Advaitam and Science

OM, Purnamata purnamitam purnat purnamutachyate, purnasya purnamataye purnamevavasishyate – Bri.Up V.i.1


                                                  SIX SCHOOLS (DARSHANAS) OF HINDU PHILOSOPHY

Indian philosophy is vast and profound.  Many Sages have devoted their lifetime to make the concepts of this philosophy clear to others.  Without their valuable contribution we would not be able to understand the reality.  Many Sages have devoted their lifetime in systematizing this profound philosophy according to the mentality of the people.  Vedas are the scriptures of the Hindu’s and they do not owe their authority to any one individual.  Sage Vyasa codified and arranged the Vedas into four groups as Rik, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Veda.  He arranged the Vedas as two sections and called the section with rituals and mantras as Karma Kanda, and the second section (end part) as Jnana Kanda.  The end part is also called Vedanta.  It is the philosophical part.  Vedanta is not an imagination or speculation.  It is the spiritual experience of the race for centuries.  It is the actual realization or the super conscious perception.  The thought of the profound Indian philosophy is explained in the Upanisads.  The Indo-Aryans were bold thinkers and they initiated the search for Truth.

At various periods of time, different groups had opposed the ritualistic system of the Indian philosophy.  One among them was Carvakas.  Carvakas were extremely materialistic and anti-religious.  During the lifetime of Buddha and the time after that, there was a religious and philosophical upheaval in India.  During the period of Buddha, sixty two different schools were prevalent in India.  Many schools criticized the Vedic culture.  This led to the foundation of the six systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy.  These six systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy accepted the authority of the Vedas, but they varied widely.  The six orthodox school of philosophy were Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva mimamsa and Uttra mimamsa or Vedanta.  The last two were intimately connected with the Vedas.  The six systems of thought were developed at different intellectual centers all over India.  The six schools are the six ways of looking at the Truth.  The ways of approach to Truth matched the people with different temperament, capacities and mental caliber.  The founders of this system were Sages of the highest order and they had devoted their lives for the study and propagation of philosophy.  Each system of Indian philosophy is called a Darshana.  The sutra literature further systematized these schools of thoughts.  Each system formed their own sutra like Nyaya sutra, Kapila sutra, yoga sutra, Brahma sutra and so on.  A sutra is a concise and unambiguous essence of the arguments on a topic.  It explains all the essential aspects of that topic and free from repetition and faultiness.  It is just like a formula.  All the great thinkers are bold and had clear vision, and they interpreted the eternal Vedas in the manner they thought and interpreted.  They developed the thought and passed on to the next generation.  All the great thinkers belonged to any one of these six systems.  The interpretation of the sutras gave rise to various literary writings and vakyas, vrittis, karikas and bashyas.  Each interpretation differs from the other and more elaborate than the previous ones.

The Six schools of Hindu philosophy

1. Nyaya darshana

It is also called Tarka sastra.  Sage Gautama is the founder of this school.  It is based on the Nyaya Sastra written by Sage 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.  They believed that obtaining valid knowledge was the only way to gain release from suffering.  They identified four sources of knowledge.  They are perception, inference, comparison and testimony.  It is equivalent to analytic philosophy.  It involves sixteen topics namely pramana (epistemology), pramaya (ontology), samsaya (doubt), prayojana (axiology or purpose), drstanta (paradigm cases that establish a rule), siddhanta (established doctrine), avayana (premise of a syllogism), tarka (arguments), nirnaya (certain beliefs), vada (appropriately conducted discussions), jalpa (debates), vitanda (refuting the opponents views), hetvabhasa (fallacious arguments), chala (unfair attempt to contradict a statement by equivocating its meaning), jat: (an argument based on a false analogy), and nigrahasthana (ground for defeat in  a debate).

2. Vaiseshika darshana

It was founded by Sage Kanada around second century BCE.  It is concerned with metaphysics.  According to the Vaiseshika School of philosophy, the will of God is the cause of creation.  Brahman is regarded as the fundamental force that causes consciousness in the atoms.  It is concerned of seven categories, substance (dravya), attribute (guna), action (karma), generality (samanya), particularity (visesa), and the relationship of inherence between attributes and their substances (samavaya) and non-existence.  In this system there are seven classes of realities: four classes of atoms (earth, water, light and air), space (akasa), time (kala), direction (dik), infinity of souls (atman), mind (manas).  This school believes that the individual souls are eternal and they pervade the material body for a period of time.  According to them, a soul is born according to its merits and demerits.  God causes the combination of the moving atoms and thus is instrumental in the creation of the world.

