Scriptures and Texts - Part 'D' Hindu Darshana
Continued from Part XX
Unlike two major Abrahamic religions of the world which basically rely on one Holy book each as discourse of God to His subjects through special messengers, the Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) is not based on any single book or unified message or discourse supposedly that of God. Instead it is a synthesis or fusion of the knowledge and wisdom of the Vedic Rishis vigorously and intelligently enquiring into the truth of universe. This collective truth is reflected in the ancient scriptures and texts, especially the four Vedas and ten principal Upanishads. They are largely based on the inquisitive criteria of truth that it must be all pervading, and it must be self-evident. The very criteria rendered the whole physical universe as temporary and delusional, establishing only the extremely subtle consciousness as the true basis of everything; it is identified as Brahman-Atman.
The other core characteristic of the Sanatana Dharma, thanks to the wisdom of the great rishis of the Vedic era, was that it did not put any restriction on followers for the reasoning, questioning, exploration and debate in the quest of finding absolute truth. Perhaps this is the chief reason why in Hindu philosophy God (Brahman) appears as absolute and all inclusive while in other religions, particularly Abrahamic ones, he appears as a great power in the manifested reality. Besides, in Hinduism, the God does not condemn anyone eternally to hell if they fail to propitiate Him. Philosophically, this appears to be the reason why Hinduism is so tolerant towards the other religions and people in a world whereas others are pursuing their cherished goal of the world domination through evangelism and/or coercion.
Consequently, since Vedic era be this rishis/munis or common folks, Hindus have never been in a bind to follow one specified path or forced to believe a designated philosophy. This intellectual freedom led to evolution of many paths or Darshanas (philosophies) in pursuing the ultimate reality or cosmic truth; the philosophies being different but the goal remaining same. This is also the reason why some followers seek unmanifested God (Nirguna Brahman), others follow manifested God (Saguna Brahman) or gods and some others remain atheist too. Enlightened truth seekers understand the reality i.e. Brahman, and that Saguna God or gods are manifested aspects of the same eternal Brahman. This deep philosophy and exploration thereof has led to different Schools of thoughts or Darshanas based on the knowledge and discussion pertaining to the philosophical principles and concepts of Hinduism, including credos, doctrines and convictions.
Thus the Hindu Darshana or philosophy is very vast and profound. Since Vedic period, several rishis and munis have devoted their lifetime in evolving and systematizing these profound philosophies of the Sanatana Dharma. The Vedas are the original scriptures that do not owe their authority to any one entity while the Upanishads actually explained the knowledge and philosophy contained in the Vedas with the concept of Vedanta embedded. Over the centuries, several religious and philosophical upheavals took place within the Sanatana Dharma giving rise to different schools of thoughts. Thus there exist six major systems of the orthodox Hindu philosophy based on the authority of Vedas. These are the Samkhya, Yoga, Vaishesika, Nyaya, Mimamsa and Vedanta.
The Samkhya is a Sanskrit word which literally means "number" but it also signifies "perfect knowledge". As a matter of fact, this School philosophically specifies the number and nature of the constituents of the universe and thus in essence it embodies the knowledge of the cosmic truth. It talks about the dualistic realism advocating two ultimate realities: Purusha (consciousness, Self) and Prakriti (matter, nature). The Samkhya considers that both the consciousness and matter are equally real. It theorizes that some finest and subtlest stuff causes all physical existence which is identified as Prakriti. Samkhya is a rationalist school of Indian philosophy that accepts three pramanas (literal meaning "proof") as the reliable means of acquiring knowledge and these are pratyaksa (perception), anumana (inference) and shabda (word/testimony from reliable sources).
Based on the duelist exposition of the matter and consciousness, it is the oldest school of Indian philosophy in Hinduism founded by Rishi Kapila sometime during the first millennium BCE. The Samkhya philosophy also served as a precursor and strong influence on the Advaita Vedanta and other philosophical schools of thoughts. The concept is based on the nature and interaction of Purusha and Prakriti, already dealt with in the Part X of this series. According to the Samkhya, the entire universe is the product of the interaction of Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (matter or nature). Purusha is the inert and pure Consciousness part while Prakriti is the active decisive and perceptible part. Prakriti is comprised of three gunas (qualities) namely Sattva, Rajas and Tamas; and the mind and intellect are the combination of the these gunas.
