Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

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Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Photograph of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan presented to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1962.jpg
2nd President of India
In office
14 May 1962 13 May 1967
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
Gulzarilal Nanda (Acting)
Lal Bahadur Shastri
Gulzarilal Nanda (Acting)
Indira Gandhi
Vice President Zakir Hussain
Preceded by Rajendra Prasad
Succeeded by Zakir Hussain
1st Vice President of India
In office
13 May 1952 12 May 1962
President Rajendra Prasad
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
Succeeded by Zakir Hussain
Personal details
Born(1888-09-05)5 September 1888
Thiruttani , Madras Presidency, British India [1]
Died17 April 1975(1975-04-17) (aged 86)
Madras, Tamil Nadu, India
Political party Independent
Spouse(s)Sivakamu (Died 1956)
Children5 (daughters) 1 (Son) Sarvepalli Gopal
ParentsFather : Veerasamy
Mother : Seethammal
Alma mater University of Madras
Awards Bharat Ratna (1954)
Templeton Prize (1975)

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan Loudspeaker.svg listen   (5 September 1888 – 17 April 1975) was an Indian philosopher and statesman [2] who served as the first Vice President of India (1952–1962) and the second President of India (1962–1967). [web 1]

Vice President of India Second-highest constitutional office of India

The Vice President of India is the second-highest constitutional office in India after the President. Article 63 of Indian Constitution states that "There shall be a Vice President of India." The Vice President acts as President in the absence of the president due to death, resignation, impeachment, or other situations.

President of India Ceremonial head of state of India

The President of India is the ceremonial head of state of India and the commander-in-chief of the Indian Armed Forces.


One of India's most distinguished twentieth-century scholars of comparative religion and philosophy, [3] [web 2] after completing his education at Madras Christian College in 1911, he became Assistant Professor and later Professor of Philosophy at Madras Presidency College then subsequently Professor of Philosophy at the University of Mysore (1918-1921); the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at the University of Calcutta (1921–1932) and Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at University of Oxford (1936–1952) by which he became the first Indian to hold a professorial chair at the University of Oxford. He was Upton Lecturer at Manchester College, Oxford in 1926, 1929, and 1930. In 1930 he was appointed Haskell lecturer in Comparative Religion at the University of Chicago. [4]

Comparative religion systematic comparison of the worlds religions

Comparative religion is the branch of the study of religions concerned with the systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices of the world's religions. In general the comparative study of religion yields a deeper understanding of the fundamental philosophical concerns of religion such as ethics, metaphysics, and the nature and forms of salvation. Studying such material is meant to give one a broadened and more sophisticated understanding of human beliefs and practices regarding the sacred, numinous, spiritual, and divine.

The Madras Christian College (MCC) is an arts and sciences college based in Madras (Chennai), Tamil Nadu, India. Consistently ranked among the top ten colleges in India, it is considered to be one of the most prestigious colleges in India. Founded in 1837, MCC is one of Asia's oldest extant colleges. The college is affiliated to the University of Madras but functions as an autonomous institution from its main campus in Tambaram, Chennai.

University of Mysore university

The University of Mysore is a public state university in Mysore, Karnataka, India. The university was founded during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, the Maharaja of Mysore. It opened on 27 July 1916. Its first chancellor was the Maharaja of Mysore; the first Vice-Chancellor was H. V. Nanjundaiah. The university became the first outside the British administration in India, the sixth in India as a whole, and the first in Karnataka. It is a state university of the affiliating type, and became autonomous on 3 March 1956, when it gained recognition from the University Grants Commission.

His philosophy was grounded in Advaita Vedanta, reinterpreting this tradition for a contemporary understanding. [web 2] He defended Hinduism against "uninformed Western criticism", [5] contributing to the formation of contemporary Hindu identity. [6] He has been influential in shaping the understanding of Hinduism, in both India and the west, and earned a reputation as a bridge-builder between India and the West. [7]

Advaita Vedanta School of Hindu philosophy, a classic path to spiritual realization

Advaita Vedanta, originally known as Puruṣavāda, is a school of Hindu philosophy, and believed to be one of the classic paths to spiritual realization in Hindu tradition. The term Advaita refers to its idea that the true self, Atman, is the same as the highest metaphysical Reality (Brahman). The followers of this school are known as Advaita Vedantins, or just Advaitins or Mayavadins, and they seek spiritual liberation through acquiring vidyā, meaning knowledge, of one's true identity as Atman, and the identity of Atman and Brahman.

