Schopenhauer: Christianity has nothing to offer India in Philosophy

Although Arthur Schopenhauer understood Indian philosophy from the Advaitin perspective and considered reincarnation: a myth with tremendous teaching; he revered the ancient lore and saw that Christianity had nothing to match it. Here is a passage from The World as Will and Representation which he wrote in 1819:

‘Never has a myth been, and never will one be, more closely associated with a philosophical truth accessible to so few, than this very ancient teaching of the noblest and oldest of peoples. Degenerate as this race may now be in many respects, this truth still prevails with it as the universal creed of the people, and it has a decided influence on life today, as it had four thousand years ago. Therefore Pythagoras and Plato grasped with admiration that non plus ultra of mythical expression, took it over from India or Egypt, revered it, applied it, and themselves believed it , to what extent we know not. We, on the contrary, now send to the Brahmins English clergymen and evangelical linen-weavers, in order out of sympathy to put them right, and to point out to them that they are created out of nothing, and that they ought to be grateful and pleased about it. But it is just the same as if we fired a bullet at a cliff. In India our religions will never at anytime take root; the ancient wisdom of the human race will not be supplanted by the events in Galilee. On the contrary, Indian wisdom flows back to Europe, and will produce a fundamental change in our knowledge and thought.’

Although the Indian ways or Hindu ethos is recognisably spreading internationally as has been recently acknowledge by Lisa Miller in Newsweek:; still, and perhaps much to consternation of Schopenhauer, Christianity is spreading rapidly in India. This may be due to the ‘degeneration’ as Schopenhauer mentioned, which one may only speculate to be as what became the hereditary form of recognition and social organisation. As a result of this (and other factors) such troubles as: the unfair distribution of wealth, poverty and the lack of opportunity for the impoverished have created tremendous vulnerability. Christianity which attempts to offer caste free identity, wealth and social opportunity definitely has a huge market in India, as well as other third world countries. They are offering a life line to those who have suffered most from the ‘degeneration’. However, for those of us who have these things and in having them realise that the suffering of life endures, we hanker for meaning or a philosophical understanding and for this—as Schopenhauer quite correctly proposes— there is none quite like India’s. So in time when there is a better distribution of wealth, more equal opportunity and thus less unfairness, perhaps Indians will far more appreciate their incredible philosophical inheritance, one which the rest of the world is now turning to.

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