Mircea Itu

"Mircea Eliade and the Metaphysics of the Upanishads"

Abstract Curriculum Vitae


This paper presents, as concerns Eliade's contribution to our understanding of religion, some of his commentaries on Hinduism. They deal with the major aspect of Hindu religion, the identity between God and the human soul (the Brahman/atman Equation), among other items belonging to the Upanishadic texts. The Upanishads contain the most significant ideas of Hindu religion, and have also influenced Buddhism. Moreover, as the Bhagavad Gita is the symbol of Hinduism from a poetical point of view, the Upanishads are its philosophical ground. As this symposium emphasizes the theme of Mircea Eliade's contribution to our understanding of religion, the Romanian scholar's opinions on Hinduism may be of interest. Eliade's opinions on the metaphysics of the Upanishads are expressed in his books, especially in his masterpiece Histoire des croyances et des idées religieuses, and in his scientific works written in French and English. They are well-known by the critics and are not the topic here. The present focus is instead six articles written in Eliade's native language and published in Bucharest in the 30's in the journal Cuvantul and in the review Vremea. These articles have not been translated into any other language. The importance of recognizing Eliade as indologist is emphasized. His books and studies on indology are an interesting part of his work as a scholar in the history of religions. We should consider that he was an indologist early in his career, and it is wrong to ignore this aspect when discussing his teachings, his philosophy, or even his understanding of religion. One can easily see throughout all Eliade's work, not only in his books on Yoga, which made him famous in the theory of Yoga and an authority in the field, that his living experience in India (1928-1931) played a very important role. He was deeply influenced by Indian philosophies and religions.

The six studies on the metaphysics of the Upanishads are integrated into a group of Romanian articles, which analyze ideas of Indian culture and spirituality. Mircea Eliade appreciates the work of other commentators on the Upanishads and gives the examples of: S. K. Belvalkar, Rudolf Otto, René Guénon, Carlo Formichi, David Hume and Max Wallesser. One exception is the well-known German philosopher Paul Deussen, whose poor translation of certain Sanskrit terms from the Upanishads attracted the Romanian's criticism-particularly citta. It is argued that one should not talk about evolution in terms of spirituality, as does Eliade on the Upanishads in the context of Indian spirituality. Further, it is pointed out that a significant model for the Romanian was Carlo Formichi's work on the dynamics of Buddhism. The Romanian historian of religions called attention to the fact that the Upanishadic texts were interpreted only from the point of view of idealistic philosophy and tried to change the emphasis in the case of other important Indian texts, such as the treatises of Dignaga, Dharmakirti and Nagarjuna. Eliade emphasized that the Upanishads are a source of inspiration for Indian darshanas (visions or perspectives, and by extension schools of thought), and, one might add, also for Buddhism. He argues for its influence on Yoga, as well, but unfortunately he does not insist on this aspect, because it is a larger theme, which is dealt with in some of his scientific books.

Eliade affirms the major ideas of the Upanishads: contemplation, renunciation, sacrifice, meditation, illumination, knowledge of the soul, integration into the supreme consciousness, the nature of God, wisdom, redemption etc. He considers that the best example when discussing the metaphysics of the Upanishads is the Katha Upanishad. The central message of this text, found in the dialogue between Yama and Naciketas, is considered here. It is argued that, contrary to what the Romanian states in these studies, the "way to God" in Hinduism is not through revelation, any more than it is in Buddhism, but through direct intuition, unlike Christianity or Islam. Eliade's opinion that revelation is determined by karma (action) is also attacked. God is the source of revelation, karma, being in connection with the phenomenal world, while intuition springs from the human soul.

Another aspect of this paper is to criticize the Romanian historian of religions' claim that mysticism has nothing to do with the Upanishadic texts. These texts are the very heart of Hindu mysticism and religion, because they insist on the unity between God and the human soul (Brahman=atman). The commentary also considers the idea of non-attachment and concludes that it is confused with the concept of indifference. Mircea Eliade seems to have believed that the metaphysics of the Upanishads represents more than a religious reform, that is to say, a change in the concept of God. The paper further considers the relation between duality and unity in the vision of Hindu religion. Certain conclusions are drawn from some notes written in Romanian language by young Mircea Eliade in Calcutta in 1929. They concern our subject and indicate that the Romanian historian of religions was interested in the teachings of the Upanishads and their main ideas.

In conclusion: Mircea Eliade's articles, even if not translated from Romanian, are of great importance for that scholar's vision of the history of religions in particular, and for the study of religion in general. His six studies on the metaphysics of the Upanishads, published in Cuvantul and Vremea in Bucharest, touch the very heart of Indian philosophies and of Hindu religion.

