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Existentialism: Mirroring the Western thought in light of Indian Philosophy


By Atul Mishra

Can it be asserted that existentialism is an ancient philosophy, or is it really a modern concept? Is the essence of existentialism a western philosophical thought?

Albert Camus’ words in The Myth of Sisyphus-“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide” nails the existential disposition. The purpose of human existence comes down to this statement. Existential philosophers say that those who realize the absurdity of life in their ennui also realize the importance of ‘individual’ and freedom. And that’s Camus’ argument in its dregs- that life’s absurdity and meaninglessness become all the more reason to accept it and live it fully, and that we must imagine Sisyphus happy.


When we think of existentialism, the names that come across our minds are Camus, Sartre, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard is considered the father of existentialism. According to Kierkegaard, angst and existential despair appears when an inherited or borrowed world-view (what modernists now call ‘a collective conscious’) proves unable to handle the unexpected and extreme life-experiences that are personal (personal conscious). Nietzsche extended this view to suggest that the so-called Death of God -the loss of collective faith in religion and traditional morality – created a more widespread existential crisis for the philosophically aware. Sartre’s “Existence precedes Essence” theory defines the human nature and its localized and changing power, and that because existence precedes the being, an individual is bound to be free.

From top -left clockwise Kierkegaard-Dostoyevsky--Sartre-Nietzsche
From top -left clockwise

The existential philosophy can be surmised as- because life is absurd we must live it happily and do our duties, and that’s what gives a man an over-reaching quality and freedom (Nietzsche’s ubermensch, the over man). Existentialism has had many proponents in 19th and 20th centuries but on tracing the itinerary of Indian philosophy it’s found that roots of existentialism can be found in many Indian classical texts and philosophers as well.

The concept of self and the epistemological position that an individual possesses, which philosophers like Kant,Husserl, Nietzsche and Camus talked of have been maintained profoundly in Indian Philosophies of Bhagvad Gita, Buddha and in the modern teachings of Radhakrishnan.

For instance, when Arjun went through a  personal crisis before the battle, Krishna’s words, etched with a fervor of existentialism came as a solution to his problems.

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

If The Myth of Sisyphus having drawn from Greek mythology can be seen as a solution to existential dilemma, then very similarly Andy Fraenkel’s Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest is a perfect example showcasing how the magnum opus Hindu mythology is an eternal solution to existential crisis borne by a majority of us these days.

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

Speaking to the Elephant Journal he said-

“The dharma is the essence of all sacred teachings. When we understand the dharma we can live a life of wellness. We have lost sight of the dharma. Understanding the dharma is pivotal to what Mahabharata: The Eternal Quest is all about.”

The teachings of Buddha and Krishna have analogies to Nietzsche’s “ubermensch” theory. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra Nietzsche asks, “What is the greatest experience you can have? It is the hour of the great contempt. The hour when your happiness, too, arouses your disgust, and even your reason and your virtue.” Shades and echoes of this philosophical ideology (while speaking of the transgressing power of an individual) is replicated in Buddha’s life where he abandons everything and achieves the greatest experience that Zarathustra here is talking about. A stark analogy between Nietzsche and Buddha is that they both begin from a common notion about the nature of the world and the human condition.

These commonalities have to do with their epistemological views and their nihilistic attitudes toward metaphysical issues. A dialogue in the Sutta-Nipata presents the Buddha responding as follows to an enquiry on metaphysical theories- ‘Apart from consciousness’, he says, ‘no divers truths exist. Mere sophistry declares this ‘true’ and that view ‘false’.’ A similar notion appears in Nietzsche’s Will to Power:

‘Judging is our oldest faith; it is our habit of believing this to be true or false, of asserting or denying, our certainty that something is thus and not otherwise, our belief that we really ‘know’ what is believed to be true in all judgments?’

Even the Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracharya defines so much about the ontology and epistemology of the existence of human beings. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan reinterpreted Advaita Vedanta and found similarities in its theories with the thinking of existential philosophers. Both Radhakrishnan and the existentialists emphasize on the immense potentialities of an individual. Radhakrishnan maintains that man must be transformed and transmuted to a higher level of existence in course of evolution. Man’s greatness is not in what, he is but in what he can be, is what Radhakrishnan says, exactly like the ideology of Jean Paul Sartre who proposes-“it-is-what-it-is-not and that it is not what-it-is.” Man exists and makes himself develop into what he wants to be.

