Schools of Indian Philosophy: Orthodox & Heterodox | UPSC Notes

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Schools of Indian Philosophy UPSC

• The word “philosophy” in English comes from the Greek word “philo-sophia.” “Philo” means “love,” and “sophia” means “wisdom” or “human reason.” The exact English translation of the Greek words is “love of reason” or “love of human judgement and discrimination.”

• Philosophy is about trying to figure out how life and the world work. It tries to figure out what life is all about. Philosophy is an attempt by people to find the Ultimate Truth.

• In Sanskrit, the word for this idea is “darshana.” The word “darshana” in Sanskrit comes from the word “drs,” which means “to see, look, or view.” Philosophy is based on “seeing” or “viewing” the real world and the facts of experience.

• This “seeing” involves all of our senses, our thoughts, and even our consciousness. “Seeing” includes both “contemplation” and “seeing.” “Seeing” may be mostly an observation about how things look. But it could also be about an intuitive thought or an idea that comes to mind. So, ‘darshana’ means seeing. In other words, “darshana” is when the whole picture is shown to the inner self, which is also called the soul, spirit, or inner being.

• Philosophy, also called “darshana,” is the study of “truth and reality.”

Indian Philosophy

• The Vedic era is where the Indian thought got its start. The great Rishis lived in the peaceful and energising woods, where they thought about the most important questions of life, such as “What is the world?” If it’s something made, what makes it up? Who made everything? How do you live? What does ‘truth’ mean? What does ‘the nature of reality’ mean?

• Hymns were written about what God showed them. Over time, these songs were put together in a way that made sense, and this collection became the Vedas and the Upanishads.

There is a clear spiritual bent to Indian thought. In India, faith is not based on a set of rules. In this place, religion grows as thought moves up higher levels.

• All of the schools of Indian thought agreed that a person should try to reach four goals in life: artha, kama, dharma, and moksha.

The Schools of Indian Philosophy

The Indian philosophy systems are put into groups based on whether they believe the Vedas are true or not. The Indian philosophical theories can be put into two groups:

The Orthodox Systems

• The traditional systems believe that the Vedas are the most important and authoritative books.

• The traditional systems are Vaisheshika, Nyaya, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva-Mimamsa, and Uttar-Mimamsa.

Heterodox Systems:

• Heterodox systems don’t believe that the Vedas are true.

• Jainism, Buddhism, Ajivika, Ajana, and Charvaka are the five main heterodox (Sramanic) schools.

Orthodox Schools of Indian Philosophy


Samkhya is one of the oldest Indian theories. It was started by Kapila, a famous and wise sage.

The main ideas of both Samkhya and Yoga are brought together in the Samkhya philosophy. But it’s important to keep in mind that Samkhya is the theory and Yoga is the application or functional side.

• Dualistic reality is what Samkhya is. It is dualistic because it says that there are two basic things: Prakriti, which means matter, and Purusha, which means the self (spirit). Samkhya is realism because it says that both matter and spirit are just as real as each other.

• Samkhya philosophy says that Prakriti is the first thing that made the world.

It is the thing that made the world.

Prakriti is the first and last cause of everything big and small.

• The three gunas that make up Prakriti are sattva, rajas, and tamas.

Sattva is about happiness, Rajas is about doing things, and Tamas is about not knowing what to do and not doing anything.

• In Indian thought, there are two ideas about how things happen:

Satkaryavada (the idea that the result already exists in the cause): It says that the effect is sat, or real. Even before it happens, it is in the karana (cause) in a form that could happen.

Asatkaryavada, which means “the effect does not exist in the cause,” says that the result, or karya, is not real until it comes into being. So, every result is a new start and does not come from a cause. Charvakism and Nyaya -Vaisheshika systems support asatkaryavada.

Samkhya and the Theory of information:

Samkhya says that valid information comes from three places:

  • Perception (Pratyaksha)
  • Inference (Anumana)
  • Testimony (Shabda)

Samkhya and God

• Kapila, a proponent of the Samkhya School, rules out the presence of God.

• He says that you can’t show that God exists and that God doesn’t exist.

Bondage and Salvation

• Like other major Indian philosophical systems, Samkhya says that ignorance is at the heart of slavery and pain.

Samkhya says that the self is timeless, pure consciousness, and that salvation is possible when the self is freed from ignorance.

Yoga School

The Yoga method was created by Patanjali. Samkhya and Yoga go together very well. Samkhya is the main theory that Yoga is based on. They both show the same thing. The theory is called Samkhya, and the practise is called Yoga.

Samkhya, on the other hand, is a system that doesn’t believe in God. Yoga, on the other hand, is theistic, which means that it does believe in God.

