In Search of Reality: A Layman's journey through Indian Philosophy by O. N. krishnan Sale -9%

In Search of Reality: A Layman's journey through Indian Philosophy

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  • Book Name In Search of Reality: A Layman's journey through Indian Philosophy
  • Author O. N. Krishnan
  • Language, Pages English, 464 Pgs.
  • Upload Date 2022 / 07 / 27
  • ISBN 9788120820210, 8120820215
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In Search of Reality: A Layman's journey through Indian Philosophy
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Comparative analysis of the philosophical systems of Upanishads Advaita Vedanta and the various schools of Buddhism in a comprehensive manner. Cogent and coherent philosophical theories are weaved out of the vast maze of metaphysical ideas contained in the Upanishads, likewise, the philosophical teachings of various Buddhist schools and Advaita Vedanta of gaudapada and Sankara are also presented and discussed.

About The Author

O. N. Krishnan, an engineer by profession, is an avid student of Indian philosophy and is involved in the comparative studies of the Upanisads, Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism.


The present work "A Layman's Journey Through Indian Philosophy" by O.N. Krishnan is a philosophical treatise in itself. Although the title claims that it is a 'layman's journey', this is indeed an erudite attempt and a sincere search to know the ultimate truth of existence and to grasp the essentials of the Indian philosophical teachings over the ages on the sources of pains and miseries of beings and the means of attaining liberation from these pains and miseries. It is an attempt with an objective to gain an insight into the ultimate reality and a realisation of the summum bonum of life.

One, who is seriously interested to know the teachings of Indian philosophical works throughout the ages, is easily bewildered by the innate complexities and enormous con traditions coupled with the lofty linguistic difficulties he comes across in these works. The author has spared no pains to present, in a swift, smooth and exegetic way, what all he has learned from the wealthy treasures of Indian philosophical works, so as to fill the brains of readers only with a clear and comprehensive analysis of the essential elements of these teachings. Hair splitting, dogmatic and enigmatic presentations in the abstruse style usual for philosophical works are studiously avoided in this work. In his search for profound philosophical truths, the author has unveiled many hidden golden discs.

This Indian philosophical journey starts at a natural spot, the beginning portions of the Vedas. The polytheism of the Vedas is analysed and presented objectively. How polytheism of the Vedic period has evolved into monotheism is lucidly depicted by the author. The anachronistic fundamentals of uarna theory are boldly brought out in this study. The vedic study is followed by a comprehensive study of the Upanisads in a very systematic and analytical manner bringing out all the essences of their teachings. In his study, the author has covered many minor Upanisads as well, such as Maitri Upanisad. This is a different approach, but all the more welcome.

The significance of Samkhya, as the earliest theory of evolution far ahead of Darwinism, is wisely imparted in this work. After journeying through the timeless darsanas of India. philosophy, the author enters the golden vistas of Buddhism. All different schools of Buddhism are closely analysed.

Gaudapadiya-karika is the original forerunner of Sankara's Vedanta and, in its turn, Gaudapadiya-karika has inherited a lion's share of its teachings from Buddhism. This little-exposed truth and the indebtedness of Vedanta to Buddhism are brought into daylight by this present work very authentically with a brilliant comparison. The last chapter gives a concise overview of the various philosophies and ends with a clear exposition of what ultimate truth is. Attaining Buddha consciousness is the ultimate end; this is the consciousness, that is an incarnation of selflessness itself, suffused with love and compassion. This can be realised by one in oneself.

This work is an unbiased and undaunting study of Indian philosophy which is unusual in the tradition where faith is more praised than reason. The author has travelled throughout the breathtaking marvellous hills and vales of Indian philosophy arid has brought to us many a treasure of lofty logical conclusions as gifts. Any student of philosophy as well as any common man can gain much from this work- not only as food for thought but also as a memento for motivation and a searchlight for finding the path to realise the ultimate reality.

I personally consider this work as a very significant contribution that no seeker after Truth can afford to miss.


Having come under the spell of Spinoza's Ethics in the formative years of life, I hold strongly to the rationalist view that life should be guided by reason and intellect and not by blind belief or faith. No doubt faith has a unique place and plays a very important role in the religious life of individuals, but this faith also should be based on reason and logic and not rest solely on imaginary constructions of the mind. With the mind having been conditioned by Spinoza's mathematical method of philosophizing with axioms and proofs when I first started reading Indian philosophical and religious works like Upanisads, Bhagavad Gita and Advaita Vedanta, I was at a loss to understand and grasp them. But my accidental foray into Buddhist philosophy dramatically altered the position I found myself in with respect to Indian philosophy. I then came to discern a rational foundation for the faiths because Buddhist teachings happen to be more of a rational philosophy than a religion.

