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See also    Pramaan

(1) Viewing. Seeing with respect. It is normally used in context with seeing any Devtaa, Bhagavaan (God), or some respectable person.  (2) Sight.  (3) Vision.  (4) Philosophy. Philosophical writings. Since Indian philosophy is based on "seeing" or "experiencing", it is called Darshan in which people see or experience "final truth" through this branch of knowledge.

Indian philosophy is divided in 6 systems - (1) Nyaaya, (2) Vaisheshik, 3) Saankhya, (4) Yog, (5) Meemaansaa, also called Poorv Meemaansaa, and (6) Vedaant, also called Uttar Meemaansaa. All of these perhaps were founded during 650-350 BC period.

(1) Nyaaya
The Nyaaya system of Hindu philosophy was formulated by sage Gautam around 450 BC. Gautam was the third great person produced by the same region of India, Bihaar, within a span of 200 years. The other two were Mahaaveer Vardhmaan (c 617-545 BC), and Gautam Buddha (c 624-544 BC). Nyaaya is greatly concerned with logic and elaborates on the principle of inference based on syllogism, of course logic is only one of the many subjects it deals with. Nyaaya preaches that a statement should only be accepted if it passes the test of reason. So according to it, error and ignorance are the causes of pain and suffering. The road to wisdom is to develop the process of logical thinking. It does not seem to deny God and accepts God as the Supreme Soul.

The founder of Vaisheshik philosophy is known to us by the name of his theory "Kanaad" (atom eater, or atom theorist), because he was the first person in the world (460-370 BC) to propound the atomic theory of matter. According to this theory, God has created different substances from several basic atoms of matter. This philosophy is very close to the Nyaaya philosophy. It defines Dharm as the one that delivers both worldly prosperity and spiritual Moksh (salvation). In other words, a person's good deeds can get him both worldly and spiritual success.

(3) Saankhya
Saankhya philosophy was founded by sage Kapil (c 700-620 BC). This philosophy  basically denies God. Instead it claims that there are two realities - Purush and Prakriti. Purush is pure consciousness without any activity; while Prakriti is matter which has unlimited energy and activity but no consciousness. Therefore neither of them is complete in itself in producing the world with human beings in it. In a human being, the Self or his Soul is Purush and his Body is the Prakriti. Even though the Self does not participate, it seems to become identified with the Body.

The aim of Saankhya is to liberate the man's Self from bondage to the Body and the rest of the material world. The bondage is caused because of the man's ignorance about the reality of the Self. It lies in the power of the man to liberate himself by achieving a true realization of the nature of the Self. In Saankhya, the mind and ego are part of Matter and become conscious when the light of consciousness of the Self or Soul is reflected in them. This knowledge of Saankhya traveled to Greece where it influenced the philosophy expounded by Pythagoras.

(4) Yog
The literal meaning of Yog is joining or union, but it is in use to denote many meanings - performance, device, manner, undertaking, endeavor and diligence. This theory was put forward by Patanjali (c 390-310 BC). According to him Yog stands for meditation which requires mental abstraction from sense objects. This philosophy accepts most of the metaphysics of Saankhya, yet it believes that Yog brings about the association and dissolution between Purush and Prakriti. Yog is a practical method of attaining liberation through self-realization in 8 steps -

1 - Self-control - abstention from cruelty; truthfulness of thought, word and deed; not stealing, continence, and not accepting unnecessary gifts.
2 - Self-culture - purification of the body by washing; taking pure food; purification of mind by cultivating noble habits; contentment; austerity; study of sacred books; and constant contemplation of God.
3 - Adoption of prescribed postures for meditation.
4 - Breathing exercises for purifying the body and the mind.
5 - Contol of senses.
6 - Concentration of eyes on a desired point.
7 - Meditation on the subject of attention.
8 - Samaadhi - complete absorption of mind on the object of attention.

