DK Printworld (P) Ltd.

You have no items in your Shopping Cart

Reader Speak| Home » Reader Speak
S. Bhuvaneshwari
This Hindi poem, composed in different metres like Manohara, Lalita, Indravijaya, Totaka, is in the form of a dialogue between a guru and disciple. It contains sixteen chapters (kalas). The transliteration of the work is useful for those who find it difficult to read Nagari script. The first two questions show universal character: what is human goal, and what is object of desire for all? Without any doubt one can say the entire humanity desires removal of sorrow, and attainment of absolute happiness. This further leads one to nature of liberation or self-realization through Brahman knowledge for the attainment of happiness. In chapter fifteen direct knowledge — oneness of Brahman and atman — and indirect means to self-realization niskama-karma, meditation, dispassion, etc. are discussed. The features of Atman/ Brahman: all-pervasiveness, consciousness, luminosity, infinite, etc. are established through positive (vidheya) and negative (nisedha) way in chapters seven and nine. Oneness or non-difference of the self and Brahman is also established through the Mahavakya tat tvam asi (see chapter 11). How does Jiva look real, what is maya, is Brahman the cause of world, and what is Isvara? Many such interesting questions and answers one can see in chapter eleven. This book explains concepts of Advaita Vedanta in simple language and guides one to the knowledge of Brahman by change of mind or identity change. This work also provides a great deal of knowledge on Indian theories of meaning. Twenty-five tattvas, pancikarana, theories of error, seven jnanabhumis are some other subjects in this work. Chapter sixteen is a lexicon of Vedanta. This will be benefical to students of philosophy. T.M. RAMANI
This book was originally submitted as a thesis for PhD at Andhra University, and was first published as a book in 1973. The book reviewed here is the second edition. The book is very clearly written and is a joy to read. It provokes deep thinking and feeling in every page. The various topics like description of brahma anubhava, behaviour of a brahmajnani, way to brahma anubhava, and role of faith, emotions and reasoning are taken one by one in each chapter and discussed thoroughly. Abundant references to Adi Shankara’s various works is given for every idea mentioned. Almost every page has a handful of references. Thus, this book can be a valuable handbook for people who want to pursue further study on any of the ideas on Advaita Vedanta. The one word that is repeatedly discussed in the book is brahma anubhava. The term needs an explanation. Everything is Brahman. So every experience (anubhava) is brahma anubhava only. What is needed to eliminate ignorance is not brahma anubhava, but brahma jnana. However, this term is defined by the author on page 77: “Brahma anubhava is thus not to experience brahman as an object, nor is it the experience of the Self by itself, but it is to shed the wrong knowledge that one is different from brahman.” Thus, what he means by brahma anubhava in most of the text is actually brahma jnana. However, in several places in the text [like, turiya being a fourth state different from the other three (p. 37), concept of destruction of the mind (p. 49), experience as a source of brahma jnana (p. 127), duality is not experienced after arising of perfect knowledge (p. 150, p. 240)], the author strongly sides the Bhamati school. This can be confusing or seemingly unacceptable to readers who follow the Vivarana school. The book is full of beautiful crisp and insightful passages. Here is one passage in page 9 which introduces the concept of Brahman: “Brahman in Itself is none other than one’s own self in its true nature. To realize Brahman is to realize one’s own Self. Self is pure consciousness and undifferentiated. When It is actually realized, the Self cannot be said to belong to this or that person. It is the Reality, not of this or that person, but of everyone and everything. It is absolute and ultimate. Thus Self-realization does not mean realizing one’s empirical self which is peculiar to oneself, but to realize the Self of empirical self or Brahman. Self and Brahman are only names given to that which is ineffable, when it is viewed from the standpoints of an individual self and the world, respectively. Thus in realizing one’s identity with Brahman, nothing new is attained; only the wrong notion that one is not Brahman and that It is not already realized are shed.” Here is a passage in page 87 that clears several misconceptions about the behaviour of a brahmajnani: “Brahma anubhava does not in any way disturb the integrity of human personality. It also does not destroy the body, mind and the senses, nor their capacity to perceive and think. They remain normal and function as before, but they are not looked upon as something different from the Self when the latter is realized. The sense-organs of a Brahmajnani continue to perceive their respective objects, but the attachment (raga) for them is completely absent in him, as he is free from egoism or ‘I’-sense which has been destroyed by the knowledge of the Self. Such detached perceptual knowledge is incapable of producing in the mind either good or bad impressions that bind the individual.’ Many subtle points on the role of faith, reason, scriptural study, guru, meditation, etc. are all analysed thoroughly in the book. Any serious student of Advaita Vedanta will enjoy reading the book. It will also be a good refresher to students familiar with these concepts.
