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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

And Udayana are indeed very great


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In what Sense is a History of Indian Philosophy possible?

It is hardly possible to attempt a history of Indian philosophy in the manner in which the histories of European philosophy have been written. In Europe from the earliest times, thinkers came one after another and offered their independent speculations on philosophy. The work of a modern historian consists in chronologically arranging these views and in commenting upon the influence of one school upon another or upon the general change from time to time in the tides and currents of philosophy. Here in India, however, the principal systems of philosophy had their beginning in times of which we have but scanty record, and it is hardly possible to say correctly at what time they began, or to compute the influence that led to the foundation of so many divergent systems at so early a period, for in all probability these were formulated just after the earliest Upani@sads had been composed or arranged.

The systematic treatises were written in short and pregnant half-sentences (_sutras_) which did not elaborate the subject in detail, but served only to hold before the reader the lost threads of memory of elaborate disquisitions with which he was already thoroughly

acquainted. It seems, therefore, that these pithy half-sentences were like lecture hints, intended for those who had had direct elaborate oral instructions on the subject. It is indeed difficult to guess from the sutras the extent of their significance, or how far the discussions which they gave rise to in later days were originally intended by them. The sutras of the Vedanta system, known as the S'ariraka-sutras or Brahma-sutras of Badaraya@na for example were of so ambiguous a nature that they gave rise to more than half a dozen divergent interpretations, each one of which claimed to be the only faithful one. Such was the high esteem and respect in which these writers of the sutras were held by later writers that whenever they had any new speculations to


offer, these were reconciled with the doctrines of one or other of the existing systems, and put down as faithful interpretations of the system in the form of commentaries. Such was the hold of these systems upon scholars that all the orthodox teachers since the foundation of the systems of philosophy belonged to one or other of these schools. Their pupils were thus naturally brought up in accordance with the views of their teachers. All the independence of their thinking was limited and enchained by the faith of the school to which they were attached. Instead of producing a succession of free-lance thinkers having their own systems to propound and establish, India had brought forth schools of pupils who carried the traditionary views of particular systems from generation to generation, who explained and expounded them, and defended them against the attacks of other rival schools which they constantly attacked in order to establish the superiority of the system to which they adhered. To take an example, the Nyaya system of philosophy consisting of a number of half-sentences or sutras is attributed to Gautama, also called Ak@sapada. The earliest commentary on these sutras, called the _Vatsyayana bha@sya_, was written by Vatsyayana. This work was sharply criticized by the Buddhist Di@nnaga, and to answer these criticisms Udyotakara wrote a commentary on this commentary called the _Bha@syavattika_ [Footnote ref 1]. As time went on the original force of this work was lost, and it failed to maintain the old dignity of the school. At this Vacaspati Mis'ra wrote a commentary called _Varttika-tatparya@tika_ on this second commentary, where he tried to refute all objections against the Nyaya system made by other rival schools and particularly by the Buddhists. This commentary, called _Nyaya-tatparya@tika_, had another commentary called _Nyaya-tatparya@tika-paris'uddhi_ written by the great Udayana. This commentary had another commentary called _Nyaya-nibandha-prakas'a_ written by Varddhamana the son of the illustrious Ga@nges'a. This again had another commentary called _Varddha-manendu_ upon it by Padmanabha Mis'ra, and this again had another named _Nyaya-tatparyama@n@dana_ by S'a@nkara Mis'ra. The names of Vatsyayana, Vacaspati, and Udayana are indeed very great, but even they contented themselves by writing commentaries on commentaries, and did not try to formulate any

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