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Daily RC Article 180

Defending the Value of Indian Philosophy: A Universal Quest for Meaning


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It is easy to make sport of philosophy, since to those who are content to live among the things of sense and think in a slovenly way, philosophic problems wear a look of unreality, and possess a flavour of absurdity. The hostile critic looks upon the disputes of philosophy as wasteful logic-chopping and intellectual legerdemain concerned with such conundrums as “Did the hen come first or the egg?”. The problems discussed in Indian philosophy have perplexed men from the beginning of time, though they have never been solved to the satisfaction of all. There seems to be an essential human need or longing to know the nature of soul and God. Every thinking man, when he reflects on the fact that he is swept without pause along the great curve of birth to death, the rising flood of life, the ceaseless stream of becoming, cannot but ask, What is the purpose of it all, as a whole, apart from the little distracting incidents of the way? Philosophy is no racial idiosyncrasy of India, but a human interest.

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If we lay aside professional philosophy, we have in India one of the best logical developments of thought. The labours of the Indian thinkers are so valuable to the advancement of human knowledge that we judge their work to be worthy of study, even if we find manifest errors in it. If the sophisms which ruined the philosophies of the past are any reason for neglecting them, then not only the study of Indian philosophy but of all philosophy should be given up. After all, the residuum of permanent truth which may be acknowledged as the effective contribution to human thought even regarding the most illustrious thinkers of the West, like Plato and Aristotle, is not very great. It is easy to smile at the exquisite rhapsodies of Plato or the dull dogmatism of Descartes or the arid empiricism of Hume or the bewildering paradoxes of Hegel, and yet withal there is no doubt that we profit by the study of their works. Even so, though only a few of the vital truths of Indian thinkers have moulded the history of the human mind, there are general syntheses, systematic conceptions put forward by a Badarayana or a Samkare which will remain landmarks of human thought and monuments of human genius.

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To the Indian student a study of Indian philosophy alone can give a right perspective about the past of India. Today, the average Hindu looks upon his past systems, Buddhism, Advaitism, Dvaitism, as all equally worthy and acceptable to reason. The authors of the systems are worshipped as divine. A study of Indian philosophy will conduce to the clearing up of the situation, the adopting of a more balanced outlook and the freeing of the mind from the oppressing sense of the perfection of everything that is ancient. This freedom from bondage to authority is an ideal worth striving for. For when the enslaved intellect is freed, original thinking and creative effort might again be possible. It may be a melancholy satisfaction to the present day Indian to know some details of his country’s early history. Old men console themselves with the stories of their youth, and the way to forget the bad present is to read about the good past.

The text defends the value of studying Indian philosophy, arguing against those who dismiss it as absurd or irrelevant. It asserts that the philosophical problems discussed in Indian philosophy are fundamental and have intrigued humans throughout history. The purpose of life, the nature of the soul and God, and the quest for meaning are universal concerns that transcend cultural and racial boundaries. The author emphasizes the logical development of thought in Indian philosophy, acknowledging the errors but highlighting the valuable contributions to human knowledge. The study of Indian philosophy is seen as crucial for understanding India's past and promoting a balanced perspective that frees the mind from blind reverence for antiquity, fostering original thinking and creativity.
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