Indian Philosophy is one of the foremost Eastern traditions of abstract inquiry, expressed in Sanskrit, comprising of many diverse schools of thought and perspectives and intellectual debate among the various views. India’s spiritual philosophy is influenced by religious practices, such as yoga, atman, re-birth, karma and Dharma (“reason to be”).
However classical Indian philosophy is less concerned with spirituality than ancient thought. Hindu philosophy is divided into six astika (Sanskrit: “orthodox”) schools of thought, or darsanas (“views”), which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. The astika schools are:
- Samkhya, a strongly dualist theoretical exposition of mind and matter, that denies the existence of God.
- Yoga, a school emphasizing meditation closely based on Samkhya, but admitting to existence of God
- Nyaya or logic
- Vaisheshika, an empiricist school of atomism
- Mimamsa, an anti-ascetic and anti-mysticist school of orthopraxy
- Vedanta, the logical conclusion to Vedic ritualism, focusing on mysticism. Vedanta came to be the dominant current of Hinduism in the post-medieval period. Also called Uttara Mimamsa or the Upanishads. The Vedanta-Sramana traditions, Idol worship and Vedic rituals can be identified with the Jnana marga, Bhakti marga and the Karma marga respectively that are outlined in the Bhagavad Gita.
The three nastika (“heterodox”) schools which do not accept the Vedas as authoritative are:
- Carvaka or Lokayata (materialistic), philosophy died in 15th century
Sub-schools of Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta was propounded by Adi Shankara and his grand-guru Gaudapada, who described Ajativada. It is the most influential and most dominant sub-school of the Vedanta (end of the Vedas) school of Hindu philosophy. According to this school of Vedanta, Brahman is the only reality, and the world, as it appears, is illusory. As Brahman is the sole reality, it cannot be said to possess any attributes whatsoever. An illusory power of Brahman called Maya causes the world to arise. Ignorance of this reality is the cause of all suffering in the world and only upon true knowledge of Brahman can liberation be attained. 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 jīvatman and Brahman. Liberation lies in knowing the reality of this non-difference (i.e. a-dvaita, “non-duality”). Thus, the path to liberation is finally only through knowledge (gyana).
Vishishtadvaita was propounded by Ramanuja and says that the jīvatman is a part of Brahman, and hence is similar, but not identical. The main difference from Advaita is that in Visishtadvaita, the Brahman is asserted to have attributes (Saguna brahman), including the individual conscious souls and matter. Brahman, matter and the individual souls are distinct but mutually inseparable entities.
Shuddhadvaita was propounded by Vallabha. This system also identifies Bhakti as the only means of liberation, ‘to go to Goloka’ (the world of cows). The world is said to be the sport (Leela) of Krishna, who is Sat-Chit-Ananda.
Dvaita was propounded by Madhwacharya. It is also referred to as tatvavada – The Philosophy of Reality. It identifies God with Brahman completely, and in turn with Vishnu or his various incarnations like Krishna, Narasimha, Srinivasa etc. It regards Brahman, all individual souls (jīvatmans) and matter as eternal and mutually separate entities.
Dvaitadvaita was propounded by Nimbarka, based upon an earlier school called Bhedabheda, which was taught by Bhaskara. According to this school, the jīvatman is at once the same as yet different from Brahman. The jiva relation may be regarded as dvaita from one point of view and advaita from another. In this school, God is visualized as Krishna.
Shaiva Siddhanta provides the normative rites, cosmology and theological categories of tantric Saivism. Being a dualistic philosophy, the goal of Shaiva Siddhanta is to become an ontologically distinct Shiva (through Shiva’s grace). Today it has thousands of active temples and a number of monastic traditions, along with its own community of priests, the Adisaivas, who are qualified to perform Shaiva Siddhantin temple rituals.
Peace of Mind
Some Western scholars have argued that Platonism (the philosophy of ancient Greek thinker Plato) and neo-Platonism (a 3rd-century movement based on Platonism) were greatly influenced by Indian thought. Unlike in the West, the Indian classical philosophers often think about ethics in connection with Indian views about standards of character, actions, or habits (karma) and rebirth.
In addition to being satisfied with oneself, personal control (self-knowledge) has been one of the best predictors of well-being. Volumes of research show clearly that the path to happiness and health is more easily pursued together than alone. Extreme positive moods were followed by lows which washed out happiness whereas steady, moderate pleasures sustained well- being over time. People who were socially involved and drew solace from religious faith had a 10 times greater chance of being happy. Indians live in the best possible environment as mentioned above.
University of Chicago researchers, Kobassa and Maddi tried to find out why some stay well and others succumb to illness under the same difficult life conditions. They identified three personality traits of healthy persons – challenge, commitment and control. The hardy individuals viewed change as a challenge rather than a catastrophe, were deeply committed to other individuals, causes and groups, and had a sense of personal control over their life destiny. People who control their life from within rather than merely responding to forces from without tend to achieve more in school, cope better with stress, and report more happiness. But a reality that cannot be denied is that the pursuit of happiness is furthered by an optimistic state of mind.