Schopenhauer's Encounter with Indian Thought

Schopenhauer's Encounter with Indian Thought: Representation andWill and Their Indian Parallels

Stephen Cross
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    Schopenhauer's Encounter with Indian Thought
    Book Description:

    Schopenhauer is widely recognized as the Western philosopher who has shown the greatest openness to Indian thought and whose own ideas approach most closely to it. This book examines his encounter with important schools of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy and subjects the principal apparent affinities to a careful analysis. Initial chapters describe Schopenhauer's encounter with Indian thought in the context of the intellectual climate of early nineteenth-century Europe. For the first time, Indian texts and ideas were becoming available and the belief that they could bring about a second Renaissance-an "Oriental Renaissance"-was widespread. Schopenhauer shared in this enthusiasm and for the rest of his life assiduously kept abreast of the new knowledge of India.Principal sections of the book consider the two main pillars of Schopenhauer's system in relation to broadly comparable ideas found, in the case of Hindu thought, in Advaita Vedanta, and within Buddhism in the Madhyamika and Yogacara schools. Schopenhauer's doctrine of the world as representation, or a flow of impressions appearing in the consciousness of living beings, is first considered. The convergence between this teaching and Indian idealism, especially the doctrine of illusory appearance(maya),has long been recognized. Schopenhauer himself was aware of it, emphasizing that it was the result not of influence but of a remarkable convergence between Eastern and Western thought. This convergence is subjected to a much more detailed examination than has previously been carried out, undertaken in the light of twentieth-century Indology and recent studies of Schopenhauer.The second main pillar of Schopenhauer's system, the doctrine of the world as will, is then examined and its relationship to Indian thought explored. This section of the work breaks new ground in the study of Schopenhauer, for although the similarity of his ethical and soteriological teaching to that of Indian religions (particularly Buddhism) has long been noted the underlying reasons for this have not been grasped. It is demonstrated that they are to be found in hitherto unrecognized affinities, of which Schopenhauer himself was largely unaware, between the metaphysics of the will and Indian ideas relating to karmic impressions(vasanas),the store-consciousness, the causal body, andsaktias the "force" or "energy" that maintains the existence of the world.Final chapters discuss the controversial and difficult question of the relation of the will to final reality in Schopenhauer's thought in the light of Indian conceptions, and suggest that the two central pillars of his philosophy may be seen, to a greater extent than previously supposed, as a bridge by which the Eastern and Western traditions of philosophical thought may be brought into a closer and more creative relationship.Stephen Crossis a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and the Temenos Academy (London), and serves on the Academic Board of the latter.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3908-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Those who have read Thomas Mann’s novelBuddenbrookswill remember the episode toward the end when the protagonist, Thomas, now sensing the approach of death and close to despair, takes from his shelf a volume of philosophy, purchased years before but never opened, and as he turns its pages for the first time is overwhelmed by its contents. That book, it is generally supposed (although Mann does not actually say as much), was Schopenhauer’s principal work,The World as Will and Representation, and the description of the powerful (if temporary) impact it has upon Thomas Buddenbrook tells us much about...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Schopenhauer in Context: The “Oriental Renaissance”
    (pp. 9-19)

    Schopenhauer’s interest in Indian thought was not an isolated phenomenon. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries many of the leading thinkers in Europe, like the Transcendentalists in New England some decades later, shared his enthusiasm for “the divine inspiration of ancient Indian wisdom.” Especially in Germany, it was believed that the Indian texts then becoming available had the potential to bring about a dramatic renewal of the West—an “Oriental Renaissance,” as the idea came to be called,¹ which would revive the spirit of Europe in the same way that the Florentine Renaissance and the recovery of Greek...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Schopenhauer’s Indian Sources: Hinduism
    (pp. 20-36)

    Schopenhauer himself tells us of the origin of his interest in Indian thought. In a letter written in 1851 and after speaking of his friendship with Goethe in Weimar during the winter of 1813–1814, he writes, “At the same time, the orientalist Friedrich Majer introduced me, without solicitation, to Indian antiquity, and this had an essential influence on me.”¹

    Friedrich Majer was a friend and disciple of J. G. Herder. The author of several books (one with an introduction by Herder) in which Indian antiquity is accorded much attention, he was perhaps the most active figure within the Romantic...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Schopenhauer’s Indian Sources: Buddhism
    (pp. 37-48)

