Saturday, April 28, 2012



The etymological meaning of the word 'Philosophy' is love of learning or pursuit of wisdom. It is a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means. It signifies a natural and necessary urge in human beings to know themselves and the world in which they live and move and have their being. Western philosophy remained more or less true to the etymological meaning of 'philosophy' in being essentially an intellectual quest for truth. Hindu philosophy however intensely spiritual and has always emphasized the need for practical realization of Truth. The origin of Hindu Philosophy may be easily traced to the Vedas. Unfortunately our knowledge of Vedic period is, even to this day, too meager and imperfect. The Upanishads are known as "Vedanta" or the end of the Veda not only because they are the concluding portion, the end, of Veda but also because they are the essence, the cream, the height of the Vedic philosophy.

All systems of Indian philosophy are ranged by the Hindus in two categories; Aastika systems, which affirm and Nastika systems which deny—'asti' means it is and 'nasti' means it is not. Chaarvaaka, Buddhist and the Jains systems were called Nastika, heterodox and nihilist, not because they questioned or denied the existence of God (which they did), but because they questioned, denied or ignored the authority of the Vedas. Some of the orthodox systems also doubted or denied God; they were nevertheless called orthodox because they accepted the infallibility of the scriptures and the institution of Varnashrama dharma, and no hindrance was placed against the free thought, however atheistic, of those schools that acknowledged these fundamentals of orthodox Hindu society. Since wide latitude was allowed in interpreting the holy books, the clever dialecticians could find in the Vedas any doctrine which they sought, the only practical requirement for intellectual respectability was the recognition of Varnashrama dharma; this being the real Government of India. Rejection of it was treason, and acceptance of it covered multitude of sins. In effect therefore, the philosophers in India enjoyed far more their liberty than their scholastic analogues in Europe, though less, perhaps, than the thinkers of Christendom under the enlightened Popes of Renaissance.

The purpose of knowledge and philosophy is not control of the world so much as release from it; and that the goal of thought is to find freedom from the suffering of frustrated desire by achieving freedom from desire itself. These are the philosophies to which men come when they are tired of ambition, struggle, wealth, progress and success.

The Aaranyaka portions of the Vedas are composed in the calmness of the forests. They mark the transition from the ritualistic to the philosophic thought. We find here a mystic interpretation of the Vedic sacrifices enumerated in the Samhita and Braahmana portions of the Vedas. The concluding portions of the Aaranyakas are called the Upanishads. These are intensely philosophical and spiritual and may be rightly regarded as the crème of Vedic Philosophy.

The Upanishads are rightly regarded as the fountain head of all Hindu Philosophy. Jnaana yoga and Karma yoga form the basis. Except for Chaarwaaka philosophy of Materialism and the Philosophy of Buddhism all schools have Vedas as their basis and are based on the theory of reincarnation. Literature on Upanishadic period philosophy is called Darsana and is in the form of Sutras. Popular Philosophy Schools of Hinduism can be classified under six groups:
  • Philosophy schools of Upanishadic period called Darshanas; 1) Sankhya Darshana of Kapila. 2) Yoga Darshana of Patanjali. 3) Vaisheshika Darshana of Kanada. 4) Nyaaya Darshana of Goutama. 5) Poorva Meemaamsa of Jaimini. 6) Uttara Meemaamsa of Baadaraayana (Vyaasa) also known as Vedanta or Brahmasootras

  • Philosophy Schools of post-Upanishadic period; 1) Advaita philosophy of Sankaracharya. 2) Vishishtaadvaita of Ramanujaharya. 3) Dvaita philosophjy of Madhvacharya.
    Non-vedic Philosophy Schools;1) Chaarwaaka philosophy or Materialsm known as Naastika vaada. 2) Philosophy Schools of Buddhism—Soonyavaada

  • Vaishnava Schools of Bhakti: 1) Nimbalkar School of Dvaitaadvaita. 2) Vallbha School of Shuddha Advaita. 3) Chaitanya School of Achityabhedabhaava

  • Saiva Philosophy Schools; 1) Saiva Siddhaanta schools. 2) Kaashmeera Saivism Schools.


  • Sakta Philosophy Schools.


Philosophy Schools of Upanishadic period—DARSANAS

The word, 'darsana' means vision and also the 'instrument of vision'. They stand for the direct, immediate and intuitive vision of Reality, the actual perception of Truth and also include the means which lead to their realization.

Darsanas are schools of philosophy or theology based on Sruti. Each school tries to systematize, correlate and develop the teachings of the various parts of the Vedas. Here the appeal is to the logical
under-standing. Each Darsana consists of a number of Sutras or Aphorisms by the founder in which he gives his theory. To these are attached an authoritative commentary at a later stage. It is the Vedanta alone that now holds the field as the most satisfactory system of philosophy that could be evolved out of the Upanishads.


It is the most ancient philosophical system in the world. This was founded by sage Kapila. He was the divine son of Devahuti who was the daughter of the first Manu (Swayambhuva). Sankhya derives from Shwetaavataara Upanishad the doctrine of Prakriti, the three theories of gunas from Chandogyopanishad, the doctrine of Purusha, the relation of mind, soul and intellect from Kathopanishad, the doctrine of Linga-sareera from Prasnopanishad.

This system recognizes no personal God. It sees the universe with the forces of Purusha and Prakriti. The word 'Saankhya' is derived from the word 'Sankhya' means right knowledge as well as number. Gita uses this word in the sense of knowledge, so also Mahaabhaarata. 'Saankhya' means the philosophy of right knowledge (samyak khyaati iti) or Jnaana. Right knowledge is the knowledge of separation of Purusha from the Prakriti. There are some striking similarities between Saankhya and Gita.

Sankaracharya says, that in Gita, 'Saankhya' means knowledge and 'yoga' means action. Yoga as the counterpart of Saankhya, means action or practice and tells us how the theoretical metaphysical teachings of Saankhya might be realized in actual practice. Saankhya is also the philosophy of numbers, because it deals with twenty-five categories explained below. As a philosophy of numbers, it might have influenced the Pythgorean philosophy. Saankhya maintains a clear-cut dualism between Purusha and Prakriti and further maintains the plurality of the Purusha, and is silent on God. It is a pluralistic spiritualism and an atheistic realism and an uncompromising dualism. The original cosmic power Prakriti(1), becomes alive and is called Mahat (2), that produces absolutely subtle forms of ego called Ahankaara(3), and Manas(4). Then it evolves into 20 extremely subtle basic forms of creation in various phases of its subtle manifestation called Pancha Tanmaatras, Pancha Jnaanendriyas (sensory organs), Pancha Karmendriyas (motor organs) and Pancha Mahaabhootas(five elements). These are the 24 forms of subtle manifestations of Maaya that evolve and become the Universe where Purusha (25) is omnipresent. Everything works to serve the purpose of the Purusha. Carefully understanding the 24 aspects of Prakriti and the Purusha, then attaching his mind to Purusha and then detaching his mind from the entire creation of Prakriti, soul releases the bondage of the world of Maaya. Through the constant practice of yogic meditation gradually the mind may release its attachments from the worldly objects. Saankhya does not give any detail of the practice of meditation. The practical side of Saankhya meditation is in the Yoga Darsana.