Prof M. Sivaramkrishna
Professor Ramamurty’s book is originally a doctoral thesis for PhD from Andhra University. It was first published in 1973 and this is its reprint. The preface is dated 1973. The author taught in Viswabharati, Santiniketan before joining the University of Hyderabad. He says that “this book attempts to elaborate and clarify Sankara’s understanding of brahmanubhava, in all its aspects, relying extensively on his own writings. For this, not only the commentaries, but also the prakarana granthas have been taken into account. In the final chapter, brahmanubhava is compared with what was said about the mystic experience by two of the most authoritative exponents of Christian and Islamic mysticisms, namely St John of the Cross and Jalalu’d-Din Rumi, mainly to understand Sankara’s position without any ambiguity” (pp. v-vi). Admitting that there are some repetitions, he expresses the “hope they are not out of context” (ibid.). Acharya Shankara’s understanding of brahmanubhava is examined through an “Introduction” followed by eight chapters: “The Point of Departure”, “Description of Brahmanubhava”, “Behaviour of a Brahmajnani”, “The Way to Brahmanubhava”, “The Place of Faith, Emotions and Reasoning in Brahmanubhava”, “The Object of Brahmanubhava”, “The Validity of Brahmanubhava”, “Empirical Experience and Brahmanubhava”, and “Comparisons and Conclusions” with a bibliography and index. The contents of these chapters constitute the theme of the book and its “tools” of analysis. The elaboration and clarification of all these aspects of “Shankara’s understanding” is commendable. But then, can “understanding” of the other’s supreme Advaita experience interpreted through language? The one who declared in Vivekachudamani that “a network of words is like a dense forest which causes the mind to wander hither and thither”, has himself left us a legacy of prodigious commentaries and poetic compositions ranging from Saundarya-Lahari to other hymns. Unless we look at brahmanubhava as a holistic experience which informs every aspect of life, understanding Advaita exclusively is bound to reflect the paradox of “interpretation” in which one plants one’s own understanding onto the texts. Moreover, statements like “Brahman is real, the world an illusion” give rise to conundrums on the analytical level. From this perspective, the various chapters linked to the centrality of brahmanubhava — seem to float around and not tethered to it firmly. The analyses of the three states of consciousness are not hierarchically privileged but are integrated illuminators — the one defining another. Phantoms of the brain do not explain the reality of “illusion” (maya) Once we regard it as “illusion”, the tendency will be to “suppress” what one categorises as “differences”. Prof. Ramamurty’s comments on yoga vis-à-vis Advaita, for instance, seem to sound categorical. He says: “Instead of trying to achieve an awareness of oneness of everything with the Self or the realization that there is nothing different from the Self (Brahman), which culminates in perfect bliss and liberates the individual from ignorance, the cause of all differences, we observe in these states an attempt to suppress the experience of differences” (p. 57). If I read the context rightly, it is about yoga which the author brands as “a negative approach” because of this “alleged suppression of the waves of Chitta”. And about the mind, Prof. Ramamurty says: “though the mind as mind is unreal, it is not different from the Self in reality” (ibid.). Is “the regenerate mind” that is suggested here? A more rigorous analysis of the three states of mind would have helped us. In our times “virtual realities” give us insight into realities proper, if such things exist. Hence, the significance of Shankara’s “perception” of maya. About the behavioural patterns of the brahmanubhavi, the observation that the relative reality, if we call it vyavaharika satya, remains, is a clarification much needed in the dialectics of Advaita Vedanta. The institutionalization of Advaita peethas is itself an example. But then, the chapter on “The Place of Faith, Emotions and Reasoning” seemed to me to link brahmanubhava with the mysticism of St John of the Cross and Rumi. This portion seemed to me slender and casual. For, mysticism itself is a phenomenon which has to be understood guardedly. It has to be a nomenclature which includes more than direct experience of the Reality. If in Advaita pain and pleasure — the cluster of dualities — are functional, not fundamental, the mystic would accept both. The phenomenal world runs on the axiom: “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. This is “the grace coming from God that makes us understand him”, according to St John. In his book Studies in Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, and Deconstruction R. Sundara Rajan observed that, “interpretation which starts as an attempt at understanding may develop into a questioning of that understanding itself”. This “hermeneutic subversion” could be rooted in the primordial structure of interpretation itself. This risk hovers over Prof. Ramamurty’s study. Our understanding is, in fact, a gift but not one to be used indiscriminately. In effect, though it needs updating, Prof. Ramamurty’s volume is a welcome contribution. The specialist is made to think, the lay person passes by some inconclusive statements. In any case, it is worth reading. As an enthusiast — a general reader — I found helpful insights to come close to that colossal figure, Acharya Shankara. Perhaps, a re-reading in terms especially of Ramana Maharshi’s Advaita would have been helpful.
