Rethinking Classical Dialectical Traditions

Daya Krishna on Counterposition and Dialogue

In: Culture and Dialogue
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  • 1 Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria
  • | 2 Philosophy, University of Vienna, Austria & Charles University, Czech Republic
  • | 3 Department of Philosophy, Savitribai Phule Pune University, India


This essay debates the way Daya Krishna reinterpreted some dialectic elements of classical Indian philosophy, with a special focus on “dialogue” and “counterposition.” The essay subsequently analyses the consequence of this reinterpretation on contemporary Indian philosophy.


This essay debates the way Daya Krishna reinterpreted some dialectic elements of classical Indian philosophy, with a special focus on “dialogue” and “counterposition.” The essay subsequently analyses the consequence of this reinterpretation on contemporary Indian philosophy.1

The History of Dialogue: The Practice of Argumentative Discussion in Classical Indian Philosophy

Vāda and Saṃvāda

The Indian philosopher Daya Krishna (1924-2007) was intentional in his reuse and reappraisal of concepts of classical Indian philosophy, doing this as part of his programmatic openness towards all traditions of thought and in order to escape the monopoly of the terminology and categories of Western thought.2 Accordingly, he explicitly chose to use the term saṃvāda in order to define his methodology. The term saṃvāda is generally used in Classical Sanskrit to indicate a dialogue. Etymologically, the term is the result of adding the preverb sam- “with” (as in Latin cum, found in the English con-versation) to vāda “discussion.” The latter term is a technical term in the philosophical school of Nyāya, which focused on logic and dialectic and accordingly discussed and elaborated dialectic and eristic tools. Within this framework, Nyāya scholars distinguish between three types of verbal confrontations, namely vāda, jalpa and vitaṇḍā. Vāda is a discussion aiming at the ascertainment of truth; jalpa is a verbal confrontation aiming at defeating the opponent with a more powerful thesis; and vitaṇḍā is a verbal confrontation aiming only at defeating one’s adversary by finding weak points in his thesis, and without any interest in establishing an independent view, like in sophistry. From the point of view of their historical development, scholars agree on the presence of hostile, agonistic and collaborative, “non-agonistic” forms of dialogue in pre-Classical and Classical Indian Philosophy, with the latter possibly having developed out of the former.3

The Nyāya school is not judgmental in explaining the difference among vāda, jalpa and vitaṇḍā and rather elaborates on the various means to be used in each of them (cavils can be raised, for instance, in jalpa and vitaṇḍā, but not in vāda). The background assumption is at any rate that one is participating to a public debate, with a jury (pariṣad) or (probably at a later stage) the king presiding over the debate, and a public. There are several records of this type of debates,4 and in all cases the price at stake appears to have been extremely high. At least, debaters hoped to convert the king to their cause or religion, which had been proved to be more philosophically convincing. This meant that the winner could in this way gain political and financial support to his group. In hagiographies, the defeated thinker is often described as being forced to convert to the winner’s position.5

Daya Krishna’s choice of the term (sam)-vāda clearly points at his positioning himself within those who search for truth and not for a victory in debate. The collegiality of this enterprise is further stressed by the choice of the preverb sam-, which in Nyāya is not found in combination with vāda, but is nonetheless evocative of a long tradition (see fn. 3 for the use of sam-bhāṣā). Although vāda is in Nyāya truth-oriented, it also retains a competitive aspect. Daya Krishna removed this in favour of an open-ended and non-competitive discussion. This removal does not amount to an irenic ideal, since the critical engagement with other ideas makes Daya Krishna often ready to dismiss what he deems to be prejudices or closed-ness in other authors.6 His saṃvāda is not a peaceful encounter of ideas that never clash. On the contrary, it can be harsh at times. Moreover, Daya Krishna even displays a preference for the hostile confrontation modelled after the vitaṇḍā when he writes:

It should be noted that jalpa is defined in terms of chala [‘fraud’, ef] and jāti [‘futile rejoinder’, ef] and hence consists of them (see sūtra 1.2.2). Thus, really speaking, there are only vāda, jalpa and vitaṇḍā as jalpa consists of chala and jāti. This reveals that ultimately the act of reasoning in its psychological aspect consists only of honesty and dishonesty in reasoning. Both vāda and vitaṇḍā are honest, even though the latter is not generally considered as such. But, the person who engages in vitaṇḍā is perhaps even more honest than the one who engages in vāda, because he openly declares that he has not yet found the truth or does not have any settled siddhānta [‘conclusive opinion’, ef] of his own, but that he sees the defects in what someone else is claiming to be truth or proclaiming as a siddhānta. However, in this sense of vitaṇḍā one who argues that reasoning can not establish any siddhānta at all or, in other words, can not find the truth or is a completee skeptic can not be considered a vaitanḍic [sic].7

This implies that Daya Krishna is well aware of the fact that vāda entails an a priori assumption – which he calls “final and ultimate absoluteness of the knowledge”8 – namely, that of the possibility of establishing a definite truth. In this sense, vitaṇḍā implies more openness. Why, then, did Daya Krishna not favour vitaṇḍā over saṃvāda? Perhaps because he did not want to risk the sceptical output he points to, and because he felt that adding sam to vāda was enough to guarantee the openness of the conversation as a collective enterprise. The variety of the disputants would assure that it remained unpredictable. Moreover, while one who engages in vitaṇḍā has the explicit advantage of not clinging to an unshakable truth, she or he might nonetheless not be ready to abandon the dream of an easy rhetorical victory in order to progress on the path towards a truth that is intersubjectively shared and available. In other words, clinging to a single truth is a hindrance, but this does not amount to saying that victory at all costs should be the ideal result when one engages in a discussion, since coveting victory at all costs could itself become a hindrance and a fetter, limiting one’s freedom within the discussion. By contrast, a discussant should be open as in the “vitandic” lack of an a priori position and desire to progress towards the truth, which in itself remains unattainable and thus functions most probably as a normative ideal. Thus, Daya Krishna still finds truth preferable to victory, even if truth is differently conceived, (i.e., intersubjectively constituted and uncertain as each normative ideal), because victory cannot constitute a goal for a dialogue: victory points at the end of a dialogue, while truth, so conceived, keeps the dialogue open.

In contrast to what at times is postulated as requirement in an open discussion, “civic friendliness” is thus not a positive quality per se,9 unless it is the natural output of a) one’s not clinging to a given truth and b) one’s acknowledging one’s need of the help of others in order to progress towards the truth. Other discussants are needed insofar as the truth has only a normative character, and any progress towards it amounts to relinquishing one’s previous partially erroneous position – a step one makes only after being forced by the input of doubts coming from outside.

Thus, by no means is saṃvāda non-confrontational in nature. What is changed is the ‘agōn’ in its sociological sense: The sociological setting is no longer that of a public debate with an impartial jury and an audience, since in Daya Krishna’s worldview the idea of an impartial jury is deemed impossible. The arena of the confrontation is thus made only of discussants. In practice, this meant that Daya Krishna invited a diverse group of scholars and welcomed all participants to take part in the debate, from students to professors, all having the same right to bring forward their views. Ideally, the limits of the saṃvāda as conceived by Daya Krishna seem to coincide with the limits of the world, since all human beings are automatically entitled to be discussants, and all cognitive results can only be achieved through this dialectical method.

Opponents and Pūrvapakṣins

The first philosophical sūtra in Sanskrit is the Pūrva Mīmāṃsā Sūtra (henceforth pms), the foundational text of the Mīmāṃsā school, attributed to Jaimini and probably composed around the 3rd c. bce. It set the paradigm for further philosophical texts insofar as its structure is based on alternating the voices of various disputants. The first commentary on the pms, Śabara’s Śābarabhāṣya (ca. 3rd century ce?) crystallised this structure in the following five points:

  1. Enunciation of the topic (viṣaya)
  2. Enunciation of the problem (saṃśaya)
  3. Prima facie view about the problem (pūrvapakṣa)
  4. Antithesis to the prima facie view (uttarapakṣa)
  5. Conclusive view (siddhānta)

Steps 3 to 5 can be repeated several times if the problem is particularly complex and needs a detailed discussion.

From the time of the pms onwards, philosophical texts composed in the cultural area of India (thus including also Tibet, Birma, Śrī Laṅkā and further areas of South-, Southeast, and Central Asia) in Sanskrit or other languages followed this fundamentally dialectical paradigm. Ideas are, accordingly, not just enunciated but rather emerge from a discussion. This does not always and automatically guarantee a pluralistic discussion since some of the pūrvapakṣins “upholders of the prima facie view” and even more of the uttarapakṣins “upholders of the antithesis to the prima facie view” can be just fictitious opponents, emerging out of the author’s desire to reach a given conclusion. Thus, some of the opponents’ views may have been chosen or adapted in order to make them appear less appealing to the audience, and some uttarapakṣins may have been fictively created in order to voice speculative positions that had never been actually upheld by real thinkers. Whereas the second move was probably harmless and had thus no consequence in dialectical confrontations, the first move was, in contrast, highly risky. In fact, in any dialectical setting, a speaker would have been greatly criticised by the pariṣad if he had failed to represent his opponent’s views correctly.10 Thus, apart from understandable flaws in representing an opponent’s position, especially when it is very complex,11 it might be suggested that opponents are as a rule represented fairly in confrontational situations. Indeed, when it comes to sectarian texts that were not meant to be presented to a super partes assembly, portrayals of opponents may well have been far less reliable.

