A Post Modern Reading of Ancient Indian Philosophy

The major texts of ancient Indian Philosophy are the Samahitas, the Brahmanas, Aarnyakas and the Upanishads. The Samahitas are divided into the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda.

The Rig Veda contains songs of praise to Gods. Gods personified nature and they were represented as deities. Fire sacrifices have to be done to appease the Gods. There is no clear cut view as to whether Gods were singular or plural. The Vedic society also saw the development of Caste or the Varnas. There were four castes, the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas or the warriors, the Vaishyas, traders of merchants and the Shudras or the slaves. It was believed in Vedic Society that Brahmins have emanated from the mouth of God, the warriors from the arms and legs, the merchants from the legs and the slaves from the feet. A postmodern reading of this phenomenon would see how the priestly class rendered hegemony, separating themselves from the rest of the society. This theory of the origin of the caste system is inferior, autocratic, demeaning and mythical. The slaves or the Shudras had no rights and were subject to the whims and fancies of the other castes. A Brahmin could rape or have intercourse with a Shudra woman and no questions were asked. The sacred texts have an ideological apparatus that signifies dominion and subjugation. Another point of interest from the feminist position would be women were strictly debarred from practicing priestly rituals. Thus ancient Vedic society can be described as theocratic, autocratic and hegemonic.

The Vedas address the problem of creation of matter from a primordial substance. They also posit the existence of an absolute Self or a God Head. They are not sure of what this primordial substance was. If it was God, the questions to be asked are how or why did creation come into being. The question for Philosophy is, can matter evolve or come into fruition on its own. The Vedic texts on creation are vague and inarticulate. We can look at it, we see problems encountered in a text to articulate meanings. The texts in articulating meaning attain the ontological status of subjective solipsism. More than answers Vedic texts ask questions.

The Satpada Brahmana is a text that asks questions like what is man. What is his essence? What do his senses consist of? These questions have been given an ontological status as being, meaning, and a becoming of meaning. Post structuralism adheres to the status of the meaning of being as a textual norm where there is a binary divide of texts-were privileging and marginalization occur simultaneously. The status of being is an ontological problem and has never been redressed by philosophy to an ultimate goal.

Again the Vedic texts adhere to the goal of human life to become merged with God. Here the doctrine of Karma comes into being. Karma or acts determine the status of reincarnation. One can escape the cycle of birth and death only by good Karma. Reincarnation is a myth and is subjective. The nihilists adhere to the view that there is no purpose or meaning in life. Thus we come across Sartre’s famous dictum: man is condemned to be free. Karma in postmodernism is not a moral obligation but a factual necessity that perpetuates life. Good and Bad in Karma are relativistic phenomenon. Taking a psychological viewpoint one’s Ego and Id are controlled by the laws of the society the super Ego.

Next we come across the Caravaka school of thought. Caravaka espouses materialism and atheism. Some of the tenets of the Caravaka school are objects exist outside human consciousness. The world is subject to the laws of nature. Sense experience is the source of knowledge. The Caravaka School questioned Vedic religion of the soul being a vehicle of consciousness. They also emphasized that there is no existence outside death. Phenomenology in modern philosophy discusses the modality of consciousness. It is the subject that perceives, cognizes and experiences the data emanating from the senses. Human consciousness can be subjective or objective. It is subjective when experiencing love and it is objective when facts are being cognized. The secular view of life is that life is tinged with materialism. Life is driven by the pursuit of satisfying needs and wants. It was Marx’s philosophy that brought into existence the principal of dialectical materialism that of class struggle. Today we find all societies veering towards becoming capitalistic societies. Postmodern societies should be rooted in a materialism that is dialectical and human and that can be called humanistic materialism.

The Vysesika School adhered to the belief that everything is composed of atoms. This view is coherent with a scientific world view. Today we have embarked on to the existence of subatomic particles. A scientific world view cannot answer the questions of meaning, purpose and destiny. Human and life and its subjectivity are a poetic dialectics of rendering meaning. The reductionist view of Science has been combated by the postmodern philosophies. Meaning results in manifold articulations and cognition of meaning excluding a fact is subjective, personal and marked by emotional empathy and intimacy.

The Samakya School adhered to the view that there is a cause and effect in matter. For them there are Gunas or forces and those being Satva (light), Rajas motivation and tamas meaning heavy and restraining. The causality of matter is one of credibility. Motivation is an aspect of Human will and is dependent on the emotions placed on it. Light, and heavy and restraining have no conjectural possibilities. Their juxtaposition with matter is rather awkward. Their meaning is a rendition of incoherence. Talking of motivation, I would like to quote Schopenhauer,: The Will to Live and the Will to die.

Next I would like to embark upon Buddhism as a Philosophy. According to Buddhism, elements are a carrier of Dharma. Dharma here refers to the moral pinnacle. This is rather a fictitious view. Buddhism is not clear on what elements are. Dharma the moral code is enunciated in modern societies as the civil law. The world of phenomena is both empirical and transcendental. Here rests the dialectics of confusion. How can the world of the Phenomena be transcendental? Phenomena becomes objective and subjective facts for cognition and experiencing emotion. Buddhists do not stress on an absolute God but posit that the goal of life is salvation. This is very much similar to the Christian world view. Nirvana for the Buddhists is an exalted status. Salvation is a disputed entity. In a Christian World View it is essential for a person to be saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. In Buddhism salvation is self attainment. Buddhist view of salvation is rather anachronistic and it’s rather unclear on the means of attaining salvation. A more appropriate term would be the goal of self realization. The goal of self realization would be existentially meaningful. One has to come to terms with the acceptance of the self, its weaknesses and strengths.

Next we come across Yoga. Yoga is a philosophical system were we attain Samadhi or contemplation of the self through meditative techniques. Yoga has attained brand popularity in the world due to its unique systems of meditation using physical exercise. However the effectiveness of Yoga is yet to be ascertained. The earth is not going to fall down if one does not do Yoga. One need not meditate to attain the tranquility of the mind. Inner joy does not rest on meditation but is a quality that emanates from within.

Valda Udley

Next Post

Teleseminar Marketing Funnel Number 1: Free Q and A Teleseminar to Paid Class

Wed Feb 8 , 2023
If you can speak well over the telephone, you can use teleseminars (topical, prearranged conference calls) to give people interested in your topic a sample of what you know and teach. Then you invite them to sign up for a paid telecourse or other kind of teaching program. This is […]
Teleseminar Marketing Funnel Number 1: Free Q and A Teleseminar to Paid Class

You May Like