1100 Views and Counting

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Thank you, Readers, for supporting my blog!

When I published my book or when I began the blog, I remember thinking I would be lucky if I could persuade a handful of my friends to read some philosophical thoughts. Seriously, who reads Philosophy?

Now I know that the articles in English and Marathi languages on this blog have been viewed more than 1100 times from viewers of twenty different countries. Besides the blog views, there are hundreds of views on academic websites, such as researchgate, academia.org.  The TV interview on the Princeton community TV – thanks to Joan Goldstein for inviting me to her show, received the second rank in the ‘Top Ten Views’ of August 2019. An op-ed each in the two newspapers in India, Indian Express and Loksatta, thanks to the Editor of Loksatta Mr. Girish Kuber, received much positive feedback. When my book ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna’ was published last year in 2019, the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute invited me to deliver the Bapat Memorial lecture, which was well attended. I am most grateful to the Bhandarkar Institute and the Secretary of the Institute, Prof. Shrikant Bahulkar for this honor. The talk at the Bhandarkar was also covered in the local Indian Express, thanks to Anuradha Mascarenhas, a senior Editor in Pune and her team. I must admit that this kind of response is most unusual.

The inspiration for this blog and for the philosophical articles has come mostly from my social work over a period and from studying Philosophy over a lifetime. In the College days, sometimes I would visit the detention facilities in Pune India to teach the kids (of prisoners) stories from ancient Indian texts, or volunteer in the slums of Pune to teach them values of hygiene. In the last few years, I offered some time as a server at the soup kitchen, or as a (trainee) ambulance driver of the Emergency Medical Service in New Jersey, USA. Last few years, I also got an opportunity to observe the work of an Institute ‘Hope Project’ in New Delhi, India, that provided education to the street children. These situations used to weigh on my mind and make me wonder how to help these people solve their problems in life, how to give them perspective on life, so they can support their own lives better. I don’t have the financial means to lift the lives of all the people I would like to help, but I do have some solutions to offer them based on my intellectual work in the field of Philosophy. I decided to do just that. It was only a short span of time that I have spent on my social work, compared to the time I have spent on my family, my career or my research. Yet the influence that these short and intense moments have had on my life is tremendous. It has given me a chance to look at social issues from all angles and figure out what kinds of solutions are possible to any given problem.

If we look at the population of the world in the bell curve statistics, the 15% on the extreme left of the line are unable to handle their lives, as they are too perturbed to function. The 15% on the other extreme can thrive in their lives, thanks to their wisdom, perseverance and available means. The middle population – roughly 70%, have figured out some tricks of how to keep their lives balanced, but not all of them and not always. I have seen many middle-class families suddenly lose most of what they had during the recession years, or due to crisis in their family. They need help too, not just the 15% on the left side of the curve. When we are in a crisis, it becomes too tough to realize whom to trust, whom to turn to and to gather the means to seek solutions. Therefore, it is always important to support our lives and develop the strength to deal with these issues.

Wisdom, perspective and a good understanding of life will help us survive and thrive. It will create more opportunities, more Happiness and less diseases. This was the background for the project of the book and the blog, with the goal of connecting philosophical wisdom to modern issues to help resolve them. Thank you again!

By Ashwini Mokashi

११००+ वाचकांचा प्रतिसाद 

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धन्यवाद, वाचकांनी माझ्या ब्लॉगचे ११०० पेक्षा जास्त वेळा वाचन करून जे समर्थन केले, त्याबद्दल मनःपूर्वक धन्यवाद!  

मी ब्लॉग सुरू केला तेव्हा मनात विचार केला होता, की माझ्या हातावर मोजण्याइतक्या काही मित्रमैत्रिणींना थोडेफार तत्वज्ञानाचे विचार वाचण्यास जरी मी राजी करू शकले, तरी मी स्वतःला भाग्यवान समजेन. खरंच, कोण वाचतो तत्वज्ञान ?  

या ब्लॉगवरील इंग्रजी आणि मराठीतील माझे लेख वीस वेगवेगळ्या देशांच्या लोकांनी वाचले. याव्यतिरिक्त, शेकडो शैक्षणिकांकडून रिसर्चगेट, अकॅडेमिया व इतर वेबसाइट्सवर  हे लेख वाचले गेले. जोन गोल्डस्टईन यांच्या निमंत्रणावरून प्रसारित झालेल्या टीव्ही मुलाखतीला  ‘टॉप टेन व्ह्यूज’ मधील दुसरे स्थान प्रिन्सटन कम्युनिटी टीव्हीद्वारे मिळाले. एक ऑप-एड लेख इंडियन एक्स्प्रेसमध्ये, तर एक ऑप-एड लेख लोकसत्तामध्ये प्रसिद्ध झाला. त्याबद्दल श्री गिरीश कुबेर या लोकसत्ताच्या संपादकांचे खूप खूप आभार. माझे इंग्रजीतील पुस्तक ‘सेपियन्स अँड स्थितप्रज्ञ’ मागील वर्षी प्रसिद्ध झाले तेव्हा, भांडारकर ओरिएंटल रिसर्च इंस्टीट्युटने मला भाषण द्यायला आमंत्रित करून जो बहुमान दिला त्याबद्दल त्या संस्थेचे आणि संस्थेचे सेक्रेटरी या नात्याने प्राध्यापक श्रीकांत बाहुलकर यांची मी खूप आभारी आहे. या भाषणाचा वृत्तांत पुण्याहून प्रसिद्ध होणाऱ्या लोकल इंडियन एक्सप्रेस मध्ये केल्याबद्दल मी अनुराधा मसकॅरेन्हास यांची आणि त्यांच्या टीमची पण ऋणी आहे. हे सर्व खूप विलक्षण आहे.

या ब्लॉगची आणि तात्विक लेखांची प्रेरणा माझ्या थोड्याफार केलेल्या सामाजिक कार्याद्वारे आणि आयुष्यभर केलेल्या तत्त्वज्ञानाच्या अभ्यासामुळे प्राप्त झाली आहे. मी  कॉलेजमध्ये  असताना पुण्यातील कैद्यांच्या मुलांना भारतीय तत्त्वज्ञानातील गोष्टी सांगायचे, पुण्यातील झोपडपट्टीत राहणाऱ्या लोकांना स्वचछतेचे महत्त्व पटवून द्यायचे. गेल्या काही वर्षातअमेरिकेतल्या सूप किचनमध्ये वाढपी म्हणून मदत करायचे किंवा न्यू जर्सीमधील आपत्कालीन वैद्यकीय सेवेची  (प्रशिक्षणार्थी) कार्यकर्ता या नात्याने अँब्युलन्स चालवायचे. काही वर्षे मी नवी दिल्लीतील रस्त्यावर राहणाऱ्या मुलांसमवेत त्यांना शिकवण्याचे काम करणाऱ्या एका संस्थेचे (Hope Project) काम जवळून बघितले होते. तेव्हा या लोकांना जीवनातल्या समस्यांचे निराकरण कसे करावे, त्यांना आयुष्याकडे पाहण्याचा दृष्टीकोन कसा द्यावा याबद्दल मला वारंवार विचार पडत असे. या सर्व लोकांचे आयुष्य उंचावण्यासाठी लागणारे आर्थिक साधन माझ्याकडे नाही, परंतु तत्त्वज्ञान क्षेत्रात माझ्या बौद्धिक कार्याच्या आधारे त्यांना सांगण्यासाठी माझ्याकडे काही विचार आहेत. मी तेच सांगण्याचा निर्णय घेतला. मी माझ्या कुटुंबासाठी, माझ्या करिअरवर किंवा माझ्या संशोधनात घालवलेल्या वेळेच्या तुलनेत मी माझ्या सामाजिक कार्यावर फार थोडा वेळ घालवला आहे. तरीही या लहान आणि तीव्र क्षणांचा माझ्या आयुष्यावर झालेला प्रभाव प्रचंड आहे. यामुळे मला सर्व बाजुंनी सामाजिक प्रश्न पाहण्याची आणि दिलेल्या समस्येचे कोणत्या प्रकारचे समाधान होणे शक्य आहे हे शोधण्याची संधी मिळाली. 

Bell Curve

बेल curve च्या आकडेवारीमध्ये आपण जगाची लोकसंख्या पाहिल्यास, रेषेच्या डावीकडील टोकाला 15% लोक आहेत जे आपले आयुष्य सांभाळण्यास असमर्थ आहेत. ते कार्य करण्यास प्रवृत्त होत नाहीत, कारण ते खूप घाबरून गेलेले असतात. दुसऱ्या उजवीकडच्या टोकाला जे  15% लोकं आहेत, त्यांच्या आयुष्यात शहाणपणा, चिकाटी आणि उपलब्ध साधनांमुळे भरभराट झालेली दिसते. या दोन टोकांच्यामध्ये असणारा जनसमुदाय जे अंदाजे 70% लोकसंख्येमध्ये गणले जातात, त्यांचे जीवन बऱ्यापैकी संतुलित असते. जीवन संतुलीत ठेवण्यासाठी काही युक्त्या त्यांना माहीत असतात, परंतु नेहमीच त्या युक्त्या सर्वाना लागू पडतील असेही नसते. मी अशी बरीच मध्यम-वर्गातील कुटुंबे पाहिली आहेत, जी अचानक मंदीच्या काळामध्ये किंवा त्यांच्या कुटुंबातील संकटांमुळे बरेच काही गमावून बसतात आणि हतबल होतात. कठीण समय येता कोण कामास येतो, या उक्तीप्रमाणे  जेव्हा आपण संकटात असतो, तेव्हा कोणावर विश्वास ठेवायचा, कोणाकडे जायचे आणि कुठले उपाय शोधायचे, हे समजणे फार कठीण होते. म्हणूनच, आपल्या जीवनाचे समर्थन करणे आणि या समस्यांना सामोरे जाण्यासाठी आंतरीक सामर्थ्य विकसित करणे नेहमीच महत्वाचे आहे.

