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PRABUDDHA BHARATASanskrit Studies and Comparative Philology  

 

                    

 

 

               Sanskrit Studies and Comparative Philology

 

 

 

               Swami Tathagatananda

 

 

 

                    (Continued from the previous issue)

 

 

 

 

     Friedrich Max Muller

 

 

     We look to the great German philosopher and Sanskritist Max Muller, who realized ‘how small a strip [had] as yet been explored of the vast continent of Sanskrit literature’, to express the impact of Sanskrit studies. In his book India: What Can It Teach Us? the learned professor dealt with some facts of Indian culture of which Sanskrit was one. He wrote of the mind-invigorating and mind-inspiriting cause of Sanskrit studies:

 

     Sanskrit literature … is full of human interests, full of lessons which even Greek could never teach us. … Sanskrit literature allows you an insight into strata of thought deeper than any you have known before, and rich in lessons that appeal to the deepest sympathies of the human heart. …

 

 

     I may perhaps be able [to show] how imperfect our knowledge of universal history, our insight into the development of the human intellect, must always remain, if we narrow our horizon to the history of Greeks and Romans, Saxons and Celts, with a dim background of Palestine, Egypt, and Babylon, and leave out of sight our nearest intellectual relatives, the Aryas of India, the framers of the most wonderful language, the Sanskrit, the fellow-workers in the construction of our fundamental concepts, the fathers of the most natural of natural religions, the makers of the most transparent of mythologies, the inventors of the most subtle philosophy, and the givers of the most elaborate laws. (1)

 

     Urged by Burnouf to carry on the work of the Vedas in 1844, (2) Muller settled down at Oxford as a professor in 1850 and began his lifelong study of the Vedas. His highly authentic (and the first) English edition Rig-Veda with Sayana’s Commentary was published in six volumes (Oxford, 1849-73). (3) It is a landmark work in the history of Sanskrit studies. Prior to this edition, only a small part of the Rig Veda had been published by Friedrich August Rosen, whose Rig-Veda Samhita: Sanskrit et Latines, published posthumously in Calcutta in 1838, attracted many Western scholars to the Vedas, known as the ‘The Great Book’. After Rosen’s death, Rudolf von Roth (1821-95) published the Atharva Veda in Germany in 1856 along with other works on Vedic literature and history.

 

     The publication costs for the Rig Veda were borne by the East India Company at first, and later by Queen Victoria’s privy purse. (4) Muller received solid support from Wilson and Christian Karl Bunsen (1791-1860). According to Henri Martin, Bunsen believed that ‘the Aryan spirit alone had discovered the Bible’s universal and historical meaning.’ (5) Wilson and Bunsen persuaded the board of directors of the East India Company to sustain all expenses of editing and publishing the complete Rig Veda in six volumes at Oxford University’s printing press (1849-75). This was followed by the publication of Rig-Veda Samhita (1869), Rig-Veda Pratisakya (text with German translation, 1859-69) and Rig-Veda (text only, 1873). (6) In 1859, History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, Muller’s treatment of Vedic religion, was also published.

 

     In 1899, Swami Vivekananda commented on Muller’s work:

 

     The Rig-Veda Samhita, the whole of which no one could even get at before, is now very neatly printed and made accessible to the public, thanks to the munificent generosity of the East India Company and to the professor’s prodigious labours extending over years. The alphabetical characters of most of the manuscripts, collected from different parts of India, are of various forms, and many words in them are inaccurate. We cannot easily comprehend how difficult it is for a foreigner, however learned he may be, to find out the accuracy or inaccuracy of these Sanskrit characters, and more especially to make out clearly the meaning of an extremely condensed and complicated commentary. In the life of Professor Max Muller, the publication of the Rig-Veda is a great event. Besides this, he has been dwelling, as it were, and spending his whole lifetime amidst ancient Sanskrit literature.(7)

 

     ‘If I were asked,’ Muller once said, ‘what I considered the most important discovery of the nineteenth century with respect to the ancient history of mankind, I should answer by the following short line: Sanskrit Dyaus Pitar = Greek Zeshs Pater = Latin Jupiter = Old Norse Tyr.’ (8) H G Rawlinson quoted Muller’s remark and added:

 

     This work was carried on by Burnouf, Roth and Max Muller, and from their patient researches sprang the study of Comparative Religion, which has had an effect upon modern thought only comparable to that of Darwin’s Origin of Species. Max Muller said that the two great formative influences in his life were the Rig-Veda and the Critique of Pure Reason. (9)

 

     From Oxford Muller embarked upon a massive project, a labour of love that culminated in the publication of The Sacred Books of the East (Oxford, 1879). It was a work of fifty-one volumes, which he edited in collaboration with nineteen outstanding scholars from various countries. As chief editor, he contributed the translations of the Upanishads and the Dhammapada. One can see his scholarly output by going through the select bibliography of his work. The Sacred Books of the East contained English translations of twelve principal Upanishads, each with annotations and introductions, in the first and fifteenth volumes. One is amazed at his scholarly enthusiasm, hard labour, sharp intellect and love for Indian wisdom. Muller wrote in the introduction to the first volume, ‘ … the earliest of these philosophical treatises will always, I believe, maintain a place in the literature of the world, among the most astounding productions of the human mind in any age and in any country.’ (10) In the introduction to his second volume of the Upanishads, published as Volume 15 of The Sacred Books of the East, he wrote of ‘the dark side of the Upanishads’ and that ‘the true scholar will find even in the darkest and dustiest shafts what they are seeking for, real nuggets of thought and precious jewels of faith and hope.’ (11) Forty-eight volumes were published during his lifetime and three were published posthumously, including two indexes. Of the forty-nine volumes, twenty-one discuss Hinduism, ten Buddhism and two Jainism; the rest are devoted to the religions of the Persians, Mohammedans and Chinese. It was an epoch-making series, the first authoritative and comprehensive translation of the Upanishads. Muller receives singular credit for broadcasting the wisdom of the Upanishads to the world.

 

     In 1882, Muller delivered a bold series of lectures at the University of Cambridge. He gave his lectures the title, ‘India: What Can It Teach Us?’ These lectures became a landmark publication of 315 pages on the historical record of Europe’s understanding of Indian philosophy and religion. (12)

 

     In the first lecture he expressed the highest admiration for India:

 

     If I were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow - in some parts a very paradise on earth - I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant - I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we, here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact, more truly human, a life, not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life - again I should point to India. (13)

 

     Sixteen years after delivering another series of Hibbert lectures about India’s place in the historical origin and development of religion, Muller delivered three lectures about Vedanta at the Royal Institution in London, a significant centre of the British establishment. Three Lectures on the Vedanta Philosophy was published in 1894. In this work, Muller described the passion for truth for the welfare of humanity that was the pure motive driving the ancient sages in their quest:

 

     I believe much of the excellency of the ancient Sanskrit philosophers is due to their having been undisturbed by the thought of there being a public to please or critics to appease. They thought of nothing but the work they had determined to do; their one idea was to make it as perfect as it could be made. There was no applause they valued unless it came from their equals or their betters; publishers, editors and logrollers did not yet exist. Need we wonder then that their work was done as well as it could be done, and that it has lasted for thousands of years? (14)

 

     It is significant that prior to these three lectures, Muller had never spoken or written about any Greek or Christian philosophy. (15) He substantiated his conviction that the Graeco-Roman-Judaic-Christian mind of Europe needed India’s ‘corrective’ of the Vedanta teachings in order to become ‘more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, more truly human’. In the very first lecture, he gave the competent testimony of three Europeans: Sir William Jones, Victor Cousin and Friedrich von Schlegel. Each had testified to the greatness of Indian thought. (16)

 