    Reliable sources for a knowledge of Buddhism became available to Europe later than did those for Hinduism. Wilkins’s translation of theBhagavad Gītāwas published in 1784; William Jones’s translation of theGītā Govindaappeared in 1792 and his translation of the Hindu legal code (Manusmṛti) in 1794; theOupnek’hatappeared in 1801–1802, Colebrooke’s essay “On the Vedas” in volume 8 ofAsiatick Researchesin 1805, and Friedrich Schlegel’sOn the Language and Wisdom of the Indiansin 1808. In contrast, the first substantial works on Buddhism did not appear until the middle of the 1820s. As a result,...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE “Representation”: Schopenhauer and the Reality-Status of the World
    (pp. 49-65)

    We come now to the first of the two principal comparative sections of this study. The first of these is concerned with Schopenhauer’s doctrine of the world as representation and analogous Indian teachings. In this chapter the main features of Schopenhauer’s doctrine are examined, and in the two following chapters we will seek to discover what affinities with these ideas exist in the areas of Indian thought that most interested the philosopher—namely, Mahāyāna Buddhism (known to him, to a limited degree, through European scholars studying Chinese and Tibetan sources) and Advaita Vedānta (known to him initially through theOupnek’hat)....

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Reality-Status of the Empirical World: The Mādhyamika Teaching
    (pp. 66-77)

    We have seen that one of the reasons for Schopenhauer’s interest in theOupnek’hatwas that in its pages there was to be found a teaching that appeared to broadly resemble his own doctrine of the world as representation. Such a teaching plays a significant part in Indian thought, in both its Buddhist and Hindu forms. Since, so far as we know from surviving texts, it received a developed formulation at an earlier period in the writings of Buddhist philosophers, we will turn to their view first.

    The Mahāyāna represented a significant change within Buddhism and was regarded as a...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Advaita Vedānta: The World as Illusory Appearance
    (pp. 78-89)

    Within Hinduism, it was the Advaita or “non-dual” school of Vedānta that most closely examined the reality-status of the world.¹ It was largely through this school that from about the sixth century onward, the Hindu tradition was able to produce an adequate response to the intellectual challenge presented by Mahāyāna Buddhism. During the same centuries the rapidly expanding devotional (orbhakti) movement provided a counterweight to the spiritual and emotional appeal of the Bodhisattva ideal, with the result that the energies that had brought about the flowering of the Mahāyāna in India were gradually drawn back into the Hindu stream....

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Conclusions: Schopenhauer’s Representation and Its Indian Affinities
    (pp. 90-102)

    Schopenhauer was aware of an affinity between his own early research into the principle of sufficient reason and teachings of the Vedānta regarding the deceptive nature of the empirical world. It was one of the main reasons for his interest in theOupnek’hat, and it may well be as Berger has suggested that this translation of the Upaniṣads, when he first studied it in 1814–1818, helped him to develop his own ideas.¹ Near the start ofThe World as Will and Representationhe refers to Heraclitus, Plato, Spinoza, and Kant as having had essentially the same understanding of the...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Schopenhauer’s Conception of the World as Will
    (pp. 103-119)

    We come now in the third part of our study to Schopenhauer’s doctrine of the will and to the question of whether equivalents for this doctrine, perhaps cast in very different forms, are to be found among the teachings of the Indian philosophers. Is there any common ground between Schopenhauer’s doctrine and Indian thought? If so, can it cast any light on some of the often-noted obscurities that surround this central feature of his system? Conversely, is Schopenhauer’s teaching of any assistance in helping to clarify the meaning of certain Indian conceptions? These are the questions before us in the...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Schopenhauer: The Will in Its General Forms (Ideas)
    (pp. 120-131)

    While the will-to-live shows itself in the first place as an effort to maintain the life of the individual, this is not its final purpose, for behind the individual forms that the will assumes are more fundamental forms that are likened by Schopenhauer to the Ideas of Plato. Schopenhauer tells us that he uses the word “Idea” (Idee) not in the manner of Kant (i.e., to mean anything that is not an object of experience), but “always in its old original, Platonic significance.”¹

    In Schopenhauer’s view, and in spite of their considerable apparent differences, thething-in-itselfof Kant’s philosophy and...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN Metaphysical Factors behind the Empirical World: Advaita Vedānta
    (pp. 132-147)

    Having briefly sketched Schopenhauer’s doctrine of the will, we now return to the thought of India. Turning first to the Hindu tradition, let us inquire how Śaṃkara and other Advaitins conceived the process by which the world comes into being and appears as external reality.

