Professor Frits Staal studied philosophy, logic
and mathematics at Amsterdam, then went to India and took up Sanskrit.
He went to teach at the London SOAS, where he met Soumyen Mukherjee,
back to Amsterdam for comparative philosophy, on to MIT for linguistics
and to Berkeley where he stayed until he retired in Thailand. Staal
has always been interested in the interfaces between these all too
numerous fields of study, refusing to distinguish between sciences
and humanities and convinced that we cannot understand ourselves
without understanding our species and at least some of the others
from which our genetic make-up hardly differs.
Secret Behind Walls
The origins of Indic philosophies lie before philosophy
in the Upani?ads but behind them stands the ritual enclosure of
the Sadas. Both terms are derived from the verbal root sad- which
means “sit” and relates not to chairs but to mother
earth. It is a posture of which the peoples of South Asia seem to
have always been inordinately fond.
Inside the Sadas, reciters and chanters from opposite backgrounds
sit back to back and sip Soma. The way was paved by the Rigveda
which discussed four levels of language, including mantras and paving
the way for the artificial language of linguistics.