• Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language.
  • Problems that the Indian philosophers raised for consideration, but that their Western counterparts never did, include such matters as the origin (utpatti) and apprehension (jnapti) of truth (pramanya).

General development of Indian philosophy

  1. Vedic hymns, Hindu scriptures dating from the 2nd millennium BCE, are the oldest record from India of the process of the deep psychological processes of mythmaking leading to profound cosmological concepts.
  2. The Upanishads also contain early speculations by Indian philosophers about nature, life, mind, and the human body
  3. All “orthodox” philosophies can trace their basic principles back to some statement or other in the Vedas
  4. Indian philosophies include both orthodox (astika- school of thought that accepts authority of Vedas) systems, namely, the Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva-Mimamsa (or Mimamsa), and Vedanta schools of philosophy, and unorthodox (nastika- school of thought that that does not accept authority of Vedas) systems, such as Buddhism and Jainism.

General characteristics of Indian philosophy

  1. Diversity: The various Indian philosophies contain such a diversity of views, theories, and systems that it is almost impossible to single out characteristics that are common to all of them.
  2. Acceptance of Vedas:
    • Acceptance of the authority of the Vedas characterizes all the orthodox (astika) systems
    • Moreover, even when philosophers professed allegiance to the Vedas, their allegiance did little to fetter the freedom of their speculative ventures.
  3. Developed as a practical necessity: The Indian philosophers very well understood that philosophy and life had a close relation. They also believed that life could be best led by following a good philosophy. This can be noticed in the different problems discussed in the systems of Indian philosophy. Philosophical thought in India grew out of practical motivation.
  4. Initial pessimism:
    • Indian philosophy, in general, is found to start with a note of pessimism. A sense of dissatisfaction at the existing state of affairs can be noted in almost all the systems of Indian philosophy. Ex: Buddha’s philosophy
    • However, the pessimistic note is only the initial note in Indian philosophy which generally concludes with the optimistic note. All the systems, in their own ways, have shown that we can get over the sufferings of life. There are ways that lead to freedom from the miserable state of existence on earth.
  1. Belief in an Eternal Moral order:
    • Belief in an eternal moral order is another feature that is commonly found to be present in the systems of Indian philosophy, of course, with the exception of the Charvaka, the only materialistic system flourishing in India.
    • Indian philosophy believes that the whole universe is being governed and sustained by a universal moral order. This moral order is eternal and it cannot be violated by anybody.
  1. Ignorance as the root cause of suffering:
    • Indian philosophy, in general, believes that ignorance is the root cause of human suffering.
    • Ignorance about the true nature of things gives rise to attachment to the worldly objects as they can gratify the senses.
    • Freedom from this state can be obtained only through right knowledge of things.
  1. Liberation as the ultimate goal of life
    • Systems of Indian philosophy, barring the Carvaka, take liberation or freedom from bondage to be the ultimate goal of human life.
    • Liberation means complete cessation of suffering.
    • Except for the Lokayata materialists, all these systems agreed about karma and reincarnation.
    • Except for Buddhism and Lokayata, the Indian systems agreed on the existence of a permanent soul, or atman.