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Paul Deussen

Max Muller

Paul Jakob Deussen (1845 �1919) was a German Orientalist and Sanskrit scholar. He was influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer. He was also a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche and Swami Vivekananda. In 1911, he founded the Schopenhauer Society (Schopenhauer-Gesellschaft). He was the first editor, in 1912, of the scholarly journal Schopenhauer Yearbook (Schopenhauer-Jahrbuch).

Deussen, who 'Sanskritized' his name to �Deva-Sena� as a mark of his admiration for Hinduism, is one of the distinguished roll of Europeans who, often with lyrical admiration, participated in the scholarly Western discovery of Sanskrit and Hinduism which took place in British India itself, Germany, France and England.

Paul Deussen was born in 1845 in Oberdreis in the Rhine Province, one of eight children of a clergyman of modest means. He became a student, and lifelong devotee, of the German philosopher Schopenhauer, and of the philosophy of Kant; and he became a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche. Deussen was educated at Bonn, Tubingen and Berlin Universities between 1864 and 1881, writing his dissertation on Plato�s philosophy. He was appointed Privatdocent (1881-7) and Extraordinarius (1887-9) at the University of Berlin, and Ordinarius (1889-1919, the year of his death), at the University of Kiel. Deussen continued to edit the yearbook on Schopenhauer until that year, and worked on an edition of Schopenhauer�s works.

It was when he attended a lecture by Professor Lassen expounding the Shakuntala that Deussen was fired by Sanskrit and Hinduism. His first publication in 1877 was published in English as The Elements of Metaphysics in 1894. It was followed by the translations of The Sutra of the Vedanta in 1906; The Philosophy of the Upanishads also in 1906; and The System of the Vedanta in 1912. His visit to India in 1904 was published in English as My Indian Reminiscences in 1912. However, his autobiographical papers, edited by his widow Erica and published in German in 1922, have not so far been translated into English.

Deussen�s System of the Vedanta has been reprinted several times: he uses the Brahmasutra and, rather less, Adi Shankara�s commentary on it, as the structure for his exposition.

Some critics believe that Deussen�s lifelong admiration for Schopenhauer, as greater even than Kant, colored his vision of Hinduism and gave it a noumenal, Christian ethos; however, his scholarship is immense, perceptive, and meticulous.

Paul Deussen�s name is thus linked with George Boucher, Sir William Jones, and Sir John Woodroffe in British India; Anquetil du Perron and Eugene Burnouf in France; Heinrich Roth, Franz Bopp and Friedrich von Schlegel in Germany; and Max Müller in Germany, France and England, in the European revelation of the wealth of Hinduism as revealed by Sanskrit documents. And if this search was diverted by the theories of �Indo-Germanic� as a mother tongue, and other later vested interests such as �Aryanism�, the scholarship of these pioneers stands in its own right.

Paul Deussen won praise on his Indian tour from the assembled Indian pundits, and warmly from Swami Vivekananda himself in a personal tribute.

[Source: Paul Deussen, Wikipedia]

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Page last updated: 09-Jul-2012