Hindu Philosophy -2: Astika and Nastika Darsanas…

Indian philosophical systems are known as darsanas. Unlike the Western philosophical systems, they do not depend solely on logic and reasoning, but also on ‘darsana’ or ‘seeing’ or ‘experiencing’ the truth, in mystical states. The ‘darsanas’ have been classified into two groups.

1) Astika – These are the ‘darsanas’ that are based on the authority of the Vedas. The six traditional systems of Hindu philosophy that I have already written about, belong to this group.

2) Nastika – The Carvaka (Materialism), the Jaina and Bauddha (Buddhist) systems come under this category. These do not accept the scriptural authority of the Vedas.

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There are a few other Darsanas, but these are the major ones. Whether this division as Nastika and Astika is a Hindu invention is something I do not know. Possibly, the division was forced into Indian philsophy to accommodate the non-acceptance of the Vedas by the Buddhists and Jains, and it pre-dates Hinduism as a “religion”.

Some people also define Astika Darsanas as those that accept an “Omniscient, Omnipotent Creator God”. The Hindi word Nastik in fact seems to attribute this definition. In this viewpoint though, the Samkya Darsana and the Mimamsa Darsana would have to be described as “nastika”. Both argue against the notion of a Creator God. Surprised? The Ajativada School of Advaita Vedanta would also have to categorized as Nastik.

But none of these three question the validity of the Vedas in the way the Baudha or Jaina systems do. As such, the demarcation based on the acceptance of the “authority of the Vedas” can be considered more accurate.

Please note that Indian philosophy here does not mean Hinduism as a religion. But if we were to consider it in modern religious terms, I would imagine that all Astika Darsanas possibly can be grouped under “Hinduism”. Feel free to correct me if my conclusion is wrong.
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References:
1. The Six Systems of Hindu Philosophy – Swami Harshananda
2. http://www.advaita-vedanta.org

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Posted on September 4, 2005, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. arun, how do i pacify my mind with classifications?
    does knowledge accrue peace?

    • You ask difficult questions! 🙂

      does knowledge accrue peace?

      Possibly, an ignorant person is very much at peace. Some people prefer staying that way. Some don’t. I think that’s a question only you can answer.

      Knowledge in itself does not bring peace. It probably brings a smug self-satisfaction. However, knowledge sought with right intent probably brings understanding. And I hope, that, in time, does accrue peace. And I believe that such peace is not the same as the peace of an ignorant person. And it takes time. IMHO, a certain degree of internal discord and doubt is a good thing anyway.

      One cannot pacify the mind with classifications either. But the classifications exist as a means of understanding the different systems of Hindu thought. All I am hoping for is to understand these systems better. An under-appreciation of Hinduism has been a bit of a personal itch. It’s an itch I have just chosen to scratch now, to the degree possible. Hopefully, the mind will be reasonably satisfied/pacified with the expanded understanding. I don’t know, can only hope it will be so.

      • for the rational mind, there will always be some form of glitch in terms of putting faith in a greater entity and living life ensconsed in that faith. Again, arguments about a personal/impersonal God(dvaita/advaita systems etc) boil down to trivial questions of choice, when faced with the first giant step – that step being of faith.

        Knowledge in every which way you look at it brings understanding, but one of the primary requirements of religion and this particular path is that of faith as opposed to the reasoning/rationale based upbringing many of us stick to in life:).

        However,I feel a balanced perspective in life could be gained with or without resorting to religion, equanimity,tolerance, even a so-called system of ethics can come about for some with religion, for others without religion. Eventually, it is a choice people make and live for with for the rest of their lives.

        By the way, I still question the necessity of a God in life, although there was a time I was a firm believer in advaita:).

      • However,I feel a balanced perspective in life could be gained with or without resorting to religion, equanimity,tolerance, even a so-called system of ethics can come about for some with religion, for others without religion.

        I agree with you on this count, kind of. I do think individuals can gain such a balanced perspective without resorting to religion. As a matter of fact,it seems to me that half the people I am acquainted with online belong to such a group. However, over a multi-period setting, centuries together, I do believe that religion is necessary. It is my opinion that, in the long term, an irreligious society is unsustainable. At an individual level, some people in such a society may put find a balanced perspective/put spirituality over pure materialism, but at a collective level, it will degenerate. Call it my faith, if you will.

