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Teachings of the Six Dharsanas

T he basic principle of Hinduism(Vedic) is the belief in one Supreme Being who is without forms or attributes, worshipped in any one of s...

The basic principle of Hinduism(Vedic) is the belief in one Supreme Being who is without forms or attributes, worshipped in any one of several of His forms of manifestations.

They believe that God accepts everyone's prayer to every form they worship. They believe in nonviolence or Ahimsa, in vegetarian food habits, and in compassion to all lives. They believe in Divine duty or Dharma and activity without attachment or Karma yoga and the need for devotion and surrender to God or Bhakti. They believe in the indestructibility of the soul, cycle of rebirth and the ultimate liberation of the Soul or Moksha. The basic philosophies are given in the various Upanishad portions of the Vedas.

Ancient Sages wrote the six Dharsanas as explanatory texts for these: Upanishads. Vaiseshika, Sankhya and Vedantha Dharsanas deal with the theoretical aspect of religious faith, prayers, and philosophy. Nyaya, Yoga and Poorva Mimamsa systems explain the practice of the faith with analysis, logic and pure rituals. They did not stress the importance of a concept of prayers to God.

Nyaya system by Rishi Gauthama is the science of debate, logic, and discussion with reasoning and arguing. Vaiseshika by Rishi Kanada arranges its inquiries into categories such as substance, quality, action, property, and nonexistence. They were the analytical Systems. Sankhya by Rishi Kapila is called a synthetical system starting from a primordial principle called prakrithi that evolves and brings forth everything when it comes in contact with Purusha.

The Yoga system by Sage Pathanjali is a supplement to Sankhya, laying emphasis on the practical side of self-discipline and concentration. Poorva Mimamsa of Sage Jaimini lays stress on the Vedic rituals and sacrifices as the ultimate for liberation and eternal happiness. They did not deny a God but just ignored His existence. Other Mimamsakas modified Sri Jaimini's theory later to introduce the concept of God in rituals. Utthira Mimamsa or Vedantha of Sage Vyasa or Krishna Dvaipanya explained the Hindu Philosophy.

Sri Vyasa Maharishi founded the System of Vedantha which is the most popular Vedic Philosophy. He also wrote the Dharma Sasthras based on the Vedantha. Most Hindus follow this as their Philosophy, though many rituals and principles of other systems are also used.

According to Vedantha, Brahmam develops Itself into the universe for Its own sporting or Lila without undergoing any change and without ceasing to be Itself. It is the material and instrumental cause of the universe. The reality appears to our limited intelligence as the finite universe of time and space due to the mysterious power of Maya of God. It is due to avidya or ignorance, a natural disability of our soul that prevents it from comprehending God as He really is. When the natural limitations of avidya are removed through real knowledge, the individual is no longer there as a separate entity but becomes one with Paramatma.

Vedic teachings of Hindu philosophy:
The Six Dharsanas are the different approaches to the Vedic teachings of Hindu philosophy. The main aim of Hindu philosophy is to search for the answers to the eternal questions. "Where did we all come from and where are we going?" "Is there a superior force directing all this?" "What is the reason for disease, suffering, old age, and death?" "How do we get liberation from all our pains and how do we get Eternal bliss?" We can notice the slow evolution of the thoughts in the six Dharsanas. Whereas Vaiseshika, Sankhya and Vedantha give us the theoretical parts of the philosophy, Nyaya, Yoga, and Mimamsa give us the applied and practical side of the faith.

The Nyaya-Vaiseshika Schools give us the Arambha-Vaada. At the beginning of each Kalpa, large numbers of atoms and molecules unite to form different objects with different qualities. This may be under the will of God and the destiny of the souls. In this theory, the cause remains different from the effect.

Nyaya and Vaiseshika are the analytical types of Philosophy and are very similar in their approach. They arrange all the things in the world into categories or padaarthas. They explain how God has made all these worlds from atoms and molecules. They show the way to attain true knowledge of God. This world has begun by a combination of atoms. It has samyoga (conjunction) and viyoga (disassociation). The cause of this world is the paramanus (atoms) and the nine dravyas (materials), including Isvara (God). Both systems agree in their essential principles of Self and the atomic theory of Universe. Jiva is the doer and enjoyer with several attributes.

