As mentioned previously on this blog, a well-known publishing group, ‘Academy of Comparative Philosophy and Religion’ (ACPR) recently published the book ‘East and West’ in the spring of 2023. They asked me to write a foreword to this book. With their kind permission, here is the foreword republished. I am very grateful to the ACPR and the editor Mr. Shard Joshi for this honor.
Foreword to the book ‘East and West,’
Dr. Ashwini Mokashi
Member, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Oxford, UK
‘Philosophical and Other Essays’ by Prof. Gurudev R.D. Ranade published his essay critiquing Prof. Hardayal’s philosophy. Readers of that book were left curious, wondering what was being critiqued. This book ‘East and West’ helps resolve that curiosity. We now have a complete understanding of what was being critiqued and how. Even a hundred and ten years later, the vindication of Indian Philosophy by Gurudev Ranade still holds.
These articles were originally published in a very reputed journal called ‘The Modern Review,’ which started in 1905. It was a monthly magazine published in Kolkata (Calcutta). Mr. Ramananda Chatterjee founded and edited the magazine. The magazine provided a critical forum to discuss the issues occupying the Indian nationalist intelligentsia. Prominent nationalist leaders published their articles in this magazine, including Jawaharlal Nehru. The fact that all three authors had published their articles in this journal shows how prominent they were at their young ages.
Lala Hardayal Mathur was born in 1884 in a Punjabi family in Delhi and passed away in 1939 in Philadelphia, USA. He was an Indian nationalist and freedom fighter who spent his life campaigning against British rule in India. The Modern Review published articles by Prof. Hardayal in 1911 and 1912. At the time of authoring the articles, he was a young man with evolving views about India, the role of India, and how the outside world viewed India. After studying Sanskrit for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Punjab and Delhi, he received a scholarship from Oxford University for higher studies. His Ph.D. thesis was later published as ‘The Bodhisattva Doctrines in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature.’ Despite his scholarship and prominence as an upcoming scholar, his article in 1912 displays his immaturity through his frustration about India not being prominent on the world map. He decides that ancient Indian philosophy and metaphysics are to be blamed since we encourage our youngsters to study and follow the ancient ideas of the pursuit of God instead of training them in useful subjects such as economics and science. Given how the world is going, he represents a point of view usually represented in the West.
Sir H.V. Divatia authored another article in this book as a young man. He was born in 1886 and passed away in 1968 in India. He became the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court and was knighted by the British government in 1945. He was also a Sanskrit scholar and authored various books, including ‘The Art of Life in the Bhagavad-Gita.’ He criticized the articles by Prof. Hardayal vigorously and emphasized that Indian philosophy and Indian values were highly cherished.
The last article in the series is authored by Gurudev R.D. Ranade, a young scholar in his twenties at the time of writing. He was born in Jamkhandi in Karnataka, in 1886 and passed away in Nimbal, Karnataka, in 1957. He became the Vice-Chancellor of Allahabad University in India, a Professor of Philosophy, and the Spiritual Head of the Nimbal Sampradaya, a branch of Nimbargi-Inchageri Sampradaya. He was admired worldwide for his scholarship of Sanskrit, Indian Philosophy, and Western Philosophy.
His response to Prof. Hardayal’s article is the most authoritative one. As Prof. N. G. Damle says in his foreword to the book ‘Philosophical and Other Essays,’ ‘the essay contains a very spirited defense of Indian Philosophy by Prof. Ranade against the unmerited attack on it by Lala Hardayal.’ One often wonders whether the pursuit of Indian philosophy and its metaphysics is still valid, especially as we live in a world dominated by sciences, economics, politics, information technology, artificial intelligence, medical advances, and hegemonic political strategies. The critical question is how to value Indian philosophy and understand its ancient ways considering the demands of modernity.
All three authors were exceptionally talented young scholars of Sanskrit and Philosophy and deeply cared for Mother India. What we see in these articles is a classic dialogue about their concerns about how India and ancient Indian philosophy should be represented in the minds of people in contemporary times and how to represent our country and Philosophy best. We see the frustration in the writings of Prof. Hardayal. He is an excellent observer of life abroad in Europe and America. He notices how Americans perceive India very aptly and how they regard Indian Philosophy, how Indians abroad feel about their native country and how they cope with homesickness while living far away from their country. Most Indians lament that India is not as prominent as it was in ancient times. When India’s glory was taken away, it left young Indians wondering who we were and why we could not reclaim that glory. We see that in the articles of Prof. Hardayal. These frustrations perturb Sir Divatia and Gurudev Ranade. They both at that time were living in India and showed pride in Indian Philosophy and its positive role in the minds of young Indians.
Gurudev Ranade gave an exquisite response to these classical concerns from the point of view of Indian spirituality and concluded on an exceedingly high note about how the East and West will unite in India. He talked about the spiritual aspects of Indian Philosophy and how the new scientific growth that started in the West after the industrial revolution could be reproduced in India. Gurudev Ranade was a spiritual seeker and a firm believer in Indian values and the potential of India as a nation. He succeeded in reassuring all those who had doubts about reaching the ancient glories of India as a country of high repute.
While these articles were written a hundred and ten years ago, the confusion of Indians abroad can still be represented by the thoughts of Prof. Hardayal. Gurudev Ranade’s response to those concerns and his reassurance of the magnificent spiritual life and its potential is something to look forward to for all of us. His vision about life ahead and how ultimately the principled existence will triumph, and how we will catch up with the scientific progress in the world puts our hearts in a peaceful place. The defending argument of Prof. Hardayal and the response of Sir Divatia, and the vindication of Gurudev Ranade provide us with a spectacular perspective. In the words of Gurudev Ranade, ‘If India must rise, she will rise in a most peculiar way, not hitherto known to all History. She will combine the virtues of the West and the East and will rise superior to both. If the West and the East are to meet, they will meet in India and not in Europe.’
This book will be helpful for the students of the Humanities to get a glimpse of these three fine minds with a response from a spiritual head of a prominent school to learn about how to develop a worldview, a helpful weltanschauung to see clearly how the Indian philosophy contributes to the development of the world thought. It offers an intellectual duet as well as a spiritual blessing. The editor Mr. Sharad Joshi and the publisher, ACPR (Academy of Comparative Philosophy and Religion), have done an excellent service in putting this together for all of us.
January 24, 2023