Home Articles Gaia Minute Poetry

Introduction to Hindu Scriptures

Part 4


Darshana - the schools of Hindu religious philosophy


The ancient Hindu scriptures are broadly classified into four categories:

  1. Shruti (literally meaning "heard")

  2. Smriti (literally meaning "remembered")

  3. Darshana (the schools of Hindu religious philosophy)

  4. Tantras- Agama and Nigama - (another parallel set of discipline in which God is looked upon as both Male and Female principle, called Shiva and Shakti

(Shruti has been discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series and Smriti in Part 3).

Hindu sages developed six different systems of philosophy, called Darshanas, at different periods of time. They are religious philosophical systems because their foundation is in the Vedas. All the six systems are written in aphorisms (sutras). The sutras, being very brief and terse, needed explanatory notes, which were written later by other scholars. For example, Shankaracharya, the famous scholar wrote explanatory commentaries on Vyasa’s work (known as Vedanta Darshan or Brahmasutra). These six systems of philosophy are:


The Sankhya School

Sage Kapila founded this school. This is the oldest system and finds a mention in the Bhagwad Gita. It starts with the proposition that the world is full of three kinds of miseries: Adhyatmic due to one's self, Adhibhotic due to the products of elements and Adhidaevic due to supernatural causes. The complete cessation of pain of theses three kinds is the ultimate goal of man. It is worth noting that this doctrine of Sankhya is similar to the tenets held by the Buddhists whose main doctrine is that the world is full of miseries.

The Yoga School

Sage Patanjali founded this school. The doctrines of this school resemble those of the Sankhya School. The Sankhya School believes in twenty-five principles, which are also accepted by the Yoga School. However, the twenty-sixth principle, that of God, is rejected by the Sankhya School, but is accorded great importance in the Yoga School. The science of Yoga is closely associated with the science of vital energies (prana). The vital energies are directly connected to the science of Yoga through pranayama.

The Nyaya School

This school was founded by sage Gautama (not same as Gautama Buddha). Nyaya is defined as examining the Absolute principle using various proofs


(Vatsyayan Nyayabhashya 1.1.1). This school has acquired the name of Nyaya Darshan because it contains the description of the form of proofs and the general nature of examination of the proofs and is similar to the Greek philosophy of Aristotle. This school has been called the Analytic or Logical School; nevertheless the title of the school would rather mean synthesizing by way of analogy, and hence it could equally well be called the synthetic or constructive method of reasoning.

The Vaisheshika School

Sage Kanada founded this school. Vaiseshika philosophy believes that the world is created from the atoms of earth, water, fire and air. Because of its emphasizing of the atomic structure of the universe, it is called the Atomistic School or sometimes the Discriminating school, because it divides matter into eternally distinct elements, atoms, or infinitesimal parts. It teaches the existence of a universe of atoms of a transient character, an endless number of souls and a fixed number of material principles, by the correlation and interaction of which periodical cosmic evolutions take place without any directing Force, except a kind of mechanical law inherent in the atoms. Thus, the Vaiseshika School is a very materialistic school.

The Mimansas

The Mimansas are defined as the “decision of principles after contemplation”. Mimansas are thus those texts that decide the meaning of Vedic mantras by surpassing the contradictions from among mutually contradictory Vedic mantras. The great scholar Kumarilbhatt says – “Discussion of the topic of Righteousness (Dharma) is the very purpose of the Mimansas.



The Purva Mimansa School

Sage Jaimini founded this school. The Purva Mimansa philosophy deals with the Samhitas and Brahmanas. The Shrutis are divided into two categories - the stage of ritualistic worship (karmakand) and the stage of spiritual knowledge (Gyanakand). Since ritualistic worship is the first part of the Vedas it is called the Purva (pre) Mimansa.

The Uttar Mimansa or the Vedanta School

This school was founded by sage Vyasa. The Sanskrit word “Uttar” means – post. Since the stage of spiritual knowledge is the final stage of the Vedas, the Vedanta it is known as the Uttar (post) Mimansa. This school envisages the ultimate culmination of the Darshanik school of thought and philosophy. However, the philosophical system called Vedanta should not be confused with the other meaning of the word, the Upanishads because the Upanishads themselves were called the Vedanta. According to “Nyayakosh” The concluding part of the Vedas and the holy text in the form of the Upanishads which describes Brahman is known as the Vedanta as given in the follwing Sanskrit Verse:



However there is a difference in opinion of scholars regarding which Darshans are to be incorporated in these shadadarshans. It is not definite that the number of the Darshans is six. It is seen that one who felt attracted towards a particular philosophy considered it to be a Darshan. Madhavacharya in His holy text the Sarvadarshansangraha places the number of Darshan holy texts at sixteen. For example during the post-Vedic period the Darshans opposing the Vedas such as the Charvak, Jain and Buddhist Darshans came to be written.


........ to be concluded in Part 5


bottom menu