Hindu philosophy

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Hindu philosophy refers to philosophies, world views, and teachings [1] that emerged in ancient India. These include six systems ( ṣaḍdarśana ) – Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta. [2] These are also called the Astika (orthodox) philosophical traditions and are those that accept the Vedas as an authoritative, important source of knowledge. [3] [note 1] [note 2] Ancient and medieval India was also the source of philosophies that share philosophical concepts but rejected the Vedas, and these have been called nāstika (heterodox or non-orthodox) Indian philosophies. [2] [3] Nāstika Indian philosophies include Buddhism, Jainism, Cārvāka, Ājīvika, and others. [6]

History of India Aspect of history

According to consensus in modern genetics, anatomically modern humans first arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa between 73,000 and 55,000 years ago. However, the earliest known human remains in South Asia date to 30,000 years ago. Contemporaneous human rock art sites have been found in many parts of the Indian subcontinent, including at the Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh. Settled life, which involves the transition from foraging to farming and pastoralism, began in South Asia around 7,000 BCE. At the site of Mehrgarh, Balochistan, Pakistan, presence can be documented of the domestication of wheat and barley, rapidly followed by that of goats, sheep, and cattle. By 4,500 BCE, settled life had spread more widely, and began to gradually evolve into the Indus Valley Civilization, an early civilization of the Old world, which was contemporaneous with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. This civilisation flourished between 2,500 BCE and 1900 BCE in what today is Pakistan and north-western India, and was noted for its urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage, and water supply.

Darśana human settlement

Darśana is the auspicious sight of a deity or a holy person. The term also refers to six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy and their literature on spirituality and soteriology.

Samkhya or Sankhya is one of the six āstika schools of Hindu philosophy. It is most related to the Yoga school of Hinduism, and it was influential on other schools of Indian philosophy. Sāmkhya is an enumerationist philosophy whose epistemology accepts three of six pramanas (proofs) as the only reliable means of gaining knowledge. These include pratyakṣa (perception), anumāṇa (inference) and śabda. Sometimes described as one of the rationalist schools of Indian philosophy, this ancient school's reliance on reason was exclusive but strong.


Scholars have debated the relationship and differences within āstika philosophies and with nāstika philosophies, starting with the writings of Indologists and Orientalists of the 18th and 19th centuries, which were themselves derived from limited availability of Indian literature and medieval doxographies. [2] The various sibling traditions included in Hindu philosophies are diverse, and they are united by shared history and concepts, same textual resources, similar ontological and soteriological focus, and cosmology. [7] [8] While Buddhism and Jainism are considered distinct philosophies and religions, some heterodox traditions such as Cārvāka are often considered as distinct schools within Hindu philosophy. [9] [10] [11]

Indology or South Asian studies is the academic study of the history and cultures, languages, and literature of India and as such is a subset of Asian studies.

Orientalism Imitation or depiction of Eastern culture

In art history, literature and cultural studies, Orientalism is the imitation or depiction of aspects in the Eastern world. These depictions are usually done by writers, designers, and artists from the West. In particular, Orientalist painting, depicting more specifically "the Middle East", was one of the many specialisms of 19th-century academic art, and the literature of Western countries took a similar interest in Oriental themes.

Hindu philosophy also includes several sub-schools of theistic philosophies that integrate ideas from two or more of the six orthodox philosophies, such as the realism of the Nyāya, the naturalism of the Vaiśeṣika, the dualism of the Sāṅkhya, the monism and knowledge of Self as essential to liberation of Advaita, the self-discipline of yoga and the asceticism and elements of theistic ideas. [12] [13] [14] Examples of such schools include Pāśupata Śaiva, Śaiva siddhānta, Pratyabhijña, Raseśvara and Vaiṣṇava. [12] [13] Some sub-schools share Tantric ideas with those found in some Buddhist traditions. [15] The ideas of these sub-schools are found in the Puranas and Āgamas. [16] [17] [18]

Monism View that attributes oneness or singleness to a concept

Monism attributes oneness or singleness to a concept e.g., existence. Various kinds of monism can be distinguished:

Pashupata Shaivism

Pashupata Shaivism is the oldest of the major Shaivite Hindu schools. There is a debate about pioneership of this school and Goan school of Nakulish darshan believes that Nakulish was pioneer and Lakulish and Patanjalinath were his disciples while Gujrat school believes that Nakulish and Lakulish are one. Sarwdarshansangrah written by Madhavachary mentiones it as "Nakulish Darshan" not as "Lakulish Darshan". Both sub schools are still active in their own areas. The philosophy of the Pashupata sect was systematized by Lakulīśa also called Nakulīśa) in the 2nd century A.D. The main texts of the school are Pāśupatasūtra with Kauṇḍinya's Pañcārthabhāṣya, and Gaṇakārikā with Bhāsarvajña's Ratnaṭīkā. Both texts were discovered only in the twentieth century. Prior to that, the major source of information on this sect was a chapter devoted to it in Vidyāraṇya's Sarvadarśanasaṅgraha.

Shaiva Siddhanta enlightened soul of shiva

Shaiva siddhanta,(IAST: Śaiva siddhānta), provides the normative rites, cosmology and theological categories of Agamic and Vedic Shaivam combined. Being a dualistic philosophy, the goal of Shaiva Siddhanta is to become an enlightened soul through Lord Shiva's Grace.

Each school of Hindu philosophy has extensive epistemological literature called pramāṇaśāstras , [19] [20] as well as theories on metaphysics, axiology, and other topics. [21]

Epistemology A branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.

Pramana literally means "proof" and "means of knowledge". It refers to epistemology in Indian philosophies, and is one of the key, much debated fields of study in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, since ancient times. It is a theory of knowledge, and encompasses one or more reliable and valid means by which human beings gain accurate, true knowledge. The focus of Pramana is how correct knowledge can be acquired, how one knows, how one doesn't, and to what extent knowledge pertinent about someone or something can be acquired.

