Living & Dead

Balaji Hebbar bhebbar at EROLS.COM
Tue May 25 14:29:20 UTC 1999

Dear  Mr. Sundaresan:
> I think this reflects only the situation  in southern Karnataka, where  there are only Jains and Vedantins among  classical thinkers. Your  quotation of Prof. Hiriyanna adds to this  impression of mine.

MY  REPLY:  Firstly,  there  are  more  Jains  in  Uttar  and  Coastal
Karnatak  than  southern  Karnatak.  Secondly,  Prof.  Hiriyanna's  two
books  are  not  just  for  Karnatak  area.  It  is  the  standard
Indian  Philosophy  text  book  in  many  colleges  throughout  India.
Prof. Hiriyanna  was  no  ordinary  college  lecturer.  President
Radhakrishnan  once  called  him  "my  esteemed  friend  Hiriyanna".  In
fact,  Radhakrishnan  had  both  his  volumes  on  Indian  Philosophy
reviewed  by  Prof.Hiriyanna. Thirdly,  the  Jains  have  (at  least  in
this  century)  never  engaged  in  any  debates  with  the  VedAntins
in  Karnataka.  For  some  reason  (I  personally  think  it  is  just
brahminical  brotherhood),  the  vidvat  sadas  is  confined  just  to
the  paNDit  community  of  the  3  VedAntic  schools.

>Let's not forget Buddhism. Apart from traditional  pockets here and there in various parts of India, we have many neo-Buddhists who are very interested in philosophical issues, and not just in political matters. And since the times of Hiriyanna, the Tibetans have come, as far  down south as Mysore now. Perhaps they are still alien, but I see no real prospect of their returning to their homeland in the foreseeable future. As
social interactions between Indians and Tibetans increase, philosophical
discourse and religious debate will follow, and mahAyAna buddhism will
to be contended with as a religion and as a philosophy. And Buddhism
will only have returned to its old homeland.

MY  REPLY:  The  neo-Buddhists  are  TheravAdins,  while  the  Bylakuppe
Tibetans  are  VajrayAnists.  When  there  has  been  no  debate
between  the  3  VedAntic  schools  and  the  Jains  in  Karanataka,  I
hardly  see  any  prospect  of  debate  with  the  Buddhists.  Further,
in  a  talk  with  a  Sri  Lankan  monk  (who  had  recently  come  from
Aurangabad)  yesterday  during  the  International  Vesak  Festivities,
I  was  told  of  the  condition  of  the  neo-Buddhist  monks  in
Maharashtra.  The  Sri  Lankan  monk  said:  "People  who  were  once
lorry  drivers,  laborerers  of  various  kinds  just  join  the  Sangha
without  any  knowledge  of  the  Vinaya  much  less  the  Dhamma.  It
is  tragic.  We  are  working  with  the  Maha  Bodhi  Society  to
rectify  the  situation  as  best  and  as  soon  as  we  can.  It  is
an  uphill  task."   The  VedAntic  PaNDit  community  of  all  3
schools  by  contrast  is  well-educated  in  tarka,  vyAkaraNa  and
tattva. Moreover  they  are  sort  of  used  to  each  other.  Many  of
them  know  each  other  personally  for  years  as  they  done  this
sort  of  thing  year  after  year.

>Is it necessary for every classical darSana to be a religious alternative to  the vedAnta(s)?

MY  REPLY:  They  once  truly  were   and  thus  acted  as  rivals  to
the  VedAnta  in  every  way.  For  almost  every  position  that  the
VedAnta  held,  they  offered  alternative  views.

And as far as pUrva mImAMsA is concerned, even
KumArila bhaTTa didn't think it was an alternative to vedAnta, as he
>ended  his tantra-vArttika with a statement that the subject of the Atman is  discussed only in the vedAnta darSana and not in jaiminI's SAstra.

MY  REPLY:  On  many  issues  in  metaphysics  the  KumArila  school
of  MImAmSA  differed  from  the  Advaita  school  of  VedAnta.  The
Atman  is  JaDAbodhAtmaka  a  la  KumArila  while  it  is  saccidAnanda
svarUpa  as  per  Advaita.  KumArila's  system  is  NirIshvara  in
theology,  pluralistic  in  ontology  and  karma-mArga  oriented  in
sAdhana.  Advaita  is  Seshvara  in  theology,  non-dualistic  in
ontology  and  jNAna-mArga  oriented  in  sAdhana.  Only  in  certain
aspects,  especially  epistemology  is  Advaita  like  KumArila's
system.  (vyAvahAre  BhATTa  nayaH)

>Fine, but I don't see why this makes the 5-fold syllogism any less
>interesting a field of study. There are still traditional pundits who study the 5-fold syllogism and ponder over the finer points of samavAya >and
>vyApti, not to mention the numerous comparative philosophers who are
>interested in these concepts. Just last year, I heard of two young
>vidyArthIs who were examined and given certificates for proficiency in >nyAya
>studies at Sringeri. I'm sure various other maThas and pAThaSalas also
>patronize some nyAya specialists.

MY  REPLY:  I  never  said  that  the  NyAya  is  of  no  interest  to
the  3  types  of  VedAntins,  but  it  is  their  modified  version  of
the  NyAya.  In  fact  they  do  not  look  upon  "NyAya"  as
different.  It  is  a  part  of  their  pramANavicAra  ShAstra.  The
real  vintage NyAya  however  is  still  considered  a  system  with  a
rival  viewpoint.

>I do not see why modernizing of Jaina metaphysics should be of interest to
>anyone but a Jaina. Hopefully, somebody of sufficient authority among Jainas
>will do it, or perhaps not. Why should this be a precondition for the
>modernizing of other darSanas?

MY  REPLY: Largely  I  would  agree  with  you  on  this.  My  main
concern  is  that  since  these  systems  sort  of  grew  up  together
and  it  would  become  rather  skewed  if  one  bunch  got  modernized
and  the  other  ones  still  remained  pre-modern.  Anyway,  who  am  I
to  say  what  should  or  should  not  be  done.

>We Advaitins have an advantage; we can see the latest scientific theory >as yet another facet of mAyA, and either ignore it or co-opt it.

MY  REPLY:  This  indeed  is  true.  Advaita  does  have  that
advantage,  but  there  are  plenty  of  other  defects  (logical,
theological  etc.)  which  refrains  me  endorsing  it  completely.  I
choose  to  talk  about  these  separately.

In  general,  I  thank  you  for  the  responsible  reply  you  have
given  me.  I  do  indeed  enjoy  reading  your  observations.


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