According to the Samkhya School, the universe is a creation of the Purusa-Prakriti fusion in numerous permutations and combinations of variously enumerated elements, senses, feelings, activity and mind. Purusha is all pervading, eternal, and transcendental Self. It is like Brahman of the Vedanta who is absolute, independent, imperceptible, and unknowable, above any experience and beyond any words or explanation. On the other hand, Prakriti represents the matter and constantly plays the three gunas in the ever changing world; the evolution is the result of the union of Purusha and Prakriti. According to this philosophy, the first evolute of this fusion or amalgamation is Mahat or the cosmic intellect that gives rise to Ahamkara or the cosmic ego.Then the various evolutes are born out of the cosmic ego, as interplay of the gunas. The mind, the five sensory organs, the five organs of action, and the five each subtle and gross elements have all originated from the cosmic ego.
The five senses are taste, sight, touch, smell and hearing represented by the sense organs, namely tongue, eyes, skin, nose and ears; they are also known as Jnanendriyas. Five organs of actions are speech, locomotion, dexterity, excretion and procreation. These actions are performed by Vak (mouth), Pada (feet), Pani (hands), Payu (rectum) and Upastha (genitals), respectively; they are also known as the five Karmendriyas. The five subtle elements or tanmatras are elemental sound (shabda), taste (rasa), touch (sparsha), colour (rupa) and smell (gandha) which are responsible for the five gross elements or pancha maha bhutas, namely earth (Prithvi), water (Ap), air (Vayu), fire (Agni or Tejas) and ether (Akasha). According to Rishi Kapila, the unlimited combination of the twenty-three subtle and gross elements together caused the material world.
To recapitulate basic characteristics of gunas: the Sattva is good, delightful, positive, compassionate and constructive; the Rajas features activity, passion, impulse, potentially good as also bad; and the Tamas is the quality of bad, darkness, insensitivity, destruction, lethargy and negativity. In a nutshell, the Sattva is the illuminating guna whose essence is purity, fineness and subtlety; the Rajas is activation guna whose essence is motion and action; and the Tamas is an inert guna that expresses ignorance and inaction. The interplay of the three gunas in varied proportions defines the nature and character of someone or something and how it evolves in the course of life. The Samkhya conceptualizes the plurality of souls (Jeevatmas) possessing consciousness but does not clearly profess existence of Ishvara (God) as independent entity.
Rishi Kapila, the chief proponent of the Samkhya philosophy, did not believe in the existence of God as an independent entity. He argued that if God existed and was eternal and unchanging, then he could not be the cause of the universe. His logic was that a cause has to be ever active and changing. However, the later commentators of the Samkhya darshana appeared more inclined towards the theistic interpretation and belief in an ultimate spiritual authority. However, on Samsara and Moksha (salvation), like other major schools of thoughts the Samkhya too considers ignorance as the root cause of sufferings and bondage. Though Self (identified with Purusha) is eternal and pure consciousness, the ignorance causes it to be identified with the physical body and its constituents i.e. Manas, Mahat and Ahamkara which are the products of Prakriti. Hence the salvation is feasible when the Self becomes free from the false identity and material bonds.
Here it may be relevant to mention that different schools of thoughts vary in their interpretation of the cause and effect. Accordingly, the theory of causation in the Indian philosophy essentially identify two postulations:
Satkaryavada (prior-existence of effect in the cause): It maintains that karya (effect) is sat (real). It is present in the karana (cause) in a potential form, even before its manifestation.
Asatkaryavada (non-existence of effect in the cause): It maintains that karya (effect) is asat (unreal) until it comes into existence. Therefore every effect is a new beginning and is not born out of a cause.
The Samkhya and Vedanta philosophies endorse the satkaryavada but they differ in their interpretation. The satkaryavada has two variants namely Prakriti-parinamavada and Brahma-vivartavada. While the Parinamavada indicates that the effect is the real parinama (transformation) of the cause, the Brahma-vivartavada suggests that the effect is perceptible or contorted appearance of the cause. The Samkhya darshana supports the concept of Prakriti-parinamavada while the Advaita Vedanta follows Brahma-vivartavada.