Metaphysics Branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of reality

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between potentiality and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among [the study of] the natural". It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics.


In the history of Hinduism, the six orthodox schools had emerged before the start of the Common Era. [22] Some scholars have questioned whether the orthodox and heterodox schools classification is sufficient or accurate, given the diversity and evolution of views within each major school of Hindu philosophy, with some sub-schools combining heterodox and orthodox views. [23]

History of Hinduism denotes a wide variety of related religious traditions native to the Indian subcontinent. Its history overlaps or coincides with the development of religion in Indian subcontinent since the Iron Age, with some of its traditions tracing back to prehistoric religions such as those of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization. It has thus been called the "oldest religion" in the world. Scholars regard Hinduism as a synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no single founder.

Common Era (CE) is one of the notation systems for the world's most widely used calendar era. BCE is the era before CE. BCE and CE are alternatives to the Dionysian BC and AD system respectively. The Dionysian era distinguishes eras using AD and BC. Since the two notation systems are numerically equivalent, "2019 CE" corresponds to "AD 2019" and "400 BCE" corresponds to "400 BC". Both notations refer to the Gregorian calendar. The year-numbering system used by the Gregorian calendar is used throughout the world today, and is an international standard for civil calendars.

Since ancient times Indian philosophy has been categorized into āstika and nāstika schools of thought. [24] The orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy have been called ṣaḍdarśana ("six systems"). This schema was created between the 12th and 16th centuries by Vedantins. [25] :2–3 It was then adopted by the early Western Indologists, and pervades modern understandings of Hindu philosophy. [25] :4–5

Vedanta or Uttara Mīmāṃsā is the most prominent of the six (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy. Literally meaning "end of the Vedas", Vedanta reflects ideas that emerged from the speculations and philosophies contained in the Upanishads. It does not stand for one comprehensive or unifying doctrine. Rather it is an umbrella term for many sub-traditions, ranging from dualism to non-dualism, all of which developed on the basis of a common textual connection called the Prasthanatrayi. The Prasthanatrayi is a collective term for the Principal Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.


There are six āstika (orthodox) schools of thought. [note 3] Each is called a darśana, and each darśana accepts the Vedas as authoritative and the premise that ātman (soul, eternal self) exists. [3] [26] The āstika schools are:

  1. Samkhya, an atheistic and strongly dualist theoretical exposition of consciousness and matter.
  2. Yoga, a school emphasising meditation, contemplation and liberation.
  3. Nyāya or logic, which explores sources of knowledge. Nyāya Sūtras .
  4. Vaiśeṣika, an empiricist school of atomism.
  5. Mīmāṃsā, an anti-ascetic and anti-mysticist school of orthopraxy.
  6. Vedānta, the last segment of knowledge in the Vedas, or jñānakāṇḍa. Vedānta came to be the dominant current of Hinduism in the post-medieval period.


Schools that do not accept the authority of the Vedas are nāstika philosophies, of which four nāstika (heterodox) schools are prominent: [6]

  1. Cārvāka, a materialism school that accepted the existence of free will. [27] [28]
  2. Ājīvika, a materialism school that denied the existence of free will. [29] [30]
  3. Buddhism, a philosophy that denies existence of ātman (soul, self) [31] and is based on the teachings and enlightenment of Gautama Buddha.
  4. Jainism, a philosophy that accepts the existence of the ātman (soul, self), and is based on the teachings and enlightenment of twenty-four teachers known as tirthankaras, with Rishabha as the first and Mahavira as the twenty-fourth. [32]

Other schools

Besides the major orthodox and non-orthodox schools, there have existed syncretic sub-schools that have combined ideas and introduced new ones of their own. The medieval scholar Madhva Acharya (CE 1238–1317) includes the following, along with Buddhism [33] and Jainism, [34] as sub-schools of Hindu philosophy:

The above sub-schools introduced their own ideas while adopting concepts from orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy such as realism of the Nyāya, naturalism of Vaiśeṣika, monism and knowledge of Self (Atman) as essential to liberation of Advaita, self-discipline of Yoga, asceticism and elements of theistic ideas. [12] Some sub-schools share Tantric ideas with those found in some Buddhist traditions. [15]


