Ṣūfīs, Nāth-Yogīs and Indian Literary Texts: Some Lines of Congruence


  • Vijay Mishra


Henry Corbin's call for "un dialogue dans la metahistoire" is the kind of seductive invitation for the construction of a philosophia perennis which, in the hands of the literary critic examining philosophical tracts, may lead to disastrous reductionism. Of course, I agree that comparative studies of any kind must seek to explore certain perennial suppositions, either in the belief-systems themselves or in the methodology applied to study them. Where I demur is when the claim is made that the correspondence between systems also explains, inevitably, praxis or application, in other words when it is stated that, say, because there is a Vedantic monism, all other systems of "monism" (Neoplatonism, Ibn 'Arabi's pantheism, Chuang Tzu's tso wang) have, in terms of cultural response, the same meaning.  There is clearly a case to be made for a dialogue as Corbin suggests but the case must also be based on a cautious examination of the systems being compared. And "system", like other related terms, is a dangerous word here for it hides the quite divergent sub-systems which may exist under the one presumably "systematic" urn brella. One of these metahistorical dialogues took place between Sufism and various Tantric systems in Medieval India. Their symbiosis imd expression in three Indian literary 'texts' written by people who may be loosely called 'Indian Sufis' are the concerns of this paper. Before
examining the literary texts themselves, a somewhat diachronic study of the interactions must be attempted.