The Owl of Minerva

Volume 52, Issue 1/2, 2021

Book Discussion: "Hegel's Interpretation of the Religions of the World"

Francis X. Clooney, SJ
Pages 51-71

Much Ado about Nothing?
Encounter with Bhagavad Gītā 6.25

This essay carefully examines the debate between Hegel and Wilhelm von Humboldt about the meaning of the Bhagavad Gîtâ, and more specifically about several verses in Gîtâ 6 regarding the radical emptying and purification of the mind. My aim is to propose a new and wider conversation, not possible in Hegel’s time but necessary in ours, between European scholars and peer Indian intellectuals in traditions familiar with the Gîtâ for centuries before any European knew of it at all. To exemplify this new work, I attend to the reading of the same Gîtâ 6 passage by the famed philosopher and theologian Madhusûdana Sarasvatî (ca. 1540–1640). In this way, the European inquiry into the status of Indian thought and religion ceases to be an exclusively European endeavor, becoming instead a beneficial and mutually corrective crosscultural and interreligious conversation about texts and history, philosophy and theology.