The Sankhya-Yoga schools improve on it by Parinama- Vaada, to postulate all objects and actions into two ultimate realities, in its theory of evolution. One is Purusha, which is the conscious and active, and the other is the Pradhana or Prakrithi, which is unconscious and dormant. In this, the effect is inherent in the cause.

Finally, we see the Vivartha-Vaada in Vedhantha as a theory of appearance and reality. Here the system has evolved into one of absolute monism, with the unity of individual and the Divine Soul, the Jivaathma and paramaathma.

Analytical Inquiry of Nyaya and Vaiseshika Systems:
Nyaaya system by Rishi Gauthama is the science of debate and discussion with reasoning and arguing. Logic is only a part of the Nyaya.

It tells that knowledge implies four conditions:
  • (i) the subject or Pramaata, 
  • (ii) the object or Prameya, 
  • (iii) the resulting state of cognition or Pramiti
  • (iv) the means of knowledge or Pramaana.
Nyaaya says that the actions of man produce their fruits called adrishta, which is supervised and controlled by God. God does not alter the course of adhrishta but renders its operation possible as the bestower of fruits of action. The cause of bondage is ignorance (Ajnaana). Twenty-one kinds of pain constitute bondage. Isvara has Eternal knowledge or Nithya-jnana, who also has the desire- action (Icchaa-Kriya) as qualities or gunas. He is all-pervading or Vibhu.

False knowledge or mithya-jnana is the root of all misery and pain. It leads to the faults of likes and dislikes and proceeds to karma or action, good or bad. This forces a man into a repeated cycle of birth as reward or punishment. Moksha is the destruction of pain and bondage. One gets the release and attains supreme felicity by realizing the true knowledge of the Aathman.

Vaiseshika system by Rishi Kanada arranges its inquiries into categories (padarthas); such as substance, quality, action, general and particular property, and non-existence. The knowledge of padartha is the means of attaining supreme good, resulting from the knowledge by particular dharma.

Sage Kanada does not openly refer to God in his suthras. The formation of the world was the result of adhrishta, the unseen force of karma or actions. The followers of Kanada introduced the concept of God as the efficient cause of the world. The atoms are the material cause of this universe. The body is subtle in pralaya and gross in creation. The time, place and circumstances of birth, family and life span are all determined by adhrishta.

The conjunction of the soul with the body is called birth, disjunction is death and moksha is the non-existence of the conjunction with the body, no potential body existing. Pleasure and pain result from the contact of soul, sense, mind, and object. Desire and infatuation or moha arises from pleasure and aversion or hatred arises from pain. Intuitive knowledge of the Self destroys false knowledge. Consequently, all faults of moha will vanish.

Yoga schools and Vedic Teachings:
In the Sãnkhya system by Rishi Kapila, there is no analytical inquiry into the universe. There is a synthetical system starting from a primordial principle or thatthva called Prakrithi which evolves and brings forth everything else. Perception, inference and right affirmation are the three proofs on Sankhya. Prakrithi is eternal, has no cause but is the cause of all effects. It is a crude matter without form. Prakrithi creates only when it comes in contact with Purusha. This is done for the emancipation of each soul. They bind the soul with a triple bond.

Prakrithi is composed of the three Gunas. All objects are composed of the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, and their interaction leads to evolution or manifestation. All objects and actions are made of two ultimate realities, Purusha and Prakrithi. Purusha is without beginning or end and without attributes or qualities and is infinite in number. Bondage belongs to only Prakrithi and Purusha is eternally free.

The Yoga system, founded by Pathanjali Maharishi, is a branch or supplement to Sãnkhya. Yoga is a restraint of the activities of the mind and is the union of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. Pathanjali's Yoga is Raja yoga or ashtanga yoga, which deals with the discipline of the mind and its psychic powers. Hatha yoga deals with methods of bodily control and regulation of breath. Its culmination leads to Raja Yoga.

