Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (5 September 1888 – 17 April 1975) was an Advaita Vedantist philosopher and Indian statesman who was the first Vice President of India (1952–1962) and the second President of India from 1962 to 1967.
- In the mystic traditions of the different religions we have a remarkable unity of spirit. Whatever religion they may profess, they are spiritual kinsmen. While the different religions in their historic forms bind us to limited groups and militate against the development of loyalty to the world community, the mystics have already stood for the fellowship of humanity in harmony with the spirit of the mystics of ages gone by.
- Remarks on Mysticism (c. 1940), as quoted by Haile Selassie in "An address during Radhakrishnan's visit to Ethiopia" (13 October 1965), as recorded in Foreign Affairs Record Vol. 11-12 (1965-1966) by India Ministry of External Affairs, p. 266; he is also quoted as having made these remarks in The Visva-Bharati Quarterly Vol. 5 (1939-1940)
- The Flag links up the past and the present. It is the legacy bequeathed to us by the architects of our liberty. Those who fought under this Flag are mainly responsible for the arrival of this great day of Independence for India. Pandit Jawaharlal has pointed out to you that it is not a day of joy unmixed with sorrow. The Congress fought for unity and liberty. The unity has been compromised; liberty too. I feel, has been compromised, unless we are able to face the tasks which now confront us with courage, strength and vision. What is essential to-day is to equip ourselves with new strength and with new character if these difficulties are to be overcome and if the country is to achieve the great ideal of unity and liberty which it fought for. Times are hard. Everywhere we are consumed by phantasies. Our minds are haunted by myths. The world is full of misunderstandings, suspicions and distrusts. In these difficult days it depends on us under what banner we fight.
Here we are Putting in the very centre the white, the white of the Sun's rays. The white means the path of light. There is darkness even at noon as some People have urged, but it is necessary for us to dissipate these clouds of darkness and control our conduct-by the ideal light, the light of truth, of transparent simplicity which is illustrated by the colour of white.
We cannot attain purity, we cannot gain our goal of truth, unless we walk in the path of virtue. The Asoka's wheel represents to us the wheel of the Law, the wheel Dharma. Truth can be gained only by the pursuit of the path of Dharma, by the practice of virtue. Truth,—Satya, Dharma —Virtue, these ought to be the controlling principles of all those who work under this Flag. It also tells us that the Dharma is something which is perpetually moving. If this country has suffered in the recent past, it is due to our resistance to change. There are ever so many challenges hurled at us and if we have not got the courage and the strength to move along with the times, we will be left behind. There are ever so many institutions which are worked into our social fabric like caste and untouchability. Unless these things are scrapped we cannot say that we either seek truth or practise virtue. This wheel which is a rotating thing, which is a perpetually revolving thing, indicates to us that there is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. Our Dharma is Sanatana, eternal, not in the sense that it is a fixed deposit but in the sense that it is perpetually changing. Its uninterrupted continuity is its Sanatana character. So even with regard to our social conditions it is essential for us to move forward.
The red, the orange, the Bhagwa colour, represents the spirit of renunciation. All forms of renunciation are to be embodied in Raja Dharma. Philosophers must be kings. Our leaders must be disinterested. They must be dedicated spirits. They must be people who are imbued with the spirit of renunciation which that saffron, colour has transmitted to us from the beginning of our history. That stands for the fact that the World belongs not to the wealthy, not to the prosperous but to the meek and the humble, the dedicated and the detached.
That spirit of detachment that spirit of renunciation is represented by the orange or the saffron colour and Mahatma Gandhi has embodied it for us in his life and the Congress has worked under his guidance and with his message. If we are not imbued with that spirit of renunciation in than difficult days, we will again go under.
The green is there, our relation to the soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends. We must build our Paradise, here on this green earth. If we are to succeed in this enterprise, we must be guided by truth (white), practise virtue (wheel), adopt the method of self-control and renunciation (saffron). This flag tells us "Be ever alert, be ever on the move, go forward, work for a free, flexible, compassionate, decent, democratic society in which Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists will all find a safe shelter." Let us all unite under this banner and rededicate ourselves to the ideas our flag symbolizes.
- The challenge of Christian critics impelled me to make a study of Hinduism and find out what is living and what is dead in it. My pride as a Hindu, roused by the enterprise and eloquence of Swami Vivekananda, was deeply hurt by the treatment accorded to Hinduism in missionary institutions.
