- Indian and Cross-Cultural Philosophy in the Works of Ramakrishna Puligandla
The breadth of the works of Ramakrishna Puligandla in Indian, Western, and cross-cultural philosophy over the past four decades has been truly remarkable. Puligandla shifted from teaching physics to philosophy at the University of Toledo in the mid 1960s, and he has published writings on topics ranging from B. F. Skinner, Albert Camus, and quantum theory to Vedānta and Mādhyamika from the mid-1970s until today, more than twelve years after his retirement. Given the unwavering focus of his philosophical convictions, however, this great range exhibits a diversity that is only apparent, for the thread of Puligandla's thought is woven out of the fundamental Advaita thesis that pure consciousness is the nondual and thus all-encompassing ground of existence. This thesis of the transcendental unity of being informed the basis of his critique of Skinnerian behaviorism, his rejection of the Copenhagen Interpretation, his explication of how mind-body dualism is resolved by seeing into the mechanics of adhyāsa, and his attempts at rapprochement between Ś an. kara and Nāgārjuna. In his most recent writing, Puligandla has attempted both to make Advaita Vedānta accessible to the general reader and, in yet another step in his philosophical journey, to uncover how classical Mādhyamika, Daoist, Zen, and modern German phenomenological thinkers have pointed the way to showing how enlightenment may be approached through the "nonconceptual" engagement of language.
In Breaking Barriers: Essays on Asian and Comparative Philosophy in Honor of Ramakrishna Puligandla, a Festschrift celebrating his achievements, Frank J. Hoffman and Godabarisha Mishra have collected twenty-four essays under four major themes: Advaita, Buddhism, the intersection between Indian philosophy and contemporary physics and Asian-Western comparative thought. Hoffman and Mishra have gone a long way in this volume toward gauging the reception of Puligandla's work by scholars in all these areas by including both positive and critical appraisals. In Mishra's own submission, a defense is given of the phenomenological similarities between two "methods of inquiry" into consciousness, namely Husserlian eidetic [End Page 263] epoche and Śaṅkara's adhyāropa-apavādanyāya, in a manner redolent of Puligandla's own work (Breaking Barriers, pp. 23-38). However, S. Paneerselvan in another essay questions some of Puligandla's assessments of Śaṅkara as a "transcendental reductionist" as well as Śaṅkara's own system. In the midst of all this, Peneerselvan acknowledges the importance of Puligandla's work in "comparative-analytical" philosophy, as it is akin to the scholarship of B. K. Matilal and J. N. Mohanty (pp. 51- 64). In one of the collection's most fascinating essays, Stephen Laycock, a former student of Puligandla's at Toledo, taking a cue from Merleau-Ponty's notion of the "blind-spot of consciousness," suggests that the Advaita presupposition of ātman and the Buddhist thesis of anātman may not be merely opposed and mutually exclusive doctrines, but rather complimentary in the sense that both affirm the simultaneous "mirroring" or representative function of consciousness and its simultaneous "opacity" to itself (pp. 149-156). Both doctrines affirm, according to Laycock, that consciousness, an indisputable datum of our experience to be sure, is nonrepresentable, and in this very fact lies its nonduality.
In yet another of the volume's fascinating oppositions, Mark MacDowell attempts to explain how a "five-dimension" string topology in quantum mechanics may help provide a mathematical model of how multiplicity emerges out of non-multiplicity in a way that illuminates the Vedāntic tenet that diversity arises out of the unity of consciousness (pp. 189-194). Contra this penchant to harmonize the perspectives of classical Indian metaphysics and contemporary physics, Srinivasa Rao offers a compelling...