Indian Schools of Philosophy (Darshan) in Hinduism

What is Philosophy (Darshan)?

      Generally speaking, Philosophy is a Western word, which mainly relies on intellectual pursuit. The corresponding Indian word is 'Darsana' which relies on direct vision of truths (experienced by ancient sages of India) and pure Buddhi (reasoning). It will not be out of place to say that ancient India has led the entire world in developing philosophical traditions much before people in other cultures, Greece included, even started thinking about it. The antiquity of Indian Philosophies will become clear by quoting Abbe Dubois, a French national who spent his life time studying Indian cultural and customs in 20th Century.

Astika Schools: The initial number of schools under this category (and hence integrated ultimately as part of Hinduism as a religion) are: 1. Sankhya 2. Yoga, 3. Nyaya, 4. Vaisheshika, 5. Mimansa and 6. Vedanta. (I wish it were possible to use Sanskrit font to make these words reveal their true inherent meaning) Nastika Schools: These included Charvaka, a very interesting school that is very identical to the current materialistic philosophy for many people in West, Ajivika, Jainism and Buddhism.
Vedic Darshan

"There can be no doubt that Philosophy flourished in India before it had been as much as thought of in Greece. Of what account, in truth, was the learning of Greece, of what account her system of polity, until Pythagoras, Lycurgus, and other famous Greek travellers, animated by the desire of educating themselves, studied the manners and customs of Asiatic peoples, and borrowed from the Hindus especially, many percepts and doctrines?"

      But let us deal with the first question first. What is Philosophy? Is it something like the one preached by quick fix preachers and trainers as "a kind of recipe for happiness and fulfillment", or is it all about some "not understandable mystical riddle?" Some times we also come across some people making very complexly intertwined statements claiming those to be their philosophy of life. The reality is not so, certainly not so. It is a full-fledged and well developed stream like all other Sciences and is equally heart-warming and satisfying once it is clearly comprehended. 

      Let us have a look at basic questions common to all investigation:

• What is the nature of the universe?

• What is the nature of God?

• What is the nature of soul and what is its destiny?

• What are the laws of soul's life?

      Philosophy deals with concepts exactly as Science deals with functions or natural rules. As Science has many sub sections like physics, Chemistry, Biology, Botany; etc., Philosophy also has its sub systems as under:

• Logic: This section deals with study of all techniques of evaluating claims or statements being true or false. It also deals to decipher about reasoning being good or not good.

• Metaphysics: This deals with very fundamental questions about what exists and what doesn't exist, For example, a question like is mind a physical? If it is not physical, how does it interact with other physical organs like hands or eyes? Does God exist? Is it perfect? Before that, what is perfection?

• Epistemology: How do we acquire knowledge? What all can we know? How to know whatever we can know?

• Ethics: What is right to do? What is best to do? What we ought to do? What is wrong? Why is it wrong?

      The basic idea to touch on the basics of these parts is to prepare the reader for going through something difficult but exciting. Actually, like study of Science, Philosophy also aims at discovering truth. It is in this background that we will look at Indian Religious Philosophy as a discovery of truth for key investigation points listed above. And, again like Science, there is nothing final. Each attempt is like a work in process because whatever is known by today; more can get added later. Idea at all time is to refine the theories in light with new ideas, new progress and new findings new techniques.

      I mention Indian Philosophies and not Hindu Philosophy. It ls because fundamental Philosophies have been said to evolve to concrete levels even before Buddhism and Jainism branched out as separate religions with some variations from the other schools evolved until then.

      A small note of caution—understanding Philosophy is tedious and difficult since issues are abstract in nature. So, please read this section slowly and carefully. Don't get disheartened if first few readings come out boring and going over the top. It is absolutely expected and there may be many sentences that may require repetitive reading for a good comprehension. But, once you are over at least two points will be very clear.

      We will understand the fundamental concepts refined by our ancestors so many years in history which will help us comprehend many subsequent developments in our religious and personal evolution process. Secondly, it will make us proud that our ancestors had scaled to the pinnacle of these understandings centuries before any other civilization or culture could dream of.

Categorisation of Indian Philosophical Schools

      There are two broad Schools called Astika and Nastika but Astika here does not mean 'theist' neither Nastika implies with 'atheist' as understood in common parlance. For the purpose of this classification, someone who accepts the authority of Vedas as infallible and considers it supreme revealed scriptures is to be called Astika. On the other side, anyone not accepting Vedas as supreme and revealed scriptures got branded as Nastika.

