Ancient Indian Philosophy

Books have been published by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as a part of a series called Cultural Leaders of India. The object of the series is to offer the general reader, authentic accounts of the life and work of the great personalities who have contributed in large measure to Indian culture and philosophy and influenced the mind and life of its people. The series includes about 125 such names-seers and philosophers, poets and dramatists, mystics and religious leaders, writers on science, aestheticians and composers.

The books are intended for the average reader who is keen to learn more about Indian culture without going into finer academic details. Dr. V. Raghavan, well-known Sanskrit scholar and Indologist, is the General Editor of the series.

They are lucidly written book and are ideal for beginners. First published in 1975, the book has been reprinted 4 times by 2001 and the same is available on Amazon.

This piece is not a review of the book. Here I have tried to sum up what I learnt from the book as a complete beginner.

Indian philosophy is the oldest philosophic tradition of world. The preface is a nicely written piece outlining the major schools of Indian philosophy. And no, God is not central to these ideas. The philosophies explore the life, afterlife and how to lead a better life. While exploring these ideas, God may act as an agent sometime to make a connection here and there.

The concepts of Astika (theism) and Nastika (atheism) are not defined in terms of whether one believes in God or not but in terms of believe in Vedas and Punarjanma (reincarnation). Although conventionally philosophies of Buddhism and Jainism are considered Nastika but they also have heavily borrowed from various Astika schools’ ideas.

Classification of Indian Philosophical Schools

The 6 schools are further classified in 3 groups (Samana-tantras) based on their common areas.

A. Samkhya – YogaYoga has accepted Samkhya’s philosophical framework. Only difference is Samkhya does not clearly and undisputedly mentions a God whereas some Yoga schools accept God as the supreme guru (teacher).

B. Vaisesika – Nyay: Both are schools of realism and pluralism.

C. Mimamsa – Vedanta: Both are directly linked to Vedas. But apart from this common link they are fundamentally different with the paths of Moksha (Nirvana) being different. For Mimamsa it is rituals while for Vedanta path to Nirvana is wisdom.

The book narrates the ideas of 6 philosophers, supposed to be the chief promulgator of the 6 different schools of Indian philosophy.

Kapila | School: Samkhya

According to many experts, Kapila is the greatest philosopher of India and his school, Samkhya is the greatest philosophical thought. But many question the historical existence of Kapila. The writer has quoted many sources to prove Kapila really lived and his time to be before Buddha and few Upanishads.

According to Kapila, the foundation of objective realm is Prakriti, literally means nature in English but it is not the colourful nature we see around us. It is a composite entity without any intelligence. The Prakriti has 3 constituents known as GunaGuna literally in English means quality but these three Gunas are not qualities. They are constituent substances of Prakriti and latent in it. Prakriti goes through evolution. The three Gunas – SattvaRajasTamas then becomes dynamics. Prakriti with different permutations and combinations of these Gunas different things are created till the evolution reaches at the level of intelligent human beings. The individual intelligence, experience and spiritualism are created in Prakriti by PurusaPurasa here does not mean masculinity but intelligence and spiritualism. Unlike PrakritiPurusa is multiple. For each individual there is one Purusa.

There are two parallel streams of evolution – individual and cosmic. For each individual evolution there is one counterpart cosmic evolution.

Each individual is a microcosm with its ruling spirit and 24 material principles (prakritimahatahamkaramanasa, 5 organs of perception, 5 organs of actions, 5 tanmataras and 5 mahabhutas). So Purusa is in bondage with these material principles. The only solution is to realise the difference between spirit and matter. This realisation can be made while one is alive. One does not have to die and gain Moksha to get it. Once the realisation is cultivated and is stable, Purusa is free from matter or Prakriti.

Kapila’s theory is about conservation of energy with Prakriti (matter) always remaining fixed.

The Prakriti has been always there, it went through evolution to create the Universe. Everything in this world is continuous and connected. This takes one to the modern astrophysics, which has been trying to figure out what existed before time or before big bang. According to Kapila there is no beginning of time and also no ending. Time and Prakriti exist always.

Kapila discards the theory about the Universe being created from nothing in other words, as the Abrahamic creationists would say, the God created the Universe out of nothing.

Kapila was supposed to be not a believer of God although he was not vehemently opposed to the idea. His only point is nothing has irrefutably proved the existence of a personal God yet. The writer compares Kapila with western philosopher Kant for this idea about God.


(i) It is not clear how Buddhiahamkaramanas are deduced only from Prakriti. The psychological chronology is also not correct. How before becoming an individual there would be Ahamkara or Buddhi?

(ii) Prakriti is a passive or an active agent?

