INDIAN COUNCIL OF PHILOSOPHICAL RESEARCH
INDIAN COUNCIL OF PHILOSOPHICAL RESEARCH
MARCH 29, 2003
The purpose of this International Conference which has just been inaugurated by the Hon’ble Union Minister for Human Resource Development with visionary insight and instructive observations, is to highlight the on-going voluminous Project of History of Indian Science, Philosophy and Culture (PHISPC). This Project has been designed and planned by Professor D.P. Chattopadhyaya, who has held in our country positions of highest responsibilities as a Professor of Philosophy, as a Union Minister of Works and Housing, of Health and Family Planning, and of Commerce, as also of the Governor of one of the States of India, and who stands out today as a leading light both in the field of thought as also action. He is one of the tallest philosophers of the country and of the world, and he continues for thousands of students and scholars a luminous teacher, imparting knowledge and inspiration through instruction, example and influence. And because of his ineffable magnetism, hundreds of scholars have come forward to make valuable contributions to the PHISPC. And, again, it is a remarkable blending in his personality of extraordinary qualities of a great leader that we have among the Volume Editors versatile scholars endowed with admirable gifts of ripe wisdom, expert knowledge and lucid penmanship.
The Project began as a programme of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research in 1981, and although for first fifteen years it continued to be a part of the Council, for various reasons an autonomous organisation came to be created, namely, Centre for Studies in Civilizations under the Chairmanship of Professor D.P. Chattopadhyaya, and the Project was transferred to that Centre. Nonetheless, the Indian Council of Philosophical Research is totally committed to the promotion of the
Project, and it has extended full cooperation for the development of the Project as also for its expansion with an added Sub-Project, entitled Consciousness, Science, Society, Value and Yoga (CONSSAVY).
The speed with which this Project has begun to accomplish its task is truly admirable. Whereas comparable Projects have taken decades for the production of their volumes, this Project has already brought out 27 Volumes during the last ten years, and the size and the quality of these volumes are of a very high order. The pace of the work of the Project is getting further accelerated, and it is felt that all the projected 77 Volumes will have been brought out by 2010.
Pondering over this Project, I have often asked the question as to what exactly has been inspiring force behind Professor Chattopadhyaya’s giant effort to present to the contemporary India and to the contemporary world a detailed account of Indian history, not as a mere string of events, but at deeper levels of happening and meaning, and that, too, an intricate weaving of multi-layered structures of Indian philosophy, science, technology and culture. Professor Chattopadhyaya is a multidimensional personality, and corresponding to each of his dimensions, he is capable of carving out a long career of achievement and fulfilment. But then, why has he devoted nearly twenty-five years of his mature learning and wisdom to this Project with total dedication and continuous labour of love? I have often asked this question, and since I have had the privilege of assisting him as Member-Secretary of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research when he was its Chairman for long ten years, I had ample opportunities to delve deep into the understanding of his motivation and his inspiring force. My own conclusion is that apart from being a philosopher of the highest order, apart from being a leader of the people and a statesman, apart from his being a poet of delicate emotions and sublime aesthetic joy and beauty, he is, above all, an ardent lover and devoted servant of Mother India. In designing and in giving concrete shape to this gigantic Project which will be spread over 77 volumes, his sustaining force is his drive to understand India, to discover India, to fathom into the soul of India and
to be a link among innumerable links that can enrich the relationship of India with the world.
I have often witnessed Professor Chattopadhyaya brooding over his work in a kind of inner solitude, meditating and contemplating and adding detail after detail without fatigue to his ever-widening vision and plan and continuing act of composing and exposition. This great work has been for him an act of unburdening, a pilgrimage of joy, and a voyage of discovery and rediscovery. It is an extraordinary fortune of this great country that it has found in him a fit instrument through whom India’s past can be linked with its present in such an elaborate manner as he has planned and already executed in a substantial manner.
He has called this Project an interdisciplinary Project. But realising right at the beginning that the great vision that he was building up can be executed only by collaboration of the relevant experts, and that, too, at the highest possible levels, he developed the character and philosophy of this Project in such a fashion that a powerful team could be forged, and each member could enjoy the required freedom for creativity and developing his or her own mode of interpretation and expression. He has, therefore, given to this Project a philosophy of pluralism, a philosophy very natural also to his own personal philosophy which is highly catholic and which is totally devoted to the theme of individual freedom. The rich result of this approach is that he has been able to secure collaboration of the tallest in the fields covered in this Project and hundreds of scholars have offered their assistance with sustained enthusiasm.
