Indian philosophy

Indian philosophy refers to ancient philosophical traditions of the Indian subcontinent. The principal schools are classified as either orthodox or heterodoxāstika or nāstika – depending on one of three alternate criteria: whether it believes the Vedas as a valid source of knowledge; whether the school believes in the premises of Brahman and Atman; and whether the school believes in afterlife and Devas.[1][2][3]

There are six major schools of orthodox Indian Hindu philosophyNyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedanta, and five major heterodox schools—Jain, Buddhist, Ajivika, Ajñana, and Cārvāka. However, there are other methods of classification; Vidyaranya for instance identifies sixteen schools of Indian philosophy by including those that belong to the Śaiva and Raseśvara traditions.[4][5]

The main schools of Indian philosophy were formalised chiefly between 1000 BCE to the early centuries of the Common Era. Competition and integration between the various schools was intense during their formative years, especially between 800 BCE and 200 CE. Some schools like Jainism, Buddhism, Yoga, Śaiva and Vedanta survived, but others, like Ajñana, Charvaka and Ājīvika did not.

Ancient and medieval era texts of Indian philosophies include extensive discussions on Ontology (metaphysics, Brahman-Atman, Sunyata-Anatta), reliable means of knowledge (epistemology, Pramanas), value system (axiology) and other topics.[6][7][8]

Common themes

Indian philosophical traditions
Yajnavalkya and Janaka
Earliest Hindu philosophy were arranged and codified by Hindu Vedic sages, such as Yajnavalkya (c. 8th century BCE), who is considered one of the earliest philosophers in recorded history, after Aruni (c. 8th century BCE).[9]
Jain statues, Gwalior
Jain philosophy was propagated by Tirthankaras, notably Parshvanatha (c. 872 – c. 772 BCE) and Mahavira (c. 549–477 BCE).
Rock-cut Lord --Buddha-- Statue at Bojjanakonda near Anakapalle of Visakhapatnam dist in AP
Buddhist philosophy was founded by Gautama Buddha (c. 563–483 BCE).
Sikh philosophy was crystalised in Guru Granth Sahib enshrined by Guru Gobind Singh (c. 1666–1708 CE).

Indian philosophies share many concepts such as dharma, karma, samsara, reincarnation, dukkha, renunciation, meditation, with almost all of them focussing on the ultimate goal of liberation of the individual through diverse range of spiritual practices (moksha, nirvana).[10] They differ in their assumptions about the nature of existence as well as the specifics of the path to the ultimate liberation, resulting in numerous schools that disagreed with each other. Their ancient doctrines span the diverse range of philosophies found in other ancient cultures.[11]

Orthodox schools

Raja Ravi Varma - Sankaracharya
Hindu philosophy has a diversity of traditions and numerous saints and scholars, such as Adi Shankara of Advaita Vedanta school.

Many Hindu intellectual traditions were classified during the medieval period of Brahmanic-Sanskritic scholasticism into a standard list of six orthodox (Astika) schools (darshanas), the "Six Philosophies" (ṣaḍ-darśana), all of which accept the testimony of the Vedas.[12][13][14]

  • Samkhya, the rationalism school with dualism and atheistic themes[15][16]
  • Yoga, a school similar to Samkhya but accepts personally defined theistic themes[17]
  • Nyaya, the realism school emphasizing analytics and logic[18][19]
  • Vaisheshika, the naturalism school with atomistic themes and related to the Nyaya school[20][21]
  • Purva Mimamsa (or simply Mimamsa), the ritualism school with Vedic exegesis and philology emphasis,[22][23] and
  • Vedanta (also called Uttara Mimamsa), the Upanishadic tradition, with many sub-schools ranging from dualism to nondualism.[24][25]

These are often coupled into three groups for both historical and conceptual reasons: Nyaya-Vaishesika, Samkhya-Yoga, and Mimamsa-Vedanta. The Vedanta school is further divided into six sub-schools: Advaita (monism/nondualism), also includes the concept of Ajativada, Visishtadvaita (monism of the qualified whole), Dvaita (dualism), Dvaitadvaita (dualism-nondualism), Suddhadvaita, and Achintya Bheda Abheda schools.

Besides these schools Mādhava Vidyāraṇya also includes the following of the aforementioned theistic philosophies based on the Agamas and Tantras:[4]

The systems mentioned here are not the only orthodox systems, they are the chief ones, and there are other orthodox schools. These systems, accept the authority of Vedas and are regarded as orthodox (astika) schools of Hindu philosophy; besides these, schools that do not accept the authority of the Vedas are heterodox (nastika) systems such as Buddhism, Jainism, Ajivika and Cārvāka.[26][27][28] This orthodox-heterodox terminology is a construct of Western languages, and lacks scholarly roots in Sanskrit. According to Andrew Nicholson, there have been various heresiological translations of Āstika and Nāstika in 20th century literature on Indian philosophies, but quite many are unsophisticated and flawed.[3]

Heterodox (Śramaṇic schools)

Several Śramaṇic movements have existed before the 6th century BCE, and these influenced both the āstika and nāstika traditions of Indian philosophy.[30] The Śramaṇa movement gave rise to diverse range of heterodox beliefs, ranging from accepting or denying the concept of soul, atomism, antinomian ethics, materialism, atheism, agnosticism, fatalism to free will, idealization of extreme asceticism to that of family life, strict ahimsa (non-violence) and vegetarianism to permissibility of violence and meat-eating.[31] Notable philosophies that arose from Śramaṇic movement were Jainism, early Buddhism, Cārvāka, Ajñana and Ājīvika.[32]

Ajñana philosophy

Ajñana was one of the nāstika or "heterodox" schools of ancient Indian philosophy, and the ancient school of radical Indian skepticism. It was a Śramaṇa movement and a major rival of early Buddhism and Jainism. They have been recorded in Buddhist and Jain texts. They held that it was impossible to obtain knowledge of metaphysical nature or ascertain the truth value of philosophical propositions; and even if knowledge was possible, it was useless and disadvantageous for final salvation. They were sophists who specialised in refutation without propagating any positive doctrine of their own.