     While in England, Swami Vivekananda met Muller and gave a hint of his deep appreciation when he assigned to him a great distinction: ‘Max Muller is a Vedantist of Vedantists.’ (17) Swamiji’s engaging account of his two visits to Muller at his Oxford residence and Muller’s inspired works on Sri Ramakrishna, including his article ‘A Real Mahatman’, which caused many learned Europeans to be ‘attracted towards its subject, Sri Ramakrishna Deva, with the result that the wrong ideas of the civilized West about India … began to be corrected’ (18) according to Swami Vivekananda, can be found by the interested reader in the present author’s book, Journey of the Upanishads to the West. (19) Muller’s deeper interest in Sri Ramakrishna resulted in his book Ramakrishna, His Life and Sayings. It was published on 18 October 1898. (20) Many copies of the book were sold and three editions were published in May of the following year. Muller wrote that he gave a fuller account of Sri Ramakrishna’s life and utterances in this book for the benefit of the reading public, because

 

     every human heart has its religious yearnings, it has a hunger for religion which sooner or later wants to be satisfied. Now the religion taught by the disciples of Ramakrishna comes to these hungry souls without any outward authority. … If they listen to it … it is of their own free will; and if they believe in any part of it, it is of their own free choice. A chosen religion is always stronger than an inherited religion. … There can be no doubt that a religion … which calls itself with perfect truth the oldest religion and philosophy of the world, viz. the Vedanta … deserves our careful attention. (21)

 

     Striking a universal chord, Max Muller evokes great feeling in those who share his experience. His expression at the end of his life beautifully expresses the appreciation of German scholars for Hindu philosophy and culture:

 

     We all come from the East - all that we value most has come to us from the East, and in going to the East, not only those who have received a special Oriental training, but everybody who has enjoyed the advantages of a liberal, that is, of a truly historical education, ought to feel that he is going to his ‘old home,’ full of memories, if only he can read them. (22)

 

     Max Muller’s work has been preserved for posterity in numerous works, including his Rig Veda (6 vols, 1849-74), Chips from A German Workshop: Collected Essays (4 vols, 1865­75), A Sanskrit Grammar (London, 1866), A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature (London, 1869), India: What Can It Teach Us? (1883), Physical Religion (1891), Three Lectures on the Vedanta Philosophy (1894), The Sacred Books of the East (51 vols, 1879-94),      Contributions to the Science of Mythology (2 vols, 1897), Ramakrishna, His Life and Sayings (1898), and The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy (1899). The publication of Rig Veda brought him world fame. In the field of philology he had few equals, while in early Sanskrit learning he was almost an innovator. He viewed Sanskrit as a pivot of culture; he urged talented scholars and interested individuals to study seriously Sanskrit grammar, literature and thought. It was the way he prescribed for them to gain entry into what he considered to be the most ideal wisdom of India. In his introduction to Muller’s India: What Can It Teach Us? Professor Alexander Wilder agreed: ‘In that study of the history of the human mind, in that study of ourselves, our true selves, India occupies a place which is second to no other country.’ (23)

 

 

 

     Paul Deussen

 

 

 

     Paul Deussen, Muller’s successor, expressed his appreciation of Indian thought in the value he placed on Vedanta as a singular human accomplishment in man’s quest for truth. He captured the essence of the Upanishads in his Philosophy of the Upanishads, which formed the second part of his General History of Philosophy: ‘The Atman is the sole Reality (satyam, satyasya satyam); for it is the metaphysical unity that is manifested in all empirical plurality.’ (24) Deussen ‘was the great pioneer who, like no other man in his time, contributed towards securing for Indian philosophy its due place in the entire field of philosophy,’ Glasenapp wrote in his great work, Image of India. (25)

 

     Beginning in 1883, his translations and commentaries of Hindu scriptures, especially Vedanta, formed a powerful conduit through which the Vedanta philosophy flowed to Europe. He gave the first important exposition of Shankara’s system of Vedanta in 1883. (26) Anquetil-Duperron’s Oupnek’hat had been newly translated into German from Dresden in 1882. Deussen translated it again fifteen years later, when he was a professor occupying the chair of philosophy at the University of Kiel, a post he kept from 1889 until his death. (362) In 1887 he published the Sutras of Vedanta with Shankara’s Commentary in German. His monumental annotated and cross-referenced translation, Sixty Upanishads (1897), which included interpretative introductions to each Upanishad, was considered the most scholarly translation. (363) Collaborating with his brilliant pupil, Otto Strauss (1881-1940), he added the philosophical texts of the Mahabharata in 1906. (363)

 

     Deussen’s History of Philosophy was published in six volumes. The first three expound the Indian philosophy and the remaining three the philosophies of Greece, the Middle Ages and the period from Descartes to Scho­pen­hauer. Deussen understood the importance of Vedanta’s message for the West better than his contemporaries did. His Spirit of the Upanishads was published in 1907 - from as far west as Chicago. It extracted the choicest essence of the philosophy of the Hindus.