(iii) If Prakriti is treated as pure matter or material. We know will is created out of it through evolution. Then how can there be a free will to attain emancipation, although Kapila has pointed out how Buddhi can be channeled to get liberation.

(iv)The plurality of Purusa does not make sense unless Purusas are interpreted as the Jivas or empirical selves.

(v) The Purusas are mere spirits according to Kapila hence there is no question of being in bondage as nothing material can touch it.

(vi) Samkhya becomes too close to Advaita thought with Prakriti becoming Maya, which takes different shapes.

(vii) According to the critics the biggest limitation of Samkhya is without an intelligent coordinator (some sort of God) Prakriti and Purusa will stay away from each other. For evolution it is compulsory the body meets consciousness.

In spite of the limitations Kapila and Samkhya define Hinduism, as we know today. The spirits transmigrate from one form to another forms the basic idea of modern Hinduism that Atma (soul) is indestructible and it only changes outer body. And secondly the world never comes to a complete dissolution. There are cycles of involution and evolution.

Patanjali | School: Yoga

Patanjali has given us science of medicine for the body, science of grammar and science of Yoga. Most probably these are three different Patanjalis, experts in different fields.

This chapter concerns only with Patanjali and science of Yoga. Experts put his time to be second century B. C. Patanjali is not founder of Yoga, which is an ancient science. There are different branches of Yoga, all existing since ancient time. Different Gurus (philosophers) systemized these different braches. Patanjali systemized Rajayoga.

As mentioned above Yoga schools accepts the philosophical framework of Samkhya. So within that framework Yoga works for emancipation (Kaivalyapada) of spirit in its own way.

Rajayoga is a psycho-physical method. Through this a person can discipline themselves to open up to and be responsive to the Purusa within. The assumption is that person in unhappy hence they must detangle their purusa from prakriti.

There are 195 (or 196 according to some) sutras to attain this. Here method of attaining discipline is important with philosophy being in the background. So this is a practical study without any abstract metaphysical exercise.

There are 4 books of Rajayoga describing scope, principles, description and philosophical problems.

The eight limbs (Ashtanga) of Rajayoga:

A. External limbs (Bahiranga)

(i) Yama: Adequate mental and moral purification – achieved through discipline of restraints

(ii) Niyama: Adequate mental and moral purification – achieved through discipline of injunctions

(iii) Asana: Habituate the body to a position or posture

(iv) Pranayam: Regulation of breath

(v) Pratyahara: Withdrawal of mental faculties from outside world and turning the gaze inward

B. Internal limbs (Antaranga)

(vi) Dharana: Concentration of mental energies around an object, which can be a solid thing, a name, a form or an idea

(vii) Dhyana: After concentration constant dwelling on the object

(viii) Sadhana: A state of larger and deeper consciousness

These steps lead to Samadhi. There are different phases of Samadhi.

Samprajnata/Subija/Salamba Samadhi

(a) Savitarka (Contemplative) Samadhi: Duality of subject and object remains

(b) Nirvitarks (Supra-contemplative) Samadhi: consciousness about object put behind

(c) Sananda Samadhi: object fades further

(d) Sasmita Samadhi: awareness about losing the object us lost and subject/self becomes very prominent

II Asaprajnata/Nirbija/Niralamba Samadhi: No movement of consciousness even related to knowledge, there is no seed (bija) left to be sprouted, there is no object needed as a support for mind. At this point the Purusa shines in its full glory

Different ideologies have borrowed the essence of Patanjali Yoga. It is rarely practiced in its pure form.

– Theists have used Patanjali Yoga with the object of seeking God

– Some use it for self-seeking

– Tantrika has used this method to develop their own schools such as Kundalini

– Buddhists have assimilated it in their own thought

– Modern system of Yoga and meditation, popular all over the world, are some versions of Patanjali’s Rajayoga


Patanjali’s Yoga does not educate, enlarge or transform any individual. It only helps to arrive at the core spirit

# It does not help in any collective movement of humanity. It works only for individual characters.

Still Patanjali Yoga has a huge legacy as mentioned above. Different branches of modern science is rediscovering Patanjali Yoga’s journey into deepest consciousness. This chapter is easy to understand, as there are only practical methods.

Kanada | School: Vaisesika

Kanada is known by many other names such as KanabhukKanacharaKanabhaksaKanasin and Kanavrata. All have Kana in it, which has double meaning in his context. One is his being ascetic and living on particles (Kana) of food; the other is the atomic (Kana related) theory propounded by him. His other name is Pailuka and pilu means atom. His is also known as Uluka (owl) because of his habit of going for begging food at night.

He was supposed to be a big devotee and disciple of Mahadev Maheshwar. He wrote down Vaisesika darsana (philosophy) after being taught by Mahadev. He might have been mentioned in Mahabharata. Apart from these myths almost nothing is known about him.


