Vedic Philosophy, Schools and Systems in Indian History


Vedic Philosophy

The Vedic Philosophy was very simple. It was because it consisted mainly 0f worship of numerous deities representing the various phenomena of nature through prayers. It was during the later Vedic period that definite ideas and philosophies about the true nature of soul or the atman and the cosmic principle or the Brahman, who represented the ultimate reality were developed. These Vedic philosophical concepts later on gave rise to 6 different schools of philosophies called Shadadarshana. They fall in the category of the orthodox system as the final authority of the Vedas is recognized by all of them.

The Schools of Indian Philosophy

Indian philosophy and system

According to a traditional principle of classification, the schools or systems of Indian philosophy are divided into two broad classes, namely, the orthodox (astika) and heterodox (nastika). To the first group belong the six chief philosophical systems (popularly known as Shadadarshana), namely mimamsa, Vedanta, samkhya, yoga, nyaya and vaisesika.
These are regarded as orthodox (astika), not because they believe in God, but because of their acceptance of the authority of the Vedas. Under the other class of heterodox systems, the chief three are the schools of the materialists like the Carvakas, the Buddhist and the Janis. They are called Heterodox (Nastika) because they do not believe in the authority of the Vedas.

The Samkhya System

It is a philosophy of dualistic realism, attributed to the sage Kapila. It admits two ultimate realities namely, Purusa and Prakrti, which are independent of each other in respect of their existence.

Realisation of the Self:

It is the self which is quite distinct from the body, the senses and the mind. It is beyond the whole world of objects and is the eternal consciousness which witnesses the changes and activities going on in the world, but does not itself act and change in any way. Therefore, there must be the Purusa or the self which is distinct from prakrti pr primary matter, but is the enjoyer (bhokta) of the products of the prakrti. There are many different selves related to different bodies, for when some men are happy, others are unhappy, some die, but others live.
The Prakrti is the ultimate cause of the world. It is an eternal unconscious principle (jada), which is always changing and has no other end than the satisfaction of the selves, sattva, rajas and tamas are the three constituents of prakrti, which holds them together in a state of rest or equilibrium.
The three are called gunas. But they are not qualities or attributes in any sense. Rather, they are three substantial elements which constitute the Prakrti like three cords making up a rope. The existence of the gunas is inferred from the qualities of pleasure, pain and in difference which, we find in all the things of the world.
The same sweet is liked or disliked or treated with in difference by the same man in different conditions. The course of evolution is as follows from Prakrti arises the great gem of this vast universe which is called therefore, the great one.  

Self Consciousness

    The Consciousness f the self is reflected on this and makes it appear as conscious. It represents the awakening of nature from her cosmic slumber and the first appearance of thought and therefore, it is also called the intellect (buddhi). It is the creative thought of the world to be evolved. Ahankara, the second product, arises by a further transformation of the intellect. The function of the Ahankara is the feeling of I and mine.
Owing to its identification with this principle, the self considers itself to be an agent, which it really is not. From ahankara, with an excess of the element of sattva, arise the five organs of knowledge, the five organs of action and the mind, which is at once an organ of knowledge and activity.
With an increase of tamas, the ahankara produces, on the other hand, the five subtle elements, which are the potentialities of sound, touch, colour, taste and smell. From the five subtle elements come the five gross elements of akasa or ether, air, fire, water and earth in the same order. Thus, we have altogether twenty-five principles in the Shamkhya.

Realisation of the Self and the Non-Self

Once we realise the distinction between the self and the non-self including the body and the senses, the mind, the intellect and the ego, our-self ceases to be affected by the joys and sorrows the ups and downs of life. It rests in itself as the dispassionate observer of the show of events in the world without being implicated in them.
This is the state of liberation or freedom from suffering which has been variously described as mukti, apavarga, kaivalya etc. It is possible for us to attain this state while alive in this world or after this life n the other world.
According to the Samkhya philosophy, the existence of God cannot be proved in any way. We need not admit the existence of God to explain the world, for prakrti is the adequate cause of the world as a whole.

The Nyaya System

It is the work of the great sage Gautama. It is realistic philosophy based mainly on logic grounds. It admits four separate sources of true knowledge, perception, inference, comparison, and testimony. The objects of knowledge, according to the Nyaya are the self, the body, the senses and their objects, cognition (buddhi), Mind, activity, mental defects, rebirth, the feelings of pleasure and pain, suffering and freedom from suffering.
The Nyaya, like many other systems of the Indian philosophy seeks to deliver the self from its bondage to the body, the senses and their objects. According to it, the self is distinct from the body and the mind. The mind is a subtle, individuals and eternal substance. It serves the soul as an instrument for the perception of psychic qualities like pleasure, pain etc. It is therefore, called an Internal Sense.  The Self (atman) another substance, which is quite distinct from the mind and the body. It acquires the attributes of consciousness when it is related to any object through the senses.

