Reason, Revelation and Peace: Evaluations of the Philosophy of K. Sachidananda Murty

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  • Book Name Reason, Revelation and Peace: Evaluations of the Philosophy of K. Sachidananda Murty
  • Author Ashok Vohra
  • Language, Pages English, 332 Pgs.
  • Upload Date 2022 / 12 / 28
  • ISBN 9788120842755, 8120842758
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Reason, Revelation and Peace: Evaluations of the Philosophy of K. Sachidananda Murty
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Professor k. Satchidananda Murty, one of modern India’s leading philosophers, passed away in his native village of Sangamjagarlamudi in Andhra Pradesh in 2011, after a stellar career during which he advanced knowledge rather than opinion. The Indian Philosophical community, and especially Ashok Vohra, is to be congratulated for producing a dynamic engagement with philosophy. I had known Murty for more than twenty years. I interacted with him several times. When I once asked him where he stood philosophically, he was candid enough to say that he ‘Oscillates between Sankar and Ramanuja’. The essays in this book amply demonstrate that he was a man of many parts but as the allusion to his mystical experiences in his book The Realm of Between reveals, he was also more than the sum of his parts; while willing to transcend the limits of reason when required. Thus ‘revelation and reason’ characterize not just the title of one of his famous books but in a sense, his life, and this fact renders this collection uniquely relevant for our times. I therefore enthusiastically recommend this book not only to all those interested in the philosophy of Professor Murty, or in Indian Philosophy, or in philosophy in general but to all those interested in contemporary philosophy in the broadest sense.

About the Author

Kotta Satchidananda Murty (1924-2011) Padma Shri and Padama Vibhushan awardee was one of the tallest philosopher spheres of his time. Many of his contemporaries considered him to be a 'unique', 'rare', 'dazzling', 'creative' philosopher.

He was an ingenious heterodox thinker as well as a critical traditionalist. He was a prolific writer. His writings 'are relevant to our time and its needs'. In his writings he demonstrated that philosophy does not deal with abstract and abstruse issues, rather for him the 'problems of philosophy are nothing but the problems of life'. The vast corpus of his writings contains original ideas, critical observations and insightful explanations and comparisons on themes ranging from Indian and Western Philosophy, far eastern philosophies, ethical and religious studies, social and political philosophy, peace studies, culture and tradition, philosophy of education and philosophical foundations of India's foreign policy. This volume contains critical, interpretative and constructive essays on different aspects of our writings. By evaluating ’s assumptions, starting points, normative prescriptions and conclusions, the authors of these papers point out the directions in which further research on ’s philosophy can be undertaken. The contributors comprise scholars from different universities in India who may have never met Professor Murty, or at the most have had a nodding acquaintance with him.



Professor Kotta Satchidananda Murty is among our outstanding thinkers in the tradition of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. His writings are extensive and his influence is felt widely. His influence goes beyond academic philosophers and his long line of students. Prof. K.S. Murty was my teacher, guide, colleague and friend. We had a very close personal and professional relationship for over sixty years. I was with him during good times and not-so-good times. Clearly, he was the most important senior professional friend I ever had; and he was a major influence on me in many ways. I looked up to him for guidance and inspiration. He treated me as a part of his extended family. He shared my joy when success came my way, and he was there to comfort me in distress. Never did he hesitate to express his displeasure when I did not live up to his expectations. He expected the same from me. He was a true friend in need as well as in deed.

That we liked each other and were very fond of each other did not mean that we were alike in our personality, habits, dispositions or philosophies we subscribe to. Indeed there were striking differences between us. Prof. Murty was bluntly outspoken and brutally sarcastic whereas I am known to be somewhat circumspect. Prof. Murty enjoyed experimenting with alcoholic 'spirits,' whereas I shy away from such adventures. I am an outdoor person, enjoying sports and such; and Prof. Murty was in some ways secluded and shut out too many worldly indulgences; even though he was passionate in some he pursued them diligently. Our philosophical backgrounds and preferences were also different. He was a Vedantin in a very broad sense. I grew up in the pragmatic tradition of the Chicago school. Prof.’s Vedanta was stained with a theistic shade and submerged in significant ways in secular waters. My pragmatism is wedded to Gandhian idealism.

