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An Introduction to Indian Philosophy by Christopher Bartley

An Introduction to Indian PhilosophyAn Introduction to Indian Philosophy by Christopher Bartley

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

This very engaging introduction to Indian Philosophy can be thought of as a series of essays on some of the most prominent schools of thought of ancient Indian philosophy, with each essay being followed up by detailed ‘further readings’ that can be used to explore particular ideas further. While this presentation of the book facilitates an easy introduction to each of the schools of thought, it can have the effect of obscuring the subtle interconnections and derivations within and between them.

Also, the fact that Bartley chose to use Buddhist arguments as the point of departure for defining all the other schools of thought has the unfortunate effect of making them seem overly derivative. In spite of these defects, the books is worth a read, particularly the sections on Sankhya and Nyaya are a discursive delight to read.

The section on Buddhism is a bit stretched out, as it had to be given the nature of the presentation. The section on Mimamsa school is given a slightly simplistic explanation and the earlier and later schools are not delineated enough to give full play to the power of this school of thought, nor are the connections with Sankhya, particularly with Gita, fully explored. The Vedanta school is given a lot of detail and space but without looping back and connecting fully with Sankhya through the upanishadic arguments.

Given the scope of an introductory book, it is perhaps asking too much to address all the nuances but some of the space dedicated to quoting Sankara’s and others’ arguments could have been given over to tracing the differences and similarities between the schools and in showcasing the organic nature of the growth of the entire philosophic edifice.

P.S. Forgive the omission of diacritical marks. Please do google to pick out exact pronunciations.

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Posted by on August 7, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books, Philosophy

 

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Paradharmo Bhayaavahah: Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-RelianceSelf-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Rating★★★★☆

Shreyaan swadharmo vigunah paradharmaat swanushthitaat; 
Swadharme nidhanam shreyah paradharmo bhayaavahah. 
~ The Bhagavad-Gita, 3.35 (Chapter 3, Verse 35)

[Better is one’s own Dharma, though devoid of merit, than the Dharma of another well discharged. Better is even death in one’s own Dharma; to attempt the Dharma of another is fraught with danger.]

I felt that Self-Reliance is a book length homage to this verse. Emerson, while talking loftily of originality seems to have not the slightest compunction in drawing heavily from oriental philosophies to achieve the grandeur that is reflected in his thoughts and writings. Of course Emerson was no stranger to the beautiful verses of Gita nor to the Upanishads. Emerson and Thoreau, both, were greatly drawn by the philosophy of The Gita. As Thoreau says, “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial.” Emerson has also been vocal in his praise – “The Bhagavad-Gita is an empire of thought and in its philosophical teachings Krishna has all the attributes of the full-fledged monotheistic deity and at the same time the attributes of the Upanisadic absolute.”

I just wish that the book itself had a reference to The Gita and did not depend on my memory to make the connections. Self-Reliance is a great and inspirational work, but would have been the better for quoting its own inspirations.

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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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