I am a American, have a deep lay background in philosophy and run a philosophy group in person as well as actively write and interact with the community.
I have a interest in pretty much every philosophical tradition there is, and try my best to snoop them out. Asian and European systems are the easiest and most widely written about, second by ancient systems used in Mesopotamia, then lslamic traditions are more difficult, then the hardest to figure out in terms of a wide census is philosophies from India.
I'm just now after several years, since I was a kid living near a large ISKCON temple, wrapping my head around Advaita and Dvaita in terms of a Theory of Mind. I've read the Chandogya Upanishad, and was surprised to find Dharma and Karma was started by a military sect..... being ex-military myself.
I also have a interest in the philosopher Plotinus, who is oftentimes said to be heavily influenced by Vedanta philosophy.
I've read due to contact with ISKCON large segments of the Srimad Bhagavatam, as well as random books- whatever I find in random bookstores or being tossed out, nothing linear or systematic. The Mahabharata broadcast on Itunes, some of the episodes on youtube, Book of Manu in my teens, a few volumns of Swami Vivekananda, and on the virtual world Second Life the Advaita center there I learned about Non-Dualism..... and how it differed from western concepts of monism in terms of approach and emphasis- we're not as language centric (or cryptically rejecting in terms of paradox I should say). Also read random stuff, like on Kabir (yes, not a hindu) and Emperor Akbar, and a few text biographies, both contemporary as well as modern, on famous emperors or religious leaders. Random texts comparing Heidegger to Shankara, or Jungians skipping randomly through symbolism.
I can't still make much sense of time tables in India. I am having a easier time with Sri Lanka history. I can't make heads or tails with when what mathematician appeared where, and in terms of logic, I am embarrassingly deficient in understanding vedic concepts..... best I can do is a text from sacred-texts from a shiva cult from the early 20th century..... and I don't know how mainstream it is. I have rough chronologies of philosophers from India..... but I get confused easily with odd terms. I can handle basic terms of japanese buddhism at this point, but struggle with hinduism, and never can tell when it's a regional language or Hindi. Speaing of Hindi- tried learning sanscript and it turned out I was learning Hindi, and got confused and upset about that..... and wasn't making much progress.
I am largely lost in terms of Indian philosophy, and am embarrassed about it. I do okay in the transmutation of the elements in the upanisads- it's similar to the pre-socratics philosophers..... and do okay with stuff like the Athrasastra or if it looks like it's a dionysian cult like in Sri Lanka..... but struggle with what must be the most blatant basic stuff like what do Tamils do in the south differently? They seem to have a different corpus at times, and similar beliefs at others..... and I can't tell if someone is the equivalent of a mainstream Catholic or Orthodox priest in Christianity in terms of Hinduism or a snake charming hoax of a country bumpkin who's just feeding my whatever. I kinda want to grasp mainstream stuff.... but when I try, people say stuff like "Don't listen to him, he says only Krishna can give Moksha, when Ganesha can do it too" or how someone had a life like idol and dances bhakti..... but then another has a phallus stone that isn't a penis but is a penis that isn't a penis..... (I'm like a multi layered onion of confusion on this one not knowing how to be politically correct- it's a penis non penis penis without sexuality...... yet quite sexual and I clearly can't just be told what's up, but everyone likes me standing looking at the rock for whatever reason confused as if it's a good thing).
I still don't understand even the Mohsha thing..... it's salvation or annihilation or serendipity? What is it in terms of non-dualism?
I've read more than I am letting on, but I am nervous and doubting what I've read, and most people I meet who know don't seem to know much beyond pronunciation and a name or two of religious leaders.
I'm not well educated in the traditions of india in terms of philosophy. I know the rough outlines of vedic philosophical debating styles.... and don't want to lose my head for not knowing basic silly stuff.
So have pity on me here on the forum. My religious background is Catholic, but not here to proselytize, I like the theories of Advaita and Dvaita philosophically, and have been thinking of them for a while. I might ask questions sometimes, and they may appear ignorant- it's because they are, and I don't have the common sense to know the obvious everyone else immediately understands from living in a indian household or in a hindu culture.
Sorry about my confusion and difficulties in advance, I am really lost. I was reading through chunks of history of indian philosophies, and understand them in one sense, but their disembodied in another, and show no evidence of when and how widespread the ideas were..... or how westernized the history is.
It's not complexity that's difficulty, but background coherency. I being a westerner know the Mormons were NOT around in the middle ages, Cynics are Ancient, and that Sargon II's laws, though chronologically prior to Locke and indeed was law, didn't influence Locke one bit in his natural law outlook. I get the feeling I am this messed up when reading Indian philosophy though. Even more embarrassed in not knowing modern philosophy of India. They read everything we do in the west...... and have their own traditions, and I am just a big embarrassment for not being able to communicate on their front ideas. It's isolated and cut off from me, making me a bad thinker for having a isolated outlook. My ideas should be potentially good and informed for 6 billion people, not billion minus India. That's the goal for every philosopher, to be universally valid and compatible.... and I am not, because I don't get it in terms of India.
That's who I am and why I am here. If you see my posts and answer my questions in the threads here, I thank you.