Yoga is the word derived from the root word 'yuj' meaning 'to yoke' or 'to join'. It literally means spiritual union of the individual souls with the universal soul. Yogadarsana resembles Saankhya Darsana. Its ideas are based on dualism, (seeing the universe as two—subject and object) and it does not talk about God mostly. To some extent it talks about God as an inanimate object with the word 'It'. Yogadarsana has its roots in Shvetaaavataara Upanishad.

Pataanjali is the traditional founder of the Yoga system. According to him, Yoga does not mean union but spiritual effort to attain perfection through the control of the body, senses and mind, and through the discrimination between Purusha ands Prakriti. Yoga is intimately allied to Saankhya. Yoga means spiritual action and Saankhya means knowledge. Saankhya is theory and Yoga is practice.

Yogasaastra is divided into four parts. The first is called Samaadhi Paada which deals with the nature and aim of concentration. The second--Saadhana Paada explains the means to realize the end. The third, Vibhuti Paada deals with the supra-natural powers which can be acquired through Yoga. The fourth--Kaivalya Paada describers the nature of liberation and the reality of transcendental Self.

A sound mind needs a sound body. Sensual attachments and passions distract the body as well as mind. They must be conquered. To overcome them, Yoga gives Eightfold path of Discipline called Ashtaanga Yoga:

1) Yama—it is ostentation from injury through thought, word or deed (ahimsa), from falsehood (asatya), from stealing (aasteya), from passion and lust (brahmacharya) and form avarice (aparigraha).

2) Niyama—it is self culture and includes external and internal purification (shaucha), austerity (tapas), study (svadhyaaya) and devotion to God (Ishvara Pranidhaana).

3) Aasana—it means steady and comfortable posture. There are various kinds of postures which are a physical help to meditation.
4) Praanaayaama—it means control of breath and deals with regulation of inhalation, retention and exhalation of breath. It is highly beneficial to health and is highly conducive to the concentration of the mind. But it must be performed under expert guidance, otherwise may have bad after effects.

5) Pratyaahaara—it is the control of the senses, in withdrawing the senses from their objects. Our senses have a natural tendency to go to outward objects. They must be checked and directed towards the internal goal. It is the process of introversion.
The above five are called external aids to Yoga (Bahiranga Saadhana).

    6) Dhaarana—it is fixing the mind on the object of mediation like the tip of the nose or the midpoint of the eye-brows or the lotus of the heart or the image of the deity. The mind must be steadfast like the non-flickering flame or lamp.

7) Dhyaana—it means meditation and consists in the undisturbed flow of thought round the object of meditation. It is the steadfast contemplation without any break.

8) Samaadhi—it means concentration. This is the final step in Yoga. Here the mind is completely absorbed in the object of meditation. In Dhyaana the act of meditation and the object of meditation remain separate. But here they become one. It is the highest means to realize the concentration of mental modifications which is the end. It is the ecstatic state in which the connection with the external world is
broken and through which one has to pass before obtaining liberation. There are many stages of Samaadhi which relate to the saatvic development of the mind of a yogi, and it takes lifetime to fully perfect the state of Samaadhi.

Yoga generates certain supra normal psychic powers. But they should be avoided and attention should be fixed only on liberation which is the end of human life. The ideal is Kaivalya, the absolute independence and eternal and free life of the Purusha, free from Prakriti.

(For more details refer to the discourse on Ashtaangayoga of Patanjali on the Blog: <>)


This is the atomic school of Hinduism. The word is derived from 'visesha' which means 'particularly' or 'distinguishing feature' or 'distinction'.

The founder of this system is Kaanada who is also known as a Kanabhuk, Ulooka or Kaashyapa. He was called Kaanada because he used to live as an ascetic on the grains picked up from fields. 'Kana' also means a particle or particular and the words Kaanada suggests one who lives on the philosophy of particularity—Vishesha. It teaches that he Universe is made of nine elements described below. There is no mention of God in this system. God is mentioned simply as 'That'.

The Vaisheshika Philosophy is a pluralistic realism, which emphasizes that diversity is the soul of universe. Substances or Dravya is defined as the substratum of qualities and actions. Substance is the basis of qualities and actions, actual or potential, present or future. Ultimate substances are eternal, independent and individual and are either infinite or infinitesimal. All compound substances which are made up of parts and arise out of the simple ultimate substances are necessarily transient and impermanent and subject to production and destruction. The nine substances are: 1) earth (prithvi); 2) water (aapaha); 3) fire (agni); 4) air (vaayu); 5) ether (aakaasha); 6) time (kaala); 7) space(dik); 8) spirit (aatman); 9) mind or the internal organ (manas). All of them are objective realities. Earth, water, fire, air and ether are the five
gross elements. The first four produce composite things. Earth, water, fire, air and manas are atomic and eternal. Manas(mind) is also regarded as a substance. It is the internal sense (antar indriya) but unlike the other four atomic substances, it does not give rise to compound objects. Manas is a substance, it is atomic and part less and can come into contact with one sense only at a time. Five gross elements and manas are physical. Soul is spiritual. Time and space are objective and not subjective forms of experience. Ether, space, time and soul are all-pervading and eternal. Atoms, minds and souls are infinite in number. Ether, space and time are one each.

Vaiseshika introduces the science of logical thinking of right and wrong and also tells us that the creation started from the subtle physical particles (paramaanu). God is not the creator of the universe. Innumerable atoms and innumerable souls are co-eternal and co-present with Him to limit Him. He has been reduced the status of a supervisor. His hands and feet are chained by shackles of the Law of Karma. He has simply to pass on motion from the unseen Power to the atoms and to withdraw it when the time for dissolution comes. The liberated souls themselves do not merge in God, not even share his Knowledge and Bliss, do not experience anything common with Him. Bhakti has no place in this system, since God is powerless to help or harm. It is the Unseen Power which is the real efficient Cause. This Unseen Power being unintelligent requires the guidance of an intelligent person, 'That'. The soul is treated just like an object. The Vaiseshika conception of liberation as the real state of the soul free from all qualities reduces the soul to a mere nothing. To regard the soul as a substance is ultimately to explode it. The soul is nothing if it is not a subject and if consciousness is not its essence. Sankara therefore calls the system, the 'semi destroyer' and the Heenayaana Buddhism as 'full destroyer'. Sriharsha condemns it as 'ulooka darsana'—owlish philosophy. Nevertheless, this system indicates that God should be desired unlike Charwaaka philosophy of materialism.



Sage Goutama is the founder of Nyaaya School. He is also known as Gautama and Akshapaada. Nyaaya means argumentation and suggests that the system is predominantly intellectual, analytical, logical and epistemological.

This system is primarily concerned with the logical analysis of the world and its atheistic nature. It resembles the Vaisheshika system. It is a logical quest for God, the absolute Divinity. It tells the material power Maaya, with the help of God, becomes the Universe. It is also called "Tarkashaastra" or the science of reasoning or the science of logic (pramaana shaastra); the science of causes (Hetuvidya) or the science of critical study (anveekshiki).