- In: Donald Mackenzie Brown The Nationalist Movement: Indian Political Thought from Ranade to Bhave, University of California Press, 1970, p.153.
- Man is a paradoxical being-the constant glory and scandal of this world.
- My ambition is to unfold the sources of India in the profound plane of human nature.
- Quotations by 60 Greatest Indians. Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology.
- Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if 5 September is observed as Teachers' Day.
- His suggestion to the students who wanted to commemorate his birthday in: Rupal Jain How to be a Good Teacher, Pustak Mahal, p.138.
- If philosophy of religion is to become scientific, it must become empirical and found itself on religious experience.
Kalki : or The Future of Civilization (1929)
- The East and the West are not so sharply divided as the alarmists would make us believe. The products of spirit and intelligence, the positive sciences, the engineering techniques, the governmental forms, the legal regulations, the administrative arrangements, and the economic institutions are binding together peoples of varied cultures and bringing them into closer reciprocal contact. The world today is tending to function as one organism.
The outer uniformity has not, however, resulted in an inner unity of mind and spirit. The new nearness into which we are drawn has not meant increasing happiness and diminishing friction, since we are not mentally and spiritually prepared for the meeting. Maxim Gorky relates how, after addressing a peasant audience on the subject of science and the marvels of technical inventions, he was criticized by a peasant spokesman in the following words : "Yes, we are taught to fly in the air like birds, and to swim in the water like the fishes, but how to live on the earth we do not know."
Among the races, religions, and nations which live side by side on the small globe, there is not that sense of fellowship necessary for good life. They rather feel themselves to be antagonistic forces. Though humanity has assumed a uniform outer body, it is still without a single animating spirit. The world is not of one mind. … The provincial cultures of the past and the present have not always been loyal to the true interests of the human race. They stood for racial, religious, and political monopolies, for the supremacy of men over women and of the rich over the poor. Before we can build a stable civilization worthy of humanity as a whole, it is necessary that each historical civilization should become conscious of its limitations and it's unworthiness to become the ideal civilization of the world.
- While the triumph of mechanical inventions provides a common basis for the civilization of the future, the break-down of traditional systems of thought, belief, and practice is the necessary preparation for the building of a spiritual unity. The leaven is at work among all the peoples, especially among the youth who are unwilling to be mere clay in the hands of others, be they ever so old or wise. There is a quickened consciousness, a sense of something in adequate and unsatisfactory in the ideas and conceptions we have held and the groping after new values. Dissolution is in the air. The old forms of faith are tottering. Among the thoughtful men of every creed and country there is a note of spiritual wistfulness and expectancy.
If we leave aside the fanatics with whom no argument is possible, the leaders of every historical civilization to-day are convinced that mankind in all its extent and history is a single organism, worshipful in its growing majesty and capable of a capable of a progress upon which none dare set any bounds. Dante proclaimed: "There is not one goal for this civilization and one for that, but for the civilization of all mankind there is a single goal." If there is a single goal for all civilization, it does not mean that all shall speak a common tongue or profess a common creed, or that all shall live under a single government, or all shall follow an unchanging pattern in customs and manners.
- Democracy has become confused with ignorance, lack of discipline, and low tastes … Though educational facilities are within the reach of large numbers, the level of culture is not high. It has become more easy to get into a college and more difficult to get educated. We are taught to read but not trained to think … Those who know better are afraid to speak out but keep step with the average mind. Uncivilized mass-impulses, crowd emotions and class-resentments have taken the place of authority and tradition.
- War with its devastated fields and ruined cities, with its millions of dead and more millions of maimed and wounded, its broken-hearted and defiled women and its starved children bereft of their natural protection, its hate and atmosphere of lies and intrigue, is an outrage on all that is human. So long as this devil-dance does not disgust us, we cannot pretend to be civilized. It is no good preventing cruelty to animals and building hospitals for the sick and poor houses for the destitute so long as we willing to mow down masses of men by machine-guns and poison non-combatants, including the aged and the infirm, women and children — and all for what? For the glory of God and the honour of the nation!