School Samkhya Yoga Nyāya Vaiśeṣika Mīmāṃsā Advaita [N 1] Vishishtadvaita [N 1] Dvaita [N 1] Achintya Bheda Abheda Pashupata Shaiva Siddhanta Kashmir Shaivism Raseśvara Pāṇini Darśana Akshar-Purushottam Darśana
Classification rationalism, [44] [45] dualism, atheism dualism, spiritual practice realism, [46] logic, analytic philosophy naturalism, [47] atomism exegesis, philology, ritualism monism, non-dualism qualified monism, panentheism dualism, theology simultaneous monism and dualism theism, spiritual practice Monotheism theistic monism, idealism alchemy linguistics, philosophy of language qualified monism, panentheism
Philosophers Kapila, Iśvarakṛṣṇa, Vācaspati Miśra, Guṇaratna more.. Patañjali, Yajnavalkya, Vyasa [N 2] Aksapada Gautama, Vātsyāyana, Udayana, Jayanta Bhatta more.. Kanada, Praśastapāda, Śridhara's Nyāyakandalī more.. Jaimini, Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, Prabhākara more.. Gaudapada, Adi Shankara, Madhusudana Saraswati, Vidyaranya more.. Yamunacharya, Ramanuja more.. Madhvacharya, Jayatirtha, Vyasatirtha, Raghavendra Swami Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Six Goswamis of Vrindavana, Visvanatha Chakravarti, Krishnadasa Kaviraja, Baladeva Vidyabhushana, Rupa Goswami, more.. Haradattacharya, Lakulish Tirumular, Meikandadevar, Appayya Dikshita, Sadyojyoti, Aghorasiva Vasugupta, Abhinavagupta, JayarathaGovinda Bhagavat, Sarvajña Rāmeśvara Pāṇini, Bhartṛhari, Kātyāyana Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Shastriji Maharaj, Bhadreshdas Swami
Texts Samkhyapravachana Sutra, Samkhyakarika, Sāṁkhya tattvakaumudī more.. Yoga Sutras, Yoga Yajnavalkya, Samkhya pravacana bhasya Nyāya Sūtras, Nyāya Bhāṣya, Nyāya Vārttika more.. Vaiśeṣika Sūtra, Padārtha dharma saṁgraha, Daśapadārtha śāstra more.. Purva Mimamsa Sutras, Mimamsasutra bhāshyam more.. Brahma Sutras, Prasthanatrayi, Avadhuta Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, Pañcadaśī more.. Siddhitrayam, Sri Bhasya, Vedartha SangrahaAnuVyakhana, Brahma Sutra Bahshya, Sarva Shāstrārtha Sangraha, Tattva prakashika, Nyaya Sudha, Nyayamruta, Tarka Tandava, DwaitaDyumani Bhagavata Purana, Bhagavad Gita, Sat Sandarbhas, Govinda Bhashya, Chaitanya Charitamrita,Gaṇakārikā, Pañchārtha bhāshyadipikā, Rāśikara bhāshya Sivagamas, Tirumurais, Meikanda Sastras Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta, Tantraloka Rasārṇava, Rasahṛidaya, Raseśvara siddhānta Vākyapadīya, Mahabhashya, Vārttikakāra Swaminarayan Bhashyam, Swaminarayan-Siddhanta-Sudha
Concepts Originated Purusha, Prakṛti, Guṇa, Satkāryavāda Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dhāraṇā, Dhyana, Samadhi Pratyakṣa, Anumāna, Upamāna, Anyathakyati vada, Niḥśreyasa more.. Padārtha, Dravya, Sāmānya, Viśeṣa, Samavāya, Paramāṇu Apauruṣeyātva, Arthāpatti, Anuapalabdhi, Satahprāmāṇya vāda Jivanmukta, Mahāvākyas, Sādhana Chatuṣṭaya, three orders of reality, Vivartavada Hita, Antarvyāpi, Bahuvyāpi more.. Prapacha, Mukti-yogyas, Nitya-samsarins, Tamo-yogyas Sambandha, Abhidheya, Prayojana (Relationship, Process, Ultimate Goal) Pashupati, eight pentads Charya, Mantramārga, Rodha ŚaktiCiti, Mala, Upaya, Anuttara, Aham, Svatantrya Pārada, three modes of mercury Sphoṭa, Ashtadhyayi Akshar Purushottam Upasana
  1. 1 2 3 Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita have evolved from an older Vedanta school and all of them accept Upanishads and Brahma Sutras as standard texts.
  2. Vyasa wrote a commentary on the Yoga Sutras called Samkhyapravacanabhasya.(Radhankrishnan, Indian Philosophy, London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1971 edition, Volume II, p. 344.)



Epistemology is called pramāṇa. [48] It has been a key, much debated field of study in Hinduism since ancient times. Pramāṇa is a Hindu theory of knowledge and discusses means by which human beings gain accurate knowledge. [48] The focus of pramāṇa is how correct knowledge can be acquired, how one knows, how one doesn't, and to what extent knowledge pertinent about someone or something can be acquired. [19]

Ancient and medieval Hindu texts identify six pramāṇas as correct means of accurate knowledge and truths: pratyakṣa (perception), anumāṇa (inference), upamāṇa (comparison and analogy), arthāpatti (postulation, derivation from circumstances), anupalabdi (non-perception, negative/cognitive proof) and śabda (word, testimony of past or present reliable experts) [49] Each of these are further categorized in terms of conditionality, completeness, confidence and possibility of error, by the different schools. The schools vary on how many of these six are valid paths of knowledge. [20] For example, the Cārvāka nāstika philosophy holds that only one (perception) is an epistemically reliable means of knowledge, [50] the Samkhya school holds that three are (perception, inference and testimony), [50] while the Mīmāṃsā and Advaita schools hold that all six are epistemically useful and reliable means to knowledge. [50] [51]


Samkhya is the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems in Hinduism, [52] with origins in the 1st millennium BCE. [53] It is a rationalist school of Indian philosophy, [44] and had a strong influence on other schools of Indian philosophies. [54] Sāmkhya is an enumerationist philosophy whose epistemology accepted three of six pramāṇas as the only reliable means of gaining knowledge. These were pratyakṣa (perception), anumāṇa (inference) and sabda (Āptavacana, word/testimony of reliable sources). [55] [50]

Samkhya school espouses dualism between consciousness and matter. [56] It regards the universe as consisting of two realities: Puruṣa (consciousness) and prakriti (matter). Jiva (a living being) is that state in which puruṣa is bonded to prakriti in some form. [57] This fusion, state the Samkhya scholars, led to the emergence of buddhi (awareness, intellect) and ahankara (individualized ego consciousness, “I-maker”). The universe is described by this school as one created by Purusa-Prakriti entities infused with various permutations and combinations of variously enumerated elements, senses, feelings, activity and mind. [57]

Samkhya philosophy includes a theory of gunas (qualities, innate tendencies, psyche). [58] Guna, it states, are of three types: Sattva being good, compassionate, illuminating, positive, and constructive; Rajas guna is one of activity, chaotic, passion, impulsive, potentially good or bad; and Tamas being the quality of darkness, ignorance, destructive, lethargic, negative. Everything, all life forms and human beings, state Samkhya scholars, have these three gunas, but in different proportions. [59] The interplay of these gunas defines the character of someone or something, of nature and determines the progress of life. [60] [61] Samkhya theorises a pluralism of souls (Jeevatmas) who possess consciousness, but denies the existence of Ishvara (God). [62] Classical Samkhya is considered an atheist or non-theistic Hindu philosophy. [63] [64] [65]

