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Outlines of Indian Philosophy

Outlines of Indian Philosophy
Item Code: IDE225
Author: M. Hiriyanna
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9788120810990
Pages: 419
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.5" X 5.6"
weight of the book: 450 gms

From the Jacket:

The beginnings of Indian Philosophy take us very far back to about the middle of the second millennium before Christ. The speculative activity begun so early was continued till a century or two ago, so that the history that is narrated in the following pages covers a period of over thirty centuries. During this long period Indian thought developed practically unaffected by outside influence; and the extent as well as the importance of its achievements will be evident when it is mentioned that it has evolved several systems of philosophy, besides creating a great national religion - Brahmanism, and a great world religion - Buddhism.

The present work is based upon the lectures which Prof. Hiriyanna delivered for many years at the Mysore University. Its foremost aim has been to give a connected and, so far as possible within the limits of a single volume, a comprehensive account of the subject. Indian thought is considered in detail in three parts dealing with the Vedic period, the early post-Vedic period and the age of the systems.

Excerpts from reviews:

This classical exposition of the Outlines of Indian Philosophy by Prof. M. Hiriyanna can be recommended to all students and the general public interested in having a reliable and lucid book on the subject. First published in 1932 it has been used as a text book, giving a comprehensive and connected account of the subject in three parts dealing with the Vedic period, the Early post-Vedic period and the Age of the Systems.


THIS work is based upon the lectures which I delivered for many years at the Mysore University and is published with the intention that it may serve as a text-book for use in colleges where Indian philosophy is taught. Though primarily intended for students, it is hoped that the book may also be of use to others who are interested in the Indian solutions of familiar philosophical problems. Its foremost aim has been to give a connected and, so far as possible. within the limits of a single volume, a comprehensive account of the subject; but interpretation and criticism, it will be seen, are not excluded. After an introductory chapter sum- marizing its distinctive features, Indian thought is considered in detail in three Parts dealing respectively with the Vedic period, the early post-Vedic period and the age of the systems; and the account given of the several doctrines in each Part generally includes a brief historical survey in addition to an exposition of its theory of knowledge, onto- logy and practical teaching. Of these, the problem of know- ledge is as a rule treated in two sections, one devoted to its psychological and the other 1'0 its logical aspect. In the preparation of the book, I have made use of the standard works on the subject published in recent times; but, except in two or three chapters (e.g. that on early Buddhism), the views expressed are almost entirely based upon an independent study of the original sources. My indebtedness to the works consulted is, I trust, adequately indicated in the footnotes. It was not possible to leave out Sanskrit terms from the text altogether; but they have been sparingly used and will present no difficulty if the book is read from the beginning and their explanations noted as they are given. To facilitate reference, the number of the page on which a technical expression or an unfamiliar idea is first mentioned is added within brackets whenever it is alluded to in a later portion of the book.

There are two points to which it is necessary to draw attention in order to avoid misapprehension. The view taken here of the Madhyamika school of Buddhism is that it is pure nihilism, but some are of opinion that it implies a positive conception of reality. The determination of this question from Buddhistic sources is difficult, the more so as philosophic considerations become mixed with historical ones. Whatever the fact, the negative character of its teach- ing is vouched for by the entire body of Hindu and jaina works stretching back to times when Buddhism was still a power in the land of its birth. The natural conclusion to be drawn from such a consensus of opinion is that, in at least one important stage of its development in India, the Madhyamika doctrine was nihilistic; and it was not con- sidered inappropriate in a book on Indian philosophy to give prominence to this aspect of it. The second point is the absence of any account of the Dvaita school of Vedantic philosophy. The Vedanta is twofold. It is either absolu- tistic or theistic, each of which again exhibits many forms. Anything like a complete treatment of its many-sided teaching being out of the question here, only two examples have been chosen-one, the Advaita of Samkara, to illustrate Vedantic absolutism, and the other, the Visistadvaita of Ramanuja, to illustrate Vedantic theism.

