The Story of Indian Philosophy

The working title for this book at first was “Indian Philosophy, which I always wanted to know but had no time to do so.”

Indian philosophy appears at first to be a bewildering plethora of concepts, and this curious potpourri of faith and logic has made Indian Philosophy an enigma. This short work has squeezed a period of several millennia and prevented the evolution of concepts in a quasi-historical manner to demonstrate the dynamic nature of Indian philosophy. I hope this makes it different and more comprehensive than the hitherto published scholarly books on the subject.

Despite the brevity of the presentation, the contents of this book are sufficiently informative to satisfy those who wish to know about it but are hard-pressed for time. The first few paragraphs give the essence of the full text in the chapter, and a general reader needs not to go through the white text. The detailed text is for the students, researchers, and teachers. Footnotes, references, and a bibliography aid any serious study.

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Nallakuttalam Shanmugasundaram

About the Author

Dr Prasanna Chandra Gautam - MBBS, MRCP (UK), FRCP Edin., FRCPS, Glasgow, FRSPH (UK). He has been studying ancient Sanskrit literature since 2005. Formerly, he was a Consultant Physician and a Senior Lecturer in Medicine at Aberdeen University. Scotland and an Honorary Professor of Gerontology at Manmohan Memorial Institute of Health Sciences in Kathmandu. He was educated in Kathmandu, Varanasi, Bangalore, and the UK. He was born into an orthodox Brahmin family in Nepal, where he grew up being familiar with the traditional customs and rituals. Being an experienced science researcher and teacher, he is well placed to interpret ancient Sanskrit texts and present them coherently and systematically. He has translated the Rig Veda word for word from Sanskrit into English, Nepali, and Hindi. He lives with his wife Leela in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Besides many technical papers on medicine, his other publications include:

  • I need to break your other leg: Tales of medical adventures and misadventures. 2008.
  • Rig Veda Samhita with Mantra, Pada-patha, Anvaya, Artha, and Essence. PC Gautam et al. (translator and editor), Nepali. Vol. 1-2. 2010.
  • Jawa Pugyo Sathi (Life after sixty). 2012.
  • Modern English Translation of The Rig Veda Samhita, Vol 1-4, Nepali edition 2012, Indian edition, 2015.
  • The Ping: An International Thriller. 2016.
  • Rigveda, Yathartha Anuvad. Vol. 1-4. MC Maheshwari and PC Gautam. Hindi. 2020.
  • Reflections in Contemporary Values, Beliefs, and Behaviours: Adventures of an Enquiring Mind. 2018, 2019.

Explore the Book

Discussion on two favourite chapters

Chapter 1: Introduction

This introduces most of the issues comprehensively from the background of existing literature. This also highlights continuity in misinformation and conjectures presented by the scholars. Finally, the text suggests a scientific and objective way of looking at the existing literature, which is logical and comprehensible. These concepts are the main quest for peace, bliss, and equanimity, which are essential to modern times, too.

Chapter 23: Conclusion

The author suggests a few inferences based on this vast literature.

  • i) The Vedic Concept of social structure could be adapted to suit modern times.
  • ii) Each person should design and follow their religion which should have no intermediary between him and his faith. They should worship in private and have no commonplace preaching or worshipping. This is to avoid herding mankind into adversarial religious camps, and this will prevent conflicts, wars, deaths, and destruction.
  • iii) Let society determine an upper limit too for accumulating personal wealth. It will be in the interest of the whole society to narrow the widening divide between the rich and poor.

Message from the Author

Let our blind faith in tradition and superstition never extinguish the flame of curiosity within us.

About the Book

This book is a distillate of the vast Indian literature on Indian philosophy, culture, and religions. This spans several millennia and has been presented briefly, objectively, and with authority, demonstrating Professor Gautam's deep research into these complex and often mutually conflicting concepts. This sufficiently brief introduction to our heritage is designed for the modern generation. This has received excellent prepublication reviews and is highly recommended.

"It is a fascinating, comprehensive, enlightening account of Indian philosophy. This is lucid yet accessible.… This book will make an excellent contribution to the body of knowledge on Indian philosophy". Professor Surya Subedi, QC, OBE, DCL, D Phil, LLD (Hon), University of Leeds, UK.

"This book is a must-read for understanding this ancient wisdom. I congratulate Professor Gautam for this great accomplishment and wish him a long and healthy life". Dr Kashinath Nyaupane, Professor of Buddhism and Sanskrit, Nepal Sanskrit University, Kathmandu.

"I believe that even- or perhaps especially- the most profound academic in India would gain new information and insight from this book." Clive Roberts, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK.

"Divided into 23 chapters, the book discusses the various stages of Indian civilisations and their evolutions. This is a must-read book for those who want to understand the basics of Hindu Philosophy and civilization". Keshav Poudyal, Editor, New Spotlight, Kathmandu.