Notwithstanding these limitations, even in later texts this dialectical element remains quite evident. One notices a typological similarity with Daya Krishna’s emphasis on verbal confrontation as the root of thinking and not just of communication. How else could Daya Krishna’s strategy of “contrary thinking” work, if not through the constant confrontation with inner and outer opponents? The confrontational origin of this practice is highlighted by the fact that the Nyāya Sūtra (henceforth ns, ca. 2nd c. ce?), the foundational text of the Nyāya school, discusses at length the various points leading to defeat (nigrahasthāna, “ground to defeat”) in a public confrontation and also lists among them flaws relating to one’s relation to the opponent. If one is found falling into a nigrahasthāna, one is immediately and automatically declared defeated. Of the twenty-two nigrahasthānas,12 several relate to one’s relation to the pūrvapakṣa. Of particular relevance for the present study is the nigrahasthāna called ananuvacana (or ananubhāṣaṇa), the “failure to repeat [the opponent’s position].” Before starting to state one’s position, one is forced to summarise the opponent’s position, unless one wants the opponent to be automatically declared the winner. Thus, the only legitimate way to win a debate is to actually understand and face the opponent’s thesis, not only in the case of vāda but also in jāti and vitaṇḍā. (In contrast, solely retorting what seems to be the opponent’s thesis leads to defeat).

Argumentative Discussions

Notwithstanding the oft-repeated European and Anglo-American prejudice that Indian philosophy is mystical, several contemporary Indian philosophers, from B.K. Matilal to Amartya Sen,13 have instead stressed the importance of argumentation in Indian philosophy. It is in this sense not surprising that Matilal also wrote on the history of vāda. Matilal, himself an analytic philosopher and a scholar of Indian logic and philosophy in general, performed in his “Debate and Dialectic in Ancient India” (1987) a move similar to that of Daya Krishna,14 insofar as he focused on the epistemological potential of vāda. However, unlike Daya Krishna, he did not exploit the creativity of this concept in different contexts.

In actual fact, the process of vāda and the presence of pūrvapakṣas can only make sense within a shared framework of rational argumentation. The following passage from his essay “Comparative Philosophy” (1989) shows the extent to which Daya Krishna has pondered about this framework:

[I]n any work of Indian philosophy, pūrvapakṣa (the opponent’s position) has necessarily to be presented and refuted before one can establish one’s own position. The counter-position, it would be remembered, is not merely stated but rather presented with all the arguments that have not only been already given in its favor, but also those which one can imagine to support it in any way whatsoever. If one simply asserted something and could not provide any reason or hetu for it, one opted out of the philosophical arena and ceased to the counted therein … Then, all reasons are not regarded as equally valid; a great deal of thought went into determining what was valid reasoning and how to distinguish it from that which was fallacious.15

The direct link between these historical notes and Daya Krishna’s own philosophy is highlighted in the same essay:

Ultimately, it is arguments given for a certain position that are of interest to a philosophical mind and in this respect, the Indian philosophical tradition is especially rich as its very format of presentation consists of giving the arguments of the opponent first and then the establishment of one’s position by their rebuttal.16

Now, what happens if one does not share the presuppositions needed in order to participate in saṃvāda? This is possibly the main weak point of Daya Krishna’s enterprise – and of other comparably non-totalitarian enterprises,17 insofar as his saṃvāda can only be embraced but not imposed on anyone.18 The history of Daya Krishna’s attempts counts at least one failure, recounted by Bettina Bäumer when he unsuccessfully tried to invite Swami Lakshmanjoo to a saṃvāda.19 Still, saṃvāda appears to remain the only fruitful way to engage in discussions with people with whom one disagrees, so that its acceptance or rejection could even be conceived as a criterion for detecting honest truth-seekers.

Daya Krishna’s Influences

Thus, Daya Krishna is on one hand part of the same line as Mīmāmṣā authors who believed in the dialectic nature of investigation – and reflected it in their seminal works. He was also part of the same line as the Nyāya authors who condemned the lack of attention of one’s opponent and discussed the various ways to articulate a debate, clearly explaining that a debate aiming at one’s victory cannot at the same time aim at the examination of truth.

However, in Daya Krishna’s philosophy, saṃvāda is a polylogue more than it is a dialogue insofar as it implies several points of views; there is no longer a super partes jury or arbiter: everyone is involved in the saṃvāda and no one can claim to be outside of it; there is no longer any audience: everyone is invited to participate, novices included; there is nothing at stake (discussants will not be forcefully converted nor will they lose their political support): saṃvādas are performed for their own sake, perhaps as an exercise in striving towards an unattainable truth.

Arguably, the evolution from dialogue to polylogue has been forced on Daya Krishna by the evolution of the world with the increasing role of the meeting of cultures, so that if one does not want to surrender to the hegemony of just one viewpoint – which is inevitably the Western one, or at least the one held by the politically and economically hegemonic countries – as Daya Krishna puts it, “the alternative plurality of standpoints from which each would have to be seen from the viewpoints of the other would have to be really multiple in character.”20

Daya Krishna’s Dialogue with the Historical Nyāya and Mīmāṃsā

Daya Krishna’s relation to Nyāya and Mīmāṃsā occupies a decisive portion of his reflections on Classical Indian Philosophy. He dedicated his article “The Mīmāṃsaka versus Yājñika: Some Further Problem in the Interpretation of śruti in the Indian Tradition” to the purely theoretical nature of the Pūrva Mīmāṃsā enterprise,21 and his The Nyāya Sūtras: A New Commentary on an Old Text is an attempt at re-thinking the foundational text of Nyāya. Why should a philosopher who was constantly keen to create real occasions of open debate decide to spend time and energy not only with contemporary Naiyāyika scholars, but also with the history of the school? In a chapter dedicated to “The Possible Extension of the Methodology,” Daya Krishna explains that

India’s intellectual traditions are rich and diverse. They need to be looked at afresh, cultivated anew, questioned again and again … For this, they have to be seen as human enterprises engaged in by fallible men who were infected with doubt and uncertainty like each one of us and whose achievements, however great, are only human, all too human. Also, they have to be disengaged from much of their irrelevancies in which they are inevitably involved, just as ‘our’s’ are involved in our own times.22

This means that Daya Krishna’s engagement with classical Indian Philosophy has at least three purposes:

  1. The pleasure and duty of questioning: Daya Krishna engaged in dialogue with all possible interlocutors, and neither time nor space, nor a different background was enough to prevent this.
  2. Revealing the humanity of the Classics. It is evident throughout Daya Krishna’s works, (for instance, in his essays about Vedānta, such as his “Vedānta in the First Millennium ad: The Case Study of a Retrospective Illusion Imposed by the Historiography of Indian Philosophy”), that his target readers were at least also his fellow Indian scholars with their too-often stereotyped respect for past authorities; a respect that risked paralysing their philosophical abilities and thus wasting a great deal of philosophical talent.23
  3. Getting further support in his decontaminating enterprise. Since his PhD thesis, which was subsequently published as Nature of Philosophy,24 Daya Krishna conceived philosophy as an exercise in the decontamination and refinement of thought. A philosopher is primarily someone who brings clarity without unneeded complications, and it is the very task of dialogue and collective dialogical thinking to practice refinement and clarification of thought by continuously questioning unclear issues and responding to them.

As we will see in the next sections, the same three attitudes are also detectable in Daya Krishna’s contemporary dialogues.

Saṃvāda: A Contemporary Use of a Classical Model

As expounded in the previous sections, Daya Krishna explicitly engaged with the Nyāya’s and Mīmāṃsā’s dialectic in order to conceptually and methodologically root his concepts of saṃvāda and pūrvapakṣa in classical Indian philosophy. However, his engagement with classical Indian philosophy has nothing exegetical or strictly historical in the sense of preserving the heritage of a fixed historical tradition. These concepts are thus reinterpreted in a contemporary context in order to constitute, ideally and theoretically, a model applicable to any kind of dialogue. How the intermingling between historical rhetorical tradition and practical contemporary dialogue operates, constitutes the focus of this section. In general, however, if some tensions arising from criticism and refusing dialogue25 have emerged in relation to the sometimes radical reinterpretations of classical Indian schools,26 there seems to be no major tensions regarding the “contemporisation” of the samvadic model in itself, i.e., the revival of the rhetorical model in the form of the contemporary saṃvāda.

Regardless, whether or not saṃvāda is always possible, or which conditions and which variables saṃvāda are needed to apply to any dialogue is an open question that requires further investigation. Whether any kind of dialogue can pretend to universal application is also an issue, especially given that a dialogical model has to be put into practice; any theoretical model is bound to show limitations when concretely realised. An investigation into the conditions for establishing dialogues in general should include: a political/cultural dimension (Can all cultures equally dialogue with each other?); a social dimension (Can all classes and persons from various educational backgrounds and various levels of linguistic and academic command equally dialogue with each other?); and a material dimension to address the economic conditions of creating dialogues.27 In any case, Daya Krishna’s actual saṃvādas are limited to dialogues between different philosophical traditions whereby the question and focus at stake concern the understanding, communication and creativity of conceptual structures within the intercultural philosophical world.

The Contemporary Relevance of Daya Krishna’s Reuse of Classical Indian Philosophy

Daya Krishna’s work and collective dialogues aim above all at making classical Indian philosophy contemporary. This implies a shift in considering the meaning of “history” and “tradition.” One is required not to look back at history as if it were fixed once for all, but rather to use traditions for their potential conceptual contribution to contemporary issues. The reasons for using historical traditions to reflect on contemporary issues and to reinterpret them in contemporary contexts originate on the one hand from Daya Krishna’s aforementioned criticism of the Western monopoly on conceptual methods of doing philosophy.28 Saṃvāda constitutes therefore a methodological alternative to “Western” philosophising. It prevents Indian philosophies to be judged from the perspective, concepts and methods adopted by Western philosophies. In Daya Krishna’s words:

The acceptance of conceptual structures that have originated in the west tends to implant an unconscious acceptance of the western way of looking at things resulting in the adoption of the western way of judging those things also.29

On the other hand, Daya Krishna wants to acknowledge the too often forgotten fact that classical Indian philosophy is already contemporary in its development, since among the traditional learned scholars (paṇḍits) there are philosophers still debating on and contributing to the “classical” schools of Indian philosophy (usually in Sanskrit).30 Indian philosophical traditions are therefore living traditions. However, is a living tradition necessarily contemporary? Or can we even define contemporary continuation of classical philosophies as “living” tradition? What distinguishes classical and contemporary to those who preserve the traditions? For Daya Krishna, “contemporary” means more than the temporal context in which philosophy occurs. One can indeed analyse today any ancient text while trying to stay faithful to the time in which the text was conceived. Such an attitude may be classified in Nietzschean terms as “antiquarian history”, i.e. history as preservation and reverence.31 On the contrary, more than the time period in which something occurs, i.e. the factual event of a discussion, what matters to Daya Krishna’ perspective is the attitude of a subject reflecting on this time. It implies a subject taking part and answering to issues of his time or related to it, taking into account for example the question of globalisation and the challenge of philosophising anew in a global context while using classical concepts.