In Kapila's Sãnkhya there is no mention of Ishvara or God. In Pathanjali's `Yoga', there is a special Purusha or Ishvara. It accepts the metaphysical view of the Sãnkhya system, but it lays emphasis on the practical side of self-discipline and concentration of will power for the realization of the absolute unity of the Purusha. It claims greater orthodoxy than Sãnkhya by acknowledging the existence of a Supreme Being or Ishvara.

In Pathanjali's Yoga system, He is a special Purusha or a particular Soul unaffected by afflictions, works, fruition, and vehicles. It describes the ethical discipline of Yama and Niyama, certain virtues and the chief of them is nonviolence or ahimsa. Avidhya is the main cause of our troubles that leads to ego, desires, and aversion that veils the spiritual vision. Devotion to God gives freedom.

Karma Kãnda Rituals:
Sri Jaimini, a disciple of Sri Vyasa Maharishi, founded the system of Poorva Mimãmsa or Karma Mimamsa. It is an inquiry into the portion of the ritual of the Vedas, Manthras, and Brahmanas only. It is not a true philosophical system. It is rather a system of Vedic interpretation, dealing with a critical commentary on the Brahmanas or ritual portions of Vedas. It has a number of Deities and Vedic offerings are made to them. It gives a detailed description of different sacrifices and their purpose. Jaimini was an opponent of rationalism and Theism.

The whole aim of his system was a desire to know dharma or duty, which consists of the performance of rites and rituals as prescribed in Vedas. There was no place for a Divine Creator but just the presiding Deity of each ritual and Vedic rites. The Vedas were practically the only God for him. It needs no other basis to rest on; there is no Divine revelation at any time.

Jaimini does not so much deny God as he ignores His existence. A supreme God was not necessary for his system. Vedic dharma is not in need of a Supreme Being or God. Dharma itself will bestow the rewards. The Apurva is not dispensed by a God but by the fruits and rewards of sacrifices. Apurva is Adhrishta, an unseen force created by an act that leads to the fruits of action. The self is distinct from the body, the senses, and the mind. The Self is the experiencer, Body is the abode of experience and the Senses are the instruments of experience. The Self perceives when it is in union with the mind. The Self is not the senses as it persists even when the senses are destroyed.

The Self directs the body and it is all-pervading and imperishable. The performer of sacrifice goes to svarga, attainable through the performance of the rituals of karma only. Jaimini does not believe in moksha. Jaimini's system has been criticized as incomplete and unsatisfactory. Most people, even though very much interested in the rituals and their effects, could not accept the system without a role for a Divine Supreme Reality as the bestower of the cause and effect of the rituals. This system could not satisfy the thoughtful men.

Philosophy through True Knowledge:
Jaimini's Poorva Mimãmsa was losing popular support, as it did not accept a role for a Supreme Reality and its relation with soul and matter, for the performance of rituals and their effects on the individuals. Prabhakara and Kumarila modified the views to some extent.

The later Mimãmsakas slowly introduced the concept of God to Sri Jaimini's theory. Karma-Kãnda is still the chief section of Vedas. They said Apurva can not act unless it is moved by God. The soul is the doer and enjoyer. If sacrifices are performed in favor of a Supreme-Being, it will lead to the achievement of the supreme good.

The performance of actions that are enjoined in Vedas is the Sadhana. The cause of bondage is the performance of Nishiddha Karma or prohibited actions. Sage Kumarila maintains that the Vedas are composed of God and Brahmam is in the form of sounds. Moksha is the positive state of realization of Atman and is a state without pain or pleasure and is without attributes. He thinks that final emancipation can be attained through Karma (action) combined with Jnana (knowledge). Knowledge alone is not sufficient for Salvation. Their views came very close to Advaitha philosophy and Vedantha but not quite the same.

