I conceived the idea of writing this book while I was at Harvard to participate in the Harvard Inter-national Seminar. Some of the participants in the seminar evinced a keen interest in the history of Indian philosophy. We had quite a few informal meetings. I am now putting those discourses in the form of a book. Naturally a book like this will have its shortcomings. The absence of diacritical marks will be a serious handicap.
This book professes to be no more than a description of some of the salient points of each of the six systems of Indian philosophy. It does not claim to be exhaustive. It is calculated to appeal to the beginners and to arouse their curiosity in the subject. I hope. that this plain presentation of the fundamental tenets of the six systems of Indian philosophy will be super-seded by a more comprehensive examination of Indian philosophy.
I am indebted to Shri Hiriyanna, Shri Jadunath Sinha. Dr. Radhakrishnan and other reputed writers on Indian Philosophy on whose writings I have relied I would like to thank Professor G. G. Kewalramani. my senior colleague of the department of philosophy, and Professor C. M. Kulkarni, my friend and colleague, for their helpful interest.
I shall never be able to express adequately my indebtedness to my teacher, Principal, S. V. Dandekar for his never-failing encouragement. Without his help this book could never have been written.
I have done my best, little as it may be, and my best reward will be if a new interest shall spring in the mind of a reader to read more about Indian philosophy.
The story of Indian philosophy is a long one, though full of human interest, a little difficult to tell. in the distant past, that story was told again and again by the teachers animated by a spirit of dedication to the devoted students with whom pursuit of truth was a passion. Through recitals its contents percolated to all strata of society. It was the story that explained Reality, Meaning and Purpose of life. It exhorted the people to think clearly; act effectively and live decently.
The earliest records of the story of the most pro-found knowledge and the highest wisdom are con-tained in the hymns of Rigveda, in the later Samhitas, the Brahmanas and the Upanishads, the Epics, the books of Ethics, Justice and Laws. The message of their teachings reached to the distant lands of China and Japan; South East Asia, Persia, Central Asia and Greece. Like all great philosophies, philosophy in India began in reflections on the problem of human existence, the place of man in the universe, the meaning and purpose of life. But in thrashing out these problems, it always pointed out beyond intel-lectual satisfaction .
One who tells the story of Indian philosophy is always confronted with the initial difficulty of the absence of any biographical background. Neither the Vedic Rishis nor the later Darshankaras wrote any-thing about themselves. The relevant dates for determining the chronological development of philoso-
phies in India are shrouded in the unknown depths of the past. The only date that can be 'accepted as almost settled is the one that fixes the death of Buddha in 487 B.C. On that basis we may broadly divide the history of Indian philosophy into two periods, the Vedic period and the classical period. The traditional texts that are regarded as "revealed" belong to the first period, though they seem to have been collected in the latter part of the period. The art of writing does not seem to be prevalent then. Hence the method of communication was oral transmission. These collections can not be regarded as systematic and as such they need systematic interpretation. As compared to the Vedic period, the classical period appears to be more systematic. But even during this period, the method of oral transmission was not given up; and it is likely that the earlier teachings must have undergone a considerable change. We can hardly go beyond 500 B.C. and it becomes necessary to divide the classical period into the early classical and the later classical one. It is to this latter period that belongs the "golden age of the system". Roughly speaking the duration of this period is from 500 B.C. to the early century of the Christian era. This period is a distinct stage in the growth of Indian thought.
In relation to the six systems of Indian philosophy, the Upanishads play a vital role. It is from the Upanishads that the founders of the systems draw their inspiration. They represent "a large Manasa lake of philosophical thought" from which each thinker draws for his own purposes. They are the cream of philosophical thought in India. They are regarded as the embodiment of the highest truth. Etymologically, the word Upanishad means "sitting near devotedly". It signifies the instructions con-cerning the highest truth imparted by the learned teacher to his disciple. They are actually very terse discourses on philosophy in its widest possible sense.
The origin of the Upanishad is shrouded in a mystery. Traditionally, they are regarded as "revealed" just like the Mantras and the Brahmanas which are prior to the Upanishads in order. They contain in a nutshell, the conclusions of philosophical discourses revealing the truth in its diverse forms. They mark the culmination of Vedic teachings. There are about two hundred and more Upanishads. The Upanishads are admittedly the basis of one of the systems of Indian philosophy, viz. the Vedanta.
The Upanishads evolve a world-view which is reflected in the six different tributeries that we call the six systems of Indian philosophy. The Upanishads revolve round the concept of "Brahman" and "Atman". The Brahman is the great acosmic principle from which the world follows and to which it finally returns. The Brahman is the underlying reality that appears as the' manifold world. "Truth is one; sages call it variously." Etymologically, Atman means vital breath,' and hence it stands for the true being of anything. More particularly in case of man
it signifies his self or soul. The Brahman is the true nature of reality; Atman is the true nature of man. Everything in this universe must Move towards the realization of the nature of its true being. From lower forms to higher, the world-process inexorably moves to bring about the culmination of the purpose of creation. The Brahman in the form of Atman is immanent within man. The reunion of Atman with Brahman becomes the crowning grace of life. The concept of Moksha symbolises this law of fulfilment. But this fulfilment is not brought about by any philosophy of escapicism. It demands a positive approach to reality. In developing this approach to reality the Upanishads speak with double voice. They some-times refer to the Brahman as cosmic, an all inclusive one; in some other contexts the Brahman is referred to as acosmic, an all exclusive one. There arises a need to resolve such apparent contradictions in them. Hence the justification for the six systems of Indian philosophy. They elaborately interprete the core of Upanishadic teachings and try to resolve the apparent contradictions therein by spotlighting the truth from their own particular standpoint. Philosophy is "Darshana", a vision of truth. Thus there arise the logical realism of Nyaya, the atomic pluralism of Vaisesika, the evolutionary dualism of Shamkhya, the theism and moralism of Yoga, the absolute monism of Vedanta, the ritualistic polytheism and partial pragmatism of Mimamsa . But even in their diversified interpretations of truth, these system do not lose sight of the ultimate truth the law of fulfilment. Without the One Real Being nothing that exists in our knowledge could exist. neither our soul nor the world of objects around us. To have this one Real Being as a part and parcel of our experience is the realization of our own true being and towards this ideal all our efforts should be directed. As such philosophy becomes a way of life. Clear thinking and clean living are the sine qua non of that way of life. This is amply brought out by one of the fundamental tents of Jainism, viz. "Do not live to know, but know to live"
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend