Vada, meaning debates, dialogues discussions, was the quintessential of Indian spirit, enabling and promoting the
growth of different philosophical and knowledge systems of India. It percolated deep into our mindset and
enriched the moral, ethical, religious and sociocultural edifice of anything that was essentially Indian in nature.
As continuation of Anviksiki from the BC era, uada helped thrive Indian traditional knowledge systems. It
subsists on diversity and its tradition envisages pluralism.
Most of our Sanskrit works, covering a wide gamut of knowledge systems, are structured in the techniques of
debate. This reality applies not only to the philosophical writings, but to Indian medical systems (Ayurveda),
Arthasastra of Kautilya and kamasutra of Vatsyayana as well. Even great epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata
are no exceptions.
Vada culture involved verbal duals, attacks and even violence of speech, and all major religious systems-old or
modern-were parties to it. This book also elucidates how vata was vital and critical for the growth of our socio-
political fabrics. it shows how some of the major conflicts in philosophical systems were centred around karma,
jnana, choice between violence and non-violence, pravrtti and nivrtti. It also presents the manifestations of vada
on a vast canvas during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Modern spiritual and religious gurus like Ramana
Maharshi, J. Krishnamuriti and Vinoba Bhave were men of dialogues. Our scholars have applied the varied
techniques of vada against the philosophical and scientific systems of the West to prove them correct.
This collector’s issue should enthralla a wide audience of philosophers, scholars and believers in Indian
Prof. Radhavallabh Tripathi is known for his original contributions to literature as well as for his studies on
Natyasastra and Sahityasastra. He has published 162 books, 227 research papers and critical essays. He has
received 35 national and international awards and honours for his literary contributions.
He has been referred in various research journals on Indology. Research for PhD has been completed as well as is
being carried on his creative writings in Sanskrit in a number of universities. Three journals brought out special
numbers on his writings. Seven books comprising studies on his creative and critical writings by other authors
This monograph is mainly the result of studies conducted by me as a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced
Study, Shimla; during the year 2014-15. My areas of study were sahityasastra (Literary Theory) and Natyasastra
(Theory of Drama and Theatre). But as a teacher and researcher, I have always remained conscious of the vitality
of vada-which is roughly translated for the purpose of this work as a category involving theory and practice of
intellectual debates, dialogues and discussions. Traditional knowledge systems in India thrived because of vada.
These traditional systems have been subjected to a general negligence during the last two centuries or have been
largely misrepresented. There has been an overemphasis on spirituality and religion in the recent studies on the
ancient Indian knowledge systems, and the disciplines having a focus with logic and arguments remained
sidetracked. Anviksiki (logic and investigation) was a major discipline which was highly valued in BCE. era. K.
Satchidanada Murty rightly points out that “the study of classical philosophy in India has been dominated by
darsana-concept, ignoring the Anviksiki-concept of philosophy”. A revisit to the theories and practices of vada
will hopefully lead to viewing these knowledge systems in their right perspective.
Vada subsists on diversity. No vada is possible if there is only one point of view. Also, vada does not happen in
singularity, it always is a prerequisite to the other and mostly promotes the presence of many others. India’s
history of ideas and debates presents a multilinear view. The tradition of vada envisages pluralism. The learned
editors of Isibhasiyain, a neglected work, but immensely valuable for understanding the Indian vada, tell us that
during the days of Mahavir there were as many as theories discussed under four well-known sects. Vada vitalized
intellectual life and the seers, monks and intellectuals in the asramas, viharas and samghas.
I have used the Sanskrit term vada in a broad sense here and have given its nearest approximation-"debate" in
bracket where vada is used to denote a restricted sense. The seven chapters of this book deal with various aspects
of the theory and practice of vada. Since no comprehensive study in this field has so far been made (the works by
Amartya Sen and A. Raghuramaraju merely touch its fringes, and the work by Esher Solomon mostly takes up the
dialectic divergences) and the present study is intended to be a groundwork only, it was not possible for me to go
deep into so many versatile aspects of study on vada. The use of the word "Indian" in the subtitle may be termed
as a misnomer. Owing to my limitations, I have mostly used Sanskrit sources for the treatment of vada in theory
and practice. But the intention was not to keep this work confined only to Sanskrit traditions of vada; I have tried
to include alternate or parallel traditions. Reference to Naryosang, Al-Beruni, Dara Shikoh or the works like
Dabistan-e-mazahib, how so ever insufficient and scanty they may be, do indicate a broad framework for a study
I hope that this book will prove how vital and important vada-comprising theories and practices of debate,
dialogue and discussion-has been, not only for the growth of our knowledge systems and ideologies, but also for
our socio-political fabrics. Vada was cultivated in India's intellectual discourses to project the distinct nature and
uniqueness of each concept. This was possible through the frank admittance of both the agreements and the
disagreements. Samvada (correspondence) and vivada (difference) are two faces of vada. Texts like Isibhasiyain
and Sastravartasamuccaya of Haribhadra Suri could be composed because of the first, whereas the second
inspired a vast mass of philosophical literature. But then, there are inherent correspondences in the difference
and the differences loom large when correspondences are being sought out. Gaudapada categorically said in
Mandukyakarika IV.99 that he has not borrowed from Buddha, but his concept of vijnana or consciousness as the
Ultimate Reality and the world appearing due to the diverse nature of vijnana together with the examples he has
given to illustrate his thesis are derived from Buddhism. A little intriguing example of such correspondence is
Sankaracarya himself. He vehemently criticized Buddhist philosophies, but beneath a very intense tussle and
difference of outlook, there is an inherent acceptance of the Vijnanvadin for which he is also labelled as a
Buddhist in disguise (pracchannabaudha), no by a section of modern scholars alone, but by some of the
adherents, of classical non-dualist philosophers like Vedantadesika, an extraordinary philosopher-poet of
thirteenth century and a nephew of Ramanuja. F. Stcherbatsky and Dhirendra Sharma have shown that by begging
to differ with his guru Kumarila on the nature of abhava (non-existence), Prabhakara denied the status of a
pramana to abhava and thus followed the path of Dharmakirti, a well-known Buddhist logician; and hence he
was decried as “a friend of the Buddhists" (bauddhabandhuh).
It is true that we find a lot of manoeuvring in vadas. But this has contributed to maturing a particular system of
ideas. The search for truth led the seeker to traverse on diverse paths.
Intellectual discourses in India have remained so much argumentative that most of the works written in Sanskrit
under diverse knowledge systems are structured in the techniques of debate. This applies not only to
philosophical writings but to works belonging to medical sciences (Ayurveda) or works related to the
management of society and life like Arthasastra of Kautilya or Kamasutra of Vatsyayana. There are texts that
have been thoroughly structured through vada.
Some of the issues that have repeatedly surfaced in vadas are concerned with the conflict between karma (action)
and jnana (knowledge), choice between violence and non-violence, the clash between two ideologies-pravrtti
(empiricism) and nivrtti (renunciation) and these still persist in modern India in some form or the other. The
doctrine of cumulative pursuit of karma and jnana continued till sankara vehemently discarded it.
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