The Samkhya karika , one of the key texts of this school of Hindu philosophy, opens by stating its goal to be "three [66] kinds of human suffering" and means to prevent them. [67] The text then presents a distillation of its theories on epistemology, metaphysics, axiology and soteriology. For example, it states,

From the triad of suffering, arises this inquiry into the means of preventing it.
That is useless - if you say so, I say: No, because suffering is not absolute and final. – Verse 1

The Guṇas (qualities) respectively consist in pleasure, pain and dullness, are adapted to manifestation, activity and restraint; mutually domineer, rest on each other, produce each other, consort together, and are reciprocally present. – Verse 12
Goodness is considered to be alleviating and enlightening; foulness, urgent and persisting; darkness, heavy and enveloping. Like a lamp, they cooperate for a purpose by union of contraries. – Verse 13

There is a general cause, which is diffuse. It operates by means of the three qualities, by mixture, by modification; for different objects are diversified by influence of the several qualities respectively. – Verse 16
Since the assemblage of perceivable objects is for use (by man); Since the converse of that which has the three qualities with other properties must exist (in man); Since there must be superintendence (within man); Since there must be some entity that enjoys (within man); Since there is a tendency to abstraction (in man), therefore soul is. – Verse 17

Samkhya karika, [67] [68]

The soteriology in Samkhya aims at the realization of Puruṣa as distinct from Prakriti; this knowledge of the Self is held to end transmigration and lead to absolute freedom (kaivalya). [69]


In Indian philosophy, Yoga is, among other things, the name of one of the six āstika philosophical schools. [70] The Yoga philosophical system aligns closely with the dualist premises of the Samkhya school. [71] [72] The Yoga school accepts Samkhya psychology and metaphysics, but is considered theistic because it accepts the concept of personal god (Ishvara), unlike Samkhya. [73] [74] [75] The epistemology of the Yoga school, like the Sāmkhya school, relies on three of six prāmaṇas as the means of gaining reliable knowledge: [50] pratyakṣa (perception), anumāṇa (inference) and śabda (āptavacana, word/testimony of reliable sources). [51] [50]

The universe is conceptualized as a duality in Yoga school: puruṣa (consciousness) and prakṛti (matter); however, the Yoga school discusses this concept more generically as "seer, experiencer" and "seen, experienced" than the Samkhya school. [76]

A key text of the Yoga school is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali . Patanjali may have been, as Max Müller explains, "the author or representative of the Yoga-philosophy without being necessarily the author of the Sutras." [77] Hindu philosophy recognizes many types of Yoga, such as rāja yoga, jñāna yoga, [78] karma yoga, bhakti yoga, tantra yoga, mantra yoga, laya yoga, and hatha yoga. [79]

The Yoga school builds on the Samkhya school theory that jñāna (knowledge) is a sufficient means to moksha. It suggests that systematic techniques/practice (personal experimentation) combined with Samkhya's approach to knowledge is the path to moksha. [71] Yoga shares several central ideas with Advaita Vedanta, with the difference that Yoga is a form of experimental mysticism while Advaita Vedanta is a form of monistic personalism. [80] [81] [82] Like Advaita Vedanta, the Yoga school of Hindu philosophy holds that liberation/freedom in this life is achievable, and that this occurs when an individual fully understands and realizes the equivalence of Atman (soul, self) and Brahman. [83] [84]


The Vaiśeṣika philosophy is a naturalist school. [47] It is a form of atomism in natural philosophy. [85] It postulates that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to paramāṇu (atoms), and that one's experiences are derived from the interplay of substance (a function of atoms, their number and their spatial arrangements), quality, activity, commonness, particularity and inherence. [86] Knowledge and liberation are achievable by complete understanding of the world of experience, according to Vaiśeṣika school. [86] The Vaiśeṣika darśana is credited to Kaṇāda Kaśyapa from the second half of the first millennium BCE. [86] [87] The foundational text, the Vaiśeṣika Sūtra , opens as follows:

Dharma is that from which results the accomplishment of Exaltation and of the Supreme Good. The authoritativeness of the Veda arises from its being an exposition of dharma. The Supreme Good results from knowledge, produced from a particular dharma, of the essence of the Predicables, Substance, Attribute, Action, Genus, Species and Combination, by means of their resemblances and differences.

Vaiśeṣika Sūtra 1.1.1-1.1.4, [88]

The Vaiśeṣika school is related to the Nyāya school but features differences in its epistemology, metaphysics and ontology. [89] The epistemology of the Vaiśeṣika school, like Buddhism, accepted only two means to knowledge as reliable – perception and inference. [51] [90] The Vaiśeṣika school and Buddhism both consider their respective scriptures as indisputable and valid means to knowledge, the difference being that the scriptures held to be a valid and reliable source by Vaiśeṣikas were the Vedas. [51] [91]

Vaiśeṣika metaphysical premises are founded on a form of atomism, that reality is composed of four substances (earth, water, air, and fire). Each of these four are of two types: [85] atomic (paramāṇu) and composite. An atom is, according to Vaiśeṣika scholars, that which is indestructible (anitya), indivisible, and has a special kind of dimension, called “small” (aṇu). A composite, in this philosophy, is defined to be anything which is divisible into atoms. Whatever human beings perceive is composite, while atoms are invisible. [85] The Vaiśeṣikas stated that size, form, truths and everything that human beings experience as a whole is a function of atoms, their number and their spatial arrangements, their guṇa (quality), karma (activity), sāmānya (commonness), viśeṣa (particularity) and amavāya (inherence, inseparable connectedness of everything). [86] [92]


The Nyāya school is a realist āstika philosophy. [93] [94] The school's most significant contributions to Indian philosophy were its systematic development of the theory of logic, methodology, and its treatises on epistemology. [95] [96] The foundational text of the Nyāya school is the Nyāya Sūtras of the first millennium BCE. The text is credited to Aksapada Gautama and its composition is variously dated between the sixth and second centuries BCE. [97] [87]