Jain philosophy

Photo of lord adinath bhagwan at kundalpur
Rishabhanatha, believed to have lived over a million years ago, is considered the founder of Jain philosophy.

Jain philosophy is the oldest Indian philosophy that separates body (matter) from the soul (consciousness) completely.[33] Jainism was revived and re-established after Mahavira, the last and the 24th Tirthankara, synthesised and revived the philosophies and promulgations of the ancient Śramaṇic traditions laid down by the first Jain tirthankara Rishabhanatha millions of years ago.[34] According to Dundas, outside of the Jain tradition, historians date the Mahavira as about contemporaneous with the Buddha in the 5th-century BC, and accordingly the historical Parshvanatha, based on the c. 250-year gap, is placed in 8th or 7th century BC.[35]

Jainism is a Śramaṇic religion and rejected the authority of the Vedas. However, like all Indian religions, it shares the core concepts such as karma, ethical living, rebirth, samsara and moksha. Jainism places strong emphasis on asceticism, ahimsa (non-violence) and anekantavada (relativity of viewpoints) as a means of spiritual liberation, ideas that influenced other Indian traditions.[36] Jainism strongly upholds the individualistic nature of soul and personal responsibility for one's decisions; and that self-reliance and individual efforts alone are responsible for one's liberation. According to the Jain philosophy, the world (Saṃsāra) is full of hiṃsā (violence). Therefore, one should direct all his efforts in attainment of Ratnatraya, that are Samyak Darshan, Samyak Gnana, and Samyak Chàritra which are the key requisites to attain liberation.[37]

Buddhist philosophy

Gandhara Buddha (tnm).jpeg
The Buddhist philosophy is based on the teachings of the Buddha.

Buddhist philosophy is a system of thought which started with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, or "awakened one". Buddhism is founded on elements of the Śramaṇa movement, which flowered in the first half of the 1st millennium BCE, but its foundations contain novel ideas not found or accepted by other Sramana movements. Buddhism and Hinduism mutually influenced each other and shared many concepts, states Paul Williams, however it is now difficult to identify and describe these influences.[38] Buddhism rejected the Vedic concepts of Brahman (ultimate reality) and Atman (soul, self) at the foundation of Hindu philosophies.[39][40][41]

Buddhism shares many philosophical views with other Indian systems, such as belief in karma – a cause-and-effect relationship, samsara – ideas about cyclic afterlife and rebirth, dharma – ideas about ethics, duties and values, impermanence of all material things and of body, and possibility of spiritual liberation (nirvana or moksha).[42][43] A major departure from Hindu and Jain philosophy is the Buddhist rejection of an eternal soul (atman) in favour of anatta (non-Self).[44]

Sudama and Lomas Rishi Caves at Barabar, Bihar, 1870
Monastic life has been a part of all Indian philosophy traditions. Mendicant caves of extinct Ājīvikas in Bihar.[45]

Ājīvika philosophy

The philosophy of Ājīvika was founded by Makkhali Gosala, it was a Śramaṇa movement and a major rival of early Buddhism and Jainism.[46] Ājīvikas were organised renunciates who formed discrete monastic communities prone to an ascetic and simple lifestyle.[47]

Original scriptures of the Ājīvika school of philosophy may once have existed, but these are currently unavailable and probably lost. Their theories are extracted from mentions of Ajivikas in the secondary sources of ancient Indian literature, particularly those of Jainism and Buddhism which polemically criticized the Ajivikas.[48] The Ājīvika school is known for its Niyati doctrine of absolute determinism (fate), the premise that there is no free will, that everything that has happened, is happening and will happen is entirely preordained and a function of cosmic principles.[48][49] Ājīvika considered the karma doctrine as a fallacy.[50] Ājīvikas were atheists[51] and rejected the authority of the Vedas, but they believed that in every living being is an ātman – a central premise of Hinduism and Jainism.[52][53]

Cārvāka philosophy

Cārvāka or Lokāyata was a philosophy of scepticism and materialism, founded in the Mauryan period. They were extremely critical of other schools of philosophy of the time. Cārvāka deemed Vedas to be tainted by the three faults of untruth, self-contradiction, and tautology.[54] Likewise they faulted Buddhists and Jains, mocking the concept of liberation, reincarnation and accumulation of merit or demerit through karma.[55] They believed that, the viewpoint of relinquishing pleasure to avoid pain was the "reasoning of fools".[54]

Comparison of Indian philosophies

The Indian traditions subscribed to diverse philosophies, significantly disagreeing with each other as well as orthodox Hinduism and its six schools of Hindu philosophy. The differences ranged from a belief that every individual has a soul (self, atman) to asserting that there is no soul,[56] from axiological merit in a frugal ascetic life to that of a hedonistic life, from a belief in rebirth to asserting that there is no rebirth.[57]