ज्ञान योग, बुद्धीचा वापर, सकारात्मक दृष्टीकोन आणि जीवनाची चांगली समज आपल्याला जीवन जगण्यास आणि भरभराट करण्यास मदत करेल. यामुळे अधिक संधी निर्माण होतील, अधिक आनंद मिळेल आणि आयुष्यावर होणारे दुष्परिणाम कमी होतील. पुस्तकाच्या आणि ब्लॉगच्या प्रोजेक्टची ही पार्श्वभूमी होती, प्राचीन ज्ञानाचा आधुनिक समस्यांशी समन्वय करून त्या समस्यांचे निराकरण करण्याचा हा छोटासा प्रयत्न आहे. या प्रयत्नात सामील झाल्याबद्दल पुनःश्च धन्यवाद!

© लेखिका : अश्विनी मोकाशी

आर्किलोचस

आर्किलोचस , (इ.स.पू. 650, पारोस [सायक्लेडिस, ग्रीस]), हे एक कवी आणि सैनिक होते.  हे इम्बिक, एलिगिएक आणि वैयक्तिक लय कविता यांचे प्राचीन ग्रीक लेखक होते.  त्यांचे लिखाण अत्यंत उत्तम प्रतीचे असून काळाच्या ओघात काही प्रमाणात अजून टिकून राहिले आहे. फार क्वचित कोणी कवी आणि सैनिक असलेले आढळतात. अर्चिलोचस यांनी आपला सैनिकी बाणा आणि पवित्रा आपल्या कवितेत आणला. त्यांची कविता होमर आणि हेसिओड यांच्या पंक्तीमध्ये त्यांना बसवते. तसेच त्यांना एलिजि या काव्यपद्धतीचे जनक मानले जाते. 

आर्किलोचसचे वडील टेलीसिकल्स एक श्रीमंत पारियन होते, ज्याने थासोस बेटावर वसाहत स्थापन केली. अर्चीलोचस स्वतः पारोस आणि थासोस या दोन्ही बेटांवर राहत होते. त्याच्या कवितेत इ.स.पू. 6 एप्रिल रोजीचे सूर्यग्रहण आणि लिडियन राजा गेजेस (इ.स. 680-645 ईसापूर्व) च्या संपत्तीचा उल्लेख आहे. 
प्राचीन चरित्रात्मक परंपरेतील आर्किलोचसच्या जीवनाचा तपशील बहुतेक त्याच्या कवितांतून घेण्यात आला आहे – त्यामुळे त्यात त्याने वर्णन केलेल्या घटना काल्पनिक असू शकतात.
परंतु आधुनिक शोधांनी कवितांमध्ये दिलेल्या चित्राचे समर्थन केले आहे. पारोसवरील पवित्र भागात आर्किलोचसला समर्पित दोन शिलालेख सापडले; ते या दोन पुरूषांच्या नावे आहेत: मॅनेसिप्स शिलालेख (तिसरे शतक बीसीई) आणि सोस्थेनिस शिलालेख (पहिला शतक बीसीई). अथीनियन राजकारणी आणि बौद्धिक समीक्षकांनी आर्किलोचसच्या स्वत: च्या वर्णनास  5 व्या शतकाच्या उत्तरार्धात गांभीर्याने पाहिले होते.  आर्किलोचस याने स्वत: ला गरीब, भांडखोर, दु: खी, गुलाम महिलेचा लबाड मुलगा म्हणून आपले वर्णन केल्याबद्दल त्याची निंदा केली. त्यामुळे  काही विद्वानांना असे वाटते की त्याच्या कवितांमध्ये चित्रित केलेले आर्किलोचस यांचे वर्णन खरे नव्हते.

आर्किलोचस सैनिक म्हणून काम करत असत. थसॉसच्या जवळ असलेल्या मुख्य भूभागावर थ्रेसियन्सविरूद्ध त्याने लढा दिला आणि जेव्हा थॅशियन्स नॅक्सोस बेटावरील सैनिकांविरुद्ध लढत होते तेव्हा तो मरण पावला. एका प्रसिद्ध कवितेत आर्किलोचस स्वत: ची ढाल लढाईत फेकल्याबद्दल कोणतीही संकोच वा खेद न करता सांगतात. (“मी माझा जीव वाचवला. मला माझ्या ढालीची काय किंमत आहे? गेली उडत! मी आणखी एक विकत घेईन.”) 

कविता व इतर पुराव्यांवरून सत्यता निश्चितपणे समजणे कठीण असले तरी आर्किलोचस विवादास्पद असू शकेल. कारण ते आपल्या तीक्ष्ण विनोदाबद्दल आणि निंदात्मक भाषेबद्दल प्रसिद्ध होते. 
त्यानी खूप वेगवेगळ्या प्रकारची लयबद्ध रचना त्याच्या कवितेत करून ग्रीक भाषा समृद्ध केली. ते  अतिशय सहजपणे होमरिक भाषेमधून दैनंदिन जीवनाच्या भाषेचा वापर एकाच ओळीत करू शकायचे . वैयक्तिक अनुभव आणि आपल्या भावनांबद्दल लिहिणारा तो पहिला युरोपियन लेखक होता. ग्रीक कवितांचे विषय नेहमी  वीर योद्धे किंवा प्राचीन सूत्रे असे असायचे. त्यामुळे त्याच्या कवितांचे वेगळेपण दिसून आले. त्याने त्याच्या कवितांमध्ये  वैयक्तिक भावनांचा उहापोह केला. होरेस सारख्या नंतरच्या नावाजलेल्या कवींनी त्याच्या शैलीचे आणि कौशल्याचे खूप कौतुक केले. परंतु पिण्डार सारख्या काही नावाजलेल्या कवींनी त्याच्या अनैतिक वागण्याची निंदाही केली. 

© लेखिका : अश्विनी मोकाशी

References:Encyclopaedia Britannica, Wikipedia, Greek Language Mosaics at greek-language.gr

Upanishads and the Cure for Loneliness

A Constructive Survey Of Upanishadic Philosophy: Being An Introduction To The Thought Of The Upanishads (An Old Book)

By Ashwini Mokashi, Ph.D.

Introduction

Loneliness is a major problem in the current times. This article tries to address the issue of loneliness and the cure for it from the ancient wisdom of Hindu Philosophy. We will take three principles to address this issue from the Indian philosophical texts of the Upanishads and will also rely on the mainstream teachings of the Upanishads, mainly their insistence of the practice of meditation.

Upanishads are India’s great heritage. The twelve main Upanishads were composed before the common era and were passed on through the oral tradition. The genesis of the Hindu religion and Buddhism is found in the Upanishads. There is neither religious nor social rift implied in these texts, as they preceded any religion.

Many scholars have written about the Upanishads. One such great name was Prof. R.D. Ranade. His book ‘A Constructive Survey of the Upanishadic Philosophy’ was published in English around 1926 and soon became one of the most respected and well-read pieces of literature on the Upanishads.[1] We will take a page from this book and let it guide us to examine how loneliness can be decreased or cured with the advice from the Upanishads.

Perennial Values

The contemporary Indian society is caught between religious divisions, casteism and various other isms; likewise, the contemporary American society is caught between political, racial, religious divides as well as various issues of what constitutes political correctness. One encounters these challenges daily. For example, before making any new friends, we tend to assess whether we have similar thoughts, similar religion, similar political views, similar beliefs on social issues, similar social class, what do people say about them, will the friendship benefit us, what will they think about us – all these thoughts become constraints and conditions and we happily impose them upon ourselves, thereby making it very difficult for us to reach others and make friends.

This creates a sense of loneliness and induces physical and mental illnesses. Loneliness arises when one is either without family or friends close by, or when one feels that one’s family or friends do not understand one’s inner turmoil and at times, one’s irrational thoughts. This thinking-out-loud with friends is also a process of checking the validity of one’s thoughts to arrive at a rational course of action. How does one go beyond these constraints to find a good solution for making friends? Ancient wisdom comes in handy in this process, helping us examine the values and principles of life. These values are perennial and hence they seem fresh even today. They are concerned with absolute universal values and not short-term goals; hence they become applicable across the board, irrespective of differences of class, caste, color, religion, age, race, sex, origin etc.

Interconnections

The first principle I would like to consider is from the Isha Upanishad, Yasmin sarvani bhutani atmaiwabhudvijanatah, which means that one should think of another human being as an end and not as a means to an end. With this attitude, it becomes easier to respect another human being. It enables one to make friends with others, have compassion for others, reduce the divide between us and them, and help them in times of need. All human beings are representatives of the Atman, and we all share the same principle of the Atman in ourselves. Hence, we are all connected to each other. When one understands that, one does not discriminate against another person based on their caste, color, religion, class, etc. Instead one starts wondering, how we would act, if we had to walk in their shoes.

