Book Reviews Rishis & Philosophers Sarveppalli Radhakrishnan

Indian Philosophy (2 Vol) — S Radhakrishnan

This is among the best books I have read, so far. Magnum opus of Sri. Sarveppalli Radhakrishnan, a statesman and philosopher. In Plato’s terms, a ‘Philosopher King’. In this two volumes, first published in 1921, Radhakrishnan with his in-depth scriptural knowledge and insight consult, explain and criticise the Philosophical concepts from Rgvedic-Upanishadic times to Buddhist-Jainist schools (in Volume 1, 607 pages), Nyaya-Vedanta to Saiva-Sakta (in Volume 2, 727 pages).

Obviously S.Radhakrishnan takes his stand in Advaita Vedanta and examines the pros and cons of all philosophical systems of India. His inclination to Advaita of Sankara and Sunyavada of Nagarjuna is indeed evident and he invests strenuous effort to save Sunyavada falling from Pessimism and many of his contentions toward that end are indeed convincing.

Radhakrishnan explain in much length about Nyaya system (Gautama), particularly its ‘Sources of knowledge’ and explains psychological sides of Perception. He considers Nyaya (Logic) system as a much valued one, rooted in rationality in many ways, though not fully, and shows that all other philosophical systems contain components of Nyaya, in much or less account. While noting the Cosmos, Vaisesikas (Kanada) presents, author argues Plurality cannot be the nature of ultimate Reality and in order to reach in a more plausible picture of Ultimate reality, we need to harmonize the different elements, rather than making it complex.

Samkhya (Kapila), the oldest philosophical school of india, is examined with much importance after Advaita Vedanta and Nyaya. Author seems to be impressed, as there are certain parallels between Samkhya and Vedanta, and feels that oldest form of Samkhya can be a theistic one and later, due to Buddhist influence, turned to atheistic mood. Critic portion says, association of Purusha with unconscious Prakruti is not intelligible and viewing both as ‘one’ is better. Radhakrishnan says, the god concept of Yoga (Patanjali) as a deistic and it is not fitting properly with the rest parts of system.

In Purva Mimamsa (Jaimini) section, Kumarila and Prabhakara schools are evaluated. Author explains both school’s views of Cognition and Self, and considers Kumarila as a ‘Champion of Hinduism’ and his texts “Slokavarttika’ and ‘Tantravarttika’ as major works in Indian philosophical tradition. A detailed account of the ‘sources of knowledge’ is another good feature.

Radhakrishnan set aside 275 pages for Vedanta portion, in which almost 200 pages goes to Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta and rest to Ramanuja’s School. Author portrays the inadequacy of our knowledge about empirical world, shows the relative character & existence of objective world. Relinquishment of Subject – Object classification is ardently argued and unity, even not harmony, of both is advocated. Similarities and differences, Sankara share with certain western philosophers like Kant, Bradley and Bergson is also examined.

Author observes that Advaita Vedanta of Sankara lacks religiosity, as common people cannot have adequate knowledge to conceive the notion of ‘indescribable’ Brahman, and points the importance of Ramanuja’s Visistadvaita, which effectively places Personal God concept in par with Brahman of Advaita and invokes Bhakti, for the worshipper, to unite with god; Ramanuja reckons Karma and Jnana margas are connected to Bhakti.

A lucid account of the philosophies of Saiva Siddhanta, Sakta / Tantra, Madhvacharya, Nimbarka and Vallabha gives the finishing touch to book.

It took 3 – 4 months to finish these two valuable volumes and I am sure, this can stand as the substratum for my future readings in Indian philosophy.

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