Radhakrishnan was awarded several high awards during his life, including a knighthood in 1931, the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, in 1954, and honorary membership of the British Royal Order of Merit in 1963. He was also one of the founders of Helpage India, a non profit organisation for elderly underprivileged in India. Radhakrishnan believed that "teachers should be the best minds in the country". Since 1962, his birthday has been celebrated in India as Teachers' Day on 5 September. [web 3]

Bharat Ratna Indias highest civilian award

The Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of the Republic of India. Instituted in 1954, the award is conferred "in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order", without distinction of race, occupation, position, or sex. The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science, and public services, but the government expanded the criteria to include "any field of human endeavour" in December 2011. The recommendations for the Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister to the President, with a maximum of three nominees being awarded per year. Recipients receive a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a peepal-leaf–shaped medallion; there is no monetary grant associated with the award. Bharat Ratna recipients rank seventh in the Indian order of precedence.

Order of Merit Dynastic order recognising distinguished service with the Commonwealth

The Order of Merit is an order of merit recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture. Established in 1902 by King Edward VII, admission into the order remains the personal gift of its Sovereign—currently Edward VII's great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II—and is restricted to a maximum of 24 living recipients from the Commonwealth realms, plus a limited number of honorary members. While all members are awarded the right to use the post-nominal letters OM and wear the badge of the order, the Order of Merit's precedence among other honours differs between countries.


Early life

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born in a Telugu-speaking Niyogi Brahmin [8] Hindu family, in Puliangudii in the erstwhile Madras Presidency. [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] His father's name was Sarvepalli Veeraswami and his mother's name was Sarvepalli Sita (Sitamma). His early years were spent in Thiruttani and Tirupati. His father was a subordinate revenue official in the service of a local zamindar (local landlord). His primary education was at K.V High School at Thiruttani. In 1896 he moved to the Hermansburg Evangelical Lutheran Mission School in Tirupati and Government High Secondary School, Walajapet. [15]

Telugu language Dravidian language

Telugu is a Dravidian language spoken in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and the union territories of Puducherry (Yanam) by the Telugu people. It stands alongside Hindi, English and Bengali as one of the few languages with primary official language status in more than one Indian state. There are also significant linguistic minorities in neighbouring states. It is one of six languages designated a classical language of India by the country's government.

Madras Presidency Administrative subdivision of British India

The Madras Presidency, or the Presidency of Fort St. George, and also known as Madras Province, was an administrative subdivision (presidency) of British India. At its greatest extent, the presidency included most of southern India, including the whole of the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and parts of Odisha, Kerala, Karnataka and the union territory of Lakshadweep. The city of Madras was the winter capital of the Presidency and Ootacamund or Ooty, the summer capital. The Island of Ceylon was a part of Madras Presidency from 1793 to 1798 when it was created a Crown colony. Madras Presidency was neighboured by the Kingdom of Mysore on the northwest, Kingdom of Kochi on the southwest, and the Kingdom of Hyderabad on the north. Some parts of the presidency were also flanked by Bombay Presidency.

Zamindar Indian hereditary aristocrat

A zamindar, zomindar, zomidar, or jomidar, in the Indian subcontinent was an aristocrat. The term means land owner in Persian. Typically hereditary, zamindars held enormous tracts of land and control over their peasants, from whom they reserved the right to collect tax on behalf of imperial courts or for military purposes. Their families carried titular suffixes of lordship.


Indian President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan with US President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, 1963 President John F. Kennedy with Indian President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, in the Oval Office (1).jpg
Indian President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan with US President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, 1963

Radhakrishnan was awarded scholarships throughout his academic life. He joined Voorhees College in Vellore but switched to the Madras Christian College at the age of 17. He graduated from there in 1906 with a Voorha master's degree in Philosophy, being one of its most distinguished alumni. [16]

Voorhees College (India)

Voorhees College is a college in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India. It was founded in 1898 as Arcot Mission College, when Arcot Mission High School was amalgamated to the University of Madras. The college is named after its benefactors, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph and Elizabeth Voorhees of the Reformed Church in America. The College was earlier known as Ralph and Elizabeth Voorhees college when it was a Co-educational institution. In the late sixties towards the end of the tenure of Dr. A.N. Gopal, the then principal, the college stopped admitting women students and dropped the names Ralph and Elizabeth and became known as Voorhees College. The college began offering master's level courses in 1975. The College is managed by the Church of South India, Diocese of Vellore. The Chairman of the College is the Bishop of Vellore, and the motto is "In vain without God."

Vellore Corporation City in Tamil Nadu, India

Vellore is a city and the administrative headquarters of Vellore District in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the banks of the Palar River in the north-eastern part of Tamil Nadu, the city has been ruled, at different times, by the Pallavas, Medieval Cholas, Later Cholas, Vijayanagar Empire, Rashtrakutas, Carnatic kingdom and the British. The city has four zones covering an area of 87.915 km2 and has a population of 423,425 based on the 2001 census. It is located about 135 kilometres (84 mi) west of Chennai and about 210 kilometres (130 mi) east of Bangalore. Vellore is administered by Vellore Municipal Corporation under a mayor. It is a part of Vellore and Vellore.