Comparison of ancient Indian philosophies
Ājīvika Early Buddhism Cārvāka Jainism Orthodox schools of Hinduism
Karma Denies[50][58] Affirms[57] Denies[57] Affirms[57] Affirms
Samsara, Rebirth Affirms Affirms[59] Denies[60] Affirms[57] Some school affirm, some not[61]
Ascetic life Affirms Affirms Affirms[57] Affirms Affirms as Sannyasa[62]
Rituals, Bhakti Affirms Affirms, optional[63]
(Pali: Bhatti)
Denies Affirms, optional[64] Theistic school: Affirms, optional[65]
Others: Deny[66][67]
Ahimsa and Vegetarianism Affirms Affirms,
Unclear on meat as food[68]
Strongest proponent
of non-violence;
Vegetarianism to avoid
violence against animals[69]
Affirms as highest virtue,
but Just War affirmed
Vegetarianism encouraged, but
choice left to the Hindu[70][71]
Free will Denies[49] Affirms[72] Affirms Affirms Affirms[73]
Maya Affirms[74] Affirms
Denies Affirms Affirms[76][77]
Atman (Soul, Self) Affirms Denies[56] Denies[78] Affirms[79]:119 Affirms[80]
Creator God Denies Denies Denies Denies Theistic schools: Affirm[81]
Others: Deny[82][83]
Pratyakṣa[86] Pratyakṣa,
Various, Vaisheshika (two) to Vedanta (six):[84][87]
Pratyakṣa (perception),
Anumāṇa (inference),
Upamāṇa (comparison and analogy),
Arthāpatti (postulation, derivation),
Anupalabdi (non-perception, negative/cognitive proof),
Śabda (Reliable testimony)
Epistemic authority Denies: Vedas Affirms: Buddha text[88]
Denies: Vedas
Denies: Vedas Affirms: Jain Agamas
Denies: Vedas
Affirm: Vedas and Upanishads,[note 1]
Affirm: other texts[88][90]
Samsdrasuddhi[91] Nirvana
(realize Śūnyatā)[92]
Siddha[93] Moksha, Nirvana, Kaivalya
Advaita, Yoga, others: Jivanmukti[94]
Dvaita, theistic: Videhamukti
(Ultimate Reality)
Śūnyatā[95][96] Anekāntavāda[97] Brahman[98][99]

Political philosophy

The Arthashastra, attributed to the Mauryan minister Chanakya, is one of the early Indian texts devoted to political philosophy. It is dated to 4th century BCE and discusses ideas of statecraft and economic policy.

The political philosophy most closely associated with modern India is the one of ahimsa (non-violence) and Satyagraha, popularised by Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian struggle for independence. In turn it influenced the later movements for independence and civil rights, especially those led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.[100]


In appreciation of complexity of the Indian philosophy, T S Eliot wrote that the great philosophers of India "make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys".[101][102] Arthur Schopenhauer used Indian philosophy to improve upon Kantian thought. In the preface to his book The World As Will And Representation, Schopenhauer writes that one who "has also received and assimilated the sacred primitive Indian wisdom, then he is the best of all prepared to hear what I have to say to him"[103] The 19th century American philosophical movement Transcendentalism was also influenced by Indian thought[104][105]

See also


  1. ^ Elisa Freschi (2012): The Vedas are not deontic authorities and may be disobeyed, but still recognized as an epistemic authority by a Hindu.[89] (Note: This differentiation between epistemic and deontic authority is true for all Indian religions.)