An interview with the author

We had a small interview with Dr. Prasanna Chandra Gautam, Some portions of the interview is added for our visitors.

“Quality of Life” is a modern concept. One is thought to have a good quality of life if one has sophisticated physical amenities, sufficient wealth, and other resources. The emphasis is on pleasurable living in comfort and possessing as much luxury as possible. The ancient concept of “Quality of Living” emphasises on a lifestyle in which equanimity, peace, tranquillity, and spiritual enhancement are actively sought and practised. Physical and luxurious amenities are not considered as important. There is nothing wrong with the former concept as one is prepared to accept the risk of mental breakdown, other manifestations of severely stressful conditions and conflicts, and disharmony. The latter lifestyle also can precipitate a sense of disaffection, failure, and a feeling of inadequacy within oneself, particularly when overwhelmed by peer pressure and the demands of society. Buddha suggested a middle way, balancing your life in the best possible way. Many call this a “Simple Living” – awareness of both these concepts can help a young person to choose the lifestyle that appears most acceptable.

>Nihilism, nowadays, is attributed to the German philosopher Nietzsche who was probably alarmed by the decline of Christianity in Europe. “Nothing really meant anything.” But the concept in its widest scope has been debated since the Vedic items, nearly six thousand years ago. The Mantras have questioned the reality of everything and could not come to any conclusion. They could only say that the ultimate reality was “neither this,” “nor that.” Neti, Neti. The Upanishad era brought out the concept that the reality of everything was Brahma. The philosophers who sought proof questioned further. They asked, “Who sees that who is unseen but sees everything?” Buddha simplified this by teaching that the reality of everything was impermanence. The Madhyamika school of Buddhist philosophy stretched this teaching to its wildest imagination by bringing out the theory of Sunyabad (roughly translated as nihilism). This philosopher was Nagarjuna, who was born about 1500 years before Nietzsche. The Brahmins began to teach that everything was... or illusion. The quantum physicist discussing the formation of matter, the wave and particle theory, suggests that everything may be the manifestation of energy. I have asked whether we are, therefore, just holograms.

Iconoclast suggests a person who is an atheist with a destructive personality, thus denoting a negative trait. A religious person is thought to be pious. I do not belong to either category, I am a student of science and my job for forty years was to help the sick. I did not destroy but mended their body and mind. Science leads us to the truth. The organised religions of the world are based on faith. The search for truth may be disconcerting to the traditionalists who practice their faith blindly without question. They may consider me to be an iconoclast. I do not conform to any organised religion and have been a pious person. Your question reminds me of an aphorism of the great thinker Sri Aurobindo, who said that searching for truth often leads to some degree of agnosticism.

I became interested to know about religions and spirituality after reading the lectures of Swami Vivekananda when I was a young boy. At the age of seventeen, I shifted to Ramakrishna Mission Hostel to enhance my mind and build my body", according to the teachings of this great man. The Swamis' arrogance, the religion's rigidity, and subsequently, the misinterpretation and fallacy seen in the commentaries in English, Hindi, and Nepali prompted me to self-study. I have been able to devote much of my time to learning these concepts since retirement.

Swami Vivekananda noticed this and told the parable of Two Frogs. There is not much difference or significant change in the practice of organised religions and their leaders. However, the visible differences are in social media usage by modern religious readers and their desire to tour foreign parts.

As I have explained in my prefaces, I have systematically documented the evolution of philosophy in the subcontinent factually and scientifically, giving reference and context. This has, hopefully, made Indian Philosophy easily comprehensible to any readers. Besides trying to make this an easy read, I was also hoping that this vast knowledge could provide some answers to the ills of our times. This might show the way for the younger generation to leave this world in a better state for their children. The destitution, death, and deprivation in the wealthiest nations prompted me to seek their answers.

The contemporary Gurus appear to me to be exceptionally gifted! They seem to know the answer to every question. They also appear to have a very self-satisfying “Quality of Life.” There were fake and genuine gurus in ancient times, which we can find by reading some Smritis or Sastras. To me, a genuine Guru is one who envelopes you to think, finds answers to your questions, and enhances your innate mental ability and self-confidence. A fake Guru does the opposite by teaching you half-truths and false things, making you more fearful and dependent on others, mostly himself or herself. It is easier to shun one’s responsibility by saying it is “God’s will” or “Baba/Swamiji/Mata will set it right” than doing your duty yourself. Fake gurus appear to teach self-hypnosis, too, to a large extent.

The traditional teaching has never been to accept that telling lies is ok! The Upanishad says, “Maa bruyaat satamapririm.” Do not tell the truth in an unpalatable manner. Our motto has been “Satyameva Jayate Nanritam.” Ultimately, the truth prevails; none else.