This is what I may call the human aspect of the Project, and one feels delighted that such a great work has been accomplished and is continuing to be accomplished with increasing sense of fulfilment on the part of each participant in the Project.
Professor Chattopadhyaya had before him a number of works on which he could have modelled his Project. In our own country, there were projects such as Cultural Heritage of India published by Rama Krishna Mission, The History and Culture of Indian People brought out in eleven volumes by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan. Besides, there are two volumes of Professor Radhakrishnan on Indian Philosophy, five volumes of Professor Dasgupta’s History of Indian Philosophy, Frauwallner’s History of Indian Philosophy, Potter’s Encyclopaedia, and several others dealing with philosophy, science and culture. Professor Chattpadhyaya had also before him the works of Needham, Sarton, Lynn Thorndike and several others. But none of these models were appropriate to the vision on which he was working. He wanted his Project to be truly interdisciplinary and his vision was as unbroken as the unbroken continuity of multi-layered story of Indian culture in its varied aspects.
As a result, the Project of History of Indian Science, Philosphy and Culture (PHISPC) is an unprecedented Project. No history so far is centred so profoundly, so widely and so much intertwined as the account presented in this Project. This can demonstrably be seen when we look at 27 Volumes that have been brought out. There is in these Volumes a vast sweep of a sky-like vision, and the flow of narration runs like a wide river that sparkles with light-points dotted on every current. The details in the volumes of this Project are amazingly accurate and well informed and well articulated.
The Project began with a vision of ten volumes in all, but gradually we now know that each of these volumes will have several parts. In addition, there will be spin-off volumes, and monographs, each of which is designed to provide special and detailed light on a particular theme of importance.
While the Project was half way, and while it was expected that it would be completed by 2004, the Project attracted the leaders in the Government of India to such an extent that the Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development himself held consultations with Professor Chattopadhyaya and offered to him the necessary financial assistance if he could take up the task of developing a Sub-Project that could dwell upon a special theme: the theme suggested is that of consciousness, which is rightly seen by him to be the quintessential theme of Indian
history. Professor Chattopadhyaya agreed and with the approval of the Government, he has now envisaged the task of bringing out 25 volumes which will give an account of the theme of consciousness under five main subjects: consciousness, science, society, value and yoga.
It may also be added that the Government of India has recently approved a proposal to get all the volumes of this Project translated in several Indian languages.
This is the dimension of magnificence of the Project.
We may now come to the design and content of the Project.
At the very outset, two conceptual volumes were conceived and brought out. These have been entitled Science, Philosophy and Culture: Multidisciplinary Exploration. These two volumes were preceded by a number of occasional papers. These papers aimed at providing some kind of an overarching unity of theme and presentation, and these papers provided an interdisciplinary framework needed for the Project at least at the initial stages.
The entire Project is divided into ten basic complexes so as to interweave the story of the philosophy, science and culture right from the earliest stages of the Indian civilisation up to the present day. The First Volume is in five parts, and it covers the dawn and development of Indian civilisation. Two parts which have come out recently extend over 2400 pages. They have been ably and luminously edited by Professor G.C. Pande. They shed a new light on that difficult period of ancient Indian history and provide the basic clues as to how and why Indian civilisation has developed without discontinuity and how and why Indian culture
presents unique spiritual genius, robust intellectuality, and inexhaustible vitality.
The Second Volume (in six parts) is devoted to Life, Thought and Culture in India extending from 300 A.D. to A.D. 1100. The Third Volume (in five parts) traces the Development of Philosophy, Science and Technology in India and extends this study to the influence that this development had on neighbouring civilisations. This Volume covers the period from 1000 to 1800 A.D. The Fourth Volume (in three parts) dwells upon Fundamental Ideas of Physics, Chemistry and Life Sciences and Medicine, and similarly Volume Five traces the History of Agriculture in India through the ages. Volume Six (in six parts) covers a wide area of Culture, Language, Literature and Arts and brings into focus Aesthetic Philosophy of Fine Arts and Various Forms of Art Expression in Indian Tradition. One of the parts of this Volume is centred on Regional Languages and Literatures and another part deals with Indian literary tradition. Considered in the context of other Volumes dealing with Science and Philosophy, this particular Volume brings out a central theme around which major portion of Indian history can be seen as a highly pulsating and integrating current of India. The Seventh Volume (in two parts) traces the Rise of New Polity and Life in Villages and Towns, a task which has rarely been attempted by historians in the way in which it has been attempted in this Project. Volume Eight (in two parts) is centred on Economic History of India, particularly, from the 13th century to the 20th century. Volume Nine (in three parts) is designed to concentrate on colonial period and aims at emphasising scientific development and the problems of women in India in a framework, which provides a comparative view of ancient and medieval status of women and that in the colonial and post-colonial periods. Volume Ten is entitled, Towards Independence, and is conceived to be divided into eight parts dealing with developments of Indian Philosophy from the 18th century onwards, Education, Social Awareness, various vistas in science and political ideas and also an account of interrelationship of India with South Asian and with some neighbouring countries.