  1. ^ John Bowker, Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, p. 259
  2. ^ Wendy Doniger (2014). On Hinduism. Oxford University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-19-936008-6.
  3. ^ a b Andrew J. Nicholson (2013), Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231149877, Chapter 9
  4. ^ a b Cowell and Gough, p. xii.
  5. ^ Nicholson, pp. 158-162.
  6. ^ Roy W. Perrett (2001). Indian Philosophy: Metaphysics. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-8153-3608-2.
  7. ^ Stephen H Phillips (2013). Epistemology in Classical India: The Knowledge Sources of the Nyaya School. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-51898-0.
  8. ^ Arvind Sharma (1982). The Puruṣārthas: a study in Hindu axiology. Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University.;
    Purusottama Bilimoria; Joseph Prabhu; Renuka M. Sharma (2007). Indian Ethics: Classical traditions and contemporary challenges. Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-3301-3.
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  12. ^ Flood, op. cit., p. 231–232.
  13. ^ Michaels, p. 264.
  14. ^ Nicholson 2010.
  15. ^ Mike Burley (2012), Classical Samkhya and Yoga - An Indian Metaphysics of Experience, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415648875, pages 43-46
  16. ^ Tom Flynn and Richard Dawkins (2007), The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, Prometheus, ISBN 978-1591023913, pages 420-421
  17. ^ Edwin Bryant (2011, Rutgers University), The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali IEP
  18. ^ Nyaya Realism, in Perceptual Experience and Concepts in Classical Indian Philosophy, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2015)
  19. ^ Nyaya: Indian Philosophy Encyclopædia Britannica (2014)
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  21. ^ Analytical philosophy in early modern India J Ganeri, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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  34. ^
  35. ^ Dundas 2002, pp. 30–31.
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  37. ^
  38. ^ Paul Williams (2008). Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. Routledge. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-1-134-25057-8.
  39. ^ Robert Neville (2004). Jeremiah Hackett (ed.). Philosophy of Religion for a New Century: Essays in Honor of Eugene Thomas Long. Jerald Wallulis. Springer. p. 257. ISBN 978-1-4020-2073-5., Quote: "[Buddhism's ontological hypotheses] that nothing in reality has its own-being and that all phenomena reduce to the relativities of pratitya samutpada. The Buddhist ontological hypothesese deny that there is any ontologically ultimate object such a God, Brahman, the Dao, or any transcendent creative source or principle."
  40. ^ Anatta Buddhism, Encyclopædia Britannica (2013)
  41. ^ [a] Christmas Humphreys (2012). Exploring Buddhism. Routledge. pp. 42–43. ISBN 978-1-136-22877-3.
    [b] Gombrich (2006), page 47, Quote: "(...) Buddha's teaching that beings have no soul, no abiding essence. This 'no-soul doctrine' (anatta-vada) he expounded in his second sermon."
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    [b] Steven Collins (1994), Religion and Practical Reason (Editors: Frank Reynolds, David Tracy), State Univ of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791422175, page 64; "Central to Buddhist soteriology is the doctrine of not-self (Pali: anattā, Sanskrit: anātman, the opposed doctrine of ātman is central to Brahmanical thought). Put very briefly, this is the [Buddhist] doctrine that human beings have no soul, no self, no unchanging essence.";
    [c] John C. Plott et al (2000), Global History of Philosophy: The Axial Age, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120801585, page 63, Quote: "The Buddhist schools reject any Ātman concept. As we have already observed, this is the basic and ineradicable distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism";
    [d] Katie Javanaud (2013), Is The Buddhist 'No-Self' Doctrine Compatible With Pursuing Nirvana?, Philosophy Now;
    [e] David Loy (1982), Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta: Are Nirvana and Moksha the Same?, International Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 23, Issue 1, pages 65-74
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  48. ^ a b Basham 1951, Chapter 1.
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  54. ^ a b Cowell and Gough, p. 4
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    [b]KN Jayatilleke (2010), Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge, ISBN 978-8120806191, pages 246-249, from note 385 onwards;
    [c]John C. Plott et al (2000), Global History of Philosophy: The Axial Age, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120801585, page 63, Quote: "The Buddhist schools reject any Ātman concept. As we have already observed, this is the basic and ineradicable distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism";
    [d]Katie Javanaud (2013), Is The Buddhist ‘No-Self’ Doctrine Compatible With Pursuing Nirvana?, Philosophy Now;
    [e]Anatta Encyclopædia Britannica, Quote:"In Buddhism, the doctrine that there is in humans no permanent, underlying substance that can be called the soul. (...) The concept of anatta, or anatman, is a departure from the Hindu belief in atman (self)."
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  • Dundas, Paul (2002) [1992], The Jains (Second ed.), Routledge, ISBN 0-415-26605-X
  • Nicholson, Andrew J. (2010), Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History, Columbia University Press

Further reading

External links

Ancient philosophy

This page lists some links to ancient philosophy. In Western philosophy, the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire marked the ending of Hellenistic philosophy and ushered in the beginnings of Medieval philosophy, whereas in Eastern philosophy, the spread of Islam through the Arab Empire marked the end of Old Iranian philosophy and ushered in the beginnings of early Islamic philosophy.

Atheism in Hinduism

Atheism (Sanskrit: निरीश्वरवाद, nir-īśvara-vāda, lit. "statement of no Lord", "doctrine of godlessness") or disbelief in God or gods has been a historically propounded viewpoint in many of the orthodox and heterodox streams of Hindu philosophies. In Indian philosophy, three schools of thought are commonly referred to as nastika for rejecting the doctrine of Vedas: Jainism, Buddhism and Cārvāka.Hinduism is a religion, but also a philosophy. Among the various schools of Hindu philosophy, Samkhya, Yoga and Mimamsa while not rejecting either the Vedas or the Brahman, typically reject a personal God, creator God, or a God with attributes. While Samkhya and Yoga rejected the idea of an eternal, self-caused, creator God, Mimamsa argued that the Vedas could not have been authored by a deity.

Some schools of thought view the path of atheism as a valid one but difficult to follow in matters of spirituality.


Charvaka (IAST: Cārvāka), originally known as Lokāyata and Bārhaspatya, is the ancient school of Indian materialism. Charvaka holds direct perception, empiricism, and conditional inference as proper sources of knowledge, embraces philosophical skepticism and rejects Vedas, Vedic ritualism, and supernaturalism.Ajita Kesakambali is credited as the forerunner of the Charvakas, while Brihaspati is usually referred to as the founder of Charvaka or Lokāyata philosophy. Much of the primary literature of Charvaka, the Barhaspatya sutras (ca. 600 BCE), are missing or lost. Its teachings have been compiled from historic secondary literature such as those found in the shastras, sutras, and the Indian epic poetry as well as in the dialogues of Gautama Buddha and from Jain literature.One of the widely studied principles of Charvaka philosophy was its rejection of inference as a means to establish valid, universal knowledge, and metaphysical truths. In other words, the Charvaka epistemology states that whenever one infers a truth from a set of observations or truths, one must acknowledge doubt; inferred knowledge is conditional.Charvaka is categorized as a heterodox school of Indian philosophy. It is considered an example of atheistic schools in the Hindu tradition.

