IMPERIENCE           DRKCV.ORG           SSS           


What is new

A Handbook of Hindu Religion: Darśanas


It is very difficult to draw a hard and fast line of distinction between religion and philosophy, especially our religion and philosophy. The former deals with doctrine and rituals and the latter with the ultimate problems of life, like the nature of the world, the soul and God and their interrelations. The one is practical add the other is theoretical. But our ancestors were of a philosophic bent of mind from the beginning and they translated their philosophy into practice. Our religion and philosophy are intermixed and so in an exposition of religion, philosophy legitimately comes in. Our people identify the ultimate reality of philosophy with the highest Godhead of religion and give a theistic colouring to their philosophy. So our religion supplies the spiritual needs of our people and at the same time satisfies the mental wants of a high order. In one isolated school of philosophy this distinction is maintained, and naturally it did not appeal to the majority of the nation. There is therefore much discrepancy between their mode of life and their speculations. It may be all right for highly intellectual and gifted people but for the ordinary man, it is of no use.

Philosophy, as we have said, discusses the nature of the three ultimate entities, matter, soul and God and their interrelation. It also treats of another question which is intimately connected with the relation between soul and God, namely, the life after death, the condition of the soul after its separation from the material body, i.e., the nature of Mukti. If the soul travels from this world to another the path taken by it also comes under its purview. This leads to the question of rebirth or transmigration and its cause, karma. All these and some related topics come under discussion in philosophy and these problems have been solved differently by different seers. In this way different schools of philosophy have arisen in our country, the chief of which are six, called darśanas.

The chief authority for the acceptance of the existence of God is the Veda, because He cannot be realised by the senses, nor can His existence be inferred from any known facts. There are some schools of philosophy which do not accept the authority of the Veda and mainly depend upon perception and inference. As they do not recognize the Veda, there can be no place for God in their philosophies. They are the atheistic schools of Cārvākas, Bauddhas and Jainas. They are called Nāstikas. We need not consider them here.

Ancient systems

The six āstikadarśanas are: 1. Sāṅkhya, 2. Yoga, 3. Vaiśeṣika, 4. Nyāya, 5. Pūrvamīmāṁsa and 6. Uttaramīmāṁsa or Vedānta.

Sāṅkhya and Yoga are similar in their central teaching and so they go together. Prakṛti, or Mūlaprakṛti as it is called, is independent of Puruṣa or soul and is the cause of this world. Puruṣa is eternal, caitanya or intelligence. Prakṛti is composed of three guṇas called sattva, rajas and tamas. In the state of Pralaya the guṇas are in equilibrium; in sṛṣti they are unequal. Buddhi is a product of Prakṛti when it is near Puruṣa. It is also called mahat and antaḥkaraṇa. Puruṣa imagines the activity of buddhi to be own and thus becomes ātman. This attribution is saṁsāra. From buddhi through ahaṅkāra are produced the ten senses and their objects (bhūtas) and tanmātras. Puruṣa has no qualities other than caitanya and it is eternal. There are innumerable Puruṣas. The realization of the distinction between Prakṛti and Puruṣa puts an end to saṁsāra. This is mukti. Sāńkhya philosophy does not accept God (Īśvara). The Yoga philosophy accepts God but attributes no powers of creation, etc. to Him. Mukti is the state of kaivalya or independence from Nature (Prakṛti).

The Yoga system recommends certain practices to control the mind, which lead to the recognition of the distinction between Prakṛti and Puruṣa. They are yama (control of senses), niyama (purification or mind and body), āsana (convenient posture), prānāyāma (control of breath), pratyāhāra (control or the mind), dhyāna(meditation), dhāraṇā (concentration) and samādhi(attainment).

Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika similarly agree in their essentials and so can be treated together. The world is made of atoms. The world is created by Īśvara and is real. The souls are infinite in number. The Naiyāyikas establish Īśvara by inference. The world is composed of parts and is therefore the effect of a cause like a pot. Everything that is produced must have a producer who knows its causes and uses. So there must be a being who produced this world. He must be superior to souls whose knowledge is limited and who are bound by karma. The souls are undergoing the pleasure and pain of saṁsāra from the eternal course of karma. Some ātmans who perforrn the prescribed duties, without any object in view, simply to please God, attain power to perform Yoga by His grace, and by its means attain perpetual freedom from pain, which is mokṣa according these Schools of thought. There will be no more pleasure or pain or knowledge. So this sort of salvation is styled pāṣāṇa-mukti by others.

The true value of the Nyāya system lies in the extraordinary method of critical enquiry developed in the modern school. The modern Nyāya relegated the discussion of the problem of the ultimate entities to the background and developed into a science of correct knowledge. The discussion of the pramāṇas or means of correct knowledge acquired prominence in it. Even here inference is discussed in its minutest detail and in the most comprehensive manner. To the Naiyāyika the Veda is authoritative, not because it is eternal but because it is the word of Īśvara, and therefore is infallible.