The philosophy in the Upanishads is very compelling, aside from their linguistic beauty and the wonderful stories. For example, what is the principle of ‘Know Thyself’? How does one understand that, how does one get to know oneself and if we don’t know ourselves, then how do we tell people our opinions? How do we remove any misunderstandings about ourselves? When do we form our opinion? Normally it is necessary for us to understand ourselves. Our growth and development are essentially tied up with that knowledge. As we understand ourselves, our inner self, our soul better, then our inner strength, our sense of contentment grows, loneliness decreases, and we are better able to face the ups and downs of life.

That Thou Art

The second principle I would like to consider is found in the Isha and Maitreya Upanishads, which is ‘Soham – sah aham’ or ‘That thou art’. It means that the concept of Brahman – known as sah or that, is within me. One can understand that by either thought process – Jnana Marg, or through meditation – Bhakti Marg and by doing the right deeds – Karma Marg. These pathways enable us to get closer to the Atman. The Upanishads have a lot of passages that talk about how to understand the principle of ‘Know Thyself’ and how to complete one’s journey towards Moksha. When the individual soul (Atman) and the universal soul (Brahman) become one, then a human being achieves Moksha. In practical terms, one understands that it is important to treat another individual as a soul, with respect and dignity.

To understand these and many other philosophical issues, one must understand the principles behind them. The Upanishads have a lot of discussions of philosophical issues. The Ken Upanishad says that humility is extremely important for the knowledge of the Atman, the knowledge of the self. Without humility, one does not understand the Atman. Perhaps the same principle applies to making friends. It we do not treat others with politeness and humility, no one will want to be friends with us. Perhaps the Upanishads want us to learn these principles in small steps.[2]

Infinite Power of Mind

Prof. Ranade gives an example from the Mundaka Upanishad of the two birds that represent Jiva (the individual soul or Atman) and Ishwara (the Universal soul or Brahman), living on the same branch of a tree. The Atman would tend to be unhappy thinking of itself as a helpless creature. But when it unites with the Brahman, it realizes that it is a part of the infinite power and hence it stops feeling sad and becomes extremely happy. The Atman realizes that it is not alone but is an integral part of the universe. This refers to our third principle, quoted from the Mundakopanishad.

Dva suparna sayuja sakhaya samanam vriksham parishasvajate |
tayoranyah  pippalam svadvattyanashnannanyo abhicakashiti || 1|| (3.1.1 Mundakopanishad).

Likewise, when one tries to follow the purpose of one’s life, one becomes happy. Then there is no fear, nor any loneliness. Hence with the consult of the Upanishads, it is possible to lead one’s life with patience, courage and morality. This will enable us to understand the principle ‘Know Thyself’ and ease our way in our pursuit of happiness.

The Chhandogya and Maitri Upanishad discuss the importance of the mind. Mind is the genesis of all thoughts and emotions. A person sees and hears through the mind with the help of the sense-organs.[3] Our emotions are governed by our mind; hence one can choose whether to be afraid of or be thrilled about something. When the mind is ruled by the intellect, then one can take a good decision. None of this is easy, of course. As we keep practicing taking good decisions, we see incremental growth in our confidence, self-love (as in love for the Atman, and not as narcissistic egoism) and self-respect (respect for the Atman). It is considered as spiritual progress.

Meditation and clear thinking can help us practice this further. This practice also enables us to gain an understanding of the world at a different plane, such as through intuition. For example, one can understand who likes us or who does not like us, merely by consulting with one’s own mind. One can also understand who is telling us the truth and who is being deceptive. Similarly, we also have a sense that we are not alone in this world, and that we are connected to the Brahman (also known as the universal soul, or the Ultimate Reality) that protects us, and this knowledge helps cure loneliness and fear. This does not mean however that one should not take care of oneself in practical ways. But it means that one understands one’s role and importance in life and life becomes blissful.

Conclusion

It is possible to cure or limit the sense of loneliness by understanding the perennial values, following the path of humility, understanding the power of mind, practicing meditation and believing that we are a part of the infinite power of the Brahman.[4] In practical terms, extending a hand of friendship to others, being respectful towards others, controlling one’s anxieties and appreciating the positive aspects of our situation would help us connect better with other members of the community and ultimately help us improve our sense of connectedness, resulting into a substantial decrease in loneliness. Besides, loneliness can be transformed into bliss, when one understands that the real source of happiness or bliss is within the Self for the one who seeks the Brahman (the Ultimate Reality) and that is when the Upanishadic teaching has matured in one’s life.


[1] It was translated into Marathi by Prof. K.V. Gajendragadkar under the title ‘Upanishad-rahasya’.

[2] A Constructive Survey of the Upanishadic Philosophy, R. D. Ranade, 2002, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, page 25

[3] A Constructive Survey of the Upanishadic Philosophy, R. D. Ranade, 2002, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, page 118

[4] A Constructive Survey of the Upanishadic Philosophy, R. D. Ranade, 2002, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, page 348

REFLECTIONS ON ARISTOTLE’S CRITICISM OF FORMS

Image result for image of plato and aristotle

I

Introduction

The most celebrated doctrine of Plato, his ‘Theory of Ideas’, which is the center of his philosophy, faces some acute problems. This theory is very harshly attacked by the critics, and therefore, it stands in need of re-examination. A critic like Aristotle shows the invalidity of the argument in its favor with his contra-argument, viz, the ‘Third-Man’, which forced Plato either to relinquish his theory as a whole or to declare it invalid. This history is as repeated as the same argument was earlier put forth against the doctrine by Plato himself in one of his late dialogues, Parmenides. Plato deserves full credit for the demonstration of the rarest gift of self-criticism. But then, how is it that in spite of seeing the drawbacks and lacunae in the theory, he does not abandon it? What is the reason behind it? Did the extra-sensitive mind of Plato not catch the point of criticism or not comprehend the problem really? Certainly, he did. He himself was the pioneer of the arguments against his own theory. Yet he stands irrefuted on the grounds of the consistency in his philosophy. A twentieth century philosopher Kurt Goedel’s famous theorem says that ‘No philosophical system can be both complete and consistent’. Plato’s theory was consistent but not complete. To be reassured of this claim, let us pursue this interesting issue of the Third-Man argument further.

We shall discuss the issue from the following points of view:

  1. Brief account of Aristotle’s basic criticism of the theory of forms:
  2. What exactly is the argument of Third Man?
    1. Aristotle’s formulation
    2. Plato’s formulation in the Parmenides
  3. Some contemporary reflections on the Third-Man Argument
  4. Evaluation

II

Brief Account of Aristotle’s Basic Criticism of the Theory of Forms

A brilliant and devout disciple of Plato, Aristotle was in his academy for more than a decade. How greatly he was influenced by Plato and Platonic philosophy is seen in his humble apology, which says, “It is commendable and even obligatory in defense of truth to abandon one’s own cherished convictions, especially in a philosopher: for though both are dear to us, it is a sacred duty to give the preference to truth.[1] With such reverence Aristotle proceeds to examine the doctrine of Ideas in his book Metaphysics.

To demonstrate the inconclusiveness and invalidity of Platonic theory of Ideas, Aristotle presents the following arguments[2]:

  1. Those who first proposed the Ideas as causes were in effect doubling the number of things to be explained, as if a man wished to count a few things, but imagined he could not do so, unless he added to their number.
  2. None of the arguments is valid. Some of them are inconclusive, the others would prove there are forms of things of which we maintain there are one. Thus, (a) the argument from the existence of sciences would prove that there are Forms of all things of which there are sciences; (b) the argument of One-over-Many would prove that there are forms of negations; (c) the argument that we can think of what has perished would establish Forms of perishables, because we retain a mental image of the latter: (d) some of Plato’s more closely reasoned arguments explicitly imply Ideas of relative terms, while others mention the ‘Third-Man’.
  3. The arguments do away with what we value more than the Ideas: they make number prior to the dyad, the relative to the absolute; and they open the doors to all those later developments which conflict with the very principles of the theory.
  4. If the Forms are participated, there can be Ideas of substances only; for they are not participated as accidents of a subject that is directly shared in and none can be participated except in so far as it is not predicated of a subject. So, the Forms must be substances. But the same words must denote substance in the sensible as in the Ideal world. Otherwise what is the relation between the two worlds?
  5. The main difficulty: What do the Forms contribute either to eternal or to transient sensibles? For, (i) they cause no motion or change in them; (ii) since they are not in them, they are not their substance, and therefore, contribute nothing either to the knowledge of them or to their being.
  6. To call the Forms ‘patterns’ and to assent that other things ‘participate’ in them is to take an empty metaphor, for there can be different patterns of one and the same thing. Thus, the species will be the pattern of the individuals, but the genus will be the pattern of the species, so that one and the same thing will be both pattern and copy.
  7. It is manifestly impossible for that which is the ‘substance’ of a thing to exist apart from it. How then can the ideas, which are supposed to be the substances of things, exist apart from them?
  8. If forms are numbers, in what sense are they causes? If it is because things inthis world are other numbers, then how does one set of numbers cause the other. Notwithstanding that the former is eternal and the latter not?
  9. One number may be composed of several other numbers, but how can one Form be composed of several other Forms? If it is produced not from numbers, but from units in them, in what relation will the units stand to one another?
  10. How are the intermediates derived? Why should they be considered intermediate between things here and ideal numbers?
  11. Each unit in the number two comes from a previous two, which is impossible.
  12. What constitutes the unity of the one number understood collectively?
  13. If the units are dissimilar, they should be names, just as those who assume two or four elements name them; and if there is absolute One, the word ‘One’ must have a variety of meanings. But this is impossible.
  14. While tracing substance from their princicples, we Platonists derive lines from long and short. But how can the plane contain a line or the solid a plane? Thus, the argument which established the line established a point.
  15. The Platonists have abandoned the search for the causes of sensible phenomena.
  16. The Forms have no connection with the final cause, with which sciences are concerned.
  17. How can we obtain knowledge of the objects of a given sense unless we possess that sense? And yet it should be possible, if the elements of which all things consist are the same.

