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Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -4

Does Indian Philosophy Need Re-Orientation?



Indian Philosophy : Freedom, Reality and Value

 The basic problem of Philosophy in India is in a sense directed by the problem of Freedom which is more fundamental than the problem of Reality. Reality and Freedom are the fundamentals of philosophic exploration and attainment. The essential concept of Indian Philosophical thinking including the hedonistic Carvaka is Reality – Freedom, the essential axiological nature of truth. Truth is not merely to be known but is to be lived: this is the general teaching of Indian Philosophical Tradition. The attempt to separate the two spheres, as Western Philosophy appears to do, will be philosophically unsatisfactory. It will not be a re-construction.


Neither Materialism nor Vitalism is helpful in solving the problem of Freedom. According to recent Psychology, even mental activities develop mechanistic tropisms; therefore the quest for freedom at these levels is vain. Like Indra, in the Chandogya Upanishad (8. . vii-15) we may progressively discover and reach new levels but each level may become an obstacle to further progress if it is treated as the final end. The realisation of absolute freedom is identical with the realisation of the highest Reality. This is the meaning of the concepts of Moksa and Reality in Indian Philosophy; these concepts are integral to each other.


Our problem is whether this traditional knowledge is helpful to us at present. Our exclusive devotion to technical and economic interests in the contemporary age has obscured the concept of reality and value. Nevertheless, the concept of freedom is of fundamental importance to the contemporary world, and it is through this that we can link up the contemporary adventure in Scientifico-Economic-value with the concepts of Reality-value in Metaphysics and of Social Philosophy. This is parallel to the Mukti-Purusartha and the Kamartha Purusartha of ancient Indian thought.


*  The Indian Philosophical Congress,  1956.


Past Re-constructions in Indian Philosophy

 Reconstruction is possible either from the Mechanistic or from the Idealistic stand-point. While the spiritual attitude is an experience pertaining to the axiological nature of Reality as Freedom, the materialistic attitude is the Freedom of a Hedonistic life. The concepts of Iha and Para (here and hereafter) illustrate this antithesis.


It is wrong to say that there has not been any reconstruction or re-formulation in Indian Philosophy in the past. All Vedantas are new formulations of the nature of the Reality. In the field of Dharma-Shastras, ethical and social dynamics, we have evidence of a continuous re-formulation of the Ethical Codes and Practices. The history of Indian Philosophy is a series of movements of thought seeking different formulations, if not solutions, of the problems of metaphysics and life. While Advaita has been exalted and the issue diverted to a discussion of Monism or Absolutism, other philosophical formulations in other schools of the Vedanta are accepted as giving as much consistent and satisfactory account of Reality as Advaita. In the field of Methodology, Indian Philosophy has been critical and the spirit of its Critical Method has given rise to the Pramansastra, Science of Methodology, which is an examination into the ‘origin, conditions and limits’ of the instruments of knowledge, Perception, Inference, Intuition & etc. While some have emphasised’ intuitive experience, there are methodological revivalists who affirm the validity of other modes of knowledge and ‘ways of knowing’.


That the history of Indian thought has never been static but has always been a process of examination and criticism could be shown by a study of the transformation that its major concepts have undergone. We could have several papers of research on the several concepts used in Indian Philosophy such as Maya, Avidya, Karma, Sesa, Visesa, Vijnana and so on. The concepts of mind (manas), atman, prakrti etc., also have undergone evolution. The two terms Pravrtti and nivrtti have had a history of their own. As Whitehead has stated echoing the words of Wallace: “The use of Philosophy is to maintain an active novelty of fundamental ideas illuminating a social system. Philosophy is mystical, for mysticism is direct insight into depths as yet unknown. But the purpose of Philosophy is to rationalise mysticism not by explaining it away but by introduction of novel verbal characteristics rationally coordinated.” It is impossible to introduce novel verbal characteristics merely for the sake of introducing novelty in order to attract individuals to a new jargon. It is precisely because it is not easy to do so without what we call “experience” that we recognize a new philosophy as a New System only when we recognize the new experience underlying that philosophy. For the large mass of mankind insensitive to new development and in assimilation to customary ways of thinking, it is perhaps unnecessary to parade the idea of new philosophies. But we are now witnessing a new tempo of human activity, a development of mind which is becoming aware of the larger challenges of thought and life. So we may yet take our inspiration from the ancient Seer who spoke about the practice of togetherness of contraries (opposites) vidyanca-avidyanca yas tad vedo ubhayam saha or sambhutimca vinasamca yas tad vedo ubhayam saha – and pursue our philosophic endeavour, which may lead us to real reconstruction in Indian Philosophy.