Kanada’s treaties presupposes Mimamsa and Samkhya but this does not place him after the time of these darsanas because both systems existed since a long time before getting systematically codified.

Since in Vaisesika darsana there is no mention of Buddha we can place him before Buddha like Chinese tradition. But many modern experts place him after Buddha as in Kautilya’s Arthasastra does not count Vaisesika darsana as one of the Anvisiki sastras. But the writer postulates the Yoga in Arthasastra refer to Nyay and Vaisesika. Hence he puts down Kanada’s time to be before Buddha.


Nastika is not atheist in the sense of Abrahamic religions. To be a Nastika in Sanatana Dharma one does not accept the followings

(i) Existence of God: There is no mention of God in Vaisesika darsana but then there is no mention of God in Samkhya and Yoga too. However it is a common knowledge in his personal life Kanada was a big devotee of Mahadev. His followers and commentators of Vaisesika darsana were devoted to different Gods too.

(ii) Authority of Veda: In Vaisesika darsana there are various references to the Vedas and Vedic literature.

(iii) Life after death: Kanada and his disciples accept life after death.

(iv) The inevitability of result of one’s action (Karma Phala): Kanada and his disciples accept this.

Hence according to the writer the opinion about Kanada being a Nastika is wrong.


This is the only treatise by Kanada available. It is unclear how much of Vaisesika Darsana is written originally by Kanada and how much by his successors. The complete Vaisesika darsana is also not intact. For instance there were sections called Adhikaras where Kanada examined views of his opponents, which are completely lost.


Scholars don’t agree about meaning of Visesa (from which, vaisesika word is derived) used here. According to some it means “distinguished” and some other feel the word means “superior”, especially superior compared to Samkhya. In Samkhya the effect already exists in material cause while according to Kanada affect can’t exist before it is created by its causes. So both are different however, it is not conclusive which one is superior.

Kanada explain his theories by analysing and dividing in clear categories. He compares and contrasts. He feels to achieve the peak one must understand the things. He therefore distinguishes between drsta (known) and adrsta (unknown). His objective was to minimize adrsta. He has a method of enquiry based on common sense, which accepts the empirical world to be real.

According to Kanada the objective world has a real existence, it is not an illusion (Maya). The reals called padarthas (categories) exist. Here are few important terms of the theory with their classifications.

(I) Categories

Number of categories was possibly fixed by latter scholars.

A. Prasastapada’s classification

Objects of desire (artha) which produce merit and demerit

1. Dravya (substance)

2. Guna (quality)

3. Karman (action)

Eternal with no moral value

4. Samanya (universal)

5. Visesa (particularity)

6. Samavaya (inherence)

B. Udayana’s classification

Treats abhava (negotiation) as a distinct category along the others

C. Chadramani’s classification

Along Prasastapada’s classification he considers the following 4

Sakti (potency)

Asakti (non-potency)

Samanya-visesa (intermediate universals)

Abhava (negotiation)

D. Relative to notions of inclusion and exclusion classification

Samanya (Universal)

Visesa (particularly)

(II) Substance

Substances possess qualities and actions and are the material causes of effects.

Substances composed of eternal and indivisible anus (atoms)

1. Earth

2. Water

3. Light

4. Air

Ubiquitous, eternal and unique

5. Akasa

6. Time

7. Space

Ubiquitous, eternal and multiple

8. Soul

Many, eternal and have the minutest dimension

9. Mind

(III) Guna (quality)

Guna inheres in substance. Kanada talks about 17 gunas.

1. Rupa (colour)

2. Rasa (taste)

3. Gansha (odour)

4. Sparsa (touch)

5. Samkhya (number)

6. Parimana (measure)

7. Prthakva (separation)

8. Samyoga (conjunction)

9. Vibhaga (disjunction)

10. Paratva (distance)

11. Aparatva (proximity)

12. Buddhi (cognition)

13. Sukha (pleasure)

14. Dukha (pain)

15. Iccha (desire)

16. Dvesa (aversion)

17. Prayatna (volitional effort)

(IV) Karman (action)

Karman is devoid of guna. It inheres in substance and can be independent cause of conjunction and disjunction. There are 5 kinds of Karman.

1. Utksepana (upward movement)

2. Apaksepana (downward movement)

3. Akunana (contraction)

4. Prasarana (expansion)

5. Gamana (movement)

Chapters of Vaisesika darsana:

The text of Vaisesika darsana has 10 chapters hence it is referred to as Dasalaksani. Each chapter has two daily lessons or Ahnikas, except the last three chapters.