• Astika Schools: The initial number of schools under this category (and hence integrated ultimately as part of Hinduism as a religion) are: 1. Sankhya 2. Yoga, 3. Nyaya, 4. Vaisheshika, 5. Mimansa and 6. Vedanta. (I wish it were possible to use Sanskrit font to make these words reveal their true inherent meaning)

• Nastika Schools: These included Charvaka, a very interesting school that is very identical to the current materialistic philosophy for many people in West, Ajivika, Jainism and Buddhism.

      Let us try understanding these one by one:

Sankhya Philosophy

      Sankhya means "number" or "perfect knowledge". It was one of the first attempts to present Indian Philosophy in a cohesive, comprehensive and persuasive method. Founding of Sankhya is credited to ancient Sage Kapila (around 800 BC). Unlike in Vedas and Upanishads (where one come across hints and indirect references or at best speculations about God, Human spirit and Brahma and such other abstract subjects relating to universe and its origin etc.), Sankhya is concerned with Pramana (proof), care to define its terms involving consistent systems and not merely intuitions. Sankhya is the first system to study human consciousness. Its main objective was how to understand various forms of human experience with objective world. This analysis was to be with reference to consciousness of a human being, as a subject in detail, without bringing in any idealism as to what it should be or emotional fundamentals—purely a discrete study.

      To put whole concept of Sankhya simply, this universe consists of Prakriti (matter) and Purusha (consciousness). Jiva (spirit) is a state where Purusha is bounded with Prakriti through the glue of desire, and, end of this bondage is Moksha. Surely, detailed understanding of these concepts will take some serious efforts. Let us look at these one by one.

      Purusha is the transcendental Self (pure consciousness) and Prakriti accounts for whatever is physical and visible in this world. Let Prakriti not be understood 'material nature' which maybe the very obvious meaning coming to an Indian reader based on the reading of Prakriti as a word. Let us try in another way. Our world is filled with objects. Objects are made of compounds. Compounds are made of molecules. Molecules are made of atoms. Atoms are made of particles. Particles are made of a subtler substratum. While one evolves out of the other, all of these levels of reality coexist and interact with one another. 'Prakriti' is the primordial state of matter, even prior to matter as we know it in the physical sense. Prakriti manifests as the three gunas and the other evolutes (Gandhi).

      Sankhya's Prakriti is root cause of the manifested world. It is something accounting for everything physical and made out of a proportionate mixing of three Gunas (normal meaning is quality or nature but here used as a constituent) called Sattva, Rajas and
Tamas. Let us try understanding these Gunas in a bit detail for understanding for future:

• Sattva: Represents poise, fineness, lightness, illumination, joy and happiness.

• Rajas: Represents dynamism, activity; excitation and pain
• Tamas: Represents inertia, obstruction, ignorance and inaction.

      So, any physical item or event is a manifestation of evolution of Prakriti. It is an imbalance in these Gunas that result in creation of twenty-three identified constituents that include Buddhi (intellect), Ahamkara (ego) and Manas (mind). So, we have to remember that as per Sankhya, these three qualities in a human being are part of Prakriti.

      Let us understand the sequence of these 23 constituents — first is Buddhi (mind), Buddhi gives rise to Ahamkara, Ego (ego here means specific features leading to specific individuality). From Ahamkara comes five subtle elements and two sets of organs. The subtle elements are shabd, sparsh, roop, ras, gandh. Set of organs is external (sense organs and action organs totaling to ten) and internal (mind). From subtle elements are produced five gross elements (akash, vayu, tejas, apas water, prithvi.)

      Better way to understand the interplay between Prakriti and Purusha is that the first is experienced and the second is experiencer.

      At the next twist, soul is a fusion of Purusha and Prakriti where soul is unrestricted by its physical body. Samsara, the bondage (the cycle of death and rebirth) is said to arise when Purusha mistakenly is unable to discriminate itself from Ahamkara. (Ahamkara is part of Prakriti but Purusha mistake it to be itself). So, the Samsara continues until the time this ignorance persists. The moment Purusha develops knowledge and ability to discriminate the difference between itself and Prakriti, the Jiva is called liberated (means Moksha attained). Sankhya relied on 'Viveka', the intuitive discrimination for a being to guide his Buddhi to differentiate between Purusha and Prakriti.

      As per Sankhya, at the beginning of the Universe, before the living creatures came into being, the Prakriti with its three Gunas coexisted in the primal matter. But the presence of Purusha disturbed the equilibrium and that initiated the process of Utapatti (emanation). The first category emerging after original unity was Buddhi. Buddhi, if properly developed, could still bring enlightenment. Hence, it was considered very close to Purushu. But in any unintelligent human being, the Buddhi remains clouded by the gross elements of this world which is its undeveloped state.