The term Yog is also used for a specific set of physical exercises combined with mental attitudes, such as -

Karm Yog - Union with the Supreme Soul through mental and physical immersion in work approved by scriptures.
Bhakti Yog -Union with the Supreme Soul through devotion to personal God.
Raaj Yog - Union with the Supreme Soul while not denying the world using an easy mode of meditation.
Gyaan Yog - Union with the Supreme Soul through acquisition of true knowledge.
Dhyaan Yog - Union with the Supreme God through meditation.
Hath Yog - Union with the Supreme Soul through forcing the mind to withdraw from external objects by inflicting self-torture.

(5) Meemaansaa (Poorv Meemaansaa)
Meemaansaa philosophy is attributed to sage Jaimini (c 350 BC). It proclaims that the Soul does not die with the body, but passes from the body of the dead to the body of the one to be born. The purpose of the migration of the Soul is to reap the rewards and punishments of the deeds of the previous lives to which it was attached. An Individual Soul can attain liberation from rebirth by means of knowledge and performance of duties. Knowledge alone will not help attain liberation. It is necessary not only to perform worldly duties, but also to perform religious rituals prescribed by Ved. Meemaansaa is also basically atheistic.

(6) Vedaant or Uttar Meemaansaa
Vedaant philosophy was first expounded by Baadaraayan in c 650 BC. In his book Vedaant Sootra, also called "Brahm Sootra", see Sootra, is written in the form of aphorism which are so condensed in its style that it is almost impossible to make meaning out of most of them. That is why they sometimes lead to even contradictory interpretations. Baadaraayan claims that he has not put anything new - all was only the summary of Upanishadik teachings - but the claim does not seem to be totally justified.

Complicating the matters further, there have been three Aachaarya, famously known for three systems of metaphysics, are Aadi Shankaraachaarya, Shree Raamaanujaachaarya and Madhwaachaarya. Their Philosophical systems are known consecutively as A-Dwait, Vishisht A-Dwait and Dwait, explaining the relationship between man and God. They wrote their books claiming to be the translations and commentaries of Baadaraayan's Vedaant Sootra. While Baadaraayan seems to have written something different from the Upanishad, these three translators and commentators have also written their own views of philosophy. Shankaaraachaarya (c 806-838 AD) interpreted Baadaraayan to found his School of A-Dwait (non-Dualism), Raamaanuj (c 1057-1137 AD) founded the School of Vishisht A-Dwait (Qualified non-Dualism), and Madhwa (c 1236-1300) founded the School of Dwait (Dualism) philosophy.

Shankar's A-Dwaitvaad (non-Dualism)
Nothing exists except Brahm. Whatever exists, it is in reality Brahm. Brahm is pure intelligence. Intelligence is not the attribute of Brahm, because Brahm is absolutely without attributes. Then the question is "If nothing exists except Brahm, what explains the world by which we see ourselves surrounded and in which we see ourselves exist as individual beings? Shankar answers that Brahm is associated with a power called Maayaa or A-Vidyaa (ignorance) to which the appearance of this world is due. Maayaa cannot be called non-being (A-Sat) in the strict sense because it produces the appearance of this world.

Maayaa is in fact is illusion. Brahm in association with this illusion, produces the appearance of the Universe in the same way as a magician produces illusory things. Maayaa thus constitutes the material cause of the world. In all those individual forms of existence, the One Individual Brahm is present; but the non-enlightened Soul is unable to look through and hides from it its true nature. Instead identifying itself to be Brahm, it blindly identifies itself with its adjuncts, the senses, which are fictitious results of Maayaa. As a result it has to suffer or enjoy the fruits of actions in future incarnations. Since, according to him, only One Reality exists, his theory came to be known as "A-Dwaitvaad" (non-Dualism).

