Major philosophical thinkers and schools: The Systems of Indian Philosophy

Major philosophical thinkers and schools: The Systems of Indian Philosophy

  •  The Vedas are the oldest scriptures in the world. The Indian philosophical systems are classified according as they accept the authority of the Vedas or not. The systems of Indian philosophy are classified into two groups:
  1. The Orthodox Systems (astika or theistic)
  2. The Unorthodox Systems (nastika or atheistic)
  • The Vedas are commonly accepted by their adherents as having originally emanated from God. Therefore in the Indian tradition, any system of thought not grounded in the Vedas, even if it includes belief in God or gods, is considered atheistic, nastika. The astika schools, originally called sanatana dharma, are collectively referred to as Hinduism in modern times.
  • The orthodox systems are: Vaisheshika, Nyaya, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva-Mimamsa, and Uttar-Mimamsa. Very often, Purva-Mimamsa is referred to as “Mimamsa” only and Uttar-Mimamsa as “Vedanta”.
  • The unorthodox systems are: Charvakism, Ajivika, Jainism and Buddhism.
  • The orthodox systems uphold the supremacy of the Vedas. The unorthodox systems reject the authority of the Vedas. Truly speaking Vaisheshika, Nyaya, Samkhya and Yoga are neither orthodox nor unorthodox. These four systems, while originating, neither accepted nor rejected the Vedas.
  • The orthodox systems form pairs as follows: Nyaya-Vaisheshika, Yoga-Samkhya, Mimamsa-Vedanta. In each of the pairs, the first system is concerned with the practice and the second system focuses on the theoretical aspects.
  • It becomes difficult, sometimes, to name a single founder or a promoter of a system. However, the following are widely acknowledged as proponents of the above systems: Gautama for Nyaya, Kanada for Vaisheshika, Patanjali for Yoga, Kapila for Samkhya, Jaimini for Purva-Mimamsa and Shamkara for Uttar-Mimamsa.

Common Characteristics of Indian Philosophy:

  • The systems of Indian philosophies, with a singular exception of Ajivikas and Charvakism, have certain common characteristics. Charvakism remarkably differs from other systems as it promotes materialism.
  • The following characteristics are common to all other systems:
  1. All the schools emphasize that the philosophy must have a positive impact on life of man. The schools have a general agreement on the importance of the Purushartha.  All the schools agree that the philosophy should help man in realizing the main ends of human life: the purusharthas, i.e. artha, kama, dharma and moksha.
  2. All the systems reflect that the philosophy should lead a man from darkness and ignorance to light and knowledge.
  3. There is a general agreement among the systems that the truth and reality should be verifiable. They should be substantiated with reasoning and experience. An experience may be sensory, conceptual or intuitional.
  4. It is accepted by all the schools that man’s suffering results from his ignorance. Man can conquer ignorance and attain total freedom (moksha) in this bodily existence.
  5. There is a general agreement on man’s essential spirituality.

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