      Next category to emerge was Ahamkara, ego. All other creatures emanated from Ahamkara including Gods, human, animals, plants and such other insensate things. This Ahamkara is identified as main source of human problems because Ahamkara is responsible for transmitting different Gunas in varying proportions among human beings. Those beings that were having dominance of Sattva, became devas and holy men. Rajas was dominant in normal humans and Tamas dominance being became animals.

      But most importantly, the sense of ego trapped us in the false self which was far away from Purusha, the pure consciousness. I think...I want....I wish...I fear.... The "I" in all these statements is actually not Purusha but Ahamkara, the ego. This Ahamkara on which we lavish so much of attention and energy is actually transient for a limited time. This ignorance of taking it as permanent is rectified by renouncers using meditation and study. And...once this clarity is achieved of pure consciousness, the Moksha is achieved. The point to carry home is that 'ego' is not our real self.

      There is another important part of Sankhya school relating to 'cause and effect'. Sankhya believes that the 'effect' exist in 'cause' in un-manifested form before it gets revealed (a plant has its base in its seed). The effect is always related to its cause. If it was not so, an effect should have been possible from every cause (any plant can come out of any seed). Based on this logic, it builds that the world would not have come suddenly in a miraculous way by the order or wish of some God or creator. Sankhya is of the opinion that the world evolved through a creative process stretched over various phases of changes and transformations. This process of evolution is guided, directed and monitored by inherent tendencies of substances characterized by the combinations of Gunas. It further believes that there is no God but there are many Jivatmas.

      To summarise, Purusha, due to ignorance, identifies itself with Buddhi and Ahamkara which are products of Prakriti. This results in continuance of Samsara. When, with the use of Viveka, human being brings clarity that Purusha is not bound, Self is no longer
subject to transmigration and absolute freedom arises. Also, Sankhya as a philosophy is mainly devoted to theoretical problems and touching upon practical problems. But our next school of Yoga is mainly devoted to practical problems while touching on theoretical problems.

Yoga Philosophy

      While Sankhya is called 'theoretical', Yoga Philosophy is called 'practical'. Yoga is supposed to be a twin of Sankhya school as they both start and end at the same street. The only difference these two schools have is the process of achieving the clarity of the ignorance that Purusha needs to differentiate itself from Prakriti. Yoga philosophy is credited to Maharishi Patanjali with approximate period of around 150 BC and assumes a personal God who controls the process of periodic creation and dissolution and is omniscient and omnipotent.

      Yoga philosophy is based on the idea that if man wants to understand his place in nature and be happy and progressive; he must aim at that physical, psychological and moral development which will enable him to pry into the depth of nature. He must observe, think and act; he must live, love and progress and his development on all three planes must be simultaneous. As discussed earlier, Sankhya school aims at achieving that isolation through systematically segregating consciousness from everything such that at the end of the process, pure consciousness is all that is left. Yoga achieves that very purpose using the celebrated Ashtanga process of Yam, Niyam, Asana, and Pranayam to Samadhi (entire process has been discussed separately under the chapter relating to Yoga) (Gandhi).

      In short, Yoga traverses the same street as that of Sankhya and allows a detour use of 'tapas' and 'swadhyaya'. Yoga is largely preoccupied with refining human psyche, human nature, human body and its entire constitution to understand and explore the inner core by strict disciplining of the body and mind.

      Fast forward to 1100 CE...and we find that both these schools are unable to attract attention from thinkers anymore. After that these schools lost their pride of place as the main schools. While Yoga continued to be pursued and progressed for its use for disciplining the body and mind, it lost its relevance as a school of Indian Philosophy.

Nyaya (Logical Reasoning) Philosophy

      This philosophy is ascribed to Aksapada Gautama (2nd century CE) and is detailed in Nyaya Sutras containing five chapters. Nyaya deals with logic, the process of reasoning. This philosophy considers doubt as a prerequisite for any logical inquiry. This goes to the credit of Nyaya that all subsequent philosophers use this mechanism to prove their point. This school is also called 'Tark Vidya' (argumentative knowledge) as it makes detailed use of arguments. In its analysis, it logically takes up validity or invalidity of factual knowledge so as to reach the final Truth.

      Nyaya is said to be under-studied due to highly technical terminology that scares the novice. It is also called empirical realism as against Vedanta following transcendental idealism. The brief summary of the five chapters is as under:

• Chapter 1: It defines sixteen categories of knowledge which lead to liberation.

