This is mainly intended to give an exposition of Indian thought strictly on the basis of the original texts and commentaries. Occasionally, however, the author has sometimes discussed and borrowed the view of other writers in the assessment of chronological facts. Often the ground covered has been wholly new and the materials have been obtained by a direct and first-hand study of all available texts and manuscripts.
The work appears in five volumes. Vol. I comprises Buddhist and Jaina Philosophy and the six systems of Hindu thought, viz.., Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Mimamsa and Vedanta.
The old civilisation of India was a concrete unity of manysided developments in art, architecture, literature, religion, morals, and science so far as it was understood in those days. But the most important achievement of Indian thought was philosophy. It was regarded as the goal of all the highest practical and. theoretical activities, and it indicated the point of unity amidst all the apparent diversities which the complex growth of culture over a vast area inhabited by different peoples produced. It is not in the history of foreign invasions, in the rise of independent kingdoms at different times, in the empires of this or that great monarch that the unity of India is to be sought. It is essentially one of spiritual aspirations and obedience to the law of the spirit, which were regarded as superior to every thing else, and it has outlived all the political changes through which India passed.
The Greeks, the Huns, the Scythians, the Pathans and the Moguls who occupied the land and controlled the political machinery never ruled the minds of the people, for these political events were like hurricanes or the changes of season, mere phenomena of a natural or physical order which never affected the spiritual integrity of Hindu culture. If after a passivity of some centuries India is again going to become creative it is mainly on account of this fundamental unity of her progress and civilisation and not for anything that she may borrow from other countries. It is therefore indispensably necessary for all those who wish to appreciate the significance and potentialities of Indian culture that they should properly understand the history of Indian philosophical thought which is the nucleus round which all that is best and highest in India has grown. Much harm has already been done by the circulation of opinions that the culture and philosophy of India was dreamy and abstract. It is therefore very necessary that Indians as well as other people should become more and more acquainted with the true characteristics of the past history of Indian thought and form a correct estimate of its special features.
But it is not only for the sake of the right understanding of India that Indian philosophy should be read, or only as a record of the past thoughts of India. For most of the problems that are still debated in modern philosophical thought occurred in more or less divergent forms to the philosophers of India. Their discussions, difficulties and solutions when properly grasped in connection with the problems of our own times may throw light on the course of the process of the future reconstruction of modern thought. The discovery of the important features of Indian philosophical thought, and a due appreciation of their full signi ficance, may turn out to be as important to modern philosophy as the discovery of Sanskrit has been to the investigation of modern philological researches. It is unfortunate that the task of re-interpretation and revaluation of Indian thought has not yet been undertaken on a comprehensive scale. Sanskritists also with very few exceptions have neglected this important field of study, for most of these scholars have been interested more in mythology, philology, and history than in philosophy. Much work however has already been done in the way of the publication of a large number of important texts, and translations of some of them have also been attempted. But owing to the presence of many technical terms in advanced Sanskrit philosophical literature, the translations in most cases are hardly intelligible to those who are not familiar with the texts themselves.
A work containing some general account of the mutual relation of the chief systems is necessary for those who intend to pursue the study of a particular school. This is also necessary for lay readers interested in philosophy and students of Western philosophy who have no inclination or time to specialise in any Indian system, but who are at the same time interested to know what they can about Indian philosophy. In my two books The Study of Patanjali and Yoga Philosophy in relation to other Indian Systems of Thought I have attempted to interpret the Samkhya and Yoga systems both from their inner point of view and from the point of view of their relation to other Indian systems. The present attempt deals with the important features of these as also of all the other systems and seeks to show some of their inner philosophical relations especially in regard to the history of their development. I have tried to be as faithful to the original texts as I could and have always given the Sanskrit or Pali technical terms for the help of those who want to make this book a guide for further study. To understand something of these terms is indeed essential for anyone who wishes to be sure that he is following the actual course of the thoughts.
In Sanskrit treatises the style of argument and methods of treating the different topics are altogether different from what we find in any modern work of philosophy. Materials had therefore to be collected from a large number of works on each system and these have been knit together and given shape which is likely to be more intelligible to people unacquainted with Sanskritic ways of thought. But at the same time I considered it quite undesirable to put any pressure on Indian thoughts in order to make them appear as European. This will explain much of what might appear quaint to a European reader. But while keeping all the thoughts and expressions of the Indian thinkers I have tried to arrange them in a systematic whole in a manner which appeared to me strictly faithful to their clear indications and suggestions. It is only in very few places that I have translated some of the Indian terms by terms of English philosophy, and this I did because it appeared to me that those were approximately the nearest approach to the Indian sense of the term. In all other places I have tried to choose words which have not been made dangerous by the acquirement of technical senses. This however is difficult, for the words which are used in philosophy always acquire some sort of technical sense. I would therefore request my readers to take those words in an unsophisticated sense and associate them with such meanings as are justified by the passages and contexts in which they are used. Some of what will appear as obscure in any system may I hope be removed if it is re-read with care and attention, for unfamiliarity sometimes stands in the way of right comprehension. But I may have also missed giving the proper suggestive links in many places where condensation was inevitable and the systems themselves have also sometimes insoluble difficulties, for no system of philosophy is without its dark and uncomfortable corners.