Chapter Ahnika Subject
1 First Properties of categories in which universals (Jati) inhere
Second Examination of the universals as well as particularity categories
2 First Examines the five bhutas (physical substances)
Second Examines space and time
3 First Deals with soul (Atman)
Second Deals with mind (Manas)
4 First An account of physical body’s accessories (tad-upayogin)
Second An account of physical body (sarira)
5 First Physical actions (Sarira karman)
Second Mental actions (Manasa karman)
6 First Vedic Dharma (duty related to Veda) and Dana Dharma (Charity duty)
Second Asramadharma (Householder duty)
7 First Qualities (Guna)
Second Inherence (samavaya)
8 Perception (pratyaksa) in its indeterminate (nirvikalpaka) and determinate (savikal-paka) aspects
9 Examines particular cognitions
10 Deals with inference (anumana) and its sub-divisions


1. The atomic theory of Kanada has influenced all Indian thinkers including the Buddhists and Jains.

2. Kanada’s material character of light has been established by modern scientist Sir C. V. Raman.


1. He did not present a single principle, like other philosophy schools, which could explain the whole universe.

2. Scientists have later disproved some of Kanada’s theories.

3. Many things considered adrsta (unknown) by Kanada has been explained since.

4. His sutras and Vaisesika tenets have been used by all philosophical schools.

5. Both Svetambara and Digambara schools of Jains have given distinct place of honour to Kanada and his system.

6. Many schools of Buddhism accept Kanada’s philosophy and have similarities with Vaisesika. But Nagarjuna and Maitreyanatha schools consider Vaisesika as their main opponent because of its realism as against Buddha’s pure idealism.

7. Many literary works and medical treaties have influence of his works too.


Kanada will be always remembered as one of the finest minds the world has ever produced for scientific investigation of matter and truth.

The Vaisesika and Nyaya are called kindred sciences – samana-tantras. The relationship between the two systems deepened and eventually they merged into a single school.

Gautama | School: Nyaya

Nyayasutra is attributed to Aksapada Gautama. His name is Aksapada whereas Gautama is gotra name showing he is descendant of Risi Gotama. As in case of other philosophy thoughts the idea of Nyaya existed much before Gautama codified and systemised it.

In old texts including Mahabharata there are mentions of philosophical and logical disputes in sacrificial assemblies (Rajasuya and Ashwamedha), royal courts and hermitages. Debates were in vogue and were conducted according to established rules.

According to Mahabharata Anviksiki or Nyaya or the logical science is originally written by Lord Brahma.

Kautilya divides Anviksiki in 3 parts: SamkhyaYoga and Lokayata. This makes scholars doubt existence of Nyaya in time of Kautilya. But Yoga has come to be recognised as Nyaya-Vaisesika. Because followers of Nyaya-Vaisesika are widely called yogis due to their affiliation to Pasupata YogasastraKautilya says the Anviksiki examines the strength or weakness of concepts on basis of reasoning. It settles man’s judgments in prosperity as well as in adversity and brings efficiency in knowledge, speech and action.

Other names of Nyayasastra:

VakovakyaHetuvidya (hence followers are also called Haitukas), HetusastraTarkavidyaVadavidya

Commonly known as Nyayasastra or Nyayavidya

Meaning of Nyaya: Syllogistic reasoning which ends in attainment of the desired conclusion with the help of the four sources of knowledge.

Some followers of Vedas accepts Nyaya as part of Vedic culture while some other followers criticise it.


– NyayaVaisesika and Samkhya are called tamasa (dark) sastra propounded to delude people.

– According to some myths Gautama was reborn as a jackal because of his devotion to Jackal. Anyone burnt with Nyayasastra is unfit for any good sastra.

– There are many treaties of Nyayasastra written by multiple debaters only the one affiliated to Veda must be followed.

However in later ages Nyayasastra was received as Pramanasastra along with the science of pada (grammar) and the Vakya (Mimamsa). The three together constituted an important part of Indian scholarship.

Gautama’s Nyayasastra is held in the highest esteem among all the treaties written on the topic.

Aksapada’s sutras are better preserved compared to Kanada’s sutras. Students of nyaya philosophy study commentaries by latter scholars along Aksapada’s works.

Nyayasastra only analyses those categories which have a bearing on attainment of nihsreyas (the highest good). The analysis has two-fold scope.

– higher one the Moksa sastra: true knowledge of the prameyas

– lower one achieved through pramanas: aid to the understanding of the other sastras

Historically Vedic and Buddhist scholars were engaged in tarka (debate). Nyaya sastra scholars used the spiritual side of their sastra for doing debate. With Muslim invasion of most part of India there was a stop to tarka with Buddhists and nyayasastra scholars concentrated on intellectual side of nyayasastra leaving God and spiritualism aside.