 

     Deussen’s most prodigious work on the philosophy of the Upanishads appeared in German from Leipzig in 1899. (27) A S Geden translated it into English in 1906. The Philosophy of the Upanishads still enjoys singular prestige due to its rare systematic, linguistic and scholarly comprehensiveness. Deussen’s prediction in the introduction to the monumental work is recalled:

 

     The identity of the Brahman and the atman, of God and the soul, is the fundamental thought [of the Upanishads]. … It will be found to possess a significance reaching far beyond their time and country; nay, we claim for it an inestimable value for the whole race of mankind. One thing we may assert with confidence - whatever new and unwonted paths the philosophy of the future may strike out, this principle will remain permanently unshaken and from it no deviation can possibly take place. (28)

 

     There are many other eminent German Sanskritists who delved into the meaning of the Vedanta and published translations, catalogues of Sanskrit manuscripts and accomplished brilliant Vedic studies. Although they are worthy of mention together with German Indologists, whose more recent scholarship indicates their primary focus on Sanskrit along with recent studies of modern Indian languages, we are unable to include them. Indology is stronger in Germany than in any other Western country today. We encourage the reader who wants to learn more of the dependable works of scholarship that came from Germany to read the present author’s book, Journey of the Upanishads to the West.

 

 

 

     Russia’s Interest in Vedanta

 

 

 

     Towards the beginning of the nineteenth century, Russian scholars and writers shared with Western Europe an intense interest in Indian studies, especially studies in Buddhism. During the same period that Anquetil-Duperron was writing his Latin translation, Oupne­k’hat, in Paris, the message of Vedanta was entering Russia. N I Norikov, whose work relied on Wilkins’ English version, introduced it in 1787. (29) It was the first Russian translation of the Bhagavadgita.

 

     At the request of Czar Alexander I, Gerasim Lebedev (1746-1817) set up the imperial printing house of Sanskrit with Devanagari types at St Petersburg. (30) In 1801, he published a grammar from London with a long, descriptive title - A Grammar of the Pure and Mixed East Indian Dialects … according to the Brahmenian System, of the Shamscrit Language … with a Recitation of the Assertions of Sir William Jones, Respecting the Shamscrit Alphabet … Calculated for the Use of Europeans. In 1805 he published his Unbiased Contemplation of the East Indian System of the Brahmins, Their Religious Rites and Popular Customs in Russian from St Petersburg. (31)

 

     From the middle of the nineteenth century, Russia’s interest in Sanskrit and Hindu literature produced a growing commitment to Indian studies by her scholars. Uvarov was chancellor of the University of Saint Petersburg. Projet d’une Acadumie Asiatique (1810), the work of Uvarov, the chancellor of the University of Saint Petersburg, described his plan to establish an Asiatic Academy at the University and was inspired by Calcutta’s Asiatic Society. Russian instruction of the Oriental languages, with a preference for Sanskrit, finally began in 1818 when Uvarov, who had become a government minister, inaugurated the Asiatic Academy at the University of Saint Petersburg.

 

     Initially, foreign scholars taught Sanskrit and other oriental languages at this Academy. (79, 449) Most of them came from Germany, like Friedrich Adelung. (79, 450) Adelung, who was a councillor of state, became the director of the Oriental Institute at St Petersburg in 1823 after writing his German papers on the relationship between Sanskrit and Russian in 1811. The Institute was attached to the Ministry of Foreign Relations. He was also the first to compile a bibliography of Sanskrit works, which was titled Bibliotheca Sanscrita in the second edition (1837). (172)

 

