On 27 June 2020, Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth launched a lecture series by eminent scholars on भारतीय दर्शन शास्त्रावली or ‘Bhāratīya Darśana Śāstrāvalī’—An Introduction to Indian Philosophical Systems.
The series was inaugurated with the blessings of Swami Sharadananda Sarasvati, who said that Darśana śāstra came as a means to 'remove sorrow' and 'attain happiness—eternal bliss!' Dean of CVV, Dr. Gauri Mahulikar briefly introduced the topic of 'Bhāratīya Darśana'. Both the dignitaries set the tone for the entire series.
The moderator for the series is Shri Subramanian Chidambaran, an Engineer with a PG in Management, IIM Lucknow, working as Head of Strategy at an MNC in Mumbai. He has a Masters in Sanskrit and is a trained Carnatic musician. A student of Dean Mahulikar, Shri Subramanian has played a major role in organising this lecture series and coordinating with the speakers.
Below is a synopsis of each lecture.
Day 1, Session 1: 'Introduction to the world of Darśana Śāstra' by Dr. Tulasi Kumar Joshi, Assistant Professor at CVV’s School of Vedic Knowledge Systems
Dr. Joshi took the listeners through the meaning of Darśana right from its etymological basis to its definition as a 'valid visual perception or cognition' and also 'the means to achieve it'. Thus valid cognition of 'happiness' and 'means to remove sorrow' became the subject matter of Darśana śāstra. In order to achieve this, different systems (under the guidance of different Ṛṣi-s/seers) accepted different forms of 'valid cognition' and propounded their principles for 'achieving happiness' and 'removing sorrow'. This led to different systems of Darśana. Those that accepted the authority of the Vedas came to be called 'Āstika Darśana' and those that denied were called 'Nāstika Darśana'.
Day 2, Session 2: ‘Indian Materialism: Lokāyata’ by Dr Shubhada Joshi
Dr. Joshi provided a balanced narrative on this 'much maligned' school of Indian philosophy. She brought out the point that Lokayata was accorded a very respectable place in early Indian culture, of the times of Mahābhārata and even up to the Mauryan empire. The Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya prescribes the syllabus for an upcoming prince thus: आन्वीक्षिकी त्रयी वार्त्ता दण्डनीतिश्च इति विद्याः. It includes ānvīkṣikī (philosophy), trayī (threefold Vedas - Rig, Yajur, Sama) vārttā (economics / agriculture), daṇḍanīti (science of governance and justice). Under philosophy, it lists only three subjects: Sāṅkhya, Yoga and Lokāyata - साङ्ख्यं योगो लोकायतं च इत्यान्वीक्षिकी. Other schools like Nyāya and Vedānta are not mentioned at all.
The professor explained the significance of this in a wonderful way. There is also mention in Mahābhārata (Vana Parva) in which Draupadi says she learnt Barhaspatya (teaching from Braihaspati, another name for Lokāyata) from the learned scholars in the court of her father Drupada while growing up.
At the end of the session and during Q & A, Dr. Joshi outlined the merits and demerits of the Lokāyata outlook in a very balanced way. She pointed out that much of the progress in material science in ancient India like Āyurveda, astronomy, mathematics etc. was due to the respect accorded to analytical/critical thinking and questioning everything. She also elucidated on the intellectual insufficiency of Lokāyata epistemology pointing out that even modern science relied a lot on inference (anumāna) and also the ethical/moral degeneration wrought by a pure materialist outlook.
Day 3: ‘Nyāya Darśana—The Science of Logic in Indian Philosophy’ by Dr. V. N. Jha
Prof. V. N. Jha was the Director, Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit, University of Pune where he taught for more than 25 years. He was also the founding Chairman of the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Prof. Jha beautifully explained the evolution of Nyāya śāstra right from the Nyāya-sutras of Gautama and the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. He explained how Nyāya formed a critical part of the scholarship triad 'Pada (grammar/Vyākaraṇa)—Vākya (discourse by Pūrva-mīmāṃsā)—Pramāṇa (Logic/ Nyāya)'. He emphasised that the concept of 'Knower-Knowing-Known and knowledge' explained by Nyāya forms the basis of the science of 'Knowledge' and is most fundamental for understanding anything in the Universe.
While Prācīna-Nyāya focused on the 'Knowable', Navya-Nyāya (post 10th century CE) focused on developing an entire system on 'Methods/ instruments of knowing' and a suitable language to represent them. Most of the other Darśana śāstra texts are written in the language of 'Navya-Nyāya'.
'Anumāna' or inference as a means of knowledge is another great contribution of 'Nyāya' without which a lot of what we know would be nearly impossible. Though Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika systems differ in aspects like 'Īśwara' and 'Abhāva', they merged post 10th century CE developing a common universal view.
Prof. Jha repeatedly emphasised the fact that Nyāya śāstra forms the basis of all 'knowledge' and 'research' activities and hence must be a mandatory subject introduced at the primary and other levels of education.