Like any ordinary Hindu brought up in the religious, cultural and social milieu dominated by Brahmanical worldview and traditional belief systems, I had earlier-I should not say an antipathy but an ambivalent attitude to Buddhism. Accidentally I drifted into Buddhist works in the course of my search when I could not understand the philosophical works of Hinduism. Only after I started reading Buddhist philosophical literature, could I actually comprehend the Vedantic views and what they mean and place them in the proper perspective. From then onwards, my interest has been in the comparative study of the philosophical ideas of the two traditions.

Even though Gautama, the Buddha, is considered an avatar of the Supreme God Visnu in Hinduism, the study of his religious teachings and philosophical ideas is neglected in India and in fact, not encouraged, The Hindus normally take it for granted that the best of the Buddha's teachings have been absorbed in their religion and that there is no need for them to undertake a separate study of the teachings and philosophies of Buddhism. They do not realize how far away they are from the truth and what they miss. Even scholars like Dr Radhakrishnan had not been fair to Buddhism when they tried to establish that it is but only an off-shoot of the Upanisadic thoughts. The radical philosophical differences in the two religious traditions have been overlooked or brushed aside by them. They also tend to interpret wrongly the passages in the Buddhist literature like Udana and read an affirmation of the Upanisadic view of Self or Brahman in the Buddha's concept of Nirvana, The import of the concepts of sunya and selflessness in Buddhism has been missed by them. It is also not generally recognized and appreciated how the middle and later Upanisads and the philosophy of the Advaita Vedanta have been influenced by Buddhist thoughts.

Hinduism and Buddhism are undoubtedly the two most outstanding philosophical and religious traditions of India. They are vibrant living religious traditions which have played and continue to play the most significant roles in the lives not only of countless individuals but also of a great many communities. They are the objects of study not only for the respective religious communities and professionals and researchers but also for any seeker of Truth. These traditions have not grown in a cultural vacuum and in separate independent water-tight compartments. They have interacted with and impinged on each other, in the process each affecting the other and itself getting affected. Hinduism was enriched by its interaction with Buddhism and transformed itself from a crass materialistic religion to one of high ethical ideals. Buddhism evolved into Mahayana Buddhism with the devotional (bhakti) element drawn from Hinduism and the Bhagavad Gita. The decline of Buddhism in India and the circumstances leading to its extinction in the land of its birth are subject matters for separate study by scholars and researchers. But what is of interest and relevance to any seeker of Truth is the study of their teachings and what they offer as philosophical solutions for application to our problems in modern times.

This work is an attempt to undertake an analytical study of the teachings of Vedanta and the various Buddhist schools in a comprehensive manner and present a comparative assessment of the philosophical ideas of the two traditions. In spite of its coming from a layman and any limitations or shortcomings that may be perceived in this work, its purpose will be deemed to have been served if it evokes interest in such a comparative study and succeeds in generating a flow of further works from more able and learned hands in the scholastic community as a counter to this one or as providing more insight and knowledge into the philosophical questions discussed and compared here.


Fundamental Philosophical Questions

The mysteries of the universe and the existential questions have exercised the minds of the Indian sages from time immemorial. How has the universe originated? What is sustaining it and "the stellar dance of teeming suns and planets that are whirling through the vast ethereal space?" How has life emerged? What is the fundamental principle underlying existence? Is" there any first cause of existence? Is there any supra-cosmic Reality, a transcendent God or Creator? Is there any soul? What happens to the individual after his death? Is there any life after death? Is there any purpose or meaning in life? What is the ultimate goal of human existence?

In the Upanisads dating back some 2200 to 2600 years in time, we find such philosophical and existential questions being asked by devout disciples desirous of gaining the saving knowledge.

" What is the cause? Is it Brahman? Whence are we born? By what do we live? And on what are we established? 0 Ye who know Brahman, tell us, presided over by whom do we live in our different conditions of pleasures and pains, happiness and miseries?" (S.U 1.1)

"By whom willed and directed does the mind light on its objects? By whom commanded do life, the first, move? At whose will have the people gained the power of speech? And what God is it that energies the eye and the ear?" Kena I.l)

" 0 Venerable Sir, from where is this prana (life force) born? How does he come into this body? How again does he distribute himself in the body and carry out the different functions? How does he depart?........" ( Prasna III. 1)

"......This body is like a cart without intelligence. To what superior being belongs such power by which such a sort of body has been made intelligent? In other words, who is its mover? ......... " (Maitri II.3)

Who are the mover and energizer of this body which is only just like a cart without intelligence? How have the eyes and ears gained their respective powers of seeing and powers of hearing? How is the mind cognizing the objects and how has it gained the power of thought, intellect and discrimination? How has the tongue gained the power of speech? How has the power of speech emanated?