Sri Vyasa Maharishi's Utthira Mimãmsa system conforms closely to the teachings of the Upanishads, which are the last portions, or the essence of the Vedas or Veda-antha, hence called Vedhantha Philosophy. He wrote the Brahma Suthra or Vedantha Sutra explaining the doctrine of Brahmam. Here, we see the unity of the matter and spirit, Jivaathma and Paramaathma. He also introduces the concepts of Avidya or ignorance and Maya causing the inherent inability for the individual Soul from recognizing its true self and the Supreme Reality.

According to this school, the cause without undergoing any change in itself produces the effect. How exactly is the reality connected with the appearance is indefinable and is a matter of spiritual experience and true knowledge? This system is considered superior to all other five Darsanas, however, it is complementary to them. One should study the other five systems also to benefit from this system fully.

Vedantha:
Sri Vyasa Maharishi, son of Sri Parasara Maharishi, founded the Utthira Mimãmsa system of philosophy. According to him, the Reality appears to our finite intelligence as the universe of time and space. When we come to realize the changeless God, we are no longer troubled by the changing world. The Reality of the Supreme appears to us as the universe through the veil of Maya. Here Maya should not be taken as to mean illusion. The universe for the Hindu is a reality and not an illusion. It is only Buddhist Philosophers who taught that the world is an illusion.

Maya is the mystery, the mysterious power by which God while remaining changeless Himself, gives rise to the changing phenomenal universe. It has two aspects; one in which, it hides the real by its veil and secondly it projects a vision or object of unreal as real. So, sometimes, it is identified with the Prakrithi and it is also called Avidya or ignorance. It is the natural disability of the soul, which prevents it from comprehending God as He is really is.

The natural limitations of the soul caused by the avidhya are called Upaadhis. The Atman, when clothed in Upaadhis, becomes Jiva. The Jivas are clothed in five sheaths. Jivas appear separate from one another like several islands in an ocean with different fauna and flora. Like all these islands are connected to one another under the depths of the ocean, all jivas are connected. When the avidhya and the natural limitations of the body, mind and understanding are removed and when true knowledge is obtained, the individual is no longer individual. He becomes one with the Universal Spirit. He who knows the Supreme Brahmam truly becomes Brahmam himself.

A man who has reached such a state is called Jivanmuktha. Brahmam, the Absolute, after creating the elements, enters them as the Light of the soul. It is ever pure, Absolute Reality. It is the material cause as well as the instrumental cause of the universe. Brahmam and the universe are not different, just as the pot is not different from the clay. Brahmam develops Itself into the universe for Its own Lila or sporting, without undergoing any change and without ceasing to be Itself.

Vyasa's Brahmasuthras:
The Brahma Suthras of Vyasa Maharishi is the basis of Vedanthic philosophy, widely followed by all Hindus. The teachings of other Dharsanas, Agamas and traditions of Smartha Sampradaya, Saiva, Vaishnava and Saktha systems also contributed to the teachings of many commentators and the daily practice of religion.

We have the systems of Sankara, Bhaskara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vishnuswami, Nimbarka, Vallabha, Chaithanya and the northern and Southern schools of Saivism including Meykandar's Saiva Siddhantha. Among them, Kevala Adhvaitha by Sri Sankara, Visishta-Advaitha by Sri Ramanuja and Dvaitha by Sri Madhva are commentaries on Brahma Suthras of Sri Vyasa and are the most popular.

Sri Sankara wrote the Advaitha theory. Sankara's teachings closely follow the traditions of Smarthas. In this, the Brahmam is absolute and formless. He appears as the Saguna Brahmam in various forms for the pious worship of devotees. The Supreme Brahmam and all His creations are one and the same. They look different due to the veil of Maya and due to our ignorance or avidhya.

Sri Ramanuja wrote the Visishta-adhvaitha. In this, Brahmam is Narayana, a personal God with attributes. It is not homogenous, has elements of plurality and manifests in a diversified world. Sri Madhva's Dhvaitha is strictly dualistic. The individual souls do not attain equality with God. Here God is separate from His creations, which are real and dependent on God. We also have other systems that are slightly different including the Saiva Siddhantha of Sage Meykandar in Tamil Nadu and Sakthi Yoga Philosophy which follow Saivism and Sakthism.

By: Bala N. Aiyer