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Upanisadic Symbolism (An old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: NAR277
Author: Saty Prakash Singh
Publisher: Meharchand Lakshmandas Publications
Language: English
Edition: 1981
Pages: 490
Other Details 8.80 X 5.80 inch
Weight 660 gm
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Book Description

What the Upanisads contain has already been dealt with elaborately and profoundly. The entire Vedantic scholarship since the Brahma-Sutra or even earlier is devoted to the exposition of it. Profound commentaries and treatises and hair-split-ting debates going on since millennia have been intended mainly for this. But the same could not be done regarding the how of the content. By attributing divine origin to the scripture, the traditional scholarship has made itself virtually unconcerned with this aspect of the texts. Modern scholars, on the other hand, have paid some attention to this problem no doubt, but usually they have contented themselves with one or the other of the side issues of it, such as the Ksatriya's revolt against the priestly class or the resurgence of the non-Aryan element. From the epistemological viewpoint, however, the crux of the problem is not which class of the people played the major role in the inception and development of the thought but the way these could be brought into effect.

It is with a view to filling up this lacuna that the present work was undertaken some two decades ago. One of the early clues which it got in the way was Badarayaua's explanation of certain symbolic expressions in the texts. The pre-Upanisadic literature provided the spacious background against which the hints of Badarayana could be developed into a system here. In fact, the Samhitas and the Brahmanas have not been committed to the explanation of the Upanisads to the extent they ought to have been much earlier. They have practically been neglected under the assumptions that they form the sheer karmakanda and the Upanisads are a historic departure from them These assumptions have deprived on the one hand the Upanisads of the benefit they might otherwise have received in their explanation and on the other the Samhitas and the Brahmanas in their proper understanding. By exploding the myth and diffusing the effect of the above assumptions, the present work has not only sought to place the Upanisadic interpretation in its right perspective but also has the prospect of giving a re-orientation to the Vedic exegesis. The principles of symbolism evolved with due involvement of the Saithitas and the Brahmanas may be gainfully used in their explanation also. In fact, the intermixture of the spiritual and the grow physical in the Satiihitas has been a matter of constant tug-of-war in the history of Vedic exegesis, leading to the exclusively spiritual interpretation on the one hand and the uncompromisingly naturalistic on the other. Through the application of the symbolic viewpoint of the present work, not only the spiritual content would be given its rightful place but the rest of the elements also would receive cognition in an undistorted form.


Though symbolism rose into prominence in the modern age in the context of what has come to be described as symbolist movement" in French poetry which lasted from 1870 to 1895, it has come to be recognized since as an essential element not only of poetry and some other forms of literature but also of religious rites, mythical imagination, artistic creation, dream experience and even of scientific reasoning. The recognition is the result of pioneer works done in these fields by a number of scholars during the last over a century. By bringing to the fore various aspects of symbolism and thus by giving us an idea of its complexity, they have done a signal service to the human understanding. A review of their ideas on the subject, therefore, is a desideratum here.

Theories Of Symbolism

A. The Magical Theory of Frazer The first significant step in this direction happens to be taken by certain anthropologists in course of their studies of primitive cultures. In their investigation, they came across peculiar rites and rituals performed by people of different cultural complexes. While trying to interpret them, they found them rooted in one or the other erroneous conviction about the processes of nature. Frazer, for instance, sees behind these rituals the working of what he calls magical ideas which consist in false association of ideas. That a part can serve the purpose of the whole, some-thing distant can be acted upon through something associated with it sometime in the past : ideas like these, according to Frazer, formed the basis of these rituals. He regarded the ideas as pre-scientific and as having gone astray. Magic, in his view, was a misapplication of the law of causation. It was purely a product of misconception. By virtue of holding such a view of the rites and rituals of the primitives and by extending the same to almost the entire religious phenomenon, they explained the symbolic side of religion as the product of sheer misconception regarding the processes and laws of nature.

B. The Sexual Theory of Freud

While the anthropologists came to symbolism (particularly the religious) via their study of primitive cultures, Freud came to it by way of treating his patients. Through various techniques of psycho-analysis applied to his patients he came to the conclusion that man has an unconscious behind his conscious mind and that it is formed out of infantile desires for sex suppressed in the early years of life. As libido, the basic energy of life, is sexual in nature, the desires remain active even after suppression. But the social restrictions working inside as censor do not permit the desires to express themselves freely. Therefore, they strive to come out by assuming various deceptive forms so as to dodge the otherwise vigilant censor. This happens particularly in the state of dream and mental illness when the conscious mind is asleep or relaxed. In these states, Freud found women being represented by field, room, palace, fort, box, packet, butterfly, church etc while man by pistol, needle, knife, dome etc. He calls these images symbol. Interestingly enough, he finds the images occurring in myths and rituals of the primitives also. Thus, the Freudian symbols derive their form from the physical appearance of what they are supposed to symbolize. They are fixed in their meaning, with the possibility of only marginal variation.!

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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