The Nyaaya-Vaieshika schools put forth the atomic theory of matter, the permutation and combination of atomic particles which ultimately lead to the whole creation.

Nyaaya is a system of atomistic pluralism and logical realism. Nyaaya develops logic and epistemology. It agrees like Vaiseshika, that the earthly life is full of suffering, as bondage of the soul and in regarding
Liberation, which is absolute cessation of suffering, as the supreme end of life. Bondage is due to the
Ignorance of Reality and that liberation is due to right knowledge of reality as in Vaiseshika system. Nyaaya takes up the exposition of Reality. Nyaaya recognizes sixteen categories, differing from Vaisheshika which recognizes seven categories, The Nyaaya theism is a step forward from Vaiseshika system:

1) The world is an effect and hence it must have an efficient cause.     This intelligent agent is God.

2) The atoms being essentially inactive cannot form the different combinations unless given motion to them.

3) The world is sustained by God's will. Unintelligent Power cannot do this. And the world is destroyed by God's will.

4) The word has a meaning and signifies object. The power of word to signify their objects comes from God.

5) God is the author of the infallible Veda.

6) The Veda testifies the existence of God.

7) The Vedic sentences deal with moral injections and prohibitions. The Vedic commands are the Divine Commands. God is the creator and promulgator of the moral laws.

8) At the time of creation souls are unconscious; and the atom, the unseen power, space, time, mind are all unconscious. Hence the numerical conception depends on the Divine consciousness. The magnitude of the dyad is not produced by the infinitesimal magnitude of the two atoms each, but by the number of two atoms. Number one is directly perceived but the other numbers are conceptual creations. Numerical conception is related to the mind of the perceiver.

9) We reap the fruit of our own actions. Merit and demerit accrue from our actions and the stock of merit and demerit is the Unseen Power. But this Unseen Power being unintelligent needs the guidance of a supremely intelligent God.

But yet, all criticisms leveled against Vaisheshika also hold grounds for Nyaaya system also.



Meemaamsa literally means 'revered thought' and was originally applied to the interpretation of the vedic rituals which commanded highest reverence. The word is now used in the sense of any critical investigation. Meemaamsa and Vedanta are treated as allied systems of thought. Both are based on and both try to interpret Veda. Meemaamsa deals with the earlier portion of the Veda, i.e., the Mantra and the Braahmna portion called Karma khaanda, therefore called Poorva Meemaamsa and deals with Dharma. The Meemaamsa system is based on the avoidance of rebirth. Poorva Meemaamsa takes up Karmayoga.
The actual founder of this system is Sage Jaimini who was the disciple of Sage Vedavyaasa. The leading exponents of this system are Kumareela and Prabhaakara. Jaimini wrote the book Meemaamsa Sutra which is the most important authority in the system.

Poorva Meemaamsa regards Veda as eternal and authoritative and of infallible authority. Greatest importance is attached to the Braahmana portion of the Veda to which both the Mantras and Upanishads are subordinated. It is essentially a book of rituals dealing with commandments prescribing injunctions and prohibitions. The aim of the Meemaamsa is to supply the principles according to which the Vedic texts are to be interpreted and to provide philosophical justification for views contained therein. The work of finding the principles for the right interpretation of the Vedic texts was undertaken by the Brahmanas themselves and mainly by the Shrauta Shastras. Meemaamsa continued this work. It is not just a commentary on Vedic rituals. The main thing which entitles it to the rank of philosophical system is its keen desire to replace the philosophical justification for the Vedic views and to replace the earlier ideal of the attainment of heaven (Swarga) by the ideal of Liberation (apavarga). It undertakes a thorough investigation into the nature and validity of knowledge and into the various means which produce valid knowledge, also into other metaphysical problems. Curious as though, it may seem, the Meemaamsa has been influenced by the Nyaaya—Vais eshika Schools, many important doctrines of which it has either borrowed or rejected.

In the beginning of the book, Jaimini defines the quality and character of the text of Vedas and tells that the words and descriptions of the Vedas are eternal, divine and complete in themselves. They are not created by God or any saint. They eternally reside in God as divine power and are produced on earth planet through sages who conceived them in divine mind. So they are called mantra drishtas (the conceivers of the mantras in the vividness of divine ecstasy). Poorva Meemaamsa says that not only Vedas but their language is also eternal, otherwise Vedas could not have been produced. Then it explains correct application of mantras, how they should be used and in what context. There are certain places in the Vedas where the exact meaning of the verses is somewhat debatable as the Vedic words have different connotations at different places. Poorva Meemaamsa clarifies such a situation and gives a definite answer to it. Poorva Meemaamsa does not relate to God realization, its subject matter is the attainment of celestial luxuries only.


This system deals with the latter portion of Veda and is therefore called Uttara Meemaamsa and also Jnaana Meemaamsa. Meemaamsa and Vedanta form a single system according to some. The Sutras beginning with first Sutra of Jaimini in Poorva Meemaamsa and ending with the last Sutra of Baadaraayana in Uttara Meemaamsa form one compact Shaastra. Karma (action) and Upaasana (meditation) were absolutely essential to hasten the dawn of true knowledge according to them.

The Vedanta system was founded by Sage Baadaraayana (Vedavyaasa) who wrote the book called Vedantasutra or Brahmasutra. Vedanta means end of the Vedas indicating that this was written based on Upanishads which came after Vedas. Vedanta takes up Jnaanayoga.

The central doctrine of Vedanta is that God (Brahman) and the individual soul (atman) are one and the same. According to this system, nothing exists except Brahman. The human problem is not sin but ignorance. The ignorance of the true nature of oneself results in the endless cycle of births and rebirths. Advaita, Visishtaadvaita and Dvaita are the three important branches that emerged from the Vedaanta- system of Baadaraayana.


Philosophy of Naastikavaada—Materialism

Its founder was Chaarvaaka. The most important book of this system was Brihaspatisutra. This book is not available but we have quotations from the same written by other authors to refute Chaarvaaka's philosophy. It is known as Naastikavaada in Hinduism because this philosophy is independent of Vedic ideas and principles. It rejected the existence of God and considers religion as an aberration.

Brihaspati, a heretical teacher, is regarded as the traditional founder of this school. Unfortunately, his Sutras have perished. Sometimes, Brihaspati is equated with the teacher of Gods who propagated
Materialism among the Asuras so that they may be ruined. Chaarvaaka is said to be the chief disciple of Brihaspati.

Some of the important Sutras of Brihaspati which are quoted in various philosophical writings may be gleaned as follows:
  1. Earth, water, fire and air are the four elements. Ether is not an element because it is not perceived but inferred.
  2. Bodies, senses and objects are the results of the different combinations of elements.
  3. Consciousness arises from matter like the intoxicating quality of wine arising from fermented yeast. It is a particular combination of the elements which obtains only in the human body that produces consciousness and that therefore only living human body and consciousness are always associated together and nobody has seen consciousness apart from the human body.
  4. The soul is nothing but the conscious body.
  5. Matter secretes mind as lever secretes bile.
  6. God is not necessary for the World and the values are a foolish aberration.
  7. Enjoyment is the only end of human life.
8) Death alone is Liberation.

