What is the traditional relation of religion to politics in India? Recent scholarly debate has generated at least two divergent answers. According to one view there is a long standing traditional opposition between religion and politics in India because its highest value (moksa) is renunciatory and asocial. According to another view a separation of religion from politics is contrary to Indian ways of thinking and the present currency of such a picture is the product of various colonialist strategies.
I want to address the question from the perspective of classical Indian philosophy. To be able do so, however, I shall also need to utilize some work in Western philosophy. In particular, I need to say something about the crucial terms ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ and their relevance to the classical Indian tradition. My theoretical approach will be influenced by Western philosophy but my historical focus will be on the Sanskrit philosophical tradition. In this sense there are two distinct philosophical perspectives offered here.
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