Why Daya Krishna?

I just noticed that the one I published yesterday was my tenth post on Daya Krishna. Since I usually dedicate that many posts only to Classical Indian philosophers, this might demand some explanations. Why engaging with contemporary Indian philosophers? And why Daya Krishna in particular?

I am generally interested in thinking people, who often happen to be philosophers, but might as well be anthropologists, linguists, scientists and so on, and in this sense I will not start by explaining why on earth I read philosophical texts. However, I have to admit that I started reading contemporary Indian philosophers (back in 2002) because I hoped to better understand classical Indian philosophy through their eyes. Even before that time, I had read B.K. Matilal’s works or J.N. Mohanty’s ones (not to speak of J. Ganeri’s ones) not for Matilal’s or Mohanty’s sake, but as a way of approaching Nyāya, Navya Nyāya or phenomenology. Reading K.C. Bhattacharya seemed to me like a continuation of that line of thought (following the steps of great forerunners). However, K.C. Bhattacharya proved to be too difficult to work as a doorway to something else and too interesting not to be read for his own sake.

Long story short: I read Daya Krishna (and further contemporary Indian philosophers) for their own sake, as I would read Kripke or Austin. No matter what he engages in, he offers an ever-fresh vision of things, relentlessly looking for what a text or an idea mean and not just for what one is used to think that they should mean. Daya Krishna’s work blossoms with openness to the “other” point of view hiding in texts, ideas or concepts: He is not content with the usual or the conventional and is clearly annoyed by whoever is. He constantly seeks for a counter-perspective, and should his ideas have become mainstream in one or the other field, he would have probably challenged his audience to question them again, always looking for prairies of thinking which could have allowed room for creative and yet rigorous enquires.

On top of that, Daya Krishna has for me the additional appeal of being interested in things I myself find interesting, such as Nyāya’s epistemology or Mīmāṃsā’s difficult relation with ritualists —something very rare in other philosophers who, especially in the West, are often rather pray to the fascination of the “new” and would not spend too much energy in the exegesis of an obscure school of Indian philosophy. By contrast, Daya Krishna does not seem to be ready to close a topic unless he has fully understood what is at stake, no matter if this has become outdated by new researches in the meantime (think of his invitations to Kashmir Sufis who were and are for opposite reasons —being too much or too little “Islamic”— often neglected both in Pakistani and Indian philosophical and theological discourses).

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

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5 thoughts on “Why Daya Krishna?

  1. Hi Elisa,
    I was reading your introduction on the Reuse of Texts in Indian Philosophy (congratulations!), which is in my view very interesting for the cross-cultural question of what originality means… I had this spontaneous thought in mind though, while reading it (with all the naivety of a spontaneous question on which I didn’t really reflect long…) and thinking about DK. DK was someone who tried to reinforce ‘creativity’ among Indian philosophers, criticizing also thereby the historical exegetic attitude, finding there a problem for a contemporary liveliness of philosophical creativity. It’s true that he criticizes less the comments, reuses and textual traditions themselves than the contemporary attitude of philosophers. However, this attitude is even now, I guess, in some parts retrieved from an exegetical tradition, isn’t it? Would you say that his account on creativity (as an attitude of reusing texts rather than on the reused texts themselves) is compatible with ‘your’ account on originality and creativity from the reuse of text?

    • Chère Elise,

      this is a very interesting comment, thanks! I think that authors like Dayaji (from a different perspective, the same applies to Jiddu Krishnamurti) wanted to break with the (Orientalistic?) depiction of India as “traditional” and “respecting the authorities”. Accordingly, they showed the importance of being responsible for one’s independent judgement —a responsibility no one else (not even an important authority) can take away from us.
      Now, this moral and intellectual imperative has little to do with one’s “copyright” on one’s ideas. Take the case of some academic milieus (here is an instance) where it is important to say something “original” and to have it in one’s name: The result is often that one wants/needs to specialise on a very restricted topic (how could one say something original on the general topic of “free will”?). Paradoxically, thus, the importance of originality may lead to defensive attitudes and not to independent judgements. By contrast, if the “dictatorship of originality” does not hold —as it did not hold within a darśana in Classical India, one can engage with great ideas. Sure, one needs to do that while confronting the ideas of one’s forerunners. In this sense, one is always bound. But (the simile is of Benedetto Croce about Dante) the muscles of a bound giant can appear even more clearly exactly due to the chains constraining them.