• Chapter 2: Examination of doubt, the pramanas of refutation of objection against four pramanas.

• Chapter 3: Examination of soul, material, body, sense and their objects.

• Chapter 4: Examination of pravritti, dosha, pretyabhava, phala, dukh, apavarya.

• Chapter 5: Discussions of various kind of futility

      This school considers God as the operative cause of creation, maintenance as well as destruction. It believes that the world doesn't get created out of nothing or by itself but the creation takes place out of eternal elements namely; space, time, mind and soul. Nyaya considers world as real and made out of minute atoms that are not capable of any further division.

      The crux of this philosophy is the proposition that in order to obtain the summum bonum (ultimate, singular and overriding aim which is ought to be pursued by each human being) one must acquire the valid knowledge of the truth. This knowledge will drive away miseries, cycle of birth, mundane existence, faults and false knowledge ... and the result will be Moksha, the liberation.

      Let us now try to understand the propositions of this school. Please don't get scared with the details. You will have better
understanding of the whole once you have gone through the same few times over.

      Ok, to begin with we have following three objects starting with Sanskrit word 'Pra' which means correct knowledge of any object arrived at based on reasoning:

1. Pramata (pramatr), the subject, the knower
2. Pramana, the means of obtaining the knowledge
3. Prameya, the object, the knowable

      The knower is simple to understand. Pramana consists of four types given below.

1. Pratyaksha—Direct based on perception
2. Anumana—Inference based
3. Upamana—Based on comparison
4. Shabda—Based on testimony

      Pratyaksha Pramana is further bifurcated in three categories of Laukik, Alaukik, Bahya which means ordinary, extraordinary and external respectively. Going further, Laukik Pratyaksha Praman can be of two types — Nirvikalpa and Savikalpa which means indeterminate and determinate. Similarly, Alaukik Pratyaksha Pramana can be had with three different bases i.e. Samanya Lakshan (perception of class) or Gyan Lakshan (based on association) or Yogaja Lakshan (based on intuitive perception).

      On the other hand, Prameya, the object of knowledge, is comprised of twelve types. Four of these make physical world — air, fire, water and earth. Next two are involved as object of knowledge but are not physical in nature—soul and mind. After that we have Time and Space which are non material in nature but belong to physical world. Next we have Akash that is a physical substance but is not connected with the cause of production of the physical world. And finally; the twelfth component called Body which the direct object that is used for experiencing the external physical world through mind and senses.

      For getting guided to final liberation, and after understanding Pramana and Prameya as discussed in above paragraphs, we are told that another fourteen categories are to be applied for processing a point to be evaluated to reach the correct knowledge.

1. Doubt—Sansliaya; a state in which mind wavers due to
2. Purpose—Prayojna; motive for discussing the point. May be it is only presumed and not fully understood. But it must be established before hand.
3. Examples — Drastanta; use of illustration to highlight a common fact
4. Doctrine — Siddhanta; demonstrated conclusion of an argument, an undisputed truth
5. Constituents of inference—Avayava; components or parts of a logical argument.
6. Hypothetical argument—Tark, persuasive reasoning
7. Ascertainment—Nirnaya; conclusions, final deductions
8. Discussion—Vaad; proposition
9. Wrangling—Counter argument
10. Irrational Reasoning—Vitanda, destructive criticism
11. Fallacy—Hetvabhasa; fallacious reasoning
12. Unfair reply—Chhala; deceitful disputation
13. Futility—Jati; logic based on false similarity
14. Grounds for defeat —Nigrasthana; putting an end to arguments beyond doubt

      Right perception is to be taken as source of right knowledge. Knowledge itself can be of two different types—anubhav and smriti (experience and memory) and both of these can be both valid (prama) and invalid (aprama).

      Finally, Nyaya proclaims that cognitions and conscious states of mind arise in soul when it is related to mind, mind is related to senses, and senses are related to the external world. The soul is to be known with anumana as it is not physical and one's own soul can be perceived only on the basis of mental perception while the soul of other person can only be perceived by inference. The person who obtains valid knowledge of external world, its relationship with the mind and self will enjoy liberation. Also concluded is the fact that liberation will never be possible unless the identity of the soul with the body is given up.

Vaisheshika Philosophy

      Vaisheshika as a school is as old as Buddhism and Jainism. It explains the nature of the world under seven categories namely Dravya, Karma, Samanya (universal), Vishesh (exclusive), Amavaya (inherence) and Abhava (non existent). There is nothing m the whole universe that is outside these categories. This philosophy is attributed to Rishi Kanaad of 3rd century BC. His concept of Dravya (object) consisted of an atomic cosmology of nine elements. Four of these elements are material in nature namely earth, water, fire and air while rest five, namely, space, time, ether, mind and soul are abstract elements. As per this theory all the material objects are made with combination of these elements alone.

