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Hindu philosophy is traditionally divided into six āstika (Sanskrit: आस्तिक "orthodox") schools of thought, or darśanam (दर्शनम्, "view"), which accept the Vedas as authoritative texts. Four other nāstika (नास्तिक "heterodox") schools don't draw upon the Vedas as authoritative texts, and develop their own traditions of thought. The āstika schools are:
- Samkhya, an atheistic and strongly dualist theoretical exposition of consciousness and matter.
- Yoga, a school emphasising meditation, contemplation and liberation.
- Nyaya or logic, explores sources of knowledge. Nyāya Sūtras.
- Vaisheshika, an empiricist school of atomism
- Mīmāṃsā, an anti-ascetic and anti-mysticist school of orthopraxy
- Vedānta, the last segment of knowledge in the Vedas, or the 'Jnan' (knowledge) 'Kanda' (section). Vedanta came to be the dominant current of Hinduism in the post-medieval period.
The nāstika schools are (in chronological order):
- Cārvāka, a materialism school that accepted free will exists
- Ājīvika, a materialism school that denied free will exists
In Hindu history, the distinction of the six orthodox schools was current in the Gupta period "golden age" of Hinduism. With the disappearance of Vaisheshika and Mīmāṃsā, it became obsolete by the later Middle Ages, when the various sub-schools of Vedanta (Dvaita "dualism", Advaita Vedanta "non-dualism" and others) began to rise to prominence as the main divisions of religious philosophy. Nyaya survived into the 17th century as Navya Nyaya "Neo-Nyaya", while Samkhya gradually lost its status as an independent school, its tenets absorbed into Yoga and Vedanta.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Samkhya
- 3 Yoga
- 4 Nyaya
- 5 Vaisheshika
- 6 Purva Mimamsa
- 7 Vedanta
- 8 Shaivism
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
Epistemology in Hindu Philosophy is called Pramāṇa (Sanskrit: प्रमाण). It is a key, much debated field of study in Hinduism since ancient times. Pramana is Hindu theory of knowledge, and discusses means by which human beings gain accurate knowledge. The focus of Pramana is how correct knowledge can be acquired, how one knows, how one doesn't, and to what extent knowledge pertinent about someone or something can be acquired.
Ancient and medieval Hindu texts identify six pramanas as correct means of accurate knowledge and truths: Pratyakṣa (perception), Anumāṇa (inference), Upamāṇa (comparison and analogy), Arthāpatti (postulation, derivation from circumstances), Anupalabdi (non-perception, negative/cognitive proof) and Śabda (word, testimony of past or present reliable experts). Each of these are further categorized in terms of conditionality, completeness, confidence and possibility of error, by each school of Hinduism. The various schools vary on how many of these six are valid paths of knowledge. For example, Carvaka school of Hinduism holds that only one (perception) is epistemically reliable means of knowledge, Samkhya holds three (perception, inference and testimony), while Mimamsa and Advaita Vedanta schools of Hinduism hold all six are epistemically useful and reliable means to knowledge.
Classifications and characteristics
- Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita have evolved from an older Vedanta school and all of them accept Upanishads and Brahma Sutras as standard texts.
- Vyasa wrote a commentary on Yoga Sutras called Samkhyapravacanabhasya.(Radhankrishnan, Indian Philosophy, London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1971 edition, Volume II, p. 344.)
Samkhya is the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems in Hinduism. It espouses dualism between consciousness and matter by postulating two "irreducible, innate and independent realities 1) consciousness itself or Purusha (Sanskrit: पुरुष, self, atma or soul) 2) primordial materiality or Prakriti (creative agency or energy)". The unconscious primordial materiality, Prakriti consists of varying levels of three dispositions or categories of qualities (gunas)— 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,mahat), ego (ahamkara) and mind (manas). Samkhya theorises the existence of are many living souls (Jeevatmas) who possess consciousness, but denies the existence of Ishvara(God).
Samkhya holds 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 realisation arises that Puruṣa is distinct from Prakriti, the Self is no longer subject to transmigration and absolute freedom (kaivalya) arises.
Western dualism deals with the distinction between the mind and the body, whereas in Samkhya it is between the soul and matter. The concept of the atma (soul) is different from the concept of the mind and mind itself thought to an evolute of matter, rather than the soul. Soul is absolute reality that is all-pervasive, eternal, indivisible, attributeless, pure consciousness. It is non-matter and is beyond intellect. Originally, Samkhya was not theistic, but in confluence with Yoga it developed a theistic variant.
