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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Six Orthodox Hindu Philosophical System

The Sanskrit term for Philosophy is Darsana, derived from Dristi meaning View or Sight. During the 5th and the 6th century B.C following the Rise of Buddhism and Jainism , six orthodox (astika) religious philosophical system developed. They all accepted the authority of Veda although their interpretation differs on various points and include theistic, monistic, atheistic and dualistic views. Despite their differences these systems are regarded as complementary aspects of one truth seen from different points of view.
The six systems are usually coupled in pair. The second system of each pair is more a methodology than metaphysical schools. The pairs are

· Samkhya (Based on intellectual knowledge) and Yoga (On control of Senses and inner faculty)
· Vaisesika (The experimental point of view based on sensory experience) and Nyaya (Logical view based on Dialectics)
· Vedanta (Based on metaphysical speculations) and Mimamsa (Deistic and Ritualistic point of View based on sacred text)

The three main unorthodox systems (Nastika) are the Buddhist, Jaina and Charvaka. The first two deny the authority of Veda but believes in future life, while the materialist Charvaka denies both propositions.

Samkhya: The literal meaning of Samkhya is enumeration. It is system of dualistic realism attributed to semi mythical sage Kapila. The oldest extent Samkhya text is the Samkhyakarika of Isvarakrishna (3rd and 4th century AD)
Two ultimate eternal realities are recognized in this system: The spirit (Purusha) and Nature (Prakriti). Prakriti is a single, all pervasive, complex substance which evolves in the world into countless different shapes. Its three main constituents or Gunas are Sattava, Rajas and Tamas. Such guna has distinct characteristics which to some extent are antagonistic to others yet they always coexist and cooperate to produce everything in world. The unfolding of new world commences only when purusha and prakriti associate (Samyoga) whereupon Prakriti begins the long process of differentiation.
Initially the Samkhya system was atheistic, however under the influence of the yoga system with which it coalesced later, it became theistic.

Yoga: It accepts most of the Samkhya epistemology and also the view that individual souls emerge from the universal soul. Svetasvatra Upanishad states: “ Samkhya is knowledge; Yoga is practice”
The eight steps of yogic practice are:
- Yama (Restrain)
- Niyama (Disciplin )
- Asana (The adoption of comfortable position)
- Pranayama (The technique of breath control)
- Dharana (Concentration)
- Dhayana (Uninterrupted meditation)
- Samadhi (Total absorption)
In Yoga philosophy the Supreme Being is eternal, able to bring about association of the eternal divine principles or Prakriti and Purusha which results in unfolding of the cosmic process.

Vaisesika: This School of thought is said to be originated from legendary sage Kanada(Uluka) and is based on Vaisesika sutra.
The early Vaisesika promulgated an atomistic account of the universe. It was based on the concept that everything in the world (except soul, consciousness, time, space & mind) is composed of various combination of atoms which remains after a material object has been reduced to its smallest part.

Nyaya: This is a system of Logical realism founded by the sage Gautama also known as Aksapada. It is based on Nyaya Sutra, probably composed about the 2nd century AD. There are five clauses in Nyaya Philosophy:
- The proposition
- The cause
- The exemplification
- The recapitulation of the cause
- The conclusion
Nyaya teaching states the existence of ideas, beliefs, vision and emotions are all dependent on mind, since without a mind to think then they would not exist.

Vedanta: The term Vedanta means ‘The end of Vedas’ or the culmination of Vedic speculation. The basic text is the “Brahma Sutra” or “Vedanta Sutra” attributed to Badrayana and composed between 200 to 450 AD. The main schools within Vedanta are Advaita (non dualism), Visishtadvaita (qualified non dualism) and Dvaita (dualism).
The first systematisers were Gaudapada and Sankara who established the Advaita Vedanta. It is very similar to Sunyavada philosophy of Mahayana. Sankara based his doctrine or famous passage “Thou art that” (tat tavm asi) of the Chandogya Upanishad.

Mimamsa: Mimamsa means ‘Critical examination’or ‘solution of a problem by reflection’. The early Mimamsa is called the purvamimasa and the later the more complex Vedanta called Uttaramimamsa or Brahmamimsa which concentrates on teaching of Upanishadas..
It is the atheistic system attributed to Jamini and summarized in Mimasa Sutra. Miamsa system regards the Vedas as eternal and unchanging. It was forced to reject the usual cosmological view held almost universally in Hindu tradition that world would periodically come into being and dissolve. The world according to miasma, has always existed and is without beginning or end.