Aristotle’s realism forms itself through the criticism of Platonic arguments. His main criticism was that Plato unnecessarily thought that the universals exist outside the things and separately. The particulars get their names because of their universals and are bound by them in a way of participation or imitation. But participation is not possible because

  1. If one Idea participates in many sensibles, then it will be divided. In that case, an Idea will exist apart from itself, which is absurd.
  2. The source of Idea will remain inexplicable, because of its division:
  3. If the Idea participates in contrary attributes, then contrary attributes belong to it at the same time. If it does not participate in them, then we cannot account for different attributes.[3]

Thus, the root cause of the matter lies in the relation of participation. The Third-Man Argument is developed from the lacunae in the argument of participation.

III

What Exactly is the Argument of ThirdMan?

Aristotle has coined this term. “If that which is predicated truly of several things also exists in separation from these, there will be a Third-Man. For, if the predicate ‘Man’ is different from its subject and exists independently of them, and the predicate Man is used in the context of both the particular men and of the Idea of man, there will be a Third Man apart from both particular men and the Idea. Similarly, there will be a fourth man predicated both of the third man, particulars and idea, and similarly a fifth, and so on, ad infinitum.”[4]

Plato’s formulation of this argument in Parmenides[5] is very much similar to that of Aristotle, though chronologically it belongs to an earlier date. Parmenides also mentions the uselessness and infinite regress involved in the argument for Ideas. Two factors are held responsible for the rise of this argument.

  1. The dilemma of participation, i.e., whether the whole or the part of an Idea is participated in the thing
  2. The assumption that as Ideas are separate from sensibles, sensibles are also separate from Ideas.

The latter presumption is found both in the Parmenides, and in the Metaphysics.

Parmenides starts off with the defense that Ideas are paradigms and participation is only possible with resemblance. Thus, the dilemma of participation resolves itself, since the Ideas are not in their participants. Parmenides, the dialogue, does not stop there, but comes up with further arguments, which are as follows:

  1. The Symmetry Assumption: If the participant is like the Idea, then the Idea is like the participant. Continual generation of a new character will never stop if the character happens to be like what has a share of it.
  2. The One-over-Many Premise: If one thing is like another, those two things must have a share of one and the same Idea. Therefore, it is necessary, that that of which like things have share, so as to be like, should be the Idea itself.
  3. The Likeness Regress: It is impossible for anything to be like the Idea or the Idea like anything else; otherwise another idea will turn up beside the first, if the Idea is like what has a share of it, and so on, ad infinitum. Hence, the claim that participation is resemblance implies the regress. If the regress is absurd, then the premises leading to it must also be rejected.
  4. The Third-Man: If a and b are like in respect of c, then a is like c and c like a in respect of d, and so on. This regress requires some further Idea at every stage but does not specify what further Idea at any stage. Thus, the Ideas are present only where things are like in some respect. In a way, the argument implies the limitation of extent.

Thus, the mistake of Third-Man is committed in the attempt of solving the dilemma of Participation. As in all philosophical problem, we should not look for solutions of the problems, but to know how the problems are presented. Here we see that Aristotelian presentation of this problem is in coherence with the Platonic presentation. So, the data is the same, only the form is different. The essence of the argument is the same, only the framework different. Hence, the critics might face another question, as to why Aristotle is given the credit of this argument, when the origin is placed right back in Plato. But we will not go into this problem for the time-being. Instead, we will move to the understanding of some contemporary scholars on this issue.

IV

Some Contemporary Reflections on the Third Man Argument

We may pick up the work of Gregory Vlastos[6] as representative to his era. He talks about the Third-Man Argument, while focusing his attention on the Parmenides. He deals more with the technical grounds of the argument as devised in the Parmenides than with the essence of the argument or with the argument as a whole. No doubt, he considers the argument as impressive and instructive, but fatal. Let us have a brief review of his understanding of the argument.

Out of his two essays, Vlastos divides the first essay, in Text and Logic of the Parmenides. In the first part of the essay, he says the unity of Forms is being taken for granted in the Parmenides. When the talk is actually about participation, there is not much discussion about it, i.e., when Parmenides asks Socrates, if there exist certain Forms by participation in which the other things get their names, e.g., similar by participating in similarity, etc.

Further, Vlastos constructs a logical hypothesis[7] which he says would be refuted in the Third-Man Argument:

  1. If any set of things share a given character, then there exists a unique Form corresponding to that character, and each of these things has that character by participating in that Form.
  2. A) a, b, c are F.
  3. B) There exists a unique Form (which we may call F-ness) corresponding to the character ‘F’ and a,b,c are F by participating in F-ness.
  4.  If a, b, c and F-ness are F, then there exists a unique Form (which we may call F-ness II) corresponding to F, but not identical with F-ness, and a, b, c and F-ness are F by participating in F-ness II.

2. a) a, b, c, and F-ness are F.

2. b) There exists a unique Form (which we may call F-ness II) corresponding to F, but not identical with F-ness; and a, b c and F-ness are F by participating in F-ness II.

If Parmenides can go as far as 2. B, he will have refuted the claim of the Third-Man. “If one, then infinitely many” is so much more impressive, than ‘if only one then two’ though the latter is as fatal to the refutand as is the former, says Vlastos.

The second essay of Gregory Vlastos[8] talks about the Third-Man Argument in a more definite way. The logical formulation of his argument is as follows:

The First Version:

  • 1) If a number of things a, b, and c are all F, there must be a single Form F-ness in virtue of which we apprehend a, b, c as all F. The difficulty here is that another Form will always appear on the scene.
  • 2) If a, b, c and F-ness are all F, then there must be another Form, F-ness, in virtue of which we apprehend a, b, c and F-ness are all F. To make this argument sound and legitimate, we need the self-predication assumption (A. 3)
  • 3) Any form can be predicated of itself F-ness is itself F.
  • 4) Non-identity assumption: If anything has a certain character,it cannot be identical with the Form in virtue of which we apprehend the character. If X is F, X cannot be identical with the Form in virtue of which we apprehend the character. If X is F, X cannot be identical with F-ness.
  • 5) If F-ness is F, F-ness cannot be identical with F-ness.
  • 5a) If any particular has a certain character, then it cannot be identical with the Form in virtue of which we apprehend that character.

Vlastos picks up the argument numbered A.5a, and claims that a, b, c are all apprehended as F in virtue of F-ness itself. The existence of F-ness would remain unproved, so also the existence of all subsequent Forms. The infinite regress would not materialize. Therefore, he blames Plato for not having identified all the necessary arguments leading to the second argument in the Third-Man, which is the main source. Thereby Plato reveals his innocence of all the necessary arguments as well as his uncertainly about the validity of Third-Man Argument.

V

Evaluation

Finally, the problem still remains as to how do we account for the fact that Plato does not seem to see the Third-Man Argument as fatal to philosophical outlook in the way Aristotle does. We have seen that it has been the fashion to judge Plato’s theory from Aristotle’s perspective. The arguments presented in this essay earlier have been integral arguments and they try to catch Plato in words on technical grounds. But they do not take the argument as a whole into account knowing the essence of Plato’s arguments and knowing the consistency of this theory in Platonic philosophy. We would like to take a different stand, in order to defend Plato on his own merit.

The philosophical force of a logical thesis is partly determined by the conceptual framework in which it is made. Its corollaries are:

  1. The same logical thesis may be made in different conceptual systems.
  2. The force of the thesis depends on the kind of system in which it is made.

Thus, it is necessary to understand the theory in its own framework. Hence, we will consider our method more clearly, so that the way we handle this Platonic problem will be absolutely unambiguous.

The nature of the conceptual system or framework is determined by

  1. The formulation of the basic problem/s,
  2. The methodological presupposition/s,
  3. The type of regulative analogies or metaphors around which it is built up.

This method will yield results to our problem, on thorough examination of Plato and Aristotle’s outlook along with these three dimensions. So now, without going into the details of their philosophies, let us consider the crux of the matter.

  1. Formulation of the Basic Issue:

Plato’s metaphysics is linked with his epistemology. His understanding of Reality can be put forth in the following manner: “Given that mind can have knowledge (episteme) of reality, what should reality be like? It is very well agreed that the soul has episteme and episteme is essentially different from doxai.” Thus, Plato approaches Reality from the standpoint of man. His process is anthropocentric.

