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The Self and the World in its Myriad Forms

Amiya P. Sen

By Ramchandra Gandhi
IndiaInk, an imprint of Roli, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 242, Rs. 350.00


Arguably, most of the ideas and narrative ploys employed in this work are ones that the present reviewer and many like-minded individuals are already familiar with. These, as I recall, were revealed to rapturous audiences over successive lectures organized at Delhi and other places. However, one way in which the book scores even over the greatly instructive lecture series is through its creative and aesthetic use of fiction. This allows, as it were, the lively embodiment of ideas, values and visions. Thus, several seminal ideas thrown up by the work never appear as mere abstractions. On the contrary, they represent, albeit within a fictive framework, existential dilemmas and deeply felt personal experiences. It is not as though the characters in this book take for granted certain axiomatic ‘truths’ but endeavor to discover these in a deeply self-reflective mood. I have to confess that I was also agreeably surprised to locate at certain places, candid human passion and vividly sensuous descriptions of the human form. Surprising indeed in a work whose overarching orientation is so greatly philosophical.   Muniya’s Light has both a philosophical agenda and a polemical. Philosophically, it seeks to explore the significance of Hindu philosophical thought, but especially of Advaita Vedanta, in a world increasingly affected by mutual conflict or strife. Though quite removed in time, this is, in effect, the reaffirmation of philosophical postures adopted within modern Hinduism ever since the days of Rammohun Roy. Not surprisingly then, the historical backdrop to much of what the characters of this book experience is the Indian struggle for Independence,—its glorious moments and the tragic. However, this broad philosophical agenda is also laden with two other social and hermeneutical tasks of great importance. First, there is unhappiness at the western philosophical tradition’s undermining the value of selfhood. Here, apparently, Professor Ramchandra Gandhi shares the discomfiture that several Indian thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries showed for the Orientalist-missionary trivialization of their thought and culture. Second, he puts forth the view that the world in its myriad forms [and for that matter, even formlessness] is but a projection of the self. The Atman (our deepest self) he further argues, is best understood through the recovery of our childhood, the time when we are most impressionable but about which we also have the most authentic knowledge. For Gandhi, the most luminous representation of this recovered Atman is the girl-child, ...

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