It gives me intense pleasure to write this foreword for the book, "Contemporary Approaches to Indian Philosophy" now being published by the Department of Sanskrit of Calicut University. The book contains the proceedings of a U.G.C. sponsored National Seminar conducted in the Department in 1990, when I was the Head of Department there. Many distinguished scholars from all over India participated in the eight-day seminar which gave a spectacular picture of the contemporary approaches to Indian Philosophy. I am happy that Dr. Rajendran and his collegues have been able to bring forth this volume in spite of many difficulties. This latest addition to the Calicut University Sanskrit Series will be received with the same enthusiasm by the scholarly world as in the case of the previous books in the series.
There is no dearth of books written on Indian Philosophy down the years and yet another addition to this field may call forth some explanation. To put it in a nutshell, it is the sheer magnitude of the problems discussed in Indian Philosophy as well as the ever-widening perceptions of it in the scholarly world which prompted us to organise an eight-day seminar on Contemporary Approaches to Indian Philosophy and to make the proceedings available to the public through this volume. Even though we do not make any tall claim that these studies make a dramatic breakthrough from the approaches of yesteryears, it is our earnest hope that a discerning reader of this volume will not fail to register some important developments which have taken place in our perceptions.
First of all, it is becoming increasingly clear to students of Philosophy that any attempt to reduce Indian thought to a hierarchised or monolithic system is self-defeating. It has indeed been the age-old practice of proponents of 'dominant' Philosophical systems to look upon other systems as aberrations and half - truths. We find works like Sarvadarsana Sangraha, for instance, taking up 'inferior' systems, one by are leading the reader to 'better and better' systems, culminating in Advaita, the system par excellence. This legacy of the past continued during the colonial period also, in the writings of Orientalists, and it is not surprising that the general perception of Indian Philosophy is that of a monolithic structure with idealistic monism as its nucleus. Without belittling the contribution of Avaita and other idealistic schools of thought, it can be pointed out that Indian Philosophy is to be conceived as an umbrella terms comprehending a variety of diverse approaches from the most die-hard materialism to the most abstract idealism. Recognition of the significance of the marginalised schools of thought is therefore crucial in any contemporary engagement with Indian Philosophy.
Another important development in recent years is the increasing importance epistemological problems have gained in the academic world. Many of the papers in the present volume address themselves to the problems related to the nature and Sources of knowledge, its validity and allied topics which have not so far received the attention they merit. This should serve to correct the stereotyped perception of Indian thought as hopelessly engaged in matters related to ethics and salvation alone and retrieve some of Indian's significant contributions to epistemological problems.
Some of the other features reflected in the papers collected here are the engagement of scholars with socio-cultural dimensions of different systems of thought, the subtle shift in emphasis in the thoughts of individual philosophers belonging to even the same systems, problems of identification of issues in comparative approach and language- related problems. We hope that the papers treating these comparatively neglected areas well generate further discussions and studies.
In the present volume, three papers cover problems related to socio-political issued concerning Indian Philosophy, with special emphasis on its materialistic content. The late Prof. Debi Prasad Chattopadhyaya, who was gracious enough to send his paper to be read in the seminar, on 'Philosophy and Politics in Ancient India' unravels the political forces at work which marginalised materialistic thought in ancient India.
Prof. N. Y.P. Unithiri's paper 'Histodiamat Interpretation of Indian Philosophy', is a general introduction to Prof. Chattopadhyaya's approach to Indian Philosophy. The late Dr. M.S. Menon, in his paper 'Lokayata Reconstruction of Materialism' gives a bird eye-view of the growth and development of materialistic thought in ancient India.
Pro. S.R. Bhatt has, through his two papers, exhaustively dealt with all the important aspects of Buddhist epistemology, another grossly neglected area in Indian Philosophy. While the first paper, 'A Prolegomena to Buddhist Epistemology and Logic' discusses Buddhist Epistemological issues in general, the second paper, 'The Buddhist Theory of two-faceted knowledge' is an analysis of the epistemic and antic forms of knowledge. Dr. K.Kunjunni Raja gives a detailed account of the Vijnanavada and Sunyavada schools of later Buddhism in his paper.
There are two papers related to Purvamimamsa in this volume. Dr. Ujjvala Panse, in her paper in 'Murari Misra on Tantra and Avapa' gives a detailed exposition of the twin concepts of Tantra (multi- pronged aid) and Avapa (single faceted aid) from the point of view of Murari Misra, the proponent of 'The Third School' of Purvamimamsa. Dr. Kanthamani's Paper 'Does Prabhakara's Ramified Contextualism entail Syncategorematicism' is a critical evaluation of the claims made by Matilal and Sen that the doctrine of anvitabhidhana propounded by Prabhakara school of Purvamimamsa compares favourably with Frere's theory of contextualism.
The epistemological and ontological aspects of the Nyayavaiseika system of thought are exhaustively analysed by Dr.V.N. Jha, Prof. Prahlada Char, Dr. K. Vijayan, and Dr. T.K. Narayanan, Dr. Jha give a lucid introduction to the key concepts of Navyanyaya in his papers. Prof. Prahlada Char gives a succinct account of Vyapti, one of the most intricate topics of Nyaya logic. Dr. Vijayan's paper is on the atomic theory developed in Vaisesika Philosophy. Dr. Narayanan introduces the philosophy of the medieval logician, Bhasarvajna, whose thought has several unique features.
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