Hindu philosophy

Hindu philosophy refers to a group of darśanas (philosophies, world views, teachings) that emerged in ancient India. These include six systems (ṣaḍdarśana) – Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta. These are also called the Astika (orthodox) philosophical traditions and are those that accept the Vedas as an authoritative, important source of knowledge. Ancient and medieval India was also the source of philosophies that share philosophical concepts but rejected the Vedas, and these have been called nāstika (heterodox or non-orthodox) Indian philosophies. Nāstika Indian philosophies include Buddhism, Jainism, Cārvāka, Ājīvika, and others.Scholars have debated the relationship and differences within āstika philosophies and with nāstika philosophies, starting with the writings of Indologists and Orientalists of the 18th and 19th centuries, which were themselves derived from limited availability of Indian literature and medieval doxographies. The various sibling traditions included in Hindu philosophies are diverse, and they are united by shared history and concepts, same textual resources, similar ontological and soteriological focus, and cosmology. While Buddhism and Jainism are considered distinct philosophies and religions, some heterodox traditions such as Cārvāka are often considered as distinct schools within Hindu philosophy.Hindu philosophy also includes several sub-schools of theistic philosophies that integrate ideas from two or more of the six orthodox philosophies, such as the realism of the Nyāya, the naturalism of the Vaiśeṣika, the dualism of the Sāṅkhya, the monism and knowledge of Self as essential to liberation of Advaita, the self-discipline of yoga and the asceticism and elements of theistic ideas. Examples of such schools include Pāśupata Śaiva, Śaiva siddhānta, Pratyabhijña, Raseśvara and Vaiṣṇava. Some sub-schools share Tantric ideas with those found in some Buddhist traditions. The ideas of these sub-schools are found in the Puranas and Āgamas.Each school of Hindu philosophy has extensive epistemological literature called pramāṇaśāstras, as well as theories on metaphysics, axiology, and other topics.


Kama (Sanskrit, Pali; Devanagari: काम) means "desire, wish, longing" in Hindu and Buddhist literature. Kama often connotes sexual desire and longing in contemporary literature, but the concept more broadly refers to any desire, wish, passion, longing, pleasure of the senses, desire for, longing to and after, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, enjoyment of love is particularly with or without enjoyment of sexual, sensual and erotic desire, and may be without sexual connotations.Kama is one of the four goals of human life in Hindu traditions. It is considered an essential and healthy goal of human life when pursued without sacrificing the other three goals: Dharma (virtuous, proper, moral life), Artha (material prosperity, income security, means of life) and Moksha (liberation, release, self-actualization). Together, these four aims of life are called Puruṣārtha.


Mīmāṃsā (Sanskrit: मीमांसा) is a Sanskrit word that means "reflection" or "critical investigation" and thus refers to a tradition of contemplation which reflected on the meanings of certain Vedic texts. This tradition is also known as Pūrva-Mīmāṃsā because of its focus on the earlier (pūrva) Vedic texts dealing with ritual actions, and similarly as Karma-Mīmāṃsā due to its focus on ritual action (karma). It is one of six Vedic "affirming" (āstika) schools of Hinduism. This particular school is known for its philosophical theories on the nature of dharma, based on hermeneutics of the Vedas, especially the Brāḥmanas and Saṃhitas. The Mīmāṃsā school was foundational and influential for the vedāntic schools, which were also known as Uttara-Mīmāṃsā for their focus on the "later" (uttara) portions of the Vedas, the Upaniṣads. While both "earlier" and "later" Mīmāṃsā investigate the aim of human action, they do so with different attitudes towards the necessity of ritual praxis.Mīmāṃsā has several sub-schools, each defined by its epistemology. The Prābhākara sub-school, which takes its name from the seventh-century philosopher Prabhākara, described the five epistemically reliable means to gaining knowledge: pratyakṣa or perception; anumāna or inference; upamāṇa, by comparison and analogy; arthāpatti, the use of postulation and derivation from circumstances; and śabda, the word or testimony of past or present reliable experts. The Bhāṭṭa sub-school, from philosopher Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, added a sixth means to its canon; anupalabdhi meant non-perception, or proof by the absence of cognition (e.g., the lack of gunpowder on a suspect's hand)The school of Mīmāṃsā consists of both atheistic and theistic doctrines, but the school showed little interest in systematic examination of the existence of Gods. Rather, it held that the soul is an eternal, omnipresent, inherently active spiritual essence, and focused on the epistemology and metaphysics of dharma. For the Mīmāṃsā school, dharma meant rituals and social duties, not devas, or gods, because gods existed only in name. The Mīmāṃsakas also held that Vedas are "eternal, author-less, [and] infallible", that Vedic vidhi, or injunctions and mantras in rituals are prescriptive kārya or actions, and the rituals are of primary importance and merit. They considered the Upaniṣads and other texts related to self-knowledge and spirituality as subsidiary, a philosophical view that Vedānta disagreed with.Mīmāṃsā gave rise to the study of philology and the philosophy of language. While their deep analysis of language and linguistics influenced other schools of Hinduism, their views were not shared by others. Mīmāṃsakas considered the purpose and power of language was to clearly prescribe the proper, correct and right. In contrast, Vedāntins extended the scope and value of language as a tool to also describe, develop and derive. Mīmāṃsakas considered orderly, law driven, procedural life as central purpose and noblest necessity of dharma and society, and divine (theistic) sustenance means to that end.

The Mīmāṃsā school is a form of philosophical realism. A key text of the Mīmāṃsā school is the Mīmāṃsā Sūtra of Jaimini.


The Navya-Nyāya or Neo-Logical darśana (view, system, or school) of Indian logic and Indian philosophy was founded in the 13th century CE by the philosopher Gangeśa Upādhyāya of Mithila and continued by Raghunatha Siromani. It was a development of the classical Nyāya darśana. Other influences on Navya-Nyāya were the work of earlier philosophers Vācaspati Miśra (900–980 CE) and Udayana (late 10th century). It remained active in India through to the 18th century.

