Hindu Philosophy – 1
I have been an atheist for a time, an agnostic for a time, but I guess, over the last 3-4 years or so, I have returned to being a sort of Hindu. I am still not particularly religious, and I doubt I will ever be. I observe no rituals, and from what I understand of Hinduism, it looks like, at least for now, I don’t actually believe a few things Hindu scriptures say. Neverthless, I consider myself a Hindu and I don’t imagine I will be anything else in future.
That I don’t know enough about Hinduism is not something I lose too much sleep over, though I dwell on it once every 3 weeks or so. For a while it used to be once every 3 days, till it got a bit much, and I have gone easy on it since. At the same time, I would like to know a bit more. To that end, I thought I will make a start by gaining a very basic understanding of Hindu philosophy. That’s my agenda over the next few weeks. And as I try and understand a bit more, I wanted to record it some place. And what better place than this. So, here’s the first instalment. The text is almost verbatim from “The Six Systems of Hindu Philosophy” by Swami Harshananda, but heavily edited ‘cos that’s about all I can type.
There are six systems (Saddarsanas) of Hindu philosophy grouped under the category of Astika Darsanas (Systems that accept the authority of the Vedas). These six systems are Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta.
An unconsicious awareness of one’s spiritual dimension seems to have driven the Hindu philosophers of the six systems, i.e. to a search for the meaning of life by going deep within oneself rather than outside. The “Svetasvatara Upanisad” describes how the savants and sages that had assembled for an intellectual discussion about the problems of life leading to some definite solutions and conclusions, ultimately had to fall back to contemplation in solitude to discover the same.
As such, there are 3 chief means adopted by Hindu philosophers in probing philosophy. These are
1. Tapas – Austerity in Personal Life
2. Sravana – Listening attentively to truths from the great savants
3. Manana – Reflecting upon them.
While there are differences on the doctrinal side, there is harmony and agreement as far as the practical disciplines are concerned in these six systems. Recognition of the presence of human suffering was the starting point of all systems. Attainment of a state of total freedom from misery, called liberation, was the final goal.
This can be achieved only through “right knowledge”. But right knowledge is not just intellectual knowledge, it is also the direct and actual experience of one’s nature as the spirit, the soul, transcending the body-mind complex. This requires disciplines like leading a moral life, of eschewing enemies such as lust, greed and hatred, and a continuous meditation on the truths learned through philosophical inquiry, until they are realised.
All the systems believe in the law of “karma” and consider the world as providing us with a moral stage for acting our roles satisfactorily, gradually improving our “spiritual fibre”.
Next instalment: Nyaya Darsana