Philosophy is the systematic study of ideas and issues, a reasonedpursuit of fundamental truths, a quest for a comprehensiveunderstanding of the world, a study of principles of conduct, and muchmore. Every domain of human experience raises questions to which itstechniques and theories apply, and its methods may be used in thestudy of any subject or the pursuit of any vocation. Indeed,philosophy is in a sense inescapable: life confronts every thoughtfulperson with some philosophical questions, and nearly everyone isguided by philosophical assumptions, even if unconsciously. One neednot be unprepared. To a large extent one can choose how reflective onewill be in carifying and developing one's philosophical assumptions,and how well prepared one is for the philosophical quesions lifepresents. Philosophical training enhances our problem-solvingcapacities, our abilities to understand and express ideas, and ourpersuasive powers. It also develops understanding and enjoyment ofthings whose absence impoverishes many lives: such things as aestheticexperience, communication with many different kinds of people, livelydiscussion of current issues, the discerning observation of humanbehavior, and intellectual zest. In these and other ways the study ofphilosophy contributes immeasurably in both academic and otherpursuits.
One can argue that probably most people have at least three "levels" in their own philosophies of life. That is, most people have several combined philosophiesthat they use in different ways at different times.
The Vedanta of Swami Sivananda does not teach that one should detest the world or isolate oneself in some world other than this. It does not proclaim that anyone should forsake his duties in life or put on a grave face or behave in any conspicuous manner. His Vedanta declares that one should not be selfish or attached to any fleeting object, that one should live in the consciousness of the loving brotherhood and unity of the Self in the universe, that the truth of existence is one and indivisible, that division or separation, hatred, enmity, quarrel and selfishness are against the nature of the Self, that the pain of birth and death is caused by desire generated by the ignorance of the Self, that the highest state of experience is immortal life or the realisation of Brahman, that everyone is born for this supreme purpose, that this is the highest duty of man, that all other duties are only aids or auxiliaries to this paramount duty, that one should perform one’s prescribed duties with the spirit of non-attachment and dedication of oneself and one’s actions to the Supreme Being, that every aspect of one’s life should get consummated in this Consciousness. The question is not of abandoning something or holding on to something, but of a change in the Drishti or the vision of life. It is a reorientation in the way of the functioning of the volitional, the conceptual and the perceptual consciousness that is required by the philosophic life. The body will be there; its activities will be there; but these will be transformed into the lustrous gold of the liberated life of Jivanmukti, by the touch of the philosopher’s stone of the knowledge of the Self. This life of Self-knowledge is life in its splendid perfection and plenitude. This is the blessed gnosis, the state of freedom or Moksha. The way to such realisation is Vedanta-Sadhana. It commences with the analysis and study of the nature of the Atman, and comprises the inner techniques and processes of Yoga, Bhakti and Karma.
Before the good life was reduced to a bottle of Prozac, philosophers offered arresting answers to the most fundamental questions about who we are and what makes a life worth living. In The Philosophical Life, James Miller returns to this vibrant tradition with short, lively biographies of twelve famous philosophers, examining the interplay of their life and thought. From Plato, who risked his reputation to tutor a tyrant, to Nietzsche who tried to get to grips with the human condition before lapsing into catatonic madness, Miller lays out the lives and thought of our greatest thinkers with flair and rich anecdote.