     Count S S Novarov created a Sanskrit chair when he was appointed a Minister of Public Instruction and the president of the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg. Robert Lenz (1808-36) filled the chair as a professor of Sanskrit and comparative philology at the Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg for only one year due to his early death. The sustained interest of Russian scholars in Sanskrit studies required a replacement. Pavel Yakovlevich Petrov (1814-75) was appointed to two chairs of Sanskrit, one at Kazan University in 1841 and the other at the University of Moscow from 1852 to 1875. (79) Petrov translated part of the Ramayana into Russian, adding grammatical notes and a Sanskrit glossary, in 1836. (32)

 

     A significant event occurred between 1852 and 1875. The Academy of Sciences published the unexcelled Saint Petersburg Sanskrit-German Dictionary in seven volumes that was the fruit of Rudolf von Roth and Otto Bohtlingk’s labour. (33) Nearly all of Europe was now potentially in the realm of wisdom conveyed only through Sanskrit. The Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka, Katha, Aitareya, and Prashna Upanishads - all containing the Devanagari script - also became available. By the late nine­teenth century, partial translations of the Rig Veda, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata also appeared in Russian.

 

     Ivan Pavlovich Minayev (1840-90) was appointed a professor of Sanskrit in 1869 and a professor of the comparative grammar of Indo­European languages in 1873 at the University of Saint Petersburg. He travelled extensively throughout India, lecturing in Sanskrit and mixing with Indians from all stations in life. Minayev’s first journey, from June 1874 to December of the following year, included trips to Calcutta, Nepal and Sri Lanka. His second visit five years later, from January to May 1880, took him to many cities throughout India. On his final visit, begun in December of 1885 and lasting five months, he travelled to Calcutta and Burma. He spent much more time in Calcutta on this last visit and met many leading Bengali intellectuals, including the literary luminary, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (1838-94).

 

     Throughout his journeys, Minayev acquired a vast collection of Indian works and brought them back to Russia. (34) His meetings with Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar (1837-1925) and other Indian scholars greatly aided him in this work. Bhandarkar was later elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1888 as an honorary corresponding member. (35) The Sanskrit and Pali manuscripts Minayev collected are preserved at the State Library of Saint Petersburg; his collections of art and archaeology are housed in the museum of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg. (36)

 

     Theodore Stcherbatsky was drawn to Indian literature and philosophy. Two important works that he published were a study of Harikavi’s epic poem of the seventh century in German (1900) and a work on the theory of Indian poetry in Russian (1902). In 1903 he published the first volume of Theory of Knowledge and Logic in the Doctrines of Later Buddhism in Russian, followed by the second volume in 1909. In 1909 he was also appointed assistant professor of Sanskrit at the University of Saint Petersburg and later occupied the chair of Sanskrit until his death. His subsequent mastery as an interpreter of Indian philosophy and his discovery of rare Sanskrit, Buddhist and Jain manuscripts earned him high regard as a leading Western authority on Buddhism. After travelling to India in 1910-11, he received the help of traditional Sanskrit scholars and translated the essence of Nyaya logic into Russian with their help. He preserved many rare, ancient texts on Nyaya logic by photographing them (they could not be purchased) for later use. (37)

 

     In 1916, London’s Royal Asiatic Society published Stcherbatsky’s Central Conception of Buddhism in English. His greatest work, Buddhistic Logic, included references to the six main schools of Indian philosophy. It was published in two volumes as part of the Bibliotheca Buddhica series in 1935. He published many translations of works on Buddhism and Sanskrit, including Dandin’s Dashakumara Charitam in three instalments in Russian between 1923 and 1925 and Abhisamayalankara Prajna Paramita by Maitreyanatha (270-350 AD) with the Sanskrit text and an English translation in 1929.