Curriculum Vitae

Date and place of birth: 18th December 1967, at Sibiu, Romania

The "Unirea" High-school of philology and history, Brasov, 1986, final grade 9,37 out of 10,00
Bucharest University, Faculty of Letters, section Romanian-Hindi, 1994, final grade 9,79 out of 10,00
Central Institute of Hindi, Agra, India, 1993, Hindi language proficiency, grade A+
Delhi University, Dept. of Sanskrit, New Delhi, India, 1998, Sanskrit language proficiency, grade B
Sorbonne, University of Paris, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Sciences Historiques et Philologiques, Paris, 1996-1997 (year I), 1997-1998 (year II), 1998-1999 (year III) - Ph.D. studies, final exam of the dissertation of the Ph.D. thesis passed on 18th December
1999 rated "très honorable" (very honorable). Title of the Ph.D. thesis: L'indianisme de Mircea Eliade (Mircea Eliade's Indology), under the guidance of Prof. Jean Haudry, director of Indo-European Studies at the University "Jean Moulin" of Lyon, France.

Languages known: Romanian, English, French, Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Latin

Professor of Romanian language and literature, of universal literature at "Dr. Ioan Mesota" College, Brasov, from 1st September 1994 up to 1st September 1998
Visiting lecturer at the Dept. of Germanic and Romance Studies, Delhi University, New Delhi, India, 1997-1998
Scientific researcher at the Institute of Philosophy of Romanian Academy, from 1st September 1998 until the present
Lecturer dr. at the Faculty of Foreign Languages, Department of Oriental Languages, Bucharest University, teaching on Indian culture and civilization, from 1st September 1998 until the present

Books (all in Romanian, except the translation of the novel Lila into French and the Ph.D. thesis from Paris University):
Poetry of Love (universal anthology), 1992, 208 pages
Dictionary of Literary Critics, collaboration with 10 articles, 1995, 336 pages
Mihai Eminescu-Universal Spirit, 1996, 84 pages
Eminescu's Indology, 1995, 176 pages
Blaga's Indology, 1996, 288 pages
Eliade's Indology, 1997, 528 pages
Eliadiana, collaboration with the study The Transcendence of Oppositions, 1997, 10 pages
Lila, An Indian novel, 1998, 192 pages
Indian Journeys, volume I, 1998, 329 pages, translated from Romanian into French, Lila, roman indien, 1999, 192 pages
Indian Journeys, volume II, 2000, 361 pages
Sanskrit Manual for Beginners, in manuscript
Katha Upanisad, translated from Sanskrit into Romanian, in manuscript

Studies and articles:
"L'indianisme de Mircea Eliade," Ph.D. thesis, Sorbonne, 18th December 1999, 520 pages
Many studies and articles in Romania especially in the cultural magazine Astra and in the newspaper Gazeta de Transilvania. Most of the studies and articles deal with the relation between the Romanian culture and the Indian culture, with the great personalities of Romanian culture and their indology: Mihai Eminescu, Lucian Blaga and Mircea Eliade.

Dr. Itu has also written on some famous writers who commented on Mircea Eliade's work, such as: Eugen Simion, the president of Romanian Academy, on Mircea Eliade's literature; Mac Linscott Ricketts on the friendship between Mihail Sebastian and Mircea Eliade; Bryan S. Rennie on the reconstruction of Mircea Eliade's philosophy; Gilbert Durand on homo religiosus and illud tempus in Eliade's philosophy; Stanislas Deprez on Eliade's theory of the sacred; Claudio Mutti on Eliade's adoption of legionary ideals in his youth; Julien Ries on Mircea Eliade's vision of myth; Natale Spineto on the comparative method in the history of religions; Juan Martin Velasco on the phenomenology of religion; Cicerone Poghirc on Eliade and the destiny of Romanian culture; Paul Barbaneagra on Eliade's rediscovery of the sacred; one study on Wilhelm Danca's book Mircea Eliade. Definitio sacri etc.

Conferences, interviews:
Several conferences in Romania concerning India, Indian philosophies and religions, elements of archaic cultures and traditions, the relation between Romanian culture and Indian culture, in some universities of the country, in some major cities like: Bucharest, Cluj, Sibiu, Brasov, Iasi etc. Took part, in a conference on myth in Mircea Eliade's vision, in the International Seminar organized by Delhi University, on 4th April 1997, as well as by a conference entitled "God was born in Exile. Mircea Eliade and the Recuperation of the Sacred" in the International Seminar Literature and Exile, held in Delhi University on 3rd December 1997, text which is to be published by Delhi University in April 2000. At the International Reunion organized by UNESCO at Brasov, Romania on 2nd September 1998. Presented the conference The Romanian Metaphysics in Dialogue with Europe (Eliade being one of these metaphysicians). Spoke on the main ideas of Mircea Eliade's philosophy in Indian Embassy in Bucharest on 15th March 2000, where other important commentators on Eliade presented: Indian ambassador, Rajiv Dogra, the scholar, Alexandru Surdu, professor Mircea Handoca, professor George Anca. In the University "Spiru Haret," Bucharest. Held a conference entitled "Mircea Eliade's Vision of the Philosophical Concept of Maya." Gave many interviews at Romanian Television, and in newspapers like: Romania libera and Azi etc. Wrote an article on Eminescu's indology which is to be published by Joaquin Garrigos in the form of a cultural magazine, Alicante, Spain, in March 2000.

Please e-mail inquiries to:

Bryan Rennie