Chapters of Nyayasastra


Nyayasastra theory

Correct knowledge of categories à annihilation of false knowledge (mithyajnana) à dosas (defects such as attachment, aversion and delusion) à removal of pravriti (activity) à end of rebirth (punarjanma) à freedom from misery (duhkha) à attainment of salvation (apavarga)

Ultimate objective of Indian philosophies is to attain removal of miseries. Interestingly the methods of mentioned by Buddha and Aksapada are similar only difference is the numbers of steps prescribed are 12 and 5 respectively.

Objects of knowledge:

Atman (soul): It has qualities of desire, aversion, effort, pleasure, pain and knowledge

Sarira (body): It is the receptacle of effort, sense organs and sense-objects

Indriya (sense organs): Senses arises from elements – earth, water, tejas, air and akasa

Artha (sense-objects)

Buddhi (intellect): This stands for cognition.

Manasa (mind)

Pravriti (endeavour): This is of 3 kinds – those of speech, mind and body.

Dosa (defect)

Pretyabhava (rebirth)

Phala (fruit of actions)

Duhkha (sorrow)

Apavarga (salvation): Among the Nyaya scholars there is disagreement regarding salvation is a state of bliss or not.

Out of these 12 only first and last are important, the rest are only hindrances for salvation.

The syllogism of Aksapada

1. Pratijna (thesis): The statement that has to be proved

2. Hetu (reason): This proves the statement on basis of examples.

3. Udaharana (example): An example can be positive or negative.

4. Upanaya (analogue): It is guided by the example and is prefixed with “like that” or “unlike that”

5. Nigamana (conclusion): Repetition of thesis after giving reason.

There can be fallacies with any of these 5 but fallacy in Hetu (reason) is only fallacy that matters and hence has to be dealt by sastras.

There are 5 fallacies with Hetu (reason):

Savyabhichara (inconclusive)

Viruddha (contradictory)

Prakaranasama (of contradicted reason)

Sadhyasama (of unproved reason)

Kalatita (mistimed)

The syllogism of Aksapada has the advantage of combining together induction and deduction. While Aristotelians work only with deduction. Hence Aksapada’s method is superior. Although we have long tradition of induction, unfortunately  we have failed to exert influence on its modern developments in it.

Different kinds of philosophical discussions

Tarka (argumentation): This is a conjecture (uha) for attainment of true knowledge when essence is not known, on basis of plausibility of two contradictory reasons.

Vada (debate): This is a syllogistic discourse between two contending parties with their own tenets. They don’t transgress limit of their tenets. They have means of knowledge.

Jalpa (disputation): A vada becomes a jalpa when quibble (chala), futile rejoinder (jati) and points of defeat (nigrahasthana) also serve as the means of refutation. Chala is rebutting a thesis by taking recourse to an alternative meaning of a term.

Vitanda (destructive argumentation): A jalpa becomes a vitanda where the thesis of the opponent is not explicitly stated.


(i) This has exerted influence on all schools of Indian philosophy. The Buddhists have their Vada treaties which follow general scheme of Aksapada. The inclusion of abhava as a separate category in Vaisesika is because of Nyaya’s influence.

(ii) The syllogistic reasoning of Aksapada has been generally accepted in India as the means of proving one’s thesis. The opponents of Nyaya have also to use method of Nyaya to disprove them.

(iii) Charaka in his medical compendium treats many of the Nyaya categories.

(iv) Nyaya is an unbroken chain of tradition studied in different parts of India. The Mithila school leads others in this tradition.

(v) Buddhist logic is only a branch of Nyaya. Through Buddhism Nyaya crossed India’s border and is studied in other countries like China and Japan.

Jaimini | School: Mimamsa

There are multiple Jaimini in Indian history and mythology, it is not possible to know which one has written Mimamsasutra. At least two Jaiminis are involved in Mimamsasutra – one chief writer and the other one much more ancient scholar who was a contributor.

From absence of any mention of Buddha and timeline of Jaimini’s commentator the writer fixes Jaimini’s time to be before Buddha, in about 500 B.C.

Mimamsasutra contains about 3000 sutras discussing duty (dharma) and related topics in about a thousand topics (adhikaranas) divided into sixty quarters (pada) forming twelve chapters. Each chapter has four quarters, but the third, the sixth and the tenth chapters have eight quarters. These 12 chapters are called dvadasalaksani and is accepted by all as written by Jaimini.

There are four more chapters comprising about 600 aphorisms discussing nearly 350 topics in 16 quarters forming 4 chapters. These 4 chapters known as sankarsakanda has a different style than dvadasalaksani. Hence till very recently its authorship was under cloud. However now it has been proved without doubt sankarsakanda is also written by JaiminiDvadasalaksani and sankarsakanda are together known as sodasalaksani.

