The innate curiosity of man has always been urging him to explore the mysteries of the universe. Who created this universe? Who am I? Where did I come from? Where do I go after death? The relentless search for an answer to such basic questions has led to the origin and evolution of philosophy in the world. To satisfy subtle queries, Hindu sages turned their gaze inwards and discovered their own answers through meditation and mysticism.
Visualization of truth by the sages is called ‘Darshana’. Although according to Indian tradition there is only one Ultimate Reality, but Hinduism has provided six fundamental interpretations of the same. The Sages carried out six dimensional review of the knowledge compiled in Vedas and Upanishads in the form of six Darshan Shastras. These six Philosophies constitute the philosophical thought of India. Often called Shat (Six) Darshanas and have many characteristics in common. All of them grew out of the Upanishads.
The style of Darshan Shastras
Darshana Shastras are delivered in Sanskrit Sutras. A Sutra is an aphorism, extremely concise, avoiding all unnecessary repetition by exercising economy of words. Some times that makes it difficult to understand them correctly in their original form. Fortunately, Hinduism has given rise to numerous outstanding commentators, and many of their works are now easily available. The renewed interest in Hinduism has produced many new commentators also. There is general acceptance on the following principles among all schools of Hindu philosophy on the following:-
- The eternal cycle of nature is without any beginning and end. This cycle consists of vast periods of creation, preservation and dissolution.
- The principle of reincarnation of the soul implying rebirth after death.
- Dharma is the moral law of the Universe that accounts for the eternal cycle of nature as well as the destiny.
- Knowledge is the path to freedom and that Yoga is method to attain final liberation.
Methodical and Rational Approach
Darshan Shastras are primarily treatise of philosophical nature but they contain ample study material concerning multiple subjects like psychology, physics, hypnotism, mesmerizing, and Hatha Yoga. Many subtle concepts have been explained with suitable examples. As a matter of fact they qualify to be the encyclopedias of knowledge complied by humanity during ancient period.
For instance, it has been explained that all living beings ranging from the smallest worm to mighty emperors, continue their efforts to seek freedom from worries all the time, but their efforts end up in vain. Instead of rational appreciation of the situation, they continue chasing mirage and tend to misinterpret pertinent aspects of the problem. The suggested approach is to analyze following aspects:-.
- Worry – Identifying exact form of worry, pain or stress.
- Source of worry – Identifying the source of worries and pains.
- Worry-less condition – Clear perceptions about worry-less condition.
- Remedial Action – Remedial action.
For evaluation of the above aspects, Darshan Shastras have further dissected the subject into smaller parts such as:
Element of Awareness – Identifying that ‘element’ in living being that is subjected to worry, pain or stress. It could be mental or physical, or both.
Unaware Element in Source – This is related to the ‘source’ of worry. The source causing worry may not be aware of its action. The act causing worry may fall in the charter of natural duty, implying ‘Prakriti’ of the source. Once this is properly understood, questions related to worry and source of worry get automatically resolved. ‘Distancing from the source’ is the remedy.
Act of Vis-Major – Apart from the element of awareness and unaware element in source; it is necessary to accept the third element also. It is the act of Vis-Major, the act of God or Destiny. Realization and Reconciling to this element is the answer to all the worries, pains and sufferings.
The Six Texts of Philosophy
The Six Systems of Philosophy are Mimansa, Vedanta, Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Sankhya and Yoga; as explained in brief as follows.
- Mimansa Shastra
Mimansa Shastra is the largest among Darshan Shastras and contains 2644 sutras spread out in 909 chapters (Adhikarans). It was authored by Rishi Jaimini during 600-100 BC. The part dealing with knowledge about God and soul is referred as Gyanakand. Deliberations on this part are called Uttari Mimansa.
The part dealing with procedures is called Karamkand, and deliberations on this part are called Poorva Mimansa. The routines of Karmakand are divided into three categories such as: daily, on occurrence, and those undertaken for some specific purpose on ‘as required basis’. The subtle substance of Mimansa Shastra is that unless acted upon, mere attainment of knowledge is fruitless.
- Vedanta Shastra
Rishi Badrayana is the author of Vedanta Shastra and the work dates back to 600-200 BC.
The central idea of this treatise is that differentials are only outward, while all creations reflect the image of Master Creator. Knowledge is ever growing and its acquisition is an un-ending and continuous process. This approach is truly an inspiration of modern scientific thought.
