The western thinkers point out that India has no proper and accurate records of philosophy, there are philosophical thoughts that do not go beyond the mythological stage and do not make philosophy as a thorough going system of thought. It remains simply limited to mythology and ethics. They fail to find any proper historical records not even the biography of its thinkers and seers. Alburey Castell believes that the Greek thinker Pythagoras in the 6th. Century B.C. was the first ever philosopher, ‘the lover of wisdom. The western view is based on incorrect information and untruth .It betrays colossal ignorance of ancient Indian thoughts. Its achievements are very imperfectly known to them even today. It may be that the philosophical thoughts in the western evolution may have resulted in a somewhat coherent type as of today but the Indian thought of old definitely represented a superb universal thought of that day. Most of the Indian thoughts in earlier stages existed in a very undifferentiated stage. We witness many schools of thought and criticism of various schools and find each system more differentiated and coherent. Unfortunately most of the systems of thoughts in many cases are lost. India never considered chronology as primary to philosophical interests, which was its main concern.
Indian philosophy has a long history of continuity and developmental process, longer than any other. Unfortunately continuous foreign brutal invasions and deliberate destruction of scriptures and culture by these brutes, the chronological sequence has lost its distinct trace. Moreover our sages and seers were never inclined to and appreciative of autobiographical writing. Their emphasis remained on the subject of their experience, teaching and realization. Though much of it is lost yet whatever is left, it is sufficient enough to claim that the Indian philosophy of wisdom is the oldest living thought of those eras.
The ancient seers preferred selective teaching. It is difficult to translate it in English for the west. Even if some do, he has to be quite at home in Sanskrit and the ways of expressions of those days. Without it, the English rendering of Sanskrit works will not be judicious and authentic. All such translations made before need revaluation, as in many cases they were done with a set purpose of distorting Indian values so as to facilitate conversion. Even today there remains a lot of philosophical works to translate. The job is not easy to achieve. The Indian mode of expression and technical and philosophical terms have no proper English equivalents. E.g., take the Sanskrit word ‘ sat’. The Greek equivalent is ‘to ov ‘. The German word is ‘ seiende’. In English, we are bound to use ‘ that, which is’, what exists or what is real. The English is the language of technology and commerce, and not of philosophy or metaphysics. The knowledge of Sanskrit is pre requisite. Dr. Das says,’ A man who can easily understand the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Law books and the literary works, and is also well acquainted with the philosophical thoughts of European philosophy, may find it literally impossible to understand even small portion of a work of advanced Indian logic or the didactical Vedanta.’
He gives two reasons to substantiate:
So in the absence of any judicious translation work and non-prejudice outlook, the west remained deprived of the knowledge of proper Indian thoughts and its deep- rooted philosophy. This ignorance has led them to think otherwise and miss the right conclusion that the Indian philosophy is the oldest living thought as of today.
The most ancient Indian philosophy is contained in the four Vedas -Rg. Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. The period of Vedas is debated but can be dated to 4000B.C. or even earlier. Each Veda has four parts—Samhita, Brahmans, Aranyakas and Upanishads. The seed of philosophical knowledge is sown in Rg. Veda hymns. They are the forerunners of monastic system as is evident in the Upanishads. Samhitas are hymns or prayers. Brahmanas are mostly prose treatise, discussions on rituals and are devoted to sacrificial duties. Aranyakas provide ritual guidance to the retired seniors in seclusion. The Upanishads are deep rooted in philosophical thoughts of the realized seers. Poets composed the hymns, priests the Brahmanas and the seers the Upanishads.
Next comes the Epic age philosophy as seen in Ramayana, Mahabharat and Geeta. We notice a philosophy linked with life and worldly affairs .It is full of social and ethical values. . Mahabharat describes elaborate social order and the four fold aims of life of righteousness, wealth, worldly enjoyment and salvation. It also describes the four stages of life. It is thus a history, a mythology. Politics, philosophy and law, all in one. Ramayana gives us a vivid idea of human relationship in its various spheres.
Two more works of different ages need our attention—The Manu Smrti and The ArthaShastra. Manu was the first law- giver and deals with wide-ranges thoughts of social order and the duties of ruler’s .He codified the entire social code. Kautilya (Carakya of Maurya dynasty) is the author of Arthashastra, a treatise on science of economics and politics. It deals in details on the nature of sovereignty, representation, war and peace, code of punishment, taxation, state function and police.
Then there dawned in Sutra period .It is in this period that the systematic and logical philosophical thoughts are evident. It is known for an orderly, systematic, consistent and logical sets of brief aphorisms, fathom deep in philosophical thoughts. The philosophies of Naiyaya (Logical relation) Vaisesiki (Realistic pluralism), Samkha (Evolutionary Dualism), Yoga (Discipline of Meditation), Purva Mimamsa (Investigation of Vedas of early period), and Uttar Mimansa (Vedas in the later stage and the Vedantic period) are six great schools of thought. These systems are prior to the Buddhist period though some of their elaborate works came to light after Buddha.
There has been continuous stream of philosophers from the earliest times of 4000B.C. Or even earlier unto the 17th. Cent, accompanied with an unbroken chain of teachers, thinkers and pupils The scholastic period proceeding the six philosophical schools, is known for a number of commentaries on the sutras explaining their viewpoint on life and world. There were as many commentators as were the schools of thought. Each school presented its own viewpoint as the only accurate and logical one. This led to the feeling of intolerance of other’s viewpoint. Jealousy among these schools developed. It was the time when Samkarachaya appeared on the scene as a rare and unique force of integration. He succeeded in removing confusion. His commentary on Vedanta Sutra overtook the highly praised philosopher and writer Badarayan. Samnkar infused new life in the philosophical thought and its interpretation. His efforts brought about higher evolution in thought and a philosophical binding force. The other important names of the period are – Gaud pad, Kumaril Bhatta, RamaNuj, Udayan, and Madhava.and Jayant.
The Mogul invasion and their brutal rule totally smashed most of Indian philosophical works. The library of Nalanda in Bihar was set ablaze and burnt for months. The British rule was no different .It planned the translation of Hindu scriptures in such a way that may lead the elite away from them and near Christianity. Fortunately there existed a line of thinkers, sages and associations like Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, Ram Krishna Mission and the like. They revived and rejuvenated Indian philosophy and cultural thoughts. The revival of Indian consciousness, of the greatness of its own philosophy of its glorious past as of today can now be witnessed after fifty years of Indian freedom Among the modern thinkers Dr. Radha Krishna and Yogi Aurobindo occupy unique place.
Some distinct attributes and characteristics common to all the philosophical thought are: