Western critics, whose premises are mainly secular, necessarily fail to understand the work and thought of a poet (W. B. Yeats) who throughout his life held a different view of reality, of which what passes for 'knowledge' in modern Western Universities is organist. The same spiritual and imaginative illiteracy applies of course to me when I found the question formulated in a paper on Yeats and Eliot written in 1997 by Professor Ramesh Chandra Shah: 'Has the traditionally valid expectation of a special and indispensable kind of wisdom from poets become untenable in today's cosmopolitan civilization?' I met Professor Shah at a conference at the India International Centre in Delhi, held jointly with the Temenos Academy, following which we invited him to lecture for us at the Temenos Academy in London on the summer of 1998. The Time has come to re-learn from the Orient-and above all from the spiritual mainstream of India- that special kind of wisdom of which Professor Shah speaks.
It was this mainstream that Yeats himself arrived in the course of his lifelong pursuit of the 'learning of the Imagination', and to which he offers us the guidance of his own studies and his beautiful translations of the Ten Principal Upanishads. If Yeats represents a turning -point of western imaginative literacy, Professor Shah's is a voice to which we are bound to listen.
Back of the Book
This is an extraordinary attempt to record and recover the long neglected 'ancestral voices' of Indian civilization. The Publication and subsequent reprinting of our civilisation ally significant lectures that Shah delivered at Temenos Academy London in 1998, in the form of the book, is a welcome addition to the shortlist of titles that that sincerely explore the meaning of India e.g. Sri Aurobindo's The Foundation of Indian Culture, Coomaraswamy's The Dance of Shiva, Raja Rao's The Meaning of Indian and Partha Chatterjee'sNation and its Fragments.
In the First Chapter Shah underlines the relationship between literature (art) and truth. Affirming the Vedic vision that all literary works of imagination emanate from 'Vac', which he interprets not merely as the tool of communication but as the primordial mystery combining in herself three worlds of times: Past present and future and revealing itself only to those who are worthy to receive her. In the second and third chapters Shah reads the epics and other or Rta. He describes how the notions of truth as rasa and beauty unfold themselves in theory and practice. Texts and diverse as Bhagavatpurana Yogavasistha Ramcaritmanasa and the songs of the siddhas and saints exemplify this integrated co-existence and amazing wealth of perennially usable critical concepts evolved by Indian aestheticians. The fourth lecture presentes a sensitive reading of the Panchakarma Indian Bhakti movement tracing its sources to the Vedas the two epics and the Bhagavatpurana its protestant character notwithstanding.
From the jacket
Ramesh Chandra Shah is an eminent Hindi poet novelist critic and thinker. His major works include Gobar Ganesh, Poorvapar, Kissa, Ghulam(Novels) Harishchandra Aao, Nadi Bhagti Aayi, Dekhte Hai Shabd Bhi Apna Samay, Anagarik(poetry)Chhayavad ki Prasangikta, Vagarth Bhulne ke Viruddh, Aalochna ka Paksha (literary criticism) He has received several awards including the Shikhar Samman, Vyas Samman and Padma Sri by the Government of India. He served as Head of the English Department in Government Hamidia College, Bhopal till 1997 and thereafter as Director Nirala Srijnapeetha writer in residence programme of the State Government for three years. His parallel Journeys of the twin language worlds have afforded him the unique vantage point of an insider-outsider who can raise crucial questions regarding civilizations and cultures. His is a rare intellect perfectly at home with the Ancestral Voices and the same time contemporary enough to engage in a dialogue with the outsider.
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