It is quite true that we attempt to regulate war, as we cannot suppress it; but the attempt cannot succeed. For war symbolizes the spirit of strife between two opposing national units which is to be settled by force. When we allow the use of force as the only argument to put down opposition, we cannot rightly discriminate between one kind of force and another. We must put down opposition by mobilizing all the forces at our disposal. There is no real difference between a stick and a sword, or gunpowder and poison gas. So long as it is the recognized method of putting down opposition, every nation will endeavour to make its destructive weapons more and more efficient. War is its only law add the highest virtue is to win, and every nation has to tread this terrific and deadly road. To approve of warfare but criticize its methods, it has been well said is like approving of the wolf eating the lamb but criticizing the table-manners. War is war and not a game of sport to be played according to rules.
- It is true that internationalism is growing. Economists warn us that war does not pay. It is bad business. Some of us are growing pacifist by policy, though not by conviction. The spirit of internationalism is but skin-deep. Except a small minority in each country who remained heroically faithful to its principles, the rest sacrificed their humanity at the altar of their country in the last war. Even the dignitaries of the Church proved themselves to be of the school of Mephistopheles, "who built God a church and laughed his word to scorn." Churches were turned into recruiting offices. The fanatic appeals of all sides to the Almighty must have confused God himself, and the frame of mind in which the onlookers were is well expressed in J. C. Squire's quatrain : —
- It is true that we have the League of Nations, but it is only a mechanical frame and the soul has still to grow into its body. The spirit of ill-will and distrust is widespread. Internationalism is only an idea cherished by a few and not a part of human psychology. Ten years after the peace, the sky is not clearer than it was in August, 1914. Europe has a million more men under arms than there were before the war.
Eminent Indians (1947)
- To be ignorant is not the special prerogative of man; to know that he is ignorant is his special privilege.
- We become more religious in proportion to our readiness to doubt and not our willingness to believe.
- We must respect our own dignity as rational beings and thus diminish the power of fraud. It is better to be free than be a slave, better to know than to be ignorant. It is reason that helps us to reject what is falsely taught and believed about God, that He is a detective officer or a capricious despot or a glorified schoolmaster. It is essential that we should subject religious beliefs to the scrutiny of reason.
- The violent extermination of Buddhism in India is legendary. Buddhism grew weaker as it spread wider. The spirit of compromise which breathed in the Xllth Edict of Ashoka that there should be no praising of one's sect and decrying of other sects but on the contrary a rendering of honour to other sects for whatever cause honour may be due to them was its strength and weakness. It accommodated too much. Divinities and heavens slipped into Buddhism from other creeds with the spread of the religion.
- His views on why the role of Buddhism diminished in India
- The disciples surrounded with cheap marvels and wonders the lonely figure of that serene Soul, simple and austere in his yellow robes, walking with bared feet and bowed head towards Benares.
- His views on why the role of Buddhism diminished in India
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Quotes of Radhakrishnan in "Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888—1975)" by Michael Hawley in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The University of Tennessee at Martin
- Intuition is a distinct form of experience. Intuition is of a self-certifying character (svatassiddha). It is sufficient and complete. It is self-established (svatasiddha), self-evidencing (svāsaṃvedya), and self-luminous (svayam-prakāsa). Intuition entails pure comprehension, entire significance, complete validity. It is both truth-filled and truth-bearing Intuition is its own cause and its own explanation. It is sovereign . Intuition is a positive feeling of calm and confidence, joy and strength. Intuition is profoundly satisfying . It is peace, power and joy.
- Intuitions are convictions arising out of a fullness of life in a spontaneous way, more akin to sense than to imagination or intellect and more inevitable than either.
- Logical knowledge is indirect and symbolic in its character. It helps us to handle and control the object and its workings.
- The art of discovery is confused with the logic of proof and an artificial simplification of the deeper movements of thought results. We forget that we invent by intuition though we prove by logic.
- The insight does not arise if we are not familiar with the facts of the case... The successful practice of intuition requires previous study and assimilation of a multitude of facts and laws. We may take it that great intuitions arise out of a matrix of rationality.
- The readjustment [of previously known facts] is so easy that when the insight is attained it escapes notice and we imagine that the process of discovery is only rational synthesis.
- Knowledge when acquired must be thrown into logical form and we are obliged to adopt the language of logic since only logic has a communicable language.
- The presentation of facts in logical form contributes to a confusion between discovery and proof. If the process of discovery were mere synthesis, any mechanical manipulator of prior partial concepts would have reached the insight and it would not have taken a genius to arrive at it.