Gangeśa's book Tattvacintāmaṇi ("Thought-Jewel of Reality") was written partly in response to Śrīharśa's Khandanakhandakhādya, a defence of Advaita Vedānta, which had offered a set of thorough criticisms of Nyāya theories of thought and language. In his book, Gangeśa both addressed some of those criticisms and – more important – critically examined the Nyāya darśana itself. He held that, while Śrīharśa had failed to successfully challenge the Nyāya realist ontology, his and Gangeśa's own criticisms brought out a need to improve and refine the logical and linguistic tools of Nyāya thought, to make them more rigorous and precise.

Tattvacintāmani dealt with all the important aspects of Indian philosophy, logic, set theory, and especially epistemology, which Gangeśa examined rigorously, developing and improving the Nyāya scheme, and offering examples. The results, especially his analysis of cognition, were taken up and used by other darśanas.

Navya-Nyāya developed a sophisticated language and conceptual scheme that allowed it to raise, analyse, and solve problems in logic and epistemology. It systematised all the Nyāya concepts into four main categories (sense-)perception (pratyakşa), inference (anumāna), comparison or similarity (upamāna), and testimony (sound or word; śabda).


Nyāya (Sanskrit: न्याय, nyā-yá), literally means "rules", "method" or "judgment". It is also the name of one of the six orthodox (astika) schools of Hinduism. This school's most significant contributions to Indian philosophy was systematic development of the theory of logic, methodology, and its treatises on epistemology.Nyaya school's epistemology accepts four out of six Pramanas as reliable means of gaining knowledge – Pratyakṣa (perception), Anumāṇa (inference), Upamāṇa (comparison and analogy) and Śabda (word, testimony of past or present reliable experts). In its metaphysics, Nyaya school is closer to Vaisheshika school of Hinduism than others. It holds that human suffering results from mistakes/defects produced by activity under wrong knowledge (notions and ignorance). Moksha (liberation), it states, is gained through right knowledge. This premise led Nyaya to concern itself with epistemology, that is the reliable means to gain correct knowledge and to remove wrong notions. False knowledge is not merely ignorance to Naiyyayikas, it includes delusion. Correct knowledge is discovering and overcoming one's delusions, and understanding true nature of soul, self and reality.Naiyyayika scholars approached philosophy as a form of direct realism, stating that anything that really exists is in principle humanly knowable. To them, correct knowledge and understanding is different from simple, reflexive cognition; it requires Anuvyavasaya (अनुव्यवसाय, cross-examination of cognition, reflective cognition of what one thinks one knows). An influential collection of texts on logic and reason is the Nyayasutras, attributed to Aksapada Gautama, variously estimated to have been composed between 6th-century BCE and 2nd-century CE.Nyaya school shares some of its methodology and human suffering foundations with Buddhism; however, a key difference between the two is that Buddhism believes that there is neither a soul nor self; Nyaya school like other schools of Hinduism believes that there is a soul and self, with liberation (moksha) as a state of removal of ignorance, wrong knowledge, the gain of correct knowledge and unimpeded continuation of self.

Pashupata Shaivism

Pashupata Shaivism (Pāśupata, Sanskrit: पाशुपत) is the oldest of the major Shaivite Hindu schools. There is a debate about pioneership of this school and Goan school of Nakulish darshan believes that Nakulish was pioneer and Lakulish and Patanjalinath were his disciples while Gujrat school believes that Nakulish and Lakulish are one. Sarwdarshansangrah written by Madhavachary mentiones it as "Nakulish Darshan" not as "Lakulish Darshan". Both sub schools are still active in their own areas. The philosophy of the Pashupata sect was systematized by Lakulīśa also called Nakulīśa) in the 2nd century A.D. The main texts of the school are Pāśupatasūtra with Kauṇḍinya's Pañcārthabhāṣya, and Gaṇakārikā with Bhāsarvajña's Ratnaṭīkā. Both texts were discovered only in the twentieth century. Prior to that, the major source of information on this sect was a chapter devoted to it in Vidyāraṇya's Sarvadarśanasaṅgraha.

Purva Mimamsa Sutras

The Mimamsa Sutra (Sanskrit: मीमांसा सूत्र, Mīmāṁsā Sūtra) or the Purva Mimamsa Sutras (ca. 300–200 BCE), written by Rishi Jaimini (Jamin of Bible) is one of the most important ancient Hindu philosophical texts. It forms the basis of Mimamsa, the earliest of the six orthodox schools (darshanas) of Indian philosophy. According to tradition, sage Jaimini was one of the disciples of sage Veda Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata.


