In 2010, I wrote a blog post called Going back to the temple. A recent reading of the ISKCON’s version of Bhagvad Gita As It Is, felt like a push towards a non-questioning worship of Lord Krishna and it’s interpretation of the Gita felt like an effort to turn people towards the ISKCON movement rather than to enlighten people about the Gita itself.
I have also been reading the Stoics lately. I have read about them in Tim Ferriss’ videos on YouTube, Ryan Holiday’s newsletter called the Daily Stoic, a book on the Stoic Philosophy – William Irvine’s book on Stoicism.
These made me wonder about Indian systems of philosophy. This led me to this wonderful Wikipedia page. This further led me to Samkhya. Many have called Samkhya the philosophical backing for Yoga.
Like most Indian philosophical schools, the original works are lost. These seem to have either been not taken forward as an oral tradition at some point. There is likely to have been misinterpretations as these have passed down centuries.
I was comparatively reading two translations of Samkhya Karika, which survived since there was a Chinese translation from the 6th century that survived. The two are –
- The Samkhya Karika by Ishwara Krishna – An Exposition of the Sytem of Kapila – John Davies [PDF link]
- Samkhya Karika – Brahmrishi Vishvatma Bawra
The second book led me to this website of Brahmrishi Vishvatma Bawra. The site does not appear to have been updated since 2015.
It led me to look for modern Samkhya teachers. This led to a book called Modern Samkhya by D E Osto
This is where I am at learning about a rationalist and atheistic school of Hindu thought. Since, today is Buddha Pournima, I thought linking to this blog post which compares the study of Buddhism and Samkhya might be a good addition. The parallels are striking.
As D E Osto writes on his website about the book:
The ancient philosophy of Sāṃkhya can be applied to modern life in a number of valuable ways. Rather than becoming overly concerned with the metaphysics of the system, Sāṃkhya can be seen as a psychological tool to overcome suffering. Through rigorous philosophical and psychological analysis, a person can learn to detach or disassociate from the psychophysical entity, and realize witness consciousness or what I refer to as the transcendental subject.D E Osto, Modern Samkhya
The parallels to Stoicism is striking to me.
It was only right before marriage when I sought to write down what my essential beliefs would be. I saw marriage as introducing chaos into my world, one which I embraced and enjoyed. Before the introduction of this chaos, I wanted to reduce my involvement in other things and prioritize them when I could not totally remove them.
One of the things that I had the most difficult time was to select what would be the set of beliefs that I would follow. I am a Hindu by birth but I have the choice of what set of beliefs I would take in and what I would keep out in the multitude of beliefs.
I read through books on Christianity, Judaism, Jainism, Buddhism and Islam and chose Hinduism to be the broad umbrella in which I’d like to continue to stay. Like all teenagers, I’ve been through atheism as well.
After choosing the broadest stream that there is, in religious beliefs, there were still many more options left to choose from. Even within Hinduism there are a range of practices and beliefs. There are organisations and traditions. This too left with me far too much diversity and only increased the chaos.
After a study of the books, I looked at how many of the people I know practiced the religion on a day-to-day basis to help me get a little more handle on things. I noticed how my grandfather practiced Hinduism. He would light the lamp at the small altar in his house and pray. He would visit temples but would stay away from elaborate ritualism but still supported the festival in the temple close to his house. He had an interest in astrology but did not let it guide him. He was content with this and had a remarkably simple practice of the religion with little interest in its theology.
After a lot of thinking, I adopted this practice as well. I would pray every day at the altar at my house and visit the temple one day a week. I’ve had an interest in some philosophy and rather than take in too many differing views have restricted myself to reading stuff mostly from the Chinmaya Mission and to talks on Buddhism on the Against the Stream podcast to satiate my philosophical appetite.
Mumbai. January 4, 2016.