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Paul Thieme

  • West Germany / 1905-2001
  • Indologist
  • Professor Emeritus, University of Tuebingen

One of the Most Eminent Indologists of the 20th Century Who Made a Significant Contribution to the Comprehension of Indo-Aryan and the Ancient Indian Philosophy through His Detailed Studies of Vedic

Through his rigorous approach to philosophical studies, he added immensely to our knowledge of Vedic and other classical Indian literature and provided a solid foundation to the study of the history of Indian thought. He has also trained many outstanding scholars and made a profound contribution to the academic world.
*This category then was Category of Creative Arts and Moral Sciences.
*This field then was Field of Philosophy, History of Ideas (Ancient Indian and Greek).

Profile

Brief Biography

1905
Born in Berlin, Germany
1928
Doctor in Philosophy, Gottingen University
1932
Lecturer, Gottingen University
1932
Lecturer, University of Allahabad (India)
1935
Assistant professor, Breslau University (Poland)
1941
Professor, University of Halle
1953
Professor, University of Frankfurt
1954
Professor, Yale University
1960
Professor, University of Tubingen
1975
Professor Emeritus, University of Tubingen

Selected Awards and Honors

1951
Foreign member of Sachsen Academy of Sciences
1977
The Rabindranath Tagore Medal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal
1984
Associate member of Bayern Academy of Sciences

Major Works

1935

Panini and the Veda

1938

Der Fremdling im Rigveda

1949

Untersuchungen zur Wortkunde und Auslegung des Rigveda

1964

Gedichte aus dem Rig-Veda

1966

Upanishaden

1971

Kleine Schriften

Citation

One of the Most Eminent Indologists of the 20th Century Who Made a Significant Contribution to the Comprehension of Indo-Aryan and the Ancient Indian Philosophy through His Detailed Studies of Vedic

Ancient Indian thought has, in the form of Buddhism, been familiar to the Japanese since the earliest historical times. But its deepest and most venerable roots can be traced back to that great body of classical literature known as the Vedas.

Dr. Thieme has established a firm foundation for the elucidation of the Vedic texts, and has produced from among his students many outstanding scholars in fields such as Vedic studies, Indian philosophy, Sanskrit grammar, and Indo-Aryan Philology. These students have continued Dr. Thieme’s work in many nations far beyond the borders of his native Germany.

The Vedic literature which has formed the principle object of Dr. Thieme’s enquiry is important not merely from the standpoint of ideological research, but because it comprises Hinduism, Buddhism, and various other elements making up the rich tradition of Indian thought. The Vedas, the oldest of all Sanskrit literature, rank in importance with the ancient Greek classics as vital source materials for comparative linguistic studies in the Indo-European languages.

Dr. Thieme, building on his work in the Western classics and Indo-European comparative linguistics, has opened new vistas in the philological and interpretative study of Vedic literature.

Dr. Thieme’s method employs the “Wortkunde,” a German expression indicating the study of word meaning. This method involves collecting terms associated with important ideological and literary concepts from the entire range of Vedic literature, arranging them, and analyzing them according to context. This precise investigative technique enables the fundamental meanings of concepts to be clarified, and their subsequent etymological development to be traced.

Using this method Dr. Thieme has clarified the meanings of numerous important concepts, including “brahman,” the supreme principle of the universe and one of the fundamental axioms of Indian philosophy and religion, and “arya,” the name adopted by the various peoples who rose from the original Vedic culture.

Ancient Indian literature, with the Vedas at its peak, stands with the classic writings of Greece and China as part of the priceless spiritual heritage of humankind. In modern civilization we have come to rely on fossil fuels such as coal and oil for many of our material needs, but the ancient classics provide an invaluable source of “fossil fuel” to meet our spiritual needs. Correctly understood and applied, they have an enormous amount to contribute to our inner lives.

Dr. Paul Thieme’s contribution in providing a firm direction for the study of the ancient Indian classics is fully as important as any advance made in the more eye-catching fields of science and technology. His work is a priceless gift to the future of humankind.

Lecture

Abstract of the Lecture

ON THE BEGINNINGS OF INDIAN PHILOSOPHY

The object of my university studies (begun in 1923) was, first, Comparative Philology (of the Indo-European languages)”, involving the study of the old and sacred language of India:Sanskrit. I soon changed to “Indology”, becoming interested–chiefly and without fiving up altogether my linguistic interests–in old Indian religion (Vedism, Brahmanism), philosophy, and Sanskrit literature in general.

The character of Vedism: it is composed (like old Iranian religion) of worship of the forces and elements of nature: Dawn (Usas), Sun (Surya), Fire (Agni), Winds (Maruts) etc, called devas “the Heavenly”, and of personifications of ethical concepts: Truth (Varuna), Contract/Treaty (Mitra), Hospitality (Aryaman), Justice (Bhaga) etc., called asuras “Lords” or Adityas.

Religiously oriented search for causes and origins leads to cosmogonic questionings and speculation, finally to “Metaphysics”.

My special interest: “Philosophic hymns of the Rgveda (the oldest collection of religious poetry, from middle of 2nd millenium BC)”, dealing with cosmogonic themes. These “philosophic poems” should be interpreted as discussions where different points of view are brought forward. Examples are Rgveda 10.72 and 10.129; the latter is treated in detail. Of particular interest is here the growing philosophic scepticism, leading to the conviction that men and even gods are unable to penetrate the darkness of “the origin of the origin of creation”.

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Workshop

Workshop

Some Problems in Vedic Studies

date
November 12, 1988 13:00-17:00
palce
Kyoto International Conference Center
Chairperson
Masaaki Hattori : Member, Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences; Professor, Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University

Program

13:30
Opening Remarks Muneo Tokunaga
Greetings Kazuo Inamori, President, Inamori Foundation
Greetings Shunpei Ueyama, Chairman, Kyoto Prize Committee in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences; Director-General, Kyoto National Museum
Introduction of Achievement Masaaki Hattori
13:50
Lecture Paul Thieme
Laureate in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences
"On the Khilakãnda of the Satapathabrãhmana"
15:00
Intermission
15:40
Chairperson Masaaki Hattori
Lecture Ryutaro Tsuchida
Associate Professor, Faculty of Letters, the University of Tokyo
"On the custom of the Vedic opavasa and the origin of the Buddhist uposatha"
16:15
Chairperson Masaaki Hattori
Lecture Yasuke Ikari
Associate Professor, the Research Institute for Humanistic Studies, Kyoto University
"Some Aspects of the Idea of Rebirth in Vedic Literarure"
16:50
Closing Remarks Minoru Hara
17:00
Closing
PAGETOP