Daya Krishna’s “Creative Encounters with Texts”

Daya Krishna was an Indian philosopher, a rationalist and iconoclast, who constantly tried to question and scrutinise acquired “truths”. The main place for such investigations was for him a saṃvāda ‘dialogue’. That’s why he also strived to organise structured saṃvāda inviting scholars from different traditions to debate about a specific problem. The minutes of such dialogues have been published in Saṃvāda and Bhakti.

Shail Mayaram, in the introduction of a book dedicated to Daya Krisna and Ramchandra Gandhi, Philosophy as Samvad and Svaraj adds some interesting information about the saṃvādas which have no written record:

A dialogue on bhakti attempted to universalize the phenomenon of devotion and encourage thinking about it philosophically. A dialogue on Śilpaśāstra was held in Amber, Jaipur and brought together traditional sthapatis and architects. I […] was fortunate to be present at the dialogue on Kāshmir [sic!] Śaivism (with a special session in an open ground in Gulmarg). […] Subsequently, two dialogues were held in Lucknow and Hydearabad.

Within the same volume, Mustafa Khawaja reproduces the letter of invitation sent by Daya Krishna to scholars of Islamic philosophy. Daya Krishna predominantely wrote in English, but he was well aware of the risk of neglecting other languages. Thus, the saṃvādas were open to scholars speaking in different languages (as attested also by the proceedings mentioned above) and Daya Krishna was very keen to listen also to marginal philosophical traditions (such as that of the Islamic theologians speaking Urdū). Also the invitation letter is written in two languages and is full of open questions to be debated.
Nonetheless, this openness did not always work. Mayaram writes:

I remember the meeting of the scholars’ group including Daya Krishna, Ram Chandra Dwivedi, Arindam Chakrabarti and Mukund Lath with Laxman Joo, then celebrated as one of the greatest living exponents of the school of philosophy that is popularly known as Kashmir Saivism [I would rather speak of the Pratyabhijñā school, EF]. Laxman Joo responded to their questions with complete silence. […] After their departure, he asked Bettina Bäumer, yeh nāstik kaun the [Who were those non-believers?]

This is an interesting point, because dialogue cannot be imposed on someone, its very “democratic” structure makes this impossible. Thus, what to do with those who do not want to speak? Or is dialogue among people not sharing the same presuppositions (e.g., the same religious praxis) impossible?

On Daya Krishna and his volume on bhakti, see this post and this one respectively. On English as the predominant language, some interesting comments can be read at this post and at the linked ones. I am grateful to Elise Coquereau for sending me a copy of Shail Mayaram’s article.

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

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