Radhakrishnan studied philosophy by chance rather than choice. Being a financially constrained student, when a cousin who graduated from the same college passed on his philosophy textbooks in to Radhakrishnan, it automatically decided his academic course. [17] [18]

Radhakrishnan wrote his thesis for the M.A. degree on "The Ethics of the Vedanta and its Metaphysical Presuppositions". [19] It "was intended to be a reply to the charge that the Vedanta system had no room for ethics." [20] He was afraid that this M.A. thesis would offend his philosophy professor, Dr. Alfred George Hogg. Instead, Hogg commended Radhakrishnan on having done most excellent work.[ citation needed ] Radhakrishnan's thesis was published when he was only twenty. According to Radhakrishnan himself, the criticism of Hogg and other Christian teachers of Indian culture "disturbed my faith and shook the traditional props on which I leaned." [20] Radhakrishnan himself describes how, as a student,

The challenge of Christian critics impelled me to make a study of Hinduism and find out what is living and what is dead in it. My pride as a Hindu, roused by the enterprise and eloquence of Swami Vivekananda, was deeply hurt by the treatment accorded to Hinduism in missionary institutions. [5]

This led him to his critical study of Indian philosophy and religion [20] and a lifelong defence of Hinduism against "uninformed Western criticism". [5]

Marriage and family

Radhakrishnan was married to Sivakamu, [note 1] a distant cousin, at the age of 16. [21] As per tradition the marriage was arranged by the family. The couple had five daughters and a son, Sarvepalli Gopal. Sarvepalli Gopal went on to a notable career as a historian. Sivakamu died in 1956. They were married for over 51 years.

Academic career

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan drawn by Bujjai and signed by Radhakrishnan in Telugu as "Radhakrishnayya". Radhakrishnan telugu signature.jpg
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan drawn by Bujjai and signed by Radhakrishnan in Telugu as "Radhakrishnayya".

In April 1909, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was appointed to the Department of Philosophy at the Madras Presidency College. Thereafter, in 1918, he was selected as Professor of Philosophy by the University of Mysore, where he taught at its Maharaja's College, Mysore. [web 4] [22] By that time he had written many articles for journals of repute like The Quest, Journal of Philosophy and the International Journal of Ethics. He also completed his first book, The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore. He believed Tagore's philosophy to be the "genuine manifestation of the Indian spirit". His second book, The Reign of Religion in Contemporary Philosophy was published in 1920.

In 1921 he was appointed as a professor in philosophy to occupy the King George V Chair of Mental and Moral Science at the University of Calcutta. He represented the University of Calcutta at the Congress of the Universities of the British Empire in June 1926 and the International Congress of Philosophy at Harvard University in September 1926. Another important academic event during this period was the invitation to deliver the Hibbert Lecture on the ideals of life which he delivered at Manchester College, Oxford in 1929 and which was subsequently published in book form as An Idealist View of Life.

In 1929 Radhakrishnan was invited to take the post vacated by Principal J. Estlin Carpenter at Manchester College. This gave him the opportunity to lecture to the students of the University of Oxford on Comparative Religion. For his services to education he was knighted by George V in the June 1931 Birthday Honours, [web 5] and formally invested with his honour by the Governor-General of India, the Earl of Willingdon, in April 1932. [web 6] However, he ceased to use the title after Indian independence, [23] :9 preferring instead his academic title of 'Doctor'.

He was the Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University from 1931 to 1936. In 1936 Radhakrishnan was named Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at the University of Oxford, and was elected a Fellow of All Souls College. That same year, and again in 1937, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, although this nomination process, as for all laureates, was not public at the time. Further nominations for the award would continue steadily into the 1960s. In 1939 Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya invited him to succeed him as the Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). [24] He served as its Vice-Chancellor till January 1948.

Political career

President of United States John F. Kennedy and President of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (left), depart the White House following a meeting. Minister of External Affairs of India, Lakshmi N. Menon, walks behind President Kennedy at West Wing Entrance, White House, Washington, D.C on 4 June 1963 President John F. Kennedy and President Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan of India Exit White House.jpg
President of United States John F. Kennedy and President of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (left), depart the White House following a meeting. Minister of External Affairs of India, Lakshmi N. Menon, walks behind President Kennedy at West Wing Entrance, White House, Washington, D.C on 4 June 1963

Radhakrishnan started his political career "rather late in life", after his successful academic career. [5] His international authority preceded his political career. In 1931 he was nominated to the League of Nations Committee for Intellectual Cooperation, where after "in Western eyes he was the recognized Hindu authority on Indian ideas and a persuasive interpreter of the role of Eastern institutions in contemporary society." [5] When India became independent in 1947, Radhakrishnan represented India at UNESCO (1946–52) and was later Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union, from 1949 to 1952. He was also elected to the Constituent Assembly of India. Radhakrishnan was elected as the first Vice-President of India in 1952, and elected as the second President of India (1962–1967).