The Yoga System

The sage Patanjali is the founder of the yoga philosophy. The yoga is closely allied to the samkhya. It mostly accepts the epistemology and the metaphysics of the Samkhya with its twenty-five principles but admits also to the existence of God.
The special interest of this system is in the practice of yoga as the means to the attainment of vevekajnana or discriminative knowledge, which is held in the Sankhya to be the essential condition of liberation.
According to it, the yoga, consists in the cessation of all mental function. There are five levels of mental function. The first is called Ksipta or the dissipated condition, in which the mind flits among objects. The second is Mudha or the stupefied condition as in sleep. The third is called viksipta or the relatively pacified condition. The yoga is not possible in any of these conditions. The fourth and the fifth levels are called Ekagra and Nirodha.
The first is a state of concentration of the mind on some object of contemplation. The other is the cessation of even the act or function of contemplation. The last two levels of the mind are conducive to the yoga. These are the kinds of yoga or Samadhi, samprajnata and asamprajanata. In the first, we have yoga in the form of the mind’s perfect concentration on the object of contemplation and therefore, involving a clear apprehension of that object.
In the second, there is the complete cessation of all mental modifications and consequently, the entire absence of all knowledge including that of the contemplated object. There are eight steps in the practice of yoga.
These are yama or restraint, niyama or moral culture, asana or posture, pranayama or breath control, pratyahara or withdrawal, Samadhi or concentration etc. The yoga system is called the Theistic. Samkhya as distinguished from the Kapila Sankhya, which is generally regarded as atheistic. It holds that god is the height object of contemplation for concentration and self-realisation. He is the perfect being who is eternal, all pervading, omniscient and completely free from all the defects.  The yoga argues for the existence of God on the following grounds.
•    Whatever has degrees must have a maximum.
•    There are degrees of knowledge; therefore, there must be such a thing as perfect knowledge or omniscience.
•    He who has omniscience is God
•    The association of purusa with the prakrti is what initiates the evolution of the world and the cessation of this lead to dissolution.
•    Neither the association nor the dissociation is natural to prakrti and the purusa. Therefore, there must be a supreme being, who is able to bring about these relations between the prakrti and purusa according to the moral deserts of individual souls.

The Vaisesika system

It was founded by the sage Kanada, also named as Uluka. It is allied to the Nyaya systems and has the same end in view namely, the liberation of the individual self. It brings all the objects of knowledge i.e. the whole world, under the following categories of substance, quality, action, generality , particularity, the relation of inherence and non-existence.
These are four kinds of atoms earth, water, fire, and air, which are invisible and indestructible particles of matter. The atoms are uncreated and eternal entities, which are obtained by resolving any martial object into smaller parts till to they cannot be further divided. Akasa, space and time are imperceptible substances, each of which is one, eternal and all pervading.
The mind is an eternal substance, which is not all pervading, but infinitely small like an atom. It is the eternal sense, which is directly or indirectly concerned in all physical functions like cognition, feeling and will. The supreme soul or the God is inferred as the creator of the world of effects. The atoms are made to compose a world that befits the unseen moral deserts of individual souls and serves the purpose of moral dispensation. This is the atomic theory of the vaisesikas.
There are altogether twenty four kinds of qualities, colour, taste, smell, touch, sound, number, magnitude, distinctness, conjunction, fluidity, viscidity, cognition, pleasure, pain, desire, aversion, striving, heaviness, tendency, merit, and demerit etc.

The Mimansa System

The Mimansa School was founded by Jaimini. Its primary object was to defend and justify Vedic ritualism. In course of this attempt, it had to find a philosophy supporting the world view, on which ritualism depends.
The authority of the Vedas is the basis of ritualism in the Mimansa, which formulates that the Vedas were not the works of any person and were free from errors that the human authors commit. The Vedas are eternal and self-existing; the written or pronounced Vedas are only their temporary manifestations through particular seers. For establishing the validity of the Vedas, the Mimansa discusses very elaborately the theory of knowledge, the chief object of which is to show that the validity of, every knowledge is self-evident. When there are sufficient conditions, knowledge arises. When the senses are sound, object are present to them and when other auxiliary conditions also prevail, there is perception. When there are sufficient data, there is inference.
Similarly by reading the Vedas. We have at once a knowledge and also belief in what they say. The validity of Vedic knowledge is self- evident like that of every other knowledge. If any doubts arise, they are removed with the help of Mimansa arguments and the obstacles being removed, the Vedas themselves reveal their contents to the reader. The authority of the Vedas, thus becomes unquestionable.
The Soul in the body has different kinds of knowledge. One school of Mimansa founded by Prabhakara admits five different source of knowledge, namely perception, inference, comparison, testimony and postulation. The first four are admitted as in the Nyaya system.
The Mimansa believes in the reality of the physical world on the strength of perception. It is, therefore, realistic. It believes in the reality of souls as well. But, it does not believe that there is a supreme soul or God, who has created the world. It does not hold like other orthodox systems that there is a cycle of creation and dissolution. The world has always been as it is.
It has neither a beginning nor an end. The world’s objects are formed out of matter in accordance with the Karmas of the souls. The law of Karma is an autonomous natural and moral law that rules the world. The Mimansa also admits that when any man performs any ritual, there arises in his soul a potency, which produces in future the fruit of the action at an opportune moment. On account of this, potency generated in the soul by rites performed here one can enjoy their fruits hereafter.

The Vedanta System

This system arises out of the Upanishads, which mark the culmination of the Vedic speculation and are fittingly called the Vedanta or End of the Vedas. Of all the Systems, the Vedanta, especially as interpreted by sankara, has exerted the greatest influence on Indian life and it’s still persists in some form or other in different parts of India.
Sankara interprets the Upanishads and the Brahmasutra to show that pure and unqualified monism is taught therein. God is the only reality, not simply in the sense that there is nothing excepts God, but also in the sense that there is no multiplicity even within God, the assertion that when God is known, all is known and similar views found in the Upanishads, in fact, the general tone that pervades their teachings, cannot be explained consistently if we believe even in the existence of many realities within God.
In view of this, Sankara finds it necessary to distinguish two different points of view the ordinary or empirical and the transcendental or real. The first is the standpoint of unenlightened persons, who regard the world as real; our life of practice depends on this; it is rightly called therefore, the Vyavaharika or practical point of view. From this point of view, the world appears as real; God is thought to be its omnipotent and omniscient creator, sustainer and destroyer. Thus, God appears as qualified by many qualities. God in this aspect is called by Sankara as the Saguna Brahman or the isvara.    

Vedic Philosophy, Schools and Systems in Indian History
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