His theory of knowledge is a good proof for his argument that the soul has episteme. The very life of Socrates is a live instance of it. As we find the reference in the dialogue Apology that even the Gods regarded Socrates as the wisest of all men. Secondly, Plato talks about two conditions of knowledge, namely the universality and certainty. And only Forms could fulfil these two conditions. Thus, Plato gives stress on the impossibility of relativism in the process of knowledge, i.e., there is no knowledge of particulars, since knowledge is permanent, whereas particulars are not.

The second important argument is that the episteme is different from doxai. Knowledge is related to our mental ability, though it is knowledge of something, whereas beliefs are related to the things, though they are beliefs in our mind. Knowledge enriches our mental power, whereas beliefs only make us well-informed. Just as there is only one mind, knowledge can also be only singular. Whether it is knowledge of one Form or many, it is the power of mind or soul to be capable of grasping their nature. In short, the argument is supported by the two factors, namely, (1) conceptual analysis of knowing and believing and (2) anthropological presupposition that a distinct power has distinct objects. This was the review of Plato’s outlook towards the problem.

When we go to Aristotle, we find the whole approach is reversed in a certain manner. The Aristotelian understanding of Reality would be –

‘Given that the world is what it is in common experience how should we understand man’. Thus, the Aristotelian problem would be how to understand man. His approach is from reality towards man, i.e., cosmocentric.

Thus, the methods of these two great philosophers are exactly reversed and opposite of each other.[9]

Aristotle deals with this problem on three levels, viz, epistemological, logical and metaphysical. The epistemological explanation of the above argument is the primacy of sense perception in the process of knowledge. Aristotle agrees that we have knowledge of universals. But the universals are not outside the things; we know them, when we perceive the things. So, the actual perception is essential. The logical point would be the way every individual thing is treated as a primary substance. Every substance has two aspects – matter and form. The one without the other is an abstraction and unreal. These properties make the thing what it is and just this particular thing and not another thing. The metaphysical aspect is that the reality of change or becoming implies the notions of potency and actuality. In order to understand the development of substance, we have to reinterpret matter and form as potentiality and actuality. We can explain it with an illustration as, the acorn is the potentiality of there being an oak tree and the oak tree is the actuality of the acorn.[10]

  1. The Methodological Presuppositions:

Plato: The order of being is modelled on the order of the soul. What is primary to soul is also primary in reality.

The myth of divided line, the Form of the Good and the myth of the Sun are the best examples to illustrate the point. In Platonic philosophy, myths are designed to say what is too subtle and elusive to be said. The myth of divided line explains the notion of ascent and the placement of different souls in a hierarchical order. The Form of the Good shows us the ultimate point a human being could reach and be pure. Like the Sun, the Form of the Good illumines and makes our level of knowledge meaningful. These myths are based on human experiences and are also applicable to the reality. Plato makes full use of the capacity of human being and by drawing our attention to the highest aspiration, he also draws the limits of reality. We find the same idea later in Wittgenstein also, when he says, “the limits of our language are the limits of our world.”

Aristotle: The distinction between order of being and order of knowing; the first in itself should also be the first for us. Knowing as an adaptation to being is conditioned by the natural powers of the soul.

As we saw earlier, the Platonic approach towards Reality is anthropocentric. He thinks in terms of the requirements of the human soul and the ways to its satisfaction. According to his distinction, the sensible or the actuality of sense-experience lies at the lower level, whereas the true Reality or Ideal Being stands on the higher order of Reality, which alone is capable of satisfying the demands of the soul.

On the other hand, Aristotle’s cosmocentric point of view states that the man is knower. Man has the natural potency to understand the development as an actualization. This understanding of actual on the part of sense-experience is also ideal, since it corresponds to the reality. It is only in understanding that we can divide reality into matter and form, and also be capable of thinking them as separated substances, which in actuality they are not. Thus, the mind knows the world and itself becomes the expression of the world.

  • Regulative Categories:

We can account for the basic difference between Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy to the basic temperamental difference between the two of them. Both of them were mainly concerned with the problem of how to understand reality. Plato took the support of epistemology in order to build his metaphysical theory. Aristotle was also a realist. But he made efforts to correct Plato’s theory of epistemology, in order to have his theory of realism. Plato was an idealist and found all the answers in the utopian, but perfect solutions. He constructed the ideal theory of other world but was not much bothered with the fact whether it was practically possible, whereas Aristotle was a down to earth practical person. He could not see the sense in the other world theory. For him, the world of our experience was not a remove from the real world, but the real world itself. Therefore, he tried to rationalize the problem of this world, with the assumption that this world is real. And therefore, we find the explanation for change, growth, becoming, development and embodiment in his philosophy, whereas the terminology in Plato is totally different. For him, the world is static, because the ideals cannot accept any change, since they are perfect in themselves. Therefore, the purity, simplicity, perfection and immutability of Forms are the ways of how we explain the nature of Forms and thereby the world. This is the reason why Plato always derives his examples from mathematics, which is the absolute and perfect science. Aristotle finds his illustrations in biology with imperfect but growing and living entities.[11] Hence it is very natural that Platonic utopian approach would clash with Aristotle’s realistic approach. To summarize, Plato understands actual as standing after the Ideal or as one step removed from reality. Aristotelian outlook is exactly reversed, the ideal is to be understood as what the actual is capable of, i.e., giving substantial importance and primacy to the existence of this world.[12]

By – Ashwini A. Mokashi

Department of Philosophy, University of Poona, Pune 411007 – Year 1990

Published in the ‘INDIAN PHILOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY’, 17 (1990) PP 1-16


[1] Gajendragadkar, K. V.: Aristotle’s Critique of Platonism, p 70

[2] Aristotle: edited by Hutchins, R.M. Britannica Great Works, Volume I, p. 208

[3] Gajendragadkar, K.V.: op cit, p 28

[4] Plato’s Parmenides, translation and analysis by Allen, R.E., p. 165

[5] Ibid, p. 168

[6] (a) Gregory Vlastos: Platonic Studies (b) Vlastos, G: Studies in Plato’s Metaphysics, edited by Allen, R.E. ‘The Third-Man Argument in Parmenides’

[7] Vlastos, Gregory: Platonic Studies, page 348

[8] Vlastos, Gregory: Studies in Plato’s Metaphysics, edited by Allen, R. E. p. 232

[9] R. Sundara Rajan: “Reversal and Recognition in Plato” Indian Philosophical Quarterly, Volune XV, No. 1. Jan.88, pages. 64-68

[10] W. J. Jones: History of Western Philosophy, p. 186

[11] Ibid, p. 182

[12] I am immensely grateful to Prof. R. Sundara Rajan, who helped me at various stages in writing this paper.

उपनिषदांची साथ आणि एकाकीपणाचा ऱ्हास

A Constructive Survey Of Upanishadic Philosophy: Being An Introduction To The Thought Of The Upanishads (An Old Book)

उपनिषदांचा अभ्यास हा आपला खूप मोठा ठेवा आहे. आपली संस्कृती समजण्यात आणि जपण्यात मराठी लोकं नेहमीच अग्रेसर असतात. त्यामुळे प्रत्येक नवीन पिढीला आपल्या संस्कृतीचा वारसा सोपवणे आणि त्यांना आपल्या भारतीय असण्याचा अभिमान निर्माण करणे, या सगळ्या बाबी यात ओघाने येतातच. हे वाचताना त्या वाङ्मयाचे सौंदर्य पण अनुभवता येते. महत्त्वाची बारा उपनिषदे इसवीसनापूर्वी लिहिली गेली आणि ती पिढ्यानपिढ्या पाठांतर करून शिकविली जायची. हिंदू आणि बुद्ध धर्माची बीजेपण उपनिषदात आढळतात. धर्मांच्या अगोदरचे हे जे लिखाण आहे, त्यात धर्माची व्याख्या नसल्यामुळे यात सामाजिक अथवा  धार्मिक भेदाभेद असण्याचा प्रश्न येत नाही.  

उपनिषदांवर बऱ्याच अभ्यासकांनी लेखन केले आहे. त्यापैकीच एक महान लेखक होते प्राध्यापक रा. द. रानडे.  त्यांचे पुस्तक ‘अ कंस्ट्रक्टिव्ह सर्वे ऑफ द उपनिषदीक फिलॉसॉफी’ इंग्लिशमध्ये आहे. ‘उपनिषदरहस्य’ हा त्याचा अनुवाद आहे. अनुवादकार होते प्राध्यापक कृ वे गजेंद्रगडकर. १९२६ ला प्रसिद्ध झालेले हे पुस्तक लवकरच खूप मान्यता पावले आणि उपनिषदांच्या अभ्यासात अग्रगण्य समजले गेले. या पुस्तकाच्या आधारे आपण आज उपनिषदांच्या साहाय्याने एकाकीपणाचा कसा ऱ्हास होऊ शकतो याचा विचार करूया.

