Exploring Indian Philosophy: Orthodox and Heterodox Schools
Indian philosophy, also known as Darshanas in Sanskrit, encompasses several traditions of philosophical thought that originated in the Indian subcontinent, including Hindu philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, and Jain philosophy. The main focus of Indian philosophy is to improve human life, and it is considered a practical discipline. Indian philosophy is divided into two major categories: Orthodox (Hindu) Schools and Heterodox (Non-Hindu) Schools.
The main Hindu Orthodox schools of Indian philosophy are Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Purva Mimamsa, and Vedanta. These schools are codified during the medieval period of Brahmanic-Sanskritic scholasticism and take the ancient Vedas as their source and scriptural authority.
Samkhya, the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems, is a dualist philosophy that postulates that everything in reality stems from purusha (self or soul or mind) and prakriti (matter, creative agency, energy). Liberation occurs with the realization that the soul and the dispositions of matter are different.
The Yoga school accepts Samkhya psychology and metaphysics but is more theistic, with the addition of a divine entity to Samkhya’s twenty-five elements of reality. The goal of Yoga is to quiet one’s mind and achieve kaivalya (solitariness or detachment).
The Nyaya school is based on a system of logic that has subsequently been adopted by the majority of Indian schools, in much the same way as Aristotelian logic has influenced Western philosophy. Its followers believe that obtaining valid knowledge is the only way to gain release from suffering. Nyaya developed several criteria by which the knowledge thus obtained was to be considered valid or invalid.
The Vaisheshika school is atomist and pluralist in nature, and the basis of the school’s philosophy is that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to a finite number of atoms, and Brahman is regarded as the fundamental force that causes consciousness in these atoms.
The main objective of the Purva Mimamsa school is to interpret and establish the authority of the Vedas. It requires unquestionable faith in the Vedas and the regular performance of the Vedic fire-sacrifices to sustain all the activity of the universe.
The Vedanta, or Uttara Mimamsa, school concentrates on the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads, rather than the Brahmanas. The Vedanta focus on meditation, self-discipline, and spiritual connectivity, more than traditional ritualism. Due to the rather cryptic and poetic nature of the Vedanta sutras, the school separated into six sub-schools, each interpreting the texts in its own way and producing its own series of sub-commentaries.
The main heterodox schools, which do not accept the authority of the Vedas, include Carvaka, Jainism, and Buddhism. Carvaka is a materialistic, skeptical, and atheistic school of thought. Its founder was Carvaka, author of the Barhaspatya Sutras in the final centuries B.C.
Jainism is a non-theistic Indian religion that aims to achieve liberation and enlightenment through a path of non-violence and self-control.
Buddhism is based on the teachings of the Buddha, and its goal is to end suffering and achieve enlightenment. The core of Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, and its philosophy is based on the concept of impermanence, non-self, and the interdependence of all things.
In conclusion, Indian philosophy encompasses several traditions of philosophical thought that aim to improve human life.
Orthodox (Hindu) Schools and Heterodox (Non-Hindu) Schools are the two main categories of Indian philosophy, each with their own unique perspectives and beliefs.
- Samkhya: focuses on the distinction between the material and spiritual realms and seeks to achieve liberation by attaining knowledge of the difference between the two.
- Yoga: emphasizes the practice of meditation and other physical and mental disciplines to attain spiritual enlightenment and liberation.
- Nyaya: concerned with logic and epistemology, and seeks to establish the nature of knowledge and the means by which it is acquired.
- Vaisheshika: deals with metaphysics, and attempts to establish the nature of reality and the nature of existence.
- Mimamsa: concerned with interpretation of the Vedas, and seeks to establish the correct way to perform rituals and sacrifices.
- Buddhism: focuses on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, and seeks to end suffering through the cessation of desire and attachment.
- Jainism: emphasizes the importance of non-violence, compassion, and self-discipline in achieving spiritual liberation.
- Charvaka: also known as Lokayata, this school was skeptical of the existence of the soul, karma, and other traditional Hindu beliefs.
It’s worth noting that these categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and there is often overlap and interaction between different schools of thought.