The beginnings of Indian Philosophy take us very far back to about the middle of the second millennium before christ. The speculative activity begun so early was continued till a century or two ago so that the history that is narrated in the following pages covers a period of over thirty centuries. During this long period Indian thought development practically unaffacted by outside influence and the extent as well as importance of its achievements will be evident when it is mentioned that it has evolved several systems of philosophy besides creating a great national religion.
Mysore Hiriyanna (1871–1950) was an eminent Indian philosopher, Sanskrit scholar and authority on Indian aesthetics. He was a Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Mysore and a contemporary of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. His classes on Indian Philosophy were comprehensive. His classroom dictations, published by Allen & Unwin in book form as "Outlines of Indian Philosophy" brought Hiriyanna international recognition. This was a seminal work on Indian Philosophy. His other prominent works include "Indian Conception of Values", "Essentials of Indian Philosophy", "The Quest after Perfection" and "Art Experience". He wrote extensively on the Vedic age, mainly on the Upanishads, followed by the evolution of Indian philosophical thought in the post-Vedic era, deliberating mainly on Bhagavad Gita, the early years of Buddhism and Jainism. His work on aesthetics was authoritative and dealt mainly with Alamkaras, Aesthetics and Ethics, Method of Art, Indian Aesthetic Values and Art & Morality.
Early Years and Teaching Career
Hiriyanna was born in Mysore on May 7, 1871. His parents were M. Nanjundaiah and Lakshmidevi. He had his preliminary schooling in Mysore, where he learnt Sanskrit from Perisamy Tirumalacharya and Kashi Sesharamasastry. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts (B. A.) and Master of Arts (M. A.) qualifications from the Madras Christian College, Madras. His first job was as a librarian at the Mysore Oriental Library (now, the Oriental Research Institute, Mysore) which he joined in 1891. He was instrumental here in curating 1653 printed works and 1358 manuscripts - many of them in ancient Sanskrit and Kannada. He would again visit Madras to secure a Licentiate in Teaching (L. T.) qualification, thus enabling him to teach in academic institutions. Upon his return to Mysore, he joined the Government Normal School as a teacher in 1896 and eventually became a Headmaster by 1907.
Upon recommendation from the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mysore - H. V. Nanjundaiah, Hiriyanna was appointed as Lecturer in Sanskrit at Maharaja College, Mysore in 1912. He was promoted to the post of Assistant Professor of Sanskrit by 1914. Here, he came in contact with A. R. Wadia - who was heading the Department of Philosophy at Maharaja College, Mysore. S. Radhakrishnan was also on the faculty of this department at this time. The two scholars shared an in-depth interest in the study of Indian and Western Philosophies. In fact, it was S. Radhakrishnan who suggested publishers Allen & Unwin publish in book form the classroom notes of M. Hiriyanna, which ultimately came out as "Outlines of Indian Philosophy".
M. Hiriyanna was made Professor of Sanskrit Studies at Maharaja College, Mysore by 1919. He held Professorship for the next eight years and retired from the University of Mysore in 1927. His illustrious teaching career spanned more than two decades.
L-R: M. Hiriyanna's wife Lakshmidevamma and daughter Rukkamma
M. Hiriyanna led a life of frugality. He was married to Lakshmidevamma at a young age. They had a daughter by the name of Rukkamma. Hiriyanna was an introvert by nature and spent days on end studying at his house in Mysore. Post-retirement, he declined many an invitation from universities across India to chair their Departments of Philosophy and Sanskrit Studies. His love of English literature was well known and he was an avid reader of " The Times Literary Supplement" and "Illustrated London News".
Hiriyanna had a close relationship with Palghat Narayan Sastry in Mysore and the two scholars deliberated deeply on the finer aspects of Indian philosophical Thought, Vedanta and The Upanishads. Hiriyanna was also in correspondence with the eminent Sanskrit scholar - Kuppuswamy Sastry at Madras. Upon M. Hiriyanna's demise, his vast collection of books was donated to the “Kuppuswamy Sastri Research Institute” at Mylapore.
M. Hiriyanna with S. Radhakrishnan & A. R. Wadia at S. Radhakrishnan's Farewell from University of Mysore
Hiriyanna wrote extensively across five decades on topics ranging from the 'Art of Teaching' [Bodhana Krama- 1906] to his treatises on “Ishavasyopanishad” (1911), “Kenopanishad” (1912), “Katakopanishad” (1915) and “Brhadaranyakopansihad – Part 1” in 1919. His interests included Sanskrit Language (linguistics), Sanskrit prose & poetry, comparative grammar, Vedic and post-vedic philosophical thought in India and different schools of philosophies - namely Charavaka Materialism, Buddhist School of Philosophy, Nyaya-Vaisesika, Sankhya-Yoga, Purva-Mimamsa and Vedantic Schools - Advaita, Visistadvaita and Dvaita, Indian Aesthetics, Dhvani Theory & Study of Art. His years with Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Ardeshir Ruttonji Wadia at the University of Mysore saw him interpolate, compare and elucidate finer points of Western Philosophy in relation to accepted notions on Indian philosophical thought.
Hiriyanna presided over the All India Oriental Conference held in Mysore in 1935. In 1939, he was requested to chair the All India Philosophy Conference at Hyderabad. In 1940, he delivered the prestigious Miller's Memorial Lecture on Philosophy at Madras. Hiriyanna made sterling contributions to the world of Sanskrit. In recognition of this, the Madras Sanskrit Academy conferred him with the title of "Samskrutasevadhurina" the same year.
Hiriyanna's contributions to comparative philology, Sahitya (Literature), Alamkara (Figures of Speech) and Vyakarana (Grammar) and several Darshanas were credible. He was undeniably the earliest to translate Bhasa's "Svapnavasavadattam" to English, which he titled "The Dream Queen". His works on Advaita are authoritative and his "Naishkarmya-siddhi" and "Vedanta-sara" are examples of this. His "Ishta-Siddhi" is, without doubt, his finest piece on the Advaitic school of thought.
His grasp of the Western philosophical doctrines is brilliantly clear in his "Mission of Philosophy" (1960) where he discusses at great length Immanuel Kant's ideas on "Duty", "Ideal of Perfection", "Moral good vs. Non-moral good", "Promotion of Oneself" and "Rectification of the Will". He had, of course, made a comparative study of Socrates and Plato.
Hiriyanna's foreword to V. Raghavan's "The Number of Rasas" gives one a glimpse of his grasp of the "Rasa Theory" and his perspectives on "Alamkara Shastra". This is clearly expounded in his article titled "Art Experience" published in "The Aryan Path" in 1941.
M. Hiriyanna wrote at a prolific pace. Many of his works did not see publication until years after his passing. His English translation of the Upanishads was the beginning of what would become three decades of tireless toil. Many of his papers which he presented at various Oriental Conferences would in themselves qualify as works of considerable value. His works on Indian aesthetics form the bedrock of modern Indian writings and perspectives on that subject. His writings combined an authoritative command of the Sanskrit language with a philosopher's viewpoint on matters of ethereal and metaphysical importance.