This volume is a collection of articles, written by Russian scholars, on Indian philosophy, religion and culture. These articles explore key issues in the history of Indian philosophy, as well as the fundamentals of Indian religious thought and the problems of correlation between philosophy and religion in Indian tradition. The traditional schools of Indian philosophy, Samkhya and Yoga, Nyaya and Vaisesika, Mimamsa and Vedanta, are analysed on the basis of their authoritative textual sources. Among other texts, Sankara’s Brahma-sutra-bhasya and Ramanuja’s Gita-bhasya are studied in depth, with a special emphasis on the polemic between Visitadvaita and Advaita Vedanta. The later syncretic Nyaya-Vaiesika is investigated on the basis of Annam Bhatta’s Tarkasamgraha and Tarkadipika as much as a critical analysis of Buddhist philosophy is undertaken through Santarakita’s Tattvasamgraha. The modern Indian philosophy is also represented by highlighting the legacy of prominent personalities like Muhammad Iqbal and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Due attention is given to the philosophy of non-violence of Gandhi and its relevance to the current problems of humankind. A comparative turn is represented by a paper on Leo Tolstoy and Sri Ramakrishna.
The book, as a whole, is an attempt to demonstrate the range and quality of contemporary Russian scholarship on Indian philosophical tradition and culture.
Professor Marietta T. Stepanyants has been the Head of the Center for the Study of Oriental Philosophies at the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences, since 1980. She is the founder and the present chairperson of the UNESCO Chair in “Philosophy in the Dialogue of Cultures”. Her principal works are:
In English: Islamic Philosophy & Social Thought in 19th and 20th centuries, Lahore: PPH, 1989; Sufi Wisdom, Albany: SUNY Press, 1994; Gandhi and the World Today: A Russian Perspective, New Delhi: Rajendra Prasad Academy, 1998; and Introduction to Eastern Thought, New York—Oxford: AltaMira Press, 2002.
In Russian: Muhammad Iqbal: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Translation, introduction and comments, Moscow: Vostochnaya Literatura, 2002; and The World of the Eastern Philosophy: Past, Present, Future, Moscow: Vostochnaya Literatura, 2005. She has also edited about 30 books, among which the important ones are:
In English: History of Indian Philosophy: A Russian Viewpoint, New Delhi: ICPR, 1993; Justice and Democracy: Cross-cultural Perspectives (Co-edited with Ron Bontekoe), Honolulu: Hawaii University Press, 1997; and Comparative Ethics in a Global Age, Washington: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2006;
In Russian: Indian Philosophy: Encyclopedia, Moscow: Vostochnaya Literatura, 2010.
The deep interest shown in the philosophy and culture of one country by the scholars of another country is as old as the hills. The practice of scholars travelling to far-off countries in search of knowledge and wisdom existed in the ancient world just as widely as it exists in today’s world. This phenomenon, named by some scholars of modern times as “inter-cu1Wralit,” is an outstanding feature of many classical civilisations. Inter-culturality is an intellectual sign of the recognition on the part of one civilisation that values, similar to their own, exist in other civilisations and cultures. Thus inter-culturality is itself a high watermark of a culture and a measure of its high respect for “the other.”
Among many ancient civilisations, classical India was very well known far and wide, and, just as Indian traders and scholars visited other countries and cultures, traders and scholars from other cultures also visited India. The subcontinent of India became so wealthy in ancient times that it went on attracting through centuries a series of invaders, the last of them being the British who colonised India for close to two and a half centuries. One of the positive aspects of this colonisation was that it attracted many competent British scholars to make a detailed and deep study of languages, religions, arts and cultures of India. This resulted in India becoming well known among scholars of the world for its rich classical heritage.
