Indian Philosophies

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INDIAN PHILOSOPHIES . Over the past four hundred years India has witnessed a break in its sociocultural and intellectual life with which it is still in the process of coming to terms. It is not, contrary to general belief, the legacy of colonialism that Indian philosophy and culture has had to contend with, but rather the compelling influence of the structure, rationality, and method of the European Enlightenment and its modernity. Since the eighteenth century, academic attempts at recovery of the classical tradition, efforts at translation, and philosophical analyses have all been mainly in the shadow of this modernity which separates as well as differentiates the study of science, politics and religion/metaphysics or jñā a, karma and bhakti.

Thus, contemporary scholarship in Indian philosophy is divided between, on the one hand, Indological enquiry engaged in the clarification and preservation of an "authentic" classical Indian philosophy, in all its details, and, on the other hand, an orientalist interest in appropriating the tradition to compare and compete with Western philosophy accepting the latter's standards and parameters of philosophical discussion. For a thorough and comprehensive history of Indian philosophy S. N. Dasgupta's five volumes titled History of Indian Philosophy (19221955) still represent the most systematic attempt. J. N. Mohanty's Classical Indian Philosophy (2000) is a lucid and independent exposition based on a classification according to issues in epistemology, ethics, or politics and religion. In Presuppositions of India's Philosophies (1991) by Karl Potter, the reader will find a serious attempt to consider and articulate the technical aspects of Indian philosophy in a manner in which they can address fundamental issues in philosophy and not be restricted to discussions within the tradition itself. Nevertheless, since a discussion of method and structure is lacking in these studies, even Potter's analysis does not ultimately succeed in bringing to bear the implications of what he himself characterizes as the speculative orientation of Indian philosophy towards the realization of freedom.

According to the Sangarva Sūtra, the Buddha classified his discussants into four categoriestraditionalists, rationalists, metaphysicians, and experimentalistsand regarded himself as an example of the class of experimentalists (see Mohanty, 2000). It is this epistemological space for experiment within the framework of tradition that this article will attempt to trace.

The Structure of Orthodox and Heterodox Systems

Indian philosophy is generally thought to be comprised of six orthodox systems of thoughtNyāya, Vaiśeika, Sākhya, Yoga, Mīmāsā, and Vedāntaand three so-called heterodox systems: Cārvāka, Jainism, and Buddhism. The orthodox schools are so described because they accept the authority of the Vedas, whereas the heterodox do not. However, the development of the schools is not linear and is characterized by a dialectical relationship entailing contradiction, correspondence, and complementarity, for which reason they are better approached as mutual elucidations rather than as a series of attempted improvements or revisions. Perhaps this is why they are called darśanas. Showing and seeing are both a part of the meaning of the term darśana ; therefore, the term revelation appropriately defines it, implying the possibility of a plurality of revelations of the One.

Thus one may argue that the unity in plurality and plurality in unity of all religious tradtionsHindu, Muslim, Sikh, and Christian, vernacular and classical, and not merely of the six orthodox and three heterodox schoolsdefines the limit of Indian philosophy. The basis for this unity lies in the fact that they represent experiments with the method of non-dualism of knowledge, praxis, and faith. Gandhi was not the first nor the last of the martyrs to testify to this in his writing and in his life. Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shahajahan, the Mogul emperor of India, held guilty of apostasy and martyred in 1609, wrote in the preface to his Sirri-i-Akbar (1067; a translation of the Upaniads) that it was his conviction that "the utterances of God elucidate and explain one another."

The different systems represent attempts to understand the epistemological, cosmological, and metaphysical presuppositions that underlie the relation between the Origin and the universe, the Unmanifest and the manifest, and the Unity and the plurality. It may be argued that there is a division of focus between the schools: Nyāya and Vaiśeika address epistemological questions, the first from the point of view of the subject or knower and the other from the point of view of the object of knowledge. Sākhya and Yoga are cosmological schools, the first addressing the question of the macrocosm and plurality, and the second, unity, the microcosm, and humankind as witness. Mīmāsā and Vedānta are primarily metaphysical systems, the former focusing on praxis or means and the latter on the nature of the end. The three sets can be seen as different modes of understanding the relation between God, man, and nature through jñāna (knowledge), karma (praxis), and bhakti (faith).