      Gunas (qualities) here are divided into twenty four which are "roop, ras, gandh, sparsh, sankhya, pariman, prathkyat (individuality), sanyog, vibhag, pratav (priority), apratav, sukh, dukh, icchha, dvesh, pryatna, gurutva, dravyatva (fluidity), sneh, sanskara, dharma, adharma, shabda, intellect." Karma here means a direct physical action including throwing up or down, picking up, squeezing, contraction, and motion. The next element of categories, Samanya is of either higher category or lower category. Similarly; Vishesha is bifurcated into infinite nature, as each atom is separate from other. So, there is infinite individuality.

      As per Vaisheshika, every object has something 'samanya' and something 'vishesh'. The portal under which 'samanya' and 'vishesh' qualities or energies are able to exist together is called 'Dravya' (substance). These qualities are separate entities and hence need to be classified separately as Gunas and Karmas. As per this philosophy, Samnya or Vishesh Gunas do not exist without a padartha—so there is an intimate relationship among them. This relationship is called 'samvay' (perpetual intimate relation).

      With reference to cause and effect, Vaisheshika suggests that every effect is fresh creation or a new beginning as against Sankhya, which said that, every effect is connected to the cause itself. This system accepts an 'Ishwara' as the efficient cause of the world while eternal atoms are material cause of the world. Another marked specialty of Vaisheshika is its belief that consciousness is accidental i.e. when it gets attached to a body then only consciousness is acquired. Further that soul develops attachment with body due to ignorance—it identifies itself with body and mind.

      Atoms of Prathvi, Jal, Tejas and Vayu are eternal and Vaisheshika supports that the universe is created of these four elements. And they believe that having only atoms was not necessary; there must be somebody to fit them in separate shapes and sizes, and hence,
there has to be a creator. Rest of the Dravyas from Akash to Manas are eternal and all these except mind are all pervading - existing everywhere. But manas (mind) is atomic and connected with Atma (soul). When Atma gets related to manas, knowledge is the result. Gyana is a special category of Atma but it is Manas which receives the sensation of pleasure or pain. The different sense organs are only the instruments of knowledge. When, by the grace of God, the Atma acquires the right knowledge of things, all miseries vanish and the supreme bliss, Moksha follows.

Mimamsa (Critical Inquiry) Philosophy

      It is probably the earliest of all philosophies and is related to Karma Kand part of the Vedas. Also called Purva Mimamsa, this philosophy aims to provide rules for interpretations of Vedas and provides philosophical justifications for rituals presented therein. The philosophy is based on Mimamsa Sutra by Gemini of 4th century BC.

      The central tenets of Mimamsa are ritualism, anti asceticism and anti mysticism. The aim is elucidation of dharma understood as a set of ritual obligations and prerogatives to be performed as prescribed by Vedas. This dharma is limited to the meaning of virtue or morality. It is said that rituals, if properly performed, maintain harmony of universe and further personal goals. Since with simply perception and reasoning, one can't know dharma, one must depend on revelations of the Vedas that are eternal and infallible. Gemini almost guaranteed the sacrifice life in heaven after death. In continuation of the past tradition with little changed, he advised that while women can sacrifice but Shudras were still kept out.

      While Nyaya School distinguished only four methods of knowledge perceptions, namely pratyaksha, anumana, upamana and shabda, Mimamsa added another two to make them total six. The new addition is 'Arthapatti' (hypothesis) and 'Abhava' (knowledge by negation). Later on, this method of Arthapatti became very common with Science streams as it is based on the principle that "something already observed would have been impossible without the hypothesis". The concept of Abhava also is very interesting; it suggests that both known and unknown factors are to be taken together to reach to final knowledge. So, when the other five methods from Pratyaksha to Arthapatti were not able to operate, the resultant is called Abhava.

      Some people do not consider this school as a full-fledged philosophy because it takes power of mantras as power of God. The entire knowledge here is derived purely based on verbal recognition of the words as contained in the Vedas. Historically, the school took shape when Buddhism and Upanishads were marginalizing Vedic sacrifices. This school tried to demonstrate validity of Vedic texts by rigid formulation of rules and for their right interpretations.