- Creative insight is not the final link in a chain of reasoning. If it were that, it would not strike us as inspired in its origin. Intuition is not the end, but part of an ever-developing and ever-dynamic process of realization. There is continual system of “checks and balances” between intuition and the logical method of discursive reasoning. Cognitive intuitions are not substitutes for thought, they are challenges to intelligence. Mere intuitions are blind while intellectual work is empty. All processes are partly intuitive and partly intellectual. There is no gulf between the two.
- Psychic experiences are a state of consciousness beyond the understanding of the normal, and the supernormal is traced to the supernatural.
- We can see objects without the medium of the senses and discern relations spontaneously without building them up laboriously. In other words, we can discern every kind of reality directly.
- The success of art is measured by the extent to which it is able to render experiences of one dimension into terms of another. Art born out of a creative contemplation which is a process of travail of the spirit is an authentic crystallization of a life process. Its ultimate and in its essence, the poetical character is derived from the creative intuition (that is, integral intuition) which holds sound, suggestion and sense in organic solution.
- Technique without inspiration, is barren. Intellectual powers, sense facts and imaginative fancies may result in clever verses, repetition of old themes, but they are only manufactured poetry. It is not simply a difference of quality but a difference of kind in the source itself.
- Even in the act of composition, the poet is in a state in which the reflective elements are subordinated to the intuitive. The vision, however, is not operative for so long as it continues, its very stress acts as a check on expression.
- The experience or the vision is the artist’s counterpart to the scientific discovery of a principle or law. What the scientist does when he discovers a new law is to give a new ordering to observed facts. The artist is engaged in a similar task. He gives new meaning to our experience and organizes it in a different way due to his perception of subtler qualities in reality.
- Poetic truth is different from scientific truth since it reveals the real in its qualitative uniqueness and not in its quantitative universality. Poetry is the language of the soul, while prose is the language of science. The former is the language of mystery, of devotion, of religion. Prose lays bare its whole meaning to the intelligence, while poetry plunges us in the mysterium tremendum of life and suggests the truths that cannot be stated.
- If the new harmony glimpsed in the moments of insight is to be achieved, the old order of habits must be renounced. Moral intuitions result in a redemption of our loyalties and a remaking of our personalities.
- In the chessboard of life, the different pieces have powers which vary with the context and the possibilities of their combination are numerous and unpredictable. The sound player has a sense of right and feels that, if he does not follow it, he will be false to himself. In any critical situation the forward move is a creative act.
- Intuition must be not only translated into positive and creative action but shared with others. There is a sense of urgency, if not inevitability, about this. One cannot afford to be absolutely silent and the saints love because they cannot help it.
- The moral hero, guided as he or she is by the ethical experience, who carves out an adventurous path is akin to the discoverer who brings order into the scattered elements of a science or the artist who composes a piece of music or designs buildings.
- Feeling the unity of himself and the universe, the man who lives in spirit is no more a separate and self-centered individual but a vehicle of the universal spirit. [Like the artist, the moral hero does not turn his back on the world. Instead], He throws himself on the world and lives for its redemption, possessed as he is with an unshakable sense of optimism and an unlimited faith in the powers of the soul.
- An Idealist View of Life (1929)
- [The moral hero is] fighting for the reshaping of his own society on sounder lines [his] behavior might offend the sense of decorum of the cautious conventionalist.
- If experience is the soul of religion, expression is the body through which it fulfills its destiny. We have the spiritual facts and their interpretations by which they are communicated to others. It is the distinction between immediacy and thought. Intuitions abide, while interpretations change.
- Conceptual expressions are tentative and provisional... [because] the intellectual account... are constructed theories of experience. [And he cautions us to] distinguish between the immediate experience or intuition which might conceivably be infallible and the interpretation which is mixed up with it.
- Religious intuition is a unique form of experience. Religious intuition is more than simply the confluence of the cognitive, aesthetic, and ethical sides of life. However vital and significant these sides of life may be, they are but partial and fragmented constituents of a greater whole, a whole which is experienced in its fullness and immediacy in religious intuition.
- Hinduism accepts all religious notions as facts and arranges them in the order of their more or less intrinsic significance. The worshippers of the Absolute are the highest in rank; second to them are the worshippers of the personal God; then come the worshippers of the incarnations like Rama, Kṛṣṇa, Buddha; below them are those who worship ancestors, deities and sages, and the lowest of all are the worshippers of the petty forces and spirits.