The Cārvāka school (founded prior to first millennium bce), Jainism (founded in the sixth century bce), and Buddhism (dating to the sixth century bce) present vernacular critiques of the Vedic tradition. They consider the epistemological, cosmological, and metaphysical presuppositions of civil society and material culture, and do so with an emphasis on the vernacular, which is seen as capable of expressing not merely the lay but also the sacred, on custom, and on the crafts, as opposed to orthodox Hinduism's focus on Sanskrit, tradition, and the sciences. Thus they lay the foundations for the tradition of the saints and the modern religions of Vīraśaivism (also known as Ligāyatism; founded in the twelfth century ce; in using the term Ligāyatism we are avoiding the usual orientalist opposition of Saivism versus Vaisnavism and drawing attention to the self description of the follower of this religion as the the wearer of the ligawhich is the sign of the union of Śiva and Śakti), Sikhism (originating in the sixteenth century ce); and Gandhism (developed in the twentieth century ce). It may then perhaps be more apt to classify Indian philosophies according to their relationship to either the Śravaa tradition (of the hearers of the Word) or the Śramaa tradition (of the "laboring" devotee), rather than on the basis of orthodoxy or heterodoxy.

The focal point of Jainism's critique is the recognition that the Truth is always relative to a point of view, even if it seems absolute from a particular perspective. The hegemony of a single tradition as custodian of the Truth is thus broken. Buddhism characterizes reality as suffering, and thus finds it essential to demonstrate the impermanence or momentariness (kaabhagavāda) of this reality, as the condition for the possibility of liberation (nirvāa) from it.

The Cārvākas are materialists representing the lay point of view. Knowledge of their perspective is mainly derived from representations made by philosophers who opposed them. They are characterized as infidels or sophists, or as proponents of a form of nature lore. This last description suggests that Cārvāka could be seen as representing a kind of metaphysical materialism that bridges the classical and vernacular traditions. Though Cārvāka rejects moka (liberation) as a goal to be achieved outside and beyond this world, it asserts its possibility in this world, without the usual associations of pain and penance, associating it with pleasure instead. It is significant that the four elementsearth, water, air, and fireare held to be eternal. The soul or consciousness does not exist independently of the body. It springs from a mixing of the elements that is characterized by their individual potencies, and that forms a fifth element, as it were. Formulated this way, Cārvāka philosophy can be seen as presenting a counter-Advaitic point of view. If Advaita argues the ultimate identity of the individual soul with brahman, the Unmanifest and transcendent principle of the universe, the Cārvākas argue the ultimate identity of the soul and the body, in this world, thus presenting the other limit of the spectrum. If the Mīmāsākas defend the potency of the Word, the Cārvākas defend the potency of matter. They together define the limits of the relationship between spirit and matter, the Word and the flesh, mantra (invocation) and prasāda (consecrated offering/partaking).

Thus Jainism, Buddhism, and the Cārvākas represent principles of civil society in their respective engagements with continence, the love of all creation being its positive force, suffering and its overcoming, and pleasure and its possibility in this world. All three schools are strongly critical of the ritualism of Hindu society and its making a travesty of the varnāśrama classification of society, resulting in a rigid social hierarchy between brahmans, katriyas, vaiśyas and śūdra s. The āśramas refer to the different roles or stages that members of each of the varas pass through in life. Classical Hinduism talks of four āśramas : brahmachārya (of the novice), ghastha (of the householder), vanaprastha (of the recluse), and sannyāsa (of the renouncer of society). Sanyāsāśrama frees man from the laws that govern vara:

For the social system of caste was always surrounded in India by a penumbral region, as it were, of non-caste, where flourished the renunciatory religious orders whose principles abrogated those of caste, lineage, and birth: and the fourth āśrama (sanyāsa) constituted a door through which the individual was recommended to pass from the world of caste to that of its denial. The mutual relation of the two worlds, and I have no doubt that it was mutual, is of the greatest significance to a full understanding of either of them. (Uberoi, 1996, p. 14)

It may be argued that with the rejection of vara, Jainism and Buddhism followed a classification of society into only two classes, the monastic (bhiku) and the householder (ghastha), mediated by the congregation or sagha. Significantly, the tantric tradition also holds that only these two āśramas characterize society in kaliyuga (Kālī age).

