Hindu philosophy

Hindu philosophy is traditionally divided into six āstika schools viz. Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimansa (or Purva Mimansa) and Vedanta (or Uttar Mimansa), which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Further, there are Nāstika  schools such as Cārvāka, Ājīvika etc.  which don’t accept the Vedas as supreme scriptures.

Astika Schools

Samkhya School

Samkhya is the oldest of the Aastika or Orthodox philosophical systems in Hinduism.  Samkhya means Enumeration. The founder of the Sankya school of Philosophy was Maharishi Kapil.

Basic Philosophy

The Samkya School believes in Dualism and says that there are only two realities viz.  Purusha and Prakriti. While Purusha is eternal, pure consciousness, Prakriti is substance or realm of matter. Prakriti consists of varying levels of three dispositions or categories of qualities viz. Activity (rajas), Inactivity (tamas) and Harmony (sattva). An imbalance in the intertwined relationship of these three dispositions causes the world to evolve from Prakriti. This evolution from Prakriti causes the creation of 23 constituents, including intellect (buddhi), ego (ahamkara) and mind (manas).

As per this school, life or Jiva is a state in which purua is bonded to prakriti through the glue of desire, and the end of this bondage is moksha. Thus, the Samkhya school does not believe in existance of God but only two realities Purush and Prakriti. However, it does not describe what happens after moksha and does not mention anything about God, because after liberation there is no essential distinction of individual and universal puruṣa. Thus, what happens after Moksha is irrelevant thing for this school. However, despite not believing in God, the Samkhya school believed in Doctrine of Karma and transmigration of souls. It also believes in existance of many living souls (Jeevatmas) who possess consciousness. It says that Puruṣa, the eternal pure consciousness, due to ignorance, identifies itself with products of Prakriti such as intellect (buddhi) and ego (ahamkara). This results in endless transmigration and suffering. However, once the realization arises that Puruṣa is distinct from Prakriti, the Self is no longer subject to transmigration and absolute freedom arises.

Difference between Dualism of Samkhya and Dualism of West

In Samkhya School of philosophy, the dualism consists of fundamental difference between consciousness and matter. It is different from the dualism in west, because in that the dualism differentiates between mind and body.

The Sankhya system of philosophy lost ground in the Gupta period because its theism was absorbed by the epics and its categories of Prakrti, Purusa and Gunas were taken over by Vedanta.

Yoga School

Yuj means “control” and Yoga also mean to “add”. This philosophy is very close to Samkhya and can be easily distinguished as Yoga= Samkhya + Divinity. Thus, yoga school accepts the samkhya psychology and metaphysics, but is more theistic than the samkhya, because it also includes the divine entity to the samkhya’s elements of reality.

Patanjali is widely regarded as the compiler of the formal yoga philosophy. The yoga phislosophy of Patanjali is also known as Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga is a system for control of the mind. The other branches include Karma YogaJnana Yoga,Bhakti Yoga, and Hatha Yoga.

As per Patanjali Yoga is defined as following shloka:

The above shloka means that Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind. Swami Vivekananda translated the sutra as “Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff from taking various forms”. Hindu philosophy distinguishes seven major branches of Yoga:

  • Rāja Yoga(Classical Yoga), a system of yoga codified by Patañjali and classified as one of the six āstika (“orthodox”) schools of Hindu philosophy.
  • Jnana yoga, (buddhi-yoga) centred on the faculty of discernment and ‘virtually identical with the spiritual path of Vedānta’.
  • Karma-yoga, in which the world of everyday work becomes the tool by which self is transcended.
  • Bhakti-Yogathe path of devoted service to God.
  • Tantra-yogafocused on the techniques and psycho-physical teachings contained within a body of texts called tantras.
  • Mantra-yoga, one of the most ancient forms of yoga in which the psycho-acoustical properties of the spoken word are used to concentrate the mind.
  • Hatha yoga, a system of physical purification designed to reintegrate and re-balance the mind and body in preparation for Raja-yoga (first described by Yogi Swatmarama).