Among the main Schools of Thoughts in the Indian philosophy, the term Yoga has many nuances but it is also the name of an important astika (theist) philosophical school. This system is largely based on the dualist premises of the Samkhya School. While it is largely in concordance with the Samkhya psychology and metaphysics, but it differs in essence because it unambiguously believes and professes the existence of Ishvara (God). Like the Samkhya School, the Yoga School too relies on three pramanas for seeking the knowledge i.e. pratyaksha (perception), anumana (inference) and shabda (testimony). Purusha and Prakriti find a place to define the duality of the universe but in a more generic term.
The Yoga School was founded by the Sage Patanjali who wrote the "Patanjali Yoga Sutra" which inter alia explains the underlining philosophy of this system too. The Yoga Sutra is a collection of 196 Indian sutras (aphorisms) on the theory and practice of yoga, a largely synthesized and organized knowledge from the older traditions. It is believed that the Yoga Sutras were compiled by Patanjali during the first millennium sometime prior to 400CE. It is one of the most popular and translated ancient Indian texts in the Indian as well as non-Indian languages. As the Yoga has close philosophical links with the Samkhya, some scholars even hold that they are two sides of the same coin; if the Samkhya is theory, the Yoga is practice.
However, as mentioned earlier that the Samkhya was basically based on an atheistic concept and in a later period it showed inclination towards theism but the Yoga was theistic an initio. The philosophy of Yoga is also explained at length in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. While the Yoga darshana too talks about the duality of Purusha (person) and Prakriti (nature or matter) but here the former signifies the Universal Consciousness or Supreme Reality (God) while the latter represents the material world. According to the Yoga darshana, the uneasiness or perturbation of mind poses the chief obstacle in Moksha (salvation). Hence to tame and regulate the mind, the Yoga prescribes several moral principles and practical methods. The practical part of the Yoga darshana is the Astanga Yoga (also Raja Yoga), which includes eight limbs, namely Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. These elements or limbs have been dealt with at length in Parts VII and VIII of the current series and broadly they signify as under:
- Yama implies abstention from doing away with falsehood, evil acts and harming others.
- Niyama insists on observance of purity, contentment, austerity etc.
- Asana is basically practicing various postures for a sound mental and physical health.
- Pranayama is the practice of controlling self-breath for the inner well-being.
- Pratyahara is practicing the withdrawal of the mind from worldly sensory objects.
- Dharana is the concentration of mind to restrain it from flickering, and focusing on truth.
- Dhyana is the meditation for self-purification.
- Samadhi is the final stage to achieve absorption in the Self.
Out of these eight limbs, Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara together constitute external elements while Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi together form internal elements. Yama are mandatory restraints while Niyama observances. Asanas and Pranayama together enhance the stability and steadiness of the body and mind. Pratyahara assists in detaching sensory organs from the glamour of the material world that facilitates and enhances the concentration of the mind. Dharana enables the Chitta (mind) to concentrate on the chosen object or goal. Dhyana helps in focused and uninterruptable contemplation. Finally Samadhi is the ultimate stage of yogic practice with ignorance and illusion gone. Thus according to Yoga darshana, the sustained and steadfast practice of the Astanga relieves one from the maladies caused by ignorance and paves way to salvation.
The Yoga and Samkhya philosophies have some other marked contrasts too. At the conceptual level, the Samkhya talks about Mahat, Ahamkara and Manas to refer to antahkarana while Yoga has only one attribute namely Chitta, representing all the three. Chitta is considered as being composed of intellect, ego and mind with predominance the sattva guna. The Yoga School of thoughts believes that the systematic and sustained Astanga yogic practices combined with knowledge (Jnan) professed by the Samkhya philosophy is sufficed to achieve salvation (Moksha) through Self-realization. The Yoga also has some central commonality with the Advaita Vedanta; some scholars opine that the Yoga is a form of experimental mysticism while Advaita Vedanta is a monistic personalism. Like Advaita Vedanta, the Yoga philosophy too believes in the concept of Brahman and Atman, and that Moksha is achievable in this life.
