Monday, 18 July 2016

Perennial Philosophy

If this position has changed considerably today, it is entirely due to the lead given by Swami Vivekananda to Indian thought by his re-statement of the principles of the Sanatana Dharma, distinguishing it from the setting of caste, ritualism and Pouranic cults with which it was inextricably bound. Several others have attempted such re-statements after his time, but his was the first and the most authentic attempt in modern times, and it still stands unexcelled with all the prophetic force and fervour of a new revelation, before which the academic presentation of later writers pale into insignificance. In this respect his pioneering work is comparable only to that of Vyasa or Sri Sankara, who demonstrated the structural unity of Vedic thought, and of Sri Sankara, who systematized and expounded its philosophical implications. In common with these great men Swami Vivekananda too did not propound any new doctrines but claimed only to teach what the great Rishis had taught.

But none the less he was original, and that originality lay, as in the case of his great predecessors mentioned, in his capacity to state the doctrine in concepts that link them with current thought and life while at the same time making no compromise in respect of the spiritual values they embody.

Thus the essence of the Universal Philosophy of Religion known as the Vedanta, which of late has been christened a  the  'Perennial Philosophy' by Aldous Huxley, has been stated in a very brief, yet comprehensive manner, by the Swami as follows :

1. Each soul is potentially divine;

2. The goal is to manifest this divine within by controlling Nature, external and internal;

3. Do this either by work, or worship or psychic control, or philosophy, by one or more or all of these and be free;

4. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines or dogmas or rituals or books or temples or forms are but secondary details.

 This statement is so simple and brief and the modernity of its tone so apparent that it makes an immediate appeal to any reflective mind of today. And yet it is an uncompromising assertion of the doctrine of the Upanisads, and if the great Sankaracharya, who expounded the wisdom of the Upanisads in the past, were to come to life today, he would have congratulated its author in unmeasured terms for his faithfulness to Vedantic traditions in his re-statement of the teachings for the comprehension of the modern world.