By Caroline Hagen
My first encounter with an incredible book on India titled – ‘GREAT MINDS ON INDIA’ by Salil Gewali was about two years ago when I was in a common room of a Yoga center in Cologne, Germany. I immediately picked up the book from the table as I was much attracted by the pictures of Arthur Schopenhauer and Albert Einstein on its cover page. My Yoga-mate had also recommended me to go through this title. It’s amazing, I never thought in my remote corner of my mind that India is so rich in knowledge. I had visited India a few years earlier since I was drawn by the deeper philosophy of Yoga. Now I can feel that my desire to know more about this country has been rekindled by this book – ‘Great Minds on India’. I’d never aware that, besides Yoga, the ancient Indian sages had been exceptionally advanced in thoughts and knowledge and the amount of influence Indian science and philosophy exerted on the entire European culture and literature over the centuries.
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For great German thinkers, especially of the 18th and 19th centuries, India was one source of inspiration. Whether Albert Einstein, Arthur Schopenhauer, Harman Hesse, Johann Goethe, or Friedrich Hegel — most of those German thinkers without ever visiting India, learned so much about this country. It is amazing to know that Albert Einstein was full of praise for Indian was well convinced that without the Indian system of number counting and zero, modern science would not have made so much progress. For many centuries the Indian numeral system was doubted and was not incorporated by European people. I have now learned that Indian mystic sages discovered many complex equations, negative numbers, and values of PI which were much later put forth by Gottfried Leibniz and others.
Nothing is more amazing than knowing that the aforementioned thinkers were impressed by this unique Indian knowledge, particularly the linguistic, philosophy, and spiritualism. Its mystical and profound philosophy and yoga still draws crowds of tourists and the seekers of the deeper meaning of life to India. Arthur Schopenhauer had experienced that solace in the studies of Indian Upanishads. In their praise, Schopenhauer writes in his monumental work ‘The World as Will and Representation’ — “In the whole world, there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life; it will be the solace of my death.” The knowledge of Upanishads is the jewel for all those who not only appreciate the universal hospitable culture of the Indian sub-continent, but also those who want to get to know the pure knowledge of the world-view and cosmic existence. Now it is accepted that India was intellectually developed about two millenniums before the European started exploring the theories of linguistics, social sciences, mathematics, philosophy and psychology.
Modern linguists, which was refined by a Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and American language scholars such as Leonard Bloomfield and Noam Chomsky, would not have achieved this shape, had they not borrowed the magnificent ideas of language from the work of Panini. Similarly, Johann Goethe admitted the riches of Indian literature in many of his works. His studies and praises for Sanskrit play Shakuntala by Kalidasa brought a revolution to the German stage. The 19th Century saw many impressive German translations of ‘Shakuntala’. The German philosopher Gottfried von Herder once said “Mankind’s origins can be traced to India where the human mind got the first shapes of wisdom and virtue.” So, it becomes very apparent that India can be described as the cradle of European culture leading to the refinement of its literature. Other German scholars like Johann Herder, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Henrich Heine, and modern physicist Werner Heisenberg of Würzburg, Germany, had also appreciated the philosophical knowledge of India. This is just one of the reasons why I am very proud of this wonderful land from where I am beginning to learn the vast philosophy of Yoga. Finally, I consider myself very fortunate to translate this incredible book ‘GREAT MINDS ON INDIA’ into German Language. In just less than two months I completed this translation. I consider this effort of mine as a humble tribute to ancient sages. I do have high hopes that this publication will serve as a beacon to spread the real light of the knowledge of the East in the West.