ALSO READ  Hominid Fossil Sites in India | UPSC Notes

• In his great book, Yoga-Sutra, Patanjali spread his ideas about yoga.

• Yoga is a way to train yourself to be more self-disciplined by focusing and meditating. This kind of Yogic practise leads to better levels of awareness. This helps a person get direct information, which leads to Self-Realization.

• Patanjali shows that Ashtangayoga is the way to freedom. Ashtanga-yoga comprises of eight anga (steps): yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.

 Yama means control. One must turn to ethics by not doing things that aren’t right. This is the first step to getting yourself to behave well.

Niyama means to pay attention. It has to do with building up ideals and good habits in life.

o These two anga, Yama and Niyama, protect the aspirant from temptations and desires that are hard to avoid. They also keep the aspirant from getting distracted.

Asana means “body position.” Yoga requires that you stand in a steady but easy way.

Pranayama is all about being in charge of your breath. It’s important to keep an eye on the processes of inspiration, kumbhaka, and expiration. Both of these anga help keep the body and mind steady.

Pratyahara is all about pulling away from the senses. By their very nature, the senses stay focused on the outside world. Pratyahara helps to separate the senses from things, which makes it easier for the mind to focus on one thing.

The focus is important to Dharana. It is about focusing the mind (chitta) on one thing. The person is paying attention to something. If the mind wanders off to something else, it needs to be brought back to the goal of concentration.

Dhyana is about thinking about things. At this stage, the aspirant can keep his or her mind steady on the object picked for contemplation.

Samadhi is the last step in the practise of yoga. Now, the mind is no longer aware of itself. The subject and the thing are brought together. The subject and the thing come together to make a whole. There is oneness that has nothing to do with matter. This is pure Consciousness.

Vaisheshika School

• This method was started by a wise man named Kanada. People think that this method has been around as long as Jainism and Buddhism. In Vaisheshika-Sutra, Kanada explained in detail his idea about how atoms work. Vaisheshika is basically a form of inclusive realism.

• It breaks down the nature of the world into seven categories: dravya (substance), guna (quality), karma (action), samanya (universal), vishesha (particular), amavaya (inherence), and abhava (nonexistence).

• Vaisheshika says that every effect is a new creation or a new starting (asatkaryavada). So, this system disproves the idea that the impact comes before the cause.

• In this system, God (Ishvara) is seen as the real cause of the world. The world is made of atoms, which are always there.

• Vaisheshika knows there are nine final things: There are five things that have mass and four that don’t.

Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Akasha are the five things that make up matter.

Space, Time, Soul, and Mind are the four things that are not made of matter.

• Because of ignorance, the soul starts to become attached to the body. The soul is the same as the body and the mind. The soul is stuck in the bonds of karma because of the things it did out of many desires and emotions. It can only get out of the link if it can stop doing things. When the acts stop, people are set free.

Nyaya School

• Nyaya is a traditional school of thought about life. It was started by a wise man named Gautama, who is not the same person as the Lord Buddha.

Its method is based on a system of logic that has since been used by most Indian schools. This is similar to how Aristotelian logic has affected Western philosophy.

• Those who follow it think that the only way to stop suffering is to get true information. It points out the four ways to get good information:

Perception, Inference, Comparison, and Testimony: Like Vaisheshika, Nyaya believes that the self is a single, eternal, and all-encompassing reality. Consciousness is not an important part of the self; it just happens to be one of its parts.

Nyaya says that safety is the state of being completely free. It is the end of all pain and happiness. Then there is freedom from being born and dying over and over again.

School of Mimamsa

• Jaimini is thought to be the main person who came up with the Mimamsa method. Mimamsa-Sutra, which was written around the end of the 2nd century CE, is a great work by him.

• People think that each of the Vedas is made up of four parts:

 Samhitas  Brahmanas  Aranyakas  Upanishads

• The first two parts, which make up the Karma-kanda part of the Vedas, are mostly about rites. The last two parts of the Vedas are called Jnana-kanda, which means “worried about knowledge.”

• Mimamsa philosophy is simply the study of how the texts of the Samhita and Brahmana parts of the Vedas are interpreted, applied, and used.

• The main goal of the Mimamsa school is to explain and prove that the Vedas are true. To keep everything going in the world, you have to have complete faith in the Vedas and do the Vedic fire sacrifices on a regular basis.

According to the Mimamsa theory, the Vedas are eternal and contain all knowledge, and religion means doing the things that the Vedas tell you to do. Based on the doctrine of the Vedas, the main question is about what dharma is.

