The main schools of Indian philosophy were formalised chiefly between 1000 BCE to the early centuries of the Common Era. Competition and integration between the various schools was intense during their formative years, especially between 800 BCE and 200 CE. Some schools like Jainism, Buddhism, Yoga, Śaiva and Vedanta survived, but others, like Ajñana, Charvaka and Ājīvika did not.
Indian philosophies share many concepts such as dharma, karma, samsara, reincarnation, dukkha, renunciation, meditation, with almost all of them focussing on the ultimate goal of liberation of the individual through diverse range of spiritual practices (moksha, nirvana). They differ in their assumptions about the nature of existence as well as the specifics of the path to the ultimate liberation, resulting in numerous schools that disagreed with each other. Their ancient doctrines span the diverse range of philosophies found in other ancient cultures.
Hindu philosophy has a diversity of traditions and numerous saints and scholars, such as Adi Shankara of Advaita Vedanta school.
Many Hindu intellectual traditions were classified during the medieval period of Brahmanic-Sanskritic scholasticism into a standard list of six orthodox (Astika) schools (darshanas), the "Six Philosophies" (ṣaḍ-darśana), all of which accept the testimony of the Vedas.
Pāṇini Darśana, the grammarian school (which clarifies the theory of Sphoṭa)
The systems mentioned here are not the only orthodox systems, they are the chief ones, and there are other orthodox schools. These systems, accept the authority of Vedas and are regarded as orthodox (astika) schools of Hindu philosophy; besides these, schools that do not accept the authority of the Vedas are heterodox (nastika) systems such as Buddhism, Jainism, Ajivika and Charvaka. This orthodox-heterodox terminology is a construct of Western languages, and lacks scholarly roots in Sanskrit. According to Andrew Nicholson, there have been various heresiological translations of Āstika and Nāstika in 20th century literature on Indian philosophies, but quite many are unsophisticated and flawed.
Several Śramaṇic movements have existed before the 6th century BCE, and these influenced both the āstika and nāstika traditions of Indian philosophy. The Śramaṇa movement gave rise to diverse range of heterodox beliefs, ranging from accepting or denying the concept of soul, atomism, antinomian ethics, materialism, atheism, agnosticism, fatalism to free will, idealization of extreme asceticism to that of family life, strict ahimsa (non-violence) and vegetarianism to permissibility of violence and meat-eating. Notable philosophies that arose from Śramaṇic movement were Jainism, early Buddhism, Charvaka, Ajñana and Ājīvika.
Ajñana was one of the nāstika or "heterodox" schools of ancient Indian philosophy, and the ancient school of radical Indian skepticism. It was a Śramaṇa movement and a major rival of early Buddhism and Jainism. They have been recorded in Buddhist and Jain texts. They held that it was impossible to obtain knowledge of metaphysical nature or ascertain the truth value of philosophical propositions; and even if knowledge was possible, it was useless and disadvantageous for final salvation. They were sophists who specialised in refutation without propagating any positive doctrine of their own.
Rishabhanatha, believed to have lived over a million years ago, is considered the founder of Jain philosophy.
Jain philosophy is the oldest Indian philosophy that separates body (matter) from the soul (consciousness) completely.Jainism was revived and re-established after Mahavira, the last and the 24th Tirthankara, synthesised and revived the philosophies and promulgations of the ancient Śramaṇic traditions laid down by the first Jain tirthankara Rishabhanatha millions of years ago. According to Dundas, outside of the Jain tradition, historians date the Mahavira as about contemporaneous with the Buddha in the 5th-century BC, and accordingly the historical Parshvanatha, based on the c. 250-year gap, is placed in 8th or 7th century BC.
Jainism is a Śramaṇic religion and rejected the authority of the Vedas. However, like all Indian religions, it shares the core concepts such as karma, ethical living, rebirth, samsara and moksha. Jainism places strong emphasis on asceticism, ahimsa (non-violence) and anekantavada (relativity of viewpoints) as a means of spiritual liberation, ideas that influenced other Indian traditions.
Jainism strongly upholds the individualistic nature of soul and personal responsibility for one's decisions; and that self-reliance and individual efforts alone are responsible for one's liberation. According to the Jain philosophy, the world (Saṃsāra) is full of hiṃsā (violence). Therefore, one should direct all his efforts in attainment of Ratnatraya, that are Samyak Darshan, Samyak Gnana, and Samyak Chàritra which are the key requisites to attain liberation.
The Buddhist philosophy is based on the teachings of the Buddha.