    For Śaṃkara ultimate reality, Brahman, the unchanging ground upon which all appearances and changes are superimposed, is consciousness in its pure or non-intentional condition; this is in conformity with the Great Saying (mahāvākya) of theAitareya Upaniṣad:“Consciousness is Brahman (pajñānam brahma).”¹ Such a position may appear to conflict with the frequent statements also found...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE The Arising of the Empirical World in Buddhism: The Yogācāra Teaching
    (pp. 148-164)

    When we turn to Buddhist thought and seek to discover how the arising of the empirical world is understood, we at once find similarities with the Hindu view.

    The Buddhist tradition (as well as that of the Jains) shares with Hinduism essentially the same understanding of karmic impressions, formative forces, and “seeds” (vāsanās, saṃskāras, bījas) and of their collective outcome as action and its results (karman). In the older schools of Buddhist thought these ideas occur largely in the context of the twelvefold chain of dependent origination, which was discussed in chapter 6; the formative forces, it will be remembered,...

  17. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Conclusions: Schopenhauer’s Will and Comparable Indian Ideas
    (pp. 165-180)

    A poem written by Schopenhauer in his youth, while he was still in training as an apprentice merchant at Hamburg, opens with these lines:

    Voluptuous pleasure, infernal delight,

    Love insatiable and invincible!

    From the heights of heaven

    Thou hast dragged me down

    And cast me in fetters

    Into the dust of this earth.¹

    Already in these words we find the central motivation of Schopenhauer’s philosophy: the need to understand the will, this mysterious force or “love insatiable” that like some evil magician imprisons us in a world of imperfection and suffering. It is the same motivation that we find at...

  18. CHAPTER FOURTEEN The Ontological Status of Will
    (pp. 181-192)

    We have seen that striking points of contact exist between the Indian concept of divine energy or power, personified as the goddess Śakti, and Schopenhauer’s doctrine of the will. However, while Śakti is always seen in close relation to Śiva—almost, if not quite, one with him—and never as an opposed principle, the ontological status of will is much less clear. Indeed, Schopenhauer comes at times close to dualism, with will as a quasi-independent power responsible for the existence of the world and the suffering that comes with it, in seeming opposition to some greater but nameless reality. He...

  19. CHAPTER FIFTEEN Beyond the Will: “Better Consciousness” and the “Pure Subject of Knowing”
    (pp. 193-206)

    There remains an aspect of Schopenhauer’s thought to which we have paid no attention. Until recently it received little notice in the majority of studies, for it does not feature, except in a shadowy and implied manner, in the writings published during his lifetime. Yet it is a matter of importance closely linked to the matters discussed in the last chapter, for it concerns the question of what, for Schopenhauer, is ultimately real. We have seen that the will, in spite of being the metaphysical core of existence, isnotfor Schopenhauer final reality. What, then, lies beyond the will?...

  20. CHAPTER SIXTEEN The Hidden Compass: Schopenhauer and the Limits of Philosophy
    (pp. 207-216)

    It may appear surprising that Schopenhauer chose not to take his analysis of consciousness further, but he himself makes the reason plain. It is that philosophy should not trespass upon the territory of mysticism. The two have different starting points and different outcomes. Mysticism is private in nature and for this reason unable to convince others, but philosophy takes as its ground what all men have in common and in consequence possesses the power to convince.¹ It will not have escaped notice that many of the expressions that Schopenhauer employs in the Manuscript Remains when speaking of the better consciousness...

  21. CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Schopenhauer and Indian Thought
    (pp. 217-230)

    We are near the end of our exploration of Schopenhauer’s ideas in relation to the thought of India, and it is time to survey the ground we have covered. What are the principal results of our inquiry?

    In the three initial chapters we saw that Schopenhauer believed that a notable resemblance existed between the epistemological idealism of Kant, which provided the starting point for his own philosophy, and Indian ideas then becoming known to Europe concerning the illusory nature of empirical reality. As a result he studied Indian thought in both its Hindu and Buddhist forms throughout his life, doing...

  22. NOTES
    (pp. 231-264)
    (pp. 265-274)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 275-288)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 289-297)