Radhakrishnan did not have a background in the Congress Party, nor was he active in the struggle against British rules. He was the politician in shadow. His motivation lay in his pride of Hindu culture, and the defence of Hinduism against "uninformed Western criticism". [5] According to Brown,

He had always defended Hindu culture against uninformed Western criticism and had symbolized the pride of Indians in their own intellectual traditions. [5]

Teachers' Day

When he became the President of India, some of his students and friends requested him to allow them to celebrate his birthday, on 5 September. He replied,

Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if September 5th is observed as Teachers' Day. [25]

His birthday has since been celebrated as Teachers' Day in India. [web 7]


Along with Ghanshyam Das Birla and some other social workers in the pre-independence era, Radhakrishnan formed the Krishnarpan Charity Trust.

As President of India, Radhakrishnan made 11 state visits including visits to both the US and the USSR. State Visits by Dr S Radhakrishnan.png
As President of India, Radhakrishnan made 11 state visits including visits to both the US and the USSR.

Role in Constituent Assembly [26]

He was against State institutions imparting denominational religious instruction as it was against the secular vision of the Indian State. [27]


Radhakrishnan tried to bridge eastern and western thought, [28] defending Hinduism against "uninformed Western criticism", [5] but also incorporating Western philosophical and religious thought. [29]

Advaita Vedanta

shreyas was one of the most prominent spokesmen of Neo-Vedanta. [30] [31] [32] His metaphysics was grounded in Advaita Vedanta, but he reinterpreted Advaita Vedanta for a contemporary understanding. [web 2] He acknowledged the reality and diversity of the world of experience, which he saw as grounded in and supported by the absolute or Brahman. [web 2] [note 2] Radhakrishnan also reinterpreted Shankara's notion of maya . According to Radhakrishnan, maya is not a strict absolute idealism, but "a subjective misperception of the world as ultimately real." [web 2]

Intuition and religious experience

"Intuition", or

According to Radhakrishnan, intuition plays a specific role in all kinds of experience. [web 2] Radhakrishnan discernes five sorts of experience: [web 2]

  1. Cognitive Experience:
    1. Sense Experience
    2. Discursive Reasoning
    3. Intuitive Apprehension
  2. Psychic Experience
  3. Aesthetic Experience
  4. Ethical Experience
  5. Religious Experience

Classification of religions

For Radhakrishnan, theology and creeds are intellectual formulations, and symbols of religious experience or "religious intuitions". [web 2] Radhakrishnan qualified the variety of religions hierarchically according to their apprehension of "religious experience", giving Advaita Vedanta the highest place: [web 2] {{refn|group=note|This qualification is not unique to Radhakrishnan. It was developed by nineteenth-century Indologists, [36] [37] and was highly influential in the understanding of Hinduism, both in the west and in India. [30] [38]

  1. The worshipers of the Absolute
  2. The worshipers of the personal God
  3. The worshipers of the incarnations like Rama, Kṛiṣhṇa, Buddha
  4. Those who worship ancestors, deities and sages
  5. The worshipers of the petty forces and spirits

Radhakrishnan saw Hinduism as a scientific religion based on facts, apprehended via intuition or religious experience. [web 2] According to Radhakrishnan, "[i]f philosophy of religion is to become scientific, it must become empirical and found itself on religious experience". [web 2] He saw this empiricism exemplified in the Vedas:

The truths of the ṛṣis are not evolved as the result of logical reasoning or systematic philosophy but are the products of spiritual intuition, dṛṣti or vision. The ṛṣis are not so much the authors of the truths recorded in the Vedas as the seers who were able to discern the eternal truths by raising their life-spirit to the plane of universal spirit. They are the pioneer researchers in the realm of the spirit who saw more in the world than their followers. Their utterances are not based on transitory vision but on a continuous experience of resident life and power. When the Vedas are regarded as the highest authority, all that is meant is that the most exacting of all authorities is the authority of facts. [web 2]

From his writings collected as The Hindu View of Life, Upton Lectures, Delivered at Manchester College, Oxford, 1926: "Hinduism insists on our working steadily upwards in improving our knowledge of God. The worshippers of the absolute are of the highest rank; second to them are the worshippers of the personal God; then come the worshippers of the incarnations of Rama, Krishna, Buddha; below them are those who worship deities, ancestors, and sages, and lowest of all are the worshippers of petty forces and spirits. The deities of some men are in water (i.e., bathing places), those of the most advanced are in the heavens, those of the children (in religion) are in the images of wood and stone, but the sage finds his God in his deeper self. The man of action finds his God in fire, the man of feeling in the heart, and the feeble minded in the idol, but the strong in spirit find God everywhere". The seers see the supreme in the self, and not the images."

