FF Life: Engaging with philosophy

Philosophy as an intimate, lived practice rather than a remote academic field

N S Ramnath

[Sage Yajnavalkya teaching Brahma Vidya to King Janaka, as depicted at Sankara Mutt in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu. Image by SP Krishnamoorthy (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia]

There are various ways to engage with philosophy. Professional philosophers dedicate years to formal study, contemplating philosophical ideas, and exchanging thoughts with their peers. This rigorous approach is excellent for those deeply committed to the subject and can be incredibly enriching. However, there exists another way to do philosophy—exploring it personally. 

Any idea that resonates can become a starting point for reflection. By meditating on concepts based on one's own experiences and trying to integrate insights into daily life, philosophy becomes an intimate, lived practice rather than a remote academic field.

Some Indian traditions describe this experiential approach as shravana (listening), manana (contemplating), and nidhidhyasana (applying in practice).

To visualise philosophical concepts, one could draw inspiration from Genís Carreras' work in his book, Philographics: Big Ideas in Simple Shapes, which primarily focuses on Western philosophical ideas. Similarly, I attempted to apply this method to Indian philosophical ideas, resulting in about 30 concepts represented through simple shapes (embedded as a deck), with six of them presented below.

The idea behind this edition of FF Life is to provide you a starting point to explore these concepts or any idea that appeals to you, in your own way.

Here are some ways to go about it:

  • Create a doodle or mind map that illustrates the concept.
  • Write an analogy or anecdote that explains the concept.
  • Create a poem or song that expresses the concept.

I assure you that the experience of engaging with these ideas creatively will be highly enriching and rewarding.

A slideshow on my interpretation of the essence of 30 Indian philosophies

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About the author

N S Ramnath
N S Ramnath

Senior Editor

Founding Fuel

NS Ramnath is a member of the founding team & Lead - Newsroom Innovation at Founding Fuel, and co-author of the book, The Aadhaar Effect. His main interests lie in technology, business, society, and how they interact and influence each other. He writes a regular column on disruptive technologies, and takes regular stock of key news and perspectives from across the world. 

Ram, as everybody calls him, experiments with newer story-telling formats, tailored for the smartphone and social media as well, the outcomes of which he shares with everybody on the team. It then becomes part of a knowledge repository at Founding Fuel and is continuously used to implement and experiment with content formats across all platforms. 

He is also involved with data analysis and visualisation at a startup, How India Lives.

Prior to Founding Fuel, Ramnath was with Forbes India and Economic Times as a business journalist. He has also written for The Hindu, Quartz and Scroll. He has degrees in economics and financial management from Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.

He tweets at @rmnth and spends his spare time reading on philosophy.

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