The spectacle of philosophic march during the past fifty years present certain definite outlines at this distance. We have in turn witnessed the growth of the spiritual movements of Ramakrishna--Vedanta which has spread itself all over the globe and has influenced deeply the minds of young men yearning for meaning of life in terms of that which is transcendent. In fact if we consider that explanation is always in terms of causes and grounds, the ground and causal origin of man and his inner essence has been shewn to be the transcendent All. A wide humanity has entailed the service of that humanity labouring towards its meaning. Neither Man nor humanity have any meaning apart from this Transcendent One Spirit. That this ancient doctrine of Advaita or Oneness (Ekatva of the Self or God or Brahman) has found a verifiable medium in Sri Ramakrishna- Vivekananda has a meaning for the development of Indian philosophy.
1 Dr. S. Radhakrishnan Souvenir Volume – 5th September 1964.
This is the Ramakrishna Darsana which almost swept South Indian scene. Men turned to Philosophy not for a career but for an illumination. Dark though the atmosphere was, fully clouded by the activities of the foreign missionaries and in a sense encouraged by them to study for ourselves their great literature, this spiritual light handed to us by this Darsana had helped a better appreciation of the West as well as the East, and though at the beginning patriotic it has finally become universalistic, belonging to no nation or peoples or countries as such. Philosophical thought rightly depending upon the universal realistic mystic realization attained a force but it had tended to become idealistic--something to be achieved rather than something attained. One can almost hazard a statement that true mysticism is realistic universalism whereas philosophy is idealistic universalism in so far as such philosophy depends on mystic truths.
No wonder the growth of Philosophy in the Academics has been idealistic. The most important thinker of this is certainly our President, Dr. Radhakrishnan. He has shewn that philosophy is idealistic and cannot remain however merely limited to explaining all by means of ideas, those products of thought, but must yearn towards the ideal of being. Brahmavid must become or strain towards the attainment or becoming of Brahman (Brahmaiva bhavati). Bur this lag between being and becoming is most difficult to surmount. Philosophy may find its hunt very satisfying and stimulating but its non-attainment of the ideal, qua ideal, becomes rather a source of dissatisfaction. It is true that man as man and trying to remain human will find it difficult indeed to seek that which goes beyond the human or to a level of de-humanization or super-humanization. However a gradualness in the march would almost extinguish the difference between the human and the super-human to be. The transitions from jiva to atman, and from atman to brahman have to be achieved through gradual culture of values and value seeking in terms of the human world. The Humanism that Dr.Radhakrishnan counsels is not remote from the trans-humanism towards which he leads the thoughts and hearts of men. It is not a merely epistemological humanism or social humanism that tries to justify the non-valuational human; it is precisely the integration of the higher and superior than human which the human seeks and yearns after as his ideals with the life of the world and all that it means, that would lead to the appreciation of the human as a seeker after the eternal, the unborn, and the universal. The characteristic practicality of this human idealism lies in its yearning after universal values already envisioned by its seers all over the globe and all through time and history. That is why the secret of Radhakrishnan lies in its innate homeliness to human being, yearning for the realization of the eternal in one's life. But the vast labour of comparative philosophical research and mystical experience has gone into this prodigious work of transforming mere man into a universalized human being seeking the values that count for all and for harmony. So near has this humanistic idealism been to that of the ethical idealism of Gandhiji that it has been not very difficult for Dr. Radhakrishnan to join the forces of ethical idealism, that paves the way for a dynamic participation in life's global efforts to solve the problems of survival not of men only but of values mainly. This humanist approach whilst it had seized the minds of the common man, has unfortunately the tendency to give up the emotional stimulation which has been the strong point in the Vivekananda Darsana. The Vision of the ascetic has the strong suggestions of courage and adventure, whilst the vision of the humanist has rather a mellow attraction. When however the philosophers of the colleges had settled down to make philosophy just a pastime and a game, if became clear that other disciplines like economics and other sciences and history gain an advantage. For though 'ideas have legs' and they do travel, it is clear that only those ideas which also ensoul an ideal and are dynamic, travel at all. Ideas may not be blind but they are lame almost remembering the Samkhyan analogy—andha pangu nyaya. But an ideal is not blind to carry an idea and there this analogy breaks. A greater light and power to creativity is in the ideal that is Real, whereas in the human world there are certain ideals which have an illusive nature. Through man's history one could see how illusory ideals have side-stepped and arrested his movement and evolution. But it is precisely these ideals that have come under the fire of philosophical dialectics. The great seers of all times have seen that man must firstly be trained towards seizing the real and permanent universal ideals, ideals that can unceasingly inspire man towards the realizations of harmony and peace.
