This volume deals with fifteen illuminating Chapters that solve all the knotty problems of Indian philosophy and religion. It covers the discussion of different aspects of philosophy and religion and their application in our practical life, Unity and Harmony, Sankhyian Cosmo- logy, the development of Word and Cross in Ancient India, Good and Evil, God as Mother, Way to the Blessed Life, etc. It is a comparative and scientific study.
SWAMI ABHEDANANDA, an apostle of Sri Ramakrishna-Born October 2., 1866- Spent his early life among the brotherhood In Baranaglr monastery near Calcutta, serve austerity-Travelled barefooted an over India from 1888•1S95-Acqulnted with many distinguished savants including. prof. Max Mueller and Prof. Paul Deussen-Landed In New York, and took the chars of the Vedanta Society In IS97-Became acquainted with Prof. William lame I, Rev. R. H. Newton, Prof. W. Jackson, Prof. Josiah Royce' of Harvard, Prof. Hy.lop of Columbia, Prof. Lanmann, Prof. C. H. Howison, Prof. Fay, Mr. Edison, the Inventor, Dr. Elmer Cates, Ralph Waldo Trine, W. D. Howells, Prof. Herschel C. Parker, Dr. Logan, Rev. Bishop Potter, Prof. Shaler, Dr. James, the chairman of the Cambridge Philosophical Conference and the Professors of Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Berkeley and Clarke Universities- Travelled extensively all through the United State" Canada, Alaska and Mexico-Made frequent trips to Europe, delivering lectures In different parts of the Continent-Crossed the Atlantic for seventeen times-Was appreciated very much for his profundity. of scholarship, Intellectual brilliance, oratorial talents, charming personality and nobility of character-A short visit to India in 1906-Returned again to America In 1906 -Came back to India at last In 1921-On his way home Joined the Educational Conference, Honolulu-Visited Japan, China, the Philipines,Singapore, Kualalumpur and Rangoon-Started on a long tour and went as far as Tibet-Established centres at Calcutta and Darjeeling-Left his moral frame on September 8, 1939.
Swami Abhedananda says that, of the tree of knowledge and wisdom, philosophy is the flower and religion is the fruit, philosophy is the theoretical side of religion and religion is philosophy in practice. In India, philosophy means the science of realization or a divine awareness of the Absolute which transcends the categories of time, space and causation. Philosophy may be called a spiritual process by means of which a man sees God face to face.
If we define the word 'philosophy' we find that philos means 'to love' and sophia means 'wisdom' and, therefore, philosophy means the 'love of wisdom'. In India, true love and highest wisdom are one and the same, and though philosophy generally implies the idea of generalized and speculative thoughts along with reason and intellect, yet, in truth, it signifies the highest intuitive perception (anubhuti) of the absolute Truth. In India, we call philosophy as a darsana and that means to see or to appreciate God the Absolute. The word 'religion' implies the sense of a loving bond between God and man, between the Brahman and the individual soul. If we define the word 'religion' we find that religio means 'to bind: or to bind a man with the ultimate principle which is the Absolute. Man is the highest and par-excellent object of evolution and he excels all the creatures in the universe in order and in merit. The Upanishad says that it is man alone who can realize the Brahman and can go beyond the cycle of birth and rebirth and can break the chain of nescience (ajnana). The false knowledge (mithya-jnana) deludes us and so we shall have to shake the fetters of false knowledge by attaining right knowledge (satya-jnana).
This book, Thoughts on Philosophy and Religion, is a collection of twelve lectures on analytical and intuitive discussions on philosophy and religion. Two appendices have been added, one, Dr. A. Kuenon's discussion on the worship of Jahveh in the form of a bull, and the other, Questions and Answers. These lectures were at first published in brochures in America and in India too, and thereafter those have been bunched together and published in book form.
The twelve chapters of this book cover the comparative and scientific studies on different aspects of philosophy and religion, along with their practical application in human life. Swami Abhedananda has discussed about unity and harmony, the cosmic evolution and its purpose, the development of Word and Cross in ancient India, philosophy of good and evil, religion of the Hindus, the Saviours of the souls, the Motherhood of God, the Divine communion, and the way to blessed life-all in a very comprehensive manner. He has thrown new light on different theories and problems which he has taken for discussions, and has said that until and unless theories are brought into practice, so long intellectual discussions are meaningless. Higher intuitive perception of the Absolute is the aim of both philosophy and religion.
In the first chapter, Swami Abhedananda has discussed the main principles and problems of philosophy and religion. The Swami has said that by studying all sciences, philosophies and religions of the world we find that truth is absolute and one and the manifestations of truth appear as many. The aims of both philosophy and religion are to discuss about the unchangeable truth and also to discover that truth which underlies all the phenomena. In fact, philosophy determines both reality and unreality of everything of the universe and instructs men to accept reality and to abandon unreality. The Swami says that the work of religion is also to determine the method by which men can understand that they are the immortal Spirit and not the mortal body, and the moment they realize the nature of their being, they are able to separate the mortal body from the immortal Atman.
The second chapter continues with the discussions on philosophy and religion. In this chapter, Swami Abhedananda has efficiently discussed the central philosophical thought of Spinoza, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Herbert Spencer in one hand, and the speculative thoughts of the leading philosophers of India on the other and has shown that all of them have tried to discover the unchangeable essence of the world, whether that essence is known as the Unknown and Unknowable, the Will, the Absolute, God, or the Brahman. While comparing the system of philosophy of Kant with that of Advaita Vedanta, Swami Abhedananda says that Vedanta philosophy is loftier than the Kantian system, because Vedanta philosophy shows the phenomenal nature of the Kantian ego which Kant realized as the source of truth, and the forms of intuition and vagary of thought have been placed with phenomena. Besides, Vedanta philosophy has recognized the identity of the objective reality with the subjective reality, which Kant did not. The Swami has also refuted Herbert Spencer or the Spencerian school, because Spencer maintained that what cannot be perceived by senses and cannot be understood by intellect, will never be known. But the Swami says that the super-sensible and super-intellect Brahman can be known i.e. be realized by the Divine intuition. In the Adhyasa-bhashya, Sankara has also admitted that the Atman, or the Brahman, is not altogether unknown (avishaya), but is known as an idea of "I" to our knowledge ("aham-pratyaya-gocharatvat").
Swami Abhedananda views that true philosophy performs three functions: Firstly, it corresponds with the final results, arrived at by different branches of science and taking up these results, makes the wider generalization. Secondly, it must go into the realm of the phenomenal or the knowable, and must raise the soul up from the dark abyss of selfishness, ignorance and self-delusion. Thirdly, it makes it realize its divine and absolute nature. Religion of Vedanta also teaches the alternative methods of the spiritual practices like the Karma Yoga, the Bhakti Yoga, the Raja Yoga and the Jnana Yoga and says that these are the alternative paths to reach the same absolute Reality. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa also admits this view, and has preached that all the methods of spiritual practice lead to one and the same goal.
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