 

     Stcherbatsky was the director of the Russian Institute of Buddhist Culture from 1928 to 1930 and head of the Indo-Tibetan section of the Institute of Oriental Studies from 1930 to 1942. Because he presented Buddhism in a non-theistic way while he was living in Russia, his contributions on Buddhism survived the Communist regime. (38)

 

     Mikhael Tubyanski (1893-1943) lectured on the Sanskrit, Hindi and Bengali languages at the Leningrad Institute of Modern Oriental Languages from 1920 to 1927, and later taught at Leningrad University. He published the Sanskrit text of Nyaya Pravesha accompanied by the Mongol and Tibetan equivalents, another work on Bengali literature in 1922, and left other unpublished works. (39)

 

     Sergei Oldenburg (1863-1934) became the professor of Sanskrit at the University of Saint Petersburg and sponsored the Bibliotheca Buddhica series under the auspices of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1897. His expeditions to Central Turkestan, Mongolia and Tibet resulted in a vast collection of archaeological artefacts and literary materials. He was appointed the director of the Asiatic Museum of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1916. The Museum and its collection were transferred to the Oriental Institute in 1930, after which Oldenburg reorganized the Institute. His works include Buddisskrija Legendi (1894-95) and Notes on Buddhistic Art (1897). (359-60)

 

     E E Obermiller (1901-35) joined the Academy of Sciences and assisted the editor of the Bibliotheca Buddhica series. He edited the Sanskrit and Tibetan Index Verborum to Nyayabindu according to the Nyayabindu Tika in 1927. He translated the Sanskrit text of the Abhisamayalankara into Tibetan and published it with Stcherbatsky as co-editor in 1929. In 1931 he published a Russian translation of the Uttaratantra of Boddhisattva Maitreya with Asanga’s commentary. Other works include a study on the doctrine of the Prajna Paramita and a history of Buddhism in two parts; both works were published in 1931-32. (358)

 

     Alexei Petrovich Barannikov (1890-1952) published several Russian translations of Hindi works, including the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas. As head of the Oriental Department at the University of Saint Petersburg, he lectured at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences on ancient Indian literature and on Sanskrit language, grammar and poetics. He translated Adi Paravan’s Mahabharata and Aryasura’s Jatakmala into Russian for the Bibliotheca Buddhica. (286-7)

 

     The works of other Russian scholars and artists who were inspired by Vedanta are beyond the scope of this article and may also be found in the book, Journey of the Upanishads to the West. Today, Soviet intellectuals in reputable posts in Russia are gradually showing their sustained interest in the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda phenomenon. Dr. Chelishev was the director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and the vice president of the Committee for Comprehensive Study of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Movement. He was head of the Indian Languages and Literature Section at Moscow University’s Institute of International Relations before assuming his post as the director of the Institute of Oriental Studies. Dr Chelishev was a member of the Soviet Writers Union and the Soviet Peace Committee and the vice president of the Indo-Soviet Friendship Society. He also received the Jawaharlal Nehru Prize for Peace. Several of his articles appear in Swami Vivekananda Studies in the Soviet Union, including ‘Swami Vivekananda - The Indian Humanist, Democrat and Patriot.’ The lengthy article was chosen to be included in the Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial Volume. (40) Russian scholarship on Swami Vivekananda has been going on for the last thirty years.

 

     From the 1980s, Professor V. S. Kostyuchenko’s monograph, ‘Conception of Neo-Vedantism,’ Rybakov’s ‘Bourgeois Reformation of Hinduism,’ and other Russian studies of the religious and philosophical heritage of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda have been published in Russia. In October 1984, Swami Lokeswarananda’s visit and lectures in Russia culminated in meetings with eight Russian scholars in order to study India’s culture and philosophy. Harish C. Gupta translated their works from Russian into English for the authoritative book, Swami Vivekananda Studies in the Soviet Union, which was published by the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Calcutta, in 1987. The 150th birth anniversary of Sri Ramakrishna was observed the same year in a three-day seminar held by the Institute from 16 to 18 January. It was organized in collaboration with the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Academy of Sciences in Moscow and the Soviet Writers Union. Fourteen Russian scholars from various disciplines led by R B Rybakov participated in the seminar.