The Sarva-darsana Sangraha of Madhvacharya (Chapter 1) gives the following summary of the Chaarvaaka Philosophy:

"There is no heaven, no final liberation, nor any soul in another world; nor do the actions of four castes, orders etc produce any real effect. The Agnihotra, three Vedas, the ascetics, three staves and smearing oneself with ashes, were made by Nature as the livelihood of these destitutes of knowledge and manliness. If a beast is slain in Jyotishtoma rite, will it go to heaven? why then does not the sacrificer forthwith offer his own father?...If beings in heaven are glorified by our offering the shraaddha here, then why not give the food down below to those who are standing on the house top? While life remains, let a man live happily, let him feed on ghee even though he runs on debt; when once the body becomes ashes, how can it ever return here?....all the ceremonies are a means of livelihood for Brahmins. The three authors of the Vedas were buffoons, knaves and demons"

Materialism must have arisen as a protest against the excessive monkdom of the Brahmin priests. The external ritualism which ignored the substance and emphasized the shadow, the idealism of the Upanishads unsuited to the commoners, the political and the social crisis rampant in that age, the exploitation of the masses by petty rulers, monks and wealthy class, the lust and greed and petty dissensions in an unstable society paved the way for Materialism in India in the post-Upanishadic and Pre-
Buddhism age. But the Materialism in Indian philosophy has never been a force. Born in discontents it soon died in serious thoughts. Though the materialistic way of life, the way of enjoying the pleasures of the senses and the flesh is as old as humanity itself and will surely last as long as humanity lasts, yet Materialism as metaphysics has never found favor with Indian Philosophers. Jainism and Buddhism arose immediately and supplied the ethical and spiritual background which ejected Materialism. We do not have with us the original Sutras of Brihaspati and therefore we have to be content with the comments of the critics of this philosophy which presents a very negative picture.


Shoonyavaada of Buddhism

Siddharta later known as Gautama Buddha was born to Maayadevi and Shuddhodhana, the queen and king of Saankhya Dynasty of Kapilavastu. The philosophy based on his teachings is popularly known as Soonyavaada by Hindu philosophers. Gautama Buddha was accommodated as an avataara of Lord Vishnu in Hinduism. The teachings of Buddha were oral and were recorded much later. He repeatedly told his disciples: 'Two things only, my disciples, do I teach—misery and cessation of misery.'

Teachings of Buddha may be said to be three-fold—the four Noble     Truths, the Noble Eight-fold Path and the Doctrine of Dependent Origination.

The four Noble Truths (aarya satya) are:
  1. There is suffering: Life is full of misery and pain. Even the so called pleasures are really fraught with pain. There is always fear lest we may lose the so-called pleasures and their loss involves pain. Indulgence also results in pain. That there is suffering in this world is a fact of common experience. Poverty, disease, old age, death, selfishness, meanness, greed, anger, hatred, quarrels, bickering, conflicts, exploitation are rampant in this world. That life is full of suffering none can deny.

  1. There is a cause of suffering: Everything has a cause. Nothing comes out of nothing. The existence of every event depends upon its causes and conditions. Everything in this world is conditional, relative and limited. Suffering being a fact, it must be a cause. It must depend on some condition. 'This being, that arises', 'the cause being present, the effect arises', is the casual law of Dependent Origination.

  2. There is a cessation of suffering: Because everything arises depending on some causes and conditions, therefore if these causes and conditions are removed the effect must also cease. Everything being conditional and relative is necessarily momentary and what is momentary must perish. That which is born must die. Production implies destruction.

  3. There is a way leading to this cessation of suffering: There is an ethical and spiritual path by following which misery may be removed and liberation attained. This is the Noble Eight-fold Path.

The Noble Eight-fold Path consists of eight steps which are: 1) Right faith, 2) right resolve, 3) right speech, 4) right action, 5) right living, 6) right effort, 7) right thought and 8) right concentration. This is open to the clergy and the laity alike.

In the old books we also find mention of a triple path consisting of Seela or right conduct, Samaadhi or right concentration and Praajna or right knowledge. Seela and Samaadhi lead to Praajna which is the direct cause of liberation. They roughly correspond to Darsana, Jnaana and Chaaritra of Jainism.

Buddha's ethical middle path is the golden mean of Aristotle. Self-indulgence and self-mortification are equally ruled out. In his very first sermon in Saaranaath, he said: "There are two extremes, O monks, from which he who leads a religious life must abstain. One is a life of pleasure devoted to desire and enjoyment: that is base, ignoble, unspiritual, unworthy and unreal. The other is a life of mortification: it is
gloomy, unworthy, unreal. The Perfect one, O Monks, is removed from both these extremes and has discovered the way which lies between them, the middle way which enlighten the eyes, enlightens the mind, which leads rest, to knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nirvana.

Soonyavaada is one of the most important schools of Buddhism. Naagarjuna alone is the first systematic expounder of Soonyavaada. Soonyavaada existed even before him, in the Mahaayaana Sutras. The heterodox Buddhism derives its idealism, monism, absolutism, the theory of Karma, the distinction between empirical and the absolute stand-points, and the theory of Ignorance is the root-cause of this cycle of birth and death and that Nirvaana can be attained by right knowledge alone, from the Upanishads.

Buddhism and Vedanta should not be viewed as two opposed systems but only as different stages in the development of the same central thought which starts with the Upanishads. So far as the similarities between Buddhism and Vedanta are concerned they are so many and so strong that by no stretch of imagination they can be denied or explained otherwise. However there are some differences which are real and vital.

Soonyavaadins call themselves as Maadhyamikas or the followers of middle path realized by Buddha during Enlightenment, which path, avoiding the errors of existence and non-existence, affirmation and negation, eternalism and nihalism (naastik), also at once transcends both the extremes. Soonya essentially means indescribable (avaachya) as it is beyond the four categories of intellect. The world is indescribable because it is neither existent nor non-existent; the Absolute is indescribable because it is transcendental and no category of intellect can adequately describe it.

Those who maintain that that the world exists are committing a great error because when we penetrate deep we find that this entire world with all its manifold phenomena is essentially relative and therefore ultimately unreal. And those who advocate non-existence or non-being are also committing a great error because they are denying even the phenomenal reality of the world. Eternalism and Nihalism are both false. Reality is to be realized through spiritual experience. Unfortunately the word "soonya" has been gravely misunderstood as "nothing" or "an empty void" or "a negative abyss". Ignorance is of two kinds: Ignorance due to suffering and Ignorance in the form of objects covering the Real. Soonyavaada is the antithesis of Ignorance of both kinds. It removes all fears. It is pure knowledge. Buddha has taught his doctrine to enable us to overcome all sufferings and thus to become real Bhikshu (bhinnakleso bhikshuhu) and obtain Nirvaana.