In Indian philosophy, Yoga is the name of one of the six orthodox philosophical schools. The Yoga philosophical system is closely allied with the Samkhya school. The Yoga school as expounded by Patanjali accepts the Samkhya psychology and metaphysics, but is more theistic than the Samkhya, as evidenced by the addition of a divine entity to the Samkhya's twenty-five elements of reality. The parallels between Yoga and Samkhya were so close that Max Müller says that "the two philosophies were in popular parlance distinguished from each other as Samkhya with and Samkhya without a Lord...." The intimate relationship between Samkhya and Yoga is explained by Heinrich Zimmer:
"These two are regarded in India as twins, the two aspects of a single discipline. Sāmkhya provides a basic theoretical exposition of human nature, enumerating and defining its elements, analyzing their manner of co-operation in a state of bondage (bandha), and describing their state of disentanglement or separation in release (mokṣa), while Yoga treats specifically of the dynamics of the process for the disentanglement, and outlines practical techniques for the gaining of release, or 'isolation-integration' (kaivalya)."
The foundational text of the Yoga school is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, who is regarded as the founder of the formal Yoga philosophy. The Sutras of the Yoga philosophy are ascribed to Patanjali, who may have been, as Max Müller explains, "the author or representative of the Yoga-philosophy without being necessarily the author of the Sutras." Hindu philosophy distinguishes seven major branches of Yoga:
- Rāja Yoga (also referred to as Classical Yoga), a system of yoga codified by Patañjali and classified as one of the six āstika ("orthodox") schools of Hindu philosophy.
- Jnana yoga, (also called 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-Yoga the path of devoted service to God.
- Tantra-yoga focused 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).
The Nyaya school is based on the Nyaya Sutras. They were written by Aksapada Gautama, probably in the sixth century BCE. 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. This is comparable to the relationship between Western science and philosophy, which was derived largely from Aristotelian logic.
Nevertheless, Nyaya was seen by its followers as more than logical in its own right. They believed that obtaining valid knowledge was the only way to gain release from suffering, and they took great pains to identify valid sources of knowledge and distinguish these from mere false opinions. According to Nyaya, there are exactly four sources of knowledge: perception, inference, comparison, and testimony. Knowledge obtained through each of these is either valid or invalid. Nyaya developed several criteria of validity. In this sense, Nyaya is probably the closest Indian equivalent to analytic philosophy. The later Naiyanikas gave logical proofs for the existence and uniqueness of Ishvara in response to Buddhism, which, at that time, was fundamentally non-theistic. An important later development in Nyaya was the system of Navya-NyÄya.
The Vaisheshika school postulates an atomic pluralism in which all objects in the physical universe are reducible to certain types of atoms, and Brahman is regarded as the fundamental force that causes consciousness in these atoms. The school was founded by the sage Kaṇāda (or Kana-bhuk, literally, atom-eater) around the 2nd century BC. Major ideas contained in the Vaisheshika Sutra are:
- There are nine classes of realities: four classes of atoms (earth, water, light and air), space (akasha), time (kāla), direction (dik), infinity of souls (Atman), mind (manas).
- Individual souls are eternal and pervade material body for a time.
- There are seven categories (padārtha) of experience – substance, quality, activity, generality, particularity, inherence and non-existence.
Although the Vaisheshika school developed independently from the Nyaya, the two eventually merged because of their closely related metaphysical theories. In its classical form, however, the Vaisheshika school differed from the Nyaya in one crucial respect: where Nyaya accepted four sources of valid knowledge, the Vaisheshika accepted only two—–perception and inference.
The main objective of the Purva Mimamsa school was to establish the authority of the Vedas. Consequently, this school's most valuable contribution to Hinduism was its formulation of the rules of Vedic interpretation. Its adherents propounded unquestionable faith in the Vedas and regular performance of the yajñas, or fire-sacrifices. They believed in the power of the mantras and yajñas to sustain all the activity of the universe. In keeping with this belief, they placed great emphasis on dharma, which consisted of the performance of Vedic rituals.
The Mimamsa philosophers accepted the logical and philosophical teachings of the other schools, but felt they did not sufficiently emphasise attention to right action. They believed that the other schools of thought that aimed for release (moksha) were not allowed for complete freedom from desire and selfishness, because the very striving for liberation stemmed from a simple desire to be free. According to Mimamsa thought, only by acting in accordance with the prescriptions of the Vedas may one attain salvation.
The Mimamsa school later shifted its views and began to teach the doctrines of Brahman and freedom. Its adherents then advocated the release or escape of the soul from its constraints through enlightened activity. Although Mimamsa does not receive much scholarly attention, its influence can be felt in the life of the practising Hindu, because all Hindu ritual, ceremony, and law is influenced by this school.
