Here the collected papers explore the whole question of the relation between the mythopoetic and the moral in the context of the Mahabharata. Here we have a story of extreme complexity, characters that are unforgettable, and a cosmic context in which gods and men alike grapple with destiny. The obligations of kinship and friendship jostle with each other. The women characters, as in everyday life, seem to bear a very heavy load of the burden of life and to stand in a key position in almost every conflict. We are presented with predicaments at every turn. At times these predicaments seem to be aggravated by social structure. At other times they are cushioned by it. Philosophical tangles tied up with karma and dharma are interwoven with the mythopoetic material. Perhaps philosophical issues are pinpointed rather more than they are in Greek epic literature.
The essays in this book treat the Mahabharata from an unusual angle, fastening on the moral dilemmas it presents. How universal are the dilemmas faced by the characters in the story, and are the dilemmas in fact resolved? In dealing with these questions, the discussions range over the meaning of the purusarthas, the institutions of marriage and the family, the concept of action in the Gita, and the special predicaments faced by Draupadi, Arjuna and others. These studies invite the scholar to reflect afresh on the text and encourage the general reader to find in epic literature much that is relevant to life today.
Bimal Krishna Matilal (1 June 1935 – 8 June 1991) was an eminent Indian philosopher, whose writings presented the Indian philosophical tradition as a comprehensive system of logic incorporating most issues addressed by themes in Western philosophy. From 1977 to 1991 he was the Spalding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics at the University of Oxford.
Literate in Sanskrit from an early age, Matilal was also drawn towards Mathematics and Logic. He was trained in the traditional Indian philosophical system by leading scholars of the Sanskrit College, where he himself was a teacher from 1957 to 1962. He was taught by scholars like pandit Taranath Tarkatirtha and Kalipada Tarkacharya. He also interacted with pandit Ananta Kumar Nyayatarkatirtha, Madhusudan Nyayacharya and Visvabandhu Tarkatirtha. The upadhi (degree) of Tarkatirtha (master of Logic) was awarded to him in 1962.
While teaching at the Sanskrit College (an affiliated college of the University of Calcutta) between 1957 and 1962, Matilal came in contact with Daniel Ingalls, an Indologist at Harvard University, who encouraged him to join the PhD program there. Matilal secured a Fulbright fellowship and completed his PhD under Ingalls on the Navya-Nyāya doctrine of negation, between 1962 and 1965. During this period he also studied with Willard Van Orman Quine. Subsequently, he was a professor of Sanskrit at the University of Toronto, and in 1977 he was elected Spalding Professor at Oxford, succeeding Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Robert Charles Zaehner.
Works by Matilal
In his work, he presented Indian logic, particularly Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika, Mīmāṃsā and Buddhist philosophy, as being relevant in modern philosophical discourse. Matilal presented Indian Philosophical thought more as a synthesis rather than a mere exposition. This helped create a vibrant revival of interest in Indian philosophical tradition as a relevant source of ideas rather than a dead discipline.
He was also the founding editor of the Journal of Indian Philosophy.
- Bimal Krishna Matilal (1971). Epistemology, Logic and Grammar in Indian Philosophical Analysis. De Gruyter. ISBN 9789997821942.
- Bimal Krishna Matilal (1985). Logic, Language, and Reality: an introduction to Indian philosophical studies. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-0008-3.
- Bimal Krishna Matilal (1985). Perception: An Essay on Classical Indian Theories of Knowledge. Clarendon.
- Logical and Ethical Issues: An essay on the Indian Philosophy of Religion, Calcutta University 1982 (repr. Chronicle Books, Delhi 2004)
- Navya Nyâya Doctrine of Negation, Harvard Oriental Series 46, 1968
- Bimal Krishna Matilal (1990). The Word and the World: India's contribution to the study of language. Oxford University Press.
- Bimal Krishna Matilal (1999). The Character of Logic in India. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-564896-6.
- Niti, Yukti o Dharma, (in Bengali), Ananda Publishers Calcutta 1988.