Gautama Buddha was born at a time when people in Bhaaratavarsha had become extremely worldly, selfish and greedy. According to the need of the social condition at that time, he only introduced the path of compassion for the Beings of the world which is just the saatvic quality of the Maaya. Maaya is such a peculiar power which exists like "nothing" for God realized saint, and during Mahaapralaya exists like "absolute nothingness". Accordingly it is called "Soonyavaada" which means the philosophy of nothingness or the philosophy of Maayavaada. Gautama Buddha, although he was a divine personality, did not introduce the Divinity at all in his teachings like Kapila. Nirvaana is not liberation from the Maayic bondage called Moksha in Vedic approach; it is only an intermediate stage. Liberation means the total elimination of the mind along with the past unaccountable accumulated Karmas of soul. In his teachings, main stress was laid on the practice of being humble and compassionate, and the procedures of penance, fasting, meditation and renunciation or whatsoever was formulated to improve the Saatvic quality of the doer keeping silent on the subject of God. To overthrow the growing tendency of belief on the non-existence of God, neglecting the path of compassion, which subsequently increased, Sakaraachaarya used the philosophy of Advaita (monism) and re-established Sanatana Dharma.


Philosophy Schools of Vedanta of Post-vedic Period

Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva, the three great Acharyas (spiritual leaders) of Hinduism always regarded Upanishads as the sacred texts and have interpreted them so as to make them suit their theories. Their teachings fill our lives with hope and give a meaning and content to all our struggles here against ignorance and sin. In spite of the varied differences in their thinking, they are all agreed in thinking on the following:
  1. That the spiritual experience embodied in the Sruti is our ultimate authority in religion and not mere individual reasoning
  2. That God is one though He has many forms and names, and that He is an affable perfection
  3. That all men find themselves in this life in the struggle of Samsaara in accordance with their own Karma
  4. That there is triple path consisting of Karma, Bhakti and Jnaana which can lead men out of Samsaara to the perfection of God
  5. That he who would be saved should cultivate the virtues of purity, self-control, detachment, truth and ahimsa in their various forms and become Dharmaatma (righteous one)
  6. That he has further to worship his Ishtadevata according to his sampradaaya and by every means in his power acquire the grace of God
  7. And that his salvation consists in his being free from the cycle of births and deaths and gaining entrance into the world of Spirit.


Vedanta philosophy, leaning heavily on Upanishads, has given supreme importance to the acquisition and realization of the knowledge of Brahman and has sidelined the process of sacrificial cult. Vedantic philosophy postulates and elaborates:

  1. Brahman is the ultimate cause of this universe and everything else is dependent upon that one supreme cause.
  2. The universe was created in a systematic manner according to the will of that Supreme Cause.
  3. The entity of Jeevaatman is an eternal principle without any origination or destruction but is going through the cycle of births and deaths on account of attachments to the objects of the world from beginning-less time.
  4. The Jeevaatman should become aware of its true nature and destiny and has to shape itself in such a way that it gets rid of the association with matter.
  5. Everyone in this universe is entitled to become liberated but it waits only for his aspiration and effort.
  6. All these entities viz. man, matter, time and the celestial abode are dependent upon the supreme will of the Pramaatman and one has to realize his subservience to Paramaatman.
  7. The way of getting liberated from the bondage of Samsaara is to follow Upanishads. They teach that loving meditation upon the Lord and complete surrender unto His will are the means of liberation.

Sri Sankara did not create Advaita, nor, Madhva, Dvaitam, nor, Ramanuja Vishishtadvaita, nor, Vallabha Pushti Marga. They had their own votaries who later formed the different schools of thought. All had the source—the Prastana Trayi, viz. the Brahmasutra, the Upanishads and the Bhagavadgita. None of these Aacharyas gave anything fundamentally new, but brought out the gems in these sources, which were difficult to be realized and wrote extensive and lucid commentaries as such.

Though apparently looking contrary, they are not, as seen by deeper study of the Triad of Hinduism. All these had the same bases and all aimed at the same target by different paths. Sankara and Ramanuja emphasized the supernatural aspect, while Vaishnava teachers, Madhva, Vallbha and Nimbarka laid stress on the theistic aspect.

Swami Vivekananda was the one who realized that all the various cults were one, and throughout his life aimed and worked for the unification of those thoughts and expressions.

All these thinkers wrote commentaries on the basic Hindu literature, i.e., Prastaana Trayi and thereby forged a link between the present and the past and thus kept up a continuity of thought.


Sankara was born in Kaaladi in the eighth century according to Western historians, which is presently disputed and takes back to several years in B.C. Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati of Kamkotipeetham indicates his period as 509-477 B.C. He was the greatest exponent of the Advaita Philosophy. He wrote Commentaries on Vedanta (Uttara Meemaamsa), Geeta and the Upanishads and gave a new dimension to devotional literature by including in it mysticism clothed in exquisite poetry. He codified popular Hinduism and grouped all the beliefs, gods and goddesses under six main streams of worship.

Ultimate Reality, according to Sankara, is Atman or Brahman which is pure consciousness which is devoid of all attributes (nirguna) and all categories of the intellect (nirvisesha). Brahman is associated with its potency (sakti) Maaya or multividya and appears as the qualified Brahman (saguna or sarvasesha or apara Brahman) or the Lord Iswara who is the creator, preserver and destroyer of this world which is His appearance.

Jeeva or the individual Self is a subject-object complex. Its subject is pure Consciousness and is called Saakshin. Its object element is internal organ called, antahkarma which is bhautika as it is composed of five elements, with the predominance of Tejas or trance. The source of the internal organ is Avidya which causes individuality. In liberation avidya is destroyed by Jnaana and Saakshin is realized as Brahman which it always is.

Maaya or Avidya is not pure illusion. It is not only absence of knowledge but also positive wrong knowledge. It is not existent for existent is only Brahman. It is not non-existent for it is responsible for the appearance of the Brahman. This conception is self-contradictory. It is called neither real nor unreal. In the example of the rope and the snake, snake vanishes when rope is seen. When right knowledge arises, this error vanishes. Brahman is the ground on which the world appears through Maaya. When right knowledge dawns the essential unity of the Jeeva with Paramaatman is realized, Maaya or Avidya vanishes.

Sankara emphasizes that from phenomenal point of view world is quite real. It is not an illusion. It is practical reality. He distinguishes dream from the waking state. Things seen in a dream are quite true as long as the dream lasts; they are sibilated when we are awake. Similarly, the world is quite real so long as true knowledge does not dawn. When Jeeva realizes through knowledge and knowledge alone, Karma being subsidiary, liberation is attained here and now (Jeevanmukti) and final release (videhamukti) is obtained after the death of the body. He refuted the Buddhist teaching that the world is totally unreal and said that the objective world does exist in relation to the ordinary mind but it is not the ultimate Reality. In relation to the latter, however, it is an illusion. Dreams are private. They are the creations of the Jeeva. The world is public. It is the creation of Iswara. Iswara never misses the unity. Jeeva is ignorant of the essential     unity.



Ramanuja, founder of Visishtaadvaita philosophy school was born in Tamilnadu, in Sriperambadur in 1017. His spiritual master was Yamunacharya.

His philosophy is called Visishtaadvaita (qualified Monism) which means that God is only one but the soul and Maaya are the two eternal affiliates of Absolute and Supreme God. Maaya is lifeless power having the three Gunas—satva, rajas and tamas. Souls are infinitesimal and unlimited. God is the soul of all souls. Sentient souls are eternally under the veil of Maaya called Karma Sareera, which is destroyed only with the grace of God and not by any amount of yogic practices, austerity or any spiritual practice.
Soul is eternal servant of God. It becomes happy and Blissful only when it meets its divine beloved God in His Personal form.