Vedanta Philosophy

      Also called Uttar Mimamsa, this school is based on Vedanta Sutras (also called Brahma Sutras) and came into existence during 500 BC to 200 BC. The sutras are written in very terse style and allow scholars to search multiple meanings and conclusions. In the process of commenting and finding new meanings to the Sutras, philosophers have founded varying schools of this philosophy. But most notable of these are 1. Adi Shankara (8th Century CE) named "Advaita" (Non Dualism), 2. Ramanuja (11th century CE) named 'Vishishta Advaita' (Qualified Non Dualism) and 3. Madhva (12th century CE) named 'Dvaita' (Dualism).

      The meaning of Vedanta, as the name signifies, is end of Vedas but in reality it refers to period of Upanishads. So, Vedanta school of philosophy is basically philosophy of Upanishads that reads through the lenses of unity of Atman and Brahman. This school basically assumes the material world consisting of 'avidya' and 'maya' where even death is but only maya.

      The basic difference here with the other schools is that they believed that God and the Universe are two different substances while Advaita believes both were the same substance.

      The concept developed by Shankara states that the eternal Self is Atman and universal Self is Brahman. The world is made of categories of space, time and cause. These categories are not self contained, self-consistent or self regulated. Hence, they point to existence of something unalterable, something.... Absolute. As per Shankara, Brahman is that Absolute and which enables the empirical world to exist by itself. It is ignorance that affects our whole empirical being. This ignorance can get removed only after realizing the truth. Shankara concludes that the highest representation of Brahman is Ishwara or Saguna Brahman. But the Nirguna Brahman transcends this and is the basis of manifested world.

      Vishishta Advaita of Ramanuja is said to be a combination of Sankhya, Yoga and Advaita schools. He advocates that the highest status of Brahman that can be humanly realized is only the Saguna Brahman or the God with Qualities. Ramanuja took exception to Shankara's Nirguna Brahman saying that it is something hypothetical as it is beyond experience. Thus his way of realizing the Absolute is by symbology with devotion. The combination of Saguna form and devotion brought this school close to Bhakti as a dominant theme of his philosophy. Ramanuja further said that consciousness and Brahman are not identical rather consciousness is just an attribute of Brahman. Since mind can only understand symbols and images, there is no point in discussing the abstract.

      As per Ramanuja, Brahman, Atman and Jagat are different and eternal and at the same time inseparable. Brahman is related to the other two as soul to body...all three together form an organic whole. Conclusion of this philosophy is that Absolute and manifestations are two aspects of the same Reality, therefore, Brahman is qualified by the Universe and the living beings.

      Madhva's theory is an improvement over Ramanuja and states that there is no interdependence among Brahman, Atman and Jagat—all three are simply independent and eternal.

      Let us look at the whole Vedanta principles in a summary. In all apparently individual forms of existence what is present is one indivisible Brahman. But owing to particular adjuncts into these forms, the form appears broken up and different from each other — into a multiplicity of intellectual on sensitive principles, the Jeevatma. The reality in all these Atmans is universal Brahman, the aggregate of individualizing body organs and mental functions, which is in our ordinary experience separate and project as different Atmans, is due to Maya and hence unreal.

      The non-enlightened soul is unable to look through and beyond Maya, which like a veil hides it from its true nature. Instead of recognizing itself Brahman, the soul identifies itself with upadhi, the given name under the influence of Maya and thus looks for its true self in the body, in the sense organs and manas.

      Incidentally; Maya is a principle of illusion, the non-definable cause owing to which, there seems to exist a material world comprehending distinct individual existence. Its association with Maya enables the Brahman to project the appearance of the world. In simple world, Maya is Shakti of Brahman. Through its actions in this situation, the soul burdens itself with merits as well as demerits and the consequences of these actions have to be borne or enjoyed in series of future embodied existence. It is the Lord, who as dispenser allots that body to which the individual soul is entitled based on its previous actions—and so the process continues.

      Vivekananda, the great philosopher of recent times, said that it is foolish to attempt to prove that the whole of Vedas and Upanishads as Dualistic or Non Dualistic as they are both. They are but different conceptions leading to final conclusions and that both Dualism and Monism are necessary for the evolution of the mind.

      All said and done, Vedas and Upanishads begin with the premises that there is something deeper than what is perceived by senses and mind. The way to discover that hidden is only through mind. Life is a psychic journey and the only means available for this journey is our own mind. So, we must become aware of our own infinite dimension not in an egotistical sense but in a universal sense. Because when the mind crosses over the intellect and the ego, it attains oneness with the Self, the Atman.