Unity, Plurality, and the Trinity

The term referring to the Unity or the One is Brahman. The conceptualization of its nature and role and the theological issues that surround it make Brahman in many ways analogous to Yahveh in the Judaic tradition, God in the Christian tradition, and Allāh in the Islamic tradition. Just as with these three traditions, a central concern of Indian philosophies has been to relate the one to the plurality that characterizes the manifest world. As with Christianity, Trinity mediates between Unity and plurality. In place of the trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the Vedic tradition posits the trinity of Brahmā, the Creator; Viu, the All Pervading (Spirit); and Maheśvara/Śiva, the Destroyer. Brahmā is the eternal conceiver of name and form that constitute the very essence of plurality in the universe. Viu is the breath of God, as it were, the Holy Spirit that pervades the universe and enables nature to reflect the attributes of its maker. Finally, Śiva is the destroyer not of the plurality of the universe as is generally believed, but of the duality of unity and plurality. Thus he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last, marking at once the destruction of plurality and the realization of Unityas well as the destruction of Unity and its manifestation in the plurality. This is the theological role envisaged for Christ and Muammad who are in their respective religions mediator and intercessor, between God, humans, and nature.

Three possible relations between the Unity and the plurality emerge from this understanding of the Trinity, and these three positions are reflected in the points of view of the three major thinkers of the metaphysical schools of Vedānta, namely: (1) of the plurality emerging or being carved out of the Unity (the position held by Śakara, of the Advaita school); (2) of the Unity and the plurality being independent realities, as it were, though bound by the Holy Spirit/prāa (the position held by Madhva, of the Dvaita school); and (3) of the Unity in the plurality (the position held by Rāmānuja, of the Viśiādvaita school).

The common reading of the Advaitic school is that it regards the universe constituted by name and form as a mere illusion (māyā). This leads to the misconception by contemporary scholars that the reality of this world must be forsaken to achieve identity of the individual soul (ātman) with Brahman. In fact Śakara's position is that Brahman projects himself in the universe only in name and form. This of course implies that in reality He does not change or project himself but the statement has the added significance that Brahman, if he may be known in this universe, can be known only through name and form. To consider the universe of name and form as independent of Brahman is the illusion. Name and form are then neither real nor unreal, neither self nor not-self. Thus Śakara effectively demonstrates the contradiction and complementarity, the difference and correspondence, that exist in the relation between Brahman and the universe. In Swami Gambhirananda's translation of Śakara's Brahma-Sūtra Bhāya, Śakara writes:

Nothing but Brahman can be different from name and form, since the whole of creation consists of a manifestation of name and form. And the manifestation of name and form in an absolute sense is not possible for anything but Brahman; for the Upanishad mentions that Brahman is the agent of their revelation: "Let me manifest name and form by Myself entering as the individual soul." (1972, p. 239)

And Śakara goes on to explain this further:

the intention here is to declare the identity of the individual soul and Brahman (and not agentship). From this very declaration of the manifestation of name and form, creatorship etc., as the indicatory signs of Brahman become stated ipso facto. (1972, p. 239)

It may be argued then that to know name and form is to know them in their relation to the Unity/Brahman, which is to say to know them as a sign, symptom, or symbol (liga) of the relation between Unity and plurality. The name is a sign of the covenant between God, humans, and nature.

Depending on which type of relationship between the Unity and the plurality is assumed, names may refer either to substance, attribute, or relation. When plurality is seen to emerge from the Unity, names primarily refer to substance and there can be no real separation of substance and attribute. Śakara thus posits that the essential nature of Brahman is such that a distinction cannot be made between substance and attribute, and for him the ultimate goal is the identity of the individual soul with Brahman. For those for whom Unity and duality are conceived of as separate realities, name and form may refer either to substance, to attributes of substance, or to relations between substance and attributes. Thus Madhva sees the possibility of attaining to three types of goalsof gods, seers, and humans, according to the merit of one's actions. These correspond respectively to the names of substance, of relations, and of attributes. For those for whom Unity exists in the plurality, all names and forms refer to a relation of the two. According to Rāmānuja, Brahman therefore has only auspicious attributes while the name and form of other objects in the universe may refer both to good or evil attributes.