Soul is eternally real and eternally distinct from God and eternally dependent on Him. The soul is ever atomic (anu) in size dwelling in the heart like a point of light and therefore distinct from God who is all pervasive. There are three classes of souls, nitya, mukta and baddha. To the first class belong those who are eternally free and who live with God in Vaikuntha. To the second class belongs who were once subjected to samsara but who have now acquired salvation and live with God. And, to the third class belongs who are still in meshes of Samsara and who are striving to be saved.

Salvation can be obtained only by the Grace of God responding to the call of Bhakti and Prapatti or self-surrender on the part of the worshipper. Karma and Jnaana are only means to Bhakti. The released souls attain to the nature of God and never lose their individuality; they are only released from samsara. And their release comes only after quitting the body, for, according to Ramanuja there is no such thing as Jeevanmukti.

(Please also refer to the discourse: "Vishishtaadvaita Philosophy of Ramanuja on the Blog")


Madhvacharya was born in a village near Udupi to an orthodox family of Brahmins. He is considered to be an avatara of Vaayu.

Dvaita philosophy of Madhva has many points in common with the Visishtadvaita of Ramnuja. There are three eternal entities fundamentally different from one another—God, the soul and the world. Of these God is Swatantra, or an independent reality and the
other two are Paratantra are dependent realities.
He does not create them, but only rules them. God is a person whose grace is necessary for the salvation of the worshipper. Madhva identifies God with Vishnu living in Vaikuntha along with his consort Lakshmi who is the personification of His creative power. God manifests Himself through various vyuhas or forms and avataras or incarnations. He is also antaryamin or the inner controller of souls. Souls are atomic in size and are of three kinds, nitya, mukta and baddha. These are points of agreement between Ramanuja and Madhva.

Madhva, however differs from Ramanuja on the following points:

  1. Madhva does not admit that the world is the body of the God. According to him, God is only the efficient cause of the world and not the material cause. The distinction between God and the world of matter and souls is absolute and disqualified. That is why his system is called Dvaita or Dualism.
  2. Madhva holds that, though every atom of space in the universe is filled with Jeevas, no two jeevas are alike in character. They are essentially different from one another and belong to different grades even in their enjoyment of Bliss after salvation.
  3. Madhva further classifies souls that are still bound to the wheel of Samsara into three classes: a) those, who, being Saatvika nature, are preordained for salvation; b) those who, being of Rajas nature, are preordained to wander for all time in the labyrinth of samsara.; c) and those who, being Tamasa nature, are preordained to suffer in eternal darkness.
  4. Madhva holds that souls cannot get salvation except through a mediator who gives them the saving knowledge. This mediator is Vayu, the son of Vishnu.


    (Please also refer to: "Madhva and his philosophy of Dwaita on the Blog)



Philosophy Schools of Bhakti

The period in which Sankaracharya was born was such a time when Vedic teachings were in abundance in the country. The so-called followers of Nyaaya and Sankhya Darsana involved themselves more and more in intellectual debates. The Jain and Buddhist monks got involved in criticizing the Vedas and non-godly propagations. Sankaracharya therefore picked only one aspect of the Divinity where a) the infinitesimal soul of beings is substantially synonymous with the Absolute Divinity; b) all the attractions of the world of Maaya totally disappear without a trace after God-realization. He widely propagated Advaita Philosophy. But after his Digvijaya, he felt that his Advaita philosophy has found favor only with the intellectuals and therefore promoted Bhaktimaarga as seen in his book Probhoda Sudhaakara in which he gave the true view of his philosophy and teachings. Bhakti school was started by Sankaraachaaarya, widely propagated by Ramanuja and vigorously pursued by Madhvaacharya. Subsequently three most important Bhakti Schools were established and gained popularity in different parts of India. These are Nimbarkar's School, Vallabha's School and Chaitanya's School.


Nimbarkar was a Telugu Brahmin. He paved the way for very popular worship of Radha and Krishna around the 14th century. He was the first to identify the Supreme Brahman as the divine couple "Radha-Krishna".

His philosophy is known as "Dvaitaadvaita", Oneness and difference, a position between Sankara's Monism and Madhva's Dualism. His philosophy bears very close resemblance to that of Ramanuja and it appears that he has borrowed the whole thing from his illustrious predecessor adding his own important amendments and modifications here and there. He said that both dualistic and non-dualistic aspects of Reality are equally real. Souls and inanimate matter are aspects of God, not separate from Him. Devotion to God ultimately brings knowledge, which liberates the soul form future births. According to him, in the formula 'tat tvam asi' 'tat' means the eternal all pervading Brahman; 'tvam' means the dependent soul; 'asi' means the relation of difference-cum –non-difference between them.


Vallabhaacharya was a Telugu Brahmin like Nimbarkar, born in 1479 in M.P. His philosophy is known as Suddha Advaita or Pure Non-dualism undefiled by Maaya. He taught about Saguna Brahman, Brahman with attributes. He saw everything as Lord Krishna. He said that souls are one with God, as sparks are with fire and contain the qualities of Brahman— Eternity (sat), Intelligence (chit) and Bliss (aananda). He taught that Bhaktimaarga, the path by which God's grace is gained by devotion, brings liberation. He taught pure Monism. Brahman is the independent reality and is identified with Krishna. Souls and matter are his real manifestations. They are his parts. He is smaller than the smallest and greater than the greatest.
He is one as well as many. It is by his will that he manifests Himself and souls revealing His tripartite nature of Existence, Knowledge and Bliss in different proportions. Maaya or Avidya is his Power through which He manifests Himself as many. But this manifestation is neither an error nor illusion. It is real manifestation.



  1. CHAITANYA'S SCHOOL (1485—1534 A.D.)

Chaitanya emphasized the importance of glorifying God's name and chanting in congregation, called Sankeertana, with devotees. He taught everything in the world is one and yet different from God. In sects associated with Chaitanya, Lord Krishna with     His consort Radha is worshipped as the personification of ultimate Love. Chaitanya said, God is everywhere and in everything; and yet God is nowhere and nothing except Himself, to be found in the highest heaven. Chaitanya's philosophy is a strange combination of Sankara's Advaita and Madhva's Dvaita philosophies. The Hare Krishna movement started by Sadguru Prabhupaada is based on Chaitanya's school of thought.

Brahman or Sri Krishna is essentially Sacchidaananda and is the auspicious abode of infinite good qualities and powers. God is free from all differences—homogenous, heterogeneous and internal, and yet He really manifests Himself as the World and souls through His powers which are identical and yet different from Him. In Himself He is the efficient cause of the Universe, while in association with His powers, He is the material cause.