आजचा समाज धर्म, जाती आणि वेगवेगळे isms यात खूप अडकून पडतो आणि पदोपदी आपल्याला त्याचा प्रत्यय येतो. कुणाशी मैत्री जोडताना आपण आधी खात्री करून घेतो की त्या व्यक्तीचे आणि आपले विचार जुळतात का नाही, त्यांचा धर्म कुठला, त्यांचे राजकारणावरचे विचार कुठले, सामाजिक विषयांवर त्यांना काय वाटते, त्यांची आर्थिक परिस्थिती कशी आहे, समाजात त्याच्याबद्दल काय समज आहेत, आपल्याला त्यांचा फायदा होईल का नाही, ते आपल्याबद्दल काय विचार करतील. अशा सगळ्या आपणच निर्माण केलेल्या अटींमुळे इतरांपर्यंत पोचायला आणि समान विचारांचे मित्रमैत्रिणी शोधायला फार वेळ लागतो. याने एकाकीपण वाढते आणि त्रास होऊन शारीरिक आणि मानसिक आजार बळावतात. बरेचदा कुटुंबात राहून देखील लोकांना एकाकीपणाची जाणीव होते. शिवाय नोकरीच्या निमित्ताने देखील बऱ्याचवेळा आपल्या माणसांपासून दूर राहावे लागते. या सगळ्या कसोटींचा सामना करताना त्या गोष्टींच्या पलीकडे जाऊन मार्ग शोधण्यासाठी आपल्याला या प्राचीन संस्कृतीचा अभ्यास करणे उपयोगी ठरते. ते कसे तर, तिथे जीवनाच्या मूल्यांचा विचार आहे आणि ती कालाबाधीत असल्याने आजही ती ताजीतवानी वाटतात. त्यामुळे कुठला सापेक्ष विचार न करता आयुष्यात कुठल्या गोष्टी महत्त्वाच्या आहेत आणि त्या सर्वांना कशा लागू पडतात, याचे मार्गदर्शन होते. 

ईश उपनिषदात सांगितल्याप्रमाणे ‘यस्मिन सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभुद्विजानतः’ ह्या मंत्राचा अर्थ  प्रत्येक मानव साधन नसून साध्य आहे असे त्याने मानले पाहिजे. दुसऱ्याचा वापर कसा होईल असा विचार न करता त्या व्यक्तीमुळे आपले जीवन जास्त समृद्ध झाले आहे, अशी भावना ठेवल्याने सर्वांप्रती आदर वाटू लागतो. (पान क्र ६-७) त्यामुळे लोकांशी मैत्री करणे, त्यांच्याबद्दल आपुलकी वाटणे, अडीअडचणीला समजून घेणे किंवा आपपरभाव कमी होणे, हे सर्व शक्य होते. सर्व जीव हे आत्म्याचे रूप असतात, म्हणजेच आपल्यात आणि इतरांत एकच आत्मतत्त्व निवास करत असते. ही गोष्ट लक्षात आली की आपण दुसऱ्याचा विचार करताना त्याची जात, धर्म, रंग, आर्थिक स्थिती यांचा विचार ना करता आपण त्यांच्या परिस्थितीत कसे वागू, याचा विचार करू लागतो. 

मला स्वतःला उपनिषदांचे तत्त्वज्ञान फार आकर्षित करते. आत्मतत्त्व म्हणजे काय, त्याचा शोध कसा घ्यायचा, स्वतःची ओळख कशी करून घ्यायची, आपल्यालाच जर स्वतःची ओळख नसेल, तर आपण दुसऱ्याला आपली मते कशी सांगणार? आपल्याबद्दलच्या गैरसमजुती कशा दूर करणार? आपले मत नक्की केव्हा तयार होते किंवा केव्हा पक्के होते, हे आपण कसे ठरवणार. बहुतांशी आपल्याला आपली स्वतःची ओळख असणे हे जरुरीचे असतेच. त्याशिवाय आपली जडणघडण होऊच शकत नाही. स्वतःची ओळख जशीजशी जास्त खोलात जाऊन होईल त्याप्रमाणेच आपली स्वतःचे समर्थन करण्याची, आत्मिक उन्नती आणि समाधान मिळवायची, एकाकीपणा नाहीसा करण्याची आणि जीवनातले चढउतार पार पाडण्याची क्षमतापण वाढत जाते. या आणि अशा बऱ्याच प्रश्नांची उत्तरे मिळवण्यासाठी त्यामागची भूमिका समजून घेणे जरुरी आहे. उपनिषदात अशा तात्त्विक प्रश्नांची बरीच चर्चा आहे. 

सोहम किंवा ‘सः अहं ‘ हे उपनिषदातले महत्त्वाचे तत्त्व आहे. याचा अर्थ असा की सः म्हणजे ते ब्रह्म, हे अहं म्हणजे माझ्यात सामावलेले आहे आणि हे समजून घेणे म्हणजेच आत्मतत्त्व समजून घेणे आणि ते समजून घेण्यासाठी भक्ती मार्गाने ध्यान करून किंवा ज्ञानमार्गाने विचार करून आणि कर्म मार्गाने योग्य काम करून, आपली आपल्याशी ओळख करून घेणे.  आत्मतत्त्व समजून घेऊन मोक्षापर्यंत त्याची वाटचाल कशी होते, याचे मार्गदर्शन या उपनिषदातील मंत्रात आढळते. जेव्हा आत्मा ब्रह्मात विलीन होतो, तेव्हा मोक्षप्राप्ती होते. व्यावहारिक दृष्टीने बघायचे झाले तर समोरच्या माणसाला एक आत्मा या नात्याने आदराने आणि सन्मानाने वागणे, हे समजून येते. 

केन उपनिषदात आत्म्याचे अस्तित्त्व समजून घेण्यासाठी अंगी नम्रता असणे खूप जरुरीचे सांगितले आहे. जर नम्रता नसेल, तर आपल्याला आत्म्याचे ज्ञान होत नाही. आपल्याला खूप अजून शिकायचे आहे, हि भावना असल्याशिवाय काही नवीन शिकता येत नाही.  मैत्रीचे पण गणित असेच आहे. जर आपण नम्रपणे किंवा आदराने दुसऱ्याला वागवले नाही, तर कोणी आपल्याशी मैत्री करणार नाही. ही मूल्ये अंगी बाणावी यासाठी पण कदाचित हा उपदेश केला असेल. (पान क्र ३६)

छांदोग्य आणि मैत्री उपनिषदात मनाचे महत्त्व सांगितले आहे. मन हे सर्वांचे उगमस्थान आहे. मनुष्य मनानेच पाहतो व ऐकतो. (पान क्र ११३) आपले लक्ष नसेल, तर डोळ्यासमोरची गोष्ट देखील जशी नजरेत भरत नाही, त्याप्रमाणेच डोळ्याने बघून देखील मनाची साथ नसेल, तर न दिसल्यासारखेच होते. आपल्या मनात असलेल्या भावना या सगळ्या मनाच्या नियंत्रणाखाली असल्याने कशाची भीती वाटून घ्यायची आणि कशाचे कौतुक वाटून घ्यायचे, हे पण आपल्या हातीच असते. मनावर बुद्धीचे नियंत्रण असल्याने बुद्धीचा वापर करून आपण चांगला निर्णय घेऊ शकतो. अर्थात हे सर्व वाटते तितके सोपे कधीच नसते. जसजसा आपला चांगले निर्णय घेण्याचा सराव वाढत जातो, त्याप्रमाणे आपला आत्मविश्वास, आत्मसम्मान आणि आत्मप्रेम वाढीस लागते. याला काही लोक अध्यात्मातील उन्नती असे देखील मानतात. ध्यानाने आणि सुविचाराने सुद्धा या गोष्टींचा सराव वाढू शकतो. अशा सरावाने आपल्याला अंतरात्म्याची ओळख वाढून काही गोष्टी वेगळ्या स्तरावरपण कळू लागतात. उदाहरणार्थ कोणाला आपण आवडतो आणि कोणाला आवडत नाही, हे कळायला आपण आपल्या मनाशी संवाद साधून पण समजू शकतो. कोण आपल्याशी खरे बोलत आहे आणि कोण दुटप्पीपणे वागत आहे, याचे ज्ञान पण होऊ शकते. त्याप्रमाणेच आपण एकटे नाही, आपल्या पाठीमागे आत्मतत्त्व खंबीर उभे आहे, याची जाणीव होऊन एकटेपणा किंवा भीती वाटणे हे कमी होते. याचा अर्थ असा नव्हे कि आपण व्यावहारिक पद्धतीने आपली काळजी घेऊ नये, पण याचा अर्थ असा होतो की जेव्हा आपल्याला आपलं स्वतःचे स्थान समजू लागते, तेव्हा आपले जीवन आनंदाने बहरून जाते आणि आपली दिनचर्या सुखकर होते. 

मुंडकोपनिषदातले एक उदाहरण देताना प्रा. रानडे म्हणतात की एका वृक्षावर जीव आणि ब्रह्म राहात असतात. जीवाला नेहमी आपण निर्बल आहोत असे वाटून दुःख व्हायचे. पण जेव्हा त्याचे ब्रह्माशी ऐक्य होते, तेव्हा तोसुद्धा अनंत शक्तीचा वाटेकरी असल्याचे त्याला जाणवते. (पान क्र २९६) तेव्हा त्याचे दुःख नाहीसे होऊन त्याला अपरिमित आनंद होतो. तशीच जेव्हा आपल्याला जाणीव होते, कि आपण एकटे नाही. आपण या सृष्टीचा भाग आहोत, आपल्या जीवनाचा हेतू सफल करण्याचा प्रयत्न आपण केला, कि आपण आनंदी होतो. तेव्हा आपल्याला चिंता ग्रासत नाहीत, किंवा एकटेपण खायला उठत नाही. त्यामुळे उपनिषदांचा सल्ला घेऊन आपण संयमाने, धैर्याने आणि नीतीने जीवनाला सामोरे जातो, तेव्हा ज्ञान आणि आनंदाचा अनुभव घेण्यास पात्र होतो. 