Buddhist philosophy is a system of thought which started with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, or "awakened one". Buddhism is founded on elements of the Śramaṇa movement, which flowered in the first half of the 1st millennium BCE, but its foundations contain novel ideas not found or accepted by other Sramana movements. Buddhism and Hinduism mutually influenced each other and shared many concepts, states Paul Williams, however it is now difficult to identify and describe these influences. Buddhism rejected the Vedic concepts of Brahman (ultimate reality) and Atman (soul, self) at the foundation of Hindu philosophies.
Buddhism shares many philosophical views with other Indian systems, such as belief in karma – a cause-and-effect relationship, samsara – ideas about cyclic afterlife and rebirth, dharma – ideas about ethics, duties and values, impermanence of all material things and of body, and possibility of spiritual liberation (nirvana or moksha). A major departure from Hindu and Jain philosophy is the Buddhist rejection of an eternal soul (atman) in favour of anatta (non-Self).
Monastic life has been a part of all Indian philosophy traditions. Mendicant caves of extinct Ājīvikas in Bihar.
Original scriptures of the Ājīvika school of philosophy may once have existed, but these are currently unavailable and probably lost. Their theories are extracted from mentions of Ajivikas in the secondary sources of ancient Indian literature, particularly those of Jainism and Buddhism which polemically criticized the Ajivikas. The Ājīvika school is known for its Niyati doctrine of absolute determinism (fate), the premise that there is no free will, that everything that has happened, is happening and will happen is entirely preordained and a function of cosmic principles. Ājīvika considered the karma doctrine as a fallacy. Ājīvikas were atheists and rejected the authority of the Vedas, but they believed that in every living being is an ātman – a central premise of Hinduism and Jainism.
Charvaka or Lokāyata was a philosophy of scepticism and materialism, founded in the Mauryan period. They were extremely critical of other schools of philosophy of the time. Charvaka deemed Vedas to be tainted by the three faults of untruth, self-contradiction, and tautology. Likewise they faulted Buddhists and Jains, mocking the concept of liberation, reincarnation and accumulation of merit or demerit through karma. They believed that, the viewpoint of relinquishing pleasure to avoid pain was the "reasoning of fools".
Comparison of Indian philosophies
The Indian traditions subscribed to diverse philosophies, significantly disagreeing with each other as well as orthodox Hinduism and its six schools of Hindu philosophy. The differences ranged from a belief that every individual has a soul (self, atman) to asserting that there is no soul, from axiological merit in a frugal ascetic life to that of a hedonistic life, from a belief in rebirth to asserting that there is no rebirth.
In appreciation of complexity of the Indian philosophy, T S Eliot wrote that the great philosophers of India "make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys".Arthur Schopenhauer used Indian philosophy to improve upon Kantian thought. In the preface to his book The World As Will And Representation, Schopenhauer writes that one who "has also received and assimilated the sacred primitive Indian wisdom, then he is the best of all prepared to hear what I have to say to him" The 19th century American philosophical movement Transcendentalism was also influenced by Indian thought
^Elisa Freschi (2012): The Vedas are not deontic authorities and may be disobeyed, but still recognized as an epistemic authority by a Hindu. (Note: This differentiation between epistemic and deontic authority is true for all Indian religions.)
^John Bowker, Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, p. 259
^JN Mohanty (2001), Explorations in Philosophy, Vol 1 (Editor: Bina Gupta), Oxford University Press, page 107-108
^Oliver Leaman (2000), Eastern Philosophy: Key Readings, Routledge, ISBN978-0415173582, page 251; R Prasad (2009), A Historical-developmental Study of Classical Indian Philosophy of Morals, Concept Publishing, ISBN978-8180695957, pages 345-347
^Robert Neville (2004). Jeremiah Hackett (ed.). Philosophy of Religion for a New Century: Essays in Honor of Eugene Thomas Long. Jerald Wallulis. Springer. p. 257. ISBN978-1-4020-2073-5., Quote: "[Buddhism's ontological hypotheses] that nothing in reality has its own-being and that all phenomena reduce to the relativities of pratitya samutpada. The Buddhist ontological hypothesese deny that there is any ontologically ultimate object such a God, Brahman, the Dao, or any transcendent creative source or principle."
^[a] Christmas Humphreys (2012). Exploring Buddhism. Routledge. pp. 42–43. ISBN978-1-136-22877-3. [b] Gombrich (2006), page 47, Quote: "(...) Buddha's teaching that beings have no soul, no abiding essence. This 'no-soul doctrine' (anatta-vada) he expounded in his second sermon."