The Vaishesika (or Vaisheshika) School was founded by Rishi Kanada sometime during the second century BCE. His "Vaisheshika Sutra" has a detailed account of the Vaiseshika darshana. According to this philosophy, Brahman (God) is the fundamental force and cause of creation and consciousness in the universe. It also believes in the individual souls that pervade physical bodies for a given period. They are born based on the good and bad attributes and Brahman is the ultimate authority in the creation and sustenance of the universe. It?s most characteristic feature is its insights in the naturalism. It postulated that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to paramanu (atom), and their nature and actions are the consequence of the interplay of substance (a product of atoms, their number and spatial distribution), quality, commonness, particularity, activity and inherence.
The Vaishesika School developed independently but it is related to the Nyaya School in many ways with some differences in its epistemology (theory of knowledge), metaphysics and ontology (nature of being). The chief difference being their reliance on the source of knowledge; while the Vaishesika accepts only two i.e. perception and inference as sources of genuine knowledge, the Nyaya relies on four. To elaborate this point, it may be relevant to mention that the Hinduism accepts six pramanas (proof or evidences) epistemically as the source of accurate knowledge and truth and they are Pratyaksha (perception), Anumana (inference), Upamana (analogy), Arthapatti (postulation), Anupalabdhi (non-perception) and Shabda (testimony). Different philosophical schools follow their own epistemology to decipher and depict knowledge and truth.
The scholars consider the Vaishesika School as a pluralistic realism which defines the nature of the universe with seven categories: Dravya (substance), guna (attribute or quality), karma (action), samanya (universality), vishesha (particularity), amavaya (inherence) and abhava (non-existence). The Vaisheshka recognizes nine ultimate substances, of which five are material and four non-material substances: The five material substances are earth, water, fire, air and akasha; the four non-material ones are space, time, soul and mind. While the first four material substances are atomic but the last one, akasha, is non-atomic and infinite. Among non-material substances, the space and time too are infinite and eternal. The soul is comparable to that of the Self or Atman of the Vedanta School. However, according to this system the soul acquires consciousness only when it occupies a body. Thus consciousness is not considered as an inherent and eternal quality of the soul as per the Vaishesika darshana. Lastly, the mind (manas) is taken as atomic - indivisible and eternal that connects the Self to the worldly objects.
This School held Vedas as reliable scriptures of Hinduism. In Vaishesika darshana, the metaphysical premises are based on atomism in that the four material substances viz. earth, water, air and fire have atomic (elementary) and composite (gross) forms. According to Vaishesik scholars, an atom is anitya (indestructible) and abibhajya (indivisible), while a composite (gross) is defined as one which is divisible into atoms. In common parlance, what we see or perceive is composite, while the individual atoms are invisible. In the material world, the size, shape, form and everything that we experience as a whole is actually function of the atoms depending upon their number, spatial arrangements, quality (guna), karmic activity (karma), commonness (samanya), particularity (vishesa) and inherence (amavaya). God causes the combination of the active atoms and thus He is responsible for the creation of the world. Rishi Kanada did not discuss much about God but as the School evolved, the Vaishesik scholars and commentators referred Ishvara (God) as the efficient cause of the world and atom(s) as the material cause of the same.
The Nyaya is also referred to as Tarka which is largely based on a system of logic increasingly adopted by the majority of the other philosophical Schools. Rishi Gautama was the founder of the Nyaya School and authored the "Nyaya Sastra" around in the sixth century BCE. Rishi Gautam and early commentators believed that the true knowledge (Jnan) was the only credible way to get rid of sufferings in the human life. In the process, the Nyaya School identified four out of six pramanas as reliable means of gaining knowledge. They are perception (Pratyaksa), inference (Anumana), analogy (Upamana) and testimony (Shabda).
The Nyaya darshana is also equated with the analytic philosophy. This analytics involves sixteen components namely pramana (epistemology), pramaya (ontology), samasya (doubt), prayojana (axiology), drstanta (paradigm cases to establish rule), siddhanta (doctrine), avayana (premise), tarka (argument), nirnaya (belief), vada (appropriately conducted discussion), jalpa (debate), vitanda (refutation), hetvabhasa (fallacious argument), chala (contradiction), jat: (false analogy), and nigrahasthana (failure in debate). For these elaborate and logical methods applied, the Nyaya School is considered a realist theistic philosophy.
