In the present work Dr. R. S. Misra has thoroughly examined a great many of the fundamental concepts of religion as expounded in Indian philosophy, particularly in the Upanisads, Sankara-bhasy a, the Madhyamika system, Mimamsa, Bhagavadgita and the philosophy of Sri Auro-bindo. Some chapters he has devoted to the study of Judaism and Christianity too. His study has therefore been not only expository and critical but in a way comparative also.
Interested in the fundamental concepts of religion, he has naturally had no time to discuss other sides of religion. What he has developed in this book is essentially a philosophy of religion. The number of fundamental concepts he has taken up for discussion is formidable. To mention a few, he has taken up the concepts of lower reason and higher reason, intuition, revelation, Absolute, dharma, sat, asat, nirvana of the Madhyamikas, law of contradiction and its exact role in the assessment of truth, man, suffering, history, world, etc.
With extensive and thorough scholarship in Indian philosophy, with reference to original texts, and with equal mastery of the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and the basic philosophical concepts of Christianity and Judaism he has thrown clear light on many problems of the philosophy of religion.
Particularly enlightening are his new interpretation of the Madhyamika notion of nirvana and the Vedantic concept of Absolute, both with reference to the role of the law of contradiction and his view of the higher reason vis-a-vis lower reason and intuition. His view of nirvana as positively just value-sense is original. His treatment of the problem of the relation between dharma and moksa is no less interesting.
The book contains some papers on religion and philosophy already published in different journals, and though the other chapters of the book look also like independent papers he has very ably knit all the chapters into one organic whole in his introduction to the book.
Decidedly, the book is a lucid, illuminating and yet an excellent scholarly comparative work on the philosophy of religion.
Philosophy and Religion cannot exist in the state of estrangement from each other. Though philosophy is primarily concerned with an enquiry into the nature of Sat or Being, yet it cannot afford to ignore man. It has to develop a right understanding and appreciation of the deeper problems of man's life and of his existential situation. In the same way, though religion at its deepest level concerns itself mainly with the problem of union or communion with the Divine and with the realisation of the supreme value of human life called moksa, nirvana or salvation, yet it cannot ignore the ontological problems altogether. It has to reveal a right understanding of the nature of the Absolute or the Divine and also of the nature and structure of man and the world. Thus philosophy and religion are deeply and intimately related to each other. Both of them have their origin ultimately in some deeper urges and aspirations of man. We find this truth illustrated in full measure in the philosophic and religious thought of India.
The religious and philosophic thought of India finds its clearest formulation and most profound expression for the first time in the Upanisads. The philosophers and seers of the Upanisads seem to be deeply impressed by the mystery of man's life and of cosmic existence and they make serious and sustained attempts to unravel it. On the one hand they are dominated by the desire to know the real nature and structure of man, of the world and of the ultimate Reality or the Absolute and on the other hand they want to free man from his subjection to avidya, karma, suffering and death. They not only want to have an intellectual understanding and appreciation of the Absolute but they also want to have direct experience of It and attain unity with It in the depth of their being. This truth is most clearly expressed in the dialogue between the great philosopher and sage Aruni and his son Svetketu in the Chandogya Upanisad. Aruni asks his son Svetketu if he had received that instruction from his preceptor by which that which remains unheard becomes heard, that which is not thought comes within the range of thought and that which is unknown becomes known'. And then Aruni proceeds to propound the nature of the ultimate Reality or Sat, and also the nature and structure of man and the world.2 He also makes the great proclamation of the fundamental unity of the individual soul or atman with Sat or Brahman3 which constitutes the cornerstone of the Vedanta philosophy. A most striking feature of the philosophy of Aruni is that its great truths are propounded in a rational manner and in the light of experience, though the truths themselves transcend reason as well as sense experience and are realised at a suprarational and intuitive level. Aruni is neither an empiricist nor a rationalist. He is stationed at a level of consciousness where he has direct experience of the Real or Sat and does not have only an intellectual comprehension of It. And so he speaks like one who has realised his unbreakable unity with Sat in the deepest depth of his being and yet he explains the nature of the Absolute, the structure of man and his unity with the Absolute or Sat etc., in the light of reason and experience. He does not claim like prophets to have received that knowledge from God or from the Beyond. He expounds in a systematic and consistent way the truths which he has realised within himself at the deepest level of reflection and spiritual experience.
Aruni and the other sages and philosophers of the Upanisads do not maintain a detached attitude towards the Real or Sat. They teach man to have direct and immediate experience of the Real and attain unity with It. The attainment of unity with the Real according to them frees men from the sufferings of life and from the clutches of death. Indian philosophical and religious thought has conceived suffering both in its empirical as well as its transcendental aspects. The philosophers of the Upanisads show clear awareness of both these aspects of suffering. Suffering in its empirical aspect is that which is experienced by all the people from time to time in the course of their lives, It is experienced as the feeling of pain. It may be caused by bodily or mental disorders or by any external agencies or events. In its transcendental sense, suffering constitutes the structure of man and conditions his very existence. It symbolises man's subjection to finitude, to avidya, karma, and the cycle of birth and death. Man according to the Upanisads is involved in the sufferings of life and remains under subjection to time and death so long as he does not realise his real self or Atman. This truth is illustrated in a most persuasive and moving way in the dialogue between sage Sanat Kumar and Narad.3 The realisation of Atman, of the eternal, immutable, all-conscient self frees man forever from the sufferings of life and enables him to attain everlasting joy, freedom and immortality.