- Nyaya Shastra
Rishi Gautma is the author of Nyaya Shastra that is founded on the principles of reasoning. It is also known as Tark Vidya (Knowledge of Reasoning) and suggests testing of every issue according to reasons and proof in support.
It is divided into five chapters. The central idea here is that true knowledge is subject to proof, which are classified into four types, such as:
- Pratyaksh (direct) perceived through own senses,
- Anuman (estimation) based on past experience or circumstantial evidence,
- Upman, and
The same are today at the foundation of modern jurisprudence all over the world. Control over senses and passion is suggested as sure cure for all worries and miseries.
Vaiseshika Shastra is the creation of Rishi Kanad, who can be rightly called that Father of Atomic knowledge in modern science. It has 370 Sutras divided into ten chapters.
The word Vaisesh refers to specific differentials between two objects under examination. If the same are correctly identified, they lead to the foundation of true knowledge. Due to improper evaluation of the situation we continue suffering miseries in day to day life.
For example, merely looking at the height property of a pole, someone may take the same to be a thief and feel afraid, but that will not be a rational appreciation. If other properties of pole and thief had also been taken into consideration, unnecessary fear could have been overcome.
Sankhya is the oldest school of Indian philosophy founded by Kapil Rishi around 600 BC. It contained 527 Sutras spread over six chapters, but many scripts of this philosophy have been lost over the period and now only one is available.
The approach of Sankhya Shastra is also fully scientific. The cause of worries has been classified into:
- Adhyatimic, mis-understanding between mind and body,
- Adhibhoutik – caused by others, and
- Ati daivik-due to natural calamities.
Interpreting the causes reasonably can mitigate worries and miseries. An awakened person does not consider dreams to be reality. Similarly an enlightened person considers worries to be feeling of the body, separate from soul. Bad effects are curable by good action. The Sankhya philosophy influenced Greek philosophy more than the other schools of Indian philosophy.
Yoga Sutra of Rishi Patanjili dates back to 300 BC. While Study of Darshan Sastras primarily provides philosophical knowledge to mind, but it is through the Yoga Sutra of Rishi Patanjili; that transformed the philosophical knowledge into practical application. Thus, both are complimentary to each other.
One can get the feel of internal energies provided by nature in the body through regulating proper food intakes, breathings, exercising control over senses and other body part, and then concentrating mind within. Yoga is thus a combination of science and art to have perfect control over mind and body for optimal performance and longevity.
Yoga Sutra of Rishi Patanjili is divided into eight parts and is called Ashtang Yoga.
- The first part contains ethical philosophy to be inculcated in thought and practice, and is called Yama,
- The second part consists of Niyama and tells the methodology to practice
- The third part Asana prescribes body postures to retain the body in proper fitness for optimal performance.
- Fourth part Pranayama deals with proper breathing techniques,
- Fifth part Pratyahar tells about control over senses,
- Sixth part Dharna tells about focusing of mind,
- Seventh part Dhyana teaches proper meditation and leads to the ultimate
- The eighth part is total perfection in the state of Samadhi.
One can feel the awakening of cosmic power of Kundalini power only after perfecting control over preceding eight parts of Yoga.
For the purpose of study the six Darshana Shastras can be clubbed into three groups as follows:
- Group I: Nyaya and Vaisheshika lay down methodology of science to explain how the manifestation of various phenomena comes into being.
- Group II: Sankhya and Yoga give an account of cosmic evolution on purely logical principles. Srimad Bhadvad Gita has greatly amplified the concept of this group further.
- Group III: Mimamsa and Vedanta critically analyze the basic principles in greater detail.
These commentaries facilitate understanding of Vedas to those who have the interest and aptitude. It is up to an individual, whether to reconcile with all, or any particular school of philosophy or with none. The Vedanta philosophy endeavors to sum up all human knowledge, presenting as Truth. However, Hinduism does not accept anything as final, dogmatic or as the last word on that subject. Instead it encourages investigation, analysis and criticism.
Darshan Shastras are individual thesis written by great Rishies on Vedic knowledge and accumulated wealth of human inquiry. They are not an end of learning and reasoning as descent is acceptable in Hinduism. It is really disgusting to see that such ancient texts packed with wisdom of our great intellectuals are lying excluded from the curriculum of our own universities in India.
Chand K Sharma
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