Arthur Schopenhauer, the 19th-century German philosopher, is known for his pessimistic philosophy of life and his keen interest in Eastern philosophy, particularly Indian philosophy. Schopenhauer’s philosophy is heavily influenced by the Indian philosophy of Vedanta and Buddhism, and his works contain many references to these traditions. In this article, we’ll explore Schopenhauer’s fascination with Indian philosophy, its influence on his thought, and the similarities and differences between his philosophy and Indian philosophy.
Schopenhauer’s interest in Indian philosophy can be traced back to his youth. He was introduced to Indian philosophy by his father, who had traveled extensively in India and was familiar with its culture and philosophy. Schopenhauer was particularly drawn to the Vedanta philosophy, which he saw as a source of ancient wisdom that had much to offer to modern thinkers.
Schopenhauer’s view of Indian philosophy was shaped by his reading of the Upanishads, which he saw as a source of profound insights into the nature of reality. He was especially interested in the concept of Brahman, the ultimate reality that underlies all existence. Schopenhauer saw Brahman as an expression of the Will, which he believed was the fundamental force behind all existence.
Schopenhauer’s interest in Indian philosophy is evident in his major work, The World as Will and Representation. In this work, he draws heavily on Indian philosophy to develop his own theory of the Will. According to Schopenhauer, the Will is the fundamental force behind all existence, and it is the source of human desires and suffering. He saw the human desire for material goods, fame, and power as expressions of the Will, which ultimately lead to dissatisfaction and suffering.
Schopenhauer’s philosophy is similar to Indian philosophy in many respects. Like Indian philosophy, Schopenhauer’s philosophy emphasizes the importance of inner experience and self-knowledge. He believed that the ultimate goal of human life is to transcend the world of appearances and attain a state of inner peace and enlightenment.
Schopenhauer’s philosophy also shares many similarities with Buddhist philosophy. Like Buddhism, Schopenhauer’s philosophy sees desire and attachment as the root causes of suffering. He believed that the human desire for material goods and worldly success was the cause of much of the unhappiness in the world.
Despite these similarities, there are also significant differences between Schopenhauer’s philosophy and Indian philosophy. One of the major differences is in their understanding of the nature of reality. Indian philosophy sees the world as an illusion, a product of Maya or cosmic illusion. Schopenhauer, on the other hand, saw the world as a real and objective entity that exists independently of human consciousness.
Another major difference between Schopenhauer’s philosophy and Indian philosophy is in their understanding of the human self. In Indian philosophy, the self is seen as an eternal and unchanging entity that is identical to the ultimate reality. Schopenhauer, on the other hand, saw the self as a product of the Will, a temporary and fleeting entity that is subject to the whims of desire and suffering.
Despite these differences, Schopenhauer’s interest in Indian philosophy had a profound influence on his thought. He saw Indian philosophy as a source of ancient wisdom that had much to offer to modern thinkers. He believed that the insights of Indian philosophy could help us to better understand the nature of reality and the human condition.
In conclusion, Schopenhauer’s interest in Indian philosophy was a central part of his thought. His fascination with Vedanta and Buddhism helped to shape his philosophy of the Will and his view of the human condition. While there are differences between Schopenhauer’s philosophy and Indian philosophy, his engagement with Indian thought has left a lasting legacy in the history of philosophy.