The present work does not make any attempt to present an exhaustive study of all the varied aspects of Philosophy and Religion. Its aim is more humble. It tries to throw light on some of the basic and fundamental problems of Philosophy and Religion, namely, the meaning of metaphysics, the nature of the Absolute, the relationship between the Absolute and the world and the individual, the nature and function of reason, the meaning of Dharma, the concepts of suffering and nirvana, Religion and man's existential situation etc. and on the deep and intimate relationship that exists between Philosophy and Religion. The author also emphasises the need of a fresh approach to the problems of the Absolute, the world-process, the individual life, reason and religion. Absolutism, according to him, does not necessarily entail the denial or rejection of the reality of the world-process. This problem can be better understood and appreciated from the point of view of higher reason or ontological reason and not by the application of dialectical reasoning or critical reason. The present work also tries to draw the attention of the readers to the necessity of a deeper and fresh understanding of the real nature and purpose of religion and its place in the life of the modern man, as it has been necessitated both by the challenges that religion has to face today from the new anti-religious ideologies and thought-currents and also as a result of the confrontation of the great world-religions.
Some of the studies that constitute the different chapters of the present work have already been published in some journals, Some of them have been developed and enlarged from papers that were read by the author in the seminars organised by some universities of India. 'The Meaning of Metaphysics' was published by the University of Madras in Indian Philosophical Annual, Volume Three, 1967. 'The Concept of Reason in the Systematic Theology of Paul Tillich' appeared in Religion and Society (Bulletin of the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society) in June, 1966. 'Reality and Process in the Light of Aruni' was first published under the title, 'The Integral Advaitism of Aruni as expounded in the Chandogya Upanisad' in Bharati, Research Bulletin of the College of Indology in 1961-62. `The Madhyamika Dialectic : A Critical Appraisal' was published in Bharati in 1957-58 under the title, 'The Madhyamika Dialectic and the Problem of Causation : A Critical Evaluation'. The above mentioned two papers published in the Mama are published here under new titles with some minor modifications. 'Sri Aurobindo's View of Life' was published in the above-mentioned Research Bulletin under the title 'The Problem of life in Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy, in 1959-60. 'The Meaning of Dharma' has been developed from a paper entitled, The Vedic View of Dharma, contributed for publication in Bharati in the V. S. Agrawal Number. 'Hinduism and Modernisation' formed the subject of a paper that was read in the seminar on Tradition and Modernisation and their Processes of Continuity and Change in India, sponsored by the United States Educational Foundation in India and organised by the Department of Sociology, Banaras Hindu University in New Delhi in 1969. 'Some Notable Features of Judaism' was published in Bhagwan Das Centenary Volume, 1969. 'The Concept of Suffering' has been developed out of a paper entitled 'Some Notes on the Concept of Suffering' read in the All India Seminar on 'The Concept of Suffering' organized by the Centre of Advanced Study in Philosophy, Visva-Bharati, Santi-Niketan in April, 1969. 'The Madhyamika View of Nirvana' has been developed out of a paper 'The Nature of Nirvana in the Madhya-mik a Philosophy' read in Hindi in the Sanskrit University, Varanasi in December, 1967. 'Religion, Religionism and Values, formed the subject of a paper that was read in the All-India Seminar on Religion and the Changing Values' at the Centre of Advanced Study in Philosophy, Banaras Hindu University in March, 1970.
I remember at this moment with deep love and gratitude my revered teacher late Prof. Batuk Nath Sharma who awakened in me a genuine desire, when I was in my very teens, to learn and appreciate the deeper truths of Philosophy and Religion and the mystery of holy life. I also remember with a deep sense of gratitude late Prof. S. K. Maitra who taught me Philosophy and under whom I enjoyed the privilege to do some higher study and research in the Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. My indebtedness is also due to Prof. B. L. Atreya, Prof. T.R.V. Murti and Prof. S. L. Dar who taught me the Abc of Philosophy in my college days.
To Prof. Kalidas Bhattacharyya, I acknowledge my deep gratitude for the interest he has shown in my work and for the Foreword that he has kindly written. I acknowledge my indebtedness to Prof. N. K. Devaraja who has taken keen interest in the present work and who also encouraged me to take steps for its publication. My sincere thanks are also due to my colleague Shri K. N. Mishra who took active interest in the publication of this work and who also assisted me in correcting some of the proofs.
My grateful thanks are also due to Shri Kishore Chand Jain, Proprietor of the Bhartiy a Vidya Prakashan, who has published the book.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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