Hindu philosophy

Hindu philosophy is divided into six āstika (Sanskrit: आस्तिक "orthodox") schools of thought,[1] or darśanas (दर्शनस्, "views"), which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other nāstika (नास्तिक "heterodox") schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative. The āstika schools are:

  1. Samkhya, a strongly dualist theoretical exposition of mind and matter, that denies the existence of God.
  2. Yoga, a school emphasizing meditation closely based on Samkhya
  3. Nyaya or logics
  4. Vaisheshika, an empiricist school of atomism
  5. Mimamsa, an anti-ascetic and anti-mysticist school of orthopraxy
  6. Vedanta, the logical conclusion to Vedic ritualism, focusing on mysticism. Vedanta came to be the dominant current of Hinduism in the post-medieval period.

The nāstika schools are:

  1. Buddhism
  2. Jainism
  3. Cārvāka, a skeptical materialist school, which died out in the 15th century and whose primary texts have been lost.

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 Mimamsa, it was 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.



Samkhya is the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems in Hinduism. Samkhya is a strongly dualistic philosophy that postulates everything in reality stems from purusha (Sanskrit: पुरुष, self, atma or soul) and prakriti (matter, creative agency or energy). There are many living souls (Jeevatmas) and they possess consciousness. Prakriti consists of varying levels of three dispositions, categories of qualities (gunas): activity/materialism (rajas), inactivity/fierceness (tamas) and stability/detachment(sattva) which results in a particular final disposition. Because of the intertwined relationship between the soul and these dispositions, an imbalance in disposition causes the world to evolve. Liberation of the soul happens when it realizes that it is above and beyond these three dispositions. Samkhya denies the existence of God.[2] Western dualism deals with the distinction between the mind and the body,[3] whereas in Samkhya it is between the soul and matter.[4] The concept of the atma (soul) is different from the concept of the mind. 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.[5] The Yoga philosophical system is closely allied with the Samkhya school.[6] 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.[7][8] 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...."[9] 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)."[10]

The foundational text of the Yoga school is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, who is regarded as the founder of the formal Yoga philosophy.[11] 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."[12]


The Nyaya school is based on the Nyaya Sutras. They were written by Aksapada Gautama, probably in the second 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-Nyāya.


The Vaisheshika school was founded by Kanada and postulates an atomic pluralism. 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.

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.

Purva Mimamsa

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 believe that one must have unquestionable faith in the Vedas and perform the yajñas, or fire-sacrifices, regularly. They believe in the power of the mantras and yajñas to sustain all the activity of the universe. In keeping with this belief, they place great emphasis on dharma, which consists of the performance of Vedic rituals.

The Mimamsa accepted the logical and philosophical teachings of the other schools, but felt they did not sufficiently emphasize attention to right action. They believed that the other schools of thought that aimed for release (moksha) are 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.

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.[13] Hence, the only direct cause of liberation is self-knowledge which directly removes the ignorance.[14] After realization, one sees one's own self and the Universe as the same, non-dual Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute.[15]


Ramanujacharya (1040–1137) was the foremost proponent of the concept of the Supreme Being having a definite form, name, and attributes. He saw this form as that of Vishnu, and taught that reality has three aspects: Vishnu, soul (jiva), and matter (prakrti). Vishnu is the only independent reality, while souls and matter are dependent on Vishnu for their existence. Thus, Ramanuja's system is known as qualified non-dualism.


Dvaita means "Dualism". Madhvacharya (1238–1317) identified Brahman with Vishnu, but his view of reality was pluralistic. According to Dvaita, there are three ultimate realities: Vishnu, soul, and matter. Five 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.

Dvaitadvaita (Bhedabheda)

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 was proposed by Vallabhacharya (1479–1531), who came from the Andhra region and taught pushti bhakti. His pushtimarg has especially become prominent in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Acintya Bheda Abheda

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534), was stating 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.[16] This philosophy of "inconceivable oneness and difference" is followed by a number of modern Gaudiya Vaishnava movements, including ISKCON. ISKCON has recently participated in bringing the academic study of Krishna-related philosophies into Western academia through the theological discourse on Krishnology.

