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  • Daya Krishna:A Philosopher and Much More
  • Shail Mayaram

Exploring Daya Krishna's life is a journey into the enormous possibilities of a life of the mind and the fullest development of the senses. It is a life that signals the fabric of intellectual life in postcolonial India and the non-West. But it was not just as a philosopher that he touched and radiated the lives of so many. No, not as a guru—an institution he disdained—for ultimately what is important, he once told me, is to discover the guru within oneself. Of being-in-life creatively, lovingly, and joyfully, but always critically! And by approaching death without fear—indeed, reveling in its potentiality for complete freedom.

Daya Krishna lived a beautiful life and left this world in a particularly beautiful way—serving sweets and water to a visiting student—a gesture that a philosopher from Jaipur interpreted as symbolizing his hospitality to the ideas of others, particularly younger people. It was an iccha-mrtyu (a willed death), as Srivatsa Goswami reminded me. He had time and again expressed his feeling that this, his eighty-third, was his last birthday and that people were living too long; and had ensured that his unpublished manuscripts, The Jaipur Edition of the Rgveda and his last book on Kant / Comparative Philosophy, Towards a Critique of Transcendental and Structural Illusions, were entrusted to me.

What October 5 signaled to me was the conclusion of a yuga—the passing of an entire generation of the children of anticolonial Civil Disobedience who had come to maturity with independence and partition. Through Daya I watched them going one by one, memorable people each one of them, even if I did not agree with their positions and their politics. Raj Krishna, Sita Ram Goel, Ram Svarup, Laxman Shastri Joshi, M. P. Rege. . . . Only a few remain, like Kapila Vatsyayana and L. C. Jain.

The quest of some of them had been what K. C. Bhattacharya called "Svaraja in ideas" or what the philosophical journal Unmilan refers to as mansika svaraja or svaraja of the mind. The Midnight's Children are also aging—witnessing the birth of a New India/n whose adulthood is being signaled by the politics of the Ramjanmabhumi, the new nodes of finance capital, technologies of communication and information, the new markets. . . .

He was not my biological father, but Daya, as I called him, was around from the time I began to remember. Is it my memory or my mother's, I don't know, but I would comb his thick, curly black shoulder-length hair, saying "Don't cry, I won't hurt you!"

Daya had joined Sagar University as lecturer in philosophy in 1957 and lived with his guide and mentor, Dr. R. K. Saxena, in the other part of our old, rambling, partitioned cantonment house with its compound of spectacular tall, shady trees. Sagar University had been recently established by an endowment of Hari Singh Gaur and achieved an early peak performance with some fine scholars. [End Page 439]

Daya's doctoral work, published as The Nature of Philosophy, had already been acclaimed. Gilbert Ryle, his examiner, acknowledged it as an outstanding work—commenting also on the dashes strewn through the text like autumn leaves! Daya himself had a deep interest in art and literature. He invited Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayana (Ajneya) to Sagar to inaugurate the Students Union. One of Ajneya's celebrated poems was first recited in his home much before its publication and much before he became well-known as one of India's premier poets. The (cult) guru, Bhagwan Rajneesh, was one of Daya's students. What did you teach him, I would tease!

The Indian literary critic, Namvar Singh, told me recently of his memory of those unforgettable evenings at Sagar charged with intellectual energy. Namvar Singh's own lectureship came to an abrupt halt—his appointment was not renewed by the Vice Chancellor, who was soon to be Chief Minister and one of Mrs. Indira Gandhi's close advisors. Daya and Namvar were on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum—one a card-carrying member of the Communist Party while Daya was a member...