Schopenhauer is widely recognized as the Western philosopher who has shown the greatest openness to Indian thought and whose own ideas approach most closely to it. This book examines his encounter with importance schools of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy and subjects the principal apparent affinities to a careful analysis. Initial chapters describe schopenhauer’s encounter with Indian thought in the context of the intellectual climate of early nineteenth-century Europe. For the first time, Indian texts and ideas were becoming available and the belief that they could bring about a second Renaissance-an “Oriental Renaissance”-was widespread. Schopenhauer shared in this enthusiasm and for the rest of his life assiduously kept abreast of the new knowledge of India.
Principal sections of the book consider the two main pillars of Schopenhauer’s system in relation to broadly comparable ideas found, in the case of Hindu thought, in Advaita Vedanta, and with in Buddhism in the Madhyamika and Yogacara schools. Schopenhauer’s doctrine of the world as representation, or a flow of impressions appearing in the consciousness of living being, is first considered. The convergence between this teaching and Indian idealism, especially the doctrine of illusory appearance (maya), has long been recognized. Schopenhauer himself was aware of it, emphasizing that it was the result not of influence but of a remarkable convergence between Eastern and Western thought. This convergence is subjected to a much more detailed examination than has previously been carried out, undertaken in the light of twentieth-century Indology and recent studies of Schopenhauer.
The second main pillar of Schopenhauer’s system, the doctrine of the world as will, is then examined and its relationship to Indian thought explored. This section of the work breaks new ground in the study of Schopenhauer, for although the similarity of his ethical and soteriological teaching to that of j Indian religions (particularly Buddhism) has long been noted, the underlying reasons for this have not been grasped. It is demonstrated that they are to be found in hitherto unrecognized affinities, of which Schopenhauer himself was largely unaware, between the metaphysics of the will and Indian ideas relating to karmic impressions (vasanas), the store-consciousness, the causal body, and sakti as the “force” or “energy” that maintains the existence of the world.
Final chapters discuss the controversial and difficult question of the relation of the will to final reality in Schopenhauer’s thought in the light of Indian conceptions, and suggest that the two central pillars of his philosophy may be seen, to a greater extent than previously supposed, as a bridge by which the Eastern and Western traditions of philosophical thought may be brought into a closer and more creative relationship.
Serves on the Academic Board of the Temenos Academy (London) and is a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and the Schopenhauer Gesellschaft.
It is a Sobering Thought that more than a century and a half after his death Arthur Schopenhauer remains, as Bryan Magee has pointed out, the only major Western philosopher to have shown a serious and sustained interest in the thought of Asia and to have consistently sought to relate it to his own philosophical ideas; he goes much further in this direction than does Heidegger, for example. His vigorous criticism of the use by H.T. Colebrooke, Rammohun Roy, and other nineteenth-century writers of Christian terminology in the translation of India texts-soul and capitalized He in place of atman, God for Brahman, etc., “misleading the reader into quite false notions”, as he noted in the fifth volume of the Manuscript Remains –was far ahead of its time, and his steady insistence on the fact that significant common ground links the Western and Asian traditions of philosophical thought opened new perspectives.
It is hoped that the pages that follow will be of interest not just to Schopenhauer specialists and the growing number of scholars interested in Indian thought, but also to a wider range of readers-all those who seek to better understand the nature of our existence in this strange and mysterious world. To this end, I have sought at all times to make clear the meaning of the Sanskrit and German terms used in the text. I have nowhere added emphasis to quoted passages; these are given as they occur in standard translations (those of Payne in the case of Schopenhauer). Sanskrit words are cited throughout in the pratipadika or stem form, and names and technical terms are rendered in full transliteration in place of the conventional forms sometimes employed.
I wish to express my deep appreciation to Dr. Peter Oldmeadow and Dr. E.H. Sadler, both formerly of the University of Sydney, and to Dr. Michael Comans, also of Sydney, from whose extensive scholarship and valuable suggestions I have benefited on a great many occasions. I wish also to record my gratitude to Dr. John Schroeder and other scholars of the Society for Comparative and Asian Philosophy for generous encouragement and wise guidance during the latter stages of this work, and above all to my wife, Gay M. Schroeder (no relation!), without whose unfailing love and support this book could not have been completed. To the late Dr. A. J. Alston of London I am particularly indebted, having benefited over many years from his profound scholarship and deep understanding of the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, and from the use of the six volumes of his invaluable, and still too little known, Samkara Source Book.
