The world is nothing but infinity. We, after spending billions of dollars on scientific research have discovered a phenomenon which governs the entire universe; that energy can neither be created nor be destroyed. The same philosophy goes with the idea of knowledge. Knowledge has been existing since genesis or perhaps even before it. The ancient Indian philosophy provides us with a way to garner such knowledge, which is through samvaad. In the ancient times, knowledge was propagated and fortified by the idea or doctrine of Shruti, which means “that which has been heard”. Shrutis are said to be revelations and truths of indisputable standards and thus are believed to be of eternal nature. Knowledge in ancient times was passed on to the next generation by the means of communication through speech or simply “Shruti”. The concept of writing came very late in the Indian philosophy. Earlier(1000 BCE and before), Shrutis were propagated to the next generation by reciting them directly to the intended person. The method of writing helped our forefathers to pass on knowledge in a much more efficient manner, which was structured in such a way that there was no loss of knowledge. And this knowledge was passed on in the purest form. Shrutis comprise of the Vedas, Brahmanas, Aryankas and Upanisads. Later on, The idea of Smriti emerged, which was based on the idea of “that which has been remembered”. Smriti can be considered as the residue of the knowledge which was passed on by the means of Shruti. Both these approaches have been immensely crucial to the Ancient Indian philosophy and its evolution.
The Concept of Vaad-Vivaad and Samvaad:
Western philosophy on debating goes with the pre-modern doctrine of Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis. It enunciates the idea that there exists a thought or a theory, to which exists another thought or theory, which is contrary in nature, to the former. When their collision takes place the ultimate truth gets manifested which is an amalgamation of the best of both the theories. The western philosophy lays emphasis on negating the truths and beliefs of one another, in order to establish one's own supremacy over the other. The one-word substitution for the western thought can be Debate. Whereas the ancient Advaita Indian Philosophy believes and follows the approach of discussion. The Indian approach does not follow the doctrine of Vaad-Vivaad which is analogous to western debates. It propagates the idea of Greatest Truth. The Indian philosophy states that let your truth(a thought or a theory) and my truth (another thought or a theory) get together and form an ultimate truth which is universally infinite in nature. It puts forth that there is nothing untrue in your thought and there is neither in mine; it's just the individual peculiar perspective by which we look at one another. It promotes the fusion and coalescence of two theories, so that the greatest truth may prevail. Indian philosophy is of the belief that an individual is always on the verge of attaining the zenith of truth. The only impediment which hinders the enlightenment of an individual is his state of ignorance. The doctrine of Samvaad opens up the intellectual environment which guides an individual towards the path of absolute truth, the Param Satya. The philosophy of Samvaad, believed not only in propagating the knowledge to the ones who were active participants of it but also to those who were active listeners of the discussion, re-propagating the idea of Shruti. Samvaad, a doctrine that believes in the paramountcy of knowledge has been the core reason for the intellectual, spiritual, and psychological advancement of ancient India. History has witnessed a plethora of events consolidating the brilliance of the doctrine of Samvaad. Shastrarth between Sri Adi Shankaracharya and Mandan Mishra stands out as a prime example.
One of The Greatest Example of Samvaad: Shastrarth
Shastrarth was a discussion which used to happen for the sole purpose of defining the meaning of shastras. It is made up of two words, Shastra(scriptures) arth(meaning), so its etymological meaning is to define the shastras. The Great Indian philosopher, thinker, and the Father of Advaita Vedanta, Sri Adi Sankarachaya embarked on a spiritual conquest, which aimed at enlightening the masses with the true knowledge of the scriptures and Advaita Vedanta. During his journey he travelled to the length and breadth of Akhanda Bharata, and achieved prominence and acclaim amongst the masses because of his philosophy of Shastrarth; the approach to find the real potential meaning of the scriptures. During one of his many quests, he reached Mahishmati, a town in present-day Bihar, where the greatest professor of karma-mimansa, the great Mandan Mishr lived with his wife Ubhaya Bharti. Sri Adi Sankaracharya went to Mandan Mishr in order to practice Shastrarth with him. The Shastrarth started and continued incessantly for several days. It seemed like both the thinkers had vast knowledge and there would be no end to the discussion. When finally the ultimate threshold was reached, Mandan Mishra asked Sri Adi Sankaracharya, “How can Jeev (atman) and Brahma (the supreme stage or god or the all-powerful) be same?”He further added that there is no proof or record of such experiences which can substantiate Sri Adi Shankaracharya's Philosophy. To this, the sage replied that Jeev and Brahma are same, and any sensory receptors such as eyes, nose, ears or tongue cannot experience this truth, as it is beyond the material realm in which we as humans are stuck. It is of beyond the bounds of a mortal, to be able to experience such great emotion. Consequently, Mandan Mishr’s question was rendered wrong in the first instance. After this articulate point made by Sri Adi Sankaracharya, Mandan Mishr was about to accept that what Shankaracharya opined was of ultimate nature, but his wife the great learned scholar Ubhaya Bharti intruded and said, that she was Mandan Mishr’s ardhangini, his better half, hence until and unless she accepted the same, Shankaracharya’s philosophy cannot be accepted to its entirety. So now the Shastrarth was happening between Ubhaya Bharti and Sri Adi Sankaracharya. It should be noted that the kind of Shastrarth which was taking place between the two was Jalpakatha (where two contradictory interpretations contest with each other). The Samvaad again went on for days, leading the congregation to no conclusion. Then Ubhaya Bharti, cunningly, in order to make Sri Adi Sankaracharya surrender to her thoughts, asked him a question which was inappropriate to be asked to an ascetic or a Brahmachari. Sri Adi Sankaracharya gave all worldly pleasures at a very young age of 8 years, and since that age had been a celibate sage, having no knowledge of married life (grihastha Jeevan). Ubhaya Bharti asked the great sage if he could answer how many positions are there in sexual intercourse, and what are the areas of the human body which can tell if someone is sexually aroused or not. Questions of this sort left Sri Adi Sankaracharya speechless, as he never read about kama shastra. He agreed to answer all the questions but demanded a time period of one month, to which Ubhaya Bharti assented. Thus, Sri Adi Sankaracharya left for the jungles where he saw a cadaver of a king. Sankaracharya using his divine powers left his own body and entered the cadaver of the deceased king. After entering the king's body he headed towards the king’s kingdom, stayed there for a month and gained all the knowledge related to kaamvasna.
