How Camus deftly combined oriental and occidental philosophies
French existentialist Albert Camus' 104th birthday falls on November 7. Recently, French political and news magazine Le Point suggested that Camus, who extensively studied all six schools of oriental philosophy, must have got a take-off point for his Absurdism or Existentialism from the kshanvaad of Indian philosophy. It's worthwhile to mention that Adi Shankara's 'Jagat mithya' (World's an illusion) provided the stage to Jean Paul Sartre and Camus to enact their Existentialism and Absurdism on because the underlying vein of Eastern consciousness is that nothing is real and that existence has no past and future to exist: Astitvam na pashchatam, ityapi na bhyishyatam.
Camus wrote to Sartre and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan that the oriental philosophy's constant vein is emphasis on the present and only the present. In other words, momentarism (this very moment) is the leit motif of the entire Indian philosophy. He separately wrote to Radhakrishnan in French that 'To be obsessed with past and preoccupied with future can never make an individual realise the impact of the moment he's in. This is the quiddity of Indian philosophy and the essence of my so-called Existentialism, though I don't want to call myself an Existentialist.'
The Hedonistic school or Charvaka Darshan of Indian philosophy influenced Camus so much that Aldous Huxley believed that Camus' Existentialism was actually a very refined version or improvement upon a rather crude hedonism of Charvaks.
To an Existentialist like Camus, human existence was a conundrum just like Uttar Mimansa's desperate (or definite?) exclamation: Astitvam prahelikam purvastam (Human existence is an enigma that remains unsolved). The entire gamut of western philosophy never gave that much importance to human or individualistic existence. To be precise, prior to Existentialism, occidental philosophy was not deeply individual-based. But the eastern philosophy always dealt with an individual's existence and realised that it was a rather absurd endeavour to search for the meaning and purpose of an individual's existence. So a person's existence was seen as a collective phenomenon afterUttar Mimansa (vyakti sapeksham avantar iti durvim) or post-Vedic era.
This 'Enlightened Absurdism,' to quote Aurobindo Ghosh's philosophical irony of early eastern philosophy, hued the Radical Existentialism of Camus and also of Sartre.
Camus wholeheartedly admitted that the philosophical oxymoron of meaningless meaningfulness of human existence of his brand of Existentialism bore the influence of Indian philosophy's 'arth-heen artham' (meaningful, yet no meaning!). Albert Camus could fathom the contrasting nature of truth couched in Indian philosophy and had beautifully woven and internalized it into his philosophy of Existentialism.
That Camus accepted the role and influence of Indian philosophy in shaping up his ideas, underscores his greatness, humility and also his Existential Gratitude.