To Radhakrishnan, Advaita Vedanta was the best representative of Hinduism, as being grounded in intuition, in contrast to the "intellectually mediated interpretations" [web 2] of other religions. [web 2] {{refn|group=note|Anubhava is a central term in Shankara's writings. According to several modern interpretators, especially Radakrishnan, Shankara emphasises the role of personal experience (anubhava) in ascertaining the validity of knowledge. [39] Yet, according to Rambacham himself, sruti, or textual authority, is the main source of knowledge for Shankara. [34] He objected against charges of "quietism" [note 3] and "world denial", instead stressing the need and ethic of social service, giving a modern interpretation of classical terms as tat-tvam-asi. [32] According to Radhakrishnan, Vedanta offers the most direct intuitive experience and inner realisation, which makes it the highest form of religion:

The Vedanta is not a religion, but religion itself in its most universal and deepest significance. [web 2]

Radhakrishnan saw other religions, "including what Radhakrishnan understands as lower forms of Hinduism," [web 2] as interpretations of Advaita Vedanta, thereby Hinduising all religions. [web 2]

Although Radhakrishnan was well-acquainted with western culture and philosophy, he was also critical of them. He stated that Western philosophers, despite all claims to objectivity, were influenced by theological influences of their own culture. [40]

Controversy on Indian Philosophy book

In the issue of the Modern Review, January 1929 a certain Jadunath Sinha made a sensational claim that his own thesis was copied by his teacher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan on Indian Philosophy book. [41] [42] He said that none other than Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan had plagiarised from him. His Indian Philosophy Vol. II had lifted several passages from bangali philosopher Jadunath Sinha's thesis. [43] [note 4] [44] The controversy spilled over up to February, March and April issues of the magazine too. [45]

In August 1929, Sinha sued Radhakrishnan on this issue. [46] [note 5] Radhakrishnan also counter-sued both Jadunath Sinha and the editor of Modern Review, Ramnath Chattopadhyay. [45]

Then without any conclusion the court hushed up this sensational issue as Radhakrishnan's stature. [42] [45]


Radhakrishnan was one of India's best and most influential twentieth-century scholars of comparative religion and philosophy. [3] [web 2]

Radhakrishnan's defence of the Hindu traditions has been highly influential, [29] both in India and the western world. In India, Radhakrishnan's ideas contributed to the formation of India as a nation-state. [47] Radhakrishnan's writings contributed to the hegemonic status of Vedanta as "the essential worldview of Hinduism". [48] In the western world, Radhakrishnan's interpretations of the Hindu tradition, and his emphasis on "spiritual experience", made Hinduism more readily accessible for a western audience, and contributed to the influence Hinduism has on modern spirituality:

In figures such as Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan we witness Vedanta traveling to the West, where it nourished the spiritual hunger of Europeans and Americans in the early decades of the twentieth century. [48]


Radhakrishnan has been highly appraised. According to Paul Artur Schillp:

Nor would it be possible to find a more excellent example of a living "bridge" between the East and the West than Professor Radhakrishnan. Steeped, as Radhakrishnan has been since his childhood, in the life, traditions, and philosophical heritage of his native India, he has also struck deep roots in Western philosophy, which he has been studying tirelessly ever since his undergraduate college-days in Madras Christian College, and in which he is as thoroughly at home as any Western philosopher. [28]

And according to Hawley:

Radhakrishnan's concern for experience and his extensive knowledge of the Western philosophical and literary traditions has earned him the reputation of being a bridge-builder between India and the West. He often appears to feel at home in the Indian as well as the Western philosophical contexts, and draws from both Western and Indian sources throughout his writing. Because of this, Radhakrishnan has been held up in academic circles as a representative of Hinduism to the West. His lengthy writing career and his many published works have been influential in shaping the West's understanding of Hinduism, India, and the East. [web 2]

Criticism and context

Radhakrishnan's ideas have also received criticism and challenges, for their perennialist [30] [49] and universalist claims, [50] [51] and the use of an East-West dichotomy. [web 2]


According to Radhakrishnan, there is not only an underlying "divine unity" [49] from the seers of the Upanishads up to modern Hindus like Tagore and Gandhi, [49] but also "an essential commonality between philosophical and religious traditions from widely disparate cultures." [30] This is also a major theme in the works of Rene Guenon, the Theosophical Society, and the contemporary popularity of eastern religions in modern spirituality. [30] [29] Since the 1970s, the Perennialist position has been criticised for its essentialism. Social-constructionists give an alternative approach to religious experience, in which such "experiences" are seen as being determined and mediated by cultural determants: [29] [52] [note 6] As Michaels notes: {{quote|Religions, too, rely not so much on individual experiences or on innate feelings – like a sensus numinosus (Rudolf Otto) – but rather on behavioral patterns acquired and learned in childhood. [53]