Nyāya epistemology accepts four out of six prāmaṇas as reliable means of gaining knowledge – pratyakṣa (perception), anumāṇa (inference), upamāṇa (comparison and analogy) and śabda (word, testimony of past or present reliable experts). [50] [98] [49]

In its metaphysics, the Nyāya school is closer to the Vaiśeṣika school than the others. [93] It holds that human suffering results from mistakes/defects produced by activity under wrong knowledge (notions and ignorance). [99] Moksha (liberation), it states, is gained through right knowledge. This premise led Nyāya to concern itself with epistemology, that is, the reliable means to gain correct knowledge and to remove wrong notions. False knowledge is not merely ignorance to Naiyayikas; it includes delusion. Correct knowledge is discovering and overcoming one's delusions, and understanding the true nature of the soul, self and reality. [100] The Nyāya Sūtras begin:

Perception, Inference, Comparison and Word – these are the means of right knowledge.
Perception is that knowledge which arises from the contact of a sense with its object and which is determinate, unnameable and non-erratic.
Inference is knowledge which is preceded by perception, and is of three kinds: a priori, a posteriori, and commonly seen.
Comparison is the knowledge of a thing through its similarity to another thing previously well known.
Word is the instructive assertion of a reliable person.
It [knowledge] is of two kinds: that which is seen, and that which is not seen.
Soul, body, senses, objects of senses, intellect, mind, activity, fault, transmigration, fruit, suffering and release – are the objects of right knowledge.

Nyāya Sūtras 1.1.3-1.1.9, [101]


The Mīmāṃsā school emphasized hermeneutics and exegesis. [102] [103] It is a form of philosophical realism. [104] Key texts of the Mīmāṃsā school are the Purva Mimamsa Sutras of Jaimini. [105] [106] The classical Mīmāṃsā school is sometimes referred to as pūrvamīmāṃsā or Karmamīmāṃsā in reference to the first part of the Vedas. [105]

The Mīmāṃsā school has several sub-schools defined by epistemology. The Prābhākara subschool of Mīmāṃsā accepted five means to gaining knowledge as epistimetically reliable: pratyakṣa (perception), anumāṇa (inference), upamāṇa (comparison and analogy), arthāpatti (postulation, derivation from circumstances), and śabda (word, testimony of past or present reliable experts). [98] [49] The Kumārila Bhaṭṭa sub-school of Mīmāṃsā added a sixth way of knowing to its canon of reliable epistemology: anupalabdi (non-perception, negative/cognitive proof). [50]

The metaphysics of the Mīmāṃsā school consists of both atheistic and theistic doctrines, and the school showed little interest in systematic examination of the existence of God. Rather, it held that the soul is an eternal, omnipresent, inherently active spiritual essence, then focussed on the epistemology and metaphysics of dharma. [105] [107] [108] To them, dharma meant rituals and duties, not devas (gods), because devas existed only in name. [105] The Mīmāṃsākas held that the Vedas are "eternal authorless infallible", that Vedic vidhi (injunctions) and mantras in rituals are prescriptive karya (actions), and that the rituals are of primary importance and merit. They considered the Upanishads and other texts related to self-knowledge and spirituality to be of secondary importance, a philosophical view that the Vedanta school disagreed with. [102] [105]

Mīmāṃsā gave rise to the study of philology and the philosophy of language. [109] While their deep analysis of language and linguistics influenced other schools, [110] their views were not shared by others. Mīmāṃsākas considered the purpose and power of language was to clearly prescribe the proper, correct and right. In contrast, Vedantins extended the scope and value of language as a tool to also describe, develop and derive. [105] Mīmāṃsākas considered orderly, law-driven, procedural life as the central purpose and noblest necessity of dharma and society, and divine (theistic) sustenance means to that end. The Mimamsa school was influential and foundational to the Vedanta school, with the difference that Mīmāṃsā developed and emphasized karmakāṇḍa (the portion of the śruti which relates to ceremonial acts and sacrificial rites, the early parts of the Vedas), while the Vedanta school developed and emphasized jñānakāṇḍa (the portion of the Vedas which relates to knowledge of monism, the latter parts of the Vedas). [102]


The Vedānta school built upon the teachings of the Upanishads and Brahma Sutras from the first millennium BCE [87] [111] and is the most developed and best-known of the Hindu schools. The epistemology of the Vedantins included, depending on the sub-school, five or six methods as proper and reliable means of gaining any form of knowledge: [91] pratyakṣa (perception), anumāṇa (inference), upamāṇa (comparison and analogy), arthāpatti (postulation, derivation from circumstances), anupalabdi (non-perception, negative/cognitive proof) and śabda (word, testimony of past or present reliable experts). [51] [50] [49] All of these have been further categorized by each sub-school of Vedanta in terms of conditionality, completeness, confidence and possibility of error. [91]

The emergence of Vedanta school represented a period when a more knowledge-centered understanding began to emerge. These focussed on jnana (knowledge) driven aspects of the Vedic religion and the Upanishads. This included metaphysical concepts such as ātman and Brahman, and an emphasis on meditation, self-discipline, self-knowledge and abstract spirituality, rather than ritualism. The Upanishads were variously interpreted by ancient- and medieval-era Vedanta scholars. Consequently, the Vedanta separated into many sub-schools, ranging from theistic dualism to non-theistic monism, each interpreting the texts in its own way and producing its own series of sub-commentaries. [112] [113]


Advaita literally means "not two, sole, unity". It is a sub-school of Vedanta, and asserts spiritual and universal non-dualism. [114] [115] Its metaphysics is a form of absolute monism, that is all ultimate reality is interconnected oneness. [116] [117] This is the oldest and most widely acknowledged Vedantic school. The foundational texts of this school are the Brahma Sutras and the early Upanishads from the 1st millennium BCE. [116] Its first great consolidator was the 8th century scholar Adi Shankara, who continued the line of thought of the Upanishadic teachers, and that of his teacher's teacher Gaudapada. He wrote extensive commentaries on the major Vedantic scriptures and is celebrated as one of the major Hindu philosophers from whose doctrines the main currents of modern Indian thought are derived. [118]