  • Abhishek Sharma

    It would have been wonderful if the author had elaborated on the concept of Nishkam Karma from the Bhagwat Gita. In other words, idea that one must do one’s duty in a detached way without the expectation of material rewards. This is very similar to the repeated act of Sisyphus having to roll the rock over the top of the mountain, yet being happy by the act itself as an act of rebellion against his condition.

  • Heraclitus kapila

    in a hurry to be accepted by the west Gandhi could be similar to Hitler too,
    Existentialism is an outhgroeth of the pessimisim inherent in Cristianity. an indoctrinate westerner has assumed that life is worthless without God so coms absurdity,
    Even Hesse;s Sidhhartha is more Christian the Buddhist, as it stresses individual nirvana without linking it to epistemology

  • Abhishek Sharma

    It would have been wonderful if the author had elaborated on the concept of Nishkam Karma from the Bhagwat Gita. In other words, idea that one must do one’s duty in a detached way without the expectation of material rewards. This is very similar to the repeated act of Sisyphus having to roll the rock over the top of the mountain, yet being happy by the act itself as an act of rebellion against his condition.

  • Heraclitus kapila

    in a hurry to be accepted by the west Gandhi could be similar to Hitler too,
    Existentialism is an outhgroeth of the pessimisim inherent in Cristianity. an indoctrinate westerner has assumed that life is worthless without God so coms absurdity,
    Even Hesse;s Sidhhartha is more Christian the Buddhist, as it stresses individual nirvana without linking it to epistemology

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On Gita Jayanti let us look into the timeless wisdom of Bhagavad Gita, holy book of Hindus which inspired millions

Bhagavad Gita is the timeless wisdom of Sanatan Dharma for mankind. One of the most widely read book which inspired millions of people all across the globe. Read how you can shape your destiny through timeless wisdom of Bhagavad Gita

Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Bhagwan Krishna revealing Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna in Mahabharata

“Fear not, what is not real, never was and never will be, what is real, always was, and can never be destroyed” – Bhagawad Gita, doctrine of universal truth.

Today on occasion of Bhagwad Gita Jayanti I would like to  share my personal and social experiences with the eternal source of knowledge, Bhagawad Gita, book which inspired millions of readers for thousands of years. It’s no surprise that the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita has inspired countless people throughout history; being India’s best gift to mankind. Bhagawad Gita is undoubtedly the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed. 
The purpose behind revealing Bhagwad Gita to Arjuna by Shri Krishna was to remove his confusions at the battlefield in Kurukshetra. Similarly, all of us are so much confused in life, but we never turn to the source which can remove these confusions. Not only Arjuna, but every one of us is full of anxieties because of this material existence and scheme of things we are into. The purpose of Bhagavad Gita is to deliver mankind from the nescience of material existence. 
I fortunately at very young age was introduced to Bhagawad Gita by my Nana ji, who also happens to be the reason behind my deeply rooted interest in indic studies, indian philosophy, bhakti and spirituality. What Bhagawad Gita gave me in life can not be comprehended in words, it has always been the guiding force in my life, it acted as a beacon of light when life seemed all dark. After being a constant companion of Bhagwad Gita, my life changed drastically, I am sure this holds true for everyone who has been grasping the eternal flowing nectar of Bhagawad Gita. To say that I can explain Bhagawad Gita will be foolish on my part, its an ocean and I might have been blessed to grasp few drops of it. But it certainly gave me new perspective of life beyond this material world, I became more truthful to my duties and most importantly I learnt the act of letting go. The scripture of Bhagavad Gita contains precious pearls of wisdom which ought to be read by all, irrespective of one’s age, caste, color or religion.  The most important benefit envisaged by Bajgwad Gita is the “inspiration for the man to lead a ‘Dharmic life,” a fact often forgotten by the modern man who is too much troubled in making: name, fame, accomplishments, financial achievements, power and ability to control the resources. 
Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Shri krishna in Mahabharata as “Parth Sarthi”
A person can acquire proper meaning in life, a deeper realization of his true identity, and attain a level of self-confidence and peace only by inward reflection and realisation which can never be reached through ordinary, materialistic studies or endeavors. Furthermore, teachings of Bhagavad Gita bring us to our higher potential in everything we do, materially or spiritually. This is the power and the importance of the Bhagavad Gita and the instructions of Shri Krishna found within it.