THOSE WHO HAVE READ Thomas Mann's novel Buddenbrooks will re- member the episode toward the end when the protagonist, Thomas, now sensing the approach of death and close to despair, takes from his shelf a volume of philosophy, purchased years before but never opened, and as he turns its pages for the first time is overwhelmed by its contents. That book, it is generally supposed (although Mann does not actually say as much), was Schopenhauer's principal work, The World as Will and Representation, and the description of the powerful (if temporary) impact it has upon Thomas Buddenbrook tells us much about the effect it had upon the educated public of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe and America. The list of significant figures who at this time came under the influence of Schopenhauer's thought-in some cases for a time only, in others lastingly makes remarkable reading: not only Thomas Mann, but also Conrad, Hardy, D. H. Lawrence, Melville, Strindberg, Pirandello, D’Annunzio, Proust, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Wagner, Mahler, Wittgenstein, Nishida, Freud, Schrodinger, and many others.
What drew people to Schopenhauer was his deeply felt concern with issues that matter not only to philosophers but to every man and woman: the nature of the world in which we find ourselves; the degree of reality it has; the cause of the suffering in it; the question of our own salvation and the meaning of our life. In Schopenhauer's own words, "For if anything in the world is desirable ... it is that a ray of light should fall on the obscurity of our existence, and that we should obtain some information about this enigmatical life of ours, in which nothing is clear except its misery and vanity." Schopenhauer was fascinated by Indian thought and the ways in which it seemed to anticipate and confirm his own ideas, and this book seeks to explore the relationship. In passages dating from all periods of his writing he tells us of the importance that Indian philosophical thought had for him; to take only two examples, in the 1818 preface of his principal work he invites his readers to compare his teachings with those of the Indians, suggesting that such a comparison will assist in correctly grasping his own doctrines: "If, I say, the reader has already received and assimilated the divine inspiration of ancient Indian wisdom, then he is best of all prepared to hear what I have to say to him. It will not speak to him, as to many others, in a strange and even hostile tongue.'? And toward the end of his life, referring to the Oupnek'hat-the translation of the Upanisads that was his lifelong reading-he writes in words that became widely known and did much to open the minds of Europeans and Americans to Asian thought: "With the exception of the original text, it is the most profitable and sublime reading that is possible in the world; it has been the consolation of my life and will be that of my death."
Since those words were written, many scholars have commented on the relation of Schopenhauer's thought to Indian philosophical ideas. Nevertheless, a reassessment is overdue. It is well over a hundred years since the last comprehensive study of this kind, Max Hecker's Schopenhauer und die in- dische Philosophie, was published," After a period of neglect, not least in the English-speaking world, the last few decades of the twentieth century witnessed a vigorous renewal of interest in Schopenhauer's thought that raised new issues and brought with it fresh perspectives.' During the same century research into the philosophical and religious thought of India made great advances. In the early decades scholars such as Sylvian Levi, L. de La Vallee Poussin, T. Stcherbatsky, and E. Lamotte began to examine the Vijnanavada and Yogacara texts. The important contributions of Paul Hacker, H. von Glasenapp, Edward Conze, and T. R. V. Murti belong to the 19SOS and '60S, and the studies of G. M. Nagao, C. Lindtner, L. Schmithausen, M. Sprung, J. L. Garfield, and others, aimed at clarifying the teachings of the Mahayana schools, to more recent decades. Very little of this considerable body of more recent knowledge has been utilized to reassess Schopenhauer's position vis- a-vis Indian philosophical ideas. Thus new understandings are available on both sides of the equation-with regard to Schopenhauer and in relation to Indian thought-and must affect the results of any comparative study.
The relationship between Schopenhauer's thought and that of India may be studied in two ways. One may seek to establish the extent to which the Ger- man philosopher was influenced by Indian ideas; this is a matter of historical inquiry, based upon dates and firm evidence of contact and resultant influence. Or one may take a comparative approach and examine the homologies that appear to exist between Schopenhauer's thought and the philosophical and religious ideas of-India, seeking to assess their significance; here philosophical judgment plays a greater part, although textual evidence is again important. The two approaches should not be confused, and this book adopts the second. It explores the extent and nature of the affinities between Schopenhauer's philosophy and some significant aspects of Indian thought; it does not attempt, other than very occasionally and in passing, to enter into questions of influence. However, before we set aside this question, a few brief remarks should be made.
First, we need hardly doubt that Indian ideas exerted at least some influence upon Schopenhauer; he is not likely to have studied them throughout his working life without there being some purpose and result. The question of how significant that influence was lies outside the scope of the present work; we may note, however, that Douglas Berger has argued that the influence of the Oupnek' hat, and in particular of the concept of maya, was of fundamental importance for the development :>f the doctrine of representation. In the case of the other main pillar of Schopenhauer's system, there is little in the major Upanisads that could have given rise to the idea of the will (there is far more in the thought of Jakob Bohme or of Greco-Roman antiquity). Attention has been drawn to a passage in the Taittiriya Upanisad -"That, whence all beings are produced ... is Brahman"-as a possible source for the will. 8 Schopenhauer copied this passage into his notebook, but his comment upon it- "The will-to-live is the source and essence of things" -clearly shows that the concept of the will was already formed in his mind and the Upanisadic passage regarded as confirmation.