Many of the writers in the volume on Contemporary Indian Philosophy edited by Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, show us one of the ways in which the philosophies of Ancient India, mainly the Vedanta, lead to re-interpretation and re-construction. This re-interpretation made by the Indian mind is, in the main, through the media of Western intellectual philosophy. These philosophies are in a profound sense impact-philosophies rather than integrative philosophies. These impact-conscious philosophies fail to arrive at a true integral apprehension and thought or what Sri Aurobindo calls, the Real Idea of Reality.


Sri Aurobindo


The Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo has taken its stand on what we may call the integral realisation of Reality in all its planes of expression and experience. It is not merely a restatement but a reconstruction of  the ancient unity of experience! The One–Many Changeless–Change, Process, Progress and Purpose, Individual–Universal, and Nirguna and Saguna, Personal and Impersonal, Ethical and Supraethical and so on, and a revaluation of the concepts of Evolution and Involution.  The integralism of Sri Aurobindo reveals an insight into the integral Nature of Reality as Existence, as Intelligence and as Delight. Sri Aurobindo’s reconstructive insight is richer and profounder than the best of the Eastern and the Western thinkers. The past is conserved and transformed in the context of the Integral Philosophy. Dr. S.K.Maitra (of the Banaras Hindu University) has demonstrated the new advance and modification made by Sri Aurobindo in the concepts of Western Philosophy in the light of Indian Philosophy.


The merit of Sri Aurobindo’s approach is that his insight is claimed to be derived from the dynamic status of the Supermind. The transcendental concept of evolutionary power and plenitude is lacking in others, for this power is granted in a transmutive sense to the Ultimate Spirit or Person in the other and earlier philosophies and sadhanas. Prof. Malkani apparently holds that there is no need to assume the supermind as the Absolute Spirit or intellectual intuition is enough to explain transcendence. Intellectual intuition is a hybrid. It would not be correct to create a fundamental dichotomy between intellect and intuition merely because the intellect has taken the role of analysis through the principle of contradiction and has later attempted the synthesis on the basis of dialectic. This is of course inherently a vicious process, or, as the ancient Indian thought has stated, it is intellect that operates on the basis structure of avidya. It is perhaps the greatest merit of Aurobindonian analysis of the mind to show up this nature as the biological or evolutionary result, rather than a fundamental function of the intellect when it operates from the structure of the Supermind. This is to assert that the future of Philosophy lies not in the annihilation of Intellect (and its fulgurative functions–prapancikarana) or nisprapancikarana but its transformation as the instrument of the Supermind.


It is necessary to emphasize this aspect of the future possibility. The position taken by the exponents of the opposition between intellect and intuition is that philosophy is the attempt to explain reality in terms of the intellect and its accidental mode of finite intelligibility through the logic of the principles of contradiction, coherence and so on. The metaphysics of finite logic has been found to lead us nowhere. It is a dragon that slays the action, the creative being. It is necessary to instruct intellect with the logic of the infinite the real the thing-in-itself-which is grasped undoubtedly by the knowledge of the transcendental Saccidananda. But where many see the end of Philosophy, (indeed this is said to be the highest of Experience) we have to see the beginnings of a new philosophy reconstructed by the intellect now laden with the logic of the Infinite.It was suggested by me several years ago at this Congress in 1947 that what we need is the spirit of philosophizing proceeding from the Logic of the Infinite to evaluate and understanding the darsanas from the point of view from which they were formulated (namely the supra-mental). This mode of evaluation seems to have been lost sight of and finally abandoned by most or all of the commentators of the darsanas, who have left us expositions based on the logic of the finite. It is necessary to reconstruct the darsanas too in the light of the supra-mental logic of the infinite.


It must have been something of a clear insight into this status of the intellect that was at the back of the exposition of its nature by Rene Guenon, the French Orientalist, in his study of the Hindu Doctrines (p. 41ff). In India also the word Buddhi as Vijnana is essentially different from the mental, for its activity is a liberating one; it reflects the eternal the Infinite, and goes beyond the limiting and dichotomising principle of contradiction.


Therefore it is clear that we are today in a position to undertake a careful reconstruction of the Indian Philosophical schools or Indian Philosophy itself that is based on the Logic of the Infinite and the Infinite experience. Though Vedanta may well claim that all has been said theoretically about the matter, it would yet be necessary to attain the Being that is Creative Eternity foreboded in the Concept of Supramental Evolution.


Not merely has Knowledge not come to an end with Being but it is itself the Being that is creative Infinity. This is the inner dynamis of the Supermind. Philosophy in this New Key is yet to be fully articulated though some of the foundations have been well and truly laid by some of our modern seers Sri Aurobindo, Maharsi, Radhakrishnan and J. Krishnamurti.