ALSO READ  Regionalism & Multilateralism

• The Mimansa school defines the Dharma as a “virtue”, “morality”, or “duty”. The job is to follow the instructions in the Samhitas and the Brahmanas that explain how to do Vedic rituals correctly. This means that rituals are the core of Dharma.

• The Mimamsa school says that the only way to reach heaven is to follow what the Vedas say to do.

• Purva-Mimamsa is based on the parts of the Vedas that came first.

• Uttar-Mimamsa is built on the later parts of the Vedas (Uttar means “later”).

• Purva-Mimamsa is also called Karma Mimamsa because it talks about how practises and sacrifices affect your Karma.

• Uttar-Mimamsa is also called Brahman Mimamsa because it is about knowing what is real.

• In everyday language, Purva-Mimamsa is called Mimamsa and Uttar-Mimamsa is called Vedanta.

Vedanta School

• Most of the time, the word “Vedanta” relates to the Upanishads. It is made up of the words “Veda” and “Anta.” It refers to the last part of the Vedas. But in a broad sense, the word “Vedanta” includes not only the Upanishads but also all the explanations and comments about the Upanishads.

• The philosophy of Vedanta is all about the Jagat (the world), the Jiva (each person’s soul), and the Brahman (the highest being).

• We have three main schools of Vedanta that are based on the ideas of the three great men:

Shamkaracharya’s Advaita (non-dualism).

Ramanuja’s Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism).

Madhavacharya’s Dvaita (dualism).

• The Vedanta theory is at the heart of all three schools. But they have been different in some ways. Even the people who believe in the same system as each other have different views on some things.

Advaita Vedanta is the name for what Shankaracharya said or what he thought about life in general.

Advaita means “non-dualism” or “the belief that there is only one reality.”

Shankaracharya said that there is only one ultimate truth, and that it is the Brahman. Brahman, Jagat, and Jiva are not all three different things.

• Ramanuja was another well-known Advaita scholar who promoted the Vishishtadvaita theory.

Vishishtadvaita means “qualified non-dualism” in its original language. Ramanuja says that there is only God. He says that God is Brahman. He doesn’t have no shape. His body is made up of the Cosmos and the Jivas.

The Dvaita school was started by Madhavacharya.

The Dvaita school is based on the idea that there are two things.

Madhavacharya focuses on the difference between God and the soul of each person (Jiva).

The school says that God, the Jiva, and the Jagat are three different and eternal things.

• “Brahman is true, the world is false, and self and Brahman are the same,” says the Vedanta theory.

Shankaracharya thinks that the Brahman is real, that it doesn’t change, that it is the greatest truth, and that it is the source of all knowledge. He also thinks that there is no difference between the self and Brahman. Knowing Brahman is the core of everything and the most important thing in life.

• Vedanta is both a set of ideas and a way of life. As a philosophy, it teaches the most important truths that the best philosophers and most advanced minds of all times and places have found.

Heterodox School of Indian Philosophy (Unorthodox Schools)

Buddhist Philosophy

• Gautama Buddha was born in 563 BCE in Lumbini, a village near Kapilavastu in the foothills of Nepal. He was the founder of Buddhism. Siddhartha was his name when he was young.

Mayadevi, his mother, died when he was just a few days old. At the age of 16, he got married to Yashodhara.

• Gautama Buddha gave up family life when he was 29 years old because he wanted to find a way to end the world’s pain of death, sickness, poverty, etc. He went to the forest and sat there for six years to think and pray. After that, he went to Bodh Gaya, which is in Bihar, and sat under a pipal tree to think. This is where he became enlightened, which is why he is known as the Buddha.

Then, he went on a lot of trips to spread his word and help people find the way to freedom.Gautama’s three most important disciples, Upali, Ananda, and Mahakashyap, remembered his teachings and passed them on to his followers.

• It is thought that soon after the Buddha died, a council was held at Rajagriha, where Upali read the Vinaya Pitaka and Ananda read the Sutta Pitaka. After a while, the Buddhist theory was written down in the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

• There are two different kinds of Buddhism: Mahayana and Hinayana. Sanskrit is used to write Mahayana literature, and Pali is used to write Hinayana literature.

Main Features:

• Buddha gave easy-to-understand rules for living and morals that people could easily follow. He thought the world was full of bad things. Man’s job is to try to get out of this hard world. He was very critical of blind trust in the Vedas and other traditional texts.

• Buddha’s teachings are very practical and show how to find peace of mind and freedom from this world.

Realization of Four Noble Truths

• The four noble truths show how Buddha used the information he had gained:

There is Suffering in Human Life: When Buddha saw people who were sick, in pain, or dying, he came to the conclusion that there was definitely suffering in human life. Having a baby hurts. Getting away from something good is also painful. All of the pain comes from unmet desires. When things that make us feel good are taken away, we also feel pain. So, everything in life hurts.