Gita Saar is the essence of Gita, reading this will inspire you to know Bhagwad Gita further, trust me, its the best gift you can give to yourself or anyone : 

“Whatever happened, it happened for good.
Whatever is happening, is also happening for good.
Whatever will happen, that too will be for good.
What have you lost for which you weep?
What did you bring with you, which you have lost?
What did you produce, which has perished?
You did not bring anything when you were born.
Whatever you have taken, it is taken from Here.
Whatever you have given, it is given Here.
You came empty handed and you will go the same way.
Whatever is yours today, will be somebody else’s tomorrow
And it will be some others’ later.
This change is the law of the universe
And the theme behind my creation.”

– Shri Krishna

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Bhagavad Gita Jayanti
Narendra Modi gifting Bhagavad Gita
Recently, It was so heartening to see Indian Prime Minister Modi gifting Bhagwad Gita to different nation heads. “I have nothing more valuable to give and the world has nothing more valuable to get,” the Prime Minister rightly said. Bhagawad Gita is the identity of India, it is the essence of Sanatan Dharma, the foundation rock of spirituality and guiding force for thousands of years to come.
It is impossible to truncate the teachings and glory of Bhagavad Gita into one page and I know that it would be sheer stupidity on my part to even think so. But I hope many of you will  get a copy of Bhagwad Gita on this auspicious occasion of Gita Jayanti, read it, distribute it, cherish it and experience the magic in your life. Gita teaches many things and as Mahatma Gandhi had said “No matter how many times Gita is read it teaches something new every time we read it”


–  by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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This Washington DC Art Gallery Has Brought a Cosmic Buddha Artifact to Life Using 3-D Scanning

3-D scanning of the 16th century relic has allowed viewers to rotate the sculpture, adjust lighting and zoom in to see details of it's surface - a path breaking advancement in the realm of technology.

Technological advancements are paving way for advanced researches. Pixabay
  • Technology has an active role to play in steering research about historic artifacts.
  • Relic of a sixteenth-century Cosmic Buddha has been recently scanned and developed into an online web module for advanced research.
  • 3D scanning with digital surface occlusion provides the clearest view of the surface of ancient sculptures paving way for elaborate understanding.

– By Soha Kala

JULY 26, 2017: Most of us have disliked visiting museums to look at ancient isolated pieces on a pedestal.  The cosmic Buddha statue at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art at Washington has had similar reactions for nearly 9 decades now.

Exhibit curator Keith Wilson duly noted why this hand-less, headless statue had stood alone, without attracting much attention.  “It’s not a beautiful, white marble surface”, he said calling the relic a “difficult piece to love”.

Also Read: Mummified Monk Found inside the 1000 Year Old Buddha Statue in Lotus Position in China

However, what makes the sculpture truly remarkable is the dense decoration that covers its surface, illustrating the Realms of Buddhist Existence- a symbolic map of the cosmos associated with Vairochana, the presumed subject of the sculpture.  Despite its rich bearing, the relic remained largely ignored in the museum.

In an attempt to heighten people’s interest, the relic was first scanned in 3-D for the Smithsonian Digitization project in 2011, facilitating detailed mapping of the sculpture’ surface to clearly identify scenes and figures it contains.

These scans have now been turned into a 3-D model, forming the basis of an interactive web-based resource about the Cosmic Buddha.

A 16th century relic has been 3 D scanned using laser scanning and high resolution photography.
This image has been used for referential purposes. Wikimedia Commons

The module, which is accessible online, includes guided tours written by Wilson and Janet Douglas, a former Freer|Sackler conversation scientist, showing brilliant clarity images, illustrating fundamental Buddhist teachings. Through the use of this digital model, researchers can now study the sculpture and its exceptional details, including previously unreadable details.

Wilson believes the relic was originally created to be a teaching tool. But it’s positioning in a museum brought all attention on the relic as an object, rather than as part of a ritual process. However, technology is now allowing museums to unite the artistic qualities of work with its religious connotation and purpose.

For example, Eileen Daily, director of the Doctor of Ministry in Transformational Leadership at Boston University had created a mobile app in 2011 that explained users about the history and religious significance of artworks around them.


