Indian Philosophy – Schools and Prominent Philosophers

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Indian Philosophy – Schools and Prominent Philosophers

Philosophy is the root of all knowledge. It is considered as mother of all sciences. Philosophy has interpreted man and his various activities in a comprehensive manner. It helps to coordinate the various activities of the individuals and the society. It helps us to understand the significance of all human experience. It endeavours to reach a conception of the entire universe with all its elements and aspects and their interrelations to one another. It is not contented with a partial view of the world. It seeks to have a synoptic view of the whole reality: it tries to have a vision of the whole. Indian Philosophy (or, in Sanskrit, Darshanas), refers to any of several traditions of philosophical thought that originated in the Indian subcontinent, including Hindu philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, and Jain philosophy. It is considered by Indian thinkers to be a practical discipline, and its goal should always be to improve human life.

Orthodox (Hindu) Schools

The main Hindu orthodox (astika) schools of Indian philosophy are those codified during the medieval period of Brahmanic-Sanskritic scholasticism, and they take the ancient Vedas (the oldest sacred texts of Hinduism) as their source and scriptural authority:

Remedies Orthodox Astrology (Classically Confirmed Propitiation for Planetary Afflictions)


Samkhya is the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems, and it postulates that everything in reality stems from purusha (self or soul or mind) and prakriti (matter, creative agency, energy). It is a dualist philosophy, although between the self and matter rather than between mind and body as in the Western dualist tradition, and liberation occurs with the realization that the soul and the dispositions of matter (steadiness, activity and dullness) are different.

Classical Yoga Philosophy and the Legacy of Samkhya


The Yoga school, as expounded by Patanjali in his 2nd Century B.C. Yoga Sutras, accepts the Samkhya psychology and metaphysics, but is more theistic, with the addition of a divine entity to Samkhya's twenty-five elements of reality. The relatively brief Yoga Sutras are divided into eight ashtanga (limbs), reminiscent of Buddhism's Noble Eightfold Path, the goal being to quiet one's mind and achieve kaivalya (solitariness or detachment).

Kundalini Yoga Chakras in Human Body


The Nyaya school is based on the Nyaya Sutras, written by Aksapada Gautama in the 2nd Century B.C. Its methodology is based on a system of logic that has subsequently been adopted by the majority of the Indian schools, in much the same way as Aristotelian logic has influenced Western philosophy. Its followers believe that obtaining valid knowledge (the four sources of which are perception, inference, comparison and testimony) 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 (equivalent in some ways to Western analytic philosophy).



The Vaisheshika school was founded by Kanada in the 6th Century B.C., and it is atomist and pluralist in nature. 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 Vaisheshika and Nyaya schools eventually merged because of their closely related metaphysical theories (although Vaisheshika only accepted perception and inference as sources of valid knowledge).

Critique of Indian Realism (The Philosophy of Nyaya Vaisesika and Its Conflict With The Buddhist Dignaga School)

Purva Mimamsa

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. Although in general the Mimamsa accept the logical and philosophical teachings of the other schools, they insist that salvation can only be attained by acting in accordance with the prescriptions of the Vedas. The school later shifted its views and began to teach the doctrines of Brahman and freedom, allowing for the release or escape of the soul from its constraints through enlightened activity.

Purva- Mimamsa- In Its Sources


The Vedanta, or Uttara Mimamsa, school concentrates on the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads (mystic or spiritual contemplations within the Vedas), rather than the Brahmanas (instructions for ritual and sacrifice). 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: Advaita (the best-known, which holds that the soul and Brahman are one and the same), Visishtadvaita (which teaches that the Supreme Being has a definite form, name - Vishnu - and attributes), Dvaita (which espouses a belief in three separate realities: Vishnu, and eternal soul and matter), Dvaitadvaita (which holds that Brahman exists independently, while soul and matter are dependent), Shuddhadvaita (which believes that Krishna is the absolute form of Brahman) and Acintya Bheda Abheda (which combines monism and dualism by stating that the soul is both distinct and non-distinct from Krishna, or God).

वेदांतप्रक्रियाप्रत्यभिज्ञा: The Method of The Vedanta ( A Critical Account of the Advaita Tradition)(Set of Two Volumes)

Heterodox (Non-Hindu) Schools

The main heterodox (nastika) schools, which do not accept the authority of the Vedas, include:


Also known as Lokayata, 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., although the original texts have been lost and our understanding of them is based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools. As early as the 5th Century, Saddaniti and Buddhaghosa connected the Lokayatas with the Vitandas (or Sophists), and the term Carvaka was first recorded in the 7th Century by the philosopher Purandara, and in the 8th Century by Kamalasila and Haribhadra. As a vital philosophical school, Carvaka appears to have died out some time in the 15th Century.