^[a]Anatta, Encyclopædia Britannica (2013), Quote: "Anatta in Buddhism, the doctrine that there is in humans no permanent, underlying soul. The concept of anatta, or anatman, is a departure from the Hindu belief in atman ("the self")."; [b] Steven Collins (1994), Religion and Practical Reason (Editors: Frank Reynolds, David Tracy), State Univ of New York Press, ISBN978-0791422175, page 64; "Central to Buddhist soteriology is the doctrine of not-self (Pali: anattā, Sanskrit: anātman, the opposed doctrine of ātman is central to Brahmanical thought). Put very briefly, this is the [Buddhist] doctrine that human beings have no soul, no self, no unchanging essence."; [c] John C. Plott et al (2000), Global History of Philosophy: The Axial Age, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN978-8120801585, page 63, Quote: "The Buddhist schools reject any Ātman concept. As we have already observed, this is the basic and ineradicable distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism"; [d] Katie Javanaud (2013), Is The Buddhist 'No-Self' Doctrine Compatible With Pursuing Nirvana?, Philosophy Now; [e] David Loy (1982), Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta: Are Nirvana and Moksha the Same?, International Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 23, Issue 1, pages 65-74
^ ab[a] Steven Collins (1994), Religion and Practical Reason (Editors: Frank Reynolds, David Tracy), State Univ of New York Press, ISBN978-0791422175, page 64; "Central to Buddhist soteriology is the doctrine of not-self (Pali: anattā, Sanskrit: anātman, the opposed doctrine of ātman is central to Brahmanical thought). Put very briefly, this is the [Buddhist] doctrine that human beings have no soul, no self, no unchanging essence."; [b]KN Jayatilleke (2010), Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge, ISBN978-8120806191, pages 246-249, from note 385 onwards; [c]John C. Plott et al (2000), Global History of Philosophy: The Axial Age, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN978-8120801585, page 63, Quote: "The Buddhist schools reject any Ātman concept. As we have already observed, this is the basic and ineradicable distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism"; [d]Katie Javanaud (2013), Is The Buddhist ‘No-Self’ Doctrine Compatible With Pursuing Nirvana?, Philosophy Now; [e]Anatta Encyclopædia Britannica, Quote:"In Buddhism, the doctrine that there is in humans no permanent, underlying substance that can be called the soul. (...) The concept of anatta, or anatman, is a departure from the Hindu belief in atman (self)."
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^Anatta Encyclopædia Britannica, Quote:"In Buddhism, the doctrine that there is in humans no permanent, underlying substance that can be called the soul. (...) The concept of anatta, or anatman, is a departure from the Hindu belief in atman (self)."
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^Eliott Deutsche (2000), in Philosophy of Religion : Indian Philosophy Vol 4 (Editor: Roy Perrett), Routledge, ISBN978-0815336112, pages 245-248
^ abChristopher Bartley (2011), An Introduction to Indian Philosophy, Bloomsbury Academic, ISBN978-1847064493, pages 46, 120
^Elisa Freschi (2012), Duty, Language and Exegesis in Prabhakara Mimamsa, BRILL, ISBN978-9004222601, page 62
^Catherine Cornille (2009), Criteria of Discernment in Interreligious Dialogue, Wipf & Stock, ISBN978-1606087848, pages 185-186
^AL Basham (1951), History and Doctrines of the Ajivikas - a Vanished Indian Religion, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN978-8120812048, pages 227
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^John Cort (2010), Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History, Oxford University Press, ISBN978-0195385021, pages 80, 188
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^Chad Meister (2009), Introducing Philosophy of Religion, Routledge, ISBN978-0415403276, page 60; Quote: "In this chapter, we looked at religious metaphysics and saw two different ways of understanding Ultimate Reality. On the one hand, it can be understood as an absolute state of being. Within Hindu absolutism, for example, it is Brahman, the undifferentiated Absolute. Within Buddhist metaphysics, fundamental reality is Sunyata, or the Void."
^Christopher Key Chapple (2004), Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in the Web of Life, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN978-8120820456, page 20
^PT Raju (2006), Idealistic Thought of India, Routledge, ISBN978-1406732627, page 426 and Conclusion chapter part XII
^Roy W Perrett (Editor, 2000), Indian Philosophy: Metaphysics, Volume 3, Taylor & Francis, ISBN978-0815336082, page xvii; AC Das (1952), Brahman and Māyā in Advaita Metaphysics, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 2, No. 2, pages 144-154