© लेखिका : अश्विनी मोकाशी 

New book Explores the Role of Wisdom In Transforming Individual Lives and the World

Thank you, Dr. Linda Brown Holt, an author of fiction and non-fiction books for your kind review!

In Sapiens and Sthitaprajña, Ashwini Mokashi has written a brilliant analysis and comparison of two philosophies from different parts of the world: the stoicism of the Western philosopher Seneca (Roman 1 BCE to 65 CE) and the teachings of the Indian text, the Bhagavad Gita (ca. 400 BCE to 200 CE).

Mokashi has distilled the key ideas from these two works and presented them in ways that every thoughtful person can appreciate and enjoy. Her scholarly background has enabled the author to penetrate to the core of each work’s message, where she finds a unifying call for the cultivation and practice of wisdom in society at large and in our individual lives.

Wisdom may, in fact, be the one element missing today in our social discourse. Government officials and members of popular movements alike demonstrate every day that they have mastered the arts of contentiousness, disregard for the truth, and have the ability to spin information with the ease and facility of a skilled magician. But where is the wisdom that should be at the heart of their thoughts and deliberations? Do we need leaders who are wise people? Or are we content to be led by “wise guys”?

Using easy-to-understand language, Mokashi provides clear descriptions of Seneca and his time as well as the setting and meaning of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most cherished works of Indian spiritual philosophy. She answers the question, “What is stoicism?”, and suggests ways, based on these ancient teachings, through which we can improve ourselves and the world around us.

The title of this book refers to the “Sapiens” in Roman philosophy, a wise person who is moderate in his or her habits and thinks before acting. The “Sthitaprajña” refers to one who is firm in judgment and wisdom. Although these ideals come from different parts of the world, the stoic teachings of Seneca and the author of the Gita have a shared universal ring of truth. Through moderation, kindness, and dedication, we, too, can experience a greater sense of unity and purpose in our lives, and pass that on to a world in need of ancient wisdom that is tried and true.  

   –Dr. Linda Brown Holt, author of Viewing Meister Eckhart through the Bhagavad Gita

Happiness in the New Year 2020

2019 Achievements:

– Publication of the book ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna’
– Publication of the blog ‘ashwinimokashi.com‘ for English and Marathi articles on Philosophy and Happiness – YouTube Channel started ‘Ashwini Mokashi Talks’ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAOdCfuv0ZIrzGyBDt8DP-g/featured


2020 Projects Preview: – A course at the Evergreen Forum in Princeton ‘Wisdom Leads to Happiness’ to run from February to April 2020 – Research Continues on Meditation and Bhakti project covering Saints-literature in India from the 12th to 19th centuries in three languages – Marathi, Hindi and Kannada

Honors and Awards – Thank you Princeton Research Forum for the Francis Hutner Travel Grant 2019- Memorial Talk at the Bhandarkar Institute in Pune, April 17, 2019 – Op-Eds published in Indian Express and Loksatta – Indian newspapers with highest circulation- Informal discussions with the Hindu scholars at Oxford University – Talks in New Delhi, India and Princeton, NJ- Informal Talk at Florence, Italy – Many reviews published of the book ‘Sapiens and Sthitaprajna’ – The blog readership upwards of 600 in three months since starting.


Thank you Readers, for being a part of this project to spread Happiness and Wisdom about life through Philosophy!

चांगले जीवन कसे जगावे

लेखिका : अश्विनी मोकाशी  (c)

मानवी इतिहासामध्ये संपूर्ण पृथ्वीवरील प्रत्येकजण आनंदाचा आणि सुखाचा पाठपुरावा करतो. जगातील सर्वत्र प्रचलित असलेल्या या पाठपुराव्यासंदर्भात काही सत्ये असली पाहिजेत हे गृहीत धरून मी या विषयावरील प्राचीन तत्त्वज्ञानाकडे वळले. सुखाचा रस्ता सुज्ञ आणि नैतिक निवडीतून जाईल, याची मला कल्पनाही नव्हती. जर ते प्राचीन तत्त्ववेत्तांसाठी खरे होते तर ते अजूनही सत्य आहे का? जीवनाच्या काही मूलभूत तत्त्वांपर्यंत  पोचण्यासाठी आपल्याला विविध अडथळ्यांना पार करणे शक्य आहे का, ज्यामुळे आपल्याला एक चांगले जीवन जगता येईल?


ग्रीक / रोमन तत्त्वज्ञानातील ‘सेपियन्स’, आणि गीता-उपनिषदांच्या भारतीय तत्वज्ञानात ‘स्थितप्रज्ञ ’ या नावाने ओळखल्या जाणार्‍या मानवाचा आदर्श पुढे येतो. त्यांनी आम्हाला प्रदान केलेल्या जीवन सुकर करणाऱ्या साधनांमध्ये पुढील तत्त्वे आढळतात – आपल्या परिस्थितीपासून अलिप्त राहणे, सखोल  विचार करून योग्य निर्णय घेणे, आपल्या विचारांना आणि कल्पनांना तपासून घेऊन  त्यांचे विश्लेषण करणे , स्वतःवर किंवा इतरांवर अन्याय न करता नैतिक रीतीने वागणे, आपल्या नकारात्मक भावनांवर  विशेषतः राग, शोक आणि चिंता यांवर नियंत्रण मिळवणे, काही अपरिहार्य गोष्टी निसर्गाचा नियम म्हणून स्वीकारणे आणि सर्वात महत्त्वाचे म्हणजे निसर्गाचे कायदे, विज्ञानाची तथ्ये आणि आपली भावनिक रचना समजून घेणे. जेव्हा हे एक अशक्य काम आहे असे वाटते, तेव्हा जसे अर्जुनाने गीतेतील भगवान श्रीकृष्णाशी सल्लामसलत केली, याचा विचार करावा; किंवा सॉक्रेटिसने बाजारपेठेतील इतर तथाकथित सुज्ञ लोकांचा सल्ला घेतला आणि सॉक्रॅटिक पद्धतीने विचारपूस करुन त्यांच्या तथाकथित विचारांना कसे आव्हान दिले, त्याचा विचार करावा आणि आपले विचार तपासून पाहावेत. 


या मार्गावरील मुख्य अडथळे म्हणजे भावनाग्रस्त होणे  किंवा नकारात्मक भावना अंगीकारणे. आजकाल आपण बघतो की तरुण लोकांना चिंता, नैराश्य आणि उदासिनता खूप सतावते. कधी आपण एखादी मोठी संधी गमावल्यामुळे किंवा कधी पराभूत झाल्याने असे वाटणे साहजिक आहे. जे कामात अपयशी ठरतात, त्यांच्या बाबतीत हे औदासिन्य नजरेस येते, परंतु जे अत्यंत यशस्वी आहेत त्यांच्या बाबतीतही हे घडू शकते . त्याचे कारण असे आहे की कोणत्याही प्रकारची नकारघंटा स्वीकार करणे कठीण जाते.  ही नकारघंटा कधी आपल्या कारकीर्दीत आपल्या कामाच्या ठिकाणी ऐकू येते, तर कधी आपल्या कुटुंबात किंवा आपल्या प्रेम-जीवनात ऐकू येते. अशा वेळेला थोडे परिस्थितीपासून दूर जाऊन, थोडा अलिप्तपणे विचार केला की नव्याने त्या परिस्थितीकडे बघण्यास, आपली नवीन ध्येय निश्चित करण्यास आणि ते ध्येय योग्य आहे की नाही हे ठरवण्यास मदत होईल. म्हणून अलिप्तपणे आणि धोरणात्मक विचारसरणीमुळे आपल्याला योग्य काय आणि अयोग्य काय, हे समजायला  मदत होईल. ते शहाणपण आहे. गीतेमध्ये हे ‘वैराग्य’ आणि स्टोइसिझम मध्ये ते ‘आपेथिया’ या नावाने ओळखले जाते. अलिप्तपणा शिकणे किंवा शिकवणे खूप अवघड आहे परंतु तरीही जीवनातील चढउतारांत अलिप्त राहणे आणि शांत राहणे हे फारच गरजेचे आहे, अन्यथा उलथापालथ झाल्याशिवाय राहणार नाही.


तसं बघायला गेलं तर ,आपण आता एका जागतिक खेड्यात राहत आहोत, जिथे वेगवेगळ्या ठिकाणाहून लोकं येतात आणि कायमचे वास्तव्य करतात. कुठल्याही शहरी भागात काही लोकं तिथले रहिवासी असतात आणि काही दुसरीकडून आलेले असतात. त्यामुळे कल्पनांची देवाणघेवाण होते आणि संस्कृतीचे मिश्रण नेहमीच आढळते. पण त्यामुळे सर्व प्रकारचे संभ्रम पण वाढतात. कुठल्या पद्धती योग्य आणि कुठल्या अयोग्य या गोंधळांतून मार्ग काढण्यासाठी मूल्यांवर आधारित, तत्त्वांवर आधारित परिस्थिती निर्माण करून, जिथे सार्वत्रिक मूल्यांवर सहमती दिली जाते, तिथे जीवनाचा सूर गवसतो. त्या दृष्टीने तुलनात्मक तत्त्वज्ञान फार उपयुक्त ठरते, विशेषत: जेव्हा पौर्वात्य आणि पाश्चिमात्य  प्राचीन ग्रंथ कोणत्या मूल्यांचा पाठपुरावा करावा हे सांगतात आणि सर्वांसाठी चांगले जीवन कसे जगावे या मुद्द्यांवर त्यांचे एकमत झालेले दिसते, तेव्हा तिथे तथ्य आहे हे लक्षात येते. गीता आणि स्टोइक सेनेका यांच्या ‘ज्ञानी’ व्यक्तीच्या संकल्पनेत उल्लेखनीय साम्य आढळून येते , यासाठी योग्य कृती ठरविण्याकरिता बौद्धिक अचूकपणाचा वापर करणे (ज्ञानमार्ग) आवश्यक आहे, त्यानंतर योग्य कृती अंमलात आणणे (कर्ममार्ग) आणि सर्वांना नीट समजून देणे हे फायदेशीर ठरेल. 


