of the philosophers as far as their understanding of the meaning and object of metaphysics is concerned.

 

Contents

 

  Preface v
  Introduction 1
  1. Approach to World I 21
  2. Approach to World II 41
  3. Brahman 61
  4. Matter 85
  5. Consciousness 101
  6. Spirit or Self 121
  Bibliography 137
  Index 139

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