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SURENDRANATH DASGUPTA, M.A., Ph.D.,
LECTURER IN BENGALI IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
OF CALCUTTA AND THE GOVERNOR OF BENGAL.
May it please your Excellency,
The idea of writing this work was first suggested to me by the Rectorial address which your Excellency delivered some years ago at a Convocation of the University of Calcutta, in which you emphasised the special need of the study of Indian philosophy by Indian students. I shall ever remember with gratitude the encouragement that I received from the kind interest that you showed in my work by going through the manuscript, in the conversations that I had the honour of holding with you on various occasions, and in your subsequent letters to me. Your Excellency's honoured name has thus already become peculiarly connected with the composition of this work. With your Excellency's kind permission, I therefore wish to take advantage of this opportunity in associating your Excellency's name with this volume as a mark of deepest respect and esteem.
The present work is an attempt to present the thought of Ancient India at its best. This thought still holds the spirit of India, and the more it is studied the more do we see that the problems are often identical with those of European thinkers. That both East and West should realise each other's tasks and find that they are often identical is an auspicious omen for the future. The great work of uniting India with Europe can only be gradually accomplished through mutual appreciation of what is best in each country. I shall be very happy if this humble volume may even in a very small measure aid this process which is already begun in various ways and may represent to your Excellency after your return to this country something of the ancient ideals of India.
I remain, your Excellency,
NOTE ON THE PRONUNCIATION OF
AND PĀLI WORDS
The vowels are pronounced almost in the same way as in Italian, except that the sound of a approaches that of o in bond or u in but, and a that of a as in army. The consonants are as in English, except c, ch in church;
, ị, d, ņ are cerebrals, to which English t, d, n almost correspond; t, d, n are pure dentals; kh, gh, ch, jh, th, dh, th, dh, ph, bh are the simple sounds plus an aspiration; ñ is the French gn; r is usually pronounced as ri, and ś, ș as sh.
HE old civilisation of India was a concrete unity of many
sided developments in art, architecture, literature, religion, morals, and science so far as it was understood in those days. But the most important achievement of Indian thought was philosophy. It was regarded as the goal of all the highest practical and theoretical activities, and it indicated the point of unity amidst all the apparent diversities which the complex growth of culture over a vast area inhabited by different peoples produced. It is not in the history of foreign invasions, in the rise of independent kingdoms at different times, in the empires of this or that great monarch that the unity of India is to be sought. It is essentially one of spiritual aspirations and obedience to the law of the spirit, which were regarded as superior to everything else, and it has outlived all the political changes through which India passed.
The Greeks, the Huns, the Scythians, the Pathans and the Moguls who occupied the land and controlled the political machinery never ruled the minds of the people, for these political events were like hurricanes or the changes of season, mere phenomena of a natural or physical order which never affected the spiritual integrity of Hindu culture. If after a passivity of some centuries India is again going to become creative it is mainly on account of this fundamental unity of her progress and civilisation and not for anything that she may borrow from other countries. It is therefore indispensably necessary for all those who wish to appreciate the significance and potentialities of Indian culture that they should properly understand the history of Indian philosophical thought which is the nucleus round which all that is best and highest in India has grown. Much harm has already been done by the circulation of opinions that the culture and philosophy of India was dreamy and abstract. It is therefore very necessary that Indians as well as other peoples should become more and more acquainted with the true characteristics of the past history of Indian thought and form a correct estimate of its special features.
But it is not only for the sake of the right understanding of