Yoga and Indian Systems of Philosophy

The Indian system of philosophy is a set of philosophies or darshans which emerged in the ancient India. This ancient Indian philosophy system comprises of six darshans namely Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta. These philosophies form the foundation of the Indian civilization and are also responsible for keeping its roots grounded.

  1. Nyaya- The Nyaya system of philosophy was founded by Gautama. The philosophy discusses sixteen major topics, the most important of which is the pramana which is the source of valid knowledge. The Nyaya School is based on logic and even the other schools of Indian philosophy use this system of logic entirely or in part, as the building blocks for philosophical reasoning and debate. A further development of this school known as navya-Nyaya or neo logic also emerged in the 16th century in Mithila and Bengal.
  2. Vaisheshika- The founder of this system of philosophy is Uluka or Kanada. The Vaisheshika system follows the Nyaya system very closely and thus the experts in the study of philosophy often combine the two as Nyaya-vaisheshika. This system identifies the seven padarthas or elements which are:
  • Substance
  • Quality
  • Action
  • Generality
  • Particularity
  • Relation of inherence
  • Non-existence

The followers of this system of philosophy believe deeply in the existence of god and also in the fact that it is he who is responsible for the creation, sustenance and destruction of the universe. As per the belief of this school of philosophy, everything that happens in this universe is because of the will of God.

  1. Sankhya- The Sankhya system of philosophy was founded by sage Kapila. It is also said that it is the Sankhya system which laid the foundation of Advaita Vedanta which is a school of Hindu philosophy. The oldest text on this philosophy, the Samkhya-karika of Isvara Krisna mentions the names of Kapila, Asuri and Pancasikha as the first teachers of this school. Samakhya is a dualistic philosophy which rests on the coexistence and interdependent realities of the unconscious prakrti and conscious purusha. The samakhya philosophy elaborates the dynamics of the state of mind and the body. It is the mother of Ayurveda as well as mathematics and is the very basis of the eastern philosophy.
  2. Yoga- Yoga and Samkhya School of philosophy are allied schools. The yoga philosophy existed during the Vedic as well as the pre-Vedic period, but it wasn’t formally systematized until its codification in about 200 BC. The yoga sutras comprise of 196 aphorisms which are classified into four sections. Yoga understands all the aspects of the human personality and control the mind through meditation, detachment and surrender to the all mighty. It recommends a holistic system o practice starting from the yamas and niyamas and moving through the asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, dhyana, dharna and Samadhi. In this system of philosophy, the seeker concentrates on the way to find reality.
  3. Mimamsa- The founder of this school of philosophy was Jamini who believed that the last authority when it comes to the answer to all the questions are the Vedas. The Mimamsa School of philosophy provides a comprehensive method of understanding and interpreting the meaning of Vedas. This school of philosophy lays a lot of emphasis on worship, rituals and ethical conduct and provides a definite direction and systematic lifestyle. Mimamsa provides guidelines for the real-life application of the Vedantic theory. The schools of Mimamsa is divided into two groups-
  • The school founded by the Prabhakara
  • The school founded by the Kumarila Bhatta

 According to the school founded by the Prabhakara, the five sources of valid knowledge are:

  • Perception
  • Inference
  • Testimony
  • Comparison
  • Postulation

As per the school of Kumarila Bhatta, there is only one source of knowledge- non cognition.

  1. Vedanta- The Vedanta was practiced and taught by the sages of the Vedas and Upanishads and has been passed onto from one generation to another. The founder of this school of philosophy is Veda Vyasa who also codified these teachings in the Brahma Sutras. Until the time of Adi Shankara, the Vedanta was only transmitted orally. But during the 6th and 8th century, Adi Shankara restructured the system of this school of thought. After him a lot of other teachers also gave their views on the Brahma Sutras, explaining it in various manners and thus leading to the establishment of various schools within a single system of Vedanta.

The major schools of Vedanta are:

  • Advaita (non-dualistic)
  • Dvaita (dualistic)
  • Dvaitadvaita (both dualistic and non-dualistic)
  • Visistadvaita (qualifies non dualism)
  • Visuddhadvaita (pure non-dualism)

The Vedanta mainly teaches that self-realization is the main aim of life and the true essence of life is never ending consciousness and bliss. It also tells that one is free of all qualifications and limitations.