The Spirit Of Indian Philosophy
Email this page
Print this page

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.
The rise of philosophical thoughts in India has entirely been very different from that of the west. We do not notice system of thought preceding or succeeding each other as in the west. The Indian system developed in richer and better form side by side and supplemented each other. Almost all thinkers dealt with the same system, same thoughts similar to each other unlike the development in the west.

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:

  1. The use of technical terms and condensed forms of expressions.

  2. Hidden allusions to the doctrines of other systems.
In ancient times teaching was imparted on teacher taught basis. The teacher had himself got it from his teacher and he from his. Philosophical thoughts were taught to a chosen few on a personal contact. So the pupils could understand the meanings of the terms used in different contexts. In different systems the same term was used in extremely different sense .So one has to understand the meaning of the same term system-wise. Allusions from other systems were also puzzling and one has to understand it in proper perceptive. This makes the translation work difficult especially for those who do not well know Sanskrit, Indian life and culture. Moreover we do not have any authoritative guidebook dealing even with main epistemological, ontological, and psychological aspects of thoughts of seers and sages. So no translation can do absolute justice, not even sufficient justice to the real nature of vedic sentiments as neither it can translate the mood or the rhythm of the original meter, nor can decipher the use of symbols representing a reality. So the reader is likely to go astray.

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:

  1. The Indian philosophy ‘ was regarded as the goal of all the highest practical and theoretical activities and it indicated the point of unity amidst all the apparent diversities which the complex growth of culture over a vast area inhabited by different peoples produced. Life and philosophy both remained guided by spiritual concentration, with the exception of Carvak. Material welfare had never been the goal of life. Man and Universe is looked upon not as physical in essence It deals with a world of here and now as well as with a world of hereafter.

    The real study of Indian philosophy is the study of its adherence to idea of all pervading unity of the spirit.

  2. The Indian thought is practical. What is described in philosophical thought is practiced in actual life. It interrelates theory and practice. doctrine and life. So it is more a way of life.

  3. Indian thought is universal. Renunciation of petty desires and subjugation of desires from the fruit of action are such universal values, devoid of any personal or ethical motives. Peace of mind and faith and striving for liberation is some of the values of life, desired by all of us in the world.

  4. The word ‘Philosophy’ is derived from two Greek words; Philein, which means ‘to love’, and Sophia which means ‘ wisdom’. Thus philosophy stands for the love of wisdom. India has the word Darshan that means ‘ that which is seen ‘. It stands for knowledge of the Self (Atman Vidya). Gaudapada and Samkar define philosophy thus: Philosophy is an interpretation of the totality of human experience or of the whole life from the standpoint of truth. Philosophy, therefore, is the whole of which religion mysticism, (yoga), theology, scholasticism, speculation, art, and science are but parts. Such philosophy or Vedanta as ignores any part or parts is no Vedanta. --- The object sought by the philosophy is the happiness (sukham) and welfare (hitam) of all beings( sarva sattva) in this world (ihaiva). Western philosophy fails to recognize the transcendental consciousness and does not coordinate the three other states of consciousness.
  5. It is evident that both differ in outlook and attitudes toward life and world.

    The outer world with its physical appearance never attracted Indian thought. Though physical science was extremely developed here much earlier than elsewhere in the world, it never remained India’ main concern. Politics never ruled over the minds of Indian people It was considered as a mere event, a seasonal one that was surely to pass away and thus India remained unaffected .The spirit ever remained alive though the body was subjugated.

  6. The Indian thought is based on reason and introspection. Idealism is in its very nature. It tends towards monism and finds the Reality as ultimately one and spirit and spiritual.

  7. It is based on unquestionable reasoning and the acceptance of intuition as the only way to know the ultimate reality. “ Intellect is subordinated to intuition, dogma to experience, outer experience to inward realization. Religion is not the acceptance of academic abstractions or the celebrations of ceremonies, but a kind of life or experience.’ We do not know but realize and see it. This is the source of India’s religious toleration and adaptability and as a result the declaration,’ Truth is one and the wise call it in differently.’

  8. The most important side of Indian philosophy is its acceptance of the doctrine of Karma and Rebirth.

  9. Indian philosophy lays down the four goals of life---Dharma (duty) Artha (Economic welfare) Kama (enjoyment of life) Moksha (salvation) It does not ignore physical welfare, prosperity and merry making. rather deals with all these in details , giving insight into the general welfare and common good.
All people follow the above-mentioned attributes of Indian thoughts, though views on specific pattern of life may more or less differ.

Home About Us Jobs Comments Contact Us Advertise Terms of Service Privacy Policy
Copyright © 1995-2017, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
INDOlink, Planet Bollywood, "Best of Both Worlds", "Linking Indians Worldwide" are trademarks of, Inc.