This contemporary implication of dialogue was already emphasised in the first session of a collective saṃvāda on bhakti, (attachment, devotion, fondness) organised by Daya Krishna from 13th to 16th October 1988 in Vrindavan. At the beginning of this new instantiation of a classical model revisited, Daya Krishna introduced the concept and development of the dialogue as follows:

The dialogue has to be around questions that agitate the contemporary mind … If the tradition has real vitality, if the carriers of traditional knowledge have real knowledge, then they must be able to tackle contemporary intellectual issues in the perspective of their own traditions of knowledge. Therefore we formulate contemporary intellectual issues in Sanskrit or in Arabic, place them before classical scholars and ask them to respond to them. In turn, we critically respond to their responses, and so the dialogue goes on.32

This saṃvāda was entitled “Intellectual Dimensions of Bhakti Tradition in India,” and it was organised after a discussion between Daya Krishna and Shrivatsa Goswami on “whether there was really an intellectual dimension of the Bhakti tradition in India which had not been paid any attention to until now.”33 Starting from the idea of re-exploring the bhakti tradition, the large range of issues discussed included questions related to the ontological status of emotion, the problematic relation between feeling and knowledge for philosophy, and, consequently, “the place of philosophical argument” in a feeling-centred bhakti as well as how any “socio-cultural determined pattern of feeling” may influence bhakti.34 The question of the inclusion of bhakti in contemporary societies was also raised:

How is the notion of impersonal obligation to institutions, ideals, norms and values accommodated in Bhakti thought? How does Bhakti relate to the realization of other ideals-personal or social such as justice, freedom and equality? How does the personality-ideal of the bhakti relate to other personality-ideals such as that of the heroic dharma-centered personalities like Rama and Krishna [sic.] on the one hand or Moksa [liberation] or Nirvana-centered like Shankara or Buddha or any other personality-ideal centered in some other value and giving rise to personalities like Gandhi or Einstein?35

Thus, this dialogue, which will illustrate our analysis of Daya Krishna’s concept and use of pūrvapakṣa, brought together bhakti practitioners and Sanskrit philosophers, Indian and American English-speaking scholars from religious studies, philosophy, art and history. In this sense, Daya Krishna’s dialogue is actually most of the time a polylogue: it integrates participants belonging to several philosophical traditions and tries to unveil their internal diversity as well as scholars from different fields of research.

A Saṃvāda between “Living” Traditions

Daya Krishna’s saṃvāda is made of philosophers from different philosophical “living” traditions who, from the heritage of their own conceptual structures, can conduct together a philosophical investigation on contemporary problems. “Living” tradition is a necessary condition for a saṃvāda, since it enables the discussion itself: closed and fixed historical traditions, by definition, can only communicate with each other with great difficulty. Such difficulties occur in comparative philosophy when one tries to relate closed and historically defined systems of thought originating from different cultures. The comparing subject relates compared objects according to his or her own conceptual structure, by means of terminology, expressions and ideas that are limited to his or her own cultural background, which define the framework within which he or she is attempting to compare multiple traditions. Thus, the a-synchronicity of comparative philosophy, which occurs when fixed classical theories are compared a posteriori with modern or contemporary ones, adds to the temporal imbalance.36 The result of one single comparing subject relating different definite historical concepts and philosophical traditions, most of the time according to a Western paradigm,37 might lead to a partial distortion of the non-Western compared one. On the contrary, a living tradition means that modifications and transformations within the tradition still occur through multiple comparing subjects who are still engaged into their own tradition,38 thereby creating the condition for real philosophical dialogue. How can a saṃvāda avoid these difficulties? How is the comparative model changed by engaging ‘living’ traditions? How modifications and transformations shape the dialogue itself?

For Daya Krishna, they define at least two important characteristics: a critical dimension and a creative one within traditions:

The aspect of a living relationship, which I want to emphasize, then, is that when one treats the traditions as living, one criticizes them … A living relationship, however, is not only critical or appreciative, we further ask ourselves: what can we do with it? How can we carry it forward?39

The creative dimension designates here the ability to renew concepts, methods and analyses to answer new questions, or to provoke them by using classical conceptual structures. These critical and creative dimensions are comprised in Daya Krishna’s concept of pūrvapakṣa (counterposition). Pūrvapakṣa, as Daya Krishna interpreted it, requires critical appreciation of the other’s argument when one carefully scrutinises the benefits and the defects of his position. It also indirectly implies a self-critical approach of one’s own position, in order to find an answer to the other’s criticism. In concrete contemporary and intercultural dialogues between different philosophical traditions, pūrvapakṣa entails also a creative dimension: the possibility of new interrelations and new interconnections from the encounter of different conceptual structures beyond one’s single position. Daya Krishna argues as follows:

… normally within a cognitive culture even different disciplines share a certain way of looking at things or certain ways of asking questions or seeing certain issues as problematic. It is, therefore, only when one undertakes a conceptual journey to another cognitive culture that one really encounters a different world … A realization of the limited parochialism of what one had taken to be universal and self-evident is the first consequence of such an encounter. The second is an openness to the possibility of alternatives that one had not even thought of before.40

These two critical and creative dimensions are certainly rooted in the classical concept of pūrvapakṣa, but they assume their full significance from Daya Krishna’s own philosophy and experience in collective dialogues as contemporary dialogues between different philosophical traditions. We will therefore investigate two dimensions of Daya Krishna’s pūrvapakṣa: one is cultural and the other historical.

We will first study the articulation of different philosophical traditions. This signals a cultural level, i.e, the consciousness of a plurality of histories in saṃvāda. We will then consider how historical tradition and contemporary reflection are articulated within pūrvapakṣa. These cultural and historical perspectives constitute Daya Krishna’s main contemporary contribution to the concept of pūrvapakṣa.

The Challenge of a Contemporary and Global World

Radical Pūrvapakṣa

A necessary characteristic for a critical and creative pūrvapakṣa in a contemporary and global world would be its “radicalism” contrasted with both the criticised fictitious or pre-established arguments of the traditional pūrvapakṣins or uttarapakṣins, and any contemporary philosophical “debate” in which counter-arguments express formal alternatives of settled positions that do not really engage further the discussion.41 These criticisms directly address an antiquarian attitude of preserving at any cost the unity of tradition found in the Indian milieu.

In the Indian context therefore we should try to find out where the difference is occurring or where the change is occurring. Indians seem to be afraid of a radical difference. Somehow we want to say that there is no real difference, that there is really only identity. But if it is so, the raising of pūrvapakṣa or pratipakṣa will not really be a debate as we will be afraid of accepting a radical division and difference.42

This emphasis on radical difference and confrontation could also justify Daya Krishna’s aforementioned implicit appreciation of vitaṇḍā over vāda, i.e., of the confrontational model over the definite truth. This challenge of the radical difference implies a particularisation: a position is always delimited by a historical-cultural standpoint, which is unveiled by the confrontation with other standpoints in a dialogue. This process reveals other (historically and culturally set) possibilities of thinking. One of the roles of a samvāda consists therefore in unveiling the historical and particular presuppositions involved in a truth-statement. The elaboration of pūrvapakṣa within a samvāda between philosophical traditions constitutes a dialectic tool that can help pointing at the participants’ presuppositions. They will have, while answering to a counterposition, to reflect and justify their own presuppositions – which had remained un-reflected until then – or they will be shown that some concepts, connotations or relations might seem obvious from their standpoint only and must, however, be explained to others.

This critical role of samvāda, or more exactly of the particular collective thinking implied, what the prefix “sam” brings to vāda, emerged also in the aforementioned bhakti dialogue. The participants questioned the pūrvapakṣa of the bhakti tradition. Indeed, the first question that circulated beforehand and was firstly introduced in the discussion was thus formulated:

Is there such a thing as a philosophical tradition of bhakti in India and if so what is it? What are the pūrvapakṣas in the philosophical tradition of bhakti? What are the arguments given for their refutation?43

The following session articulated different historical and conceptual possibilities, such as the problems of applying the rational term pūrvapakṣa to bhakti, feeling par excellence,44 or the role of the relationship between feeling and reasoning in Rāmānuja and the Advaita tradition. We will return to these reactions when clarifying the different dimensions of pūrvapakṣa. After this first discussion on the meanings of pūrvapakṣa within the bhakti traditions, Kedar Nath Misra stressed the “presupposition about the unchanging character of the tradition.”45 He stated:

The concept of bhakti that we are discussing, I presume, follows the way, which thinks that there was no bhakti in India and it is with Rāmānuja that it began and so on. But that is not the case. There is a pūrvapakṣa to bhakti; but within bhakti there are many pūrvapakṣas also.46

Criticising thereby the a priori assumption that bhakti is a unified concept within the Indian tradition, as it seems to be the case in the dialogue, Misra disclosed the historical construction of bhakti and the pluralities of pūrvapakṣas through non-unified and multiple bhakti traditions. He thereby noticed that participants had a particular conception of bhakti, which they considered a-historical, and he engaged in differentiating bhakti concepts throughout history.

