Glimpses of sixteen schools of Indian Philosophy

[This article is written for a rational audience. The interpretations are all my own. They are not intended to impose, influence or comment on prevailing beliefs. I am also not sure that I may not find more revelations in my next reading of the same text.]

Glimpses of sixteen schools of Indian Philosophy


1.       The Chârvâka Darshan

The perceptual world exists. There is nothing beyond or outside its existence. The universe is a complex mix of elements. Intelligence is a function of the body. It perishes when the form is dispersed.


Anything that is proved only by inference is a deception. There is no heaven, no salvation, nor any soul.  The Veda, the rituals and sacrifices are pretentions.


2.       The Bauddha Darshan

 A premise that ‘A’ is where ‘B’ is, and ‘A’ is not where ‘B’ is not, defines inviolate concomitance. Identities, causes and effects of transient dynamics are determinate. All objects can be perceived including the universal void. There are no unknown alternatives. An inquiry ends when it reaches practical absurdity.


There is an entity that exists universally; resides and pervades everything that exists.  Intelligence recognizes itself without an object. For all the rest, the evidence is only the quality of the knowable.


3.       The Ârhata Darshan

 The divine Ârhat is the supreme lord, the omniscient one, with no faults, desires etc – admired by the three worlds, the declarer of things as they are.  Nothing is transient. An object and its perception cannot occur at the same time because the former is the cause and the latter is the effect. So, since, at the time of the object’s existence perception does not exist, and at the time of perception the object does not exist, the world would not exist without their continuity.


Right intuition, right faith and right conduct are the path of liberation. Consciousness is more than just a mirror. It provides knowledge to the intelligence.


4.       The Râmânuja Darshan

The Creator, Soul and Body are the triad. The Soul experiences bondage and emancipation between the formless and the form. Existence and non-existence cannot be at the same time. A non-entity is cognizable, and ignorance cannot be an object of perception. Hence, an inference is impossible.


The Creator is singular, and prevails over the plurality of souls and forms. The Creator, the Soul and the Form are different. The worshipper is an embodied spirit.


5.       The Pûrņa-Pradña Darshan

 The independent and dependent are existents. Three premises prevail between the two – the creator, the created and the difference between them. The duality between the created and the creator is not erased by the created trying to acquire the qualities of the creator or by trying to eliminate the countless differences. Such a unity is not possible. Emancipation is only a relief of the created from depending on the creator.


The universe and life are real. Freedom to live requires proper knowledge of divinity. Inference, if not supported by revelations, cannot prove an assertion.


6.       The Pâśupata Darshan

Sentient creatures engage in work because they depend on the Will of the Creator for happiness. But the cause of the work does not depend on the Creator as He cannot be activated by either desires or the quality of the work. The Creator is the cause of all causes. Emancipation from sorrow is possible with an accurate characterization of the Creator and proper deliverance from dependencies. This cannot be acquired by intuition.


Freedom from personal and impersonal pain is emancipation. Religious exercises are for purifying the body, mind and soul. Omniscience of awareness is the cognition of truth and the resulting intellectual power.


7.       The Śaiva Darshan

Shiva is the God, the master. Shiva is everything. He is the maker and He is the content of the made. The individual spirit is merely a beast held by the fetters of the body. The spirit is incapable of pain or pleasure on its own.


Shiva’s head is Iśâ; mouth is Tatpuruşa; heart is Aghora; the concealed parts are Vâma, and Sadyojâta the feet. Shiva is embodied power; thus worshipped.


8.       The Pratyabhidñâ Darshan

Recognition and union with the nature of Shiva is the aim of devotion. Once achieved, there is no need to act or reflect. Pure knowledge and action are playful activities. Intelligence is a franchise. The soul in bondage recognizes plurality.


The liberated, enlightened soul recognizes all that is cognizable as its own self. The absolute realization of the Soul is when one can say without hesitation, “I am God”. There is no perfection that cannot be realized.


9.       The Raseśvara Darshan

The body is divine and must be preserved because liberation after death cannot be perceived. A non-decaying, mercurial (rasa) body is imperishable. A celestial body is immortal. Rasa and air restore the dead to life. The universe is pure intelligence.


A healthy body, exempt from decay, is liberated. Vishnu is existence; Vishnu is the knowledge and the knowable. Vishnu is the life in a body.