Ashtanga Yoga

The Yogasutras of Patanjali later became the basis of Ashtanga Yoga. This eight-limbed concept derived from Patanajali’s Yogasutra is a core characteristic of practically every Raja yoga variation that is practiced today. These eight limbs are as follows:

  • Five Yama:Yama refers to the five “abstentions”. These abstentions are
    • Ahimsa (non-violence)
    • Satya (Truth, non-lying)
    • Asteya (non-covetousness)
    • Brahmacharya (non-sensuality, celibacy)
    • Aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
  • Five Niyama:The Niyama refers to five “observances”. These are
    • Shaucha(purity)
    • Santosha(contentment)
    • Tapas (austerity)
    • Svadhyaya (study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul), and
    • Ishvara-Pranidhana (surrender to God).
  • Asana: Asana means to be seated. Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
  • Pranayama (“Suspending Breath”): Prāna, breath, “āyāma”, to restrain or stop. Also interpreted as control of the life force.
  • Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the mind or senses from an object or event.
  • Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object.
  • Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
  • Samadhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.

Hathayoga Versus Rajayoga

The Yogasutras of Patanjali which mainly postulate the Raj Yoga, date back to Mauryan Period while Hathayoga was introduced by Yogi Swatmarama. The major difference between Raj Yoga and Hathayoga is that while Raja Yoga aims at controlling all thought-waves or mental modifications, a Hatha Yogi starts his Sadhana, or spiritual practice, with Asanas (postures) and Pranayama. So Raj Yoga starts from Mind and Hathyoga starts from Body.

Nyaya School

Literally means recursion. It is based on texts known as the Nyaya Sutras, which were written by Aksapada Gautama from around the 2nd century AD. The basic theme of this darshana is acquiring the Valid Knowledge. The system is based upon Logic. On this basis, the knowledge can be valid or invalid.

  • There are four means of obtaining valid knowledge viz.
    • perception (pratyakṣa),
    • inference (anumāna),
    • comparison (upamāna) and
    • verbal testimony (śabda).
  • Invalid knowledge includes
    • memory (smṛti),
    • doubt (saṁśaya),
    • error (viparyaya) and
    • hypothetical reasoning (tarka).

The followers of Nyaya believed that obtaining valid knowledge was the only way to obtain release from suffering. They therefore took great pains to identify valid sources of knowledge and to distinguish these from mere false opinions. The most important contribution made by this school is its methodology. This methodology is based on a system of logic that has subsequently been adopted by the majority of the Indian schools.

Vaisheshika School

Vaisheshsika is a kind of Atomism. It was proposed by Maharishi Kanaad. It postulates that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to a finite number of atoms. The school deals in detail with “Padarth” or Matter. Vaisheshika system developed independently from the Nyaya, but the two eventually merged because of their closely related theories. In its classical form, however, the Vaishesika school differed from the Nyaya in one crucial respect: where Nyaya accepted four sources of valid knowledge, the Vaishesika accepted only perception and inference.

Vaisheshika is also different from the Modern Atomic Theory because Vaisheshika says that the behaviour of the atoms is guided by the Supreme being.

The Vaisheshika School classified the matter or padartha into six categories:

  • Dravya (substance): There are nine substances viz. pṛthvī (earth), ap (water), tejas (fire), vāyu (air), ākaśa (ether), kāla (time), dik (space), ātman (self) and manas (mind). The first five are called bhūtas
    (Panchabhutas) the substances having some specific qualities so that they could be perceived by one or the other external senses.
  • Gua (quality): There are 17 Gunas or qualities of matter. The Gunas are diferent from Dravya. While a Dravya is capable of existing independently by itself, a gua(quality) cannot exist so. The 17 Gunas are rūpa (colour), rasa (taste), gandha (smell), sparśa (touch), saṁkhyā (number), parimāṇa (size/dimension/quantity), pṛthaktva (individuality), saṁyoga (conjunction/accompaniments), vibhāga (disjunction), paratva (priority), aparatva (posteriority), buddhi (knowledge), sukha (pleasure), duḥkha (pain), icchā (desire), dveṣa (aversion) and prayatna (effort). To these Praśastapāda added another Gunas such as gurutva (gravity), dravatva (fluidity), sneha (viscosity), dharma (merit), adharma (demerit), śabda (sound) and saṁkāsra (faculty).
  • Karma (activity): Activity is a feature of the some of the Dravyas. Ākāśa (ether), kāla (time), dik (space) and ātman (self), though substances, are devoid of karma (activity)
  • Sāmānya (generality): When a property is found common to many substances, it is called sāmānya.
  • Viśea (particularity) : By means of viśeṣa, we are able to perceive substances as different from one another. As the ultimate atoms are innumerable so are the viśeṣas
  • Samavāya (inherence): Samavaya is basically cause and the effect by two substances. Acording to Praśastapāda, it is the relationship existing between the substances that are inseparable, standing to one another in the relation of the container and the contained

