ICPR National Seminar
Teaching Indian Philosophy in North-East India
By North-East part of India, we usually mean territories of Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim, Assam and even some parts of West Bengal like Darjeeling and New Cooch Behar. When the question is asked how and why the teaching of Indian philosophy in North-East part of India need special attention. The answer may be that the tribal people of this part of India like the Khasis, Garos, Mizos, Nagas, Bodos, Nyishis, Borok people etc are politically very conscious.
Tribal people of the region have their own philosophy and worldviews. As many tribes, so many different cultural, social, aesthetic and philosophical perspectives leading to a rich variety of social meanings encoded in their languages and practices of life. The proposed seminar would consider important tribal worldviews as starting points for doing what goes on in the name of “Indian Philosophy” or Indian Knowledge Systems as opposed to Western Science or Western Knowledge systems. The seminar will explore specific concepts of tribal belief systems such as supreme being, elements of the universe, spirits, rites of passage, sacred places, chants, rhythms and rituals as available within their ‘form of life’ . This will open up a new paradigm of ethnic, cultural and indigenous philosophical studies into tribal ways of life present in North-eastern region. This will also enhance a better understanding of cultural and philosophical diversity, going beyond the anthropological and the ethnographic approaches and it will pave ways for a two way transaction between mainstream Indian philosophy and tribal philosophy to emerge into a more contemporary interpretative scheme of knowledge. Doing Indian Philosophy in a contextual manner in Northeast India will enrich both the sociological and philosophical ways of knowledge of tribes and communities belonging to India’s Northeast.
Almost all the North-East people have the history of insurgency and secessionist movements. Guwahati is the first university set up in 1948 in North-East India. Before independence, students from North-East pursued their higher education in Kolkata University. After Guwahati University, Dibrugarh University was set up in 1965. The third and the first Central University of the region was North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong set up in 1973. The credit goes to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for taking the initiative to start the first central university in the North-East. The philosophy department was one of the first departments to have been set up in North-Eastern Hill University. The first Reader and Head of Department of philosophy was a tribal from the region, namely, Dr. Mrinal Miri who was trained in Cambridge University. London. The students were mainly tribal boys and girls from the region along with a few others. For obvious reasons, contemporary European philosophy was given importance both in teaching and research. But this does not mean Indian philosophy was not given any importance either in teaching or research. The teaching and research among the tribal boys and girls in Indian philosophy did not make perceptible impact on them. The first and foremost reason is that the tribal students did not have any acquaintance with Sanskrit language. A bit of acquaintance with Sanskrit language was very much necessary because the tribal languages of the North-East did not have any connection with Sanskrit language. Further, for some political, historical and cultural reasons the tribal students of North-East were not very much attracted towards Sanskrit language; ipso facto, towards Indian philosophy. As a result, the department had to finally devise very popular courses in order to attract tribal students towards the study of Indian philosophy along with tribal myths, folklores and folktales as they were having some resemblances with Hindu folklores. The situation has not improved much till date. Perhaps the study of Indian philosophy even in the so called the plain areas has not improved radically. One of the main reasons is no availability of standard text books of Indian philosophy. It may be pointed out in this connection that the study of Greek, German and French philosophy did not require the students to get first hand acquaintance with such languages. In the 70s of the past century, The University Grants Commission organized workshops for effective teaching of philosophy particularly Indian philosophy but still things have not improved in this regard. It is a fact that some scholars have published good text books on Indian philosophy but the situations have not significantly improved in this regard. Vedanta the main philosophical school in India is not available in Standard English translation as text books for study and teaching in the subject. The text books written by Hiriyana, S.N Dasgupta, Radhakrishnan, K.C.Bhattacharya, B.K. Matilal, Daya Krishna and some other Indian scholars are used in teaching and research.
- It is now necessary for the scholars of India as their first and foremost duty to undertake the translation of standard of main concepts into English. In other words, a dictionary of Indian philosophy and standard text books are necessary. Scholars should be invited to write papers on various aspects and dimensions of Indian classical languages such as Sanskrit, Pali and prakrit and teaching of Indian philosophy.
- Publication and translation of Sanskrit-English dictionary of important and central concepts of Indian philosophy
- Collection and compilation of all writings on Indian philosophy in the contemporary period.
- Tribal cultures of North-East India. Social and political philosophies including philosophy of education can be explored. Concepts and their philosophical underpinnings as available in all the tribal systems of life and belief need to be studied carefully and their philosophical, metaphysical, ethical, aesthetic and epistemological significance be brought out.
- Philosophy has not changed its main focus and technique. On the other hand both natural and social sciences have changed their focus and technique. Philosophy is critical reflection of everything. In other words, it is a criticism of thought. This view of philosophy has not undergone any change. Therefore, it is necessary at this juncture to discuss philosophical dimensions of the present day Indian society by focussing on caste, tribe, community, nation and the global scenario.
- Ancient India contributed significantly to the philosophy of language that Wittgenstein, Ryles, B. Russell and others talked of in the last century. Therefore, it is necessary to make a threadbare discussion and debate on Indian philosophy of language including tribal languages of Northeast India.
- Further, some Indians like Gandhi, Ambedkar, Tagore, Aurobindo, Vivekananda, Narayan Guru, Jayaprakash Narayan, M.N.Roy, Binobha Bhave and others have contributed a lot towards political and social philosophy. It is necessary at this point that we concentrate on Indian social and political philosophy including tribal and Dalit social philosophy and theory. In this sense there can be philosophy of everything including philosophy of philosophy. It is not only classical Indian philosophy but also contemporary Indian philosophy including political and social ideas of some of the distinguished tribal leaders of North-East India.
- Some Indian philosophers’ writings on Indian philosophy like Dayakrishna, Rajendra Prasad and Sundara Rajan and others should be discussed so as to give guidance and directions to the present scholars.
- Intensive discussions should be made on the basic concepts of Indian philosophy such as Brahman, Atman, Jiva, Sanskara, Trnasmigration, mukti and moksa etc. These concepts have been misunderstood and misinterpreted.
- Tribal worldviews should be reinterpreted in the light of Christianity and indigenous faith of tribal people.
- Ethnic, multi-linguistic, religious and cultural problems in North-East India can be discussed in detail.
- Proposal on preparation of multi-linguistic dictionary of important concepts of Indian philosophy.
- Writing of standard text books on Indian philosophy.
- Proposal for teaching of elementary Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit to philosophy students of North-East India.
- Tribal worldviews and Indian philosophy. Tribal philosophy of the region should be considered as part and parcel of Indian philosophy both in classical and contemporary times.
- Teaching of Indian philosophy in the context of multi-linguistic and cultural pluralism in North-East.
Papers are invited in some of the above-mentioned areas, although not exclusively on those areas. Papers should be submitted to the co-ordinator in the address given below by 30th May,2016 as ICPR requires the papers to release the grant as per norms.
Dept. Of Philosophy