Shankar claims the immediate authority of Baadaraayan's Brahm Sootra, and the ultimate authority of Upanishad for this theory, but this is not true. His theory is neither supported by any genuine Upanishad, nor by Brahm Sootra. Brahm Sootra does not support that this world is unreal, nor does it proclaim the absolute identity of the Individual Soul with the Supreme Soul. Besides, Upanishad's meaning of Maayaa is different from Shankar's meaning of Maayaa. All this proves that A-Dwait theory is the brainchild of Shankar himself. In fact there are two things which do not support Shankar. First, Shankar himself, in unguarded moments has disregarded it. Translated in English, he writes -

"Though the difference be none, I am of Thee,
Not though, O Lord of me;
For the sea is verily of the wave,
Not of the wave of the sea."

Second, Shankar includes "Mind" as a sense and thus it is an illusion. If our minds, including of Shankar, are themselves unreal, how can they proclaim any theory about the reality. Swaamee Vivekaanand, who claimed himself a follower of Shankar, in reality was a Vishisht A-Dwaitvaad in (Qualified non-Dualist). Whether one believes in his A-Dwaitism, but there is no doubt that he was one of the most brilliant Hindu scholars ever born. Hindu must be grateful to him for the quantity and quality of theological work he produced.

At one place Shankar says - "Shabd Jaalam Mahaaranyam Chitta Bhraman Kaaranam" - means don't be confused by mind boggling words in philosophy or other schools of study, as they lead people to nowhere but to bewildering paths as in forests. He further says - "Verbosity is like a forest, (Shabd Jaaalam Mahaaranyam), which leads to a perplexed mind (Chitta Bhraman Kaarakam). Hence there should be no verbal confusion, with linguistic subtleties or nuances, or hair splitting logic or a jugglery of words as they do not lead us to any truth. There should be economy in words and should be direct, simple and to the point. Euphemisms, high sounding complex word constructions will not be helpful to the aspirants of truth. On the other hand the complex word play lands people into a pathless forest. Hence one should be watchful with the use of one's word is the sane advice given here. There is a criticism against our theological concepts that the expressions are obscure, dubious and wary. Shankar gives here a warning against such abstruse expressions.

Raamaanuj's Vishisht A-Dwaitvaad (non-Dualism)
There exists only One all-embracing Being called Brahm. Brahm is not without attributes. Intelligence is the chief attribute of Brahm. He is the Lord of us all, all-pervading, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-merciful. He is opposed to all evil. He contains all that exists. This Universe is His own extention. All Individual Existences (Jeev) have a relationship of entire dependence and subservience to Brahm. Souls enter into material body and take with them the merits and demerits earned in their previous lives. This world is not unreal, but a real part of the nature of Brahm, the Supreme Soul. Raamaanuj's Brahm is essentially a personal God, ruler of a world permeated and animated by His Spirit. There is thus no difference between Nir-Gun (attributeless) God and Sa-Gun (with attributes) God. The Individual Soul is real and has sprung from Brahm and is never outside of Brahm, yet enjoys a separate existence.

Madhwa's Dwaitvaad (Dualism)
Madhwa based his theory of Dwaitvaad on Upanishad. In this system, there are two categories of reality - the Absolute which is independent of everything else, and the Relative which is completely dependent on the Absolute. God is the Absolute Reality. Individuals and material objects are all relative realities. The Individual Self is distinct from God and can never become identical with God. Even when the Individual Self is liberated, it does not become identical with God, though it may become similar. Knowledge of the Truth about God and the Self is not sufficient condition of salvation. There can be no liberation for man without the grace of the God. So according to him, one should dedicate himself to the cause of goodness and Truth and to the study of holy scriptures.

The famous Naasdeeya Sookt, of Rig Ved reflects on the creation of the Universe. According to it God created the Universe by manifesting Himself through the power of His own fervor. Later on, in the Upanishads, God is considered both the efficient and the material cause of the Universe. The Hindu belief is that after a certain number of years the human race is annihilated and is again started by a new Manu. After 14 cycles of human annihilation the entire Universe is destroyed and is then created. The Jain view is that the Universe comes of its own and that there is no creator. They, however, believe in the cycles of annihilation and recreation of the Universe. Bauddh are silent on this topic.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 10/01/12