The Vedanta, or later Mimamsa school, concentrates on the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads rather than the ritualistic injunctions of the Brahmanas. Etymologically, Vedanta means, the last segment of knowledge in the Vedas. It is also known as the 'Jnan' (knowledge) 'Kanda' (section). While, the earlier segments of the Vedas are called 'Karma Kanda'. Parts of Vedas that focus on spiritual practices such as worship, devotion and meditation are called 'Upasana Kanda'.
While the traditional Vedic rituals continued to be practised as meditative and propitiatory rites, a more knowledge-centered understanding began to emerge. These were mystical aspects of Vedic religion that focused on meditation, self-discipline, and spiritual connectivity, more than traditional ritualism.
The more abstruse Vedanta is the essence of the Vedas, as encapsulated in the Upanishads. Vedantic thought drew on Vedic cosmology, hymns and philosophy. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is believed to have appeared as far back as 3,000 years ago. While thirteen or so Upanishads are accepted as principal, over a hundred exist. The most significant contribution of Vedantic thought is the idea that self-consciousness is continuous with and indistinguishable from consciousness of Brahman.
The aphorisms of the Vedanta sutras are presented in a cryptic, poetic style, which allows for a variety of interpretations. Consequently, the Vedanta separated into six sub-schools, each interpreting the texts in its own way and producing its own series of sub-commentaries.
Advaita literally means "non-duality." This is the oldest and most widely acknowledged Vedantic school. Its first great consolidator was Adi Shankaracharya (788 CE – 820 CE), who continued the line of thought of the Upanishadic teachers, and that of his teacher's teacher Gaudapada. He wrote extensive commentaries on the major Vedantic scriptures and was successful in the revival and reformation of Hindu thinking and way of life.
According to this school of Vedanta, Brahman is the only reality, and there exists nothing whatsoever which is not Brahman. The appearance of dualities and differences in this world is an superimposition on Brahman, called Maya. Maya is the illusionary and creative aspect of Brahman, which causes the world to arise. Maya is neither existent nor non-existent, but appears to exist temporarily, as in case of any illusion (for example mirage).
When a person tries to know Brahman through his mind, due to the influence of Maya, Brahman appears as God (Ishvara), separate from the world and from the individual. In reality, there is no difference between the individual soul (Jivatman) and Brahman. The spiritual practices such as: devotion to God, meditation & self-less action etc. purifies the mind and indirectly helps in perceiving the real. One whose vision is obscured by ignorance he does not see the non-dual nature of reality; as the blind do not see the resplendent Sun. Hence, the only direct cause of liberation is self-knowledge which directly removes the ignorance. After realisation, one sees one's own self and the Universe as the same, non-dual Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute.
Ramanujacharya (c. 1037–1137 CE) was the foremost proponent of the philosophy of Vishishtadvaita or qualified non-dualism. Vishishtadvaita advocated the concept of a Supreme Being with essential qualities or attributes. Vishishtadvaitins argued against the Advaitin conception of Brahman as an impersonal empty oneness. They saw Brahman as an eternal oneness, but also as the source of all creation, which was omnipresent and actively involved in existence. To them the sense of subject-object perception was illusory and a sign of ignorance. However, the individual's sense of self was not a complete illusion since it was derived from the universal beingness that is Brahman. Ramanuja saw Vishnu as a personification of Brahman.
Dvaita Vedanta (dualistic conclusions of the Vedas) school of philosophy was founded by Madhvacharya (c. 1238–1317 CE). It espouses dualism by theorising the existence of two separate realities. The first and the more important reality is that of Vishnu or Brahman. Vishnu is the supreme Self, God, the absolute truth of the universe, the independent reality. The second reality is that of dependent but equally real universe that exists with its own separate essence. Everything that is composed of the second reality, such as individual soul (Jiva), matter, etc. exist with their own separate reality. The distinguishing factor of this philosophy as opposed to Advaita Vedanta (monistic conclusion of Vedas) is that God takes on a personal role and is seen as a real eternal entity that governs and controls the universe.
Five further distinctions are made— (1) Vishnu is distinct from souls; (2) Vishnu is distinct from matter; (3) Souls are distinct from matter; (4) A soul is distinct from another soul, and (5) Matter is distinct from other matter. Souls are eternal and are dependent upon the will of Vishnu. This theology attempts to address the problem of evil with the idea that souls are not created. Because the existence of individuals is grounded in the divine, they are depicted as reflections, images or even shadows of the divine, but never in any way identical with the divine. Salvation therefore is described as the realisation that all finite reality is essentially dependent on the Supreme.