I have, in conclusion, to express my deep gratitude to Sir S. Radhakrishnan, Vice-Chancellor of the Andhra University, who has throughout taken a very kindly and helpful interest in this work, and to Mr. D. Venkataramiah of Bangalore, who has read the whole book and suggested various improvements.


THE beginnings of Indian philosophy take us very far back indeed. for we can clearly trace them in the hymns of the Rgveda which were composed by the Aryans not long after they had settled in their new home about the middle of the second millennium before Christ. The speculative activity begun so early was continued till a century or two ago, so that the history that we have to narrate in the following pages covers a period of over thirty centuries. During this long period, Indian thought developed practically unaffected by outside influence; and the extent as well as the importance of its achievements will be evident when we mention that it has evolved several systems of philosophy, besides creating a great national religion-Brahminism. and a great world religion-Buddhism. The history of so unique a development. if it could be written in full, would be of immense value; but our knowledge at present of early India. in spite of the remarkable results achieved by modern research. is too meagre and imperfect for it. Not only can we not trace the growth of single philosophic ideas step by step; we are sometimes unable to determine the relation even between one system and another. Thus it remains a moot question to this day whether the Sankhya represents an original doctrine or is only derived from some other. This deficiency is due as much to our ignorance of significant details as to an almost total lack of exact chronology in early Indian history. The only date that can be claimed to have been settled in the first one thou- sand years of it. for example, is that of the death of Buddha. which occurred in 487 B.C. Even the dates we know in the subsequent portion of it are for the most part conjectural, so that the very limits of the periods under which we propose to treat of our subject are to be regarded as tentative. Accordingly our account. it will be seen, is characterized by a certain looseness of perspective. In this connection we may also perhaps refer to another of its drawbacks which is sure to strike a student who is familiar with Histories of European philosophy. Our account will for the most part be devoid of references to the lives or character of the great thinkers with whose teaching it is concerned, for very little of them is now known. Speaking of Udayana, an eminent Nyaya thinker, Cowell wrote n 'He shines like one of the fixed stars in India's literary firmament, but no telescope can discover any appreciable diameter; his name is a point of light, but we can detect therein nothing that belongs to our earth or material exis- tence.', That description applies virtually to all who were responsible for the development of Indian thought; and even a great teacher like Samkara is to us now hardly more than a name. It has been suggested that this indiffer- ence on the part of the ancient Indians towards the personal histories of their great men was due to a realization by them that individuals are but the product of their times-'that they grow from a soil that is ready-made for them and breathe an intellectual atmosphere which is not of their own making.' It was perhaps not less the result of the humble sense which those great men had of themselves. But whatever the reason, we shall miss in our account the biographical background and all the added interest which it signifies.

If we take the date given above as a landmark, we may divide the history of Indian thought into two stages. It marks the close of the Vedic periods and the beginning of what is known as the Sanskrit or classical period. To the former belong the numerous works that are regarded by the Hindus as revealed. These works, which in extent have been compared to 'what survives of the writings of ancient Greece,' were collected in the latter part of the period. If we overlook the changes that should have crept into them before they were thus brought together, they have been preserved, owing mainly to the fact that they were held sacred, with remarkable accuracy; and they are consequently far more authentic than any work of such antiquity can be expected to be. But the collection, because it was made chiefly, as we shall see, for ritualistic purposes, is incomplete and therefore fails to give us a full insight into the character of the thoughts and beliefs that existed then. The works appear in it arranged in a way, but the arrangement is not such as would be of use to us here; and the collection is from our present standpoint to be viewed as lacking in system. As regards the second period, we possess a yet more extensive literature; and, since new manuscripts continue to be dis- covered, additions to it are still being made. The information it furnishes is accordingly fuller and more diverse. Much of this material also appears in a systematized form. But this literature cannot always be considered quite as authentic as the earlier one, for in the course of long oral transmission, which was once the recognized mode of handing down knowledge, many of the old treatises have received additions or been amended while they have retained their original titles. The systematic treatises among them even in their original form, do not carry us back to the beginning of the period. Some of them are undoubtedly very old, but even they are not as old as 500 B.C., to state that limit in round numbers. It means that the post-Vedic period is itself to be split up into two stages. If for the purpose of this book we designate the later of them as 'the age of the systems,' we are left with an intervening period which for want of a better title may be described as 'the early post-Vedic period.' Its duration is not precisely determinable, but it lasted sufficiently long-from 500 B.C. to about the beginning of the Christian era-to be viewed as a distinct stage in the growth of Indian thought. It marks a transition and its literature, as may be expected, partakes of the character of the literatures of the preceding and of the succeeding periods. While it is many-sided and not fully authentic like its successor, it is unsystematized like its predecessor.