The ideals of the human race on the whole to which Dr. Radhakrishnan contributed not a little to unravel through his philosophic approach of comparative appraisal and appreciation have been Peace and Harmony and goodwill and understanding that makes for mutual cooperation and sympathy. It has become clear also that as in the relationships between individuals and individuals so too between nations and nations, communities and communities, the values of truth, non-injury, non-passion and non-possession and in a word restraint in thought and word and deed is necessary. A life that is not based on the twin principles of truth and ahimsa cannot hope to attain freedom from fear and sorrow. It is not necessary for this purpose to think even of an eternal life but yama is necessary. The philosophical development outside was political and Gandhian, the philosophical development inside the academies were Radhakrishnan; and comparative Indian Philosophy gained much incentive and inspiration from him. A whole school of thought developed under its wings, though there has unfortunately been a lack of interest in philosophical study and since 1930 it has been very difficult in South India to get students to take Interest in its study. In fact people began to feel that philosophers were a useless lot for the political work before the nation and this inference though unjustified has worked adversely to philosophical studies. It is true that owing to other factors as well philosophical studies have suffered. These factors are individual and social, deterioration of standards, and employment-possibilities so called had led to its becoming an unwelcome and uninspiring study at college and universities. However if appears that it is not by providing employment possibility that its studies could be improved, but by making the philosophic mind itself a necessary cultural attitude whatever discipline one opts for his employment or hobby. It should be the part of one's general education for it is that that would finally make one live a human life. It appears almost an irony that other humanities which concern man but which dehumanize him – I refer mainly to the commercial humanities like economics have been encouraged by Governments and other cultural bodies for promoting humanities and not philosophy. A robust philosophy needs a robust philosophical approach in terms of science and thought disciplines which are generally needed for all, and also a strict ethical conscience has to be cultivated. As Sri Krishna long ago stated, it is abhyasa that helps the control of asocial and contra-ideal conduct and helps the appreciation of the Universal Good that is achieved by devotion to its attainment. Today we have a cynical set of philosophers and educationists who consider that merely adumbrating or repeating slogans achieve the inward discipline in students. Student indiscipline comes for a deep sore in social conscience – the regard for the basic values of life and disinclination to achieve ideals based on the largest universal experience of sages. Men are making themselves meaningless – they yearn towards nihilism – and call it search for happiness: in their search for materialism.
This is the present impasse in philosophical studies. No great galvanizing force in academies has risen and modem western brands of linguistic analysis and so on boredoms are sure to be incapable of rousing any deep interest in it. But Philosophy cannot die, though philosophers may fail.
We have in the meanwhile had a new darsana-the Aurobindo darsana - the philosophy of integral realization and evolution - this darsana is indeed original, though it is based on the most ancient thought. If the Ramakrishna Vivekananda philosophy or Vision more correctly erected itself on the Vedanta of Sankara which of course it had to interpret on the lines of reconciliation of the phenomenal world to the Noumenal,--at least in respect of such work or service as would help transform it into the noumenal or help individuals caught up in the world of ignorance to escape it or cross over t, the darsana of Sri Aurobindo erects itself on the basic realizations of the Vedic seers and Rsis of the Upanishads going behind the commentators of the Vedanta darsana. This difference has made for the reaction against the Sankara tradition fostered and accepted by the first. The darsana of Sri Aurobindo calls itself Purna-yoga or Purna darsana-an integral Vision and integral Union with the Ultimate Reality. The word 'Integral' is more meaningful than the word 'full', for 'full' may be homogeneous One but the integral is the unity of the many, a unity that reveals identity in and through the many. His integral Reality is all-embracing Vision and Intelligence and Delight of Being. But it is in his exploitation of the notion of evolution, an ascent of all existence through the terms of matter (inconscience), life (sub-conscient), mind (conscient) and supraconscient (sub-liminal) as evolutionary integrative unity of planes and laws and movements that has given his philosophy the distinctive note of Real Idealism. It is not an utopian idealism of the philosophers but the Real Idealism of divine Evolution that makes his darsana a fulfilment of the mystical realism of the Vedic seer. Today, it is clear that to those who see that the human is not the ideal realized, that the ideal for man is far ahead and beyond him, Sri Aurobindo's darsana has a strong appeal. It does not content itself to perceive truth through the many-coloured glass of comparative religion and philosophy, for after all it is a human seeing that has not transcended the darkening effect of its limitations. Though the yearning and faith in the possibility of discovering the universal insight is strong in philosophic idealism of Sri Dr. Radhakrishnan, in Sri Aurobindo the reality of it is attained and the darkness and cloudiness of idealism passes leaving the Reality without veil of waveringness. The approach to the Reality and its nearness to realisational condition marks a great step in philosophical understanding in Sri Aurobindo. The ideal is pitched beyond man, but it does not negate man but fulfils him and its appeal to the heart is firmer and not merely brainy and intellectual.
