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A masterpiece of compression
on 21 August 2002
This is a jewel of a book. Skilfully using choronology, historical context and a typology of Indian views of reality as a framework, it sets the vast diversity of ancient Indian philosophy into a comprehensible form. But in doing so, on the other hand, it never loses sight of the way that simplification might misrepresent the diversity. And, moreover, it never lets its classifications obscure the fact that Indian philosophers combined reason and faith in a way unfamiliar to the Westerner.
"Indian Philosophy, a Very Short Introduction" runs through the different darshanas (viewpoints) of the ancient Indian philosophers. It makes a detour for Buddhism, but accepts that the Very Short Introduction format does not permit Jainism and Sikhism to be covered. The underpinnings of the Buddhist worldview are particularly well-explained.
The text is as easy to read as can be hoped for such a complex subject. Although it is easy to confuse the various darshanas, they are signposted by the handy chronologies that are interspersed among the different chapters. One minor complaint is that the "Very Short Introduction" format resembles a word-processed mimeograph shrunk to A5 size, and is over-priced as such.