Thoughts on economics and liberty

The Metaphysics of the Upanishads (Vichar Sagar) by Nischal Das #1

As many of you will know, Ramesh is a regular commentator on this blog. He seems to believe that I must first understand Hindu philosophy before I can talk sense. Leaving aside his debates with me, he wrote to me on 5 May, thus: 

There is 'Veechar Sagar' originally written in Hindi by Shri Nischal Das and translated in Marathi by Sakhare Maharaj. Please refer this Marathi Version. It is a bit more scientific in approach. I do not know where Marathi Version can be downloaded. 

But Hindi Version may be downloaded at

Please do read at least the " Preface" to Marathi Version of "Veechar Sagar" by Sakhare Maharaj. It is the essence of entire Hindu Philosophy/Science.

You can safely neglect all the "spiritual elements" in the above texts and do consider only "Logical and Scientific elements only" which reveals the secret of Universe.

I declare it is entirely devoid of any "Spiritualism" and it will never be waste of time and energy to think of it. 

It is the wrong implications/interpretations of the above concept which has retarded the technological development of the India on par with the west which has been happening in India since a long time.

Now I can at least test Ramesh's views on the solid touchstone of critical thinking. 

This book was written in the 1830s by Nischal Das. Fortunately, the 1885 English translation of Vichar Sagar is available here in PDF format. It has been poorly scanned from the original, though, making it very hard to read the book on the computer. Further, without having access to the text in electronic form, it is difficult to annotate it, or to share insights.

I tried OCRing it, but got a huge amount of garbage in my first few attempts. Anyway, to cut the story short, after numerous attempts, I finally created a tolerable OCR'd version which I then fixed, diligently, over the past three weeks. At least 20 (I think more) hours of my time has been spent in this preliminary work.


The result is now available here as a 2MB Word document.

I encourage you to download it and go through it (if this is your first time with this book). This work clearly precedes major works on the Upanishads by Swami Vivekananda, Radhakrishnan, Rajaji, Swami Suddhananada, and others, and is therefore possibly worth a close read.

Over the next few weeks, time permitting, I'll go through this book and annotate it in colour (as I usually do).

Thereafter I'll put out my analyses of the Upanishads (based on whatever I've learnt already from about 10 books so far, numerous journal articles, and now this book) and publicly assess whether there is anything of value in the Upanishads.

(Of course, my preliminary analysis of Hindu thought is already provided in the draft manuscript, The Discovery of Freedom).

All I can tell Ramesh at the outset – my standards of analysis are THE WORLD'S HIGHEST. Nothing less than the total truth satisfies me. Hence be prepared for being heavily questioned. The analysis might take time – even months – given I have may other priorities. But I'll try to get on to it as soon as possible.

In the meanwhile, Ramesh, if you wish, you can send me a write-up that summarises your view – cogently, please – on the value of Hindu thought in India today, and I'll publish it as a guest blog post.

I'll also invite the Facebook fans of Swami Suddhananda (who teaches the Upanishads) to send in their contributions if they wish. Let's thrash it out publicly: Are the Upanishads any good?


The Upanishads.

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6 thoughts on “The Metaphysics of the Upanishads (Vichar Sagar) by Nischal Das #1
  1. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    Pleasantly surprised and thrilled to see this post on your blog. Above all I felt great of you who have spent more than 20 hours in compiling the same. Extremely thankful for having shown such an interest in the work referred to you by me. Really excited.
    At the outset I would like to repeat few of my views on the book.
    1.     I have read only Marathi version which is far more succinct and that too only once. In that book it is not that I have understood each of its word or all topics preferably a rhetoric. Neither did such a need I feel ever to understand the same. I may not be able to explain such traditional technical/spiritual words/concepts which need scholarly/academic study of Hindu philosophy nor do I wish to do the same with you. It may be done with the scholars so abundantly available if you wish. Sorry but please note. I never claimed it either.
    2.     Still I refer the book for following reasons:
    a.      Even with the above exception (drawback) I am fully able to understand its unique solution to the “Big Question” of secret of universe OR the essence of entire world philosophy (Hindu/Christen/Muslim…) successfully to the complete to my satisfaction with critical thinking.
    b.     This work when understood in its essence paves the way to the understanding of the work of Greatest of all “Shri Maharshi Ved Vyas” of which the present advances of all sorts of the world are just a spit. No, it is not spirituality again. I am never a spiritual in the traditional sense.
    c.      Once this happens entire social/political system of the world may be changed not to talk of India with its defective politics or social system. Its ramification are tremendous.
    d.     Proper understanding of the book with its ramifications explains the reasons for India’s traditional backwardness in spite of such a genuine philosophy. It ends the misery of the world and paves a way for earthly developments.
    e.      It is true of the book that after having understood it nothing remains to be known or understood and studied except the permutation and combination of the available knowledge.
    f.       So on….
    3.     The book itself lays down the conditions to be read by the qualified persons.
    Re: Nothing less than the total truth satisfies me. Hence be prepared for being heavily questioned.
    This qualifies you to read the book and understand it as per the conditions laid down in the book itself.
    Re: Let's thrash it out publicly: Are the Upanishads any good?
    This is a bit too advance statement and hence your understanding is likely to be defective to that extent. A non qualified person (public) may understand it differently and may be successful to prove the same accordingly to the ordinary (non-qualified) public and hence bring in the infidelity in the society which has been happening since the time immemorial. I witness this fact in my native place where there are many groups (spiritual or otherwise) discussing and learning it by heart for a long time only to hurt the society far more against the essence of the book.
    4.     In my view there are no such Hindu thoughts (Scientific) in India today except Adulterated. These thoughts have corrupted the Hindus still further. There is no value of such Hindu thoughts in India today. Understanding of the book in its essence (in proper sense) may bring renaissance in the world.
    5.     It may not be necessary that you put questions only after reading the text completely. If you feel your question is worth enough it may be put up immediately for consideration (subject to conditions as in 1.). We may think of it.
    6.     Looking forward to your critical questions.