Samkhya or Sankhya (Sanskrit: सांख्य, IAST: sāṃkhya) is one of the six āstika schools of Hindu philosophy. It is most related to the Yoga school of Hinduism, and it was influential on other schools of Indian philosophy. Sāmkhya is an enumerationist philosophy whose epistemology accepts three of six pramanas (proofs) as the only reliable means of gaining knowledge. These include pratyakṣa (perception), anumāṇa (inference) and śabda (āptavacana, word/testimony of reliable sources). Sometimes described as one of the rationalist schools of Indian philosophy, this ancient school's reliance on reason was exclusive but strong.Samkhya is strongly dualist. Sāmkhya philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two realities, puruṣa (consciousness) and prakṛti (matter). Jiva (a living being) is that state in which puruṣa is bonded to prakṛti in some form. This fusion, state the Samkhya scholars, led to the emergence of buddhi ("intellect") and ahaṅkāra (ego consciousness). The universe is described by this school as one created by purusa-prakṛti entities infused with various combinations of variously enumerated elements, senses, feelings, activity and mind. During the state of imbalance, one or more constituents overwhelm the others, creating a form of bondage, particularly of the mind. The end of this imbalance, bondage is called liberation, or kaivalya, by the Samkhya school.The existence of God or supreme being is not directly asserted, nor considered relevant by the Samkhya philosophers. Sāṃkhya denies the final cause of Ishvara (God). While the Samkhya school considers the Vedas as a reliable source of knowledge, it is an atheistic philosophy according to Paul Deussen and other scholars. A key difference between Samkhya and Yoga schools, state scholars, is that Yoga school accepts a "personal, yet essentially inactive, deity" or "personal god". However, Radhanath Phukan, in the introduction to his translation of the Samkhya Karika of Isvarakrsna has argued that commentators who see the unmanifested as non-conscious make the mistake of regarding Samkhya as atheistic, though Samkhya is as much as theistic as Yoga is.Samkhya is known for its theory of guṇas (qualities, innate tendencies). Guṇa, it states, are of three types: sattva being goodness, compassion, illumination, and positivity; rajas being activity, chaos, passion, and impulsivity, potentially good or bad; and tamas being the quality of darkness, ignorance, destruction, lethargy, negativity. All matter (prakṛti), states Samkhya, has these three guṇas, but in different proportions. The interplay of these guṇas defines the character of someone or something, of nature and determines the progress of life. The Samkhya theory of guṇas was widely discussed, developed and refined by various schools of Indian philosophies. Samkhya's philosophical treatises also influenced the development of various theories of Hindu ethics.

Samkhya Pravachana Sutra

The Samkhya Pravachana Sutra (Sanskrit: सांख्यप्रवचन सूत्र Sāṁkhyapravacanasūtra) is a collection of major Sanskrit texts of the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy. It includes the ancient Samkhya Sutra of Kapila, Samkhya karika of Ishvarakrishna, Samkhya Sutra Vritti of Aniruddha, the Bhasya (commentary) of Vijnana Bhikshu, the Vrittisara of Vedantin Mahadeva, Tattva Samasa and commentary of Narendra, and works of Gaudapada, Vachaspati Mishra, and Panchashikha.The text provides foundational doctrines of one of the influential schools of Hindu philosophy, such as "nothing can come out of nothing, and nothing can altogether vanish out of existence" in its doctrine of Sat-Karya-Siddhanta, a debate on the two theories for the origin of the world - the creationists (Abhava Utpatti) and the evolutionists (Vivarta, changing from one state to another), the doctrine of Parinama (transformation), among others.

Samkhya Pravachana Sutra is also known as Samkhya Sutra.

Shiva Advaita

Shiva Advaita (Devanagari:शिवाद्वैत, Kannada: ಶಿವಾದ್ವೈತ, Śivādvaita), also called as Śiva Viśiṣṭādvaita or Shaivite qualified nondualism is a Shaivite school of philosophy from Southern India, follow mostly by Veerashaivas According to this doctrine, the Shiva and the Brahman are the one and the same.

Sikh philosophy

The philosophy of Sikhism are the tenets of the Sikh faith. They are covered in great detail in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy text.


Sādhana (Sanskrit साधन; Tibetan: སྒྲུབ་ཐབས་, THL: druptap; Chinese: 修行), literally "a means of accomplishing something", is a generic term coming from the yogic tradition and it refers to any spiritual exercise that is aimed at progressing the sādhaka towards the very ultimate expression of his or her life in this reality. It includes a variety of disciplines in Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh traditions that are followed in order to achieve various spiritual or ritual objectives.

Sādhana can also refer to a tantric liturgy or liturgical manual, that is, the instructions to carry out a certain practice.

A contemporary spiritual teacher and yogi Sadhguru defines sādhanā thusly:

Everything can be sadhana. The way you eat, the way you sit, the way you stand, the way you breathe, the way you conduct your body, mind and your energies and emotions – this is sadhana. Sadhana does not mean any specific kind of activity, sadhana means you are using everything as a tool for your wellbeing.

The historian N. Bhattacharyya provides a working definition of the benefits of sādhanā as follows:

[R]eligious sādhana, which both prevents an excess of worldliness and molds the mind and disposition (bhāva) into a form which develops the knowledge of dispassion and non-attachment. Sādhanā is a means whereby bondage becomes liberation.

B. K. S. Iyengar (1993: p. 22), in his English translation of and commentary to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, defines sādhana in relation to abhyāsa and kriyā:

Sādhana is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. Abhyāsa is repeated practice performed with observation and reflection. Kriyā, or action, also implies perfect execution with study and investigation. Therefore, sādhanā, abhyāsa, and kriyā all mean one and the same thing. A sādhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies...mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal.


Vaisheshika or Vaiśeṣika (Sanskrit: वैशेषिक) is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy (Vedic systems) from ancient India. In its early stages, the Vaiśeṣika was an independent philosophy with its own metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics, and soteriology. Over time, the Vaiśeṣika system became similar in its philosophical procedures, ethical conclusions and soteriology to the Nyāya school of Hinduism, but retained its difference in epistemology and metaphysics.

The epistemology of Vaiśeṣika school of Hinduism, like Buddhism, accepted only two reliable means to knowledge: perception and inference. Vaiśeṣika school and Buddhism both consider their respective scriptures as indisputable and valid means to knowledge, the difference being that the scriptures held to be a valid and reliable source by Vaiśeṣikas were the Vedas.

