The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy

Religion evolves as a means to narrate, to gain intellectual grasp, and to enable the seeker after truth to meditate upon the concepts so as to become free. The six systems of Hindu philosophy are concerned with intellectual analysis and sharpening of 'reason' necessary to comprehend the true nature of self, God, and universe. These six systems are the Vaisheshika, the Nyaya, the Samkhya, the Yoga, the Mimamsa, and the Vedanta. Rishis Kanada, Gotama, Kapila, Patanjali, Jaimini, and Vyasa are believed to be the earliest exponents of these systems respectively. Although exact dates of the origin of these schools of thought are not known they are believed to have been formulated in sutras or aphorisms prior to Buddha. Many put them roughly between 600 and 200 BCE. Then the art of writing was unknown and as such these sutras were handed down from teacher to disciples by word of mouth. To minimize the load on memory these aphorisms were rendered as short as possible, an extra dot or letter was ruthlessly deleted. However, this miserliness of words made the sutras unintelligible without commentaries and explanatory notes. Thus, we see many additions to the original text over a period of time. There are certain common features to these six systems of thought; first and foremost is that they accept the authority of the Vedas, the feature that distinguishes them from philosophical schools of Buddhism and Jainism. This feature gives them the label of Hindu orthodox systems. Second important feature is that, although superficially these systems seem to have contradictions amongst them, they in fact represent a progressive development from lower to higher truth. All the six schools believe in the 'Law of Karma', rebirth, and attainment of Moksha/Liberation as the highest goal of human struggle. All the systems are concerned with the nature of true Self, the realization of which through Yoga and other spiritual disciplines makes one free. In the context of modern times, Vaisheshika is not of great importance, while Nyaya and Samkhya are studied widely for their powerful system of logic and analytical cosmology respectively. Mimamsa mostly deals with ritual portion of the Vedas, believing that sutras/verses without corresponding ritual/Yajna is incomplete and thus do not yield desired effect. Yoga and Vedanta have caught the attention of students of religion, scholars, as well as lay people for their practicality, rationality, and scientific basis. All Hindus now accept Vedanta as their 'living faith'.

Nyaya and Vaisheshika These two systems are separate and independent. But for the sake of convenience and because of certain commonality these can be grouped together. Vaisheshika is older than Nyaya. Rishi Kanada or Uluka in his sutras maintains that proper object of philosophy is to focus on Dharma, virtue, so that people can prosper in life and character -Abhyudaya- as well as can attain the highest goal/good in life -liberation, Nihshreyasa. This liberation can be attained by direct perception or knowledge of ultimate realities of Self and the universe. These ultimate realities - padarthas, or categories - are termed as 1. dravya (substance), 2. guna (qualities), 3. karma (action or motion), 4. samanya (genus), 5. vishesah (species), and 6. samavaya (relation), and additionally 7. abhava (negation). Out of these, dravya is the basic and independent category. On this basic dravya depend all other categories. Dravya, in turn, are nine in number. 1) The Self, 2) Manas or mind, 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.) Earth, water, air, fire, ether, 8. 9.) space and time. Self is the substratum of consciousness. Manas when comes in contact with Self is birth, and when gets detached from it is death. Man or individual self is jivatman, and is distinct from paramatman or Supreme Self. God is the efficient cause of creation. The law of causation applies here also. Cause and effect cycle creates new world in each cycle, aarambhavada. Nyaya deals with knowing. It has sixteen categories, dealing with the means to understand the universe. Ignorance bars the way to liberation. Ignorance results from identification of the Self with the body, the sense, and the mind. Thus we become slaves to attachment and hatred. These are the causes of our sins and sufferings. Death causes rebirth because of our ignorance of the True Self. Transcendental knowledge of our True Self is Liberation, end of cycle of birth and death, and freedom from misery. To sum up: Nyaya and Vaisheshika systems assert that by leading virtuous life and remaining on the side of Dharma, one will have both growth and fulfillment in life (Abhyudaya) as well as realization of the