According to this school of Vedanta, all reality is Brahman, and there exists nothing whatsoever which is not Brahman. [119] Its metaphysics includes the concept of māyā and ātman. Māyā connotes "that which exists, but is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal". [120] The empirical reality is considered as always changing and therefore "transitory, incomplete, misleading and not what it appears to be". [121] [122] [123] The concept of ātman is of soul, self within each person, each living being. Advaita Vedantins assert that ātman is same as Brahman, and this Brahman is within each human being and all life, all living beings are spiritually interconnected, and there is oneness in all of existence. [124] [125] They hold that dualities and misunderstanding of māyā as the spiritual reality that matters is caused by ignorance, and are the cause of sorrow, suffering. Jīvanmukti (liberation during life) can be achieved through Self-knowledge, the understanding that ātman within is same as ātman in another person and all of Brahman – the eternal, unchanging, entirety of cosmic principles and true reality. [126] [125]


Ramanuja (c. 1037–1137) was the foremost proponent of the philosophy of Viśiṣṭādvaita or qualified non-dualism. Viśiṣṭādvaita advocated the concept of a Supreme Being with essential qualities or attributes. Viśiṣṭādvaitins argued against the Advaitin conception of Brahman as an impersonal empty oneness. They saw Brahman as an eternal oneness, but also as the source of all creation, which was omnipresent and actively involved in existence. To them the sense of subject-object perception was illusory and a sign of ignorance. However, the individual's sense of self was not a complete illusion since it was derived from the universal beingness that is Brahman. [127] Ramanuja saw Vishnu as a personification of Brahman.


Dvaita refers to a theistic sub-school in Vedanta tradition of Hindu philosophy. [128] [129] Also called as Tattvavāda and Bimbapratibimbavāda, the Dvaita sub-school was founded by the 13th-century scholar Madhvacharya. [128] The Dvaita Vedanta school believes that God (Vishnu, supreme soul) and the individual souls (jīvātman) exist as independent realities, and these are distinct. [130] [131]

Dvaita Vedanta is a dualistic interpretation of the Vedas, espouses dualism by theorizing the existence of two separate realities. [128] The first and the only independent reality, states the Dvaita school, is that of Vishnu or Brahman. [128] Vishnu is the supreme Self, in a manner similar to monotheistic God in other major religions. [132] The distinguishing factor of Dvaita philosophy, as opposed to monistic Advaita Vedanta, is that God takes on a personal role and is seen as a real eternal entity that governs and controls the universe. [133] Like Vishishtadvaita Vedanta subschool, Dvaita philosophy also embraced Vaishnavism, with the metaphysical concept of Brahman in the Vedas identified with Vishnu and the one and only Supreme Being. [134] [135] However, unlike Vishishtadvaita which envisions ultimate qualified nondualism, the dualism of Dvaita was permanent. [131] [130]

Salvation, in Dvaita, is achievable only through the grace of God Vishnu. [128] [136] [137]

Dvaitādvaita (Bhedabheda)

Dvaitādvaita was proposed by Nimbarka, a 13th-century Vaishnava Philosopher from the Andhra region. According to this philosophy there are three categories of existence: Brahman, soul, and matter. Soul and matter are different from Brahman in that they have attributes and capacities different from Brahman. Brahman exists independently, while soul and matter are dependent. Thus soul and matter have an existence that is separate yet dependent. Further, Brahman is a controller, the soul is the enjoyer, and matter the thing enjoyed. Also, the highest object of worship is Krishna and his consort Radha, attended by thousands of gopis ; of the Vrindavan; and devotion consists in self-surrender.


Śuddhādvaita is the "purely non-dual" philosophy propounded by Vallabha Acharya (1479–1531). The founding philosopher was also the guru of the Vallabhā sampradāya ("tradition of Vallabh") or Puṣṭimārga, a Vaishnava tradition focused on the worship of Krishna. Vallabhacharya enunciates that Brahman has created the world without connection with any external agency such as Māyā (which itself is His power) and manifests Himself through the world. [138] That is why Shuddhadvaita is known as ‘Unmodified transformation’ or ‘Avikṛta Pariṇāmavāda’. Brahman or Ishvara desired to become many, and he became the multitude of individual souls and the world. The Jagat or Maya is not false or illusionary, the physical material world is. Vallabha recognises Brahman as the whole and the individual as a ‘part’ (but devoid of bliss) like sparks and fire. [139]

Acintya Bheda Abheda

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534), stated that the soul or energy of God is both distinct and non-distinct from God, whom he identified as Krishna, Govinda, and that this, although unthinkable, may be experienced through a process of loving devotion ( bhakti ). He followed the Dvaita concept of Madhvacharya. [140] This philosophy of "inconceivable oneness and difference".


The Cārvāka school is one of the nāstika or "heterodox" philosophies . [141] [10] [142] It rejects supernaturalism, emphasizes materialism and philosophical skepticism, holding empiricism, perception and conditional inference as the proper source of knowledge [143] [144] Cārvāka is an atheistic school of thought. [145] It holds that there is neither afterlife nor rebirth, all existence is mere combination of atoms and substances, feelings and mind are an epiphenomenon, and free will exists. [27] [28]

Bṛhaspati is sometimes referred to as the founder of Cārvāka (also called Lokayata) philosophy. Much of the primary literature of Carvaka, the Barhaspatya sutras (ca. 600 BCE), however, are missing or lost. [145] [146] Its theories and development has been compiled from historic secondary literature such as those found in the shastras, sutras and the Indian epic poetry as well as from the texts of Buddhism and from Jain literature. [145] [147] [148]

One of the widely studied principles of Cārvāka philosophy was its rejection of inference as a means to establish valid, universal knowledge, and metaphysical truths. [149] In other words, the Cārvāka epistemology states that whenever one infers a truth from a set of observations or truths, one must acknowledge doubt; inferred knowledge is conditional. [150]


