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Avidya and Maya
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Introduction to Upanishads
Tat Tvam Asi
Yoga Part 1
Yoga Part 2
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Karma Yoga In the Gita
India's Contribution to the World
Science Vedanta and Samkhya
Swami Vivekananda and His Relevance
Training the Mind
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The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy: 2
continued from Part 1:
Yoga of PatanjaliRaja Yoga as expounded by Patanjali is the most scientific way to realize our higher consciousness. This yoga does not require belief in God, although such a belief is accepted as help in initial stage of mental concentration and control of mind. Thus, Patanjali does not deny Ishvara, as against Samkhya where necessity of God is not felt for epistemological clarity about the interrelationship between higher Self, individual self, and the universe around us.
However, the main problem with Samkhya system of thought lies with its conception of two absolutes, Purusha and Prakriti. Moreover, Samkhya maintains existence of multiple Purushas, which again puts severe limitations in accepting this philosophical analysis fully. How can two infinite ever exist! For, if Purusha and Prakriti are absolute truths in themselves, and each one is limitless and eternal, then, would not the one limit the other? And whatever is limited cannot be infinite. Despite these technicalities Samkhya system provides the most rational basis for explaining consciousness and functions of our mind. It takes clear and rationalist stand in explaining mind and thoughts as matter and therefore insentient, only Purusha being immaterial and sentient.
The whole nature exists; the whole thought process evolves only for the Purusha to gain knowledge through multiple experiences. Knowing whole of Prakriti as insentient, the Purusha is freed from the ignorance and becomes free. Purusha realizes that it was never bound; it was never unhappy. Suffering, pain and pleasure, life and death, all dualities of emotions and sense perceptions belong to Prakriti and not to Purusha. This knowledge makes one free; Purusha now shines in its own glory as absolute knowledge and consciousness, freed forever from the cycle of life and death.
Purva MimamsaThe word Mimamsa means to analyze and understand thoroughly. The philosophical systems of karma-mimamsa and Vedanta are closely related to each other and are in some ways complimentary. Purva Mimamsa examines the teachings of the Veda in the light of karma-kanda rituals, whereas Vedanta examines the same teachings in the light of transcendental knowledge. The karma-mimamsa system is called purva-mimamsa, which means the earlier study of the Veda, and Vedanta is called uttara-mimamsa, which means the later study of the Veda (Upanishads).
VedantaVedanta bases its many observations and explanations on Samkhya system. The Samkhya study and observation on cosmology are unparalleled in the realm of science and methodology. However, Vedantist does not accept multiple Purushas; Reality is one as Brahman and the rest of the universe including mind and its modifications are but superimposition upon this one Reality. The one appears as many due to the basic ignorance -avidya- related with such superimposition, which is also loosely termed as Maya. Briefly stated, the Vedanta can be put as:
Absolute Monism of ShankaraShankara maintains that there exists but One Reality as Brahman whose nature is pure Consciousness. Naturally that One has to be eternal, all pervading and without form and attributes. If there is any second to limit the One, it cannot remain infinite. Shankara discusses the question of reality of individual soul, this world, and Ishwara from this point of view and labels them as illusory. He introduces the concept of primordial Ignorance - avidya - that deludes the human being in seeing the multifarious world when there is none! Shankara takes help of such Great Upanishadic Sayings as 'Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman)' and 'Tat Tvam Asi' (Thou Art That). Final Liberation comes when this knowledge of unity of individual soul and eternal Soul is established through meditation and samadhi, transcendental knowledge. Shankara is strong proponent of Jnana Yoga.
Vishishtha Advaita or qualified monism of RamanujaVishishtha Advaita or qualified monism of Ramanuja is a philosophy of religion; and therefore it gives a synthetic view of the spiritual experiences of God or Brahman. It affirms the Upanishadic truth by realizing Brahman everything else is realized. The main theme is that it is Brahman Itself who has become this whole universe. Thus Ramanuja accepts the reality of world as the manifestation of Brahman, differing here with Maya theory of Shankara. Vedanta accepts rational approach to Truth but goes beyond the reason and rationality without contradicting them. Heavily depending upon theory of Karma, this philosophy applies the law of cause and effect to moral experiences. It brings to light the inner working of righteousness of God and affirms the impossibility of cruelty and bias in Divine nature. As you sow, so would you reap! This law applies to explain suffering for many and comfort for others. But the Grace of God, the most benevolent being, transfigures the rigorous law of karma and thus grace or kripa becomes the ruling principle of religion. Thus Ramanuja added concepts of devotion, worship, and faith as new dimensions to Vedanta. Ramanuja does not accept the impersonal Brahman without attributes of Shankara, but rather an eternal personal Brahman, the repository of all blessed qualities.
Dvaita of MadhvaDvaita of Madhvacharya propounds the basic theory that Jiva (individual soul), Jagat (manifest world), and Jagadish (Ruler of this universe - God) all the three are real, eternal and separate. One cannot become the other. Devotion and faith in the goodness of the Lord is the only means to reach near Him. For them God may be Hari or Vishnu with form and divine attributes. Madhvacharya found that real cause of bondage is superimposition of 'doership' (I have done this, I do this, I shall do that!) upon individual self. But the fact is that Jiva is dependent on God for all his actions. He saw that the only way of appreciating the highest Truth is recognition of this reality and actuality of this world in a healthy sense. Jiva through devotion, worship, and surrender to Almighty should understand the grace and power of the God, and that would bring peace and tranquility to individual self and the world order.
Dvaita is totally opposed to Maya theory of Shankara that denies the very existence of Jiva and the world as illusory. Thus, Madhva identifies the Brahman of the Upanishads with Vishnu, and forcefully argues against the dichotomy of Shrutis as claimed by Sri Shankaracharya, saying that such arbitration of apaurusheya scripture is unacceptable both logically and spiritually. He also emphasizes that it is important to understand and specifically reject other schools' precepts, and hence devotes much time to nitpicking analyses and denunciations of other doctrines.
ConclusionAll Indian philosophy considers ignorance as a barrier to liberation. This ignorance results from false identification of the Self with body-mind-sense complex. Thus we are entangled in the mesh of attachment and hatred that invariably leads to all our selfish and therefore sinful acts and sufferings. Only when one attains true knowledge of the true Self (God, Brahman, Consciousness) one is freed from the slavery of the senses and all sufferings come to an end.
C S Shah