The study of philosophical terms and doctrines in the Mahābhārata touches not only on important aspects of the contents, composition and the historical contexts of the epic, but also on the historiography of Indian philosophy. General ideas about the textual history of the epic and the distinction between “didactic” and “narrative” parts have influenced the study of epic philosophy no less than academic discussions about what is philosophy in India and how it developed. This results in different evaluations of the place of philosophical texts in the epic and their relationship to the history of Indian philosophy. While some scholars have suggested that there is a “philosophy of the epic” its composers wished to propagate, others have argued that “philosophy” is included in the epic either in a “proto” form or in a variety of doctrines (often presented is “mixed” or “unsystematic” ways) they deemed relevant. The article discusses these views and some of the heuristic assumptions on which they are based. It proposes to widen the scope of analysis by paying more attention to the interplay of narrative and didactic passages, the various ways in which philosophy is presented in the epic, and its connection to a larger spectrum of the reception of philosophy in textual genres and by audiences outside the expert circles of the philosophical schools.
Journal of Indian Philosophy – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 10, 2016
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