Is bhakti a philosophy? Daya Krishna 2000

I am grateful to Elise Coquereau for bringing me back to one of my past interests, namely Daya Krishna‘s philosophy. Daya Krishna was a polyedric genius, who wrote on economics, sociology, history of Western and Indian Philosophy, aesthetics, etc., always with a revolutionary and unconventional spirit. He was able to question some of the “myths” of current Indological studies (such as the existence of “Vedānta” in the first half of the first millennium AD, or the division of Hindu philosophy into six schools) and to engage with classical texts without the usual (and often paralysing) awe. He engaged with all sorts of texts and authors, classical as well as contemporaries, with the same open mind:

[…] we have to develop a living relationship with India’s part and to treat it as living […]. [W]hen one treats the traditions as living, one criticises them. One does not venerate them; one does not treat them as sacrosanct (p. 5).

I hope that this is enough to explain why reading Daya Krishna is a worthwile and enlivening enterprise, both for philosophers and for scholars of Sanskrit philosophy.
His Bhakti: A contemporary discussion is the report of a discussion held in Vṛndāvana on the possibility of using bhakti ‘devotion to God’ as an intellectual frame. Is it possible to turn upside down the anti-intellectualism of (part of the) bhakti tradition and see it as an intellectual enterprise?

Is there such a thing as a philosophical tradition of bhakti in India and if so what is it? (p. 9)

Now, if I were to answer, I would think of Veṅkaṭanātha’s philosophical poems and his way of finding a way to speak of bhakti in Mīmāṃsā terms (the sacrificial apūrva, the ‘what has to be done’, is equated to pleasing God). I would also recall the work of Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmī, so that it almost seems to me that the answer is too clearly affirmative. It is moreover one of the fields where one can look for ethical reflections and finally find them (ethics is usually not a separate branch of knowledge in classical Indian philosophy).
In fact, one of the participants of the debate, K.V. Archak (about whom I do not know anything else and welcome suggestions by the readers, perhaps especially by Indian ones) took a position quite similar to Anselmus’ credo ut intelligam, intelligo ut credam:

भक्त्या ज्ञानं ततो भक्तिः
Through bhakti, there is knowledge and from knowledge there is bhakti (p. 19).

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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2 thoughts on “Is bhakti a philosophy? Daya Krishna 2000

  1. According to Rūpa Gosvāmī, practical philosophy, yes. Theoretical philosophy, no: svalpāpi rucir eva syād bhaktitattvāvabodhikā / yuktis tu kevalā naiva yad asyā apratiṣṭhatā / yatnenāpādito py arthaḥ kuśalair anumātṛbhiḥ / abhiyuktatarair anyair anyathaivopapadyate (BhRAS 1.1.45-46)