The School of Pūrvamīmamsā lays stress on dharma or performance of the acts enjoined by the Veda. As the course of karma is eternal, saṁsāra too is eternal. There is no creation, no destruction. Those who perform acts prohibited by the Veda, are born as worms and insects or go to hell. Those who perform karma for attaining some desire will be reborn again and again. If the dharma enjoined in the Veda is performed for its own sake, without desiring any benefit, it protuces what is termed apūrva, which in its turn destroys the connection with karma and makes the soul realise itself. This is mokṣaaccording to this school. Then the soul enjoys eternal bliss. This school accepts no separate God or Īśvara, who will dole out the fruits of the acts.

The Sāṅkhyas, the Yogas and the Pūrvamīmāṁsakas accept an infinite number of Jīvas who are eternal and who are found in everything; but they do not accept an Īśvara who is capable of fulfilling their desires. To the Pūrvamīmāṁsakas, the Vedas are eternal and impersonal. The omission to perform the prescribed duties results in sin.

The most popular of the darśanas is the Uttaramīmāṁsā or Vedānta as it is also called. Although the others are as much darśanas or schools of thought as this, still they are now only of academic interest and there is no class of people who specifically follow any of those views in their daily life. It can therefore be called the living philosophy of the day and when we hear of Indian philosophy nowadays, our mind generally comprehends only the varieties of Vedānta and nothing more. As its name Vedānta implies, its teaching is based mainly on the Upaniṣadswhich form the concluding portion of the Veda. While the Pūrvamīmāṁsa, which stresses on dharma, is based on the former portion of the Veda called the Brāhmana, the Vedānta is based on the latter portion. Hence the names Pūrva and Uttara-Mīmāṁsā. There is the school of philosophy which affirms that the two darśanas are supplementary to each other and really form one darśana. There is no wonder then if the Uttaramīmāṁsā also adopts the view that the Veda is eternal and impersonal and that the dharma taught in it should be followed in practice. The Bhagavadgitā in the Mahabharata contains in a nut-shell the teachings of the Upaniṣads in very simple language without their illustrative stories and esoteric methods. For this reason, it has become the most popular handbook of our religion in recent times, especially with the laymen who cannot drink deep in the Upaniṣadic springs. Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the light of the world, teaches the ways ol Karma yoga, Jñāna Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Prapatti Yoga to Arjuna on the battle field of Kurukṣetra and makes him fight the battle of life without rāga and dveṣa and attain His feet by prapatti.

The teachings contained in the Upaniṣads have been systematised and stated in an aphoristic manner by Bādarāyana or Vyāsa in his Brahmasūtras. This is the main text-book of Vedānta. This is interpreted in different ways by different commentators and thus arose several schools of Vedānta. The most important of these are Viśiṣtādvaita, Advaita, Dvaita and Pāśupata. Śankarācārya is the chief exponent of Advaita philosophy, Rāmānujācārya of Viśiṣtādvaita philosophy, and Pūrnaprajnācārya of Dvaita philosophy and Śrikantha of Pāśupata philosophy.

According to Advaita philosophy, Brahman alone is real and everything else, like the self (knower) and Īśvara and the world (knowable) and knowledge, is unreal; Brahman is nirviśeṣaand pure consciousness. Nirviśeṣa means undifferentiated. Three kinds of differences are possible; difference between similar things, like the individuals of a class; difference between things of different kinds and difference which exists in the thing itself i.e., between it and its qualities. There is no difference between Brahman and the Jīvas which are both of the form of cit. Īśvara is Brahman reflected in māya or cosmic illusion and Jīva is Brahman reflected in avidyā or subjective illusion. Brahman is eternal and by its concealing and perplexing powers, it makes the Jīvas unable to realise their real nature and produces different kinds of illusions in them. Still as it is false, there is no question of difference between it and Brahman. As Brahman itself is consciousness, bliss and truth, there can be no qualities like consciousness, bliss and truth, apart from Brahman, and so there can be no difference between Brahman and its qualities. Saṁsāra is delusion of Jīvas by avidyā and the disappearance of avidyā at the rise of jñāna derived from the mahāvākyas of the Upaniṣads is mokṣa. The stock example for the delusion of Jīvas by ajñāna is the rope or the crack in the ground mistaken for a snake. The false snake-idea is attributed to the real rope (or crack) and the illusion is dispelled on realising the truth of the rope (or crack). A man who desires to attain mokṣa or release, must have four qualifications, namely viveka, vairāgya, possession of śama, dama etc., and sincere desire for release; that is to say, he should know that Brahman alone is real and the world is false, renounce everything, have self-control and have thirst for release. Jñāna is the only means to mokṣa and karma and bhaktl are only aids to jñāna. When once the jñāna emerges, he becomes a mukta even in this body and he is then called a jīvanmukta. This is the peculiarity of Advaita. The other schools do not admit jīvanmukti and say that jīva attains mokṣa by casting off this mortal body which is a real product of karma.