The purna-darsana is a recovery of a great dynamic truth veiled in the most ancient world literature. Sri Aurobindo finds that it is also the most comprehensive spiritual document of all eternity which the rest of the universe has profited by unwittingly. It is no longer through inductive generalizations and probabilities that the mind of man has to move. It does not of course mean that authoritarianism has come hack to philosophy and the heavy hand of Vedic thought-rite and being would settle on man's mind which Buddha and Mahavira and other lesser lights have thrown off. Indeed the phenomena of J. Krishnamurti almost suggests this fear of tradition slipping back to arrest man and his freedom through the garbled interpretations of Theosophy and renascent Hinduism including those of Sri Aurobindo. His constant emphasis on the need to liberate thought, not only includes a liberation of thought from the confines of philosophic systems and jargon (which has been quite Vrtra of the Vedic symbolism) but also from the political and social and other equally binding forces of social life and being. It is liberation of the very being from all thought that is achieved at that exquisite point of tension that dialectical thought imposes in some queer form or other. The philosophic attitude of dialectical analysis is indeed helpful in so far as it leads one to that point when it transcends itself in experience. In other words, thought’s transition to being is achieved by intense vigilant awareness of its own being: it leads to its own expiry and transcendence. The method of purposive doubt is precisely to arrive at that self conscious or trans-thought being at the moment of extraordinary vigilance. To such a darsana it is clear that all traditional thought and myth and system is alien and obstructive of Vision or existence-awareness. Whilst some may think this ought to lead to nihilism or Absolute Nihil that is mystical transcendence of Being itself, it does not appear to be just another version of either Zen or Ouspensky.
All trends of thought and existence have had a resurgence during the past fifty years. Great movements of thought and religion and mysticism have influenced deeply the moulds of philosophic understanding. However one does not see any real reorientation of human minds to the larger dynamic possibilities open to the spirit of mao or the spirit of God immanent in man. South Indian philosophers have indeed to be grateful to Dr.Radhakrishnan and J.Krishnamurti for their work of incubation of the philosophic eggs so to speak but much warming has also been done by the great work of Sri Aurobindo and Gandhiji. These are in a profound sense not regional men but universal men, on a universal mission, human and divine, for the separation of the two is impossible. We are already passing to a stage when we can say that there can be only one philosophy for mankind-the spiritual universal integral—neither Indian or Eastern nor Western.
It is true that all the thinkers or philosophers or seers we have mentioned above are deeply conscious of the influence that Western religious thought and philosophy had on them. It is also clear that their recognition of the stimulating nature of the Western might well have been cathartic and produced profound heart-searchings and led to some compromises which do not touch the deep core of individuality of the East or India. Philosophic and religious thought had to undergo deep and powerful scrutiny, and discoveries of certain trends of thought suppressed or slurred over were taken up for development and expensive treatment.
Thus the service of mankind as the purification of the soul preparing for its liberation has been the most important note taken from Christianity: the demand for going beyond the icon and the rite for the experience of the divine in the heart, and the realization that political freedom as well as economic freedom expressed in basic individualism not contrary to social equality or egalitarianism is another contributory much-needed emphasis that western political theory has given to Indian ethical idealism and humanism: the acceptance of the truth of evolutionism propounded by Darwin and Lamarck has led to the great generalization and insight into creative process as adumbrated in the Vedic theories of creation and sacrifice by Sri Aurobindo's philosophy. The need to develop that consciousness to awareness in work and not abridge it or negate it in a quest for a pseudo-peace is a contribution that has been forgotten in India revived by the modern Gurdeiff-Ouspensky and J.Krishnamurti. However, all these show that Indian philosophy through its seers and thinkers and to a little extent through its philosophers of the academies has been trying to recover its attractiveness and emotional force that will make man strive for the integration of all science and arts through a dynamic integral Yoga that is the culmination of philosophizing and meditation and Work – what Patanjali long ago called Kriya-yoga.
The interest in anubhava or experience is waxing and all persons want experience but it is not known however that this ex-perience or anu-bhava is yet an external factor needing all the disciplines of aspiration, yama and niyama as well. When one begins to move towards the Being then anubhava begins and culminates in the realization which is Being (bhava). Anubhava is a bhava derivative exteriorizing of the being-in which it is transcended. Philosophical thought must gain this directional idealism in order to be living inspiration and aspiration to all men. Philosophers must themselves be inspired by this and all cultural bodies should encourage this attitude rather than become substitutes for it, as most literature and teachers of literature are doing:-indeed the greatest disservice that the latter are doing lies in precisely this that they are trying to be substitutes for philosophy and ill indeed!
I have surveyed the general trends that have been moving our philosophic world both within and without the Academies. But the luminous light that had done so much to awaken the minds of the usually cloistered academicians is yet with us and occupying the highest place that a country could offer any one and this is admittedly the most significant of all. Whilst a nation could bring itself to offer this to a philosopher it speaks of its innate disposition – to honour wisdom and peace and charity. India has been noted for its philosophic and mystical attitude: and amidst all the travails of its history it has stood for these ready ever to shed light and lustre on all. Whilst in the modern world it would be sheer arrogance to claim that India has a message for mankind, it can be fully and confidently stated that India has a service for mankind-a service that she alone can render remarkably by her philosophy and mystic realism.
May Dr. S. Radhakrishnan live with us for ever more and carry the banner of spirituality 'and enlightenment to all the peoples of the world.