A HISTORY OF INDIAN PHILOSOPHY – Volume 1st

(Serialised Presentation – 2nd)

By Late Dr. Surendranath Dasgupta

1922 AD

Extracts from the Preface

 

 

A work containing some general account of the mutual relations of the chief systems is necessary for those who intend to pursue the study of a particular school. This is, also, necessary for lay readers interested in philosophy and who have no inclination or time to specialise in any Indian system, but who are, at the same time, interested to know what they can about Indian philosophy. In my two books, The Study of Pantañjali and Yoga Philosophy in relation to other Indian Systems of Thought, I have attempted to interpret the Sāṅkhya and Yoga systems both from their inner point of view and from the point of view of their relation to other Indian systems. The present attempt deals with the important features of these as, also, of all other systems, and seeks to show some of their inner philosophical relations, especially, in regard to the history of their development. I have tried to be as faithful to the original texts as I could have, always, given the Sanskrit or Pāli technical terms for the help of those who want to make this book a guide for further study. To understand something of these terms is, indeed, essential for anyone who wishes to be sure that he is following the actual course of the thoughts.

 

In Sanskrit treatises, the style of argument and methods of treating the different topics are, altogether, different from what we find in any modern work of philosophy. Materials had, therefore, to be collected from a large number of works on each system, and these have been knit together, and given a shape which is, likely, to be more intelligible to people unacquainted with Sanskritic ways of thought. But, at the same time, I considered it quite undesirable to put any pressure on Indian thoughts in order to make them appear as European. This will explain much of what might appear quaint to a European reader. But, while keeping all the thoughts and expressions of the Indian thinkers, I have tried to arrange them in a systematic whole in a manner which appeared to me, strictly, faithful to their clear indications and suggestions. It is, only, in very few places that I have translated some of the Indian terms by terms of English philosophy, and this I did because it appeared to me that those were, approximately, the nearest approach to the Indian sense of the term. In all other places, I have tried to choose words which have not been made dangerous by the acquirement of the technical senses. This, however, is difficult, for the words which are used in philosophy, always, acquire some sort of technical sense. I would, therefore, request my readers to take those words in an unsophisticated sense, and associate them with such meanings as are justified by the passages and contexts in which they are used. Some of what will appear as obscure in any system, may I hope, be removed if it is reread with care and attention, for unfamiliarity, sometimes, stands in the way of right comprehension. But, I may have, also, missed giving the proper suggestive links in many places where condensation was inevitable, and the systems themselves have, also sometimes, insoluble difficulties, for no system of philosophy is without its dark and uncomfortable corners.

 

Though I have begun my work from the Vedic and Brāhmaṇic stage, my treatment of this period has been very slight. The beginnings of the evolution of philosophical thought, though they can be traced in the later Vedic hymns, are neither connected nor systematic. More is found in the Brāhmaṇas, but I do not think it worthwhile to elaborate the broken shreds of thought of this epoch. I could have dealt with the Upaniṣad period more fully, but, many works on the subject have, already, been published in Europe, and those who wish to go into details will, certainly, go to them. I have, therefore, limited myself to the dominant current flowing through the earlier Upaniṣads. Notices of other currents of thought will be given in connection with the treatment of other systems in the second volume with which they are more, intimately, connected.

 

It will be noticed that my treatment of early Buddhism is, in some places, of an inconclusive character of the texts which were put into writing long after Buddha in the form of dialogues, and where the precision and directness required in philosophy were not contemplated. This has given rise to a number of theories about the interpretations of the philosophical problems of early Buddhism among modern Buddhist scholars, and it is not, always, easy to decide one way or the other without running the risk of being dogmatic; and the scope of my work was, also too, limited to allow me to indulge in very elaborate discussions of textual difficulties. But still, I, also have, in many places, formed theories of my own, whether they are right or wrong, it will be for scholars to judge. I had no space for entering into any polemic, but it will be found that my interpretations of the systems are different in some cases from those offered by some European scholars who have worked on them, and I leave it to those who are acquainted with the literature of the subject to decide which of us may be in the right.

 

I have not dealt, elaborately, with the new school of Logic (Navya-Nyāya) of Bengal, for the simple reason that most of the contributions of this school consist in the invention of technical expressions, and the emphasis put on the necessity of strict exactitude and absolute preciseness of logical definitions and discussions, and these are, almost, untranslatable in intelligible English. I have, however, incorporated what important differences of philosophical points of view I could find in it. Discussions of, a purely, technical character could not be very fruitful in a work like this. The bibliography given of the different Indian systems in the last six chapters is not exhaustive, but consists, mostly, of books which have been, actually, studied or consulted in the writing of those chapters. Exact references to the pages of the texts, have generally, been given in footnotes in those cases where a difference of interpretation was anticipated or where it was felt that a reference to the text would make the matter clearer, or where the opinions of the modern writers have been incorporated.

 

To scholars of Indian philosophy who may do me the honour of reading my book and who may be impressed with its inevitable shortcomings and defects, I can, only, pray in the words of Hemacandra:

 

pramāṇa-siddhānta-virūddham atra yat-kiñcid-uktam mati-māndya-doṣat /

mātsaryam utsārya tad-ārya-cittāḥ prasādam ādhāya viśodhayantu //

 

May the noble-minded scholars, instead of cherishing ill feeling, kindly, correct whatever errors have been here committed through the dullness of my intellect in the way of wrong interpretations and misstatements.

 

S.D.

 

 

(Continued in next serialized parts)

 

 

Reproduced by the Bhaktirasavedāntapīṭhādhīśvara Gurupādācārya Svāmī of BRVF

 

(Disclaimer – Not all thoughts presented by the author Dr. Surendranath Dasgupta in this book may, necessarily, be considered part of the spiritual/religious ideology of BRVF and its Master)

 

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