This weekend I have been blessed enough to attend a seminar in honor of my mentor and dearest friend, the late Professor Ramchandra Gandhi. Ramuji was the closest person to me in the world and I met him upon my arrival in Delhi. He is the only person that really understodd my desire for Truth and in him I found the perfect blend of scholar and practitioner. Being an educator the opportunity to visit Shantiniketan and experience Tagore’s vision is a dream come true. What follows is a description of the Seminar I am attending.

Department of Philosophy and Religion is organizing ICPR and ICSSR sponsored National Seminar on Ramchandra Gandhi: Faith and Enquiry from 15-17 March 2008.  in memory of Late Professor Ram Chandra Gandhi for his invaluable contribution across the boundaries of different disciplines like philosophy, literature, language, religion, social sciences, arts, painting, dance and drama.

Theme of the National Seminar: ‘Ramchandra Gandhi: Faith and Inquiry’15th-17th March, 2008

Host: Department of Philosophy and Religion, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan

Sponsored by ICPR and ICSSR New Delhi

 

Ramchandra Gandhi can be justly rated as one of the original thinkers and philosophers that India has produced in recent times. His passing away on 13 June 2007 is an immeasurable loss to his erstwhile students, friends, and colleagues and to the Indian intellectual scene at large. We, at Visva-Bharati, feel that a fitting tribute that Indian academia could pay to his momentous life and work is to organize a national seminar which would provide a forum for his several critics and admirers to bring back vivid recollections of the person and to critically comment on his multi faceted work.

Though by training a philosopher, Ramchandra Gandhi was widely read and acclaimed by people with varied interests and intellectual persuasions. The key to this must lay in his seminal contributions to various aspects of Indian philosophy and religion, art and aesthetics, language and communication and more recently, even fiction. Here one may justly recall his pioneering work on language and human communication (Presuppositions of Human Communication), the strikingly original and meticulously argued defense of a spiritually and socially regenerative advaita (I am Thou), his witty but incisive condemnation of dogmatism in life and thought (Sita’s Kitchen), the brilliant interpretation of Tyeb Mehta’s paintings (Svaraj: A Journey with Tyeb Mehta’s Santiniketan Triptych) the creative and thought-provoking dance-drama that he produced on the life of Vivekananda (The last temptation of Swami Vivekananda) and his fictional rendering on advaitic epistemology (Muniya’s Light) reminiscent of an older novel written along the same lines by Raja Rao (The Serpent and the Rope). Here it would be no less relevant to recall his distinctive sense of humor and witty use of puns (‘Most of India’s elections are naturally rigged because Indian culture follows Rig Veda!’).

 

In his philosophical persuasions, Ramchandra Gandhi was an advaitin but one who was also bold enough to cross new thresholds in meaning and expositions. For one, his advaita was not simply an isolated philosophical category but one that significantly spanned politics, aesthetics and social issues of gender and sexuality.  For him individual enlightenment represented a continuing engagement with and enquiry into the world in the light of advaitic wisdom. Evidently, his understanding of advaita itself owed far more to his personal experiences with his guru, Ramana Maharshi than to formal academic discourse. He was, after all, a philosopher who tried to equally grapple with speculative questions as existential ones that one encounters in everyday life.

 

The proposed national seminar is a humble attempt at revisiting and reassessing the life and labors of an individual whose contribution to Indian philosophy and more generally, the world philosophical heritage will be fondly etched in public memory for a long time..

 

The seminar would focus on the following themes:

 

  1. Presuppositions of Human Communication
  2. Communication in Advaitic Philosophy
  3. RamChandra Gandhi and his reading of Ramana Maharshi
  4. The Lives and the Wisdom of Sri Ramkrishna and Swami Vivekananda
  5. Ramchandra Gandhi on Art and Aesthetics
  6. Ramchandra Gandhi in Self and Culture
  7. Advaitic Epistemology and its interface with politics and society
  8. Advaita and Ahimsa
  9. Advaita in Fiction

Interpretation of Tyeb Mehta’s paintings

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