There are two other schools which go by the names of their founders, Bhāskara and Yādavaprakāśa. Bhāskara says that Brahman is saguṇa; there are Jīvas and the world which are also real. By the limiting power of Brahman he becomes different and has forms like buddhi, senses, body, etc. Parts of Brahman having these limitations are called Jīvas. Although Brahman is indivisible like space, still just as space limited by a pot acquires the name of pot-space, so Brahman with the above limitations is separately termed a Jīva. Saṁsāra is the limitation caused by the upādhisor limiting adjuncts of Brahman. The upādhis are dispersed by true knowledge caused by incessant meditation on Brahman after attaining the knowledge of the unity of Brahman and Jīva by means of Vedic karma and jñānatogether. Mokṣa is the union of Brahman and Jīva on the disappearance of the limitations.

Yādavaprakāśa says that Brahman transforms itself into the forms of cit, acit and Īśvara by real parināma. Cit is jīva; acit is body, senses, etc. Īśvara is the ordainer of every thing. Jīva does not know his unity with Brahman and this sense of difference is saṁsāra. The fetters of saṁsāra can be shaken off by performing good deeds and by God. True knowledge leads to union with Brahman and attainment of mukti. Even then there is unity as well as difference between Brahman, the Jīva and the world.

According to Viśiṣtādvaita, soul (cit), matter (acit) and God (Īśvara) are real. Of these cit and acit are the special qualities, prakāra, of Īśvara, and Īśvara is the possessor of these qualities or modes (prakārin). A prakāra is that by the help of which its substratum is known. Prakāra cannot exist without the prakārin; therefore Brahman possessed of cit and acit is termed one. As prakārin and prakāra are intrinsically different, there is difference in their nature. Acit is of three varieties, like śuddhasattva, miśrasattva and sattvaśūnya. Śuddhasattva is self-effulgent. It is called Paramapada. Time is sattvaśūnya: but it is also eternal like space. Miśrasattva, being subject to sattva, rajas and tamas, develops in the form of the 24 tattvas called prakṛti, mahat, ahaṅkāra, the subtle elements, senses, etc. It also forms the body and ahaṅkāra of Jīvas according to their previous karma. Saṁsāra is the cycle of repeated births and deaths of embodied souls brought about by mamakāra or egoism and ajñāna. In the cycle of karma and avidyā the sins of some persons are destroyed by their virtues. Then they pray to God for redemption. They realise the true knowledge of the Śāstras by the instruction of a good teacher attained by God's grace or dayā. They duly practise the obligatory and optional duties according to their station in life and acquire the enriching spiritual qualities of śama, dama, tapas,

śauca, kṣamā, ārjava, bhaya, abhaya, sthāna, viveka, ahimsā, dayā, etc. They surrender themselves to God and due to bhakti recollect and reflect on Sāṣtra and meditate upon His qualities and get rid of ignorance(ajñāna) by His grace. They practise bhaktiyoga and attain mukti by prapatti and God's grace when they leave the body. Mukti is of two kinds, kaivalya and reaching Īśvara. Kaivalya is the enjoyment of the pleasure of the realization of ātman. The other is attaining Īśvara in Paramapada and enjoying his svarūpa and eternal bliss. Īśvara in Paramapada has His own form or rupa of divinely beautiful body. He is one with His beloved ones, Śri, Bhū, and Nilā who are His concrete krpa, and with nityasūris who are eternally free like Ananta, Garuda and Viṣvaksena, and the freed souls or muktas. His chief lilā consists in releasing the other Jīvas also from karma and making them into his likeness.

Viśiṣtādvaita says that the absolute Brahman is the same as Viṣṇu, Nārāyaṇa, Vāsudeva, or Veṅkateśvara. He incarnates on historic occasions in different forms to redeem mankind. In response to the prayers of his devotees, He incarnates permanently as idols or arca, owing to His infinite love. So according to Viśiṣtādvaita, Viṣṇu or Vāsudeva Himself has His home in the temple of Tirumalai. Out of His infinite love for the erring mortals of Kali, the Infinite has incarnated permanently in Tirumalai and the mortal becomes immortal by utter surrender to His grace. So there is no exaggeration in the statement that Tirupati is Kaliyuga Vaikuṇtha. Just as the relation between body and soul is śarīra-śariri bhāva, so the relation between soul and Īśvara is the same. So Īśvara is the inner soul of everything in this world and every name and form ultimately applies to Brahman or Śrinivāsa, the self of all selves.