His inner power which forms His essence is called Antaranga Swaroopa Shakti and manifests itself as threefold power as 'Sandhini', which is 'Sat' or existence, as 'Samvit' which is 'Chit' or knowledge and as 'Hlaadini' which is 'Aananda' or Bliss. The power through which He manifests Himself in the form of the atomic souls is called Thatastha Sakti or Jeevasakti. The power through which He manifests Himself as the material world is called Maaya Shakti and is said to be His external power, Bahiranga Shakti. God as Bliss is the qualified, while all his powers are His qualifications. The atomic souls are innumerable and remain distinct even in liberation. They emanate from, like rays of Sun and are absolutely dependent on Him. The World is the manifestation of His external power and is not false. The impurities and defects of the world do not affect Him at all. In liberation, the wrong notions and the ignorance of the soul vanish, though the world as the power of God remains. Bhakti is the sole means of liberation. Vidhibhakti is Bhakti according to Vedas and Shaastras. Ruchibhakti is affectionate service to God for His sake alone. Ruchibhakti is the end. It consists in the intense spiritual love for God like that of Gopis and culminates in the eternal enjoyment of the blissful love for Krishna.




The worship of Shiva or Rudra goes back to the Vedic period. In the Yajurveda we have Satarudriya. The Taittireeya Aaranyaka tells us that the whole universe is manifestation of Rudra. The sacred literature of the Saivas is called Saiva Aagama, which is placed side by side with Vedas. Madhvacharya refers to four schools of Saivism—Paashupata, Saiva, Pratyabhijna and Raseshwara. Besides, we find two more sects, Kaapaalika and Kaalamukha. Saivism of Saiva Sampradaya is further divided into Veerasaiva (Shakti-Vishishtaadvaita also known as Lingaayata) and Saiva Siddhaanta. Saiva Siddhaanta is representative of Southern Saivism and Pratyabhijna or Kashmeera Saivism is representative of Northern Saivism.

Saiva Siddhaanta recognizes eighteen Aagamas. Meykkandar, the author of the Sivajnaanabodham who belongs to the thirteenth century is regarded as the first systematic expounder of the Saivasiddhaanta philosophy. Saiva Siddhaanta School in Tamil Nadu and the Veerasaiva Sam,pradaya in Karnataka follow the Visishtaadvaita principle. VeerasaivaSampradaya which flourished in Karnataka 1000 years ago stood for casteless society, opposed to child marriage, approved widow marriage and disapproved Sati. It was founded by Basaveshwara. Thirukkural, by Thiruvalluvar, a weaver by birth (first century B.C.), in Tamil language is considered to be the Holy Scripture of Saivites. It is universal in nature. It teaches the value of life. Dr Albert Scweitzer called it "one of the grandest achievements of the human mind".

The Saiva Sampradaaya of South India was propagated by the sixty-three saints called Naayanmars, five of them being well known--Thirumalaar, Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manickka Vaachakar. The hymns composed by them form the very basis of Saiva Siddhaanta in the South. They are the distilled essence of Vedanta. The hymns of the Saiva saints compiled by a saint named Nambiyaandar Nambi in the 11th century A.D., constitute the Saiva Holy Scripture called "Thirumurai" and is adopted by Saivites for worship in temples and at homes even today.
Saiva Siddhaanta calls itself Shuddha Advaita,"Shuddha"means unqualified and "Advaita" means Dvaita devoid of duality. The difference is real in existence but inseparable from identity in consciousness. This means though matter and souls are real, yet they are not opposed to Siva but are inseparably united with Him who is the Supreme Reality.

Siva is the Supreme Reality and is called "Pati" or the Lord who possesses the eight attributes of self existence, essential purity, intuitive wisdom, infinite intelligence, freedom from all bonds, infinite grace or love, omnipotence and infinite bliss. The individual souls are called "Pasu" for like cattle they are bound by the rope of Avidya in this world. Soul is really an all-pervading eternal and conscious agent and enjoyer. It has consciousness the essence of which is in the act of visualizing. It is different from the gross and subtle body and the sense organs etc. The bound souls mistake themselves as finite and limited in will, thought and action and are restored to their original nature in Liberation.

The fetters which bind the souls are called Paasa and are threefold—Avidya, Karma, and Maaya. Avidya is one in all beings and is beginning-less. It is also called Aanava-mala or the impurity which consists in the false notion of the soul to regard itself finite or atomic and confined to the body and limited in
the knowledge and power. It is Avidya because it makes the soul ignorant of its inherent glory and greatness. It is Aanava because it makes the soul mistake itself as atomic and finite. It is the bondage (pasutva) of the beast (pasa). Karma is produced by the deeds of the souls and is subtle and unseen and is the cause of the union of the conscious with the unconscious. Maaya is the material cause of this impure world. The souls are of three kinds, according to what they are tainted with--one or two or three of these impurities. The highest souls are tainted with the Aaanava-mala only; the next with Aanava and Kaarmana-mala; and the last with all the three—Aanava, Kaarmana and Maayeeya. They are called respectively Vignaanakaala, Pralayakaala and Sakaala. In order to obtain release the soul has to get rid of these impurities. For this God's grace is absolutely essential. The Divine grace is there for all of us, all without the asking for it, for the Lord desires that all souls should know Him. It is only for us to avail of it or not. After the removal of the Paasa, the soul becomes one with Him and shares His glory and greatness. It is no more conscious of its individuality (which is there) on account of the experience of Bliss. It attains the status of Siva, through the five functions of creation etc. that are reserved for Siva only.





This school is also known as Pratyabhijna or Trika or Spanda system. This system also claims to be based on Aagamas based on Upanishads which are Advaitic in nature. These are in Sanskrit. Kashmeera Shaivism admits thirty-six Tattvas or principles of cosmic manifestations. Through the five important aspects of Shakti known as chit, aananda, ichchaa, jnaana and kriyaa, arise Shiva, Shakti, Sadaashiva, Iswara and Suddhavidya, the five transcendental tattvas. That aspect of Shakti which makes the infinite appear as finite is the sixth Maaya tattva. It gives rise to the five Kanchukas—power (kalaa), knowledge (vidyaa), attachment (raaga), time (Kaala) and space (niyati). Through these, Maaya makes the Infinite Shiva appear as finite Purusha, which is the twelfth tattva. The rest of the twenty-four tattvas are the same as "Prakriti" and its twenty-three evolutes recognized in the Saankhya system.

Shiva is the only Reality, the one without a second. He is infinite consciousness and absolute independence (swaatantrya). He creates everything by the force of His will. He is the subject as well as the object. He is the foundation of all knowledge and all proof and disproof equally presuppose His existence. He makes the world appear in Him as if it were distinct from Him, though not really so—even as objects in the mirror. By his own wonderful power (shakti) inherent in Him, God appears in the form of souls and constitutes objects for their experience. The only reality is the unlimited pure Self, the one and only substratum of the universe, whose activity or vibration (spanda) is the cause of all distinctions. The changing manifestations of Shiva do not stain His purity and unchanging nature since He transcends His own manifestations (aabhaasa). Shiva is the transcendental eternal background of this universe. His Shakti has infinite aspects, most important of which are chit, aananda, ichchaa, jnaana, and kriyaa. Maaya is neither the material cause of the Universe nor the principle of illusion. It is the aspect of the power (shakti) of Shiva through which He manifests Himself as many. The individual soul is pure consciousness and as such identical with Shiva. It is the ultimate reality under conditions of self-limitations. Plurality of souls is
not final. Apart from Shiva, the world is not; different from Shiva, the soul is not. Recognition of this reality is essential in obtaining liberation. Woman cannot get any consolation of joy even though her lover is present near her unless she recognizes him. The moment recognition dawns she becomes all joy.    This is also the meaning of the famous mantra "Tat Tvam Asi". Recognition at once overcomes bondage. The liberated soul becomes one with Siva and ever enjoys the mystic bliss of Oneness with the Lord. Jeevanmukti is admitted by this school.

