The term Hindu philosophy is broadly used to describe a group of philosophical views that have a common ground with a few core religious beliefs from religious texts, however they are not identified as a philosophical doctrine. Going beyond the primary and secondary religious doctrines, Hindu philosophy also includes systematic philosophies of the Hindu school of thought, namely, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta. Hindu philosophy has made a notable contribution to the development of Indian philosophy and it has in turn, been majorly influenced by Buddhist and Jain philosophies as well. In recent times, Hindu philosophy has transitioned into what scholars term as, ‘Neo-Hinduism’, a reaction by Indians to the discerned sectarianism and scientism of the Western countries.
Non-systematic Hindu philosophy: The Religious Texts
The Four Vedas
Veda, upon translation, means knowledge or wisdom, it personifies the knowledge of the people belonging to this religious group in all its entirety. The Vedas were passed down from teacher to student via oral tradition, thus spanning at least 900 years of narration. The Vedas were written in Sanskrit, which is an ancient, sacred dialect of Indian origin, however most of its material is in a dialect that is believed to be the forerunner of Sanskrit, called Vedic. The Vedas comprise of four parts namely, Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. These four Vedas have been further edited into four sections - the Mantras, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas, and the Upanishads.
While the Vedas are often referred to as ‘sruti’ or the heard/revealed texts, Smriti Literature, are referred to as the remembered texts. Additionally, the Vedas were purely reserved for people who belonged to the higher castes and Smriti Literature was distributed for public consumption.
Systematic Hindu Philosophy: Darsanas
The important Hindu texts such as the Vedas form a textual framework for many of the systematic Hindu philosophies and their articulation. The term ‘darsanas’, when translated, means ‘vision’, these texts were commonly regarded as a guide to look upon systematic philosophical views.
When translated, ‘Nyaya’ means ‘formal reasoning’. It is commonly associated with questions of logic and rhetoric. It has been used in the traditional reasoning of Indian law courts as well.
Founded by the ascetic, Kanada, Vaisesika is predominantly categorised as a discipline that deals with metaphysical questions.
The term, ‘Sankhya’ translates to ‘enumeration’, that recommends a method of philosophical analysis. It is the oldest out of all the systematic schools of Indian philosophy. On many accounts, it has been accredited to the great sage, Kapila.
The Yoga school of thought has many similarities to the ‘Sankhya’ philosophy, in that it can be found in the Upanishads as well. This philosophy is derived from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. The difference between these two theories are on a metaphysical and moral standpoint - the nature of agency, it differs from the ‘Sankhya’ tradition in the prominence that is given to a more practical approach to the attainment of liberation.
Deriving its name from a section of the Vedas that have to do with the earlier (purva) inquiry (mimamsa) or the karma khanda. It is considered one of the more devout Hindu philosophical schools as it concerns the early, ritualistic parts of the Vedas.
Much like the Purva Mimamsa sect of Hindu philosophy, Vedanta deals with a specific part of the Vedas as well. While Purva Mimamsa deals with the first portion of the Vedas, Vedanta deals with the latter part of it. The principal thought of this section is knowledge and moksha.
Q1. What is the main philosophy of Hinduism?
Hindus firmly believe in samsara which is the never-ending cycle of life, death and reincarnation and the theory of karma which is the universal conduct of cause and effect.
Q2. How does Hindu philosophy direct you to lead a moral life?
Hindu philosophy encompasses the teachings and views of Hinduism wherein the purpose of life is dictated by four life goals - dharma, kama, artha and moksha.
Q3. What is the significance of dharma in Hindu philosophy?
According to Hindu philosophy, dharma is the ‘universal law’ that dictates the way of living. In the Vedas, Dharma is represented as the power that maintains balance in society. It helps human beings act morally and leads them down a righteous path.
Email a Friend