The Nyaya philosophy is closer to the Vaishesika than any other School of Thoughts. It holds that the human sufferings and delusion are a result of ignorance and activity under false pretentions and knowledge. As against this, the right knowledge not only helps in overcoming delusions but also paves the way for Moksha. According to this philosophy, perception is the result of interface between a sense and an object which is determinate and non-erratic. The perception follows inferences of three kinds i.e. priori, posteriori and commonly seen. Analogy is derived from the similarity of an object with something else well-known and testimony comes from the instructive assertions of a credible person or entity. Thus these four pranamas together are the source of knowledge in the world.
According to Nyaya Sutras, the body, soul, senses, objects of senses, mind, intellect, activity, fault, transmigration, fruit, suffering and release are the objects of right knowledge. Like Vaishesika, it endorsed Ishvara (God) and presence of individual Self or soul. According to the Nyaya darshana, the soul is eternal and all-pervading but consciousness is not a mandatory attribute of it and just accidental one. Then the Moksha is an absolute freedom from all miseries and pains as also from the arduous cycle of the recurring birth and death.
Rishi Jaimini founded the Mimamsa School of the Indian philosophy. The Sanskrit word 'mimamsa' literally means a "revered thought". He wrote "Mimamsa Sutra" which is probably the largest of all the philosophical Sutras divided into 12 chapters with approximately 2500 aphorisms (Sutras). As already explained, the Vedas are comprised of four parts namely, the Samhita, Brahmana, Aranyaka and Upanishad. The first two parts are commonly focused on the rites and rituals, largely representing the Karma-kanda, while the remaining two parts are explanatory to the first parts, hence form the Jnana-kanda portion of the Vedas. As Mimamsa darshana is largely based on the first two parts, it is also referred to as Purva-Mimamsa or Karma-Mimamsa by many scholars.
The Mimamsa derives considerable linkage and influence from the Vaishesika and Nyaya Schools. This philosophy has given rise to many sub-schools largely based on the epistemological considerations. Among them, two namely Prabhakara and Bhatta sub-schools are prominent. The Prabhakara sub-school is named after the seventh century scholar Prabhakara who suggested five pramanas to acquire knowledge; these are perception, inference, analogy, postulation/derivation and testimony. The other sub-school Bhatta derives its name after scholar Kumarila Bhatta, who relied upon sixth pramanas adding non-perception (anupalabdhi) also to already five of Prabhakara for gaining true knowledge. As the School did not exerted much on the issue of the Ishvara (God), the philosophy presents both theistic and atheistic connotations. However, it categorically endorsed the concept of soul as eternal and omnipresent spiritual essence.
This Mimamsa School is a strong proponent of the concept that the Vedas were not authored by men; instead they are apaurusheya (self-revealed). This system believes in the Vedas being eternal and infallible and accords more emphasis on following rituals and karmic duties as the real Dharma of the human beings because the School holds that the Vedic mantras and injunctions are the real prescriptive actions, and the Vedic rituals are the primary functions of merit and importance. They did not lay much emphasis on the knowledge of the Upanishads for self and spiritual attainment. Apart from the Karma-kanda, they also laid importance to the study of philology i.e. the knowledge dealing with the structure, historical development and relationships of the language(s) and the philosophy thereof. Because of these considerations, though Mimamsa impressed other philosophies but did not gain much acceptance and following among them. However, because of its emphasis on the ceremonial rituals and sacrificial rites, this philosophy had considerable influence on the foundation of the Vedanta School which is also recognized as Uttar Mimamsa.
The practicing Hindus resort to many rituals, ceremonies and social activities and laws which are largely influenced by this philosophy. The School believes in the plurality of Soul and that it is eternal and infinite; and salvation is possible by performing Vedic rituals and rites as people's Nitya karmas (daily chorus). The School is also a strong proponent of the Law of Karma and believes in the transmigration of soul based on its good and bad deeds during the lifetime. Similarly, in the beginning the School was more inclined towards the Vedic rituals and early philosophers and commentators did not endorse God as creator of the world but in the latter period the system showed more inclination towards the theism.