Sākhya, which means "number," characterizes the plurality of the universe as being constituted of ligas (specific combinations of the constituents of mattersattva, rajas, and tamas ) that in their turn individually associate with purua, the spirit that is witness, enjoyer, and seeker of liberation, thus giving rise to a plurality of puruas /persons. The Sākhyakārikā characterizes their relation thus: "From their association, the non-intelligent liga becomes intelligent as it were; and so too, though agency is of the constituents, the indifferent One (Purua) becomes agent as it were"(Īśvara Ka [Īśvaraka], 1948, ch. 20, pp. 4344). Prakti and purua come together so that prakti ("nature") may be contemplated on through liga by purua and so that purua in turn may be released from the three-fold misery that constitutes the universe; this is the necessary condition for the possibility of creation. Here the use of the term liga, indicating a particular form of the specific person evolving from this association, is significant since it points to the fact that it is only through purua seeing himself in name and form that liberation is possible. According to Yoga, then, it is liga that is the object of meditation. Unlike knowledge by inference or testimony, liga refers to the determinate object and the individual soul, and not to something general. Such knowledge arising from the meditation upon the liga is "truth/reality-bearing."

From this, one can argue that though it is a topic not given much attention in the secondary literature, the mediation between Brahman and the universeor between transcendence and empirical existenceis the crux of the issue, and not the nature and reality or unreality of one or the other. Such mediation is achieved through the specific example (of liga ) and its contemplation. Thus, knowledge of name and form as signs of this mediation is the basis of knowledge (jñāna), vocation (karma), and invocation (bhakti). It is not by accident then that the saints of the Bhakti and tantric traditions, the new religions of Ligāyatism (Virasairism) and Sikhism, and Mohandas Gandhi's experiments with Truth, share a recognition of the potency of the name. Bhakti does not, as is generally believed, have its basis merely in experience, or simple faith, but in an understanding of the theory of names as the quintessence of the classical tradition and as crucial to the mediation between God, humankind, and naturein other words, to the mediation of religion, politics, and science. This mode of prayer is considered to be available to men and women of all varas.

JÑĀna, Karma, and Bhakti

Philosophers like Karl H. Potter and Jitendra Nath Mohanty have attempted to find unity in the variety of systems that comprise Indian philosophy by claiming that they are all, with the possible exception of Cārvāka, metaphysical schools with the goal of achieving liberation or moka. However, not all schools articulate such an engagement with moka explicitly, nor are they all necessarily theistic. Other scholars attempt to make a distinction between the schools on the basis of whether a particular system follows the path (mārga) of jñāna, karma, or bhakti. Here the specific meaning these terms take on in a particular system is of importance. For instance, it is often said that Śakara Vedānta accepts jñāna mārga and is of the view that all karma ceases when the identity of Brahman and ātman is achieved. It is only a sense of agency that assumes the distinction of subject and object that is denied here and not action. So, there may be action but it is as if there is none. Thus the dichotomization of the question of jñāna, karma, and bhakti in contemporary readings is a forced one. Failure to understand their unity and method arises from an incomplete realization of the implications of the fact that Indian philosophies do not separate the scientific or cognitive from the spiritual, nor do they separate theory from practice or means from ends. Furthermore, it may be argued that there exists a unity of method amongst the different systems. They all attempt, with varying emphasis, a non-dualism which presupposes a necessary and systematic relation between jñāna, karma, and bhakti. It is significant that etymologically bhakti means "partaking," referring to humanity's share in Creation, through labor in production and reproduction. Thus humanity's participation in this universe, in jñāna, karma, and bhakti, involves the principle of compassion for all creatures. One may note therefore that according to the Nyāyasūtra, compassion is a necessary requirement for the person who may bear witnessthat is, for the speaker of truth (āpta). By inference, then, truth must itself be such that it embodies this principle of compassion. If the trinity of Brahmā, Viu, and Śiva represents the conditions for the possibility of the Unity translating itself into the plurality, jñāna, karma, and bhakti represent the means or conditions for the possibility of the realization of the Unity in the plurality by humankind.

Texts: Śruti, smti, and ItihĀsa

Texts of the Vedic tradition are classified into three categories: (1) śruti, or revelation, comprising a compendium of hymns found in the four Vedas (k, Sāma, Yajur, and Atharva ), rituals in the Brāhmaas, and interpretations of vedic sacrifice in the Ārayakas, which include the Upaniads; (2) smti, meaning remembrance; and (3) itihāsa, meaning history or proof.