The constant access to smart phones and technology also means works like the Cosmic Buddha are no longer exclusive to museums- their 3-D models can be accessed via the internet from anywhere around the world. For example, curators and scholars can now order scans of all objects in a Buddhist temple and recreate the space virtually.

To sum up, David Morgan, professor of religious studies at Duke University believes technology and museums are now changing each other for the better.

– by Soha Kala for NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala

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Why is Spirituality Independent of any Religion? Read Here!

Bypassing difficult certainties and the truth of the human condition or getting a handle on at transient or deceptive joys both in the long run lead to misery and disappointment

Spirituality and religion
Spirituality does not need religion. Pixabay
  • The Buddha didn’t encourage open deliberations around the idea of a “Self” or Atman
  • The upheaval of the Buddha was encouraging his voyagers to shed their individual histories and the aggregated baggage of custom
  • it is vital to remember the inherent holiness of human life and the glue that ties all of us together

New Delhi, July 29, 2017: Wise men frequently talk about the evasive present, a transient piece of time that vanishes the minute one endeavors to bind it. It is the thing that spiritualists have endeavored to verbalize, at times using words, and frequently without them.

Is it safe to say that it isn’t a paradoxical expression to touch base at the nonconceptual state portrayed by soothsayers through the guide of concepts?

Koans are utilized by Zen Buddhists for expression of the inconceivable. For Instance, “What is the sound of one hand clapping? It is a rhetorical question, meant to evoke a moment of Satorior momentary realization when one has the experience of the ‘NOW’ between thoughts which the statement evokes.”

ALSO READ: Ram Sethu: Why the Spiritual Importance attached to it is Debatable!

The Buddha didn’t encourage open deliberations around the idea of Atman or a “Self”, not on the grounds that he didn’t have confidence in that, but rather in light of the fact that he knew very well indeed the pointlessness of utilizing ideas to touch base at a nonconceptual state. Most importantly he focused on the significance of landing at an individual comprehension of reality; checking truth for yourself as opposed to relying upon literary expert or what somebody may have recorded thousand years back.

A Bodhisattva plays out a spiritual practice for testing situations like battle areas, brothels and untouchable provinces, comprehending agony and delight, aversion, and longing for, “sacred” and “profane” are insignificant constructs that must be broken up to land at reality.

Bypassing difficult certainties and the truth of the condition of human or getting a handle on at deceptive or transient joys both in the long run can lead to misery and disappointment.


People get a handle on at religion and gratification for the very same reasons – so as to accomplish transitory help or maybe freedom from the torment of the condition of human and be informed that all is going to be well only if a particular path or a particular Guru is followed, or change over to Scientology, Hinduism, Christianity or Islam.

The Buddha’s revolution was to motivate his fellow voyagers to shed down their past and the aggregated baggage of custom, as he considered them to be nothing more than hindrances to spiritual development, and make on caught up in the jail of desiring and aversion, feelings of grievances and spite.

As the maxim says, “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.” A point in the trip comes where the Buddha also ends up noticeably superfluous and can be abstained from.

He urged us to face reality. For instance, in the event that one feeling low, under the heavy baggage of one’s issues, it is very likely to be unhelpful to get a religious content on unique ideas of “enlightenment” believing that this will improve the circumstance. Despite what might be expected we are suggested to do meditation during upsetting sensations, clinically watch them, face them and remain with them for whatever length of time they are present; without grasping, judgment or aversion.

When we follow this for a sufficient duration; see our mental tides rising and falling and prepare ourselves to watch them as waves on a sea, composure, and peace will become conceivable. More essentially, compromise with the present minute, not getting away or fantasizing over the Shangri-La which the scriptures guaranteed.

The significant insight bestowed by the Indian seers to us  can be an impetus for individual change yet can likewise be utilized for spiritual bypassing, an expression which alludes to the utilization of spiritual practices as well as ideas as an instrument of denial – to abstain from managing uncomfortable sentiments, uncertain injuries, subdued traumas and essential psychological and emotional needs.

While exploring the regularly muddled and complicated world we occupy, it is vital to help ourselves on numerous occasions to remember the inherent holiness of this life along with the glue that ties all of us together.

-prepared by Harsimran Kaur of NewsGram. Twitter @Hkaur1025