      But the opponents of Non Dualism of Adi Shankara had a strong argument that if both Atman and Brahman are one, one cannot love God or worship God because he himself is God. Probably, the compulsions of Bhakti period where normal worshipper was dying to have a God visible to him must have been the background of such opponents.

Charvaka Philosophy

      This is a school of materialism or rationalism that denies surviving soul and refutes transmigration. This is also an ancient school and predates both Buddhism and Jainism. Meaning of this Sanskrit word is "sweet talk". This is also called Lokayata School. Lokayata means "those of the world."

      Charvaka was originally a Brahmanic thought which denied the concept of life after death. It believed that there is nothing called Tarloka, the world beyond. In this sense, Charvaka stands totally separate as all three, Vedic, Buddhism and Jainism thoughts have a common sharing and belief about rebirth, karmic distribution and existence of Parloka.

      Charvaka believed on Pratyaksha Pramana (direct perception) through sense organs as the only knowledge that is duly verifiable by all and is completely beyond dispute. In addition, this school also accepted Anuman but to the extent that it is based on experience. Like, if one sees smoke in the distance, one can conclude that there must be fire. But no Anuman can be accepted for matters like soul or God or other world. After all, who has ever seen that?

      And since the school accepted only direct perception as the truth, they believed only in four eternal elements namely; earth, water, fire and air. It refused to consider the fifth element of Akash. On the same basis, it refused to recognize soul or atman as a surviving entity simply because its existence is out of perception. The school also did not accept consciousness as part of body. Instead, they held that consciousness is a user of body. And since it uses it, it can't be a part of the body. They compared consciousness with other situations like happiness or intoxication, which are both functions of the body but can't be said to be part of the body.

      The school is also known for rather radical views about the pain and miseries being a reality as advocated by most other philosophical schools discussed above. Charvaka argued that fine there is pain but it advocated human beings to go after pleasures. Pleasure was advised to be pursued even if there was some pain in the process. Let the pain be there but don't worry for anything other than pleasures, was their mantra.

      Charvaka took pleasures as the precedent to everything else. There is a shloka in Sanskrit about their philosophy which suggest "Consume (as food) ghee as much as you can and if you cannot arrange it for yourself, borrow from others but enjoy ghee". Consuming Ghee, in the times when the shloka was composed, must be the ultimate pleasure or equivalent to current time 'masti' or "having a good time". Basically they recommended not letting the pleasure go in hope of future pains.

      Their belief was rather simple—there is no heaven, there is nothing called final liberation, nothing like a soul, or other world. Whatever exists is in front of you and what is not here is nowhere. They claimed rationality; clear-headedness, no superstitions, no point in going for meaningless rituals and sacrifices or intellectual dishonesty of making unnecessary tall claims.

      On the flip side, this school lacked sense of vision and any ideal to inspire future generations. Such ideas may look very practical for a moment but the reality will soon catch up. Such principles are not able to provide a balance in life or can't bring out any long-term vision. Yes, there is certainly a shock value attached to such ideas but only for a momentary pause. The school also lacked depth as it didn't elaborate important matters like human obligations for social life, how to deal with conflict of interest situations, etc. No wonder, some writers have called it Marx of old time.

Ajivika Philosophy

      This is a school that has since died completely and whatever is known about it is all from secondary sources of Buddhism and Jain scriptures. But at some time in history, it must have been very popular as King Bindusar, father of King Ashoka, was a follower of this school for later part of his life. Its prominent teacher is said to be Makkhali Gosala, a man of very humble background, born in a cowshed and hence the name. As the name suggest, the followers of this school were living down the life (reverse of Jivika). But to the credit of Gosala, he is said to have been in direct touch with Mahavira for several years before the two parted ways due to some basic differences on the doctrine.

      Ajivika is a school of naked wandering ascetics who believed in karma, fatalism and extreme passivity. They followed the doctrine of abstaining from action to avoid accumulation of 'karma'. They relied heavily on fate as a predetermined will of God. So, they believed that whatever happens in life should be allowed without any interruption or willfully intentional action to the contrary. It promoted the human surrender to the flow of life on course of a predetermined will of God. Their concept may be aptly explained by the famous dialogue of a Hindi film "Jab jab jo jo hot a hai, tab tab vo sab hone doe (whatever happens, let is happen whenever it happens)" as a complete crux of this philosophy. They are known to be non-theistic as well as against any class systems of the Vedic society.

      Based on other second hand information in terms of their practices for meditation (by hanging from a tree like a bat), living naked (like the monks of Digambar Jains), life of ascetic, focus on dance and music for arousing consciousness indicate toward their following some sort of ancient Shaivism practices.