The achievements of the ancient Indians in the field of philosophy are but very imperfectly known to the world at large, and it is unfortunate that the condition is no better even in India. There is a small body of Hindu scholars and ascetics living a retired life in solitude, who are well acquainted with the subject, but they do not know English and are not used to modern ways of thinking, and the idea that they ought to write books in vernaculars in order to popularize the subject does not appeal to them. Through the activity of various learned bodies and private individuals both in Europe and in India large numbers of philosophical works in Sanskrit and Pali have been published, as well as translations of a few of them, but there has been as yet little systematic attempt on the part of scholars to study them and judge their value. There are hundreds of Sanskrit works on most of the systems of Indian thought and scarcely a hundredth part of them has been translated. Indian modes of expression, entailing difficult technical philosophical terms are so different from those of European thought, that they can hardly ever be accurately translated. It is therefore very difficult for a person unacquainted with Sanskrit to understand Indian philosophical thought in its true bearing from translations. 'Pali is a much easier language than Sanskrit, but a knowledge of Pali is helpful in understanding only the earliest school of Buddhism, when it was in its semi philosophical stage. Sanskrit is generally regarded as a difficult language. But no one from an acquaintance with Vedic or ordinary literary Sanskrit can have any idea of the difficulty of the 'logical and abstruse parts of Sanskrit philosophical literature. (A man who can easily understand the Vedas, the Upanisads, the Puranas, the Law Books and the literary works, and is also well acquainted with European philosophical thought, may find it literally impossible to understand even small portions of a work of advanced Indian logic, or the dialectical Vedanta: This, is due to two reasons, the use of technical terms and of great condensation in expression, and the hidden allusions to doctrines of other systems. The tendency to conceiving philosophical problems in a clear and unambiguous manner is an important feature of Sanskrit thought, but from the ninth century onwards, the habit of using clear, definite, and precise expressions, began to develop in a very striking manner, and as a result of that a large number of technical terms began to be invented. These terms are seldom properly explained, and it is presupposed that the reader who wants to read the works should have a knowledge of them. Any one in olden times who took to the study of any system of philosophy, had to do so with a teacher, who explained those terms to him. The teacher himself had got it from his teacher, and he from his. There was no tendency to popularize philosophy, for the idea then prevalent was that only the chosen few who had otherwise shown their fitness, deserved to become fit students (adhikari) of philosophy, under the direction of a teacher. Only those who had the grit and high moral strength to devote their whole life to the true understanding of philosophy and the rebuilding of life in accordance with the high truths of philosophy were allowed to study it.
Another difficulty which a beginner will meet is this,. that sometimes the same technical terms are used in extremely different senses in different systems. The student must know the meaning of each technical term with reference to the system in which it occurs, and no dictionary will enlighten him much about the matter'. He will have to pick them up as he advances and finds them used. Allusions to the doctrines of other systems and their refutations during the discussions of similar doctrines in any particular system of thought are often very puzzling even to a well equipped reader; for he cannot be expected to know all the doctrines of other systems without going through them, and so it often becomes difficult to follow the series of answers and refutations which are poured forth in the course of these discussions. There are two important compendiums in Sanskrit giving a summary of some of the principal systems of Indian thought, viz. the Sarvadarsanasangraha, and the Saddarsanasamuccaya of Haribhadra with the commentary of Gunaratna; but the former is very sketchy and can throw very little light on the understanding of the ontological or epistemological doctrines of any of the systems. It has been translated, by Cowell and Gough, but I am afraid the translation may not be found very intelligible. Gunaratna's commentary is excellent so far as Jainism is concerned, and it sometimes gives interesting information about other systems, and also supplies us with some short bibliographical notices, but it seldom goes on to explain the epistemological or ontological doctrines or discussions which are so necessary for the right understanding of any of the advanced systems of Indian thought. Thus in the absence of a book which could give us in brief the main epistemological, ontological, and psychological positions of the Indian thinkers, it is difficult even for a good Sanskrit scholar to follow the advanced philosophical literature, even though he may be acquainted with many of the technical philosophical terms. I have spoken enough about the difficulties of studying Indian philosophy, but if once a person can get himself used to the technical terms and the general positions of the different Indian thinkers and their modes of expression, he can master the whole by patient toil. The technical terms, which are a source of difficulty at the beginning, are of inestimable value in helping us to understand the precise and definite meaning of the writers who used them, and the chances of misinterpreting or misunderstanding them are reduced to a minimum. It is I think well known that avoidance of technical terms has often rendered philosophical works unduly verbose, and liable to misinterpretation. The art of clear writing is indeed a rare virtue and every philosopher cannot expect to have it. But when technical expressions are properly formed, even a bad writer can make himself understood. In the early days of Buddhist philosophy in the Pali literature, this difficulty is greatly felt. There are some technical terms here which are still very elastic and their repetition in different places in more or less different senses heighten the difficulty of understanding the real meaning intended to be conveyed.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Language & Literature (434)
Sacred Sites (102)
Tantric Buddhism (90)
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