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Abstract 43

De-naturalism: Concepts of Effulgence and Causality in Narayana Guru’s Vedanta

Dr Roshni Babu, Independent Researcher, Rajasthan, India

Narayana Guru redefines the nature of Advaitic truth as a kind of knowledge. The nature of emergence of this kind of knowledge is characterized as effulgence. Concept of effulgence defies a causal origin of knowledge. Such kinds of defiance are usually classified under idealistic metaphysics. However, Narayana Guru’s characterization of causality imbues his metaphysics to be counted among empiricist thinking. Evasion of causal chain as the explanatory mechanism for the emergence of knowledge is analogous to Hume’s theory of knowledge – associationism, which can also be understood as an effort in non-naturalization of knowledge. This paper is an attempt to elucidate the implications of a non-natural understanding of knowledge for exposing the argument implicit in Narayana Guru’s interpretation of Vedanta, and as an extension his anti-caste thought.

In analogous ways both Hume and Narayana Guru problematized causality in order to severe the link between definition of knowledge and the origin of it. Non-causal understanding of knowledge significantly contributed to the concept of relations. Relationality conceived as a work of creation becomes, in the work of Narayana Guru, the ground of possibility for recognizing one’s genus and other’s. For Narayana Guru, both knowledge and relations it create spring out of the domain of existence, not mind. His challenge was then to affirm the conceptual unity of sat (Absolute truth/being/Brahman) and asat (existence/becoming/worldly self) implied by Vedanta. As opposed to denying the reality of becoming, as is the case in other Vedantic interpretations, Narayana Guru subsumes the duality between them as part and parcel of the process of creation of reality.

What significance does it hold for de-naturalization of caste? Caste is, on the one hand, linked to its origins, or birth, as justification of one’s strata and status of occupation. On the other hand, to the theory of karma, again as an explanation of the origin of one’s caste to which one is born into. Becoming of a caste is never part of this explanation, which thus, conveniently excludes from discussion the origin of mixed-castes, or the untouchables, in the material realm of existence other than as a tabooed form of marital alliance. Once we severe the theory of caste from theories of genesis, and de-naturalize caste, the onus is upon us to explain the enigma of its existence. However, Narayana Guru goes a step further – to annihilate caste he explains its ontology of genesis in mixed castes. This paper argues for a renewed understanding of Narayana Guru’s interpretation of Vedanta, placing it within the tradition of empiricism.

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