The writer here mentions a term Brahmanas a lot. I did not know the meaning so Googled it.

Copied from Wikipedia: The Brahmanas are Vedic śruti works attached to the Samhitas of the RigSamaYajur, and Atharva Vedas. They are a secondary layer or classification of Sanskrit texts embedded within each Veda, often explain and instruct Brahmins on the performance of Vedic rituals.

Dharma defined as a sacrificial act is important for welfare of man. Sacrifice is of two types:

prakriti (archetype) – defined and described in details in Brahmanas. In chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of Mimamsasutra this sacrifice is discussed.

vikriti (ectype) – is not defined explicitly. The instructions of this sacrifice are understood indirectly such as the points of differences from prakriti. In chapters 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 of Mimamsasutra this sacrifice is discussed.

Last 4 chapters of Mimamsasutra, also known as dvadasalaksani, discuss miscellaneous topics concerning sacrifice and duty.

Chapter description of Mimamsasutra

Chapter 2: Karmabheda (classifications of acts) – the 6 principles laid down to determine an act is main or subsidiary.

Chapter 3: sesatva (the relationship of the subsidiary and the principal)

Chapter 4: prayukti (the motive of acts)

Chapter 5: karma (the order of performance) – In sacrifice several details are to be performed in a specific order as determined by 6 given principles.

Chapter 6: adhikara (qualification)

Chapter 7 and 8: atidesa (transfer of details from the archetype to the ectype) in its two variations – samanya (general) and visesa (particular)

Chapter 9: uha (modification)

Chapter 10: badha and samuccaya (annulment and combination)

Chapter 11: ta-ntra and avapa (single or repeated performance of a subsidiary with reference to the principal act)

Chapter 12: prassanga and vikalpa (indirect aid by a single performance of a subsidiary and option)

Chapter 13, 14, 15, 16: topics concerning mantrapraisanigadavasatkara et al and materials as agni (fire), istakah (brick), yupa (sacrificial post) etc.

The Brahmanas can be described as the bedrock of sacrificial religion. It has two aspects. One concerns correct interpretation and the other pertaining to the correct, continuous performance of sacrifice details. The former has developed and found its culmination in the work of Jaimini, while the latter has given rise to the srautasutra literature. Hence the mimamsa system is a natural growth and development of one aspect of the Brahmana literature.

Jaimini has defined dharma as an act or a set of acts known on basis of scriptural text alone (codana), which outcomes in human well-being. Codana is pranama (proof) in itself.

According to Jaimini Veda’s sentences are not written by human. Hence the sentences are invariably valid. Hence Vedas can’t be open to personal interpretations. Only literal meanings are allowed and are used.

Vedic statements fall into 5 classes

Vidhi (injunction)

Pratisedha (prohibition)

Arthavada (eulogy)

Mantra (chant)

Namadheya (name)

Smrtis are the codes of ManuGautama and other sages. Sistachara is the actual conduct of those whose lives have been disciplined by Vidhi and PratisedhaSmrtis and Sistachara are admitted as pramanas indirectly based on sruti (words from vedas). In case of any conflict, according to JaiminiSmrtis and Sistachara can’t stand against sruti.

Jaimin’s actual teaching can be looked at from three points of view

1. Science of sacrifice

Sacrificial acts are two kinds – pradhana (principal) and anga (subsidiary). Theses acts bring upon the ultimate result (phala) or simply serve the purpose of the sacrifice. Phala comes only when the main act together with all its subsidiary acts are performed properly.

Acts are classified under three heads –

Nitya (obligatory): Obligatory for all. Yields no positive result but non-performance by anyone entails pratyavaya (reproach). The social implication is everyone in society must do some minimum duty.

Naimittaka (incidental): contingent on particular nimittas and performed only when the occasion arises

Kamya (actuated by desire): performed if one desires for something specific

2. Science of interpretation

Jaimini has laid down principles (anusanga and adhyahara) for completing apparently incomplete sentences. The principle of viparinama interprets a sentence which otherwise would have rendered futile. Vidhi (injunction) must always be interpreted literally, never metaphorically. Metaphorical or secondary interpretation can be resorted to in case of Arthavada (eulogy). He has laid down many rules to interpret numbers and genders from original texts. Specific rules are there to interpret negative sentences as Pratisedha (prohibition), vikalpa (alternative), or Arthavada (eulogy).

3. System of philosophy

But since a sacrificial act is only transient it can’t last till the moment the phala accrues to the sacrificer. Then from what does the result arise?

Mimamsa’s reply to this is some unseen potency (apurva) which arises from the act of sacrifice and stays on after the act gets over. All acts having no tangible result create apurva. All apurvas arising from subsidiary acts combined with main act result in phala.