 

     We close with a poignant example of the profound and far-reaching capacity of Sanskrit scriptures to inspire and transform people. Theodor Springmann, a German officer during World War I, translated the Bhagavadgita and carried the sacred scripture into the trenches with him. Only months before his death while performing his duty as a commander of mine-throwing, he wrote the Preface to his translation and gave a meaningful epigraph:

 

     One can never find anything right in life without abstraction and metaphysical knowledge, thoroughness and piety. What is needed is an educated overview of the whole, the fervour of the faith and feeling, which inspires to action and which gives them real value; also needed is the self-discipline acquired through long effort, the ability to concentrate instantly all the powers on one single point. Thus, the various systems and ways of salvation are mobilized in the Bhagavad Gita to show the necessity to fight against the enemies of justice and to give moral strength to those fighting in this battle. The very brahmanic cult of sacrifice can teach us to look at the entire life as a sacrifice. The greatest sacrifice is the sacrifice of the warrior’s life upon the altar of the battle. The gates of Heaven are open to him. (41)

 

     Theodor Springmann’s sentiment highlights the potential to transcend pessimistic thought, which is typically grounded in actions of the will in the West, and from which the Western philosophers sought release through the inspiration they received from the East.

 

 

 

     References

 

 

 

     1. ‘India: What Can It Teach Us?’ in Collected Works of the Right Hon F Max Muller (London, New York and Bombay, 1899), 13.5-15 passim.

     2. Raymond Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance: Europe’s Discovery of India and the East, 1680-­1880 (New York, 1984), 110.

     3. Prabuddha Bharata, October 2000, 41. See Gauranga Gopal Sengupta, Indology and Its Eminent Western Savants (Calcutta, 1996), 108; 119, n. 6.

     4. Oriental Renaissance, 44.

     5.Ibid., 465.

     6. Indology, 106, 120-1. See also Swami Tathagatananda, Glimpses of Great Lives (New York, 1999), 213-14.

     7. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols. (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1-8, 1989; 9, 1997), 4.409.

     8. Cited from Oriental Renaissance, 127.

     9. H G Rawlinson in Legacy of India, ed. G T Garratt (London, 1937), 35-6.

     10. The Sacred Books of the East, gen. ed. Max Muller, 51 vols. (Oxford, 1879-1894), 1.lxvii.

     11. Ibid., 15.xx.

     12. R K Das Gupta, Sri Ramakrishna’s Religion (Calcutta: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, 2001), 106.

     13. Collected Works, 13.6.

     14. Max Muller, Three Lectures on the Vedanta Philosophy (London and New York, 1894), 39-40.

     15. Sri Ramakrishna’s Religion, 107.

     16. Ibid., 107-8.

     17. CW, 4.280-1.

     18. Cited from Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna As I Saw Him (Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1970), 33.

     19. Swami Tathagatananda, Journey of the Upanishads to the West (New York: The Vedanta Society of New York, 2002), e-mail: vedantasoc@aol. com; available from Advaita Ashrama, 5 Dehi Entally Road, Kolkata 700 014; e-mail: advaita @vsnl.com.

     20. Sri Ramakrishna’s Religion, 115.

     21. Max Muller, Ramakrishna, His Life and Sayings, (Mayavati: Advaita Ashrama, 1951), 10-11.

     22. Collected Works, 13.31-2.

     23. Max Muller, India: What Can It Teach Us? (New York, 1883), xv.

     24. Paul Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads (New York, 1966), 404.

     25. Helmuth von Glasenapp, Image of India, trans. S Ambike, 1973; cited from R K Das Gupta, Swami Vivekananda on Indian Philosophy and Literature (Calcutta: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, 1996), 38.

     26. Art, Culture and Spirituality (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama,1997), 362.

     27. Prabuddha Bharata, December 1946, 472.

     28. Philosophy of the Upanishads, 39-40.

     29. Indology, 163.

     30. Ibid., 163; 347.

     31. Oriental Renaissance, 343.

     32. Indology, 163-4 passim; 362.

     33. Oriental Renaissance, 79.

     34. Indology, 164-71 passim.

     35. Gordon Stavig, ‘India in Russian Thought’ in Bulletin, October 1999, 476.

     36. Indology, 169.

     37. Ibid., 233-5 passim.

     38. Bulletin, October 1999, 478-9.

     39. Indology, 386-7.

     40. Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial Volume, ed. R C Majumdar (Calcutta, 1963), 505-18.

     41. Translation of German citation from Dorothy Matilda Figueira, Translating the Orient - The Reception of Sakuntala in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Albany, 1991), 210-11.



International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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