The world is surfeit with pain and misery. What is the source of these pains and miseries? Are there any means of liberation from these pains and miseries, sufferings and sorrows? What is the ultimate goal? What is the ultimate reality behind the ever-changing flux of things experienced in this world? These are the profound philosophical questions to which the Indian seers have attempted to find satisfactory answers since the dawn of Indian civilisation. Their search has been for the ultimate truth, the ultimate reality behind the impermanent scheme of things in this phenomenal world. Their soul-stirring cries and prayers have been:

"From the unreal lead me to the real, from darkness lead me to light, from death lead me to immortality (life-eternal, amaratvam)" (B. U. 1.3.28).

"The face of truth is covered with a golden disc. Unveil it, o Pusan; so that I who love the truth may see it" (Isa. 15) Early man in his primitive past when faced with the inimical forces of nature was struck with awe and fear. His instinctual fears were the ones which first gave rise to the ideas of supernatural powers and gods controlling these forces of nature. As he evolved, his intellectual powers and analytical reasoning developed and his ideas became more and more refined and new thoughts and discoveries added to the collective wisdom of men.

In the fertile cultural ground and climate of India grew many different systems of philosophical thoughts and spiritual insights answering to the different human needs and meeting the different levels of understanding and spiritual consciousness of men. A vast corpus of philosophical and spiritual wisdom has been developed and bequeathed from ancient times as precious legacies for posterity. But bewildering complexities and contradictions characterize these Indian philosophical systems. The present attempt is a search through the maze of these teachings from a layman's point of view to find out the core meanings of the answers given by some important philosophical systems to the above profound existential questions.

The basic objective, as in any such enquiry, is to gain an insight into the ultimate reality or ultimate truth of existence and an understanding of the ultimate goal in life, the summum bonum of life. For, unlike Western philosophy, Indian philosophy is closely linked to the way of life. The enquiry into the truth or reality here is not for the sake of knowledge or love of wisdom alone, but also for the sake of defining the ultimate goal in life. Here the knowledge of ultimate reality determines and fixes the ultimate goal in life and also dictates the path to be traversed in life to achieve this ultimate goal and realize the ultimate reality.

At the outset, it would be appropriate to define clearly what we understand by the term ultimate reality. What is it that qualifies to be designated as the ultimate reality? The reality, as generally understood, is the one that must always be. It is the one that is ever present in all the states of existence conceivable and without which no state of existence can be conceived. The test of reality is existence for all times. It remains unchanged through all the changes of existence. It is eternal and immutable. It is birthless, deathless, it is unborn, uncreated, uncaused. It was, it has always been, it is and it always will be. Further, as the Chiindogya Upanisad describes, it is the one "that is free from evil, free from old age, free from death, free from grief, free from hunger and thirst" (C. U VIII 7.1). Having defined this, is there anything we find in existence that answers these criteria? Is it God, Isvara or Brahman as variously described?

First, let us study the concepts of many gods in the Vedas.




List of Figures xii
Foreword xiii
Preface xvii
Acknowledgments xx
Abbreviations xxi


1. Vedic Ideas 7
  1. Polytheism in the Vedas 7
  2. Vedic Scriptures 8
  3. Sacrificial Rituals 10
  4. Varna Theory 11
  5. Vedic Philosophy 12
  6. Ultimate Goal


2. Basic Ideas 21
  1. Rta at the Command of the Imperishable 23
  2. Supremacy of Brahman-Parable in the Kena Upanisad 23
  3. Divine Powers in the Universe and Individual Self 24
  4. Supremacy of Prana and Prana as Prajnatma 24
  5. The Five Vital Breaths 28
  6. The Dual Principles and the One Brahman 30
  7. Interdependency of Cosmic Universe and Individual Self 31
  8. Progressive Definition of Brahman 35
  9. Theories of Self(Atman)


3. Theories on the Origination of the Universe 51
  1. Creation from Non-Being (Asat) 52
  2. Creation by God 55
  3. Brahman-Parinamavada 61
  4. From Gunas Arise the Universe


4. Karma and Rebirth 73
  1. Evolution of the Ideas in the Upanisads 73
  2. What Constitutes the Transmigrating Self? 78
  3. Underlying Principle Turning the Universe


5. Theories on Brahman 81
  1. Five Sheaths of Brahman (Taittinya Upanisad) 81
  2. Seven Levels of Reality (Katha Upanisad 83
  3. The Three States of Consciousness 89
  4. Brahman of Four Quarters (Mandukya Upanisad) 95
  5. The Four Selves of Brahman (Paingala Upanisad) 103
  6. Comparison of the Ideas in Mandukya and Paingala 109
  7. The two Brahmans 111
  8. The Radiant Supreme 113
  9. Summary