Etymologically, śruti refers to "that which is heard." As has been said already, the orthodox systems of philosophy accept the authority of the Vedas, which are śruti texts. Śruti is eternal and impersonal (apaurueya). Some interpret apaurueya to mean nonhuman and infer a transcendental author of śruti. As the etymology of the term śruti suggests however, what is indicated is a "hearer" and not a transcendent speaker. Thus it is an eternal and universal revelation that may be heard by one who is chosen (or, that is, has the capacity to "hear"), and the ones who hear may speak in different tongues (vāi). Thus śruti and vāi make a pair, the one ineffective without the other. This is demonstrated by the fact that the Mīmāsaka, who believe in the eternalness of the Word, deny the possible contradiction to this assumption posed by the fact that a variety of sounds may associated with a single letter, by explaining that the modification of letter sounds is only in the hearing.

The philosophical systems and treatises in science, politics, medicine, art, architecture, and so on are classified as smti. Smti etymologically means remembrance (of śruti ), and refers to the invocation of the name, which, as has been said, is the sign of the covenant between God, humankind, and nature. Thus smti in conjunction with śruti refers to the law that governs religion, politics, and science and identifies the law of God as the law of nature. Each discipline works out the laws in their specific determination in that specific science in such a way that the application of the law is at once the invocation of God/Unity by that specific name and the means to the realization of Unity through that calling and discipline. This presumes therefore the love of the All (creation) and makes necessary the principle of nonviolence in the constitution and application of all laws whether in science, religion, or politics.

Itihāsa, or "history," includes the Purāas and the two great Indian epics, the Rāmāyaa and the Mahābhārata. They embody the dialogic and dramatic defense of and attack on the truth of the śruti and smti in the history and living experience of man in his relation to God, society, and nature.

Experiments with Truth: Religion, Philosophy, and Civil Society

This section will deal with Ligāyatism (Virasaivism), Sikhism, and Gandhism as examples of religio-philosophical schools that experiment with truth, and thus herald the modern period of Indian philosophy and history. Like Jainism, Buddhism, and Cārvāka philosophy, they also represent the vernacular tradition and the strength of civil society with regard to religion and the state. They critique Hindu dogma and ritualism, and its rigid and alienating social stratification. Without denying the essential truth of the Vedas, they emphasize the importance of experiment and of a living faith. Their example serves as proof of the existence of a principle of motion within Indian philosophy, society, and history.

It is not often noticed that the critique of varā-śramadharma, in whatever form, is accompanied by a realization of the necessary relation between the theory of the name and bhakti. This is significant because the social stratification along lines of vara was based on a division of labor and office. The theory of the name and bhakti together bring into focus the relation between vocation and invocation, labor and sacrifice, and service and office in the "partaking" of the creative and reproductive aspect of the universe. It may be said, then, that they announce for the modern age a theory and method of following one's calling and conscience, which, while breaking away from medieval class hierarchy and rigidity, does not lapse into dichotomies of opportunism and idealism, or of individualism and communism.

Lingayatism was founded by Basava (also known as Basavaa or Basaveśwara) in South India in the twelfth century ce. It proposed a system of thought called Śakti-viśiādvaita, which argues that the principles of Unity (Śiva) and the potency (Śakti) to become plurality are inalienably and necessarily united in the liga (sign). The trinity that forms the conditions for the possibility of the transfiguration of the plurality through the realization of the Unity consists of sthala (substance/substratum), liga (sign/relation), and aga (part/attribute of the body of Śiva). Liga and aga are in a relation of complementarity and correspondence, as the object of service or worship is to the one who offers service or worship, as the macrocosm is to the microcosm, and as the whole is to the part. One may read Lingayatism as referring to a theory of signs and the trinity above as referring to the names of substance, relation, and attribute. Since the sign itself mediates between Unity and plurality, it refers to the category of relation.

The Vīraśaiva initiate wears a liga around his neck as a sign of being in a constant state of worship; the aga being incomplete without the liga, they are witness, each to the other. Kāyaka, the orderly conduct of life in this world, is itself "heaven" (kailāśa). The Ligāyat is at once householder and renouncer, as Śiva himself is. Thus the division of society into the monastic and householder's way of life established by Jainism and Buddhism is overcome. The potency (Śakti) of the One (Śiva) has two modesŚakti and bhakti. Though bhakti is a modification of Śakti, paradoxically it is the former that is considered superior since the latter is the impulse towards separation and plurality, veiling herself and her Lord, while bhakti is the impulse towards unity with the Lord. Men and women, high and low, all without exception have equal access to salvation in and through their respective vocation and station in society.