Lokayata/Carvaka - A Philosophical Inquiry

Buddhist philosophy

Buddhism is a non-theistic system of beliefs based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian prince later known as the Buddha, in the 5th Century B.C. The question of God is largely irrelevant in Buddhism, and it is mainly founded on the rejection of certain orthodox Hindu philosophical concepts (although it does share some philosophical views with Hinduism, such as belief in karma). Buddhism advocates a Noble Eightfold Path to end suffering, and its philosophical principles are known as the Four Noble Truths (the Nature of Suffering, the Origin of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering, and the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering). Buddhist philosophy deals extensively with problems in metaphysics, phenomenology, ethics and epistemology.

Buddhist Philosophy from 600 to 750 A.D. - Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies (Volume XXI)

Jain philosophy

The central tenets of Jain philosophy were established by Mahavira in the 6th Century B.C., although Jainism as a religion is much older. A basic principle is anekantavada, the idea that reality is perceived differently from different points of view, and that no single point of view is completely true (similar to the Western philosophical doctrine of Subjectivism). According to Jainism, only Kevalis, those who have infinite knowledge, can know the true answer, and that all others would only know a part of the answer. It stresses spiritual independence and the equality of all life, with particular emphasis on non-violence, and posits self-control as vital for attaining the realization of the soul's true nature. Jain belief emphasizes the immediate consequences of one's behavior.

Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Jain Philosophy (Set of 3 Volumes)

Indian Political Philosophy

The Arthashastra, attributed to the Mauryan minister Chanakya in the 4th Century B.C., is one of the earliest Indian texts devoted to political philosophy, and it discusses ideas of statecraft and economic policy. During the Indian struggle for independence in the early 20th Century, Mahatma Gandhi popularized the philosophies of ahimsa (non-violence) and satyagraha (non-violent resistance), which were influenced by the teachings of the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. Some Prominent Indian Philosophers

भारतीय राजशास्त्र प्रणेता- Souces of Indian Political Philosophy (An Old and Rare Book - Pinholed)

Some Prominent Indian Philosophers

Adi Sankara

Sankara wrote Bhashyas or commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Gita. The Bhashya on the Brahma Sutras is called Sareerik Bhasya. Sankara wrote commentaries on Sanat Sujatiya and Sahasranama Adhyaya. It is usually said, “For learning logic and metaphysics, go to Sankara’s commentaries; for gaining practical knowledge, which unfolds and strengthens devotion, go to his works such as Viveka Chudamani, Atma Bodha, Aparoksha Anubhuti, Ananda Lahari, Atma-Anatma Viveka, Drik-Drishya Viveka and Upadesa Sahasri”. Sankara wrote innumerable original works in verses which are matchless in sweetness, melody and thought.

Adi Shankara (Life And Philosophy)

Sankara’s supreme Brahman is Nirguna (without the Gunas), Nirakara (formless), Nirvisesha (without attributes) and Akarta (non-agent). He is above all needs and desires. Sankara says, “This Atman is self-evident. This Atman or Self is not established by proofs of the existence of the Self. It is not possible to deny this Atman, for it is the very essence of he who denies it. The Atman is the basis of all kinds of knowledge. The Self is within, the Self is without, the Self is before and the Self is behind. The Self is on the right hand, the Self is on the left, the Self is above and the Self is below”.

Sri Aurobindo

Shree Aurobindo was a poet, a Philosopher and Yogi of reputation. His life began with political, poetic and philosophical experiences. Sri Aurobindo said that the truth of spiritualism, science and religion were already contained in the Vedas. The Gita contains Vedic values which one essential for the elevation human life. Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is based on integralism. It is the synthesis of Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism and Spiritualism. According to him “Yoga” transforms the human kind, life and body to superman. Wholesome or integral development is possible through the practice of Yoga. Usually transformation takes plan.’ on a supramental stage, where diverse elements get transformed and then integrated. It changes the nature of man and lead to realize the divine power and divine perfection. Aurobindo also believed that there is Brahma in everybody, there is innate power inside the man and education would enable man to discover the same. Since both matter and spirit are necessary for the welfare of mankind, education should help in bringing about a balanced developed in both.

