Sunday, July 19, 2015
Raghuramaraju's "Philosophy and India Ancestors, Outsiders and Predecessors" (Oxford; 2013; Rs 495) delivers quite a few good punches
Pressing on with the simile of "problems" and "solutions", he brings in Gandhi to counter the Bhattacharyya exercise: "The latter (Gandhi), unlike Bhattacharyya, generally refrained from using remedies from across the culture at the outset. For instance, Gandhi would see spritual Christianity as a solution to the material West, not Advaita or yoga, from India. Conversely, he would find internal resources to overcome or eliminate evils in Indian society, like untouchability relating to caste." It is an interesting comparison but a wrong one. Bhattacharyya was dealing in the realm of ideas and thought, while Gandhi was dealing with practical issues. It is possible to compare the system of Advaita with the Kantian one though not in the spirit of establishing one's own superiority. As a matter of fact, even this attitude of superiority is acceptable because that is how proponents of different systems of thought in India contended with each other. As a matter of fact, Raghuramaraju critiques the Bhattacharyya's critique of Kant saying that Bhattacharyya was offering an epistemological solution to Kant's ontological problem. The interlude about Gandhi and others was interesting but it was strictly out of bounds for the philosophical argument.
Raghuramaraju's critique of B.K.Matilal is quite bold where Matilal tries to place the Mahabharata in the context of moral philosophy. Raghuramaraju quotes Matilal: "The moral dilemmas presented in the Mahabharata are in some sense universal, for most of them can be effectively used even today to illustrate arguments in moral philosophy..." He counters Matilal's view quite well: "First, the move to put the epic to a merely ethical use is a problematic one; the epic has a larger task. It is necessary to explore a more complex relationship between the epic and ethics. While Matilal may not deny such a relationship, the problem with his philosophical project is that in his preoccupation or mere obsession with modern Western philosophy he does not make use of this complex relationship between epic and ethics." (Chapter 3. Epic for Ethics).
But his critique falls to the ground when he wants to use the modern Telug play of Gurajada Appa Rao, Kanyasulkam, to discuss the moral dilemmas embedded in the Mhabharata. He thinks that Girisham in the play is Krishna, Saujnya Rao is Yuddhishtira. He refers to the discussion on Bhagavadgita in the play as the basis for arguing that the play is the epic in disguise. The argument falls to the ground because the play has its own internal dynamic and the echoes from Mahabharata to be found in it are not its mainstay.
In the last two chapters, Buddhism in Hinduism, and Buddhism in Indian Philosophy, Raghuramaraju revisits an old and familiar question, focusing on the views of Ananda Coomaraswamy, Radhakrishnan, Ambedkar and T.V.R.Murti. They make for stimulating reading. Ambedkar's view do not hold water because he speaks from the point of view of a political polemicist and he has no genuine interest in the subject. Raghuramaraju quotes Ambedkar as saying: "...Bhagavad Gita seems to be deliberately modelled on Buddhist Suttas. The Buddhist Suttas are dialogues. So is the Bhagavad Gita. Buddha's religion offered salvation to women and Shudras, Krishna also comes forward to offer salvation to women and Shudras. Buddhists say, I surrender to Buddha, to Dhamma and to Sangha.'So Krishna says, 'Giive up all religions and surrender unto Me.'No parallel can be closer than what exists between Buddhism and the Bhagavad Gita." It is an interesting argument but it is neither philosophical or historical. But Raghuramaraju feels that Ambedkar's intervention in the Hinduism-Buddhism debate is important. He fails to mention that this is not at the philosophical level. The philosophical debate was maintained by Radhakrishnan and Murti. It is necessary to exclude both Gandhi and Ambedkar out of the philosophical debates, and this does not imply any disrespect to their intellectual capacities. Both of them had brilliant minds, but they used to fight political battles. They had no interest in the battle of ideas qua battle of ideas.
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