The Vedanta school has developed with the emphasis on the Jnana-kanda which is the latter or end part of the Vedas mainly the ten principal Upanishads that talk about the monism besides being a credible source of the deep knowledge and spirituality. With a view to synthesize and systematize the thoughts of the Upanishads, Rishi Vyasa (Badarayana) wrote "Brahma Sutra" which is considered the most authoritative and reliable among the sutras and commentaries authored by many other sages and scholars too around the first century BCE. Later on other scholars built their philosophies on Vedanta based on the knowledge contained in the Brahma Sutra and the principal Upanishads. Accordingly, several Sub-traditions of the Vedanta darshana emerged based on the interpretations and commentaries of Acharyas/scholars like Adi Sankara(788CE - 820CE), Ramanuja (12th century CE) and Madhva (13th century CE) and so on.
The Vedanta darshana is the most debated and followed philosophy among the adherents of Hinduism. Vedanta literally means "end of the Vedas", and largely reflects analysis and interpretations of the core concepts and philosophies contained in the Upanishads. It is an admixture of multiple sub-traditions mainly based on dualism and non-dualism principles derived from the Upanishads, Brahma Sutra and Sri Bhagavad Gita.
All Vedanta sub-traditions or schools talk about three principle entities or core elements i.e. Brahman - the Supreme Consciousness and ultimate metaphysical reality; the Atman or Jivatman (the individual soul or Self); and Prakriti that represents the empirical universe or existence in terms of the physical world, body and matter. Brahman along with the Atman (soul) is the key metaphysical aspect of the Hindu darshana and all traditions while what we experience day-to-day is Prakriti, a third dimension and reality, ever changing and perishable, and also referred to as "Maya" in Hindu philosophy. The four major Sub-schools of Vedanta are briefly summarized as follows.
Advaita Vedanta: Advaita Vedanta is the most popular Sub-tradition among the Hindus propounded by Adi Shankara who was 8th century Indian philosopher and theologian. Followers of the Advaita Vedanta believe in non-dualism (monism) that is the individual soul is not different from Brahman (God). Having imbibed the teachings of Vedas and Upanishads under the supervision of Guru Govinda Bhagavadpada, Adi Shankara wrote extensive commentaries on Hindu sacred scriptures and propounded the Advaita darshana. The followers of this philosophy are called Advaita Vedantins or Advaitins who seek Moksha through noble deeds, vidya or gyan (knowledge). According to this doctrine, the Moksha is possible while still living i.e. Jivan-mukti, as well as after death i.e. Krama-mukti.
Dvaita Vedanta: Dvaita Vedanta is another important Sub-tradition in the Vedanta of Hindu philosophy which was propounded by Madhvacharya, a 13th century philosopher and scholar. According to this philosophy, the Atman or Jivatman (i.e. soul) and Vishnu as Supreme Soul (Brahman or God) are two independent and distinct realities. Followers of Dvaita Vedanta believe that Moksha can be attained after death. According to this doctrine, there are four levels of Moksha based on good Karma in the ascending order of 1) Salokya, 2) Samipya, 3) Sarupya and 4) Sayujya. In the first order (Salokya), the eligible departed soul after the death goes to the abode of Vishnu and stays blissfully there. In the second order (Samipya), the soul enjoys the bliss of the extreme proximity of Vishnu. In the third order (Sarupya), the departed soul acquired the form of Vishnu to experience intense bliss while in the highest fourth order (Sayujya) the soul is absorbed in Vishnu eternally.
Vishistadvaita Vedanta: Vishishtadvaita Vedanta is another Hindu philosophy propounded by Ramanuja, a theologian, philosopher and exponent of the Sri Vaishnavism tradition within Hinduism in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Vishishtadvaita literally means "Unique Advaita" which is a non-dualistic sub-school of the Vedanta philosophy. According to this doctrine, Brahman alone exists but He is characterized by multiplicity i.e. individual souls explained as the qualified monism or attributive monism. There is unity of all souls and that the individual soul has the potential to realize identity with the Brahman. This realization (Moksha) is possible after the person's physical death whereby soul would live blissfully in Vaikuntha (the abode of Vishnu) in spiritual bodies. Such soul may acquire divine powers such as omniscience yet remain subservient to God and, unlike God (Vishnu), they cannot create, sustain or dissolve the world.