However, the work on differentiating and particularising historical standpoints does not imply relativism. Relativism is overcome by the collective exploration of a philosophical problem. A relativistic approach to truth in this context would be found in a debate, where each participant defended his or her truth-value against other settled truth-values; truth being relative to every participant or their cultural traditions from which their truth-statement emerge. The method of running through pūrvapakṣa aims precisely at articulating and communicating these truth-values: if a sam-vāda succeeds, it cannot be just a sequence of arguments defending one’s own idea of truth, but a collective attempt at distinguishing relations between particular standpoints and concepts. Sam-vāda asks which presuppositions are entailed in each truth-value and how the participants differently evaluate and hierarchise truth-values. Indeed, the method of pūrvapakṣa implies more than a critical analysis that would consist in denying, refuting, or contradicting the other’s argument, thereby opposing a position against another one. It is not simply an antithesis, but it requires participating in the other’s argumentation within a common discussion. The presupposed understanding and contribution to the other’s argument implied in using pūrvapakṣa in a dialogue requires a collective examination of the truth-statement. In this sense, the exercise is not a verbal contest but a shared endeavour of analysing further conceptual structures, aiming at clarifying and enriching philosophical positions. Clarifying implies unveiling their presuppositions and fixity, and enriching the vivid and plural contacts between positions and traditions. As Daya Krishna stated during the samvāda on bhakti:

Today what we are to discuss should open new avenues for thinking, not merely for us but for others, other cultures and civilizations which have as much right to our cultural heritage as ourselves … One will engage a rational pursuit ones when one has identified one say with universality. In other words, I am a rational animal only to the extent I participate in this universal reason in the game of knowledge. In the game of knowledge when we enter into a dialogue, I do not remain Daya Krishna, you are not just Kriplani and he is not just this particular, specific human individual. But we get out of our individual prejudices, biases and try to reach an objective universality, which can be mutually corrected and jointly explored. It is continuous with the whole of humanity, past and present, which man has built over time.47

Pūrvapakṣa and Radical Otherness

Daya Krishna’s critical and creative pūrvapakṣa can only originate from the difference and variety of interlocutors articulating different conceptual structures. However, samvāda and pūrvapakṣa are classical Indian structures grounding actual dialogues; the actual bhakti dialogue questioned the bhakti tradition of classical Indian philosophy according to these classical models. How can this classical methodology, retrieved from Indian philosophy and engaged in a dialogue with classical Indian philosophy, bring a creative, pluralistic confrontation? How does it articulate culturally distinct conceptual structures? Once again, could samvādas only be valuable to those who benefit from Daya Krishna’s model, as they do not belong to Indian philosophical traditions? Would these readers be the only ones to benefit from the radical differences and otherness at play in samvādas? While this criticism may be worth addressing, the “cultural otherness” at stake in Daya Krishna’s project is, however, not so binary; it does not just articulate an Indian dialogical model for a Western audience. Daya Krishna was at first engaged in doing philosophy in India with his fellow Indian scholars. He thereby attempted to deconstruct the idea of a unified (classical) “Indian philosophy” by emphasising and confronting its different internal traditions, languages and religious backgrounds through dialogue.48 Furthermore, the different interlocutors are situated within a postcolonial context where philosophy in India is not necessarily and not always “Indian,” i.e., based on conceptual structures from “classical” Indian philosophy. In other words, samvāda is a method to connect both Indian and non-Indian philosophers in exploring their conceptual differences and diversities of background. In Daya Krishna’s interpretation, these philosophers are heirs of a common dialectical tradition from which he chose to draw his dialogical method in order to connect with them and engage on different problems. The challenge encountered is therefore how to explore a contemporary philosophical problem within a classical philosophical structure.

Daya Krishna’s reaction thus suggests a break in a linear conception of history. The historical relation and presuppositions unveiled by samvādas do not assume the usual polarising opposition between tradition and modernity, which is common to linear conceptions of cultures and Western reading models. A postcolonial world does not allow for a linear history of concepts anymore; nor does it think in terms of transition from “traditional” and “classical” theories to more allegedly adequate “modern” concepts, since such concepts are mostly Western and universally applied, with the effect of alienating non-Western philosophies. However, Daya Krishna’s project does not exclude the West or Western concepts;49 nor does he argue for the superiority of Indian philosophies.50 His reaction consists in reversing the postcolonial alienation into a creative confrontation: rather than reinforcing Western concepts, saṃvāda should critically reassess their contribution within Indian philosophies’ own contexts, and let Indian traditions react in their own terms to Western ideas. Therefore, in order to enable Indian scholars to engage in a global world, Daya Krishna chose a configuration that favoured their traditional setting: a saṃvāda. This should allow plurilingual discussions, as it happened between English, Sanskrit and Hindi; include participants who are still engaged directly and existentially in the traditions; and be preferably set in traditional (holy) places where the traditions in questions are still practiced, such as Vrindavan where the ashram hosted the saṃvāda on bhakti. A whole session of the dialogue consisted in the visit of Govind Dev Temple in Vrindavan, with a historical and philosophical discussion there concerning the location that incarnated the bhakti principles. Consequently, in the introduction summarising this saṃvāda experiment on bhakti, Daya Krishna recalls the relation between the holiness of the place and the critical philosophical discussion:

At times, it almost seemed blasphemous to say the things we said when the eternal flute of the Divine itself called to us every moment to give up the vain, empty, dry world of the intellect and the greeting of the ‘Rādhe Rādhe’ which remained us of the ecstasy of divine love. But amidst these enticements and allurements what sustained us was the unbelievably long, hard-core tradition of the ever-seeking, ever-doubting sāttvika quest for the ultimate Truth by the buddhi in the Indian tradition, which has never been afraid of raising the most formidable pūrvapakṣas against one’s own position and attempting to answer them.51

The method of running pūrvapakṣas is therefore for Daya Krishna a means of revealing the conceptual structures and the contemporaneity of the Classics. But how does pūrvapakṣa enable the articulation of these histories? How do they connect contemporary and classical concepts while avoiding creating a dichotomy between the two?

Unveiling the Historicity of Concepts: Dimensions of Pūrvapakṣa

In order to analyse the critical and creative aspects of pūrvapakṣa, we can establish a typology highlighting their different aspects in relation to history. We will illustrate the application of these aspects with examples retrieved from the bhakti dialogue.

We can firstly distinguish pūrvapakṣa as a concept designating the methodological implication and the role of counterposition in the dialogue. The concept pūrvapakṣa is not incarnated by a particular counterposition; it rather designates all possible counterpositions, i.e., the abstract dialectical structure. It points to an a-historical function of counterposition in dialogues and grounds Daya Krishna’s philosophical theoretical conception of creativity in dialogue according to its confrontational capacity. From this philosophical and universal function of pūrvapakṣa we can distinguish three different historical and particular types of pūrvapakṣa:

  1. Methodological counterposition: a-historical philosophical function and concept for dialoguing.
  2. Historical counterposition: reflects an accepted historical division between schools, branches or opponents of philosophical traditions identifiable in the history of philosophy. Examples could be realism versus idealism, Schopenhauer versus Hegel, etc.
  3. Contemporary counterposition: reflects a contemporary division between philosophical schools or branches. Distinguished from historical counterposition by its openness and capacity of being modified.
  4. Particular counterposition: concretely presented by a participant in a debate. It is usually internal to contemporary counterposition, but it expresses the singularity and the existential limitation of a particular consciousness engaged in a debate.

Although the typology divides different aspects at stake in pūrvapakṣa, it has to be clearly stated that they are all related and do not exclude one another: they form thereby dimensions of one concept that is used by Daya Krishna without distinction. Particular counterposition is indeed strongly influenced by contemporary counterposition, which can itself often be a continuation of historical counterposition. A contemporary Naiyāyika (i.e., a philosopher belonging to the Nyāya tradition) is likely to personally present a counterposition that articulates a contemporary answer of his school in terms or in accordance with classical counterpositions found in the texts, or methods of arguing inherited from them. If we come back to the bhakti dialogue on the question of pūrvapakṣa itself, historical counterposition is for example easily identifiable in a discussion on the opposition between Rāmānuja’s and Advaita Vedānta’s concepts of bhakti.52 After participants debated different conceptions of bhakti, Daya Krishna summarised the discussion as follows:

I think a very important point has been made. I would like to emphasize it. It has been associated with the name of Rāmānuja. He has argued against the Advaitin because the Advaitin could not have accepted his position. The Advaitin can accept bhakti only as a secondary thing. For him it is jñāna alone which matters. For him even karma cannot give mokṣa. Now, for the Advaitin, therefore, the hard-core Advaita position should be that jñana alone is identical with mokṣa not bhakti. I would suggest, therefore, that there must have been a debate after Rāmānuja, with the great Advaitic writers, and after Madhva also. The Advaitins must have then given arguments against these arguments. So, one can build up what may be called a tradition of argument and counter-argument about the position of Rāmānuja.53

The difference between historical and contemporary counterpositions specifies the temporal situation in which a counterposition occurs, the historical counterposition being therefore what is here being criticised by Daya Krishna. More importantly for him, this means, however, that contemporary counterpositions are neither fixed nor closed; they can be influenced, modified and transformed. It is exactly this openness that grounds Daya Krishna’s deployment of the saṃvāda method in contemporary dialogues. In fact, although the participants of a dialogue are influenced by a certain historical philosophical state, which forms their presupposition for thinking, they can modify their counterposition during the dialogue by confronting them with other counterpositions. The distinction between historical and contemporary counterpositions is thereby relevant in the context of saṃvāda. It means also that, for Daya Krishna, there would be an implicit hierarchy or evaluation of these two kinds of counterposition. On one side, Daya Krishna himself engaged with reconstructing historical counterpositions in an attempt to understand and document obscure classical texts. But historical pūrvapakṣa can never be used per se or for its own sake. It only serves to reinterpret or reactivate the texts into new and critically differentiated contemporary pūrvapakṣa. Classical texts exist as a material and ground for thinking and discussing further. On the other side, in case participants do not critically shift from historical to contemporary counterposition, the adherence of a discussant to a historical pūrvapakṣa turns out to be a defect. As such, a dialogue can take place only if the historical pūrvapakṣa is itself considered as counterposition that can be criticised by the audience. On the contrary, dialogue fails if it consists merely of various historical pūrvapakṣas in themselves. Daya Krishna’s emphasis on contemporaneity requires therefore to establish a distinction between the temporal nature and dialogic function of historical and contemporary counterpositions, avoiding the misunderstanding of the Sanskrit word pūrvapakṣa in his work as a simple application of traditional pūrvapakṣas of classical Indian philosophy into new debates.