Sikhism carries further the experiment to bridge the dichotomy between religion and civil society and between the householder and the renouncer by taking into account their relation with a third category, the political, represented by the state. As J. P. S. Uberoi comments:

The new departure of Sikhism, in my structural interpretation, was that it set out to annihilate the categorical partitions, intellectual and social, of the medieval world. It rejected the opposition of the common citizen or householder versus the renouncer, and of the ruler versus these two, refusing to acknowledge them as separate and distinct modes of existence. It acknowledged the powers of the three spheres of rājya, sannyās [sanyāsa], and gihasta [ghastha], but sought to invest their virtues conjointly in a single body of faith and conduct, religion-in-society-and-history, inserted by grace and effort as mediation between heaven and the world, or the ātma and Paramātma, the individual and the All, as the modern Indian form of non-dualism of self, the world and the other. (1996, p.16)

Uberoi argues that the five, along with an unstated sixth, symbols of Sikhismthe kēś (unshorn hair) and kaga (comb) of Sanyāsa yoga, the uncircumcised state which is not stated but structurally indicated and the kachh (tailored loin garment) of ghastha yoga, and the kirpan (sword) and kaa (band of ritual constraint) of rājya yogasignify the assumption of the offices of these three spheres, by an "ordered renunciation of renunciation," and not as opposed to one another

The five symbols of Sikhism may be fruitfully compared with the eight āvaras ("sheaths") of the Vīraśaiva, which form four pairs of symbolsgurū (example) and liga (sign of the unity of Śiva and Śakti), jagama (the jīvanamukta "moving"/living in this world) and vibhūti ("ashes," symbolizing renunciation), rudrāka (Śiva's eye, indicating the status of being witness) and pādodaka (the water that has cleansed the feet of gurū, liga, and jagama, indicating service), and prasāda ("grace"; the potency of that which we partake of through one's vocation in the presence of the congregation) and mantra (invocation/potency of the name). These pairs reflect the juxtaposition of form and name, being in the world and renunciation, through self-restraint and self-denial with respect to the world and the other, the inner and outer aspects of worship, and grace and potency in the world and the word respectively. Though it is perhaps right to argue that Vīraśaivism, unlike Sikhism, does not oppose religion and society to the state, the two traditions are nonetheless united in assigning primacy to the worship of the name, the life of renunciation in (and not "of") this world, and worship through sacrifice and service.

With Sikhism is introduced the notion of the sagha (or congregation) as a society of the saved, membership of which is the condition for the reception of service and worship. This may be compared with Ligāyatism, which emphasizes the service and worship of the Ishtalinga (a personal deity) and the union of Śiva and Śakti symbolizing the possibility of creation, production, and reproduction of the species as the condition for the possibility of its reception The notion of the congregation also plays a significant role in Gandhi's philosophy.

The trinity that forms the foundation of Gandhian philosophy is comprised of truth, nonviolence, and experiment. Gandhi demonstrates through example and experiment that the study of the self cannot be separated from the study of the other and the world, in religion, politics, and science, and therefore that the truth of the one can not be independent of that of the other. According to him the adherence in spirit and practice to the principle of nonviolence, based on a love that embraces the meanest of God's creatures, alone can be the method of investigation by which one may arrive at the truth. Thus he was as much against vivisection as a means of scientific study and progress as he was against the evil of untouchability as a social institution:

I abhor vivisection with my whole soul. I detest the unpardonable slaughter of innocent life in the name of science and society so-called, and all the scientists' discoveries stained with innocent blood I count as of no consequence. If the circulation of blood theory could not have been discovered without vivisection then humankind could well have done without it. And I see the day clearly dawning when the honest scientist of the West will put limitations upon the present methods of pursuing knowledge. Future measurements will take note not only of the human family but of all that lives and even as we are slowly but surely discovering that it is an error to suppose that Hindus can thrive upon the degradation of a fifth of themselves or that people of the West can rise or live upon the exploitation and degradation of the Eastern and African nations, so shall we realize in the fullness of time, that our dominion over the lower order of creation is not for their slaughter, but for their benefit equally with ours. For I am as certain that they are endowed with a soul as that I am. (Collected Works, vol. 29, pp. 325326)