6. Liberation (Life Eternal) 117
  1. Ultimate Goal 117
  2. Liberation in Samkhya Philosophy 121
  3. Liberation in the Upanisads 123
  4. Identification with Reality


7. Moral Preparation for Spiritual Life 131
  1. The Three Principal Virtues (B. U.) 131
  2. Duties to be Performed (T. U.) 132
  3. Final Teaching to the Departing Students (T. U.) 133
  4. Oneness of Self - (Isa and Kaivalya)


8. Path to Liberation (Life Eternal) 135
  1. Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad 135
  2. Chandogya Upanisad 135
  3. Katha Upanisad 136
  4. Mundaka Upanisad 141
  5. Maitri Upanisad 142
  6. Paingala Upanisad (Chapter III & IV) 145
  7. Subala Upanisads 146
  8. Doctrine of Divine Grace


9. Early Buddhism 151
  1. The Buddha 151
  2. Buddhist Scriptures 162
  3. The Four Noble Truths 165
  4. Meditative Practices 195
  5. Theory of Anatta (No-Self) 206
  6. Theory of Kamma 211
  7. Nibbana


10. Abhidhamma 243
  1. The Theravada Abhidhamma 244
  2. The Sarvastivada (Realist School) 246
  3. Sautrantika


11. Prajnaparamita 257
  1. Revival of Anatman Teaching 257
  2. Prajnaparamita Literatures 258
  3. Perfection of Wisdom (Prajna) 259
  4. Emptiness (Sunyata) 259
  5. Knowledge of the Five Skandhas in Perfect Wisdom 261
  6. Form is Emptiness and Emptiness itself is Form 263
  7. Nirvana of No Fixed Adobe 264
  8. The Six Perfections (Paramitas) 265
  9. The Bodhisattva Ideal


12. Madhyamaka 273
  1. Madhyamaka Literature 273
  2. Emptiness of All Dharmas (Dharma-Nairatmya) 273
  3. Truly Empty Hence Unfathomable Existence 275
  4. Eight-fold Negation 277
  5. Dependent Origination is also the Middle-Path 279
  6. Dialectic of Nagarjuna 281
  7. Two-Fold Truth 283
  8. Emptiness-Psychological Analysis 286
  9. Samsara and Nirvana are Identical


13. Yogacara 289
  1. Yogacara Literature 290
  2. Yogacara Classification of Dharmas 291
  3. Evolving of Consciousness (Vijnana-Pannama) 293
  4. Three-nature (Trisvabhava) Theory 295
  5. Turning Around of the Basis (Asarya Paravrth) 298
  6. Three-Knowledges/Three-Truths 299
  7. Emptiness in Yogacara School 301
  8. Representation-Only (Vijnaptimatra) 307
  9. Suchness 309
  10. Cittamatra (Mind Only/Vijnanavada)


14. Selflessness of Buddhism Vs. Self of Upanisads 313
  1. Self Vs. Selflessness 313
  2. Isvara Vs. Dependent Origination


15. Parths and Stages of Bodhisattva 319
  1. Five Paths 319
  2. Ten Stages (Bhumis) of Bodhisattva 320
  3. Bodhisattva Model and Seven Purification in Hinayana 326
  4. How to Become a Buddha


16. Gaudapadiya-Karika 335
  1. Creation Theories Rejected 336
  2. Parinama's Theories Refuted 337
  3. Mayamatra 340
  4. Analysis of Maya 341
  5. Proof of Unreality-Equality of Walking and Dream States 344
  6. No Objective Reference 348
  7. Duality is the Vibration of Consciousness 349
  8. Atman is Like Space 351
  9. Atman, The Non-Dual Self 352
  10. Ajativada (Doctrine of Non-Origination) 355
  11. Gk's Philosophy Compared with Buddhism 357
  12. Asparsa-Yoga 367
  13. Ultimate Goal


17. Advaita of Sankara 375
  1. Maya 376
  2. Ignorance and Transmigratory Existence 378
  3. Ignorance (Avidya) and Maya 380
  4. Maya and Sunyata 381
  5. Maya-Sakti (Isvara) 386
  6. Unreality of Transmigratory Existence 389
  7. Badha (Sublation) 392
  8. The Four States of Experience and the One Consciousness 394
  9. Atman (Brahman) - The Ultimate Reality 396
  10. Ethics


18. Ultimate Truth 409
  1. A Brief Review of the Philosophies 409
  2. Essencelessness / Emptiness 414
  3. PraxisThe Buddha 417
  4. Tathagatagarbha


Bibliography 423
Index 427

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