3. Samkhya darshana

Sage Kapila is the founder of this Philosophy.  It is the oldest of the systematic schools of Indian Philosophy.  It suggests a methodology of philosophical analysis.  It is a strong dualist theoretical exposition of consciousness and matter.  Samkhya system laid a firm foundation for the Advaita Vedanta.  According to Samkhya, something can never be produced out of nothing.  This universe is the result of the mutual contact of prakriti (nature) and purusha (person).  Prakriti is composed of three gunas or qualities – sattva, rajas, and tamasSattva is illuminating, source of pleasure.  Rajas is activation, propelling and a source of pain.  Tamas is inertia and a source of indifference.  Purusha is Consciousness.  Mind and intellect are the combination of the gunas and not a part of purushaPurusha is the pure witness.  It is not an agent.  The active part, Prakriti, makes the decision.  Purusha does nothing, but lends consciousness to the situation.  The three gunas were in a state of perfect balance in prakriti.  When the equilibrium is disturbed, the Universe evolved in consecutive steps.  Purusha is all pervading and eternal.  Evolution is the result of the union of purusha and prakriti.  The first evolute of this combination is Mahat or the cosmic intellect.  Cosmic ego (ahamkara), is born out of the cosmic intellect.  Various evolutes came from cosmic ego, characterized by the gunas.  The mind, five organs of knowledge, the five organs of action, the five subtle elements, all these came from the cosmic ego.  From the five subtle elements are born the five gross elements or pancha maha bhutas.  The panca maha bhutas are earth, water, air, fire and ether.  Thus twenty four evolutes came from prakriti.

4. Yoga darshana

Sage Patanjali is the founder of this philosophy and this philosophy is based on the Patanjali Yoga sutra.  It came around the end of the epic period.  Yoga philosophy is also explained in the Baghavad Gita.  Yoga darshana supports duality.  It also says that the cosmos is the result of the interaction of two categories Prakriti (nature) and Purusha (person).  Prakriti is composed of three gunas or qualities.  The major difference between the samkhya darshana and the Yoga darshana is that, in samkhya darshana, Purusha is a mere witness.  In Yoga darshana, Purusha is the agent.  Purusha is regarded as the Lord of the mind.  It gives practical means by which Purusha brings about its own liberation.  The perturbation of the mind is the main obstacle to liberation.  To control the mind, Yoga darshana gives many practical and moral means.  The practical method of the Yoda philosophy is called the Astanga Yoga (set of eight (asta) limbs (anga)).  Astanga yoga is also called the Raja Yoga.  It includes

  • Yama – abstention from doing evil, harming others, falsehood and so on.
  • Niyama – various observances like purity, contentment, austerity and so on.
  • Asana – practice of a posture.
  • Pranayama – practice of control of breath.
  • Pratyahara – withdrawal of the mind from sense objects.
  • Dharana – concentration.
  • Dhyana – meditation.
  • Samadhi – absorption in the Self.

Steadfast practice of Astanga Yoga relieves one from the past sins and paves way to liberation.

5. Purva mimamsa

Purva mimamsa is based on the karma kanda of the Vedas.  Sage Jaimini is the founder of this school.  It is one of the most orthodox of the Hindu Philosophical schools.  It has its roots in the mimamsa sutra written by Sage Jaimini.  The main objective of this school is to establish the authority of the Vedas.  They formed the rules for Vedic interpretations.  They believed in the power of the mantras and yajnas and they believed that this power sustained the activity of the Universe.  Their dharma is to perform Vedic rituals.  The present practicing Hindu rituals, ceremonies and law are influenced by this school.  They believe that the world is real.  It accepts the plurality of Souls.  Liberation is attained by performing Nitya karmas.  The soul undergo transmigration according to the actions performed during their lifetime.