The methodological counterposition is, however, different from the three others, which are internal to it as they refer to particular dimensions of counterposition. The methodological pūrvapakṣa constitutes a conceptual philosophical function, which is not incarnated as such in a particular philosophical tradition or a particular participant in the dialogue. It comprehends all particular and future possibilities for counterposition. However, it does not mean that the methodological pūrvapakṣa cannot itself be brought into dialogue: although the methodological counterposition would exceed any particular counterposition located within it and be limited to a certain tradition or person, the role and function of a methodological counterposition can itself be discussed as philosophical topic and object. For example, the aforementioned question on the very ability of articulating bhakti in pūrvapakṣa reflects on pūrvapakṣa as concept and methodology. Pūrvapakṣa is therefore called into question through the articulation of different counterpositions, which means that it does not constitute a fixed entity of category but can integrate modifications. Shiv Kumar Sastry states the following about the different pūrvapakṣas within the bhakti tradition:

So far as darśana [philosophical schools] is concerned, it is, no doubt, mainly based on reasoning. It takes the form of arguments, counter-arguments, introducing the pūrvapakṣas, putting forward the arguments of the pūrvapakṣas, and then the siddhāntapakṣa [established conclusive view], answering each of the points raised by the pūrvapakṣa. This is the method. It has been followed in almost all the darśanas. But we have to remember here that each darśana has a doctrinal point to make … We cannot say that the Vedānta-śastra [philosophical school of Vedānta] is just a matter of dry logic or dry reasoning. It has also got something to do with feeling also because the end of all argumentation, the question is how to attain mukti [liberation]. That is the end of the śāstra [knowledge system]. Then finally the means is discussed. Bhakti is definitely one of the means.54

Sastry thus questioned the ability of pūrvapakṣa to discuss feeling as well as its ability to develop rational arguments to express the significance of bhakti.55

Articulating these different dimensions of pūrvapakṣa clarifies the historical transformations of the dialogue: pūrvapakṣa as a methodological concept has to be incarnated to be actualised in a dialogue by different contemporary and particular counterpositions, which are influenced by past and classical (i.e., historical) counterpositions. However, they all in return modify, by dialoguing, the very conception of pūrvapakṣa, which may in turn reciprocally influence the divisions and the arguments of particular counterpositions. Daya Krishna’s saṃvāda grounded by pūrvapakṣa constitutes therefore a philosophical method, which, out of its very empirical confrontation to a particular otherness, is constantly in the process of modifying itself. Although retrieved from classical philosophy, the method of pūrvapakṣa can therefore be actualised according to different types of traditions and participants encountered, that is, according to the three other dimensions of pūrvapakṣa. As an ahistorical model, it therefore leads to renewal of its very practice in dialoguing.

It is however clear that, for Daya Krishna, not all these dimensions have the same efficacy in dialoguing: historical and contemporary counterpositions are indeed relevant for reconstructing the presuppositions of thinking and for establishing the historical conceptual structure in which arguments and particular counter-arguments are based. However, historical and contemporary pūrvapakṣas cannot constitute solely the method of pūrvapakṣa that relies on the personal implication and engagement of participants. In this sense, all dimensions are necessary but in a way they all relate to each other. Some of them would in actual fact be counter-productive to a samvāda if used in isolation.

It could therefore be argued that Daya Krishna himself did not make the above distinction between dimensions or levels of pūrvapakṣa in order not to risk losing the internal dynamics of the concept of pūrvapakṣa, and to retain the integrity of a unitary pūrvapakṣa. At the same time, making the distinctions proposed above would justify Daya Krishna’s concept of creativity located in the notion of pūrvapakṣa as a dialectical method. His aforementioned criticism of the fictional or closed counterpositions reacts precisely against a limited conception of pūrvapakṣa, which would be circumscribed to historical counterposition, i.e., a presentation of known and usual counterpositions from fixed philosophical traditions. Historical or contemporary counterpositions cannot constitute just a ready-made reserve of established counterpositions. Dialoguing means therefore a process and a dialectics between methodological and particular counterpositions, the latter being itself influenced by historical and contemporary counterpositions. Dialoguing implies reflecting between particular innovative counterpositions, which have the ability to question the concept itself. Thereby, while understanding and acknowledging them, historical counterpositions are able to transform and be transformed by other particular counterpositions, other particular traditions, and impel to think further about the models themselves. In this sense, the method of pūrvapakṣa rests on the tension between the concept itself and its incarnation, and between a will of conceptual universalisation implied in methodological counterpositions and the consciousness of its limitation implied by the other three dimensions. Without will of conceptual universalisation, counterpositions constitute unrelated philosophical alternative modes of thinking: alternatives to different philosophies, different philosophical traditions, or different philosophers/opponents. These do not have to be correlated to assert some truth-values. Without existential limitation and empirical practice, there is a risk of reducing every philosophy, tradition, or concept to a universally and eternally applicable “essence,” a risk that Daya Krishna’s saṃvāda averts. The method of pūrvapakṣa enables therefore to think the relation between, on the one hand, conceptual universalisation and, on the other hand, its constant experience of its limits, inadequacy, or dissatisfaction, begetting thus the need to conceptualise anew through reciprocal reflection and modification. This tension constitutes the condition for alternative, critical, and creative pūrvapakṣas, which, being renewable in concrete dialogues, engage thereby further the significance and concept of saṃvāda itself.

Daya Krishna’s critical and creative method of pūrvapakṣa suggests therefore a contemporary reinterpretation of classical Indian philosophy that is able to tally our global, intercultural and postcolonial world, in which concepts of tradition and history are often called into question. Daya Krishna’s pūrvapakṣa operates a dynamic process between conceptual universalisation and particular limitation, between the model and its embodiment in particular dialogues, which could make the method of pūrvapakṣa an adaptable and open dialectic tool for saṃvāda. However, the outlined model remains itself theoretical, which raises the simple question of its actual efficacy. Which difficulties did the practice of pūrvapakṣa encounter? Which criticisms did this raise?

Some Possible Criticisms

Samvāda in Colonial and Post-Colonial Philosophy

The roots of samvāda can be traced back to the dialogical tradition of ancient Indian philosophy. As we argued, the Nyāya tradition played an important role in Daya Krishna’s reuse of this term. However, the question regarding its sudden revival in post-colonial Indian philosophical activity remains to be addressed. Did Daya Krishna draw from some elementary seeds that were already present within 20th century Indian philosophical writings to initiate samvāda? If yes, who were the philosophers who attempted to (or wrote about) a need for dialogue that might have stimulated his initiative for organising samvāda(s)? Some mentions of the need for dialogue have been made in pre-independence as well as post-independence Indian philosophical literature; at least in the writings of K.C. Bhattacharya and Daya Krishna’s contemporary S.S. Barlingay.

Disillusioned by the issue of colonial dominance in the realm of politics and the “sphere of ideas,” K.C. Bhattacharyya argues for “Svaraj in ideas” rather than only in politics. The word svaraj literally means freedom or self-rule. It was employed by Gandhi to imply the political independence of India from Western (British) domination.56 Bhattacharya, on the other hand, argues that colonial domination is not merely a political domination, i.e., one that is visible and tangible. Rather, it comes with a subtler domination in the sphere of ideas and thinking, which is not ordinarily felt.57 Such domination is more dangerous and forces the very soul of a culture into servitude. While attempting to develop a broader notion of svaraj, Bhattacharya therefore argues for freedom in the sphere of ideas, calling it “Svaraj in ideas.” Interestingly, Daya Krishna mentions Bhattacharya’s philosophy as the first instance of 20th century Indian Philosophy, which aimed at a conceptual articulation of Indian tradition within the framework of the past, present and future.58 For Bhattacharya raised the philosophical question of an open-eyed struggle between Classical-Contemporary and Eastern-Western perspectives. An open-eyed struggle, according to him, had to be without any hostile or aggressive interests or ideals. It is open in the sense of not being blind in accepting or rejecting either the Western thought or indigenous tradition without confronting them against each other. The openness of such a purported confrontation can be assessed by Bhattacharya’s idea of readiness to accept either a synthesis or a “reasoned rejection” of either standpoint. He argues that since the most prominent contribution of ancient India is in the field of philosophy, any attempt to do philosophical activity in colonial India or to revive its soul demands that we have to “confront Eastern thought and Western thought with one another.”59 Either result – “synthesis without compromise” or “reasoned rejection” – will pave the way for, what he calls “Svaraj in ideas.”60

Barlingay, on the other hand, is of the view that the colonial impact divided philosophy scholars into two camps; on the one side the Sanskrit pandits or Orientalists (Eastern and Western), and on the other, Western trained scholars. Both, according to him, need to be brought into a dialogue, which can result in a synthesis. Barlingay cites the example of “sequence seminars” that he arranged to further a dialogue for such a synthesis; he also described Daya Krishna as their successor.61 The synthesis, however, according to him, will neither be Indian nor Western. “It would be philosophy and philosophy alone.”62 Thus, both Bhattacharya and Barlingay seem to be referring to a need for dialogue that embraces openness on both sides in order to search for truth and to reject the untruth.