As stated earlier, speciality of this Project is, apart from the main Volumes described briefly above, envisages publication of monographs on
varieties of subjects so that some detailed analyses and insights are made available to the readers who may like to study the concerned subjects with some particular special interest. Twelve monographs have already been brought out on subjects such as historical perspective of Science, Philosophy and Culture and Prolegomena to any future historiography of culture and civilisation and ways of understanding the human past.
As far as the Sub-project on the theme of Consciousness is concerned, five Volumes have been envisaged, and each one of them will have six parts, except that the last Volume will be in four parts. These five Volumes aim at providing a systematic exposition of the philosophy and nature of Consciousness and its manifestation in the development of science, society, value systems and yoga. In all these volumes the concepts and experiences obtained through the development of Indian culture will be given prominent treatment. But at the same time, latest contributions that have accumulated in regard to these subjects in the Western thought will also be presented and discussed.
Volume One of the Sub-Project will be centred on the concept of the levels of Reality, and it will expound not only the relevant elements in Indian systems of thought but will also deal with the data and philosophical systems that had developed in Europe in the context of modern atomism, and materialism and immaterialism. The themes of life and vitalism, consciousness and mind, and consciousness and value will receive central attention. In Volume Two theories of natural and life sciences will be studied, and this Volume will cover the fields of physics, chemistry, biochemistry, psychology, psychoanalysis, and cognitive sciences and the light that they throw on the phenomena of the brain as also on the phenomena relating to artificial intelligence. This Volume will also examine the alleged foundations of sciences and will study the phenomenon of consciousness as we see it in the history of science and in the philosophy of science. Volume Three, entitled Natural and Cultural Sciences will discuss relation between nature and culture and examine the classification of natural sciences and social sciences. In addition, this Volume will focus its attention on the operation of consciousness in regard to law, ethics, economics, history, and philosophy. Volume Four
aims at discernment of the development of the concepts of consciousness in Indian philosophy and Indian history of science. It also aims at explaining the relationship between sciences, technology, as also relationship between sciences, literature and aesthetics. The questions of imperialism and war will also receive attention. Finally, discussion will centre on the concept of the Self, self-consciousness, and the consciousness of value as also the relationship between science and society in the context of the life of the individual and the collectivity and the pursuit of supreme ends which are sought to be fulfilled. Volume Five will expound the meaning and nature of yoga as a science of consciousness and as a technology of the attainment of the highest universal welfare. It will trace yoga through different stages as this science developed in India and will also study the question of synthesis of different systems of yoga and the present stage of research in yoga.
This is the substance and architecture of the Project.
It is appropriate that the Project which begins with a mega volume on the dawn of Indian civilisation centred on the Veda should end with a mega volume on the theme of Yoga. For it is in the Veda that the foundations of the science of Yoga were securely laid down, and it can be seen that it is through the tapasya of yogic practices that India derived its perennial source for constant rejuvenation. Even today, once again we see in the modern India developments of Yoga on new lines, the objects of which are related to the rejuvenation of the entire humanity. If there is one supreme gift that India can make to the world in its highly accomplished form, it is Yoga. And those who have studied and practised Yoga can affirm with confidence that it is through Yoga that the highest human fulfilment can be attained, and that its relevance to the need of the world of today is greatest.
The Project in its entirety aims at presenting to the country and to the world a remarkable study of how India has developed, over centuries and over millennia, a culture that aims at total perfection of the individual and the collectivity and how this aim has been pursued through the ages. It aims also at showing how at the present juncture, this Culture promises to contribute to the development of all the nations as a co-partner. And futuristically, this Project endeavours to bring a new hope and faith that India has a future much greater and much more prosperous than even before, and that it is rising today to make valuable contributions to the creation and development of a new world culture, and to the development of a new humanity devoted to universal upliftment, solidarity and welfare.