Indian philosophy represents the world's oldest philosophical tradition. It has not only the longest and most continuous development, but also a rich and varies growth.
The ancient Indian mind revelled in philosophical speculations from which emerged six schools of philosophy, popularly known as darsanas. Each school or system is associated with a sage as its first promulgator - Samkhya with Kapila, Yoga with Patanjali, Vaisesika with Kanada, Nyaya with Gautama, Mimamsa with Jaimini and Vedanta with Badarayana.
The system evolved in India as a result of the great thought ferment that characterized the post-Vedic age of thinkers.
This volume provides a glimpse into the personality and the contribution of these great philosophers. It also mentions their contribution to the building up and enrichment of Indian culture.
The series of booklets entitled "Cultural Leaders of India" is intended to create better and greater awareness of Indian culture among the general reading public.
These booklets will provide the essential historical and biographical details of these figures as far as they have been either set forth in authoritative books by scholars and specialists or as accepted in tradition, without entering too much into academic discussions or controversies over dates, identities, etc. The works accepted as theirs are also dealt with, drawing special attention to the highlights, meaning, beauty, significance and influence of the works, without entering, into detailed textual criticism and other academic problems.
The accounts bear an accent on the personality of the poet, philosopher or mystic dealt with, the appeal of his work or works, and the nature and extent of the influence of the author and his work on subsequent writers and the people at large. It is expected that the evocatory and evaluatory presentation in these accounts will produce an adequate appreciation of the contribution of these personalities to the building up and enrichment of Indian culture.
This booklet deals with the founders of the six philosophical systems. Of the different branches of knowledge which the ancient Indian mind developed, the high water-mark is represented by the schools of philosophy. Indian tradition itself considers philosophy as the higher, greater knowledge. Para vidya, the Upanisad says, is that by which the Imperishable truth is attained: 'Yaya tad aksaram adhigamyate ' All the rest is lower, apara. In the words of the Gita, philosophy is the Vidya of Vidyas, knowledge par excellence (adhyatma-vidya vidyanam). Indian philosophy represents also the world's oldest philosophical tradition, one that had not only the longest and most continuous development, but also a rich and varied growth, reaching up to the modern times.
The Indian schools of philosophy grew out of the Vedas; two schools are wholly Vedic, the Mimamsa and the Vedanta, and the four others-Samkhya and Yoga, and Vaisesika and Nyaya- have their seeds in the Vedas. On this ground, the six schools are classed as Vedic or Astika, and from them are distinguished the two schools-Buddhism and Jainism- which are called Nastika as they do not .accept Vedic authority. But all these eight schools "are products of the great thought ferment that characterised the post-Vedic age of thinkers.
Each school of philosophy is called a Darsana, meaning a view or a vision of the Truth. Each is also called a Sastra, as it is a systematised pattern of thought. Indian philosophy is not a mere exercise in thought or ratiocination but an intuition and formulation of Truth which is to lead to a way of life with the ultimate end of obtaining Release (Moksa) from mundane life bound by time and space, by a world of relationships, by the chain of cause and effect and by recurring cycles of births and deaths.
The aims and aspirations of life are not only the pursuit of material gains (Artha) and pleasure (Kama) but also virtue and morality which chasten life (Dharma) and spiritual enlightment and freedom (Moksa). The greatest of these four aims is the last and it is to that Moksa that these schools of philosophy are addressed. The approach of Indian philosophy is an integrated one, and ethics and religion are not divorced from it. The final state is a realisation of the Truth and its direct experience (Anubhava).
The basic texts of these schools are in brief aphorisms, Sutras. While being a help to easy memorisation, these Sutras, which are like catch-words, have to be understood with the help of teachers and tradition, both of which play an important part in Indian philosophy. Because of their pithiness, they gave room for alternate explanations and within the same school, developed also sub-schools, for example, prominently in Vedanta, which are dealt with in the volume on the Ahcaryas.
Each school is associated with a sage (risi) as its first promulgator, Samkhya with Kapila, Yoga with Patanjali,• Vaisesika with Kanada, Nyaya with Gautama, Mimamsa with Jaimini and Vedanta with Badarayana-Vyasa. Because of their mutual relationship, these six schools fall into three groups of allied systems, Samana-tantras. Samkhya and Yoga go together; the philosophical framework of Samkhya is accepted by Yoga, with the addition of God as the omniscient first Teacher. The speciality of Yoga is the practical aspect of the methods of mental control by which the philosophical ideal of the Samk-hya, namely, the isolation (Kaivalya) of the Spirit from Matter is achieved. But Yoga as a Sadhana or preparatory discipline and means, irrespective of any philosophical doctrine, came to be accepted by all schools, including Buddhism and Jainisrn. Today, it has, with the help of science, grown in strength and gained a world-wide vogue.
The Vaisesika doctrines form the basis of Nyaya, both being schools of realism and pluralism. The speciality of Nyaya lies in its further treatment of logic and the. science of debate. The two, in fact, became later one eclectic school and put forth a fresh and rich development of formal and semantic logic. The Mimamsa and Vedanta go together because of their common Vedic basis but otherwise they differ fundamentally. The former is concerned with Karma and Dharma, the performance of ordained duty, but the latter to the opposite of Karma, namely, renunciation from activity; according to Vedanta, Knowledge (Jnana) is the means of Release (Moksa). Mimamsa is thus related to the Karma-kanda (Samhita and the Brahmana portion of the Vedas), Vedanta to the Upanisads. The Mimamsa also made a valuable contribution to the science of interpreting texts; it came to be known therefore as Vakya Sastra (the science of sentence). Likewise, the Nyaya which taught the science of precise thinking, came to be known as Pramana Sastra and the two constituted the basic disciplines of all scholarship. While all the rest, as philosophies in the main, receded to the background and survived only in their other ancillary contributions, Vedanta grew as Indian philosophy par excellence.
In the pages that follow, introductions to these six schools of Indian philosophy are provided by scholars who have made a special study of these schools of thought.
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