Wednesday, May 11, 2022




Kierkegaard’s philosophy has been discussed in India in the context of the Bhagwat Geeta, Upanishads, Vedanta, Neo-Vedanta and early Buddhism.  

Do Eastern and Western traditions have a meeting point? Do they have some common source? Let us examine this idea with the writings of Soren Kierkegaard, the theistic existentialist philosopher.


Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, and religious author interested in human psychology. He is regarded as a leading pioneer of existentialism and one of the greatest philosophers of the 19th Century. Kierkegaard left the task of discovering the meaning of his works to the reader, because "the task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted". Scholars have interpreted Kierkegaard variously as an existentialist, neo-orthodoxist, postmodernist, humanist, and individualist. The ideas of Søren Kierkegaard attracted the interest of a broad spectrum of creators of modern Indian literature and thought . There were not only philosophers but also writers – both novelists and poets – and artists from all the other areas of art. Hindi poet Kailash Vajepayi writes this :-


“Hindi writers were always seen as artists exposed to the influence of Freud, Eliot, Shaw, Lawrence etc. Søren Kierkegaard, Kafka, Rimbaud, Jung, Hulme, Jaspers, Sartre, Mallarmé, and Camus, etc. are the closest and the most familiar to them.”


Haridas Chaudhury (1913–1975), Bengali philosopher and psychologist, writes that existentialist philosophy directly “corresponds to the most important ideas of the Vedanta” .


A. C. Mukerji (philosopher) in his study Existentialism and Indian Philosophy observes the unequivocal “kinship”, “non-contradictedness”, and ideological “closeness” between Indian philosophical traditions and European existentialism.


I find a sprinkling of the message of Bhagwat Geeta and some Upnishads in the works of Soren Kierkegaard .




“If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin.”


― Soren Kierkegaard..


Sri Krishna teaches the doctrine Karma to Arjuna in this Shloka of Bhagwat Geeta :-


“Karmanye vadhika raste, Ma phaleshu kadachana

Ma karma phala he tur bhuh, ma te sangotsva karmanye”


(You have a right to “Karma” (actions) but never to any Fruits thereof. You should never be motivated by the results of your actions, nor should there be any attachment in not doing your prescribed activities.)

…………………Bhagwat Geeta





In respect of prayer, Kierkegaard wrote , “The true success in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person praying continues to pray until he hears what God wills.” He also wrote this :-

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

― Soren Kierkegaard

Sri Krishna teaches this to Arjuna in Bhagwat Geeta :-

“Prayer complements prudent action by helping us increase our composure, concentration and connection.”

…………………….Bhagwat Geeta






“ Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all.”

………………Soren Kierkegaard


“tesam satata-yuktanam..bhajatam priti-purvakam” …( To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.) . Sri Krishna teaches this to Arjuna in Bhagwat Geeta :-


” But of all, I could name, certainly love is the highest. Love and devotion that make one forgetful of everything else, Love that unites the lover with me“.

……………………….Bhagwat Geeta


I find Kierkegaard very close to the message of Bhagwat Geeta while dealing with ‘Human Suffering’ in his philosophy. The existential concept of ‘ Freedom of Choice’ implies the possibility of future. The possibility of future brings the individual into a state of despair. In this state of despair, the individual becomes totally powerless or helpless to struggle with himself for his suffering. Here he needs some help from outside. According to Kierkegaard, ,at the moment of helplessness or powerlessness, only faith can provide the strength of the individual.

Death is another subject where Kierkegaard comes close to the Philosophy of Bhagwat Geeta .According to Soren Kierkegaard, “everyone knows that death is something inevitable, but somehow people fail to accept that and live in death denial. If people start accepting death, they would live more passionately even if they die someday."

 Many more commonalities later ….


( Avtar Mota  )






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