Friday, April 1, 2011

'Indian culture'

I am currently reading The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen.I was interested to read that 'Indian culture' includes a lot of heterodox views which are often neglected in the current popular discourse.He writes that it is a composite of many influences:
Not only did Buddhists, Jains, agnostics and atheists compete with each other and with adherents of what we now call Hinduism (a much later term) in India of the first millennium BCE, but also the dominant religion in India was Buddhism for nearly a thousand years. The Chinese in the first millennium CE standardly referred to India as 'the Buddhist Kingdom'.
Among classical languages, Sanskrit has the largest volume of religious literature as well as the largest body of agnostic or atheist writings. Indian texts not only contain disputes among various schools of religious thought but also contain debates among defenders of religiosity on the one hand and promoters of scepticism on the other. The Carvaka school of thought had space over the centuries to express their views and was one of the groups invited to attend Akbar's conference of religions in the late 16th century.While analysing the reasons why Western writers tend to give short shrift to Indian achievements in astronomy, mathematics and other secular fields, focusing instead on religious and spiritual aspects, Amartya Sen writes:
Even on religious subjects, the only world religion that is firmly agnostic (Buddhism) is of Indian origin, and, furthermore, the atheistic schools of Carvaka and Lokayata have generated extensive arguments that have been seriously studied by Indian religious scholars themselves. Heterodoxy runs throughout the early documents, and even the ancient epic Ramayana, which is often cited by contemporary Hindu activists as the holy book of the divine Rama's life, contains dissenting characters. For example, Rama is lectured to by a worldly pundit called Javali on the folly of his religious beliefs: "O Rama, be wise, there exists no world but this, that is certain! Enjoy that which is present and cast behind thee that which is unpleasant."


  1. Well, if I want to learn about "Indian culture", my trusted source would certainly not be Amartya Sen. Just saying....

  2. "Enjoy that which is present and cast behind that which is unpleasant."
    What a lovely message...

    Happy birthday,dude..have a great day!

    P.S. Have sent you a mail..Pls respond.