According to Dvaita philosophy, soul (cit), world (acit) and God (Īśvara) are different tattvas. God is only the instrumental or efficient cause of the world. He is Viṣṇu himself. He possesses all the auspicious qualities and has a beautiful body made of jñāna, ānanda etc. The souls and the world depend on Him. The souls are infinitesimal in size and are different from each other. They are of three kinds according to their guṇas—tamoyogyas, nityasamsārins and muktiyogyas. The first class of Jīvas dwell in Hell for ever. The last class are eternally free and dwell in Viṣṇulōka. The second class of Jīvas attain direct cognition of God by their practices beginning with renunciation of the results of their actions and ending with meditation on Viṣṇu and enjoy the pleasures of muktas, according to their nature. If they are free from impressions (vāsana) of hatred etc., they attain mukti and enjoy supreme pleasure. The relation between God and soul is that of svāmin and dāsa (master and servant). So the summum bonum of life, according to this school is service to God, here in this world and beyond.

According to Pāśupata there are three eternal entities, God (pati), Soul (paśu) and Nature (pāśa). God is the supreme pati or Parameśvara. He is only the instrumental or efficient cause of creation while the atoms are the material cause. The Jīva (soul) is different from Īśvara and matter but is self-conscious. It is like a crystal and assumes the form of that with which it comes in contact. When caught up in pāśa which is made up of ignorance, inertness and desire (ānava, māya and kāmya) it undergoes Saṁsāra like pāśa. When the Jīva contacts Pati it becomes like Him. The Jīva attains mukti by following certain practices which free it of its ignorance etc. Mukti, according to this system, is Śivasārūpya (likeness to Śiva) and not Śivaikya (identity with Śiva). Śiva, it says, is love itself and by His grace (arul), He makes the Jīva free from its impurities. The highest form of jñāna consists in service to Śiva and His devotees. Śaiva and Śakta philosophies are both comprised in Pāśupata. In Śakta, Śakti or Devi (called Caṇdī) is supreme. She is worshipped in three forms. Kāli, Lakṣmī and Sarasvatī. Owing to the love of Śakti, the world emanates from Śiva and merges in Him. By means of jñāna and bhakti, the Jīva attains mukti and becomes one with Śiva. Certain sects of Śaktas engage themselves in non-Vedic practices, like worshipping God in a wine-pot, smearing the body with ashes from the burning ground, etc.

Medieval Schools

The Viśiṣtādvaita philosophy with its doctrines of bhakti and prapatti and emphasis on the equality of all bhaktas and prapannas, irrespective of caste or sex, appealed to the minds of all people and it soon spread all over the country. Many pious people came forward in Northern India to propagate the faith. But their teachings were coloured by their temperamental bias. The theistic tinge which Viśiṣtādvaita assumed in the identification of Brahman (Paramātman) with Nārāyaṇa (Viṣṇu) caught the imagination of these saints and they identified Him with those particular forms of Nārāyaṇa which attracted their minds. In whatever form He is adored, He appears in that form and accepts the devotion.

Rāmānanda was the first of these teachers. He taught that Īśvara resides in every Jīva and He is Rāma, the righteous. The force of his personal attraction and teachings of Rāmānanda can be judged from the fact that even Muslims became his disciples. Kabir followed his teachings and incorporated them with Islam and evolved his School of Kabirpanthis.

Vallabha taught that Śrī Kṛṣṇa was Brahman. His form is made of spiritual love and it is Rādhā- Kṛṣṇa. He sports with the Jīvas in Gokula. Creation is the līla of Kṛṣṇa. Bhakti is the only means of attaining

Kṛṣṇa. Bhakti is irrepressive love or puṣṭi. On release from the body the bhakta goes to Gokula, which is beyond Vaikuṇtha, and enjoys the bliss of communion with Kṛṣṇa.

Caitanya taught the Radha Kṛṣṇa cult. The absolute Brahman is Śrī Kṛṣṇa who is eternally sporting with Rādha, his beloved ‘other’. He has a bewitching form of beauty and he attracts the vas to him by his entrancing beauty. Bhakti or prema is the only means of attaining the bliss of Kṛṣṇa. The saint taught a number of bhāvasin the love towards Kṛṣṇa, like those of God as ruler, master, mate, etc., of which the best is the bhāva of Kṛṣṇa as spiritual bridegroom. The love of Kṛṣṇa exceeds the pleasures of Vaikuṇtha.

Modern Religious movements

Brahmosamaj, Aryasamaj and Ramakrishna Mission are effective reactions to the proselytising influence of alien religions. They are movements in response to their ideas of the needs of the age.