(Please visit the Blog for the Philosphy of Basveswara and Veerasaivism: "Basveswara, the Philosopher Forgotten)



Shakta Schools

The worship of Shakti also dates back to the Rigveda where she is praised as the 'supporter of the earth living in heaven'. 'Uma of golden hue' of the Kenopanishad is "Great mother of the Universe". The Saivas made her the consort of Siva. The various Puraanas describe her greatness. She is known as Sakti, Devi, Chandi, Chamundi, Durga, Uma, Mahaamaaya. Sakti is the power of existence, knowledge and bliss of Brahman and is inseparable from it. Sakti may be taken as male, female or neutral as Vishnu, indicated in Vishnu Sahasrnama. Siva is the pure indeterminate Brahman, while Sakti, the power of Maaya, makes him determinate, endowed with the attributes of knowledge, will and action. Saundaryalahari says, "Siva when he is united with Sakti, is able to create; otherwise he is unable to move! Siva without Sakti is Sava, a corpse. Sakti is the life of Siva as she is his wife".

Human body is conscious as well as unconscious. The conscious part is Aatman, which is associated with the mental world by Maaya which is otherwise inert. Power is force plus energy. Sakti is power in general and includes every particular form of it like motion, kinetic, gravitation, heat, elasticity, plasticity and electricity. Force is power translated to material plane. Energy and power are represented by subtle mind and gross matter. Mind power (of reasoning, willing, feeling, loving etc.) is governed by Praana through Maaya. Similarly gross matter is constituted of elements is also subjected to Maaya. Mother breaks into power and becomes active for creation, maintenance and dissolution. Worship of Parabrahman as Paraashakti, the feminine form, especially as Mother, yields quick results as it is the nature of Mother to forgive the faults of her children. This is the basis of Sakta Philosophy.

Supreme God incarnates whenever there is trouble, to destroy enemies, so says the Lord in Geeta. In the same sense, in Devi Mahaatmyam, the Mother says that she incarnates as male like Rama and Krishna; Divine incarnations of Rama and Krishna are, therefore, manifestations of Sakti and represent the protective force.

Siva is absolute consciousness without form and Sakti (energy) is the witness of time and space, projected from the consciousness. Self is pure intelligence and real Universe is Supreme Intelligence. The apparent variety is due to the gross aspect of the Absolute, manifesting as Universe. At the other extreme, the Absolute withdraws into itself and remain not manifested. Thus abstraction and manifestation are two aspects of Siva and Sakti and Sakti, Universe and Self are the same but different modes of Reality, which is Consciousness, Maaya and Ignorance.

Energy is the physical ultimate of matter. All matter is relatively stable form of energy—they last for some time and disappear as energy. Things created by God are all there for us to use. Conservation of energy, kinetic energy and potential, is basic to our existence. The sum total of energy is the same. The potential energy is converted kinetic energy and made use of. Thus we can only change or transform the potential into kinetic but the energy is the same, only its form is different.

Energy is limited manifestation of infinite Supreme Power of Mahaa Shakti. What is manifested is supposed to be one fourth (Jnaana--knowledge) but the unmanifested portion is three-fourths (Vignana—Intelligence). Shiva and Shakti are one and the same; without Shiva, Shakti has no existence and without Shakti, Shiva has no expression.

The relationship between static Brahman and active Ihwara is transferred to Shiva and Shakti in the Shakta theology, Shiva being the inactive Brahman and Shakti is the active Ishwara. As the word Sakti is feminine in Sanskrit, the personification results in a Goddess. Siva is Shakti and Sakti is Siva, two aspects of the same reality, and, static and dynamic aspects.

The whole world of matter and souls exist potentially in Shakti who is the inseparable power of Shiva. Maaya or Prakriti, the matrix of the world, lies within Shakti. The souls mistake themselves as infinite and many due to the influence of Maaya. Liberation is due to the knowledge that the so called soul is non-different from Brahman. Knowledge of Shakti leads to this knowledge. Liberation means 'dissolution in the blissful effulgence of the Supreme'. Jeevanmukti is admitted in Shakta philosophy also. The mystic side of Yoga is emphasized. Mantra and Tantra are sacred and divine. Awakening of the Kundalini and piercing of the six Chakras are practiced. Naadayoga is glorified.

The Shakti Tantras are divided into three schools—Kaula, Saamaanya and Misra. Some Kaulaas are called Vaama-maargi and are generally believed to be indulging in abominable and ghastly practices. Kula means Shakti and Kundalini and Akula means Shiva. He alone is therefore a Kaula who succeeds in uniting Shakti with Shiva. He is a Jeevanmukta, a Stahitaprajnya for whom the mud or sandal paste, enemy and son, wood and gold, life and death are the same. External marks are useless. The highest is the union with Brahman; the middle is the meditation on Brahman; the lower is the praise of the Lord and the recitation of hymns and the lowest is external worship.

(For Aurobindo Philosophy please visit the Blog: The Phenomenon of Rebirth and its Knotty Earthly Problems)



Hinduism has produced some of the world's most important philosophies, particularly, the various schools of Vedanta. Mere existence of philosophies of Kapila, Jabali, Kaanada, Brihaspati and others in Hinduism is the most important symbol of Hindu tolerance. The extremes among them died due to the utmost freedom of thought in the latter part but not due to any authoritative house cleaning. Yet, Hindu view of philosophy is very different than that of the West. The correct Hindu word for philosophy is Darsana, which means "a way of perception". Each of the philosophies of Hinduism is a spiritual approach which requires following a certain life-style, ethical discipline and practicing yogic methods to arrive at this perception. Hindu philosophies are meant to help individuals to realize the Truth beyond the world of the
senses. Modern India has not only maintained its ancient philosophical tradition but has also produced
new world renowned philosophers like Basveswara, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Vivekananda, Annie Besant, Krishnamoorthy, and others.





This lecture has been prepared by N.R. Srinivasan for the Vedanta class at Sri Ganesha Temple Nashville, extracting, abridging and editing from the following sources:

  1. Chandradhar Sharma, A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy, Motilal Banarasidass Publishers
Private Limited, New Delhi
  1. Ed. Viswanathan, Am I A Hindu? Rupa & Co., New Delhi
  2. Dr N.S.Ananta Rangacharya, Selections from Upanishads, Bangalore
  3. Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, The True History of India, International Society for Divine Love, Barsana Dham, Texas, USA
  4. David Frawley, Hinduism, Voice of India, New Delhi
  5. T.R.Viswanathan, Sanatana Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India
  6. D.S.Sharma, A Premier of Hinduism, Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan, Mumbai, India
  7. Shakuntala Jagannathan, Hinduism, Vakils, Feffer and Simons Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India
  8. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Simon & Schuster New York, 1963