There is, however, something that closely held us together. It was a spiritual bond. By spiritual I mean a state of mind, an attitude and a commitment to altruist values. The spiritual mindset is one where contraries coexist without causing conflict and discomfort. It is a state of mind beyond logic and reason. Though he shared such a spiritual orientation, Prof. Murty was rigorously rational in thinking and impeccably logical in his arguments. How- ever, rational thinking and logical argument are only to clarify ideas. They do not generate new ideas. Nor do they normally have a transformational effect on the person. Creativity is deeply spiritual and is the offshoot of a different level of mental functioning. Spiritual experience is truly authentic and personally transforming to the one who has such an experience.

Spiritual for me is altruism as in Gandhi. For Murty, it is some kind of a transcendental experience, which gives access to religious truth. Murty wrote,

There can be no objective, authoritative standard of religious truth ... whether a particular scripture contains a revelation or not. A man has to judge for himself whether he can realize the truth which is claimed to be revealed and embodied in a religious tradition by living in tune with that tradition, by an exercise of 'productive empathy'; and truth not so realized and a revelation not so validated is neither truth nor revelation for that man (195911974, p.33l).

There is every reason to think that Prof. Murty himself had some kind of transcendental experience in his own life. Many instances can be cited. It all seems to have begun at midnight on an Amavasya day sitting on the shores of the Bay of Bengal when he had glimpses of transcendence. He wrote:



In my first meeting with Professor K. Ramakrishna Rao, Chairman, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, after the passing away of Professor K. Satchidananda Murty on January 24, 2011, I requested that the Indian Council of Philosophical Research should pay homage to Murty by organizing a national seminar on him. He asked me to prepare a proposal which I did promptly. He readily agreed with my proposal and promised to place it before the Research Project Committee of the Council for its approval. The Research Project Committee approved the proposal and requested me to organize the seminar in collaboration with Professor K.R. Rajani and Professor Y.V. Satyanarayana both of Andhra University.

It was decided to hold the seminar around September 24, 2011 - the first birthday of K. Satchidananda Murty after his passing away. The seminar was titled "The Philosophy of. Satchidananda Murty: An Evaluation." It was also decided to organize the seminar in Andhra University, Visakhapatnam where Murty had studied and taught throughout his teaching career of more than thirty-five years. Professor Satyanarayana and Professor Rajani agreed to look after the logistics of the seminar and I was entrusted with the task of looking after the academic matters. However, all of us decided on the names of the participants of the seminar.

The seminar was held from September 21 to 24, 2011 in Andhra University. About fifty scholars from all over India participated in the seminar. We requested the scholars to write papers on any aspect of Murty's wide range of writings which stretch across Indian and Western philosophy, covering areas as widespread as ethics, religious studies, social and political thought, culture, peace studies, philosophy of education, international relations, foreign policy and all the traditions - Islamic, Chinese and Japanese, in the Far Eastern region. The authors were re- quested not to limit themselves just to the exegesis of ’s writings but to expound and discuss the interpretations, implicit or explicit" assumptions, starting points, beliefs, axioms, arguments, conclusions, underlying theories, under-currents of thought, normative statements and prescriptions in these works; and to evaluate them or bring out their implications, and develop them in alternative ways. We had very lively and prolonged discussions on the papers presented in the seminar. So much so that on all days the participants forgot the constraints of time and sat through late in the evenings to continue the discussions. At the end of the seminar, the authors were requested to revise their papers in light of the intense discussions they had during the seminar. This volume comprises a selection of the revised papers. Due to constraints of space, thematic relevance and other editorial constraints, all the papers could not be taken up for publication. However, this in no way is a reflection of their quality.

Almost all the writings of Murty reflect that he was influenced by Vedantic theism. It is generally believed that in all his writings he presents a theistic critique of Advaita Vedanta. Ananda Mishra in his paper shows that Murty finds the Advaitic conception of Nirguna Brahman untenable and attacks the doctrine of Maya very much in line with the Visistadvaitins. Like the Dvaitins, Murty believes that God is God, man is man and a jiva can never be God. God is personal and the best way for reaching him is through personal relations. There can be nothing like eternal scripture because it will jeopardize the eternality of God. Revelation cannot be possible without a revealer and re- veiled and hence Advaitic notion of revelation is unjustifiable. Ananda Mishra challenges understanding of Advaita Vedanta and presents its critique.

Like Ananda Mishra, P. R. Bhat also argues that Murty did not pay sufficiently critical attention to Advaita philosophy because he did not go beyond its received presentation and interpretation. As a consequence, he offered only the expected criticisms of the system.

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