आपल्या बोलण्यामध्ये आणि कृतीमध्ये जेव्हा साधर्म्य असते, त्याचबरोबर सकारात्मक भावनांचा वापर किंवा नकारात्मक भावनांचा अभाव असतो, तेव्हा मनाची शांती आणि आनंदाची स्थिती निर्माण होते. आपण जितके अधिक त्या प्रकारे राहण्याचा प्रयत्न करतो, तितका जास्त प्रमाणात आनंद घेत असतो. हा सिद्धांत इच्छापूर्तीच्या कल्पनेपेक्षा भिन्न आहे. आनंदी होण्यासाठी संपत्ती, आरोग्य, सौंदर्य आणि मजेची उद्दीष्टे पूर्ण केल्याने आपल्याला थोडाफार क्षणिक आनंद होईल आणि एका विशिष्ट वयात ते महत्वाचे सुद्धा आहे, परंतु दीर्घकाळपर्यंत तणावरहीत आणि सुखी होण्याचा ज्ञान मार्ग हा नाही. ज्ञान मार्गाने मिळालेल्या सुखाचे अनुसरण करताना, आपल्या  विचारांना सतत तपासून घेतले पाहिजे, धोरणात्मक असले पाहिजे आणि आपल्या कृतीच्या दीर्घकालीन परिणामाबद्दल विचार केला पाहिजे. उदाहरणार्थ, आपल्या  स्वप्नातील कार विकत घेतल्यामुळे जर बरेच वर्षे दिवाळखोरीत राहावे लागणार असेल, तर त्या कार विकत घेण्याला काही किंमत राहणार नाही. त्याचप्रमाणे एखादी उच्च पगाराची नोकरी स्वीकारली, पण त्यासाठी लागणारी मेहनत किंवा परिश्रम करण्याची आणि गरज पडल्यास प्रवास करून कामाच्या ठिकाणी एकाकी जीवन जगण्याची तयारी नसेल, तर अशी  नोकरी घेणे ही योग्य संधी असू शकत नाही. अशा प्रकारे तर तम् भावाचा विचार केल्यावर लक्षात येते की, इतर काहीही नसले तरी, ज्ञान मार्गाचा अवलंब केल्याने आपल्याला आपले जीवन योग्य दिशेने नेता येईल आणि त्याचबरोबर नीतीने आणि न्यायाने वागून आपले सर्वांचे  जीवन दीर्घकाळपर्यंत तणावमुक्त, सुखी आणि समृद्ध करण्याचा जास्तीतजास्त प्रयत्न करता येईल.

Wisdom for a Happy Marriage – a Parody or a Perspective?

By Ashwini Mokashi ©

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A happy marriage in modern times may be an oxymoron, or the institution of marriage may be on the verge of extinction looking at the divorce rates in the US. One prominent reason I see, is that a marriage tries to join two people or two families and expects them to grow and develop in that joint fashion, while keeping up with the societal norms of individuality, individual happiness, individual freedom, etc. So, if thinking about individual fulfilment is the goal, then a joint or united happiness is a contradiction in terms. If the united happiness for the two people joined in marriage is the goal, then individual freedom and individual growth and happiness constitutes a logical fallacy, also known as reductio ad absurdum. And yet, we don’t see it as a fallacy, but as something glorious to look forward to. The concept of marriage exists between not just heterosexual couples, but also homosexual couples. People spend a ton of their savings on this joyous occasion of wedding, knowing that it may lead nowhere. So, what is the compelling argument for getting married and for staying married?

One can say that the getting married part is based on attraction, falling in love, a desire to be with one’s beloved, fulfilment of a dream, a chance to shower one’s affection on someone who smiles and doesn’t frown, or just to get rid of loneliness in one’s life. Agreed. Two people are joined in love and matrimony. Now comes the part of staying together or taking decisions together and that starts to become complicated. Things start withering away even before the actual wedding, as a lot of decisions need to be made about how to get married, whom to invite, how much to spend. None of this is pleasant. Someone must give and that someone is not happy. Then there is the fiasco about how ‘we need to talk’ and how much people should be expected to ‘give’ for the sake of marriage and how much should they expect to receive for being ‘in the marriage’.

Things only go downhill from here. The future of marriage on the wedding day and beyond does not look like a happy proposition. But the whole point of being married was to seek happiness, (not to mention security, children, fulfillment of various needs with the help of one’s partner). So, where did things go wrong? Being a student of ancient wisdom, I decided to consult the wisdom experts I had studied – Stoic Seneca and the Gita – to see if I could get their help in improving the expectations in the marriage, to save this dying institution – which couldn’t have possibly survived for centuries, to rescue it from the clutches of evolutionary biologists – who believe every man will be eyeing a younger woman for replicating his gene-pool, to help all women who believe that there is a better man out there but not the one they are married to. Now to be honest, the teachings of Stoicism or that of the Gita are hardly a model of conjugal bliss, as we understand it today. Having said that, here is how I interpreted their infallible wisdom in my own fallible way:

The Gita has a five-point plan for seeking happiness as follows:

  1. Sva-dharma or doing one’s own duty: This involves making sure that the household chores are done. For example, earning money, looking after kids or elders, whatever one’s ‘married-duties’ maybe. One is expected to not only fulfil but also excel in fulfilling one’s duties.
  2. Shraddha or faith: It is important to have undying faith that the marriage will survive – no matter how grim the scenario is. Ignorance about problems can be blissful sometimes.
  3. Samatvam or equanimity towards pleasure and pain: If the spouse is being very romantic, enjoy it, but remember it is not going to last. If the spouse is being miserable, ignore the other person – as that is also not going to last. Keeping the sense of humor alive at such moments goes a long way.
  4. Anasakti or non-attachment: One decides to get married for having feelings for one’s spouse, but the marriage itself is an exercise in non-attachment. Getting too involved gives rise to dependence, lack of trust, giving them too much importance, degrading oneself in our own eyes, jealousy and an invitation to misery. By practicing non-attachment, one is safeguarding one’s sense of dignity, one’s interests, keeping options open – personal or professional, and enjoying the good moments.
  5. Shanti or tranquility – One enjoys moments of peace, when one feels safe in the relationship. If the marriage succeeds, it is great. If not, one needs to practice using wisdom more often and emotional reactions – less so.  Not to mention, it was good to still have the job, life, friends, interests, hobbies!

Now let us turn to Seneca, a Stoic philosopher. Stoics don’t think much about falling in love, but they do support marriage and Seneca himself enjoyed a faithful and good marriage. Let us see his advice for being wise and happy, and how it can be applied in the arena of marriage:

  1. Kathekonta or appropriate actions: This requires always saying the right thing and no more. It is ok to say, the dinner was delicious. It is not ok to add, but I would have preferred it earlier or later, colder or hotter. Any such comments are forbidden, since they are not appropriate.
  2. Oikeiosis or what belongs to oneself: This means that one needs to belong to one’s newly formed family, to one’s community – the friends that both share together, and to a wider society, including one’s own separate sphere.
  3. Arete or virtue: Be good to one’s spouse. Remember why we chose them over the others, think about their good qualities and not those, one dislikes. Instead of criticizing, make a statement of what one feels grateful for.
  4. Apatheia or detachment: This is the most difficult step, which requires one to stay detached, so that one doesn’t take any criticism personally. Likewise, it is also necessary to remember that the fun moments have a fleeting nature, so hold on to those memories.
  5. Laws of nature: Understanding this requires us to understand that men will be tempted by younger and prettier women – just goes with being a man. Likewise, women will be tempted with offers of love, affection and pampering – that is what they need. So long as one is aware of the other person’s needs and there is a way to fulfil those needs, it is possible to protect one’s marriage through these traps.
  6. Eudaimonia or Happiness: Marriage calls for joint happiness. If one accepts that joint happiness requires sacrificing some amount of individual happiness, then a ‘happy marriage’ is a possible imaginable entity. If joint happiness is not a possible goal, then ‘a happy marriage’ is a mere oxymoron. For example, a career success for one person would imply the success for both, a personal milestone of weight-loss would still mean success for both. Likewise, a job-loss would be a problem for both, investments and/or kids not doing well would be a failure for both. While there is much to gain from the joint activity, there is also much to lose in a narrow individual sense in staying together.

Hence bringing wisdom in a marriage has the capacity to make it happy, but not bringing wisdom in a marriage seems like a continuous struggle and taking chances of surviving as a couple or as a family, six of one, half a dozen of the other. Did I say it was fun?

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