  2. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    You may refer: .
    A good deal of information seems to be available on this site.
    Still I recommend original thinking on few (key) concepts (e.g. Mithya, Maya) rather than world of references which you usually do as a habit (my impression of yours) at least on this particular topic. Please mistake not, apologies if any.

    For myself welfare that oozed out of the Ramayan, Mahabharat, Puranas etc was far more sufficient to ascertain the truth and ‘Vichar Sagar’ confirmed it beyond doubt.
    Many references may make us full of knowledge and devoid of wisdom (by way of time constraint). Of course, it is my experience.

  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks Ramesh

    I’ve tried to go through the initial chapters of Vichar Sagar, even as I try to set the context by studying secondary sources. Secondary sources are not to be looked down upon, since these represent the assimilated wisdom of knowledgeable experts. We can only read so much in a lifetime. We are forced to rely on the digested learnings of others.

    I’m making notes on Vichar Sagar, but at the rate at which I’m able to devote time, this could take a very long time. Further, I’m reaching the point where I begin to see nothing but linguistic gymnastics and assertions: where is the proof? Where is empirical data? I understand the topic is very hard, but I do need to see the testable hypotheses. Anyway, I’ll revert to you when time permits.


  4. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    Ref: Further, I’m reaching the point where I begin to see nothing but linguistic gymnastics and assertions.
    Yes! It appears so. In terms of Shri Sakhare Maharaj who has authored the Marathi Version there is also likely to be a problem of repetitions, elaboration of simple topics, short details of tough topics. [All this has been very well removed in Marathi Version. You cannot read Marathi Version thing is different].  But this in no way dilute the authenticity of the book instead it may compel the reader to think logically with better understanding by way of repetitions even though it is a nuisance for readers like you and me.
    Ref: where is the proof? Where is empirical data? I understand the topic is very hard, but I do need to see the testable hypotheses.
    As stated by me to you in my last email, ‘Vichar Sagar’ deals with the very subject of nature of ‘Proof and empirical data’. And in support of the same there are numerous examples spread throughout the books most illustrative being ‘Illusion of snake in a rope’.
     Citation of the empirical data and proof, the way you want, makes the mockery of and negates the very subject matter dealt in the book. The book deals with the very nature of proofs, empirical data that are produced in support of the truth and thereby arrives at and decides the nature of the TRUTH.
    Therefore given the subject matter of the book, your expectation in regard to proof, empirical data etc is quite odd and against the critical reasoning. You need to digest it better.
    I suggest you to have patience till you read first three sections. The real considerations of the ‘Truth’ begin with Section IV with the best eligible person.
    Hope you share your impressions as and when.

  5. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks, Ramesh

    My method is to read widely and narrowly at the same time. In this case, I’ve pulled out my copy of Hiryanna’s Indian philosophy and many others including a major book on Buddhist philosophy which has many counterpoints with Upanishadic thought, and helps clarify the various disputes occurring at that point in Indian history. I can add that this diversion of my time into Indian philosophy is not ideal at this stage, given very limited time. I’ve also got another 10-15 books lined up at my bedside, and many other things happening. So I’ll do my best.

    This field of Indian philosophy currently reminds me of the words used by Francis Bacon to refer to the ancient Greek debates: “The wisdom of the Greeks was professional and disputatious, and thus most averse to the investigation of truth. .. They are prone to talking, their wisdom being loquacious and unproductive of effects. Hence the external signs derived from the origin and birthplace of our present philosophy are not favourable”. Later Christian theological debates and verbal gymnastics are also widely known to have produced no results.

    The problem, Ramesh, is that no matter how “smart” we are in our deductions, ultimately we need inductive methods to prove things. I do note a touch of induction (in relation to deep sleep and the way we perceive illusions), but I suspect that the theory derived from such observations goes beyond the capacity of these observations to supply.

    After having attended 5 lectures of Suddhananda and heard 5 more on a DVD, and read his book, plus other stuff, I broadly know what Vichar Sagar is trying to say. I’m afraid I’m currently very sceptical about learning anything particularly useful from this book. But I’ll get back to you over the weeks/months.


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