- Religion in terms of “personal experience is an independent functioning of the human mind, something unique, possessing and autonomous character. It is something inward and personal which unifies all values and organizes all experiences. It is the reaction to the whole of man to the whole of reality. It may be called spiritual life, as distinct from a merely intellectual or moral or aesthetic activity or a combination of them.
- We have spiritual facts and their interpretations by which they are communicated to others, sruti or what is heard, and smṛti or what is remembered. Śaṅkara equates them with pratyakṣa or intuition and anumana or inference. It is the distinction between immediacy and thought. Intuitions abide, while interpretations change.
- While no tradition coincides with experience, every tradition is essentially unique and valuable. While all traditions are of value, none is finally binding.
- If philosophy of religion is to become scientific, it must become empirical and found itself on religious experience. The Hindu philosophy of religion starts from and returns to an experimental basis. Hindu thinker readily admits of other points of view than his own and considers them to be just as worthy of attention.
- The truths of the ṛṣis are not evolved as the result of logical reasoning or systematic philosophy but are the products of spiritual intuition, dṛṣti or vision. The ṛṣis are not so much the authors of the truths recorded in the Vedas as the seers who were able to discern the eternal truths by raising their life-spirit to the plane of universal spirit. They are the pioneer researchers in the realm of the spirit who saw more in the world than their followers. Their utterances are not based on transitory vision but on a continuous experience of resident life and power. When the Vedas are regarded as the highest authority, all that is meant is that the most exacting of all authorities is the authority of facts.
- The creeds of religion correspond to theories of science... intuitions of the human soul should be studied by the methods which are adopted with such great success in the region of positive science.
- It is for philosophy of religion to find out whether the convictions of the religious seers fit in with the tested laws and principles of the universe.
- The marginalization of intuition and the abandonment of the experimental attitude in matters of religion has lead Christianity to dogmatic stasis. It is an unfortunate legacy of the course which Christian theology has followed in Europe that faith has come to connote a mechanical adherence to authority. If we take faith in the proper sense of truth or spiritual conviction, religion is faith or intuition.
- Hindu maxim that theory, speculations, [and] dogma change from time to time as the facts become better understood.
- Asceticism is an excess indulged in by those who exaggerate the transcendent aspect of reality. Instead, the rational mystic does not recognize any antithesis between the secular and the sacred. Nothing is to be rejected; everything is to be raised.
- The institution of caste illustrates the spirit of comprehensive synthesis characteristic of the Hindu mind with its faith in the collaboration of races and the co-operation of cultures. Paradoxical as it may seem, the system of caste is the outcome of tolerance and trust.
Quotes about Radhakrishnan
- Today more than ever before man realizes the bond of unity that exists within the race; he is endeavouring to employ the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the ages. He is employing modern science and technology; he is reaping the benefits, however limited, of political and economic unity; and to that extent, he is transcending the age-old barriers that have divided the race so long and is endeavouring to reflect on the welfare not only of himself and his immediate neighbour but also on the welfare of all the human race. This endeavour is in harmony with the spirit of the mystics of ages gone by. … To this generation, so tormented between modern knowledge and ancient faith, your scrupulous studies have pointed the way by which man may be saved from traditional superstition and modern skepticism.
Were the thoughts of Plato and Socrates, the beliefs of Christianity and Judaism not harmonized with Hindu philosophy; were Yoga and its various stages not exposed to Western thought; had Western religion and philosophy not been exposed to the philosophy and religion of the East through Your Excellency's persistent endeavour, how much the poorer would human thought have been!
In the history of the human race, those periods which later appeared as great have been the periods when the men and the women belonging to them had transcended the differences that divided them and had recognized in their membership in the human race a common bond. Your Excellency's constant endeavour to challenge this generation to transcend its differences. to recognize its common bond and to work towards a common goal has doubtless made this age pregnant with greatness.
- Haile Selassie, honoring Radhakrishnan, in "An address during Radhakrishnan's visit to Ethiopia" (13 October 1965), as recorded in Foreign Affairs Record Vol. 11-12 (1965-1966) by India Ministry of External Affairs, p. 266
- He had raised himself step by step. When would he reach the summit of the Mount Everest of his career? Would he aspire to higher things in the life and emulate such a man as Woodrow Wilson, who has at one time a professor; and ended up as President of the United States of America?
- He had always defended Hindu culture against uninformed Western criticism and had symbolized the pride of Indians in their own intellectual traditions.
- Donald Mackenzie Brown in: The Nationalist Movement: Indian Political Thought from Ranade to Bhave, University of California Press, 1970, p.153.
