My sincere thanks to Dr. Roger Moseley, a well-known surgeon and author for his book review of my book, given as follows:
In her new book, “Sapiens and Sthitaprajna,” Ashwini Mokashi takes us on a unique philosophical journey into the earliest history of philosophy and one of its most important contributions to human societies. She compares and contrasts the Ancient Greek and early Hindu ideas of how we should best live our lives through a thorough analysis of the characteristics of perceived ideal characters, the Stoic “Sapiens” and the Hindu “Sthitaprajna.”
Only a person with unusual linguistic skills could unpack these complex stories and Mokashi has exceptional competence in Sanskrit and ancient Greek, as well, of course, in Marathi, Hindi, German and English.
Mokashi describes these concepts in detail and then illustrates their many similarities and identifies many subtle differences. For example the Sapiens and Sthitaprajna agree that concern for oneself is essential, yet rational considerations invoke a concern for society and “universal welfare.” Notable differences include the Stoic idea of acquiring wisdom by observing and understanding the laws of nature, while ancient Indian culture, in contrast, emphasized meditation and study of the tenets of yogas as a guide. Another distinction is seen in the Hindu pursuit of Moksa in order to stop the ceaseless round of reincarnation; the Stoics showed no concern for an afterlife.
Mokashi notes that both cultures recognized that “the wise person provided the legal and moral backbone to the social structure,” and that leisurely contemplative study was essential for attaining wisdom. Just why these geographically distant cultures independently, and almost simultaneously, developed such novel ideas raises many questions. Clearly a society had to reach a degree of maturity and literary competence to allow pursuit of what in an earlier era would have been regarded as unproductive labor!
We need wise men and women more than ever in our complex modern societies and competing cultures. Mokashi’s book offers an appreciation of mankind’s earliest efforts to conceptualize an approach to optimizing societal function, and it provides a useful foundation on which thoughtful individuals can build today.
Roger V. Moseley, an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, is a retired Chief of General Surgery at the Medical Center of Princeton and also an author of ‘Morality: A Natural History’.