While the British empire was busy colonising India, and even more so during post-independent days, many scholars from Europe and other parts of Asia also visited India and developed an inter-cultural interest in our subcontinent amongst whom the Russian scholars have definitely been in the forefront. The Russian interest in India has a long history, and the present book Russia Looks at India: A Spectrum of Philosophical Views, edited by Professor Marietta Stepanyants, is a remarkable attempt by a number of excellent Russian scholars at portraying their pursuits of, and interests in, India’s tradition and Indian philosophy. As pointed out above, this tradition of Russia’s interest in India is not something new or of recent origin; it has been coming down from an illustrious past very well known through a celebrated galaxy of scholars like Fyodor Stcherbatsky, Sergei Oldenburg with their colleagues and pupils. One of the glowing features of this book is its consistent attempt to overcome many of the difficulties which Western students encounter in studying Indian philosophy and also to remove many misunderstandings about it, such as that it is all illogical mysticism, that it is based upon some supernatural intuition, that it has no logical or contemporary relevance, and so on.
In many ways, this book addresses fresh issues in Indian philosophy and is a definite source of authentic information on modern researches relating to Indian philosophical issues. A good balance in the treatment of the religious! Theological/ aspects as well as epistemological/metaphysical aspects of different schools on an almost equal footing is found uniformly throughout the volume. Considering the multi-author character of this book, it naturally has its own built-in limitations that are not always easy to avoid, Howsoever, the editor has made a successful attempt to effect a balance between the philosophical contents from the most traditional systems of Indian thinking like Vasiesikas and Samkhya up to the most modern thinkers like Maulana Azad and Satchidananda Murty, and that is indeed a surprisingly welcome feature.
Conforming to the standardised pattern of exposition of the tenets of each school, explaining the basic as well as peculiar tenets of those schools, and critically analysing problems not addressed so far, this volume will be a fresh and welcome addition to the literature on Indian philosophy. Every essay in this volume has been written by a scholar who has admirable expertise in the system he/she is dealing with. This makes the book bristle not only with critical analysis but also with vigorous authenticity and citations of original texts, especially in all matters concerning the special points in expositions.
Looking at “the other” is never like looking at oneself. A person hardly perceives his / her own defects while he / she perceives most easily the defects in others. But here we have a very different case. The book mirrors the greatness of “the other” in relation to Russia, and this “other” is India, her invaluable philosophical tradition. The book reflects on “the other” with the admiration it deserves. This is the model for a book that cements the cultures of nations instead of raising the wall of differences on the basis of petty considerations, thus opening the doors of philosophical creativity for others to emulate.
One peculiar and delightful feature of this book is that in each chapter one finds a very new analysis and new turns of thought which add to the freshness of the existing Indian thinking instead of being just a repetition of old tenets. Other special features of the book are the comprehensive range of topics from Carväka to Maulana Azad, and its thorough discussions of the orthodox schools of Indian thought reaching right up to the most modem authors. More than all this, I admire the involvement and interest of the scholars who are critically doing Indian studies in Russia. All the essays reflect the neatness, precision, and critical thinking which are found in the pages of this book containing rare references and meticulous analysis.
It was with much more than a customary sense of pleasure and privilege that I received Professor Stepanyants’ request to write a Foreword to this collection of essays. On behalf of ICPR, I congratulate Professor Marietta Stepanyants whose genuine efforts and involvement have brought India and Russia much closer together, and we expect to have many more volumes from her and her colleagues to open up the world transcending the man-made boundaries and unite us in the realm of thinking.
If scholars from other countries bring together similar analyses and presentations of Indian philosophy from their own unique perspectives, we will be equally delighted to consider publishing them by the Council.
It was in the 1980s that the academic exchanges and co-operation between Indian and Russian philosophers received a really strong impetus. The reasons were both objective and subjective. The former were primarily connected with the political changes in Russia, which had brought radical changes in all spheres of public life, including the academic. As to the latter, one should keep in mind the personal efforts of a number prominent Indian philosophers who demonstrated a keen interest in the development of Indo-Russian co-operation. Professors K. Satchidananda Murty, D.P. Chattopadhyaya, Daya Krishna and Bhuvan Chandel deserve special mention in this context.
One of the tangible results of those efforts was the publication of History of Indian Philosophy: A Russian Viewpoint by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (1993).