Rinehart also points out that "perennialist claims notwithstanding, modern Hindu thought is a product of history", [49] which "has been worked out and expressed in a variety of historical contexts over the preceding two hundreds years." [49] This is also true for Radhakrishan, who was educated by missionaries [54] and, like other neo-Vedantins used the prevalent western understanding of India and its culture to present an alternative to the western critique. [30] [55]

Universalism, communalism and Hindu nationalism

According to Richard King, the elevation of Vedanta as the essence of Hinduism, and Advaita Vedanta as the "paradigmatic example of the mystical nature of the Hindu religion" [56] by colonial Indologists but also neo-Vedantins served well for the Hindu nationalists, who further popularised this notion of Advaita Vedanta as the pinnacle of Indian religions. [57] It

...provided an opportunity for the construction of a nationalist ideology that could unite Hindus in their struggle against colonial oppression. [58]

This "opportunity" has been criticised. According to Sucheta Mazumdar and Vasant Kaiwar,

... Indian nationalist leaders continued to operate within the categorical field generated by politicized religion [...] Extravagant claims were made on behalf of Oriental civilization. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan's statement – "[t]he Vedanta is not a religion but religion itself in its "most universal and deepest significance" – is fairly typical. [50]

Rinehart also criticises the inclusivism of Radhakrishnan's approach, since it provides "a theological scheme for subsuming religious difference under the aegis of Vedantic truth." [51] [note 7] According to Rinehart, the consequence of this line of reasoning is communalism, [51] the idea that "all people belonging to one religion have common economic, social and political interests and these interests are contrary to the interests of those belonging to another religion." [web 10] Rinehart notes that Hindu religiosity plays an important role in the nationalist movement, [51] and that "the neo-Hindu discource is the unintended consequence of the initial moves made by thinkers like Rammohan Roy and Vivekananda." [51] Yet Rinehart also points out that it is

{{quote|...clear that there isn't a neat line of causation that leads from the philosophies of Rammohan Roy, Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan to the agenda of [...] militant Hindus. [59] {{refn|group=note|Neither is Radhakrishnan's "use" of religion in the defence of Asian culture and society against colonialism unique for his person, or India in general. The complexities of Asian nationalism are to be seen and understood in the context of colonialism, modernisation and nation-building. See, for example, Anagarika Dharmapala, for the role of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lankese struggle for independence, [60] and D.T. Suzuki, who conjuncted Zen to Japanese nationalism and militarism, in defence against both western hegemony and the pressure on Japanese Zen during the Meiji Restoration to conform to Shinbutsu Bunri. [61] [62]


Colonialism left deep traces in the hearts and minds of the Indian people, influencing the way they understood and represented themselves. [30] The influences of "colonialist forms of knowledge" [web 2] can also be found in the works of Radhakrishnan. According to Hawley, Radhakrishnan's division between East and West, the East being spiritual and mystical, and the West being rationt and colonialist forms of knowledge constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries. Arguably, these characterizations are "imagined" in the sense that they reflect the philosophical and religious realities of neither "East' nor West." [web 2]

Since the 1990s, the colonial influences on the 'construction' and 'representation' of Hinduism have been the topic of debate among scholars of Hinduism Western Indologists are trying to come to more neutral and better-informed representations of India and its culture, while Indian scholars are trying to establish forms of knowledge and understanding which are grounded in and informed by Indian traditions, instead of being dominated by western forms of knowledge and understanding. [37] [note 8]

Plagiarism controversy

Radhakrishnan's student Jadunath Sinha alleged that Radhakrishnan copied text from his doctoral thesis, Indian Psychology of Perception published in 1925, into his book Indian Philosophy published in 1927. Sinha filed a case in the Calcutta High Court claiming damages for Rs 20,000. Radhakrishnan filed counter case for defamation of character demanding Rs 100,000 from Sinha. Though Sinha's case was strong as many of his articles were already published, the high cost of litigation along with intervention of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who mediated between them made them, settle the issue out of court. [63] [64] [65]

Awards and honours

Radhakrishnan on a 1989 stamp of India Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan 1989 stamp of India.jpg
Radhakrishnan on a 1989 stamp of India



Works by Radhakrishnan

Biographies and monographs on Radhakrishnan

Several books have been published on Sarve Radhakrishnan:

See also


  1. Radhakrishnan's wife's name is spelled differently in different sources. It is spelled Sivakamu by Sarvepalli Gopal (1989); Sivakamuamma by Mamta Anand (2006); and still differently by others.[ citation needed ]
  2. Neo-Vedanta seems to be closer to Bhedabheda-Vedanta than to Shankara's Advaita Vedanta, with the acknowledgement of the reality of the world. Nicholas F. Gier: "Ramakrsna, Svami Vivekananda, and Aurobindo (I also include M.K. Gandhi) have been lvhfgvùhabeled "neo-Vedantists," a philosophy that rejects the Advaitins' claim that the world is illusory. Aurobindo, in his The Life Divine, declares that he has moved from Sankara's "universal illusionism" to his own "universal realism" (2005: 432), defined as metaphysical realism in the European philosophical sense of the term." [33]
  3. Sweetman: "[T]he supposed quietist and conservative nature of Vedantic thought" [37]
  4. Dr. Radhakrishnan had published another book titled "The Vedanta according to Sankara and Ramanuja" in 1928, which was actually a reprint of Chapters 8 & 9 of his book "Indian Philosophy Vol. II." That book also had extensive pirated paragraphs from Prof. Jadunath Sinha's Premchand Roychand Studentship thesis. Luckily for Prof. Jadunath Sinha, he had published extracts from those two parts of his Premchand Roychand Studentship thesis in the Meerut College Magazines of 1924 and 1926.
  5. Then in the first half of the month of August 1929, Prof. Jadunath Sinha sued Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in the Calcutta High Court for infringement of copyrights of his original literary works, claiming Rs.20,000/- as damages. Sometime in the first week of September 1929, Radhakrishnan filed a counter libel suit against Prof. Jadunath Sinha and Shri Ramananda Chattopadhyay demanding Rs.1,00,000/-. Probably Radhakrishnan thought that attack was the best defence!
  6. See, especially, Steven T. Katz:
    • Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis (Oxford University Press, 1978)
    • Mysticism and Religious Traditions (Oxford University Press, 1983)
    • Mysticism and Language (Oxford University Press, 1992)
    • Mysticism and Sacred Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2000)
  7. Rinehart: "Though neo-Hindu authors prefer the idiom of tolerance to that of inclusivism, it is clear that what is advocated is less a secular view of toleration than a theological scheme for subsuming religious difference under the aegis of Vedantic truth. Thus Radhakrishnan's view of experience as the core of religious truth effectively leads to harmony only when and if other religions are willing to assume a position under the umbrella of Vedanta. We might even say that the theme of neo-Hindu tolerance provided the Hindu not simply with a means to claiming the right to stand alongside the other world religions, but with a strategy for promoting Hinduism as the ultimate form of religion itself." [51]
  8. Sweetman mentions:
    See also Postcolonialism and Mrinal Kaud, The "Pizza Effect" in Indian Philosophy
  9. "Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was President of India from 1962 to 1967. An Oxford Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics, he consistently advocated non-aggression in India's conflicts with neighbouring Pakistan. His accessible writings underscored his country's religious heritage and sought to convey a universal reality of God that embraced love and wisdom for all people." [web 12]

Related Research Articles

Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma, or way of life, widely practised in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal tradition", or the "eternal way", beyond human history. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder. This "Hindu synthesis" started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE, after the end of the Vedic period, and flourished in the medieval period, with the decline of Buddhism in India.

The Upanishads, a part of the Vedas, are ancient Sanskrit texts that contain some of the central philosophical concepts and ideas of Hinduism, some of which are shared with religious traditions like Buddhism and Jainism. Among the most important literature in the history of Indian religions and culture, the Upanishads played an important role in the development of spiritual ideas in ancient India, marking a transition from Vedic ritualism to new ideas and institutions. Of all Vedic literature, the Upanishads alone are widely known, and their central ideas are at the spiritual core of Hindus.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Hinduism:

Eastern philosophy

Eastern philosophy or Asian philosophy includes the various philosophies that originated in East and South Asia including Chinese philosophy, Japanese philosophy, and Korean philosophy which are dominant in East Asia and Vietnam, and Indian philosophy which are dominant in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Tibet and Mongolia.

Vedanta or Uttara Mīmāṃsā is the most prominent of the six (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy. Literally meaning "end of the Vedas", Vedanta reflects ideas that emerged from the speculations and philosophies contained in the Upanishads. It does not stand for one comprehensive or unifying doctrine. Rather it is an umbrella term for many sub-traditions, ranging from dualism to non-dualism, all of which developed on the basis of a common textual connection called the Prasthanatrayi. The Prasthanatrayi is a collective term for the Principal Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.