Bhedabheda: Acharya Bhaskara propounded this philosophy in 8th and 9th century CE. This philosophy believes that Brahman is the ultimate reality that transforms Self into creation, and at the same time remains a distinct entity. Thus, according to this philosophy, Brahman is both different (bheda) and not different (abheda) from creation and the individual Self (Jiva).
The Vedanta darshana also adopted concepts from the orthodox schools like Yoga and Nyaya, and this syncretism has established it as the central and the most popular Hindu philosophy of the present age. The major sects of the Hinduism such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartism are largely shaped and influenced by the sub-traditions and doctrines of the Vedanta. The epistemology of the Vedanta is based on the six pramanas referred to in the earlier paragraphs. Metaphysically, all the Vedanta philosophies have three core elements despite different interpretation and definitions. These are Brahman as the ultimate reality, Atman or Jivatman as the individual Self and Prakriti (matter) representing the empirical and ever changing physical universe.
Though the differences in various sub-traditions of Vedanta darshana exist on account of dualism and non-dualism, all of them have certain unique and common features too. These are:
- Brahman is the ultimate reality, all-pervading and un-changed, and also the instrumental cause of the creativity in universe.
- The Vedanta is the pursuit of knowledge and the Upanishads are the most reliable and real source of knowledge.
- Moksha is the ultimate goal of life to get rid of the arduous cycle of the birth-death-rebirth.
- The Self (Atman) is the agent that experiences the nemesis of Karma and its consequences through reincarnation.
Both the astika (theism) and nastika (atheism) have existed and allowed to grow freely in India since the ancient age. Only the six main Schools of Thoughts of the astika Indian philosophy have been discussed in the current article. The Western scholars and Indologists too have done maximum research, analysis and emphasis on only these systems. The nastika schools do not accept the authority and infallibility of the Vedas. The chief among the nastika darshanas are Charvaka and Ajivika Schools. Both of these are materialistic Schools with the Charvaka accepting the existence of the free will while the Ajivika denying it. Besides, Buddhism and Jainism too are the offshoot religions of the Hinduism only and categorized in the nastika category. While Buddhism do not accept the existence of soul but the Jainism does it; and both of them do not accept the authority of the Vedas.
Concordance and Conclusion
The Samkhya School was possibly the first to evolve and the Vedanta was the last in the series. The Nyaya darshana is a sort of precursor with some commonalities among all the six Schools. Nyaya and Vaishesika philosophies are quite close and associated with exploration and analysis of the worldly material and abstract phenomenon. The concept of parmanu (atom) and composite (gross) substances came out from these philosophies. The Nyaya also defines the intellect and enables the followers to grasp the profound darshana of the Vedanta philosophy. Similarly, the Samkhya and Yoga are very close; in a way the latter is the supplement of the former. Both of them derive knowledge and key ideas from the principal Upanishads; while the Samkhya explores the deep philosophical knowledge of the Hindu darshana, the Yoga devises the methods to control human thoughts and mind through astanga yogic exercises.
The Mimamsa (Purva Mimamsa) and Vedanta (Uttar Mimamsa) are the ultimate evolution of philosophies based on the knowledge of the Vedas and Upanishads. The Vedanta darshana explores and establishes the deeper philosophy and popular theme of Adavaita and its derivatives. While the Samkhya darshana explains the material constitution and the evolutionary course of the universe, the Yoga offers astanga to enable control over the mind and senses. The Nyaya and Vaishesika philosophies together inspire to make use of the intellect for the logical and rational derivation and recognition of the truth of the universe. Then if the (Purva) Mimamsa lays the foundation of the spirituality, knowing the Vedanta (Uttar Mimamsa) is the ultimate darshana for attaining the spirituality through the oneness of Brahman and Atman by abandoning ignorance (Samsara or Maya).
Continued to Part XXII