highest good - Liberation (Nishreyasa). These systems are dualistic in their conception of God (Supreme Self), Jiva (individual self), and the universe. These units have their own separate objective reality, it is said. God is seen as the Supreme Ruler of this universe, of which Jiva is a part. Existence of God is accepted as a ruler, lawgiver, controller, and governor that allows maintenance of order in the universe. According to Nyaya theory the world is more or less as we perceive it. However, the defects in the sense organs like improper or partial perception of something and the influence of fear, anticipation and other mental conditions lead to inappropriate and defective perception of the same. Nyaya regards that clear perception in general is a sound means of cognition, which discloses things to us as they really are. As can be seen, this all is very complicated to understand and difficult write. I have written on the basis of my reading of the six systems from the book: 'The Spiritual Heritage of India' by Swami Prabhavananda. Samkhya Samkhya forms the philosophical basis for Yoga of Patanjali. Therefore, both Yoga and Samkhya can be grouped together, Yoga forming the practical methodology to achieve the goal. Samkhya provides rational analysis of the Truth. Its reasoning is very logical, neat, and scientific that it does not find it necessary to posit the concept of God to comprehend the Truth and freedom form suffering. Basically, Samkhya is a system based on duality of Purusha and Prakriti. While Purusha is posited as the only sentient being, ever existent, and immaterial, Prakriti is said to be the material basis of this universe, composed of three basic elements, Gunas, namely Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva. Permutations and combinations of these gunas lead to formation of multifarious world. Not only all material objects fall under this category, but also mind and its functions of language and thoughts are composed of matter in the final analysis. Therefore, it is necessary to go beyond -transcend - the mind to reach immaterial sentient reality. This is the goal and endeavor of all human actions and activities, and Yoga Sutra of Patanjali explains and guides step by step us to this realization. First, by controlling the mind stuff - chitta - the sadhaka tries to minimize modifications of mind. And a stage is reached when single pointed mind can be transcended and the state of samadhi reached.

Yoga of Patanjali Raja Yoga as expounded by Patanjali is the most scientific way to realize our higher consciousness. This yoga does not require belief in God, although such a belief is accepted as help in initial stage of mental concentration and control of mind. Thus, Patanjali does not deny Ishvara, as against Samkhya where necessity of God is not felt for epistemological clarity about the interrelationship between higher Self, individual self, and the universe around us. However, the main problem with Samkhya system of thought lies with its conception of two absolutes, Purusha and Prakriti. Moreover, Samkhya maintains existence of multiple Purushas, which again puts severe limitations in accepting this philosophical analysis fully. How can two infinite ever exist! For, if Purusha and Prakriti are absolute truths in themselves, and each one is limitless and eternal, then, would not the one limit the other? And whatever is limited cannot be infinite. Despite these technicalities Samkhya system provides the most rational basis for explaining consciousness and functions of our mind. It takes clear and rationalist stand in explaining mind and thoughts as matter and therefore insentient, only Purusha being immaterial and sentient. The whole nature exists; the whole thought process evolves only for the Purusha to gain knowledge through multiple experiences. Knowing whole of Prakriti as insentient, the Purusha is freed from the ignorance and becomes free. Purusha realizes that it was never bound; it was never unhappy. Suffering, pain and pleasure, life and death, all dualities of emotions and sense perceptions belong to Prakriti and not to Purusha. This knowledge makes one free; Purusha now shines in its own glory as absolute knowledge and consciousness, freed forever from the cycle of life and death. Purva Mimamsa The word Mimamsa means to analyze and understand thoroughly. The philosophical systems of karma-mimamsa and Vedanta are closely related to each other and are in some ways complimentary. Purva Mimamsa examines the teachings of the Veda in the light of karma-kanda rituals, whereas Vedanta examines the same teachings in the light of transcendental knowledge. The karma-mimamsa system is called purva-mimamsa, which means the earlier study of the Veda, and Vedanta is called uttara-mimamsa, which means the later study of the Veda (Upanishads).