One more category was later added called abhāva (non-existence). Here, the first three categories are defined as artha (which can perceive) and they have real objective existence. The last three categories are defined as budhyapekam (product of intellectual discrimination) and they are logical categories.

Difference between Vaisheshika and Nyaya

Vaisesika is allied to the nyaya system of philosophy. Both systems accept the liberation of the individual self as the end goal; both view ignorance as the root cause of all pain and misery; and both believe that liberation is attained only through right knowledge of reality. There are, however, two major differences between Nyaya and Vaisesika.

  • First, nyaya philosophy accepts four independent sources of knowledge — perception, inference, comparison, and testimony — but vaisesika accepts only two — perception and inference.
  • Second, nyaya maintain s that all of reality is comprehended by sixteen categories (padarthas), whereas vaisesika recognizes only seven categories of reality. These are: dravya (substance), guna (quality), karma (action), samanya (generality), visesa (uniqueness), samavaya (inherence), and abhava (nonexistence). The term padartha means “the object denoted by a word,” and according to vaisesika philosophy all objects denoted by words can be broadly divided into two main classes

— that which exists, and that which does not exist. Six of the seven padarthas are in the first class, that which exists. In the second class, that which does not exist, there is only one padartha, abhava, which stands for all negative facts such as the nonexistence of things.

Mimansa (Purva Mimamsa)

Mimansa means investigation or enquiry. The primary enquiry is into the nature of dharma based on close theology of the Vedas. It has two divisions, Purva Mimansa and Uttar Mimansa. Poorva Mimansa is ancient.

Dharma, Karma and Rta
The Mimansa philosophy says that the dharma is not accessible to reason or observation, instead, it must be inferred from the authority of the Vedas, which are considered eternal, authorless, and infallible. This implies that rather than paying attention to God exists not, this philosophy focuses on the character of the Dharma.

The Pūrva Mīmāṃsā explains the Dharma as a “virtue”, “morality” or “duty”. The duty is to follow the prescriptions of the Saṃhitās and their Brāhmaṇa commentaries relating the correct performance of Vedic rituals. This implies that Dharma is the essentially ritualism, and there is a great significance of the Karma or action in attaining Dharma.

In this way, Dharma is also fundamentally different from the Rig-Vedic Rta or Rita which is a principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. While Dharma and Karma are related to each other, ta is described as that which is ultimately responsible for the proper functioning of the natural, moral and sacrificial orders.

The Purva Mimansa was postulated by Jamini. The ideology of Poorva Mimansa was to counteract the challenge by Buddhism and vedanta which marginalized the Vedic supremacy and sacrifices. This school got momentum in Gupta period and reached its climax in 7-8th century. Sabara and Kumaril Bhatta were two main interpretators. It was one of the major forces to decline Buddhism in India, but later itself was eclipsed by Vedanta.

Uttar Mimamsa / Vedanta School

Vedanta means Veda end or the purpose or goal of the Vedas. It was given by Badrayana or Maharishi Vyasa, who is one of the 7 chiranjivis and wrote “Mahabharta”.

Advaita

Its proponent wes Adi Sahnakara and his Guru Gaudapada. The essence of this Vedanta is that “Brahman is the only reality, and the world, as it appears, is illusory.”

Vishishtadvaita

Its proponent was Rāmānuja. The basic theory is that “jīvātman is a part of Brahman, and hence is similar, but not identical. Brahman, matter and the individual souls are distinct but mutually inseparable entities”. Vishishtadvaita advocates Bhakti to attain God.