Dvaitadvaita was proposed by Nimbarka, a 13th-century Vaishnava Philosopher from the Andhra region. According to this philosophy there are three categories of existence: Brahman, soul, and matter. Soul and matter are different from Brahman in that they have attributes and capacities different from Brahman. Brahman exists independently, while soul and matter are dependent. Thus soul and matter have an existence that is separate yet dependent. Further, Brahman is a controller, the soul is the enjoyer, and matter the thing enjoyed. Also, the highest object of worship is Krishna and his consort Radha, attended by thousands of gopis, or cowherdesses; of the celestial Vrindavana; and devotion consists in self-surrender.
Shuddhadvaita is the "purely non-dual" philosophy propounded by Vallabhacharya (1479–1531 CE). The founding philosopher was also the guru of the Vallabhā sampradāya ("tradition of Vallabh") or Puśtimārg ("The path of grace"), a Hindu Vaishnava tradition focused on the worship of Krishna.
Acintya Bheda Abheda
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534), stated that the soul or energy of God is both distinct and non-distinct from God, whom he identified as Krishna, Govinda, and that this, although unthinkable, may be experienced through a process of loving devotion (bhakti). He followed the Dvaita concept of Sri Madhva. This philosophy of "inconceivable oneness and difference".
Early history of Shaivism is difficult to determine. However, the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad (400 – 200 BCE) is considered to be the earliest textual exposition of a systematic philosophy of Shaivism. Shaivism is represented by various philosophical schools, including non-dualist (abheda), dualist (bheda), and non-dualist-with-dualist (bhedābheda) perspectives. Vidyaranya in his works mentions three major schools of Shaiva thought— Pashupata Shaivism, Shaiva Siddhanta and Pratyabhijña (Kashmir Shaivism).
Pashupata Shaivism is the oldest of the major Shaivite schools. The philosophy of Pashupata sect was systematized by Lakulish in the 2nd century CE. Pashu in Pashupati refers to the effect (or created world), the word designates that which is dependent on something ulterior. Whereas, Pati means the cause (or prinripium), the word designates the Lord, who is the cause of the universe, the pati, or the ruler. Pashupatas disapproved of the Vaishnava theology, known for its doctrine servitude of souls to the Supreme Being, on the grounds that dependence upon anything could not be the means of cessation of pain and other desired ends. They recognised that those depending upon another and longing for independence will not be emancipated because they still depend upon something other than themselves. According to Pashupatas, soul possesses the attributes of the Supreme Deity when it becomes liberated from the 'germ of every pain'.
Pashupatas divided the created world into the insentient and the sentient. The insentient was the unconscious and thus dependent on the sentient or conscious. The insentient was further divided into effects and causes. The effects were of ten kinds, the earth, four elements and their qualities, colour etc. The causes were of thirteen kinds, the five organs of cognition, the five organs of action, the three internal organs, intellect, the ego principle and the cognising principle. These insentient causes were held responsible for the illusive identification of Self with non-Self. Salvation in Pashupata Shaivism involved the union of the soul with God through the intellect.
Considered normative Tantric Shaivism, Shaiva Siddhanta provides the normative rites, cosmology and theological categories of Tantric Shaivism. Being a dualistic philosophy, the goal of Shaiva Siddhanta is to become an ontologically distinct Shiva (through Shiva's grace). This tradition later merged with the Tamil Saiva movement and expression of concepts of Shaiva Siddhanta can be seen in the bhakti poetry of the Nayanars.
Kashmir Shaivism arose during the eighth or ninth century CE in Kashmir and made significant strides, both philosophical and theological, until the end of the twelfth century CE. It is categorised by various scholars as monistic idealism (absolute idealism, theistic monism, realistic idealism, transcendental physicalism or concrete monism). It is a school of Śaivism consisting of Trika and its philosophical articulation Pratyabhijña.
Even though, both Kashmir Shaivism and Advaita Vedanta are non-dual philosophies which give primacy to Universal Consciousness (Chit or Brahman), in Kashmir Shavisim, as opposed to Advaita, all things are a manifestation of this Consciousness. This implies that from the point of view of Kashmir Shavisim, the phenomenal world (Śakti) is real, and it exists and has its being in Consciousness (Chit). Whereas, Advaita holds that Brahman is inactive (niṣkriya) and the phenomenal world is an illusion (māyā). The objective of human life, according to Kashmir Shaivism, is to merge in Shiva or Universal Consciousness, or to realize one's already existing identity with Shiva, by means of wisdom, yoga and grace.
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- The following classification comes from The Encyclopedia of Yoga and Tantra by Georg Feuerstein
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