10.   The Vaiśeşika or Aulūkya Darshan

There cannot be an end to pain without the knowledge of Shiva. Enunciation, definition and investigation are the three steps in the method of acquiring knowledge. Substance, quality, activity, genre, specifics (viśeşa) and relationships are the six types of enunciation. Non-existence is not a substance; hence, not considered. Duality is the quality of the knowledge as it exists between the perceived and the perceiver.


The Soul, Space and Time are all pervasive. Non-existence, like darkness, is perceivable; there are two types – relative non-existence and reciprocal non-existence. Antecedent, emergent and absolute non-existences are relative. Reciprocal non-existence is the negation of an identity.


11.   The Akşapâda (or Nyâya) Darshan

Righteous justice is bliss. ‘Proof’ is that which is evidenced by the right knowledge. Right knowledge is accurate comprehension. Final justice is delivered by the knowledge of truth. Perception, inference, analogy and testimony offer four types of surmises.


Rational, logical, reasoning eliminates falsehoods and errors of knowledge. This is liberating.  Eternal happiness (freedom from pain) cannot be proved; hence, unacceptable.


12.   The Jaimīnīya Darshan

Righteous conduct is in sincere practice of duty. Rites, rituals and sacrifice are a duty. Procedures and rules ensure the benefits of performance. Benefits may be tangible or intangible. They cannot be both tangible and intangible at the same time, except when the procedure is a rule.


Duty is prescribed by authoritative knowledge which may be imposed or cognitive. The Word is not an inference. It is self-evident.


13.   The Panīnīya Darshan

Propriety of speech is in the discipline of words. Appropriate words are a sign of prosperity. There are four kinds of basic words – Nouns, verbs, prepositions and particles – and three periods – past, present and future. Words are of two types – natural or contrived. Voice is the voice of Brahma.


Letters with an affix make a meaningful word. The purpose of all words is finally the realization of Brahma – the quality of perfect knowledge. The exposition of words is the means of final bliss; the science of all sciences.


14.   The Sâńkhya Darshan

There are four existents – the evolved, the evolving, the evolved and evolving, and neither. The evolved is Prakriti, the universal nature – that which is the material cause of the evolving. The five gross elements are the evolving. The ‘evolved and evolving’ are subtle qualities such as consciousness, intellect and ego. The Soul is neither the evolved nor the evolving – it is absolute and imperishable.


Every cause has an effect and so does every effect have a cause. There is no existence of a non-existent and there is no non-existence of an existent (Bhagwat Gita). Final bliss, absolute emancipation, is in the realization of the difference between Nature and the Soul.


15.   The Patañjali Or Yoga Darshan

This is the discipline of concentration, of practice, of yoga – the concurrence of the body, mind and the soul. “Yoga is Samâdhī” (Vyasa) – Samâdhī is the fusion of the individual soul and Brahma. Yoga trains the mind to concentrate and preserve its potential. Meditation in Samâdhī concentrates on itself and suppresses all the faculties such as intellect and attitudes that are activated by external stimuli. For those who are afflicted, yogic exercises are the means; for those who are dispassionate, mere tranquility achieves Samâdhī.


Practical yoga is in physical training, recitation of sacred texts and piety.  There is no austerity superior to the regulation of the breath. He, who acquires the knowledge of righteousness and the soul, achieves supremacy over all existents.


16.   The Śânkara Darshan

Brahma is all there is. He is the creator and the created. The ephemeral world is merely a perception. One who realizes the self as Brahma attains salvation. Aham Brahmaasmi | Tat twam asi || I am Brahma | So are you ||


Reality deceives the senses. Life is pre-occupied by suffering and sorrow that are caused by the illusions of living. Brahma is the all pervading, universal spirit.


8 Responses to “Glimpses of sixteen schools of Indian Philosophy”

  1. Renate Says:

    “Who knows for certain?
    Who shall here declare it?
    Whence was it born, whence came creation?
    The gods are later than this world’s formation;
    Who then can know the origins of the world?
    None knows whence creation arose;
    And whether he has or has not made it;
    He who surveys it from the lofty skies.
    Only he knows- or perhaps he knows not.”

    ― Anonymous, The Rig Veda

    How old is this, Sudhir? And why have so many since then claimed to know the answer?

