Philosophical Reflections
By G. C. Nayak

Reviewed by K. N. Upadhyaya

Philosophy East & West
V. 41 (January 1991)
pp. 120-122

Copyright 1991 by University of Hawaii Press


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The present work is a collection of the author's eighteen articles, some major and some minor, chiefly concerned with problems of Indian philosophy, mostly of Buddhism and Advaita Vedaanta. Of the eighteen

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articles, the first one deals with Advaita Vedaanta and Buddhism combined, and the next three deal with Buddhism followed by another three concerned with Advaita Vedaanta. Articles 8 and 16, entitled "Transcendental Secularism" and "A Plea for Common-ism," represent the author's unique interpretation of the Hindu view of life. He claims that this interpretation is clearly embedded in the very structure of Hindu religion.  Transcendental secularism implies common-ism and common-ism is a doctrine which highlights the commoner, the simple, or the ordinary. It is the core of all religions, particularly of Hinduism. If this is propagated, religion in its essence will continue. The gods, goddesses, rites, rituals, and dogmas being secondary, nothing substantial will be lost by discarding them. Articles 9, 14, and 17 deal with some general topics, namely, "Freedom in Indian Thought: Some Highlights," "The Problem of Universals," and "Values: Dharma and Mok.sa." In articles 15 and 18, the author articulates his answer to the questions, "What is Living and What is Dead in Religion?" and "Can There Be a Synthesis of Eastern and Western Thought?" In article 10, "Rationalism of the Giitaa," he argues for the basic rationalistic approach of this ancient text, and in articles 11 and 12 he presents and evaluates "The Philosophy of Baladeva Vidyaabhuu.sa.na" and "The Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo," the two noted Indian philosophers of the recent past. In article 13, "Analytic Philosophy: Its Multiple Facets," he tries to throw some light on the nature, role, and legitimacy of analytic philosophy. Thus, in these eighteen articles, the author covers some important technical and popular problems of Indian philosophy, exhibiting his scholarship in the fields of Buddhism, Vedaanta and the Giitaa, as well as in recent philosophical trends in Indian and analytic philosophy. An interesting blend of tradition and modernity is clearly reflected in these articles.

The method adopted by the author in dealing with various philosophical problems is analytical and critical, not historical and narrative. His approach is independent insofar as he is not bound either by the authority of the past masters or by the verdict of acknowledged scholars of the present century. This independent approach may be illustrated by a few examples, below.

While analyzing the key concept of the Bhagavadgiitaa, the author points out (p. 80) that even `Sa^nkara and Raamaanuja have lost sight of the rationalistic dimension of the Giitaa, which enjoins taking resort to reason (buddhau `sara.nam anviccha). In his very first article, he levels his criticism against some modern thinkers, such as G. Mishra, "for whom linguistic analysis is the be-all and end-all in `Sa^nkara's philosophy" (p. 2). He points out that "there is a peculiar ontic reference in `Sa^nkara which cannot be eliminated" (p. 7) by resorting merely to linguistic analysis. At the same time, he considers it "definitely misleading to suggest that Brahmaanubhava is a sort of intuitive experience" (p. 8). Thus, the author interprets `Sa^nkara's philosophy by holding to a middle position between

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the theory of linguistic analysis and that of intuitionism. Likewise, he finds fault with T. R. V. Murti and C. D. Sharma, who, according to him, misconceive the notion of `Suunyataa in the philosophy of Naagaarjuna and Candrakiirti. As he puts it: "Suunyataa which is identified here with pratiitya-samutpaada, neither implies unreality of things as misconceived by T. R. V. Murti nor does it imply an absolute as also misconceived by C. D. Sharma" (p. 17). Explaining the correct position, the author says: "The concept of `suunyataa in Naagaarjuna and Candrakiirti is neither mystical nor religious; it points to ni.hsvabhaavataa or essencelessness which needs to be realized through philosophical analysis ( catu.sko.ti tarka) and thus an insight or illumination is gained into the nature of things and concepts which itself constitutes nirvaa.na (sarva kalpanaa k.saya ruupa)" (p. 25). In his last article, "Can There Be a Synthesis of Eastern and Western Thought?" the author focuses his attention on some problems in the recent attempt at synthesizing Indian and Western thought whether by a Western scholar, such as Paul Deussen, or by an Indian thinker, such as S. Radhakrishnan. While acknowledging their significant contribution and great scholarship in pointing out resemblances between some aspects of Indian and Western thought, the author observes that such comparative estimates of the two traditions "are bound to suffer from a sort of reductionism if the comparison is pushed beyond a certain limit" (p. 156).  He thus warns against what he calls "overgeneralizations and superficial assessment" (p. 157).

Thus through his own example of what he calls 'free' or unencumbered philosophizing, the author exhorts philosophers to "make genuine efforts at 'free' thinking as far as possible" (Preface, p. viii). Whether or not one agrees with the various conclusions reached by the author in his different articles, one cannot but admire his analytical, critical, and independent approach. Therein, indeed, lies the value of this book.