Sunday, March 22, 2015


    The keenest expounder of Sankara in the West at the present time is Prof. Deussen who has been engaged for some years in writing a General History of Philosophy in German, in view to showing the place of Sankara in such a conspectus. The third instalment of that History is now ready, and we have great pleasure in extracting the following review thereof from Luzac's Oriental List and Book Review, (London), Vol. XX, Nos. 1 and 2, January and February, 1909, from the interest it has for us on account of the mention it makes of Nilakantha's Bhashya of the Brahma sutras:-

    "It will be welcome news to many students that Professor Paul Deussen has published the third section in Volume 1 of his monumental Allgemeine Gexhichte der Philosophie. This latest instalment, a ponderous tome of 728 pages, will greatly enhance its author's already high reputation for profound erudition and keen philosophical insight. It deals with the post Vedic philosophy of India, and falls into two main divisions, treating respectively of the philosophy of the epic period, and of the subsequently systematized schools. In the Mahabharata and the Law book of Manu, which he regards as the literary monuments of an "Epic Period" beginning about 500 B.C., he traces a vigorous though unsystematic course of speculative activity which formed a bridge from the idealism of the Upanishads to the systems of classical age, and specially to the mature Sankhya, while at the same time, it was a fertile breeding ground for the heretical Schools of which the great representatives are Jainism and Buddhism. The Sankhya and Yoga in particular appear to bear in the epos primarily the character, not of two distinct schools, but of two different methods for attaining the same object, the realization of the Self, in the case of the Sankhya by reflection upon the manifold phenomena of experience issuing from primal unity, and in the case of the Yoga by concentration of the mind upon the inward life. As an appendix to this first section is given an outline of Buddhism, with some account of the allied system of the Jains. Then follows the second and by far the longer portion of the volume of which the kernel is formed by (1) a translation of Madhava's account in his Sarva darsana sangraha of the nine heterodox schools, and (2) a fuller account of the Vaiseshika, Nyaya, Purva Mimamsa, Paniniya, Sankhya, Yoga, and Vedanta of Sankara, in which are included translation of Isvara Krishna's Sankhya Karika, the Yoga Sutra, and Sadananda's Vedanta sara. The whole work is concluded by an appendix giving a summary account of philosophical thought in China as represented by the teachings of Lao tse and Confucius and by Chinese Buddhism, and finally glancing at Japan, with its ancient Shinto and its developments of the Confucian and Buddhist doctrines that reached it through China. In a work of such vast scope as this there must inevitably be much that arouses criticism. We are not yet quite reconciled to Dr. Deussen's view that the classical Sankhya arose out of Upanishadic idealism "through accommodation to empirical consciousness," though we must admit its plausibility. We are disposed to question strongly the justice of his dictum that the Vedanta of Sankara "returned to the pure doctrine of the Upanishads" and "is still the creed of the dominant majority of all those Hindus who feel the need for a philosophical basis of their conception of the world" (page 2). The Professor speaks here more as a partisan than as a critic, ignoring the justifiable claims of some millions of e.g. Saivas and Ramanujiyas We regret too that he has not studied at first hand the very interesting and valuable system of the Saiva Siddhantam which is the dominant creed of Southern India. Much might be said, and ought to be said, of the important developments of the Vedanta in the great Saiva Bhashya of Nilakantha and of the classical system of the Tamil Siddhantis… But Dr. Deussen has given us so much material for study, and that of the first quality, that we can overlook these occasional irregularities of perspective, and gratefully acknowledge our enormous debt of gratitude to him."

    We will personally review Prof. Deussen's work in a subsequent number, giving translations of such portions of the original as bear on the Siddhanta Philosophy of Nilakantha. We cannot say that the Professor is unacquainted with the Saiva Bhashya, as we have seen a reference to the Benares edition (published in the Pandit) of the same in his classical 'Das System des Vedanta.' Nilakantha was one of the greatest mystics of ancient India as can be readily seen from the following verse which we quote from his Prolegomena to the Saiva Bhashya, and this feature at once distinguishes him from other commentators who were for the most part nothing more than mere intellectual exponents:


Srikanta had actually seen God and hence lays down his proposition, from the stand point of his Higher Experience, in such terse and clear terms. Appayya's gloss on this verse, though elaborate, will repay careful perusal for its spiritual insight and illumination. The great initiates and sanctified spirits who have contributed to the up building of the Saiva Siddhanta were men who were thoroughly established in God and were in actual fellowship with him, so much, so that their words come down to us with a claim which is altogether magisterial and impeccable in every sense.

V. V. R.

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