The sage returned for Shastrarth and answered all the questions put forth by the learned Ubhaya Bharti, establishing that the ultimate truth rested in his philosophy of Upanishads. He believed that moksha can be attained in this life as well, by the way of meditation. The motive behind this Shastrarth was to expand the intellectual horizon of an individual, and to spread amongst the masses, the right interpretation of scriptures. This philosophy of samvaad, led Sri Adi Sankaracharya to establish Jyotirmatth, Dwarakamatth, kshringerimatth, and Gobardhanmatth. These Matths (temples) proved themselves to be the centrum of spiritual sanctity in all four directions. These temples spread the message of Advaita Vedanta. They propounded a theory or philosophy which served the entire mankind with the belief that any philosophy is not of a particular religion or an individual but of whole humanity.
The Modern State of Samvaad: In Context to the Indian Parliament
The temple of the constitution, where no deity, but the only constitution finds its abode, is the place called Parliament. Parliament has been a central pillar in Indian democracy. The ancient approach of samvaad which took inception on our very own motherland finds no place in the parliament today. It is very disheartening and agonizing to see how the debates in the parliament function. Rather than working in the direction of overall development, we see politicians hounding over each other; shouting, screaming, and using uncivilized means of expression for fellow parliamentarians. This grim situation is detrimental to our identity, as ours is the nation which taught this world about the pursuit of individualistic knowledge. It’s high time that we start using our ancient approach of samvaad. The aim is not to establish one’s own supremacy over the other but to manifest the ultimate greatest and paramount truth, which knows no bounds and limitations expanding its horizons to infinitude. In order to understand the concept of samvaad in a more elucidated and better manner, we can look at the example of Buddhist councils which were held in ancient India. In particular, we can study the case of the third Buddhist Council.
The council was convened by king Ashoka at Patliputra, under the leadership and chairmanship of Moggaliputta Tissa. This council is considered as a congregation which brought a crucial shift in Buddhism, the current form of Buddhism is at large considered to be an outcome of the 3rd Buddhist council. The motive of the council was to purify the Buddhist movement. After the death of Gautam Buddha, the religion got divided into two parts; namely, Hinayana and Mahayana. Although there were no vehement collisions between the two sects, there were some ideological differences. The council was held with the purpose of eliminating the extremist or negative groups of Buddhism, such as a sect Vajrayana, which believed in tantra or occult practices. The participants were allowed to present their views over the teaching of Buddha. They were asked, what according to them were the crucial teachings of Buddha. This Samvaad(discussion) proved to be a pivotal point in the formation of Abhidhamma Pitaka, which consisted of all the dissenting views. It was at this council, that the monks decided to spread Buddhism. Numerous emissaries were sent on spiritual conquests with the purpose of spreading the teachings of Buddha. This one epoch in history speaks volumes about the benevolent nature of Samvaad. Whereas on the contrary, we can consider a modern case which can elaborate on how the doctrine of samvaad, if used in the correct manner, could have benefited the masses in a great many ways. Around a week ago, The Citizenship(Amendment) Bill was passed in the lower house of parliament amid protests inside the parliament and in the northeast states. The Major opposition party of Congress and Trinamool Congress staged a walkout, which hindered the proceedings of parliament and which also proved detrimental for citizens to whom the bill is subjected. The voice of dissent is of very crucial nature and should be preserved by the parliament and the government. The views of opposition provide the parliament with the loopholes of the bills concerned. It acts as a way which works for the betterment of things. The intention of this article is not to blame the government or the opposition for such instances, but to encourage them to keep the principles of the ancient Indic doctrine of Samvaad, which can and will establish itself as a benefactor to the process of institutionalising and administrating. It's time we look at the broader picture. In order to overcome the infirmity, it's evident that we bring in function, the doctrine of samvaad. It’s time we return back to our Vedas and scriptures as very wisely opined by the revolutionary Swami Dayananda Saraswati.
Śaṅkarācārya, shankara, & Nikhilananda, Swami.,(1931). Dṛg Dṛśya Viveka. Advaita Ashrama.
"Shruti & Smriti - General Knowledge Today”.(2011) this was retrieved from the GKToday website: https://www.gktoday.in/gk/shruti-smriti/.
Giri, Yukteshwara.,, Sri Sri Swami(1990). The Holy Science. 8th ed., Yogoda Satsang Society Of India.
Kautilya., & Rangarajan, L.N.,(1992) The Arthashastra. Penguin Books India.
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