ALSO READ  [PDF] UPSC Prelims Economy Trend Analysis

There is a Cause of Suffering. The circle of birth and death is driven by desire, or trsna. So, desire is the main reason why people suffer.

There is an End to Suffering: The third Noble Truth says that pain stops when all emotion, desire, and love of life are gone. It means destroying the ego (aham or ahamkara), attachment, jealousy, doubt, and sadness. This state of mind is the state of being free from any kind of desire, pain, or connection. It is the full state of peace that leads to nirvana.

Path to Freedom: The fourth Noble Truth points to a way that leads to freedom. So, the Buddhist philosophy goes from pessimism to optimism, even though it starts with pessimism. Buddha says that there are eight steps to the way to freedom, or the path to happiness.

The Eight-Step Path to Freedom (Nirvana)

Right Vision: Getting rid of ignorance is the way to get right vision. Ignorance gives a wrong idea of how the world and the self fit together. Man thinks that the world that isn’t permanent is permanent because he doesn’t understand himself well enough. So, the right vision is having the right view of the world and its things.

Right Resolve: It is having the strong will to get rid of thoughts and wants that hurt other people. It means giving up things for other people and being kind to them.

3. Right Speech: A person should control what he or she says by having the right mind. It means to avoid saying things that aren’t true or aren’t nice by criticising others.

4. Right Conduct: It means to stay away from things that hurt people. It means to stay away from things like theft, overeating, using makeup, jewellery, soft beds, gold, etc.

5. Right Means of Livelihood: Right means of living means using the right ways to make a living. It is never okay to get money by cheating, bribing, stealing, etc.

6. Right Effort: It is also important to escape bad feelings and bad impressions. It includes self-control, stopping or denying sensuality and bad thoughts, and waking up to good ideas.

Right Mindfulness: This means to keep your body, heart, and mind in their real state. When their form is lost, bad thoughts fill the mind. When bad thoughts lead to bad deeds, people have to go through pain.

8. Right Concentration: If a person follows the above seven Rights, he will be able to focus properly and rightly. Nirvana can be reached through the right kind of focus (meditation).

Jaina Philosophy

• The Jains don’t believe in the Vedas either, but they do agree that souls exist. They also agree with the orthodox belief that pain can be stopped by controlling the mind, finding the right knowledge, perception, and behaviour, and acting in the right way.

• The tirthankar Rishabha Deva was the first person to talk about the Jaina faith. The Jaina darshan was set up by twenty-four people named tirthankaras. The first tirthankar saw that Adinath was where Jaina thought came from. Vardhaman Mahavira was the twenty-fourth and last tirthankar. He gave Jainism a great boost.

• In 599 BCE, Mahavira was born. He gave up the world when he was thirty and lived a very hard life to learn the truth. He was called Mahavira after he found the Truth. He was a strong believer in celibacy, also called brahamcharya.

• Digambara and Shwetambara are the two main branches of Jainism.

• The Digambaras think that in order to get moksha, a monk must give up everything they own, even their clothes. They also say that women do not have the right to moksha.

• Jainism is both a way of thinking and a way of life. It is a non-orthodox philosophy because it doesn’t think that the Vedas are true. Jainism holds that the universe is eternal and has no limits.

• The Jains divide everything into two categories: ‘jiva’ and ‘ajiva’.

In other systems, Jiva is the same thing as the soul, the “atman,” or the “purusha.” The souls, or jivas, are very many and are put into many grades or groups based on the sense organs they have.

The Lokayata Philosophy or the Charvaka School

The Charvaka School of Philosophy is said to have been started by Brihaspati.

The materialist view is what Charvaka thought is about. It is also called “the philosophy of the masses” or “the Lokayata Philosophy.”

• Charvaka says that there isn’t any other place. Since death is the end of people, happiness should be the most important thing in life. So, they came up with the idea of “eat, drink, and be merry.”

• Charvaka doesn’t know of any other world besides this one. God, the soul, and heaven can’t be seen, so Charvakas doesn’t know about them.

• There are five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. The Charvakas don’t know what ether is because they can’t perceive it. According to them, the whole world is made up of these four things.

• Like other schools of thought, Charvakism looks at how and why people know what they know about reality. The Charvakas agree that ‘Pratyaksa’ (perception) is the only way to get information and the only standard for it. For materialists, only sense perception (pratyaksa) is a valid source, so they rule out “inference” and “testimony” as a source of information and a way to know what is true.