There therefore appears to be little reason to doubt Schopenhauer's own account of the genesis of the will: he states clearly that the starting point for his doctrine lies in Kant's teaching of the empirical and intelligible characters. In any case, the whole question of the influence of Indian, and particularly Upanisadic, ideas upon Schopenhauer cannot be resolved until a thorough study of his personal copy of the Oupnek' hat, and of the many annotations he made in it, has been undertaken. This work is only now beginning, ISO years after the philosopher's death," and until a substantial part of its results is known, speculation as to the extent to which Schopenhauer's thought was influenced by his contact with Indian ideas must be of limited value.
The question of the affinities existing between Schopenhauer's thought and that of India, upon which this book concentrates, is not restricted in this way. And it is, if anything, more, and not less, important than is the question of influence, interesting though the latter undoubtedly is; for the less Schopenhauer was influenced by Indian ideas, the more remarkable are the resemblances between these and his own philosophical conceptions. It is of course true that comparative studies may all too easily remain at the level of superficial resemblances since it will always be possible to find some analogy between the doctrine of a Western philosopher and one aspect or another of such rich and diverse traditions as those we find in India and elsewhere in Asia. Edward Conze, in a paper first published in 1963, commented on the unsatisfactory nature of most attempts to compare Eastern and Western thinkers." A mere coincidence of formulations, he argued, however striking, may mask fundamental divergences in the concepts underlying them; thus Berkeley and the Yogacarins may agree on the denial of matter, Kant and Nagarjuna on the limitations of the mind, Hume and the Buddhists on the denial of any self. Yet all these are coincidences concerning a single point only; they are not true parallels, for which several such points are required. Although he does not enter into detail, Conze held that a true parallel of this sort exists between Schopenhauer's thought and Buddhist philosophical ideas (he does not consider Hinduism), so much so that it provides a standard by which other alleged parallels may be judged.
Since the range of Indian thought is of course very great, our questions can be meaningfully discussed only in relation to specific schools and not to Indian thought in general-nor even to Hinduism or Buddhism in general, as has almost always been the case in the past where Schopenhauer is concerned. This book therefore concentrates on schools that are of major significance within the religions to which they belong and are to some degree authoritative for Indian thought as a whole. The doctrines to be com- pared with the teaching of Schopenhauer must be of central importance for the school concerned and through the influence of that school have had a widespread and significant impact on Indian thought generally. These requirements are met in the following way. With regard to Hindu thought the discussion is confined to Advaita Vedanta (and especially the teaching of Sarpkara) since this seeks to systematize earlier Hindu ideas and represents a very widely accepted interpretation of Upanisadic thought. In the case of Buddhism, the Madhyamaka is examined in relation to Schopenhauer's doctrine of representation and Yogacara thought in relation to that of will. The Madhyarnika philosophers provided the fullest examination within a Buddhist context of the reality-status of the world, and in this field their investigations are of central importance; the Yogacarins added to this an exploration of the subtle mental factors that bring about the arising of the world in consciousness. Since they shared and developed the epistemology of the Madhyamikas, the two schools may be seen as part of a continuous development, with the Yogacarins supplying a further dimension relatively unexplored by the Madhyamikas. Taken together, they represent the greater part of the philosophical thought associated with Mahayana Buddhism.
In confining the study to the above-mentioned Indian schools, it is in- evitable that much has been excluded. Schopenhauer's doctrine might have been compared with interesting results to the teachings of the Jain thinkers or, as was done to some extent by nineteenth-century writers, to the Buddhism of the Pali texts. Even a different choice within the Vedanta would have yielded different results: had Schopenhauer been compared with Ramanuja and the devotional schools, fundamental disagreements would have become evident. Nevertheless, the Advaita and Mahayana doctrines with which the teaching of Schopenhauer is compared in the present work are of great importance in the history of Indian thought, and their influence has spread widely.
The book falls into four sections and is arranged as follows. The initial group of chapters (chapters 1-4) examines the background to Schopenhauer's interest in Indian thought and the growth and extent of his knowledge of Hindu and Buddhist ideas. The two principal comparative sections of the study follow. They relate to the two questions that most concerned the philosopher-that of the reality-status of the world, and that of the nature of the underlying existence from which it arises; his answers to these questions are, of course, implied in the tide of his principal work, The World as Will and Representation. The method used in these middle sections of the book is, first, to set out in separate chapters, and without any attempt at comparison, the teaching of Schopenhauer and that of the relevant Hindu and Buddhist schools and then to discuss in a further chapter the main points of convergence (or sometimes of divergence) that have become evident.