Thus mimamsa does not recognise gods (devatas) as bestower of phalaJaimini clearly declares that devata is only subsidiary to sacrificial act.

So in plain language we can’t score 98% by praying to Gods on the eve of the exam if we have not done the required actions.


Jaimini has never discussed laukika pranam lucidly, which is authority in respect of worldly knowledge. He is mainly concerned with knowledge of dharma and not of ordinary things (laukika jnana) but he has used laukika pranam and laukika jnana wherever there was a need.

In the course of time philosophy of jnana (Vedanta) gained ground and owning to its inherent defects the sacrificial cult dwindled. The inherent defect is Jaimini confined his philosophy to interpretation of Brahmanas and avoided any view concerning philosophical problems such as man, God, World and their mutual relation.


As a science of sacrifice Mimamsasutra is related to the Brahmanas on one hand and the Kalpasutras (a Jain holy text book containing biographies of Jain munis and Jain rituals) on the other.

It systemises the teaching of Brahmanas about sacrifices with correct interpretation. In this respect Mimamsasutra is to the Brahmanas what the vedantasutra is to the upanisads.

The principles of interpretation (vakyasastra) formulated and indicated by Jaimini are the only methods to interpret dharmasastras (religious texts). They are called mimamsa rules of interpretation or the nyayas. This is why these worls and the systems propunded by them are designated as purvamimamsa and uttaramimamsa respectively.

These rules have parallels in the modern legal interpretations.

The philosophy of action (karma) and its fruit (phala) are reinterpreted to suit the modern time. The whole world needs a teaching of duties and patiently waiting for natural consequences of duties.

Badarayana | School: Vedanta

Vedanta is the most widespread philosophical tradition of India. Its origin can be traced to upanisadsUpanisads are also called vedanta because they are concluding part of the vedasVedanta literally means end of vedas.

Purvannmamsa or mimamsa and vedanta are most orthodox schools because of their close adherence to karmakanda (ritual section) and jnanakanda (philosophical section) of vedas.

As we see, in all philosophical traditions there is a basic sutra to string together basic ideas in an orderly manner.  For vedanta the sutra is called vedantasutra and it is written by Badarayana.

Like other ancient Indian philosophers historically nothing is known about Badarayana. The writer has given a rough sketch of Badarayana’s life taking reference from tradition. According to tradition Badarayana is VyasaVyasa can be taken as a generic word meaning arranger or compiler. In every creation cycle a Vyasa is born in dvapara yuga (age) to classify veda in different sections. The Vaysa of current cycle is Krisna Dvaipayane or Badarayana. Apart from vedantasutra he is credited to have written Mahabharata and eighteen mahapuranas.

Vedanta philosophy has 3 basic texts: vedantasutraupanisads and Bhagvadgita. Together they are known as prasthanatraya or triple canon of vedanta. In the present chapter writer has limited his discussion to vedantasutra.

Other names of vedantasutra

(a) Nyayaprasthana because it sets forth the teachings of vedanta in logical order

(b) Brahmasutra because its theme is brahman

(c) Sarirakasutra because it is concerned with embodied soul

(d) Bhikusutra because the students of this text are sanyasis

(e) Uttaramimamsasutra because it is an enquiry into the final section of veda

Vedantasutra has

4 chapters (adhyayas)

4 parts (padas) of each chapter

Each part has multiple sections (adhikaranas)

Each section has one or more aphorisms (sutras)

According to Sankara the total number of sections is 192 and total number of aphorisms is 555 in Vedantasutra.

The gist of the 4 chapters:

Chapter 1: Devoted to harmony (samanvaya)

Badarayana teaches about the non-dual reality, brahmanBrahman is the supreme soul or self. Other words have been also used in scriptures to mean supreme self such as akasapranamanasmanomaya. But these words have alternative meanings too. The meaning is brahman or not can be understood from the context of use.

Brahman is existence-consciousness-bliss. It is object of meditation. It is the goal of the souls after death. It is also the source of the universe.

According to samkhya thought there’s a dual reality. The source of universe is prakriti and there is another identity called purusa representing intelligence. But Badarayana rejected the dual reality, as it can’t be inferred from the words of the scriptures.

Chapter 2: Devoted to non-conflict (avirodha)

Badarayana discusses various objections against vedanta thought and then refutes those.

He tries to show flaw in all the major thoughts on creation and universe

Samkhya – Since prakriti is inert there is no explanation on how would it start to function or how would it stop. The evolution from prakriti is also not logical.

Vaisesika – Unseen potency and atom are two significant part of this thought. Badarayana says if unseen potency and atom both don’t possess intelligence then how would unseen potency communicate with atom. The atoms are said to have possessed colour and other material characteristics. Hence they can’t be eternal.