- It ... becomes clear that there isn't a neat line of causation that leads from the philosophies of Rammohan Roy, Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan to the agenda of militant Hindus who demolished the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in 1992. Rather, what we witness is the potential within a single field of discourse for alternate figurations of Hinduism to emerge. The potential for harm can often be found in the most well-intentioned of formulas.
- Robin Rinehart, in Contemporary Hinduism : Ritual, Culture, and Practice (2004), p.90
Eminent Indians (1947)
- The tradition of the Rishi is alive in India even today. He was the twentieth century equivalent of the ancient Hindu Rishi; the inspired philosopher at whose feet the tempests lose their guile. When he first lit the lamp of Indian philosophy in the West it made the European savants blink. It also illumined his own face to the world. With him philosophy was not a bare catalogue of fatiguing facts and tiring theories of dead authors and their musty old writings but a fascinating story that grips the mind and enthrals the imagination. This modern Recording Rishi of Indian philosophy, unlike other historians, used his scholarship to wrest from philosophical watch-words the thoughts embedded in them and reset them like jewels in epigrams giving out a strange new brilliance.
- He was not dull. A tall lanky virile Andhra, well-dressed and spic and span, he stood upright with an intense vitality filling his eyes welled with visions. His speech was pithy, — polished and precise. He studied philosophy as a scientist — not as a moralist.
- He was a philosophicalbilinguist who acted as the liaison officer of Hinduism. He was equally well-versed in Western philosophical thought and in Eastern. And he expounded the East to the West and the Occident to the Orient. But it was no mere exposition — originality in philosophy, as in 'poetry, consists not in the novelty of the tale or the light and shade distributed over the canvas but the depth and subtlety made to dominate the details. In this sense, he was original in his exposition as a poet or a painter in expression. He had found a new technique in the presentation of Oriental philosophy. He presented ultimate truths of religion in the psychological idiom of this age.
- In Kalki, or the Future of Civilization, he deals with the fact that although science has helped us to build up our outer life, we are not above the level of past generations in ethical and spiritual life. If anything, we have declined. Our natures are becoming mechanized. Void within, we are being reduced to mere members of a mob. There is a tendency to seek salvation in herds. For a complete human being we require the cultivation of the grace and joy of souls overflowing in love and devotion and the free service of a regenerated humanity.
- In Indian Philosophy he not only laid a stone foundation surely and truly but also built an edifice that shall outlast any philosophic storm. It was not so much a history as an exposition, and the exposition was vivid, vital and gripping. It was full of feeling. It made an epoch by itself. It was the two volumes of Indian Philosophy in the "Library of Philosophy" that showed that there was hardly any height of spiritual insight or rational philosophy attained in the world that has not its parallel in the vast stretch he dealt with that lies between the early sages and the modern Naiyaikas [leaders].
- Religion to him is essentially a concern of the inner self securing a spiritual certainty which lifts life above meaningless existence and dull despair, giving worth to values, meaning to life, confidence to adventure. He was impatient of the sorry scheme of things of the present day when the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. He thought of a day when the strong cease to be greedy and the weak learn to be bold. For things were never settled quite until they were settled right.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Michael Hawley in "Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888—1975)" by Michael Hawley in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The University of Tennessee at Martin
- As an academic, philosopher, and statesman, he was one of the most recognized and influential Indian thinkers in academic circles in the 20th century. Throughout his life and extensive writing career, he sought to define, defend, and promulgate his religion, a religion he variously identified as Hinduism, Vedanta, and the religion of the Spirit.
- [He] has been held in academic circles as a representative of Hinduism to the West. His lengthy writing career and his many published works have been influential in shaping the West’s understanding of Hinduism, India, and the East.
- The implicit acceptance of Śaṅkara’s Advaita by the smarta tradition is good evidence to suggest that an advaitic framework was an important, though latent, feature of his early philosophical and religious sensibilities.
- The theology taught in the missionary school may have found resonance with the highly devotional activities connected with the nearby Tirumala temple, activities that he undoubtedly would have witnessed taking place outside the school. The shared emphasis on personal religious experience may have suggested to him a common link between the religion of the missionaries and the religion practiced at the nearby Tirumala temple.