Sri Aurobindo & The Literary Renaissance Of India

Paramahansa Yogananda

He was an Indian monk, yogi and guru who introduced millions to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF)/Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India. He is also considered as the “Father of Yoga in the West.” He was the first major Indian teacher to settle in America, and the first prominent Indian to be hosted in the White House. He published his book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ in 1946. Kriya Yoga is union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite (kriya). The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centres (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One-half minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.

परमहंस योगानन्द के साथ वार्तालाप- Conversation with Paramahansa Yogananda

Swami Vivekananda

Vivekananda’s philosophy arises from the awareness of the social, religious and economic conditions of the Indian masses. He had also a realization that at least some of the social evils were due to the orthodoxy and superstitions prevalent in the society of the time. He had a deep conviction that this was due to a loss of faith in spiritual awakening and accepted with gratitude whatever he could learn from faiths and disciplines emphasizing the ultimacy of spiritual values. The deepest influence upon his thought is obviously of Ancient Hindu Philosophy – especially of the Vedanta. It can safely be said that to a very great extent, Vivekananda also is a Vedantist. The main body of his thought is derived from the Hindu Scriptures – from the Upanishads and the Vedanta. His basic belief in the essential unity of everything, that is in the completely monistic nature of reality, own its origin to the Vedanta. His doctrine of Maya, again is derived from the same source.

Swami Vivekananda

The distinction between ‘an empirical point of view’ and ‘a transcendental point of view’ that he so often makes and to which he refers time and again in order to solve certain apparent contradictions of his thought, is also borrowed from the Vedanta. It is true that Vivekananda always emphasizes the need of re-interpreting Vedanta in accordance with the demands and needs of the time; in fact, his philosophy itself is an attempt in that direction, but this remains a fact that some of the basic ideas of the philosophy of Vivekananda are derived from the ancient Hindu philosophy – specially the Vedanta. In a certain sense, Vivekananda is influenced by Buddhist philosophy also. There are at least three ideas in Vivekananda’s philosophy for which he remains indebted to Buddhist thought. The first and the foremost is the idea of ‘mass-liberation’ that Vivekananda envisages; it has a clear similarly with the Buddhistic ideal of Bodhisattva.

Swami Abhedananda

Swami Abhedananda was one of those rare souls who gathered round the magnetic personality of Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar and afterwards; became instrumental in the fulfilment of his divine mission. The name by which the Swami was known before his taking orders was Kali-prasad Chandra. His intellectual allegiance was not confined to any particular school of thought. He developed even at this early age a remarkable sympathy for all faiths. That is why one finds him so intently listening to the illuminating lectures delivered by the distinguished leaders and exponents of Christianity, Brahmoism, and Hinduism.

The Works of Swami Abhedananda - An Abridged Edition of the Complete Works of Swami Abhedananda (Set of 2 Volumes) - An Old and Rare Book

U. G Krishnamurti

Uppaluri Gopala Krishnamurti, famous around the world as simply U. G Krishnamurti, gave the world a unique perspective about enlightenment. According to Krishnamurti, there is no such thing as philosophical enlightenment. There are no philosophical questions to be asked and no intellectual answers to be given to those questions. This enlightenment-negating thinker was born in India, on July 9, 1918. For him, the concept of seeking the ultimate truth is absurd, as he thinks there is nothing to seek. Nature will provide individuals with the solutions of all their problems; one just needs to embrace it in its entirety. For Krishnamurti, the need to constantly change, to evolve, is not just impossible, but also a futile exercise. He emphasized on the body and the soul being perfect the way they are. To try to alter bodily actions is considered by him as a breach in the purity, peace and harmony of the body.

The Penguin U.G. Krishnamurti Reader


Osho's philosophy is based on many fundamentals that have come from Zen, Buddhism, and many religions without the dogma. He places a high value on Living with awareness and hence a significant emphasis is placed on Meditation. His central notion is that we are all born a pure soul (like a clean mirror) and then we gather "dirt" from well-intentioned but conditioned society, parents, schools and priests and loose connection with our true selves. His discourses are intended to "remove this dirt" and connect ourselves with our core. Meditation helps us do that very powerfully. He propagates living in the present, rather in the moment. He talks of ' observing' your own thoughts. He advices to quietly observe one's thoughts and not to react. Let the thought appear and dissipate. This way mind is trained to just remain an observer.

The Zen Manifesto Freedom from Oneself by Osho
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