Leaving the details of our subject, so far as they fall within the scope of this work, to be recounted in the following chapters, we may devote the present to a general survey of it. A striking characteristic of Indian thought is its richness and variety. There is practically no shade of speculation which it does not include. This is a matter that is often lost sight of by its present-day critic who is fond of applying to it sweeping epithets like 'negative' and 'pessimistic' which, though not incorrect so far as some of its phases are con- cerned, are altogether misleading as descriptions of it as a whole. There is, as will become clear when we study our subject in its several stages of growth, no lack of emphasis on the reality of the external world or on the optimistic view of life understood in its larger sense. The misconception is largely due to the partial knowledge of Indian thought which hitherto prevailed; for it was not till recently that works : on Indian philosophy, which deal with it in anything like a comprehensive manner, were published. The schools of thought familiarly known till then were only a few; and even in their case, it was forgotten that they do not stand for a uniform doctrine throughout their history, but exhibit important modifications rendering such whole- sale descriptions of them inaccurate. The fact is that Indian thought exhibits such a diversity of development that it does not admit of a rough-and-ready characterization. Underlying this varied development, there are two diver- gent currents clearly discernible-one having its source in the Veda and the other, independent of it. We might describe them as orthodox and heterodox respectively, provided we remember that these terms are only 'relative and that either school may designate the other as heter- odox, claiming for itself the 'halo of orthodoxy.' The second of these currents is the later, for it commences as a reaction against the first; but it is not much later since it manifests itself quite early as shown by references to it even in the Vedic hymns. It appears originally as critical and nega- tive; but it begins before long to develop a constructive side which is of great consequence in the history of Indian philosophy. Broadly speaking, it is pessimistic and realistic. The other doctrine cannot be described thus briefly, for even in its earliest recorded phase it presents a very complex character. While for example the prevailing spirit of the songs included in the Rgveda is optimistic, there is sometimes a note of sadness in them as in those addressed to the goddess of Dawn (Usas), which pointedly refer to the way in which she cuts short the little lives of men. 'Obeying the behests of the gods, but wasting away the lives of mortals, Usas has shone forth-the last of many former dawns and the first of those that are yet to come. The characteristic marks of the two currents are, however, now largely obliterated owing to the assimilation or appropriation of the doctrines of each by the other during a long period of contact; but the distinction itself has not disappeared and can be seen in the Vedanta and Jainism, both of which are still living creeds.



  Introduction 13
Part I
Chapter I. Pre-Upanisadic Thought 29
Chapter II. The Upanisads


Part II
Chapter III. General Tendencies 87
Chapter IV. Bhagavadgita 116
Chapter V. Early Buddhism 133
Chapter VI. Jainism


Part III
Chapter VII. Preliminary 177
Chapter VIII. Materialism 187
Chapter IX. Later Buddhistic Schools 196
Chapter X. Nyaya-Vaisesika 225
Chapter XI. Sankhya-Yoga 267
Chapter XII. Purva-Mimamsa 298
Chapter XIII. Vedanta. (A) Advaita 336
Chapter XIV. Vedanta (B) Visistadvaita


  Index 415

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