Sad-darshana (षड्-दर्शनम्, Ṣaḍ-darśanam):
Religion and Philosophy:
Philosophy which means love of wisdom is the science which aims at an explanation of all the phenomena of the universe by ultimate causes. It is concerned with the understanding of the true nature of the supreme being and its relation with the individual soul and the external world (1). Religion may stand for anything ranging from what has been described as 'a sum of scruples which impede the free use of our faculties' to a yearning of the human spirit for union with God. Its distinctive mark is that it serves to further right living (2).
It is a common perception (atleast outside India) that Hinduism is one single religion and the philosophy underlying it is also only one. In reality, it represents a basket of religions (wihich are similar in certain beliefs and different in some other beliefs) and their associated schools of philosophies (which are similar in certain doctrines and different in some other doctrines). Unlike the west, where there is a distinction between what is known as Religion and what is known as Philosophy, some of the Indian religions can hardly be distinguished from their underlying philosophies. Religion and Philosophy are seen as the two sides of the same coin and they do not make much sense when understood in isolation.
R.Balasubramanian states that " According to the Indian tradition, which insists on the unity of theory and practice, philosophy and religion are distinguishable but not separable. Philosophy which is darshana, is complementary to religion, which is mata (मत, mata). While Philosophy, without being merely speculative, should lead to practice, religion, which calls for faith, should have a philosophical base" (3). M.Hiriyanna observes that "The religion and Philosophy do not stand sundered in India. They indeed begin as one everywhere, for their purpose is in the last resort of the same, viz. a seeking for the central meaning of existence. But soon they separate and develop on more or less different lines. In India also the differentiation takes place, but only it does not mean divorce". "Besides, some Indian doctrines are not religion at all in the commonly accepted sense. For example, early Buddhism was avowedly atheistic and it did not recognize any permanent spirit. Yet the statement that religion and philosophy have been one in India is apparently intended to be applicable to all the doctrines" (4).
Origins of Indian Philosophy:
There has always been a problem in general in fixing an exact date of origin for any author or literary work related to ancient India. While the dates of origin of authors and literary works as passed on in the oral tradition of learning for many generations were hardly challenged by the people of the land, they have been contradicted by the modern enquiries of the west and relatively recent dates have been assigned. On the origins of Indian philosophy, T.K.Ramachandra Aiyar states that "The beginnings of Indian Philosophy can be found in the hymns of the Rig Veda and the Atharva Veda which speculate on the origin of the world and on the eternal principle by which it is created and maintained. The Upanishads contain the germs of all the different schools of philosophy which were later on systematised in manuals" (5).
The Indian schools of philosophies can be broadly classified as orthodox, that is, those with belief in the authority of Vedas' or Astika (आस्तिक, Āstika) and heterodox, that is, 'those without belief in the authority of Vedas' or Nastika (नास्तिक, Nāstika).
The six schools of Philosophy:
Among the many astika schools, six principal systems of philosophy are collectively known by the name Sad-darshana. The word Sad (6)(7) (षट्, Ṣat) means the number six in Sanskrit and the word Darshana (8) (दर्शनम्, darśanam) means "a doctrine or theory prescribed in a system" or "a system of philosophy" or "spiritual perception" (9). The six schools of philosophies along with the names of their founders are:
Nyaya (न्याय, Nyāya)
Gautama (गौतम, Gautama)
Vaiseshika (वैशेषिक, Vaiśeṣika)
Kanada (कणाद, Kaṇāda)
Sankhya (सांख्य, Sānkhya)
Kapila (कपिल, Kapila)
Yoga (योग, Yoga)
Patanjali (पतञ्जलि, Patañjali)
Purva-Mimamsa (पूर्व-मीमांसा, Pūrva-mīmāṁsa)
Jaimini (जैमिनि, Jaimini)
Uttara-Mimamsa (उत्तर-मीमांसा, Uttara-mīmāṁsa) or Vedanta (वेदान्त, Vedānta)
Badarayana (बादरायण, Bādarāyaṇa)
All the above six schools of Philosophy (even the Nastika and others) are more concerned with the problems of metaphysics, ontology and epistemology. Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.
In the words of Prof.Madan Mohan Agrawal, "Metaphysics is related to structural analysis of the universe and includes ontology, cosmology and epistemology. Ontology explains the nature of Being and is followed by Cosmology. Cosmology deals with the theory of creation. Epistemology (the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion) comes after ontology. Besides, Indian Philosophy is also concerned with Ethics" (10).
Main points of Enquiry:
The main points of enquiry by the philosophical systems are:
1. God (Brahman): Is God as defined by the Vedas or inferred? What is the nature of God? What is God's form? Is God with attributes or without attributes? How to attain God? and so on.
2. Soul: Is the individual soul different from the body? Is the individual soul the same as Brahman or different? If different ,what is the relation between the two? why does a soul have to transmigrate? how does it attain salvation and so on.
3. The manifested world or cosmos: Is the manifested world or cosmos real or an illusion? If real, who created it? and so on.
4. Liberation: What is Liberation? (Infact the concept of Liberation is differently interpreted by each school) What is that which binds the individual soul in his worldly existence? What is the reason for misery? How can it be overcome? What is the condition of soul after Liberation? and so on.
5. Knowledge: What is to be Known? What are the means to know? How is knowledge a means to Liberation? (Each school has its own set of means to acquire knowledge) and so on.
The Pursuit of liberation, known as moksha (मोक्ष, mokṣa), as the final ideal and the ascetic spirit of the discipline recommended for its attainment are the two elements common to all Indian thought. They signify that philosophy as understood in India is neither mere intellectualism not mere moralism, but includes and transcends them both. In other words it aims, as already stated, at achieving more than what Logic and Ethics can (11).
References and Footnotes:
(1) A Short History of Sanskrit Literature, by T.K.Ramachandra Aiyar, page 193.
(2) Outlines of Indian Philosophy, by M.Hiriyanna, page 17
(3) Vaishnavism, by S.M.S.Chari, see Foreword by R.Balasubramanian, page viii
(4) Outlines of Indian Philosophy, by M.Hiriyanna, page 18
(5) A Short History of Sanskrit Literature, by T.K.Ramachandra Aiyar, page 194.
(6) The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Vaman Shivram Apte, page 935.
(7) Ṣat (षट्) is the nominative form of the base Ṣaṣ (षष्) and it transforms to Ṣaḍ (षड्) upon its juxtaposition with the word 'darshana' because of the rules governing 'Union or Combination' of letters and words in Sanskrit.
(8) The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Vaman Shivram Apte, page 508.
(9) T.K.Ramachandra Aiyar in his "A Short History of Sanskrit Literature" uses the meaning "spiritual perception".
(10) Sarva-darsana-samgraha of Madhavacarya, Compiled, Edited and Transliterated by Prof.Madan Mohan Agrawal, page XViii of Introduction.
(11) Outlines of Indian Philosophy, by M.Hiriyanna, page 24 of Introduction.