Existent Critiques of Samvāda

Raghuramaraju, a contemporary Indian philosopher, criticises the philosophical project of Daya Krishna’s samvāda by arguing that it suffered a major “temporal imbalance.”63 Samvāda, according to him, tried to set a debate/dialogue between ancient Indian traditions and contemporary Western philosophy, or between ancient Indian traditions and Western trained post-independence Indian philosophers, while completely neglecting colonial and post-colonial Indian philosophy.64 For Raghuramaraju, the attempt to bring together classical and contemporary philosophies while completely neglecting modern philosophy could only fail. He argues that the works of colonial and post-colonial Indian philosophers such as Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, and K.C. Bhattacharya need to be brought into the ambit of any such dialogue to seek any revitalisation of philosophical activity in India.65 These were the philosophers who initiated the shift from Sanskrit towards a “new language” – English – of philosophising, thereby making it mainstream and available to the masses.66 This shift allowed them to escape the elitist confinement that characterised the pandits of India and their usage of Sanskrit.67 The neglect of colonial and postcolonial philosophers was not only a neglect of their contributions but also a neglect of assessing how they “attempted to negotiate developments in the West while making sense of the classical philosophy of India.”68 For Raghuramaraju, the medium of pre-independence (and post-independence) Indian philosophy – i.e., the English language – and the larger political framework behind it becomes an important point of departure for a viable samvāda. He argues that, apart for its new medium of communication, pre-independence Indian philosophy was “informed by the contemporary political matrix dominated by colonialism and anticolonial struggle.”69 In other words, while attempting a synthesis of Western and Eastern (or even classical and contemporary) philosophies, colonial philosophy in India took stock of the language demands and political needs of its times. Samvāda, according to Raghuramaraju, neglected both the linguistic and the political, which formed the backdrop of colonial philosophy. While saṃvāda sought to establish a conceptual dialogue between different traditions, it totally neglected the realm of the “in-between,” i.e., contributions by Indian philosophers that were in English, as well as the political aspects of its times.70 This led to what he calls a “failure of these new and creative philosophical initiatives.”71 He writes:

The problem with the Samvāda project is that to begin with, it failed to take into consideration this group of philosophers and their specific contribution to relate the West, especially modern West with the classical Indian which included changing medium of philosophizing, bringing the masses into mainstream, and taking Advaita outside the confines of pandits’ circles … All these escaped the notice of Samvāda project.72

One response regarding the complete neglect of Anglophone Indian philosophy by Daya Krishna in his idea of samvāda can be his position on what constitutes Indian philosophy. In an interview with Jay L. Garfield and Nalini Bhushan, Daya Krishna classified colonial Indian philosophers more as Western rather than Indian philosophers. He stated that the narrative of Indian philosophy in English as woven by Radhakrishnan, Hiriyana and others is not an authentic narrative of Indian philosophy. Rather, it is a Western demonstration of Indian philosophy – a demonstration done by a “stranger in his own country.” In the same interview, he expressed the view that any philosopher writing in English is “not an Indian philosopher.” For the “terms of reference” of these philosophers “are the West.” Writing in English, according to him strangulates and distorts the “spirit and history of Indian philosophy.”73 One is stumbled by the fact that Daya Krishna himself did most of his philosophy with English as the main medium. Yet, he considered colonial Indian philosophers to be Western in spite of having revived Indian philosophy (albeit within the contours of colonial dominance). In response to Daya Krishna’s charge, Bhushan and Garfield argue that his viewpoint is mistaken; colonial Indian philosophers were deeply committed to Indian civilisation regardless of the medium they used. They “sustained the Indian philosophical tradition and were the creators of its modern avatar.”74 Sharad Deshpande, a contemporary Indian philosopher, argues that writing in English was a “historical necessity” for colonial philosophers who had to present Indian philosophy to a wider audience within India as well as the West.75

Further Possible Criticisms of Samvāda

Daya Krishna, in the preface to the second edition of India’s Intellectual Traditions (2003), is nostalgic of the Interdisciplinary Group “whose reality is difficult to retrieve.”76 He asks:

Where have all the ‘friends’ gone, and why has the enthusiasm evaporated? Have the ‘sceptics’ been proved right? Was the ‘enterprise’ unmeaningful, even impossible, just a waste of time as some had warned?77

These questions suggest a cynic attitude that he might have developed over time regarding the viability of his projects, samvāda being central among them. We need to examine why he qualified the whole enterprise of samvāda as “unmeaningful” or “impossible” and the extent to which his scepticism was justified. Did his scepticism come from some inherent limitations in his articulation of samvāda both within his works and the actual samvādas he organised? We are of the view that Daya Krishna is right in what he accepted, but wrong in what he rejected regarding samvāda. For samvāda as a method of doing philosophy can be significant in the deconstruction of boundaries (permanent or created) between traditions, be they Eastern-Western or classical-contemporary. Raghuramaraju, while criticising Daya Krishna’s samvāda project also makes it clear that he accepts its significance as a method of philosophising and is only critical of the limitations that emerged as a result of the actual path it followed.78 While developing, and criticising his “temporal imbalance” argument, we claim that his charge that samvāda completely neglected colonial and post-colonial Indian philosophy is flawed. Samvāda, in our view, neglected only the content of colonial Indian philosophy in the form of its individual contributions. However, it remained committed to the subtle political background of colonial Indian philosophy and drew its justification from there. The (inherited) political background was to unearth the suppressed Indianness as a result of colonial damage and bring it face to face with the Western pūrvapakṣas in the form of a dialogue. The urge to seek Indianness was similar to, and in actual fact drew a lot from, the general framework followed by colonial Indian philosophical works. It would not be wrong to say that samvāda as a project drew its spirit from colonial Indian philosophy, for it attempted to seek dialogue with a purpose to revitalise Indianness.

M. P. Rege’s definition of samvāda is that it is a dialogue between two different philosophical/conceptual traditions, which Daya Krishna notes are “two different conceptual structures, two different ways of looking at problems and analyzing them.”79 The basic framework is that Indian philosophical categories must

… assume the role of a subject actively criticizing and evaluating Western (or other non-Western) philosophical theories from a perspective yielded by its own philosophical standpoints … [We] must enter the current philosophical debate not merely as a witness to be subjected to examination and cross examination but as full participants in it, engaged in its give and take.80

The compromises with the pūrvapakṣin is an extension of the dialogue – itself a characteristic feature of traditional Indian philosophy – in order to respond to the crisis of Western domination within (Indian) philosophical academia, especially in universities. For both Daya Krishna and Rege, the samvāda was aimed at revitalising a stagnant Indian philosophy.81 The urge to seek and revitalise Indianness can be understood by the fact that Rege imagined the culmination of samvāda as a stimulus that would make Indian philosophy develop in “unforeseeable directions”. Thus, samvāda certainly limited the content of the dialogue to the classical-contemporary or Eastern-Western philosophies, but at the same time it carried forward the legacy of seeking Indianness; a characteristic feature of major colonial Indian philosophical works. A “synthesis without compromise,” as envisaged by Bhattacharya can easily be traced in Daya Krishna’s philosophical pursuits, which attempted to resurrect a “dead and mummified” philosophical tradition. They share (with their predecessors) the political moment that was meant to demystify the epistemic injustice emerging as a result of colonialism.

Daya Krishna was very weary of the fact that the Indian intellectual is not recognised in the West on equal terms, or even simply as an intellectual.82 It was in response to this crisis of non-reciprocity and non-recognition that Daya Krishna and his contemporaries started samvāda as a philosophical project. However, a claim for equal status as a philosopher limited his worldview to merely seeking Indianness; he remained more committed to the spirit of Indian philosophy than to free and creative thinking. This in turn limited the methodological insights that samvāda can offer to foster cross-cultural philosophy.

Daya Krishna’s samvāda took shape in its attempt to preserve the Indian character of Indian philosophy. In his attempt to deconstruct boundaries between diverse philosophical paradigms through samvāda, and therein freeing thinking and philosophising from the constraints of imagined or actual boundaries, he kept constructing and looking for Indianness: a limiting boundary in itself. Daya Krishna, on the one hand, theorises thinking as an act of creativity bereft of any boundaries and, on the other hand, talks about a conceptual articulation of Indian tradition from an Indian, un-Westernised perspective. His samvāda thus keeps oscillating between nativist nostalgia and creative utopia, for he tries to grapple with the Indian and Western traditions while moving beyond them into a realm of creativity and freedom. He claims that freedom in the realm of ideas and thinking can “only be achieved by a radical alteration in our attitude to both traditions, the Indian and the Western.” We have to de-identify with both …”83 Yet at the same time he (and his colleagues) limit the possibility of free thinking to seemingly nostalgic phenomena of Indianness, which will live on through dialogue with the pūrvapakṣin. The oscillation is obvious in the imagined samvāda between Ramchandra Gandhi and Daya Krishna whereby the latter speaks about his disillusionment with the nativist position and the indigenisation of thought and thinking. Thinking is an act of freedom and creativity and can in no way be limited to boundaries, whether created or permanent. Having said that, the fictional Daya Krishna speaks of an Indian tradition that should live on after engaging in a dialogue with its Other – whether Western or non-Western.84

Concluding Remarks

To conclude, in both Daya Krishna and Raghuramaraju’s criticism, saṃvāda is limited to an engagement with Indian philosophy. For Daya Krishna, it was an engagement with traditional pandits, and for Raghuramaraju it should be an engagement with our recent predecessors as well as with colonial Indian philosophers. Both, in their own ways, overlook the methodological insight(s) that samvāda can offer to foster inter-cultural philosophy beyond comparison and confrontation. The inter-cultural philosophical insights, to draw from Barlingay, will belong to none of the participating traditions or perspectives. Rather, these insights will belong to philosophy proper, which is neither limited by Indianness nor by Westernness, neither Occidentalism nor Orientalism, neither tradition nor modernity.

Last, and more generally, the present study has shown how the history of a concept (in the present case, chiefly that of saṃvāda and pūrvapakṣa) can become a fruitful part of its philosophical relevance. In the case of the dialogue, history plays a further role since, according to the authors considered in this essay (Daya Krishna and to a lesser degree Raghuramaraju) the discussants have the specific responsibility to use historical dialogical methods as well as each of the historical positions involved as living interlocutors instead of antiquarian curiosities. History runs the risk of becoming a hindrance if it conditions one’s way of philosophising, which is Raghuramaraju’s accusation against Daya Krishna; or else, history can become a constructive element if it is opened to new challenges.