Hindu philosophy various systems of thought in Hinduism

Hindu philosophy refers to philosophies, world views, and teachings that emerged in ancient India. These include six systems (ṣaḍdarśana) – Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta. These are also called the Astika (orthodox) philosophical traditions and are those that accept the Vedas as an authoritative, important source of knowledge. Ancient and medieval India was also the source of philosophies that share philosophical concepts but rejected the Vedas, and these have been called nāstika Indian philosophies. Nāstika Indian philosophies include Buddhism, Jainism, Cārvāka, Ājīvika, and others.

Indian philosophy systems of thought from the ancient and medieval era Indian subcontinent

Indian philosophy refers to ancient philosophical traditions of the Indian subcontinent. The principal schools are classified as either orthodox or heterodox – āstika or nāstika – depending on one of three alternate criteria: whether it believes the Vedas as a valid source of knowledge; whether the school believes in the premises of Brahman and Atman; and whether the school believes in afterlife and Devas.

Nondualism Mature state of consciousness transcending dualism

In spirituality, nondualism, also called non-duality, means "not two" or "one undivided without a second". Nondualism primarily refers to a mature state of consciousness, in which the dichotomy of I-other is "transcended", and awareness is described as "centerless" and "without dichotomies". Although this state of consciousness may seem to appear spontaneous, it usually follows prolonged preparation through ascetic or meditative/contemplative practice, which may include ethical injunctions. While the term "nondualism" is derived from Advaita Vedanta, descriptions of nondual consciousness can be found within Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and western Christian and neo-Platonic traditions.

The Brahma sūtras is a Sanskrit text, attributed to Badarayana, estimated to have been completed in its surviving form some time between 450 BCE and 200 CE. The text systematizes and summarizes the philosophical and spiritual ideas in the Upanishads. It is one of the foundational texts of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy.

Vijñānabhikṣu was a Hindu philosopher from Bihar, variously dated to the 15th or 16th century, known for his commentary on various schools of Hindu philosophy, particularly the Yoga text of Patanjali. His scholarship stated that there is a unity between Vedānta, Yoga, and Samkhya philosophies, and he is considered a significant influence on Neo-Advaita movement of the modern era.

The standard problem of evil found in monotheistic religions does not apply to almost all traditions of Hinduism because it does not posit an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent creator.

History of Hinduism denotes a wide variety of related religious traditions native to the Indian subcontinent. Its history overlaps or coincides with the development of religion in Indian subcontinent since the Iron Age, with some of its traditions tracing back to prehistoric religions such as those of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization. It has thus been called the "oldest religion" in the world. Scholars regard Hinduism as a synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no single founder.

Smarta tradition a tradition in Hinduism linked to Advaita Vedanta

Smarta tradition (स्मार्त) is a movement in Hinduism that developed during its classical period around the beginning of the Common Era. It reflects a Hindu synthesis of four philosophical strands: Mimamsa, Advaita, Yoga, and theism. The Smarta tradition rejects theistic sectarianism, and it is notable for the domestic worship of five shrines with five deities, all treated as equal – Vishnu, Shiva, Surya, Ganesha and Devi (Shakti). The Smarta tradition contrasted with the older Shrauta tradition, which was based on elaborate rituals and rites. There has been considerable overlap in the ideas and practices of the Smarta tradition with other significant historic movements within Hinduism, namely Shaivism, Brahmanism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.

Atheism or disbelief in God or gods has been a historically propounded viewpoint in many of the orthodox and heterodox streams of Indian philosophy. There are six major orthodox (astika) schools of Hindu philosophy—Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedanta, and five major heterodox (nāstika) schools of Śramaṇa—Jain, Buddhist, Ajivika, Ajñana, and Cārvāka. The four most studied nāstika schools, those rejecting the doctrine of Vedas, are Jainism, Buddhism, Cārvāka, and Ājīvika.

Eliot Deutsch American philosopher

Eliot Deutsch is a philosopher, teacher, and writer. He has made important contributions to the understanding and appreciation of Eastern philosophies in the West through his many works on comparative philosophy and aesthetics. Currently he is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii.

Arvind Sharma Actor

Arvind Sharma is the Birks Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University. Sharma's works focus on Hinduism, philosophy of religion. In editing books his works include Our Religions and Women in World Religions,Feminism in World Religions was selected as a Choaphy ChoiceOutstanding Academic Book (1999).

Hindu denominations are traditions within Hinduism centered on one or more gods or goddesses, such as Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Sometimes the term is used for sampradayas led by a particular guru with a particular philosophy.


Neo-Vedanta, also called Hindu modernism, neo-Hinduism, Global Hinduism and Hindu Universalism, are terms to characterize interpretations of Hinduism that developed in the 19th century. The term "Neo-Vedanta" was coined by Paul Hacker, in a pejorative way, to distinguish modern developments from "traditional" Advaita Vedanta.

Jadunath Sinha

Jadunath Sinha was a well-respected Indian philosopher, writer and religious seeker in Indian history.


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