- A review of Brahmadarsanam, or Intuition of the Absolute: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hindu Philosophy, by Śrî Ānanda Āchārya
- The Johns Hopkins University Press and Faber & Faber Ltd
- View Citation
704 ] A review of Brahmadarsanam, or Intuition of the Absolute: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hindu Philosophy, by Śrî Ānanda Āchārya London: Macmillan, 1917. Pp. xii + 210.1 The International Journal of Ethics, 28 (April 1918), 445-46 A good brief introduction to Indian philosophy is still much to seek. Such a work ought to be both historical and comparative. It ought to draw the line very clearly between the religious intuition, which the various schools ofphilosophyallassumed,andtheinterpretations,whicharewidelydiverse; itoughttomakequitecleartotheOccidentalmindthedifferencebetween the Vedas and the Upanishads, which are properly religious texts, and the earliest philosophical texts of the primitive Sankhya.2 There is, though native writers are apt to obscure the fact, as certainly a History of Indian philosophy as of European; a history which can be traced in the dualistic Sankhya, for instance, from the cryptic early couplets through the commentary of Patanjali to the extraordinarily ingenious and elaborate thought of Vachaspati Misra and Vijnana Bhikshu.3 There is, moreover, extremely subtle and patient psychology in the later writers; and it should be the task of the interpreter to make this psychology plausible, to exhibit it as something more than an arbitrary and fatiguing system of classifications. Sri Ananda has written a small book which is better than most attempts of the kind; and as there is so little in this field that is worth a layman’s attention , his book is to be recommended. The historical method is hardly developed , and the author is too much concerned (as is perhaps natural) with refuting some of the European scholars’ dates. He places Kapila, for instance (who may or may not have existed) as early as 3000 B.C., and Buddha himself much earlier than the seventh century.4 These are unimportant points, however; it is more important that we are not shown the real development of Indian thought. Sri Ananda devotes most attention to Vedanta; but it is good to get a book which discusses the Sankhya at all. It ought to be made clear that Prakriti (Pradhanam) is not equivalent to Matter, but sometimes [ 705 Review: Brahmadarsanam is almost the sense-data of the Realists.5 The lectures (for such is the origin of the book) are interestingly written. T. S. E. Notes 1. Śrî Ānanda Āchārya (1881-1945), poet and philosopher at the University of Stockholm, gave these lectures in Christiania (Oslo), Norway during the spring of 1915: “My aim was to present Hindu ways of looking at the eternal verities of life in simple language before the mind of the Norwegian public” (vii). 2. The Vedas (Sanskrit: knowledge): the sacred texts of ancient India. The Upanishads: one of a late class of Vedic scriptures dealing with broad philosophic problems, such as the nature of ultimate reality. Sāňkhya (also: Sāmkhya: “that which can be numbered, classified, grouped” ), one of the six schools of classical Indian philosophy, is based on metaphysical dualism, the transcendence of which leads to salvation. 3. The Indian grammarian Patañjali ( fl. 150 BC) is known as the compiler of the Yoga-sūtras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice, and as the author of the Mahābhāsya, an authoritative commentary on Pānini’s Ashtadhyayi. Vāchaspati Misra (also: Mishra; fl. 9th or 10th centuries) is the author of commentaries on the major texts of Indian philosophy. Vijnana Bhikshu ( fl. 16th century) composed the Yoga-Sara-Sangraha. TSE later recalled: “Two years spent in the study of Sanskrit under Charles Lanman, and a year in the mazes of Patanjali’s metaphysics under the guidance of James Woods, left me in a state of enlightened mystification. A good half of the effort of understanding what the Indian philosophers were after . . . lay in trying to erase from my mind all the categories . . . common to European philosophy from the time of the Greeks. My . . . study of European philosophy was hardly better than an obstacle. And I came to the conclusion . . . that my only hope of really penetrating to the heart of that mystery would lie in forgetting how to feel as an American or a European: which, for practical as well as sentimental reasons, I did not wish to do” (ASG 40-41). 4. Maharishi Kapila is an ancient Vedic sage, considered to be the original proponent of the Sāňkhya philosophy. Śrî Ānanda places Buddha “much earlier than 680 BC” (178) and finds no difficulty, “considering the weight of the evidence, in placing Kapila prior to...