About 15 years have passed since the publication of the above-mentioned collection of articles. Though it is a very short period historically, still much has happened during those years in the field of research on Indian philosophy. In fact, so much has happened that one can say that it has been the most fruitful period for the Russian studies in Indian philosophy. Allow me to point out the most important proofs of the above statement:
1. Never before so many translations have been made with highly qualitative commentaries within just a few years. Because of them, the Russian readers have, for the first time, a chance to read the basic texts representing practically all the other dar4anas besides Mimamsa. All these texts have been translated from Sanskrit.
2. The history of Russian Studies in the field of Indian philosophy does not know any other instance when in 15 years so many fundamental works were published. Most of them are in the series “History of Eastern Philosophies” which was founded by the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences in 1993.
3. The tradition of comparative studies initiated by Fyodor Stcherbatsky has been revived and developed. The launching of this tradition was initiated by two international symposiums which were held in Moscow. Their proceedings were published in 1993: God—Man— Society in Traditional Cultures of the East and Feminism: East-West-Russia. In 2000, the series Comparative Philosophy (ed. M. Stepanyants) was founded by the Institute of Philosophy. Three volumes have so far been published under this series. The first volume introduces to the Russian readers the history of comparative philosophy; the second volume is compiled from the articles contributed by the participants of the First Moscow International Conference on Comparative Studies “Comparative Ethics in a Global Age”; the third volume consists of the proceedings of the Second Moscow International Conference on Comparative Philosophy “Knowledge and Belief: Different Cultural Approaches.” In each case, the Indian approach to the discussed problems is compared with the Chinese, the Arab-Muslim and the Western views.
4. Russia did not include serious courses on either the history of Indian philosophy or on other philosophies of the East. For the first time, the systematic teaching of Indian philosophy along with Sanskrit classes was introduced when, in 1999, Mahatma Gandhi Chair of Indian Philosophy was established at the Institute of Philosophy in Moscow. Consequently, the first Russian manuals and textbooks on Indian philosophy have been composed and published.
5. Significant achievements in the field of Russian philosophical Indology made it possible to bring radical changes in encyclopedic publications. The most stunning examples of that are the New Philosophical Encyclopedia (Moscow, 2001) which includes about 350 articles on Indian philosophical schools, categories, notions, personalities, etc., and an impressive volume (of about 1000 pages) titled Indian Philosophy: Encyclopedia (ed. M. Stepanyants, Moscow, 2009).
The publication of Russia Looks at India: A Spectrum of Philosophical Views has been initiated by ICPR. The proposal has received very enthusiastic welcome by Russian scholars. In this edition, six new articles have been added to all the other articles published earlier, It has been done due to the following reasons. First, Mahatma Gandhi’s teaching of nonviolence has been radically re-evaluated in recent years. Gandhi’s views are justly assessed as relevant to the contemporary life of humanity. Second, the Russian scholars have started taking Indian philosophy as a vibrant tradition. Their high respect for the contributions of the leading contemporary Indian thinkers was clearly demonstrated by the publication of the book Alive Tradition: T0ZL’ards 75th Anniversary of the Indian Philosophical Congress (Moscow, 2000). Two articles in which tributes are paid to K. Satchidananda Murty and DY. Chattopadhyaya are included in this edition. Third, there is a new generation of scholars in the field of Indian philosophy who are yet unknown outside Russia. Hence the writings by Natalya Kanaeva and Ruzana Pskhu are presented to the readers. Fourth, by concluding the volume with the article by Sergey Serebriany we wish to invite the readers to look into the prospects and limits of the dialogue of cultures. The encounter” of Leo Tolstoy and Sri Ramakrishna proves that the assumption like the well-known dictum that “all great minds meet” should not be understood too literally. Great minds do differ quite often, especially if they belong to different cultures and to different traditions. It is also a fact that the differences between great minds are no less interesting and enlightening than their meeting points.
In conclusion, I would like to express profound gratitude to the ICPR, and in particular, to Professors K. Ramakrishna Rao and Godabarisha Mishra, who kindly suggested and also made all preparations for bringing out this volume.
The electronic version of the manuscript has been prepared by Lev Titlin, a Ph.D. student who represents the youngest generation of philosophical Indology in Russia.
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