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Research at Case: Indian philosophy

Sultan Ahmed

Issue date: 3/6/09 Section: News
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Deepak Sarma, of the CWRU religious studies department, works toward developing materials that he believes will make it easier for others to learn about the study of Indian philosophy. He views his projects and research as "a service to [his] field and students," he explained.

Sarma began his undergraduate schooling at New York University with the intent of pursuing a degree in engineering. He soon realized that the sciences were not for him, and he transferred to Reed College in Portland, Ore., to major in religious studies. Upon completing his thesis on Dvaita Vedanta, a school of thought in Indian philosophy, Sarma completed his graduate studies at the divinity school at the University of Chicago. He studied under Paul Griffiths for the duration of his graduate schooling.

Recently, Sarma completed a reader on Indian philosophy, a work which he believes to be the first of its kind.

"When I was in college studying this stuff, there were no introductory materials available," he said. "I had to teach it to myself, and that's why I get so excited about it."

The reader is essentially a textbook containing introductory information on the major schools of thought in Indian philosophy. Sarma believes that, once published, the text will make his field of study more accessible to those who wish to begin learning about it.

Commenting on the lack of those materials to guide him through the learning process, Sarma explains that he does not want his students to suffer through the same thing.

"I really do this all because of stuff I wish I had," Sarma says.

In the past, Sarma has published a reader on Hinduism. He spoke during Hindu awareness week at Princeton University, and he also gave a lecture on Hindu bioethics two years ago. Sarma's major projects involve actually going to India and studying under a scholar of the philosophy he is researching.

According to Sarma, research in Indian philosophy involves "going and having a dialogue with a teacher, discussing back and forth."

For his current project, Sarma is compiling a reader on Vedanta, a group of schools in Indian philosophy. These schools root their beliefs and philosophies primarily on the Upanishads, the scriptures found near the end of the Vedas.

The Vedas are the sacred texts of Hinduism, and literally translated, Vedanta means the end of the Vedas. The Upanishads focus on metaphysical questions of epistemology and ontology.

There are multiple schools of Vedanta, including Madvha Vedanta, to which Sarma himself belongs. Each school posits its own intricate theories, and Sarma is currently researching each one in order to compile his reader. Sarma has studied both Vedanta as well as Jainism in India.

Indian philosophy is a small field, not readily accessible to most people. Through his research and work at Case Western Reserve University, Sarma hopes to change that.
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In This Issue

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  • Research at Case: Indian philosophy
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