        I don’t believe in a “creator God”, at least not right now. I do believe that we are all capable of profound spirituality though. It is a difficult journey that most of us prefer not to pursue, but I am irrationalist enough not to question that profound spirituality is possible.

        Yes, I agree you with on the need for faith. But even rational people have their own faiths. Maybe it is not in religion, maybe it just a belief in the rule of the law, as it stands today.

        Not competent to comment on dvaita/advaita.

      • However, over a multi-period setting, centuries together, I do believe that religion is necessary. It is my opinion that, in the long term, an irreligious society is unsustainable

        hmm..we would have to have long nights of discussions and we’d probably still get nowhere near a consensus on this topic. The base point of religions is faith and faith of course in the religious sense is on some permanent entity that is the proverbial meaning to all existence. In other words, religion ascribes greater meaning to existence as opposed to all the transience we see in our daily lives – joy,sorrow,ups,downs, etc.

        On the other hand, the rationale based faith is applicable within one’s scheme of reality – and yes, its quite transient again – as are human beings who’s ideas and principles change with circumstances.

        As far as society’s survival goes, ethics are important when human beings deal with each other. These set of ethics may follow as easily from rationale as much from religion. Because eventually religion caters to various aspects of a human (logic(jnana),emotions(bhakti) or responsibility(karma) – all of which may still be equally incorporated into an orderly system.
        So, I am not sure about this – maybe religion is more of a control on human actions in a society where humans would each like to control the rest of the world.

        I do believe that we are all capable of profound spirituality though. It is a difficult journey that most of us prefer not to pursue, but I am irrationalist enough not to question that profound spirituality is possible.

        Yeah, spirituality means different things for different people – being close to nature, a work of art, a rock song, or even a great book – all in all a time when one is as empty and as devoid of thoughts when one first came into the world..yes, we are all capable of that but I do not know if that happens as a result of only religion or even without it.

        All in all, a matter of perspective – it takes all kinds to make the world:)

      • Thanks. I have mild differences on some things you raise here, but don’t wish to argue about this. Like you say, I am sure we can debate this no end. Not my objective. So, I will leave it here.

      • i was thinking on the lines of a mutually enlightening discussion:)..anyway, yes some other time:)..a discussion 🙂

      • Yeah, someday maybe. Right now, I think I will settle for my musings. Your comments are welcome. Does add value.

      • “Would god exist if humans didn’t…???” :). Definitely religion is required; for the ethical community’s existence and survival :). It requires the bloody history of the religions and the newer religions which sprouted from the older religions exemplify the fact. Interestingly, all the religions have an undefined indemnity, but seemingly fed by our mass lunacy. They existed through ages of our callousness, but barely evolved.

        “…in long term, an irreligious society is unsustainable.” True. Until now. In a society we need ‘someone or something’ to worship. (Why…:)???) But, all the religions must have been started after a society is formed…??? started by an individual or a group of like-minded individuals with capable minds or appropriately – culpable minds :). But, this can be a derogative statement on my part about our ancestors who created a society from the religions, and thankfully our very existence depended on them :).

        I feel that our incompetency is in the nature of ‘profound spirituality’ we are all looking for; for it has no shape, no form, not even a rational direction to reach for. It solely is the muse of the individuals, the way we want others to see it, rather than ourselves seeing it the way it should be.

      • I am not sure what you are getting at. Seems to me you are throwing around a few statements for effect. Fine. Anyway, I am not interested in an argument right now.

        It solely is the muse of the individuals.
        Yes, agree on that count.

      • Arun, chill. You can as well ignore my comment. As Navin said, “…a mutually enlightening discussion :)”…some time in person, rather :).

      • 🙂 Freezing.

        Mutually enlightening discussions on things such as these are rather time consuming; online, more so. I think I am a touch past that stage.

        Yes, maybe sometime in person…

  2. Thanks – Have “notepad”ed to digest 🙂 will come back!

    Ricercar

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