Elisa Freschi is Research Fellow at the Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia, Austrian Academy of Sciences. She works on the intersection of epistemology and theology in the Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta school of Indian Philosophy. Her books and publications focus on Indian Philosophy (Duty, Language and Exegesis in Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā, 2012; Rule-extension Strategies in Ancient India, co-authored with T. Pontillo, 2013) and on the dialectic of reuse and originality (The Reuse of Texts in Indian Philosophy, 2015; Adaptive Reuse: Aspects of Creativity in South Asian Cultural History, edited with Philipp Maas, 2017). She believes in approaching texts through their history and joins together philology and history of philosophy in her methodology.

Elise Coquereau is a PhD candidate at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. She has also been awarded a Doctoral Fellowship from the Austrian Academy of Sciences to pursue her research at the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Vienna, Austria. She is working on intercultural hermeneutics and methods of dialoguing between philosophical traditions, with particular focus on contemporary Indian philosophy.

Muzaffar Ali is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Savitribai Phule Pune University, India.

He works in the area of contemporary Indian philosophy with special focus on the concept of public sphere.


This article is the result of research collaboration between its three authors. Sections “The History of Dialogue” and “Daya Krishna’s Dialogue” are attributed to Elisa Freschi; “Saṃvāda,” “The Challenge of a Contemporary and Global World,” and “Unveiling the Historicity of Concepts” to Elise Coquereau; and “Some Possible Criticisms” to Muzaffar Ali. The last paragraph of the concluding section (beginning with “Last, and more generally”) is also attributed to Elisa Freschi.


For Daya Krishna in general, see Daniel Raveh (“Daya Krishna (1924-2007),” in Mens Sana Monographs 6.1 (2008), 281-284) and Shail Mayaram, ed., Philosophy as saṃvāda and svarāj: dialogical meditations on Daya Krishna and Ramchandra Gandhi (Los Angeles: sage, 2014). For Daya Krishna’s re-reading of classical Indian Philosophy see Elisa Freschi, “Unveiling (Indian) Philosophy,” in Rivista di Studi Sudasiatici 2 (2007), 265-270.


See, e.g., the ones described in Johannes Bronkhorst, “Modes of debate and refutation of adversaries in classical and medieval India: a preliminary investigation,” in Antiquorum Philosophia 1 (2007), 269-280, and in Michel Angot’s Introduction from Le Nyāya-Sūtra de Gautama Akṣapāda. Le Nyāya-Bhāṣya d’Akṣapāda Pakṣilasvāmin. L’art de conduire la pensée en Inde Ancienne. Édition, traduction et présentation (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2009).


See Bronkhorst, “Modes of debate,” 274.


For a critique of vāda as unproductive among people sharing the same worldview, see Daya Krishna, Discussion and Debate in Indian Philosophy: Issues in Vedānta, Mīmāṃsā, and Nyāya (Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 2004), 62.


Ibid., 25-26.


Daya Krishna, Nature of Philosophy (Kolkata: Prachi Prakashan, 1955), 18. A synthetic and yet insightful description of these a priori presuppositions undermining our cognitive efforts can be read in chapter 2 of Christopher Joseph Xavier, “Knowledge as a Way of Living: An Enquiry into the Cognitive Enterprise of Daya Krishna,” (ma thesis, Divyadaan Salesian Institute of Philosophy, Nasik, 2015).


Gianni Vattimo, A Farewell to Truth (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 9.


See Steinkellner’s Introduction in Ernst Prets and Hiroshi Marui (eds.), Transmission and Reflection. The Meaning and the Role of ‘Fragments’ in Indian Philosophy (Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften). (Forthcoming).


Pascale Hugon has for instance recently argued that an author of the Nyāya school, Jayanta, fails to adequately represent the position of the Buddhist author Dharmottara while discussing the apoha theory of linguistic signification. But given the complexity of the topic, it is possible that Jayanta just failed to understand all the subtleties of Dharmottara’s position. See Hugon’s contribution in Jayanta on Buddhist Nominalism, eds. Parimal Patil and Patrick McAllister (Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2016).


On the number and nature of nigrahasthānas in the medical and early logical literature, see Gerhard Oberhammer, Ernst Prets and Joachim Prandstetter, Terminologie der frühen philosophischen Scholastik in Indien. Ein Begriffswörterbuch zur altindischen Dialektik, Erkenntnislehre und Methodologie. Band 2: U-Pū (Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1996), sub voce.


See B.K. Matilal’s whole work on classical Indian logic and epistemology and Amartya Sen’s The Argumentative Indian: writings on Indian history, culture, and identity (New York: Farrar, 2005).


B.K. Matilal, “Debate and Dialectic in Ancient India,” in Philosophical Essays. Professor Anantalal Thakur Felicitation Volume, ed. Ramaranjan Mukherji (Calcutta: Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar, 1987), 53-56.


Daya Krishna, “Comparative Philosophy: What It Is and What It Ought to Be,” in Interpreting across Boundaries: New Essays in Comparative Philosophy, ed. G.J. Larson and E. Deutsch (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989), 61.


Daya Krishna, Ibid, 66.


See Gianni Vattimo’s pensiero debole (“weak thought”). Similar to Daya Krishna, Vattimo refuses to accept the dogmatic authority of Reason. See also Richard Rorty, “Heideggerianism and Leftist Politics,” in Weakening Philosophy: Essays in Honour of Gianni Vattimo, ed. Santiago Zabala (Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006), 154. This argument risks, however, to be only appealing to philosophers and intellectuals who have realised the limitations of the Platonic-Kantian myth of Reason.


See Xavier, “Knowledge as a Way of Living” and Xavier, “Saṃvāda as Successful Communication: Daya Krishna’s Ideas on Dialogue in Communication,” in Indian Philosophical Quarterly 43 (2016), 197-212.


See Bettina Bäumer, “‘Falling in Love with a Civilization’: A Tribute to Daya Krishna, the Thinker,” in Philosophy as Saṃvāda and Svarāj.


Emphasis added, Daya Krishna, “Comparative Philosophy: What It Is and What It Ought to Be,” 64.


Daya Krishna, “The Mīmāṃsaka versus Yājñika: Some Further Problem in the Interpretation of śruti in the Indian Tradition” (republished in New Perspectives in Indian Philosophy, Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 2001).


Emphasis added, Daya Krishna, The Nyāya Sūtras: A New Commentary on an Old Text (Delhi: Sri Satguru, 2004), 232.


Daya Krishna, “Vedānta in the First Millennium AD: The Case Study of a Retrospective Illusion Imposed by the Historiography of Indian Philosophy,” republished in his Discussion and Debate in Indian Philosophy: Issues in Vedānta, Mīmāṃsā, and Nyāya (Jaipur: Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 2004).


See Daya Krishna, Nature of Philosophy.


See Bäumer, “‘Falling in Love with a Civilization’: A Tribute to Daya Krishna, the Thinker,” 34-40.


For an idea of the critical exchanges (and thereby dialogues) originating from conceptual reinterpretations of Indian philosophy, see for example Discussion and Debate in Indian Philosophy and Agenda for Research in Indian & Western Philosophy, Prof. Daya Krishna (vol. i-ii), ed. R. S. Bhatnagar (Jaipur: ugc, asihss Programme, Literary Circle), 2013.


One could refer to Gayatri Chakravorthy Spivak for addressing some of these (socio-political) issues with the notion of “subaltern” in Gayatri Chakravorthy Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, ed. Cary Nelson (Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1988), 271-313.


The homogeneity presupposed while using the term “West” in India is criticised for example by A. Raghuramaraju, Debates in Indian Philosophy, Classical, Colonial and Contemporary (Delhi: Oxford University Press). “Western” can only be understood in opposition to another cultural location like “Eastern,” which gives the impression of two unified entities radically different from another. The risk of reducing the plurality of philosophies within a cultural area if one uses this binary division has to be underlined. The term refers here to a common use in academic context and designates any work from the European and American traditions translated into English that found reception in Indian academic contexts.


Daya Krishna, India’s Intellectual Traditions, Attempts at Conceptual Reconstructions (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987), xvi.


“Few people know, in India or elsewhere, that Sanskrit is still the living lingua franca of traditional scholarship in India, that the only language in which intellectual dialogue can be carried on between these persons from different parts of India, which may be as distant from each other as Kashmir and Kerala or Manipur and Gujarat, is Sanskrit and Sanskrit alone, as the only other language they know is their regional language which are as diverse as the regions they belong to.” Daya Krishna et al., Saṃvāda, A Dialogue between Two Philosophical Traditions (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1991), xi. See also Daya Krishna, Civilizations: Nostalgia and Utopia (Shima-Los Angeles: sage), 76.


Nietzsche defines antiquarian history as follows: “History thus belongs in the second place to him who preserves and reveres – to him who looks back to whence he has come, to where he came into being, with love and loyalty; with this piety he as it were gives thanks for his existence. By tending with care that which has existed from of old, he wants to preserve for those who shall come into existence after him the conditions under which he himself came into existence – and thus he serves life.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely meditations, ed. Daniel Breazeale, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 72-73.


Daya Krishna, Mukund Lath and Francine E. Krishna, Bhakti: A Contemporary Discussion – Philosophical Explorations in the Indian Bhakti Tradition (Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 2000), 7.


Ibid., ii.


Ibid., 254.


Ibid., 255.


Interestingly, the “temporal imbalance” in relating modern or contemporary Western philosophy and classical Indian philosophy is what A. Raghuramaraju criticises in Daya Krishna’s project, accusing the latter of neglecting modern Indian philosophy. However, Daya Krishna precisely engaged with “classical” Indian philosophy with their contemporary representative in order to let them creatively respond in their terms and with their arguments to other philosophical traditions. A dialogue has therefore the advantage of shaking the fixity of historical qualification. See A. Raghuramaraju, Philosophy and India, Ancestors, Outsiders, and Predecessors (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013), xv; 55-65.


Daya Krishna, Contrary Thinking, Selected Essays of Daya Krishna, ed. by Nalini Bhushan, Daniel Raveh and Jay L. Garfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 59-67.


Daya Krishna, Bhakti, 2-3.


Ibid., 4.


Daya Krishna, Contrary Thinking, 35-36.


