Thanks to reader Kaanganeya for pointing me to this excellent interview where S.N. Balagangadhara (Baalu) shares his thoughts on certain fundamentals, which he says need heavy redefining. I’ll add my random bits here.
The current theoretical framework is firmly embedded within Western cultural history and proves inadequate when it comes to studying non-Western traditions. The framework therefore needs rethinking.
And I agree with a lot of things he says. He begins well by asking the right questions:
The definition will only come later. We would first need some kind of description. We will look at traditions first. Is it possible to demarcate traditions? Can we, for example, say that Buddhist traditions are completely different from Advaitin traditions? Do they overlap? Where do you draw the line? Should you draw the line? Why draw the line? These are the kinds of questions that will be asked.
While Baalu himself mentions it in the interview, I find it relevant to repeat it here: think about the sources of an "average" Indian knowing something about his own religion? All sources are either direct Western interpretations, or "native" reinterpretations of Western interpretations. Besides, there’s little or nil by way of hardcore Hindu philosophy taught even at graduate and postgraduate levels in our universities. The results are visible everywhere: even well meaning–genuine "liberals" club Hinduism into the pantheon of Abrahamic religions, which have had disastrous influences historically and conclude that "all religions are equally insane." As Baalu rightly points out, even a scholar as renowned as Radhakrishnan is guilty of this in little measures:
So far Indian philosophers like Dr. S.Radhakrishnan have only been reproducing what Western philosophers have been saying about us.
Incidentally, Dr.Radhakrishanan’s two-volume work on Indian Philosophy is pretty tame compared to a tightly-packed, feature-rich Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy by Chandradhar Sharma or one of Ananda Coomaraswamy’s numerous works or even M.Hiriyanna’s awesome Quest after Perfection. Anyway, it is mysterious how most Western scholars for more than hundred years overlooked considering this crucial aspect before studying Hinduism:
First of all, we have no religion in India and even philosophy, as the West knows it, is absent. But what we have is something different. We have experience. We have reflection on experience. We ask a different set of questions to what the Western philosopher asks. Experience, in occidental philosophy, is confused with sensations, or emotions, or feelings, or thoughts. But experience is actually all of this. It is not identical to any of these. It is what we call anubhava, which roughly translates asâ€œhaving an appropriate way of being in the worldâ€. This knowledge that Indians have developed over the last 3,000 years belongs to all humankind…
The Upanishads give us the best examples of experience and reflection thereupon. The Bhriguvalli for example, gives us a glimpse into how a student was taught: learning by experience. The student graduates to successively higher stages of experience till he expounds the knowledge he has gained from each experience. At best, Western philosophy is a series of feats in logic.