- He attended Elizabeth Rodman Voorhees College in Vellore, a school run by the American Arcot Mission of the Reformed Church in America where he was introduced to the Dutch Reform Theology, which emphasized a righteous God, unconditional grace, and election, and which criticized Hinduism as intellectually incoherent and ethically unsound. This is where he encountered what would have appeared to him as crippling assaults on his Hindu sensibilities. He also would have witnessed the positive contributions of the social programs undertaken by the Mission in the name of propagation of the Christian gospel.
- He inherited from his upbringing a tacit acceptance of Śaṅkara’s Advaita Vedanta and an awareness of the centrality of devotional practices associated with the smarta tradition.
- What Vivekananda, Savarkar, and Theosophy did bring to him was a sense of cultural self-confidence and self-reliance.
- In 1904, he entered Madras Christian College was trained in European philosophy was introduced to the philosophies of Berkeley, Leibniz, Locke, Spinoza, Kant, J.S. Mill, Herbert Spencer, Fichte, Hegel, Aristotle, and Plato among others. He was also introduced to the philosophical methods and theological views of his MA supervisor and most influential non-Indian mentor, Professor A.G. Hogg.
- Between 1914 and 1920, he continued to publish. He authored eighteen articles, ten of which were published in prominent Western journals such as The International Journal of Ethics, The Monist, and Mind. Throughout these articles, he took it upon himself to refine and expand upon his interpretation of Hinduism.
- [He] was no longer content simply to define and defend Vedanta. Instead, he sought to confront directly not only Vedanta’s Western competitors, but what he saw as the Western philosophical enterprise and the Western ethos in general.
- Tagore was his most influential Indian mentor. Tagore’s poetry and prose resonated with him. He appreciated Tagore’s emphasis on aesthetics as well as his appeal to intuition. From 1914 on, both of these notions — aesthetics and intuition — begin to find their place in his own interpretations of experience, the epistemological category for his philosophical and religious proclivities...he would repeatedly appeal to Tagore’s writing to support his own philosophical ideals.
- He was for the first time out of his South Indian element — geographically, culturally, and linguistically when he took up the Calcutta and the George V Chair (1921-1931) in Philosophy at Calcutta University.
- Throughout the 1920s, his reputation as a scholar continued to grow both in India and abroad. He was invited to Oxford to give the 1926 Upton Lectures, published in 1927 as "The Hindu View of Life", and in 1929 he delivered the Hibbert Lectures, later published under the title "An Idealist View of Life". His most sustained, non-commentarial work, "An Idealist View of Life", is frequently seen as a mature work and has undoubtedly received the bulk of scholarly attention to him.
- In his mind, he had identified the “religious” problem, reviewed the alternatives, and posited a solution - An unreflective dogmatism could not be remedied by escaping from “experiential religion” which is the true basis of all religions.
- While Hinduism (Advaita Vedanta) as he defined it best exemplified his position, he claimed that the genuine philosophical, theological, and literary traditions in India and the West supported his position.
- [He] was knighted in 1931, the same year he took up his administrative post as Vice Chancellor at the newly founded, Andhra University at Waltair, served there for five years as Vice Chancellor. In 1936, not only did the university in Calcutta affirm his position in perpetuity but Oxford University appointed him to the H.N. Spalding Chair of Eastern Religions and Ethics. In late 1939, he took up his second Vice Chancellorship at Benares Hindu University (BHU), and served there during the course of the second world war until mid-January 1948, two weeks before Gandhi’s assassination in New Delhi.
- During the 1930s and 1940s the issues of education and nationalism came together for him, and his vision was of an autonomous India. He envisioned an India built and guided by those who were truly educated, by those who had a personal vision of and commitment to raising Indian self-consciousness.
- He was appointed by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as Indian Ambassador to Moscow, a post he held until 1952. It provided him the opportunity to put into practice his own philosophical-political ideals came with his election to the Raja Sabha, in which he served as India’s Vice-President (1952-1962) and later as President (1962-1967).
- As an Advaitin, he embraced a metaphysical idealism. But his idealism was such that it recognized the reality and diversity of the world of experience (prakṛti) while at the same time preserving the notion of a wholly transcendent Absolute (Brahman), an Absolute that is identical to the self (Atman). While the world of experience and of everyday things is certainly not ultimate reality as it is subject to change and is characterized by finitude and multiplicity, it nonetheless has its origin and support in the Absolute (Brahman) which is free from all limits, diversity, and distinctions (nirguna). Brahman is the source of the world and its manifestations, but these modes do not affect the integrity of Brahman.