“The frustration with interminable discussion that leads nowhere and results only in a perpetual reiteration of ‘known’ alternatives, arises generally when the participants instead of ‘trying’ to think, begin propounding what they believe in invoking the ‘authorities’ of the past or even the present, thus changing the ‘discussion’ into a ‘debate’ between those who have settled ‘positions’ of their own which they are not prepared to ‘think’ about any further.” Daya Krishna, Conversation, Dialogue, Debate, and the Probleme of Knowledge, unpublished, 6.


Daya Krishna, Bhakti, 5.


Ibid., 9-10. See also the Appendix I in which the issues for discussion sent beforehand are stated, ibid., 254.


Shiv Kumar Sastry reacted first on Daya Krishna’s question by differentiating a darśana (view, doctrine, philosophical system) based on reasoning and dialectics, and the realm of bhakti, which prevents a strictly rational method. Ibid., 11-12.


Ibid., 33.


Ibid., 35. Kedar Nath Misra’s full statement on the topic is found in ibid., 33-43.


Ibid., 64-65.


Daya Krishna wonders about the possibility for Indian philosophers to communicate throughout India in Sanskrit beyond the hegemony of English. However, he also encouraged exploring the internal linguistic diversity in India. This implies that Daya Krishna was also against the monopoly of Sanskrit for characterising “Indian” philosophy. He argued for the reevaluation of all Indian traditions of philosophising, which may not belong to the traditional Hindu orthodox schools (such as some bhakti traditions). In particular, a mention by Mustafa Khawaja of a saṃvāda between Ulemas in Urdu language in Hyderabad shows his engagement toward Islamic philosophy. See Mustafa Khawaja, “The Dialogue Must Continue”, 112-119.


See Daya Krishna’s equal worry for the monopoly of English language over other European languages. Daya Krishna, Civilizations, 75.


This falls back to creating binary relations such as “Indian spirituality versus Western rationality” where Indian scholars could defend their superior spirituality against the “emptiness” of Western rationality, which in turn leads to the static association of cultural and philosophical characteristics. See Daya Krishna’s criticism of this dichotomy denounced as the “myth” of Indian philosophy, in Indian Philosophy, a Counter-Perspective (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1991), 5-7.; see also, for example, socio-philosophical reconstruction of the myth by Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian, Writings on Indian Culture, History and Identity (London: Penguin Books, 2006), 79-80.


Daya Krishna, Bhakti, iii.


This refers to the aforementioned question of a possibility of using the concept pūrvapakṣa for an analysis of bhakti. Rukmini states that Rāmānuja is an opponent of Advaita, although he does not not refute Advaita in the rational method implied by the term pūrvapakṣa: “As for Rāmānuja, I think he is only debating against Advaita. He is trying to refute it, through his own commentary on the same text, the Brahma-sūtra, giving a different interpretation. He uses a different kind of argument to establish his position against the Advaitic position, but there is nothing philosophical per se in it. There is no demolition of the pūrvapakṣa and the establishment of sidhānta; it is just a way of interpreting Upaniṣads. He says that it is more appropriate to understand them in terms of his Viśaṣṭādvaita.” Ibid., 16-17. At the level of communication in the bhakti dialogue, however, this constitutes a counterposition against the idea of having a counterposition to the bhakti tradition, as articulated by Shiv Kumar Sastry below.


Ibid., 18.


Emphasis added, Ibid., 11-12.


Another argument for refusing a restrictive concept of pūrvapakṣa in this dialogue involves the textual form taken by the bhakti traditions. Rukmini stated: “Do we have a philosophical text on bhakti available? When we look at the darśanas, whether it is Advaita or Yoga, or Nyāya, the pūrvapakṣa is very much concerned with refuting the theory of anātma of the Buddhists. Now, do we have anything like that in the bhakti tradition? I have not come across it. In such a perspective, that is, the perspective of the pūrvapakṣa and siddhānta, we do not have such a debate in bhakti.” Ibid., 16.


Gandhi mainly employed the term Swaraj to press for home rule of India by the Indian. Though his argument was mainly political, Gandhi also expounded its social and cultural aspects. He argued for a rejection of Western civilisation and cautions that by swaraj he does not want an “English rule without the Englishman... that is to say, [they] would make India English. And when it becomes English, it will be called not Hindustan but Englishtan. This is not the Swaraj I want.” See M.K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, (Varanasi: Sarva Seva Sangh Prakashan, 2014), 25.


K.C. Bhattacharya, “Svaraj in Ideas,” Indian Philosophical Quarterly xi No. 4 (1984): Section 1.


Daya Krishna, India’s Intellectual Traditions, xx.


Bhattacharya, “Svaraj in Ideas,” Section 9.


Ibid., Section 9 and 14.


Sequence seminars, according to Barlingay, were the seminars that he organised (probably up to the 1980s) under the sponsorship of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (icpr). The seminars intended to address the theoretical problem of traditionalism in Indian philosophy by arranging dialogues between pandits and Western scholars. The exercise included the study of texts and their commentaries to accept “what is living in Indian philosophy” and to give up “what is dead.” See S.S. Barlingay, Confessions and Commitments, (New Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 1994), 73.


Ibid., 75.


A. Raghuramaraju, Philosophy and India, 55-65.


Shail Mayaram states that there are many conceptions of samvāda in Daya Krishna’s work. She rightly includes Daya Krishna’s effort of a collective engagement with “Sāstras on dhrama, artha and nātya.” Then she moves on to the description of actual samvādas that he and his colleagues organised throughout India. These samvādas were actual dialogues with traditional scholars of Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian. Arindam Chakrabarti tells us that a samvāda was also organised on the concept of number, which lasted for a week. However, only two of these samvādas were published: Samvāda (1991) and Bhakti (2000). See Shail Mayaram, Philosophy as Samvāda and Svarāj, xxii-xxiv.


Shail Mayaram focuses on some of these philosophers in her imagined samvāda between Ramchandra Gandhi and Daya Krishna, where the latter seeks to brush off Raghuramaraju’s criticism of the neglect (and the ensuing imbalance): “we need not be centrally concerned with them (modern philosophers) as already so much work has been done on Sri Aurobindo, Vivekānanda, Gandhi.” See Shail Mayaram, “Afterword: An Imagined Dialogue between Daya Krishna and Ramachandra Gandhi,” 284.


Raghuramaraju points here to something important: Indian philosophy written in English should be subject to serious criticism for being neglected in samvāda. In other words, Colonial philosophy in English should be seen as a gateway to the contemporary mode of philosophising. And for Raghuramaraju this neglect is a serious issue. Daya Krishna himself, being a product of Colonial education (i.e., trained in English), wrote almost all of his philosophy in English.


Bhushan and Garfield highlighted the English turn of Colonial Indian philosophy and argued that the English (language) secularised and positioned it within the global enterprise of philosophy. In a way, Colonial Indian philosophy liberated Indian philosophy from its Sanskrit straightjacket offering thus the theoretical and ideological foundations for public political struggle. However, a question regarding how far such liberation helped the Indian philosophy to prosper remains to be asked. See Nalini Bhushan and Jay L. Garfield, “Pandits and Professors: The Renaissance of Secular India,” in Indian Philosophy in English: From renaissance to Independence, eds. Nalini Bhushan and Jay L. Garfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 5-6.


A. Raghuramaraju, Philosophy and India, 63.


Ibid., 63.


It is important to note that Raghuramaraju only refers to the political matrix that informs colonial Indian philosophy. He does not directly argue about the political matrix being overlooked in samvāda, although he seems to be pointing in this direction.


Raghuramaraju, Philosophy and India, 59.


Ibid., 64.


These views come from Bhushan and Garfield’s interview with Daya Krishna in 2006, a year before his death. Bhushan and Garfield start the introduction of their book with Daya Krishna’s radical views on Indian philosophy, which he subsequently deconstructs. Interestingly, the interview was not made public, and many scholars in India doubt about its faithfulness to Daya Krishna’s own words. See Bhushan and Garfield, “Whose Voice? Whose Tongue? Philosophy in English in Colonial India,” xiii-xiv.


Ibid., xiv. The book contains a selection of articles written by colonial Indian philosophers. The main aim, as the authors say, is to respond to the general predicament of colonial Indian philosophical writings as not being Indian philosophy.


Sharad Deshpande, “Introduction – Modern Indian Philosophy: From Colonialism to Cosmopolitanism,” in Philosophy in Colonial India, ed. Sharad Deshpande (New Delhi: Springer and Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, 2015), 16.


The Interdisciplinary Group was a group of scholars from various disciplines in the Social Sciences and Humanities that used to meet frequently during the early 1980s at various places in India to discuss ways and issues regarding the conceptual articulation of Indian tradition. For details regarding the interdisciplinary group see Daya Krishna, introduction to India’s Intellectual Traditions, xxx-xxxvi.


Ibid., x. (Emphasis added).


Raghuramaraju, Philosophy and India, 55.


Daya Krishna, preface to Samvāda, xv.


M.P. Rege, introduction to Samvāda, xxiv.


While Daya Krishna aimed at resurrecting a “dead and mummified” philosophical tradition, Rege thought that dealing with a new set of pūrvapakṣin could have a revitalising effect on Indian philosophy. Thus, both aimed at limiting the focus of samvāda, perhaps unintentionally, to reinvent Indian philosophy and keep it alive.


Bhushan and Garfield, “Whose Voice? Whose Tongue? Philosophy in English in Colonial India,” xiv. The fictional character of Daya Krishna in Shail Mayaram’s imagined samvāda between Daya Krishna and Ramachandra Gandhi reiterates the disillusionment: the former is very critical of the West’s refusal to engage with and respond to Indian intellectuals. See, Shail Mayaram, “Afterword: An Imagined Dialogue between Daya Krishna and Ramachandra Gandhi,” 282.


Daya Krishna, “Comments,” Indian Philosophical Quarterly xi No. 4 (1984), 565.


Shail Mayaram, “Afterword: An Imagined Dialogue between Daya Krishna and Ramachandra Gandhi,” 283.