Subhasis Chattopadhyay
Frank Kermode gestured towards the sense of an ending. That which has a finality is neither art nor philosophy. The genius of Maitreyee Datta is to end her analysis of — Kalidas Bhattacharyya’s understanding of self within Yogachara Buddhist concepts of self (140-51) in this festschrift with ‘Perhaps ... I feel’ (I51). The subjectivity involved in doing philosophy is best illustrated by this admission to interiority; the phenomenological turn which certainly influences Datta and of course, Kalidas Bhattacharyya. Husserl is everywhere in this volume, but is only mentioned twice in the book, other than once in the index. For example, in Goutam Biswas’s chapter on Kalidas Bhattacharyya’s aesthetic ideas (159-75), we have an explication of feeling of feelings, emotions fluctuating between the individual mind and the sublation of that mind into the universal mind (171). If one attends seminars in the humanities, one hears of Derrida, Lacan, Alain Badiou, and of the subaltern studies’ group ad nauseam. It is as if Indian philosophers have no place in learned discussions. Of late one hears of Giorgio Agamben and Martha Nussbaum. Nary a word on Indian thinkers who might be used to foreground disciplines as diverse as literature, political science, and film studies. It is akin to blasphemy to have no reference to American and Continental philosophers in an international symposium, say on, immigration or the rise of religious extremism. Yet Kalidas Bhattacharyya’s understanding of Anekantavada is unknown to most. Western savants do not care to understand that cosmopolitanism is a Hindu concept; neither a Jain concept nor is it a Greek concept as is mistakenly taught in classrooms worldwide and mentioned on the Internet. Tara Chatterjee’s Anekanta Vedanta (112-24) should be read by English literature scholars first since they are the ones who hardly know that they are mistaking as Western, concepts which Indian doyens of modern philosophy have already written on. How many Masters’ and post-Masters’ English-literature students know of Kalidas Bhattacharyya’s monograph on Indian cosmopolitanism published in 1982? It is the sad state of Indian studies — literary and philosophical — today that while Western scholars acknowledge the contributions of the likes of Kalidas Bhattacharyya and Bimal Krishna Matilal, Indian academics are ignorant of them. Madhumita Chattopadhyay has done a great service to Indian and world letters by editing this volume. Hopefully, Indian lovers of all things First World will now wake up and refer students to this book. It is time that we stop grinding Anita Desai and Manju Kapur under the millstones of Julia Kristeva and bell hooks in the name of appearing avant garde. Kalidas Bhattacharyya can provide the requisite hermeneutical lens; if only one has the sense to read him. May be, in the future the Centre of Advanced Study in Philosophy, Jadavpur University, will bring out a similar volume on Bimal Krishna Matilal.
It reads like a travel/adventure novel and yet is filled with such rich history and knowledge of this specific Tantric tradition. A wonderful book for all levels. A great bridge for expanding your knowledge of Shakta Tantra traditions or introducing yourself to Tantra traditions for the first time.