Bauddha – Bauddha realists recognise two kinds of aggregates external and internal constitutes the world. Buddha can’t explain how the aggregations take place with his doctrine of momentariness. How can even cause and effect be combined since according to Buddha both are momentary? And how the external things one experiences be denied to exist altogether?

Jainism – Jainism attributes contradictory characteristics to souls like permanence and change, identity and difference hence self contradictory. Jainism also gives size to soul but anything with a material attribute can’t be spiritual or eternal.

Some atheist schools – They consider God to be the only efficient cause. But this theory is not sound according to Badarayana as the consideration makes God limited and finite. Badarayana also rejects the idea of theists that souls are created from God.

Vedantasutra says without any effort or external accessories the creation happens from brahman. Because brahman before creation or evolution and after creation or evolution are basically the same. The two are respectively like blooming and folded conditions of the same lotus. Cause and effect are not different. Brahman can never be modified nor there is a beginning of the soul.

Chapter 3: Devoted to means (sadhana)

This chapter narrates the journey of soul after physical death. First the alternative paths soul can take.

(i) Charvaka: There is no soul as no consciousness apart from body has ever been observed.

(ii) Soul goes along the path of Gods (devayana/brahmalok): Because of the appropriate meditations done in life

(iii) Soul goes along the path of forefathers (pitryana): Because of the performance of sacrifice in life

(iv) Soul goes to nether world (nark)

(v) Continually revolving creatures who born and die again and again.

As soul travels from body it carries subtle elements and sense organs with it.

The soul which goes to brahmalok (heaven) has to come back to the world at the end of their accumulated merit. Similarly the souls going to nark come back to the world after punishments for their sins get exhausted.

Hence heaven is not ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to be free from this cycle. That happens only when soul loses its ignorance and realises it is same as brahman. For achieving this realisation various vidyas are prescribed by scriptures. The path of knowledge leads to moksha. This does not mean actions and rituals are pointless as they indirectly help soul by purifying mind.

The chapter explains how a soul descends on the world, enters a womb and gets a fresh body. In one life the soul goes through different experiences of dream, sleep, waking etc.

Chapter 4: Devoted to fruit (phala) and some auxiliary matters

Here the writer talks about saguna brahman and nirguna brahman. This is confusing for me as till now I have been reading brahman is unique so how can there be two kinds of brahmans? I know literally saguna means “with attributes” and nirguna means “without attributes” but the writer has not mentioned why there is a distinction.

From reading the text of the book I understand there is a group of people who believes in saguna brahman something like idols of modern Hinduism. When a worshipper of saguna brahman dies their soul reaches heart region and departs through susumnanadi (located somewhere near chest). Then soul follows ray of sun and goes to brahmalok. During the course of journey various deities take charge of the soul at different phases. There the soul stays in brahmalok identified with saguna brahman. There the soul may realise nirguna brahman and attain moksha. Whereas if one realises nirguna brahman in life, there is moksha after death. There is no journey for soul after death.

Badarayana and other scholars

There are many other idealogues of vedanta apart from Badarayana. They are mentioned in vedantasutra with reference to various ideas.

Bheda-bhedavadin (difference-non difference) – Asmarathya advocates both difference and non-difference between individual soul and supreme soul. Audulomi is of the same view. According to him soul identifies with the supreme soul only after leaving the physical body. In state of ignorance soul and supreme soul remain separate. They merge with realisation of supreme knowledge. He says the essential nature of soul is consciousness.

Performance of sacrifice: Audulomi feels priest should perform the sacrificeas he is paid for it. While Atreya says the sacrifier, the intended receiver of fruit, should perform the sacrifice.

Why do soul comes back from heaven: According to Karsnajini for the residual karma.

No difference between soul and supreme soul according to Kasakritsna.

Badarayana mentions purvamimamsa and Jaimini many times in his sutra. Jaimini appears as a teacher of both vedanta and mimamsa schools. Jaimini feels soul possesses body and sense organs because scriptures declare a soul has ability to assume diverse forms.

In some aphorisms he mentions himself in third person. Here are few of his personal views

# Gods can do meditation and gain brahman knowledge as opposed to Jaimini who believes these are only for human.

# Unlike Jaimini he does not think fruit of karma is bestowed by apurva. He thinks the fruit must be guided by God.

# Knowledge of brahman is superior to rituals. Knowledge only can give moksha.

# Liberated soul is pure intelligence with having may or may not attributes. So he is not contradicting Jaimini.

First aphorism of vedantasutra

No other sutra has been researched and commented on so much as vedantasutra. The most famous commentary is Sankara’s Bhasya.

This chapter is the best written chapter of the book except the nirguna and saguna part.

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