Early history of Shaivism is difficult to determine. [151] However, the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad (400 – 200 BCE) [152] is considered to be the earliest textual exposition of a systematic philosophy of Shaivism. [153] Shaivism is represented by various philosophical schools, including non-dualist (abheda), dualist (bheda), and non-dualist-with-dualist (bhedābheda) perspectives. Vidyaranya in his works mentions three major schools of Shaiva thought—Pashupata Shaivism, Shaiva Siddhanta and Pratyabhijña (Kashmir Shaivism). [154]

Pāśupata Shaivism

Pāśupata Shaivism (Pāśupata, "of Paśupati") is the oldest of the major Shaiva schools. [155] The philosophy of Pashupata sect was systematized by Lakulish in the 2nd century CE. Paśu in Paśupati refers to the effect (or created world), the word designates that which is dependent on something ulterior. Whereas, Pati means the cause (or principium), the word designates the Lord, who is the cause of the universe, the pati, or the ruler. [156] Pashupatas disapproved of Vaishnava theology, known for its doctrine servitude of souls to the Supreme Being, on the grounds that dependence upon anything could not be the means of cessation of pain and other desired ends. They recognised that those depending upon another and longing for independence will not be emancipated because they still depend upon something other than themselves. According to Pāśupatas, soul possesses the attributes of the Supreme Deity when it becomes liberated from the 'germ of every pain'. [157]

Pāśupatas divided the created world into the insentient and the sentient. The insentient was the unconscious and thus dependent on the sentient or conscious. The insentient was further divided into effects and causes. The effects were of ten kinds, the earth, four elements and their qualities, colour etc. The causes were of thirteen kinds, the five organs of cognition, the five organs of action, the three internal organs, intellect, the ego principle and the cognising principle. These insentient causes were held responsible for the illusive identification of Self with non-Self. Salvation in Pāśupata involved the union of the soul with God through the intellect. [158]

Shaiva Siddhanta

Considered normative Tantric Shaivism, Shaiva Siddhanta [159] [160] provides the normative rites, cosmology and theological categories of Tantric Shaivism. [161] Being a dualistic philosophy, the goal of Shaiva Siddhanta is to become an ontologically distinct Shiva (through Shiva's grace). [162] This tradition later merged with the Tamil Saiva movement and expression of concepts of Shaiva Siddhanta can be seen in the bhakti poetry of the Nayanars. [163]

Kashmir Shaivism

Kashmir Shaivism arose during the eighth [164] or ninth century CE [165] in Kashmir and made significant strides, both philosophical and theological, until the end of the twelfth century CE. [166] It is categorised by various scholars as monistic [167] idealism (absolute idealism, theistic monism, realistic idealism, [168] transcendental physicalism or concrete monism [168] ). It is a school of Śaivism consisting of Trika and its philosophical articulation Pratyabhijña. [169]

Even though, both Kashmir Shaivism and Advaita Vedanta are non-dual philosophies which give primacy to Universal Consciousness (Chit or Brahman), [170] in Kashmir Shavisim, as opposed to Advaita, all things are a manifestation of this Consciousness. [171] This implies that from the point of view of Kashmir Shavisim, the phenomenal world (Śakti) is real, and it exists and has its being in Consciousness (Chit). [172] Whereas, Advaita holds that Brahman is inactive (niṣkriya) and the phenomenal world is an illusion (māyā). [173] The objective of human life, according to Kashmir Shaivism, is to merge in Shiva or Universal Consciousness, or to realize one's already existing identity with Shiva, by means of wisdom, yoga and grace. [174]

See also


  1. M Chadha (2015), in The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy of Religion, states that Vedas were knowledge source but interpreted differently by different schools of Hindu philosophy: "The sacred texts of the Hindus, the Vedas, are variously interpreted by the six traditional Hindu philosophical schools. Even within a single school, philosophers disagree on the import of Vedic statements. (...) Hindu intellectual traditions must be understood as standing for the collection of philosophical views that share a textual connection. There is no single, comprehensive philosophical doctrine shared by all intellectual traditions in Hinduism that distinguishes their view from other Indian religions such as Buddhism or Jainism on issues of epistemology, metaphysics, logic, ethics or cosmology. The Vedas are regarded as Apauruseya, but by the same token, they are not the Word of God either. [4]
  2. Elisa Freschi (2012): The Vedas are not deontic authorities in absolute sense and may be disobeyed, but are recognized as an epistemic authority by an orthodox school of Hindu philosophy; [5] (Note: This differentiation between epistemic and deontic authority is true for all Indian religions)
  3. For an overview of the six orthodox schools, with detail on the grouping of schools, see: Radhakrishnan and Moore, "Contents", and pp. 453–487.

Related Research Articles

Sutra a text in Hinduism or Buddhism. Often a collection of aphorisms or formulae.

Sutra in Indian literary traditions refers to an aphorism or a collection of aphorisms in the form of a manual or, more broadly, a condensed manual or text. Sutras are a genre of ancient and medieval Indian texts found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Hindu deities are the gods and goddesses in Hinduism. The terms and epithets for deity within the diverse traditions of Hinduism vary, and include Deva, Devi, Ishvara, Ishvari, Bhagavān and Bhagavati.

Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means inner self or soul. In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism, Ātman is the first principle, the true self of an individual beyond identification with phenomena, the essence of an individual. In order to attain liberation (moksha), a human being must acquire self-knowledge, which is to realize that one's true self (Ātman) is identical with the transcendent self Brahman.

Eastern philosophy

Eastern philosophy or Asian philosophy includes the various philosophies that originated in East and South Asia including Chinese philosophy, Japanese philosophy, and Korean philosophy which are dominant in East Asia and Vietnam, and Indian philosophy which are dominant in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Tibet and Mongolia.