6. Vedanta darshana

Vedanta darshana is based on the end portion of the Vedas, which are the Upanisads.  It gives moksha or liberation through knowledge.  The nature of Brahman and the ways to realize it are explained in the Upanisads.  At the first sight, Upanisad seems to be full of contradictions.  Hence, to systematize the thought of the Upanisads, Badarayana (Sage Vyasa) wrote Brahma sutra.  Similarly many scholars from other schools of Vedanta like Sage Audulomi, Sage Kasakrtsna, Sage Badari, Sage Jaimini, Sage Asmarathya also systematized the philosophy of the Upanisads.  However, Sage Badarayana’s Vedanta sutra or Brahma sutra is the most authoritative among them.  Many Sages interpreted Brahma sutra according to their own school of thought.  The different schools of Vedanta have built their philosophy on the foundation of these sutras.  The four main sub-divisions of Vedanta interpreted the Brahma sutras according to their own way of thinking.  The four main sub-divisions are

  • Advaita – it is the oldest and most widely acknowledged Vedantic school.  Sri Adi Sankaracharya (788CE – 820CE) is the exponent of this philosophy.  He continued on the line of thought of the Upanisad teachers.  Brahman is the only reality, and there exists nothing whatsoever which is not Brahman.  The appearance of dualities and differences in this world is a superimposition on Brahman called Maya.  Maya is the illusory and creative aspect of Brahman.  Maya is neither existent nor non-existent, but appears to exist temporarily, like illusion.  When a person tries to know Brahman through his mind, due to 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 (Jivatma) and Brahman.  One whose vision is obscured by ignorance does not see the non-dual nature of Reality.  Self-knowledge removes ignorance.  After realization, one sees one’s own Self and the Universe as the same non-dual Brahman.
  • Visistadvaita – The principle exponent of this Vedanta school is Sage Ramanuja (12th century CE).  Their philosophy is Brahman is Vishnu.  All the objects and things of the Universe constitute the body of Brahman.  Atma is the mental component of Brahman.
  • Dvaita – The principle exponent of this philosophy is Madhvacharya (13th century CE).  Their philosophy is

1. Brahman is a personal God, Vishnu

2. Jivas are different from God

3. Jivas are also different from each other

4. Inanimate objects are different from God

5. Inanimate objects are different from other inanimate objects

6. Inanimate objects are different from Jivas

7. Only most virtuous Jivas are eligible for liberation.  Their basic practice is devotion and prayer

  • Bhedabheda – Their philosophy believes that Brahman converts itself into creation, but yet maintains a distinct identity.  Thus, this school holds that Brahman is both different (bheda) and not different (abheda) from creation and the individual jiva.

Interrelation between the six darshanas

 The six systems or schools are divided in to three groups.

The Nyaya and the Vaiseshika – The Vaiseshika darshana is the supplement of the Nyaya darshana.  Nyaya is considered as a pre requisite for all philosophical enquiries.  Nyaya and Vaiseshika analyses the world of experiences.  They arrange the things of the world in to certain kinds of categories (padarthas).  They explain how the world is made out of atoms and molecules.  Nyaya darshana sharpens the intellect and enables the aspirants to grasp the profound Vedanta philosophy.

The Samkhya and the Yoga – Yoga is the supplement of the Samkhya darshana.  They both have traces of their philosophy in the Upanisads.  Samkhya gives a deep knowledge of Hindu philosophy.  Yoga deals with control of vrittis (thoughts) by meditation.

The Purva mimamsa and the Vedanta – Vedanta and Purva mimamasa are both based on the Vedas.  Vedanta is a sabda pramana (means of knowledge by words) to know the Self.  Study of Vyakarana (grammer), Mimamsa, Nyaya and Samkhya are necessary to understand Vedanta.


Nyaya and Vaiseshika make one to utilize his intellect to find out fallacies and to know the material constitution of the world.  Samkhya makes one understand the course of evolution.  By Yoga gains mastery over the mind and senses.  Purva mimamsa prepares one for the final step of spirituality.  By Vedanta one reaches the highest step of spirituality, oneness with the Supreme Being, by the destruction of ignorance.




















1 Comment


    Very good write up explaining six schools of Hindu Phylosophy, their evolution over time and their interrelationships.


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