Find a Security Clearance Job!


Six Systems of Philosophy (Darsanas)

The six systems of orthodox philosophy are the Nyaya, founded by Gautama ; the Vaiseshika, by Kanada; the Sankhya, by Kapila ; the Yoga, by Patanjali; the Mimansa, by Jaimini; and the Vedanta, by Badarayana or Vyasa; and three systems of heterodox philosophy, viz., Buddhism, Jainism, and Charvakism. The Vaiseshika being in a way supplementary to the Nyaya, the two are grouped together under the name Nyaya; and as the case is similar with the Yoga and Sankhya, and with the Mimansa and Vedanta, it is customary to speak of Hindu Philosophy as being divisible into the Nyaya, the Sankhya, and the Vedanta.

Knowledge was classi?ed in two ways: the lower or dual; and the higher or uni?ed. The seemingly irreconciliable worlds of the material and the conscious were taken as aspects of the same transcendental reality. The idea of complementarity was at the basis of the systematization of Indian philosophic traditions as well, so that complementary approaches were paired together. There are the groups of: logic (Nyaya) and physics (Vaisheshika), cosmology (Sankhya) and psychology (Yoga), and language (Mimamsa) and reality (Vedanta). Although these philosophical schools were formalized in the post-Vedic age, the basis of these ideas was in the Vedic texts.

If accurate scholarship cannot accept Buddhism as simply the Sankhya philosophy turned into a national religion, it readily admits that Buddhism and Brahmanism are united by intermediate links. An early set of these links is found in the darsanas, or philosophical systems between the Vedic period and the establishment of Buddhism as a national religion under Asoka (r. 269 to 232 BC). A later set is preserved in the compromises effected during the final struggle between Buddhism and Brahmanism, ending in the reassertion of the latter in its new form as the religion of the Hindus (300 to 1000 AD).

The fundamental authorities of the Hindu religion are the Vedas, the Smritis (remembered law), the Puranas, not the six philosophical Systems (Dars'anas) of the Hindus. The technicalities of philosophy, among the Hindus, were long drawn solely from the Sanskrit. Only a meagre number of those technicalities were popularly employed; and, of such as are thus employed, it was said in the 19th Century that not one in ten was fully comprehended by the vulgar. Though vulgar Hindus were indifferent to, and unacquainted with, the dogmas established in the Systems, yet those dogmas were highly considered by the learned.

The six Systems are the Nyaya, Vais'eshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimansa, and Vedanta. They are also called the six S'astras [ a body of teaching, revealed, or of human origin, concerned with any subject whatsoever]. The Sankhya and the Yoga agree in all essentials; save that the former does not acknowledge God, while the latter does. Hence, occasionally, in Hindu books, both are denominated Sankhya; the one, atheistic, and the other, theistic. In many places, also, the Mimansa is styled the prior Mimansa, and the Vedanta, the latter Mimansa. The reason of this is, that they are alike concerned with discussing statements of the Veda. The prior Mimansa pertains to its ritual section; and the latter Mimansa, to its scientific section. This section, being at the end (anta) of the Veda, is named Vedanta.

Thousands of authors, from remote antiquity down to recent times, have written treatises on the six Systems. Among these are some known by the name of Sutras, or Aphorisms, which are reckoned the basis of all the rest, and are referred, by the Hindus, to Rishis. Thus, the Nyaya is ascribed to Gotama, or Akshapada; the Vais'eshika, to Kanada, or Kanabhaksha; the Sankhya, to Kapila; the Yoga, to Patanjali; the Mimansa, to Jaimini; and the Vedanta, to Badarayana.

Indian philosophers are mainly divided into three classes: (1) Realists (astika), (2) Nihilists (ndstika), and (3) Absolutists (advayavadin). Some maintain that the world is not permanent, not real, and not existent, that is, those who emphasize the negative aspect of the world, are designated Nihilists or Negativists. The propounders of the six orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy, viz. the Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaiiesika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta, who maintain that the world is somehow permanent, real, and existent, that is, who emphasize the positive aspect of the world, are designated the Realists. According to them, there is at least one reality on which the fabric of the world stands. Thus the Nyaya and Vaisesika hold that the material atoms, sky, space, and time, are the permanent entities in the external world, while the souls are the eternal realities in the internal world. The Sankhya and Yoga maintain that nature (prakrti) is the permanent reality in the external world, while the souls (purusa) are the eternal realities in the internal world. The Vedanta school affirms that Brahma, the All-pervading Being, is the one eternal reality in the external as well as in the internal world. So the various branches of the Realistic philosophy, in spite of their mutual differences in other respects, agree in maintaining that there is at least one permanent reality on which the whole world hinges.