Vaisheshika school is known for its insights in naturalism. It is a form of atomism in natural philosophy. It postulated that all objects in the physical universe are reducible to paramāṇu (atoms), and one's experiences are derived from the interplay of substance (a function of atoms, their number and their spatial arrangements), quality, activity, commonness, particularity and inherence. Everything was composed of atoms, qualities emerged from aggregates of atoms, but the aggregation and nature of these atoms was predetermined by cosmic forces. Ajivika metaphysics included a theory of atoms which was later adapted in Vaiśeṣika school.According to Vaiśeṣika school, knowledge and liberation were achievable by a complete understanding of the world of experience..

Vaiśeṣika darshana was founded by Kaṇāda Kashyapa around the 6th to 2nd century BC.

Vaiśeṣika Sūtra

Vaiśeṣika Sūtra, (Sanskrit: वैशेषिक सूत्र), also called Kanada sutra, is an ancient Sanskrit text at the foundation of the Vaisheshika school of Hindu philosophy. The sutra was authored by the Hindu sage Kanada, also known as Kashyapa. According to some scholars, he flourished before the advent of Buddhism because the Vaiśeṣika Sūtra makes no mention of Buddhism or Buddhist doctrines; however, the details of Kanada's life are uncertain, and the Vaiśeṣika Sūtra was likely compiled sometime between 6th and 2nd century BCE, and finalized in the currently existing version before the start of the common era.A number of scholars have commented on it since the beginning of common era; the earliest commentary known is the Padartha Dharma Sangraha of Prashastapada. Another important secondary work on Vaiśeṣika Sūtra is Maticandra's Dasha padartha sastra which exists both in Sanskrit and its Chinese translation in 648 CE by Yuanzhuang.The Vaiśeṣika Sūtra is written in aphoristic sutras style, and presents its theories on the creation and existence of the universe using naturalistic atomism, applying logic and realism, and is one of the earliest known systematic realist ontology in human history. The text discusses motions of different kind and laws that govern it, the meaning of dharma, a theory of epistemology, the basis of Atman (self, soul), and the nature of yoga and moksha. The explicit mention of motion as the cause of all phenomena in the world and several propositions about it make it one of the earliest texts on physics.


Vedanta (; Sanskrit: वेदान्त, IAST: Vedānta) or Uttara Mīmāṃsā is one of the six (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy. Vedanta literally means "end of the Vedas", reflecting ideas that emerged from the speculations and philosophies contained in the Upanishads. It does not stand for one comprehensive or unifying doctrine. Rather it is an umbrella term for many sub-traditions, ranging from dualism to non-dualism, all of which developed on the basis of a common textual connection called the Prasthanatrayi. The Prasthanatrayi is a collective term for the Principal Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.

All Vedanta schools, in their deliberations, concern themselves with the following three categories but differ in their views regarding the concept and the relations between them: Brahman – the ultimate metaphysical reality, Ātman / Jivātman – the individual soul or self, and Prakriti – the empirical world, ever-changing physical universe, body and matter.

Some of the better known sub-traditions of Vedanta include Advaita (non-dualism), Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism), and Dvaita (dualism). Most other Vedantic sub-traditions are subsumed under the term Bhedabheda (difference and non-difference). Over time, Vedanta adopted ideas from other orthodox (āstika) schools like Yoga and Nyaya, and, through this syncretism, became the most prominent school of Hinduism. Many extant forms of Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism have been significantly shaped and influenced by the doctrines of different schools of Vedanta. The Vedanta school has had a historic and central influence on Hinduism.

Āstika and nāstika

Āstika (Sanskrit आस्तिक IAST: āstika) derives from the Sanskrit asti, "there is, there exists", and means “one who believes in the existence (of a soul separate from the material world, Brahman, etc.)” and nāstika means "an unbeliever". These have been concepts used to classify Indian philosophies by modern scholars, and some Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina texts. Āstika has been defined in one of three ways; as those who accept the epistemic authority of the Vedas, as those who accept the existence of ātman, or as those who accept the existence of Ishvara. In contrast, nāstika are those who deny the respective definitions of āstika.The various definitions for āstika and nāstika philosophies has been disputed since ancient times, and there is no consensus. Buddhism is considered to be nāstika, but the Gautama Buddha is considered an avatar of Vishnu in some Hindu traditions.The most studied Āstika schools of Indian philosophies, sometimes referred to as orthodox schools, are six: Nyāyá, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā, and Vedānta. The most studied Nāstika schools of Indian philosophies, sometimes referred to as heterodox schools, are four: Buddhism, Jainism, Cārvāka, and Ājīvika. This orthodox-heterodox terminology is a construct of Western languages, and lacks scholarly roots in Sanskrit. Recent scholarly studies state that there have been various heresiological translations of Āstika and Nāstika in 20th century literature on Indian philosophies, but quite many are unsophisticated and flawed.

Astika and Nāstika do not mean "theism" and "atheism" respectively in ancient or medieval era Sanskrit literature. In current Indian languages like Hindi, āstika and its derivatives usually mean "theist", while nāstika and its derivatives denote an "atheist.” However, the terms are used differently in Hindu philosophy. For example, Sāṃkhya is both an atheist (as it does not accept an anthropomorphic God) and āstika (Vedic) philosophy, though “God” is often used as an epithet for consciousness (purusa) within its doctrine.

Indian philosophy

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