Moksha, also called vimoksha, vimukti and mukti, is a term in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism which refers to various forms of emancipation, enlightenment, liberation, and release. In its soteriological and eschatological senses, it refers to freedom from saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth. In its epistemological and psychological senses, moksha refers to freedom from ignorance: self-realization, self-actualization and self-knowledge.

Advaita Vedanta School of Hindu philosophy, a classic path to spiritual realization

Advaita Vedanta, originally known as Puruṣavādha, is a school of Hindu philosophy, and believed to be one of the classic paths to spiritual realization in Hindu tradition. The term Advaita refers to its idea that the true self, Atman, is the same as the highest metaphysical Reality (Brahman). The followers of this school are known as Advaita Vedantins, or just Advaitins or Mayavaadis, and they seek spiritual liberation through acquiring vidyā, meaning knowledge, of one's true identity as Atman, and the identity of Atman and Brahman.

Mīmāṃsā is a Sanskrit word that means "reflection" or "critical investigation" and thus refers to a tradition of contemplation which reflected on the meanings of certain Vedic texts. This tradition is also known as Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā because of its focus on the earlier (pūrva) Vedic texts dealing with ritual actions, and similarly as Karma-Mīmāṃsā due to its focus on ritual action (karma). It is one of six Vedic "affirming" (āstika) schools of Hinduism. This particular school is known for its philosophical theories on the nature of dharma, based on hermeneutics of the Vedas, especially the Brāḥmanas and Saṃhitas. The Mīmāṃsā school was foundational and influential for the vedāntic schools, which were also known as Uttara-Mīmāṃsā for their focus on the "later" (uttara) portions of the Vedas, the Upaniṣads. While both "earlier" and "later" Mīmāṃsā investigate the aim of human action, they do so with different attitudes towards the necessity of ritual praxis.

Indian philosophy systems of thought from the ancient and medieval era Indian subcontinent

Indian philosophy refers to ancient philosophical traditions of the Indian subcontinent. The principal schools are classified as either orthodox or heterodox – āstika or nāstika – depending on one of three alternate criteria: whether it believes the Vedas as a valid source of knowledge; whether the school believes in the premises of Brahman and Atman; and whether the school believes in afterlife and Devas.

The Brahma sūtras is a Sanskrit text, attributed to Badarayana, estimated to have been completed in its surviving form some time between 450 BCE and 200 CE. The text systematizes and summarizes the philosophical and spiritual ideas in the Upanishads. It is one of the foundational texts of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy.

Ishvara is a concept in Hinduism, with a wide range of meanings that depend on the era and the school of Hinduism. In ancient texts of Indian philosophy, depending on the context, Ishvara can mean supreme soul, ruler, lord, king, queen or husband. In medieval era Hindu texts, depending on the school of Hinduism, Ishvara means God, Supreme Being, personal god, or special Self.

The standard problem of evil found in monotheistic religions does not apply to almost all traditions of Hinduism because it does not posit an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent creator.

<i>Nyāya Sūtras</i> Sanskrit text of the Nyaya school of Hindu philosophy

The Nyāya Sūtras is an ancient Indian Sanskrit text composed by Akṣapāda Gautama, and the foundational text of the Nyaya school of Hindu philosophy. The date when the text was composed, and the biography of its author is unknown, but variously estimated between 6th-century BCE and 2nd-century CE. The text may have been composed by more than one author, over a period of time. The text consists of five books, with two chapters in each book, with a cumulative total of 528 aphoristic sutras, about rules of reason, logic, epistemology and metaphysics.

Āstika and nāstika

Āstika derives from the Sanskrit asti, "there is, there exists", and means “one who believes in the existence ” and nāstika means "an unbeliever". These have been concepts used to classify Indian philosophies by modern scholars, and some Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina texts. Āstika has been defined in one of three ways; as those who accept the epistemic authority of the Vedas, as those who accept the existence of ātman, or as those who accept the existence of Ishvara. In contrast, nāstika are those who deny the respective definitions of āstika.

Smarta tradition a tradition in Hinduism linked to Advaita Vedanta

Smarta tradition (स्मार्त) is a movement in Hinduism that developed during its classical period around the beginning of the Common Era. It reflects a Hindu synthesis of four philosophical strands: Mimamsa, Advaita, Yoga, and theism. The Smarta tradition rejects theistic sectarianism, and it is notable for the domestic worship of five shrines with five deities, all treated as equal – Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Ganesha and Devi (Shakti). The Smarta tradition contrasted with the older Shrauta tradition, which was based on elaborate rituals and rites. There has been considerable overlap in the ideas and practices of the Smarta tradition with other significant historic movements within Hinduism, namely Shaivism, Brahmanism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.

Atheism or disbelief in God or gods has been a historically propounded viewpoint in many of the orthodox and heterodox streams of Indian philosophy. There are six major orthodox (astika) schools of Hindu philosophy—Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedanta, and five major heterodox (nāstika) schools of Śramaṇa—Jain, Buddhist, Ajivika, Ajñana, and Cārvāka. The four most studied nāstika schools, those rejecting the doctrine of Vedas, are Jainism, Buddhism, Cārvāka, and Ājīvika.

Brahman metaphysical concept, unchanging Ultimate Reality in Hinduism

In Hinduism, Brahman connotes the highest Universal Principle, the Ultimate Reality in the universe. In major schools of Hindu philosophy, it is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. It is the pervasive, genderless, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes. Brahman as a metaphysical concept is the single binding unity behind diversity in all that exists in the universe.

Hindu denominations are traditions within Hinduism centered on one or more gods or goddesses, such as Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Sometimes the term is used for sampradayas led by a particular guru with a particular philosophy.

Yoga philosophy is one of the six major orthodox schools of Hinduism. Ancient, medieval and most modern literature often refers to the Yoga school of Hinduism simply as Yoga. It is closely related to the Samkhya school of Hinduism. The Yoga school's systematic studies to better oneself physically, mentally and spiritually has influenced all other schools of Indian philosophy. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a key text of the Yoga school of Hinduism.


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Further reading