The Buddhists, who maintain that the world is neither real nor unreal, that it is neither an existence nor a non-existence, but transcends both, that is, who emphasize neither the negative nor the positive aspect of the world, but go beyond both, are designated the Transcendentalists, Absolutists, Phenomenalists, Voidists, Agnostics, or the Followers of the Middle Path. The world, according to the Buddhists,; is an aggregate of conditions or relations. Things come into existence in virtue of these relations or conditions.

The Nyaya and Vaiseshika are alike in doctrine; the former being occupied chiefly with the principles of investigating truth, and the latter with the objects to be investigated. The Sankhya in its structures and tenets is closely followed by the Yoga. The great difference between the two is that the former is Niriswara, Sine Deo, the latter 8amiswara, Cum Deo. The Mimansa, called also Purva Mimansa, expounds the earlier portions of the Vedas, and describes the ceremonial observances by which religious merit may be acquired. Like the Sankhya it ignores God ; but unlike the Sankhya, it magnifies the Veda above all things. The Vedanta, called also Uttara Mimansa, expounds the Upanishads, and develops the higher mode of meditation on the nature and attributes of the supreme Brahma by which absorption into his essence may be more speedily and effectually attained.

The great object of the three systems is eminently religious, for it is the liberation of the soul from misery. Sin as the violation of divine law is not recognised, but misery as the result of the union of the soul with matter, real or fictitious, is the great burden of the three. That union produces ignorance (avidya), which consists in the soul identifying itself with the mind, the senses and the body, while in reality it is altogether distinct from them. In consequence of this identification, the soul imagines that some things are its own and some things belong to others; hence arise desire and aversion:desire for what it thinks gives pleasure, and aversion to what it thinks gives pain. By reason of desire and aversion the soul engages in various works, good and evil, from which accrue merit and demerit; the fruits of both it must reap in heaven, in hell and in repeated births. Liberation, therefore, according to the Sankhya and Nyaya, is the right apprehension on the part of the soul that it is an entity apart from the mind, the senses and the body ; and according to the Vedanta that it is nothing but a portion of the all, or Brahma.

It is of considerable importance to remember that of the technical names of the six systems of philosophy, two only occur in the classical Upanishads, namely Samkhya and Yoga or Samkhya-yoga. Vedanta does not occur, except in the Svetasvatara, Mundaka and some of the later Upanishads. Mimawsa occurs in the general sense of investigation, Nyaya and Vaiseshika are altogether absent, nor are such words as Hetuvidya, or Anvikshiki, nor with the names of the reputed founders of the six systems, except those of the two Mimamsas, Badarayaia and Gaimini. The names of Patangali, or Kanada, are absent altogether, while the names of Kapila and Gotama, when they occur, refer, it would seem, to quite different personalities.

No one can suppose that those whose names are mentioned as the authors of these six philosophical systems, were more than the final editors or redactors of the Sutras. If the third century BC should seem too late a date for the introduction of writing for literary purposes in India, we should remember that even inscriptions have not yet been found more ancient than those of Asoka, and there is a wide difference between inscriptions and literary compositions. The Southern Buddhists do not claim to have reduced their Sacred Canon to writing before the first century B.C., though it is well known that they kept up close relations with their Northern co-religionists who were acquainted with writing1. During all that time, therefore, between 477 and 77 B.C., ever so many theories of the world, partaking of a Vedanta, Samkhya or Yoga, nay even of a Buddhist character, could have sprung up and have been reduced to a mnemonic form in various Asramas.

The three great schools of Brahmanical thought and philosophy the Sankya, the Yoga, and the Vedanta were founded more than twenty-five centuries ago and have wielded resistless power. But these schools are, in their main issues, mutually antagonistic. The Sankya philosophy is severely dualistic and even has little use, if indeed it has any place, for the Divine Being. On the other hand, the Vedanta is uncompromisingly monistic. Its pantheism is of the highest spiritualistic type and is radically opposed to the materialism of the Sankya school. In one school the Divine Being is nothing and materialism has full sway; while in the other Brahm is everything, and all that appears to men the phenomenal is false and illusive.

Again, as to the method of redemption, the Yoga philosophy advocates renunciation, self-effacement, and all the forms of asceticism. On the other hand, the Sankya philosophy inculcates action as the embodiment of the duty of man, through which alone he can attain unto absorption. Even to the present time these different schools of thought not only prevail; they have also begotten and are nourishing different schools of religious life and practice which present different ideals and enforce different methods.

Join the mailing list