  2. Sudhir Says:


    So far as I am concerned, it is 41 years old. I asked this question in 1973, even before I had read it in the Rig Veda. Any teenager asks similar questions.

    It’s a silly question, if taken literally. Like quoting Job out of context to prove that he was an aetheist.

    But it’s an epistemic trigger if taken as a philosophical anomaly.

    The scriptures do not help me to find words for my feelings. I don’t speak that language, so the words are literally of no use to me.

    The Rig Veda does not teach me what to feel or what to think.

    There is no religion in the Rig Veda. Not a single mantra tells me how I should deal with life and the factors that influence it.

    Rig Veda is a metaphysical treatise. A philosophical masterpiece that stops at revelations, without telling me what to do with them.

    In my personal opinion, many of those who claim inferential answers present strong justifications to make their case. And it is subscribed by large numbers. So the claim becomes a political instrument rather than a personal experience.

    But there are also instances where societal decadence reaches a tipping point (Like a sinking ship where there is no one at the helm and everyone is a captain for the last few moments).

    But I’ll refrain from moral opinions about the political authority of religious faith to dictate philosophies. Thats not my field.

    There are many translations and commentaries on the Rig Veda. When I write, I keep all the translations aside and give a voice to what the verse convinces me; what I believe in and what I see in the silent reality of things.

    You can find a sample in my post http://thecreatorstestimony.com/?p=333

  3. Renate Says:

    I came too late for the arrogant comments 🙁 Would have loved to read them. Arrogance is unnecessarily vilified .. at least in my humble opinion 😛

    it rained in Mumbai to welcome me!! Auspicious, na?

  4. Sudhir Says:

    Arrogance is my nemesis.

    Rains are a gentle welcome.

    I hope someday I’ll land in Bangalore and find both Aish and you to receive me.

  5. Renate Says:

    Everyone has to have a dream, na?

    The trick is to pick them carefully.

  6. Sudhir Says:


    Sorry. I didn’t mean to provoke a response.

    Have fun. Keep a diary of events. A travelogue captures more details than an afterthought.

  7. Renate Says:

    Back to Philosophy. More teenage questions.

    I thought you had said the Vedic Civilization was a peaceful one.

    How does one pacify the mind that’s “more dangerous than a hungry lion”?

  8. Sudhir Says:

    I don’t think evil can be pacified. Evil minds have to be left ignorant.

    The evil begins in the epic era post vedas several generations later, after the establishment of dominions.

    Atharvan, who migrated to Persia and founded Zoroastrianism, was specific on this. You’ll find his works on http://www.avesta.org.

    He forbids teaching certain aspects of the sciences to an ineligible student. He sets very difficult standards for qualifying students.

    The faculty of learning in a person is called Ganapati – the governing faculty of all intellectual functions of the mind. It is first described in the third chapter of the Rig Veda by a sage, Vishwamitra.

    The verse is as follows:

    Ganaanam twa ganapatim hawa mahe, kavim kavinaam upamashravastamam |

    Jyestha raajam brahmanaa brahmanaspatah aa nah shrunvann utibhi seedha saadanam ||

    Governing faculty of all functions, visionary behind all visions, rise and hear |

    Ruler of the Word and the Mantra, come, may the sources of truth be revealed ||

    (Translation mine)

    A later text on Ganapati, named ‘Atharva Sheersha’, gives elaborate qualities of Ganapati, and finally a mantra to invoke the faculty through yogic chanting.

    At the end, he writes a caution: No teacher must teach this to an ineligible student. And goes on to describe at length what he means by eligible. Atharvan is Zarathustra (The original, not the character created by Nietzsche). The fourth Veda, Atharva Veda was named after him by Vyasa.

    This is the post vedic era. The beginning of the vedanta period. A sage, Shaunaka, and his contemporaries dissolved the system of communities of races and designed a society of castes based on trades and functions. All humans were covered in four castes, and racism was gradually disposed off.

    This later ended in the Mahabharat, a war that eliminated entire civilisations on both sides of the Ganges.

    Long history.

    (Seriously. I am not into history or politics or anthropology.

    I enjoy learning the scriptures exactly the same way as I enjoyed Engineering Physics and 3D math. It’s fun to know. I don’t want to be useful to the society or become a missionary. I am sure you know that.)