Thus Gandhi presents a new theory of experiment as the discovery of nonviolent means of realizing truth in every aspect of life with the self as the subject and the object of study in its relation of service to God, humankind and nature; it is new as much to the idea of the Indian tradition as it is to the modernity of the Enlightenment. Without deferring to either, it establishes the conditions for the possibility of true swaraj (svarāj) or self-rule of individual, society, and nation through labor, service, self-denial, and self-sacrifice in religion, politics, and science. The satyāgrahi, the nonviolent seeker after truth, equipped with fearlessness and a spirit of self-sacrifice, and invoking the name of God (Rāmanāma), is at once devotee, community/political worker, and scientist, combining service and experiment in faith, experiment and faith in service, and faith and service in experiment.

Denying that vara and āśrama had anything to do with caste, Gandhi drew attention to the fact that varāśrama asserts the law governing one's being in in society, refers to the calling by which we earn our bread, defines one's duty not right, and emphasizes that all callings must necessarily be conducive to the welfare of all humanity. From this he concludes: "It follows that there is no calling too low and none too high. All are good, lawful and absolutely equal in status. The callings of a Brahmanaspiritual teacherand a scavenger are equal, and their due performance carries equal merit before God and at one time seems to have carried identical reward before man" (1987, pp. 1213).

According to Gandhi individual prayer is only a prelude to collective prayer and is ineffective without the latter. It is a necessary means to the realization of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God, and to the realization of membership in society, and is necessary training for the use of the "weapon" of satyāgraha ("soul force"). Congregational prayer lays the foundation for the unity in plurality and the plurality in unity of religions, which is achieved through equality and difference, and complementarity and competition between them:

It becomes man to remember his Maker all the twenty-four hours. If that cannot be done we should at least congregate at prayer time to renew our covenant with God. Whether we are Hindus or Musalmans, Parsis, Christians or Sikhs, we all worship the same God. Congregational worship is a means for establishing the essential human unity through common worship. (1987, pp. 194195)


The method of the non-dualism of jñāna, karma, and bhakti, in Indian philosophy, is based on a presupposition of the necessary relation between theory and practice, fact and value, means and ends, and the individual and the collective. This method therefore defines the nature and scope of both the dialectic within the scriptural traditions and between them and the vernacular traditions. The specific examples of issues and of religions discussed above demonstrate, albeit not exhaustively, the existence of a principle of motion within Indian philosophy that inspires the direction and development of its problematic in history and society.

In method, spirit, and project Indian philosophies present a species of modernity diametrically opposed to the modernity that derives from the European Enlightenment. The former presents a systematic working out of experiments to consider the necessary relation between religion, politics, and science in philosophy, history, and society, whereas, the project of the latter is to separate, systematically, their study in theory and practice.

See Also

Buddhist Philosophy; Cārvāka; Jainism; Mīmāsā; Nyāya; Sākhya; Vaiśeika; Vedānta; Yoga.


Dasgupta, Surendranath. A History of Indian Philosophy. 5 vols. Cambridge, U.K., 19221955.

Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand. The Essence of Hinduism. Ahmadabad, India, 1987.

Gandhi, Mahatma [Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi]. Collected Works. 100 vols. New Delhi, 19561994. A CD-ROM version has also been released in 98 volumes (New Delhi, 1999).

Īśvara Ka [Īśvaraka]. The Sākhyakārikā. Edited and translated by S. S. Suryanarayana Sastri. Madras, India, 1948.

Mohanty, Jitendra Nath. Classical Indian Philosophy. Lanham, Md., 2000.

Potter, Karl H. Presuppositions of India's Philosophies. Delhi, 1991.

Sakhare, M. R. History and Philosophy of Ligāyat Religion. Belgaum, 1942. Includes an introduction to and translation of Ligadhāranachandrikā by Nandikesvara.

Śakarācārya [Śakara]. Brahmā-Sūtra Bhāya. Translated by Swami Gambhirananda. Calcutta, 1972.

Uberoi, Jitendra Pal Singh. Religion, Civil Society, and the State: A Study of Sikhism. Delhi and New York, 1996. A comparative study of the traditions of Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam from the point of view of what he identifies as Sikhism's as well as Gandhi's problematicthat of forging an Indian modernity out of medievalism based on pluralism and principles of contradiction, correspondence and complimentarity.

Anuradha Veeravalli (2005)