See also


  1. ^ For an overview of the six orthodox schools, with detail on the grouping of schools, see: Radhakrishnan and Moore, "Contents", and pp. 453-487.
  2. ^ Dasgupta, Surendranath (1992). A history of Indian philosophy, Volume 1. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. p. 258. ISBN 9788120804128. http://books.google.com/books?id=PoaMFmS1_lEC&pg=PA258. 
  3. ^ Sarles, Harvey (9780816613533). Language and human nature: toward a grammar of interaction and discourse. University of Minnesota Press. p. 6. http://books.google.com/books?id=opREzSOGRV4C&pg=PA6. 
  4. ^ Garbe, Richard. The Philosophy of Ancient India. BiblioBazaar. p. 11. ISBN 9781110403776. http://books.google.com/books?id=RcqsC1UE-DkC&pg=PA11. 
  5. ^ For a brief overview of the Yoga school of philosophy see: Chatterjee and Datta, p. 43.
  6. ^ For close connection between Yoga philosophy and Samkhya, see: Chatterjee and Datta, p. 43.
  7. ^ For Yoga acceptance of Samkhya concepts, but with addition of a category for God, see: Radhakrishnan and Moore, p. 453.
  8. ^ For Yoga as accepting the 25 principles of Samkhya with the addition of God, see: Chatterjee and Datta, p. 43.
  9. ^ Müller (1899), Chapter 7, "Yoga Philosophy", p. 104.
  10. ^ Zimmer (1951), p. 280.
  11. ^ For Patanjali as the founder of the philosophical system called Yoga see: Chatterjee and Datta, p. 42.
  12. ^ Müeller (1899), Chapter 7, "Yoga Philosophy", pp. 97-98.
  13. ^ http://www.sankaracharya.org/atmabodha.php [65]
  14. ^ http://www.shankaracharya.org/atmabodha.php [2]
  15. ^ http://www.sankaracharya.org/atmabodha.php [64]
  16. ^ Lord Chaitanya (krishna.com) "This is called acintya-bheda-abheda-tattva, inconceivable, simultaneous oneness and difference."


  • Chatterjee, Satischandra; Datta, Dhirendramohan (1984). An Introduction to Indian Philosophy (Eighth Reprint Edition ed.). Calcutta: University of Calcutta. 
  • Müeller, Max (1899). Six Systems of Indian Philosophy; Samkhya and Yoga, Naya and Vaiseshika. Calcutta: Susil Gupta (India) Ltd.. ISBN 0-7661-4296-5.  Reprint edition; Originally published under the title of The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy.
  • Radhakrishnan, S.; Moore, CA (1967). A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy. Princeton. ISBN 0-691-01958-4. 
  • Zimmer, Heinrich (1951). Philosophies of India. New York, New York: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01758-1.  Bollingen Series XXVI; Edited by Joseph Campbell.

Further reading

  • Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1996. ISBN 0-521-43878-0.
  • Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli; and Moore, Charles A. A Source Book in Indian Philosophy. Princeton University Press; 1957. Princeton paperback 12th edition, 1989. ISBN 0-691-01958-4.
  • Rambachan, Anantanand. "The Advaita Worldview: God, World and Humanity." 2006.
  • Zilberman, David B., The Birth of Meaning in Hindu Thought. D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland, 1988. ISBN 90-277-2497-0. Chapter 1. "Hindu Systems of Thought as Epistemic Disciplines".

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Philosophy of space and time — is the branch of philosophy concerned with the issues surrounding the ontology, epistemology, and character of space and time. While such ideas have been central to philosophy from its inception, the philosophy of space and time was both an… …   Wikipedia

  • Philosophy of religion — is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the philosophical study of religion, including arguments over the nature and existence of God, religious language, miracles, prayer, the problem of evil, and the relationship between religion and… …   Wikipedia

  • Philosophy and literature — is the literary treatment of philosophers and philosophical themes, and the philosophical treatment of issues raised by literature.The philosophy of literatureStrictly speaking, the philosophy of literature is a branch of aesthetics, the branch… …   Wikipedia

  • Hindu texts — Literature regarded as central to the Hindu literary tradition was predominantly composed in Sanskrit, Indeed, much of the morphology and linguistic philosophy inherent in the learning of Sanskrit is inextricably linked to study of the Vedas and… …   Wikipedia

  • Philosophy — For other uses, see Philosophy (disambiguation) …   Wikipedia

  • Hindu mythology — Part of a series on Hindu mythology Sources Vedas · Puranas Vedic mythology …   Wikipedia

  • Philosophy of mind — A phrenological mapping[1] of the brain. Phrenology was among the first attempts to correlate mental functions with specific parts of the brain. Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental even …   Wikipedia

  • Hindu (disambiguation) — The word Hindu may refer to:* An adherent of Hinduism. (see also Hindu philosophy) * Historically, ** Epic India or a person or attribute thereof. ** British India or a person or attribute thereof. * Inhabitant of Hindustan (Hindustan is a… …   Wikipedia

  • Hindu idealism — There are currents of idealism in classical Hindu philosophy.Idealism and materialism are the principal monist ontologies. A related branch is the Buddhist concept of consciousness only. Idealist notions have been supported by the Vedanta and… …   Wikipedia

  • Hindu Cycle Of The Universe — See also Hindu units of measurement .According to Hindu Philosophy, the universe (or multiverse) never came to be at some particular point, but always has been, always will be, but is perpetually in flux. Space and time are of cyclical nature.… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.