Dvaita

The proponent of the Dvaita was Madhwāchārya. This theory is also known as Tatvavādā – The Philosophy of Reality. It identifies God in the Brahman (Universe) and its incarnations such as Vishnu and Krishna. It says that all individual souls (jīvātmans) and matter as eternal are mutually separate entities.

Dvaitādvaita

The theory of Dvaitādvaita was given by Nimbarka. It is based upon the early school of Bhedābheda of Bhaskara. It says that jīvātman is at once the same as yet different from Brahman. The jiva relation may be regarded as dvaita from one point of view and advaita from another. This school identifies God in Krishna.

Shuddhādvaita

The proponent of Shuddhādvaita was Vallabha. It says that World is Leela of God that is Krishna and he is Sat-Chid-Aananda. It identifies Bhakti as the only means of liberation. Vallabha was also a famous saint of Pushti Marg. He won the famous debate of Brahmavad over Shankars.

Achintya Bhedābheda

The proponent of Achintya Bhedābheda was Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a follower of the Dvaita vedanta of Sri Madhwacharya. The doctrine of Achintya Bhedābheda or inconceivable and simultaneous one-ness and difference states that the soul or energy of God is both distinct and non-distinct from God and he can be experienced through a process of long devotion. It identified God in Krishna. This Philosophy is followed by ISKCON.

Purnādvaita or Integral Advaita

The proponent of Purnādvaita was Shri Arubindo. He propounded this doctrine in his “The Life Divine”. synthesized all the exant schools of Vedanta and gave a comprehensive resolution integrating cues from the Western metaphysics and modern science. Sri Arubindo is known to be one, who restored the umbilical cord of the Vedantic exegesis with the Vedas.

Modern Vedānta

The proponent of Modern Vedānta was Swami Vivekananda. His phislosophy says that the conditions of abject poverty should be removed; only then will people be able to turn their minds toward God.

Analysis: Mimansa and Dharma, Karma and Rta

Mimansa means investigation or enquiry. The primary enquiry is into the nature of dharma based on close theology of the Vedas. It has two divisions, Purva Mimansa and Uttar Mimansa. Poorva Mimansa is ancient.

Dharma, Karma and Rta
The Mimansa philosophy says that the dharma is not accessible to reason or observation, instead, it must be inferred from the authority of the Vedas, which are considered eternal, authorless, and infallible. This implies that rather than paying attention to God exists not, this philosophy focuses on the character of the Dharma.

The Pūrva Mīmāṃsā explains the Dharma as a “virtue”, “morality” or “duty”. The duty is to follow the prescriptions of the Saṃhitās and their Brāhmaṇa commentaries relating the correct performance of Vedic rituals. This implies that Dharma is the essentially ritualism, and there is a great significance of the Karma or action in attaining Dharma.

In this way, Dharma is also fundamentally different from the Rig-Vedic Rta or Rita which is a principle of natural order which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within it. While Dharma and Karma are related to each other, ta is described as that which is ultimately responsible for the proper functioning of the natural, moral and sacrificial orders.

The Purva Mimansa was postulated by Jamini. The ideology of Poorva Mimansa was to counteract the challenge by Buddhism and vedanta which marginalized the Vedic supremacy and sacrifices. This school got momentum in Gupta period and reached its climax in 7-8th century. Sabara and Kumaril Bhatta were two main interpretators. It was one of the major forces to decline Buddhism in India, but later itself was eclipsed by Vedanta.

Nastika Schools

The nāstika (heterodox) schools don’t draw upon the Vedas as the sole primary authoritative text, but may emphasize other traditions of thought. The main nāstika schools are Cārvāka (pronounced Charvaka) and Ajivika.

Charvaka School

This system was originally called Lokayat or Brahaspatya. This school may be called one of the oldest school of Indian materialism. It rejects Vedas, rejects ritualism of Vedas and does not believe in god or any other super natural power. Ajita Kesakambali is thought to be the first Caravaka while Brihaspati is called its founder. Most of its literature is now lost and it is also not a living tradition as of now.

Aajivika

Ajivikas are followers of the doctrine of immutability or pre-determined belonging to the religious order or sect founded by Gosala Mankhaliputta, a senior contemporary of buddha and mahavira. The basic theme of ajivikism is the doctrine of niyati or destiny. The main source of information on ajivikism is Bhagwati Sutra.

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