Vedanta Vedanta bases its many observations and explanations on Samkhya system. The Samkhya study and observation on cosmology are unparalleled in the realm of science and methodology. However, Vedantist does not accept multiple Purushas; Reality is one as Brahman and the rest of the universe including mind and its modifications are but superimposition upon this one Reality. The one appears as many due to the basic ignorance -avidya- related with such superimposition, which is also loosely termed as Maya. Briefly stated, the Vedanta can be put as:

Absolute Monism of Shankara Shankara maintains that there exists but One Reality as Brahman whose nature is pure Consciousness. Naturally that One has to be eternal, all pervading and without form and attributes. If there is any second to limit the One, it cannot remain infinite. Shankara discusses the question of reality of individual soul, this world, and Ishwara from this point of view and labels them as illusory. He introduces the concept of primordial Ignorance - avidya - that deludes the human being in seeing the multifarious world when there is none! Shankara takes help of such Great Upanishadic Sayings as 'Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman)' and 'Tat Tvam Asi' (Thou Art That). Final Liberation comes when this knowledge of unity of individual soul and eternal Soul is established through meditation and samadhi, transcendental knowledge. Shankara is strong proponent of Jnana Yoga. Vishishtha Advaita or qualified monism of Ramanuja Vishishtha Advaita or qualified monism of Ramanuja is a philosophy of religion; and therefore it gives a synthetic view of the spiritual experiences of God or Brahman. It affirms the Upanishadic truth by realizing Brahman everything else is realized. The main theme is that it is Brahman Itself who has become this whole universe. Thus Ramanuja accepts the reality of world as the manifestation of Brahman, differing here with Maya theory of Shankara. Vedanta accepts rational approach to Truth but goes beyond the reason and rationality without contradicting them. Heavily depending upon theory of Karma, this philosophy applies the law of cause and effect to moral experiences. It brings to light the inner working of righteousness of God and affirms the impossibility of cruelty and bias in Divine nature. As you sow, so would you reap! This law applies to explain suffering for many and comfort for others. But the Grace of God, the most benevolent being, transfigures the rigorous law of karma and

thus grace or kripa becomes the ruling principle of religion. Thus Ramanuja added concepts of devotion, worship, and faith as new dimensions to Vedanta. Ramanuja does not accept the impersonal Brahman without attributes of Shankara, but rather an eternal personal Brahman, the repository of all blessed qualities. Dvaita of Madhva Dvaita of Madhvacharya propounds the basic theory that Jiva (individual soul), Jagat (manifest world), and Jagadish (Ruler of this universe - God) all the three are real, eternal and separate. One cannot become the other. Devotion and faith in the goodness of the Lord is the only means to reach near Him. For them God may be Hari or Vishnu with form and divine attributes. Madhvacharya found that real cause of bondage is superimposition of 'doership' (I have done this, I do this, I shall do that!) upon individual self. But the fact is that Jiva is dependent on God for all his actions. He saw that the only way of appreciating the highest Truth is recognition of this reality and actuality of this world in a healthy sense. Jiva through devotion, worship, and surrender to Almighty should understand the grace and power of the God, and that would bring peace and tranquility to individual self and the world order. Dvaita is totally opposed to Maya theory of Shankara that denies the very existence of Jiva and the world as illusory. Thus, Madhva identifies the Brahman of the Upanishads with Vishnu, and forcefully argues against the dichotomy of Shrutis as claimed by Sri Shankaracharya, saying that such arbitration of apaurusheya scripture is unacceptable both logically and spiritually. He also emphasizes that it is important to understand and specifically reject other schools' precepts, and hence devotes much time to nitpicking analyses and denunciations of other doctrines. Conclusion All Indian philosophy considers ignorance as a barrier to liberation. This ignorance results from false identification of the Self with body-mind-sense complex. Thus we are entangled in the mesh of attachment and hatred that invariably leads to all our selfish and therefore sinful acts and sufferings. Only when one attains true knowledge of the true Self (God, Brahman, Consciousness) one is freed from the slavery of the senses and all sufferings come to an end.