      But later, the school got completely disintegrated without any footprints in later part of the history. Some of their practices, for sure, would have absorbed by other religions as was always happening during the entire journey of thoughts getting refined, mixed, reshaped, renamed as a process of churning.

Buddhist Philosophy

      Buddhism is woven around the doctrine of four noble truths, namely 1. Life is full of sufferings. 2. The thirst for life and its pleasures is the cause of sufferings. 3. The extinction of the thirst for life is the cessation of sufferings. 4. Such extinction can be brought by a holy life.

      There is a special simplicity in everything related to Buddhism and the field of philosophy is no exception to this. The Buddha discouraged his followers from indulging in intellectual disputation for its own sake, which is fruitless, and distracting from true awakening. Nevertheless, the delivered sayings of the Buddha contain a philosophical component, in its teachings on the working of the mind, and its criticisms of the philosophies of his contemporaries.

      According to the scriptures, during his lifetime the Buddha remained silent when asked several metaphysical questions. These included issues such as whether the universe is eternal or non-eternal or whether it is finite or infinite, the unity or separation of the body and the self, the complete inexistence of a person after Nirvana and death, and others.

      Buddha believed in Gods since they were part of his cultural heritage (being a bom Hindu) but he did not believe much in Gods as a help to mankind for getting out of their miseries. Neither he denied Gods but he placed the ultimate reality of Nirvana as higher than Gods. Buddhism doesn't need the presence of God to experience bliss or a sense of transcendence in meditation. They consider such state to be natural to humanity. Instead of relying on Gods, Buddha advised his disciples to save themselves.

      Buddhism focuses on objective reality but not the one riddled with logical proof but the one that can be achieved by anyone who seriously tried to live life as suggested by Buddha. Yes, Karma bound people need tools to come out from endless cycle of rebirth into a series of painful lives. But if people can reform their egoistic attitude, they could change their destiny.

      When asked if a person who has attained nirvana lived after death, Buddha dismissed the question as improper. It was like asking what direction a flame went after it got put off. Buddha held that rituals, theology or belief set of a person is not important. These could sound interesting but lacked the power of taking him to final significance. In his opinion, the only thing that counted was living life with good Dharma in spite of the fact that they could not express it in logical term.

Jain Philosophy

      The distinguishing features of Jain philosophy are its belief about independent existence of soul and matter, absence of a supreme divine creator, preserver, destroyer, potency of karma, eternal and uncreated universe, a strong emphasis on non-violence, accent on relativity and multiple facets of truth, and morality and ethics based on liberation of soul. Jain philosophy attempts to explain the rationale of being, the nature of the Universe and its constituents, the nature of bondage and the means to achieve liberation.

      Jainism has often been described as an ascetic movement for its strong emphasis on self-control, austerities and renunciation. It has also been called a model of philosophical liberalism for its insistence that truth is relative and multifaceted and for its willingness to accommodate all possible view-points of the rival philosophies. It strongly upholds the individualistic nature of soul and personal responsibility for one's decisions; and that self-reliance and individual efforts alone are responsible for one's liberation.

      There are infinite independent souls. These are categorized into two—liberated and non-liberated. Infinite knowledge, perception and bliss are the intrinsic qualities of a soul. These qualities are fully enjoyed unhindered by liberated souls. But non-liberated souls are obscured by karma forcing it into karmic bondage. This bondage results in a continuous co-habitation of the soul with the body Thus, an embodied non-liberated soul is found in four planes—heavens, hells, humans and animal world in a never-ending cycle of births and deaths known as samsara. The soul is in bondage since the beginning of the universe. However, it is possible to achieve liberation through rational perception, rational knowledge and rational conduct.

      Some writers note that Jain ontology is both realist and dualist metaphysics. It is realist in the sense that knowledge of ultimate reality does not exclude the reality of the existing world; the enlightened world view includes the knowledge of particulars and the world continues to be real even after the liberation. It is dualist in that the two prime categories of substance, soul and matter, are mutually exclusive.

      Jain metaphysics is based on seven (sometimes nine, with subcategories) truths or fundamental principles also known as tattva, which are an attempt to explain the nature and solution to the human predicament.

      Certainly, the philosophy for Jains is very elaborate and deep. But basic tenets are not far from the Hindu schools except that they did not accept authority of Vedas.

      Undoubtedly, several of these independent philosophies developed within Indian boundaries before anywhere else and clearly bear the evidence of high speculative powers of human minds from this pious soil. In yet another greatness of Sanskrit literature that one can trace every step of evolution of human wisdom overarching religious and philosophical progress for entire mankind.

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