Thus chapters 5-8 are concerned with the doctrine of representation and related views found in India. That there are significant similarities here has long been recognized-indeed it was Schopenhauer himself who first drew attention to the fact. Nevertheless, there is considerably more to discover in this area, and in the light of twentieth-century scholarship (especially in the field of Mahayana Buddhism) it becomes apparent that the affinity with Indian thought is more, and not less, remarkable than previously supposed.
Chapters 9-13 explore in the same manner the doctrine of the will and its relation to Indian thought. Strangely enough, this has never been done in a systematic manner, and the relation of the second main pillar of Schopenhauer's system to Indian ideas has remained virtually unexplored. This is the more surprising since the doctrine of the will presents problems that have appeared to some commentators almost insoluble. Wilhelm Halbfass, commenting on the ambivalence and problematic nature of Schopenhauer's concept of the will, has suggested that Indian thought, and specifically Buddhism and Vedanta, can help to clarify Schopenhauer's position in this respect." we shall find that this is indeed the case.
What has been noted ever since Schopenhauer's writings came to prominence is the similarity of his ethical teaching to that of Buddhism and the evident, but largely unexplained, parallel between denial of the will and nirvana. However, both the ethical and the soteriological features of Schopenhauer's teaching derive from the doctrine of the will; they are, indeed, its effects. But what of the doctrine itself? Can we identify an aspect of Indian thought that corresponds to will and holds a place of comparable importance? As we shall see in a later chapter, Schopenhauer himself, late in life, suggested a similarity to the Buddhist idea of upadana, or "clinging," but took things no further than this. In the last century both H. Zimmer and H. von Glasenapp also suggested parallels (respectively sakti and samskaras), but neither followed up his insight, and the matter has not as yet received anything like the attention it merits. For if it is the case, as this book seeks to show, that each of the two principal pillars on which Schopenhauer's philosophical system rests converges with important areas of Indian thought (both Buddhist and Hindu), then this indicates a parallel that is systematic in nature. It would show that there exists between a leading representative of the Western philosophical tradition and the thought of India-and ultimately of East Asia also-a significant area of common ground constituting a bridge by means of which these two great traditions may be brought into closer relation.
Chapters 14-17 conclude the book. They grow out of the preceding discussion of the will and lead on to the questions of its ontological status and the nature of final reality. According to the principles that Schopenhauer himself laid down (following the lead of Kant), this question does not fall within the range of philosophy, and one of his objections to the German thinkers of his own day was that they did not observe this limit. Yet in spite of this view, the question of final reality and its relation to will pervades Schopenhauer's work. The question "from what this will has sprung," which he was still asking himself in the Epiphilosophy of his principal work, lies behind almost all that he wrote, and his thought cannot be adequately grasped without some consideration of it. Here a comparison with Indian modes of thought is again of value. Indian thinkers, in attempting to grasp the relation of final reality to the principle of manifestation, faced essentially the same difficulties as did Schopenhauer and can, at least to some extent, help us to understand the issues he faced.
The value of cross-cultural philosophical comparison is sometimes questioned, but philosophy by its very nature cannot be constrained within cultural boundaries. Many scholars have expressed the conviction that there is much more to be gained by examining the relation between the Asian and Western traditions of thought than by studying each in isolation. Mircea Eliade pointed many years ago to the danger of what he saw as a growing provincialism in Western philosophy." Similarly, F. Copleston suggested that "reflection on non-Western philosophical traditions can serve to remedy a certain myopia.” S. Radhakrishnan wrote that "we must recognize humbly the partial and defective character of our isolated traditions and seek their source in the generic tradition from which they have all sprung." Hacker remarked that Indology can have a future only in living interaction with the spiritual and intellectual life of Europe. Heidegger called for "planetary thinking" and wrote, "Again and again it has seemed urgent to me that a dialogue take place with the thinkers of what is to us the Eastern world."Halbfass devoted a major volume to this very purpose. More recently an American scholar, J. J. Kuppreman, has drawn attention to "the importance of classic Asian texts, not merely in their own right but also as openings to live philosophical problems," and Garfield has undertaken the exploration of "cross-cultural philosophical themes," writing, "Ignoring the philosophical traditions of other cultures in fact, whether we like it or not, continues the colonial project of subordinating those cultures to our own." It is with such views in mind that the present study is undertaken.
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