UIHC Lecture Series, ‘Indian Mode of Philosophising’ by Prof. S. R. Bhatt
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The second talk of the VIF lecture series, ‘Understanding Indian History & Civilisation’ (UIHC) was delivered by Prof. S. R. Bhatt, Chairperson, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, on 10 October 2018. Prof Bhatt spoke on ‘Indian mode of philosophising’, stating that philosophy was a cognitive enterprise, but it also acquired some distinctive characteristics based on cultural specificities. The theme of the talk is summarised in succeeding paragraphs.

In other places, philosophy or love of wisdom is a speculative enterprise. But in India, philosophy represented love for life lived in wisdom. Darsana, as philosophy was known in India, was not merely speculation. It had a solid epistemological and logical foundation, but it also sprang from lived experiences that demand a concrete response. In India philosophy was the practice of systematic reflection with a view to be benefitted from it. Philosophising was not for its own sake, there had to be a prayojana or need for philosophy. Philosophy has to eventually answer the toughest questions of life.

Darsana means to see. To view ‘Reality’ as it is without any distortion is known as iksha or sakshatkar. Aparokshanubhuti is direct intuitive apprehension of reality. However, due to external conditioning, we may not be able to view Reality as it is. There is the possibility of error. In order to eliminate error, critical examination has to be undertaken. Thus, every iksha is to be followed by anviksha, that is, a critical analysis of experience. There are rules of reasoning that are to be followed. Furthermore, anviksha is to be followed by pariksha, which involves taking into account others’ viewpoints as well. Thus, through a process of iksha—anviksha—pariksha, one has to arrive at Truth, which is objective as well as universal. Thus, we see that in India, philosophy was not a merely theoretical enterprise.

In India, philosophy also adopted a holistic view, unlike the compartmentalised approach dominant in Western philosophy. Plato, Aristotle, Descartes are all dualistic. In India, we believed that ultimate Reality is unitary consciousness; all multiplicity came into existence from a single source, and will go back to the same source. The microcosm and the macrocosm have the same essence. Matter can be known through consciousness. This is the approach to Reality envisioned by the Vedic seers. It recognises difference, but does not accept division.

The cosmos consists of interdependent parts. Therefore, there are three rules for harmonious living: (1) sahavas or peaceful co-existence; (2) sahakar or working together; and (3) sahabhog or collective enjoyment. The Rig Veda says it’s a sin to enjoy alone. Kautilya says the goal is happiness, and the means to that goal have to be conducive, available as well as accessible to all. This collective enjoyment not only has to be intra-generational, but also inter-generational. We should not deplete resources to an extent that nothing is left for the future generations. Everything should be respected for its intrinsic worth and not just its instrumental value. Ancient India recognised obligation; it was question of what we owed to the universe, rather than the other way round. Hence, there was the practice of panchamahayajna (five great sacrifices). Whatever activity one should undertake should be for others. Yajna itself was a collective enterprise.

Finally, the present economic order is individualised, divisive, exploitative and competitive. Whereas, in India, there was a different kind of idea in practice. It is time to think of an Indian paradigm in social science research. In the early twentieth century, the philosopher K.C. Bhattacharyya gave the concept of ‘Svaraj in Ideas’. It is time to work out this concept in its application.

Event Date 
October 10, 2018

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