What is the center of Indian philosophy?

Karl Potter (Presuppositions of Indian Philosophies, see here) relates all Indian philosophical systems to the fact that they are goal-oriented and all seek mokṣa ‘liberation’. Jonardon Ganeri (in his History of Philosophy in India, with Peter Adamson) introduces the subject in a similar way (see here), speaking of the fact of seeking the “highest good”. As often the case, Daya Krishna disagrees:

The deliberate ignoring of [the] […] twentieth century discussion […] is only a symptom of that widespread attitude which does not want to see Indian philosophy as a rationcinative enterprise seriously engaged in argument and counter-argument in its long history and developing […]. This, and not mokṣa, is its life-breath as it is sustained and developed by it. Those, and this includes almost everybody, who think otherwise believe also that Indian philosophy stopped growing long ago. (The Nyāya Sūtras: A new commentary on an old text, p. 8)

What do you think? Is there a common core to all Indian philosophical schools?

Is philosophy an involution of Buddhism (and other religions)?

This is more or less the thesis advanced by Jayarava in his longest comment on this post.

The idea is that the (Buddhist) religion is primarily experiential and that philosophy is a later reification which misses the main point at stake and moves the emphasis away from what really counts. Moreover, in the case of Buddhism (but I am inclined to think that no other theology would survive Jayarava’s analysis) the result is full of inner contradictions and does not stand a critical inquire.

Thus, why engaging in philosophical thought, if you care for a given religion? Why entering a field in which you will loose anyway, since sooner or later a new development in, say, physics or neurosciences will show that you are at least partly wrong?

A possible answer would be to claim that natural sciences and theology do not speak about the same things (a claim Jayarava appears to refute). Moreover, one might claim that human beings naturally try to understand (as in Aristotle). But are there positive reasons for engaging in philosophy if one comes from a religious standpoint? Let us consider Giordano Bruno’s paradoxical words on this topic (as you will all know, Giordano Bruno was a Catholic priest and philosopher who was burnt on 17.2.1600 because of his heretic ideas —this sonet praises the ignorance of those who do not question anything, as if this were a moral virtue):


Oh sant’asinità, sant’ignoranza,
Santa stoltizia, e pia divozione,
Qual sola puoi far l’anime si buone,
Ch’uman ingegno e studio non l’avanza!

Non gionge faticosa vigilanza
D’arte, qualunque sia, o invenzione,
Né di sofossi contemplazione
Al ciel, dove t’edifichi la stanza.

Che vi val, curiosi, lo studiare,
Voler saper quel che fa la natura,
Se gli astri son pur terra, fuoco e mare?

La santa asinità di ciò non cura,
Ma con man gionte e ’n ginocchion vuol stare
Aspettando da Dio la sua ventura.

Nessuna cosa dura,
Eccetto il frutto dell’eterna requie,
La qual ne done Dio dopo l’esequie!

Beginningless time and a nice whish from Veṅkaṭanātha

“[Obj.:] Then, let it be that there is a beginning in the liberated beings (i.e., that there is a point in time in which conscious beings started achieving liberation). Before that, there would be no liberated one.
[R:] There is no contradiction in the idea of a continuous and beginningless succession of liberated [beings]. For, it is not the case that someone who was ab initio liberated is then bound. In this case the liberation (and not the bondage) would be something to be realised, which is contradictory. Rather, all beings, bound ab initio liberate themselves, the one after the other, when they get the way”.

(atha mukteṣv ādiḥ, sa kathaṃ tvayā viditaḥ? tataḥ pūrvaṃ muktābhāvād iti cet, tam api kathaṃ vettha? anādimuktau vyāghātād iti cen na; muktapravāhe vyāghātābhāvāt | na hy anādimuktaḥ kaścid badhyate, sādhyamokṣo vā bhavet, yena vyāghātas syāt; kiṃ tu, anādibaddhās sarve ´pi labdhopāyāḥ krameṇa mucyante |, autocommentary on TMK 2.25)

The permanence of time and the radical alterity of mokṣa seem to create a tension here.
Does it entail that each one of today’s beings will be liberated, sooner or later? In other words, do all possiblities need to actualise themselves sooner or later in an endless time?

Alexis Sanderson on Pleasure and Emotions in Tantric Śaiva Soteriology

Sanderson is always an incredibly fascinating speaker. In this conference he discusses the dialectics of Śaivism and “orthodox Hinduism”: It is not only the case that Śaiva authors tried to be accepted as “orthodox Hindūs” and “orthodox Hindūs” tried to block them. By contrast, on both sides there were trends towards assimilation and resistance to these trends.


(Full disclosure: I have discussed a similar case of a complex dialectical relationship —this time between Pāñcarātra Vaiṣṇava theology and “orthodox Hindūism”— in an article to be published in the proceedings of IIGRS 4).

Plurality of subjects in Mīmāṃsā: Kiyotaka Yoshimizu 2007

Is the plurality of subjects compatible with the idea of a Vedāntic kind of liberation (in which there seems to be no distinction among different souls)? And can there be an absolute brahman if there are still distinct subjects?