Nearly two years ago I picked up a book titled Seven Systems of Indian Philosophy by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute and disciple of Swami Rama. Till then I had always associated Vedanta with Indian philosophy and was pleasantly surprised to know that in India we had other schools of thought too. I found the book super and a good basis for further study. It explains difficult concepts in a simple and easy to understand language. The content is verbatim from the book. In order to make it comprehensive I have taken excerpts from the book in a way that you get an understanding of the subject. Courtesy and Copyright Himalayan Publishers.
The Sanskrit word for philosophy is darsana, which means direct vision. The words symbolize the difference between modern Western philosophy, which mainly relies on intellectual pursuit and Indian philosophy that relies on direct vision of truths and pure Buddhi (reasoning). Darsana is divided into two categories namely Astika (believer in the Vedas) and Nastika (non-believer in the Vedas). Astika are Nyaya, Vaisheshik, Sakhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta. Nastika are Carvaka, Jainism and Buddhism. Others are a mixture of the ideas of these systems.
Although each school of philosophy is unique, all of them have certain common characteristics. These are direct experience, acceptance of authority, harmony amongst schools, parallel growth and coexistence of a number of schools, open mindedness, support of logic and reasoning, belief of eternity, law of karma, moral and ethical teachings, acknowledgement of suffering, thoroughness and practicality.
Friends after I finished this piece, asked myself a simple question. Why is it that Indians of those times were so creative? I mean nine schools of philosophy followed by many gurus thereafter. Each Guru analyzed scriptures in a unique way, in a manner that there was something new to learn.
Let me attempt an answer. One of the ways to foster creativity is open mindedness and sharing. We were always open to new ideas and thoughts, believed there was always a better way of thinking – doing things. When we believe that direct experience is the key to realization, we do not accept anything till we have understood it. In such cases we are compelled to use our intellect. The emphasis then was on gaining knowledge to remove ignorance and sharing thereafter. Exams were more in the nature of question and answer sessions, not for getting a job. There was extensive interaction between the Guru and pupil as well as amongst pupils. All this promoted creativity and helped human thought blossom.
My first boss Dicky S said ‘the day you believe you know all is when your career graph starts moving southwards. Life is a continuing learning process’. Sounds like a modern management mantra. It is something the Vedic Rishis imbibed and practiced thousands of years ago.
Today we have classrooms packed with anywhere between 35 to 50 children. It is a one-way street where the teacher comes and vomits out what she has to say for the day. Interaction, cross-questioning is rare. Children are encouraged to follow the beaten track -agree to what is being taught – not encouraged to think, let their imaginations run wild - no rebels wanted is the motto. Teaching is standardized something like mass production. The object of studying is doing well in the exams, acquisition of material objects, period. To some this style might inculcate a sense of discipline but for others it amounts to stifling creativity.
If India is to enhance its impact in the Knowledge World we have to encourage children to ask questions, arouse their curiosity, allow them to experiment, come closer to nature and think wildly. Never say this is not possible to a child but let him understand / possibly discover why it is so. Therefore, this piece is dedicated to the Children of India in whose hands the future of Bharat lies.
Before we get into an in-depth reading of each system here is a brief introduction.
Nyaya - The Nyaya school was founded by sage Gautama. Sixteen major topics were discussed in this system, the most important of which is pramana, the source of valid knowledge. Actually, Nyaya is a school of logic, and all other schools of Indian philosophy use the Nyaya system of logic, in whole or in part, as a foundation for philosophical reasoning and debate. Navya-Nyaya or Neologic, a further development of this school, occurred in the 16th century in Bengal and Mithila.
Vaisesika - Kannada is the founder of this school, which is associated with the Nyaya system. This school discusses seven major topics: substance, quality, action, generality, uniqueness, inherence and non-existence. This school is called Vaisesika because it considers, uniqueness, as an aspect of reality and studies it as a separate category. Under the topic of substance, it deals with the physics and chemistry of the body and the universe. The theory of atomic structure was established by this school. Its practical teaching emphasizes dharma, the code of conduct that leads man to worldly welfare and to the highest goal of life.
Samkhya - Kapila is traditionally cites as the founder of this school, although his Samkhya Sutras have been lost. The Samkhya-karika of Isvarakrsna, the oldest text on this philosophy, cites the name of Kapila, Asuri and Pancasikha as previous teachers of this school. It is considered to the oldest of the philosophical systems.
Samkhya is a dualistic philosophy that believes in the coexistent and interdependent realities, conscious Purusha and unconscious Prakrti. Purusha is ever pure, wise and free but it becomes a subject of pain and pleasure when it identifies itself with Prakrti. Prakrti is the material cause of the universe and is composed of three gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas that correspond to light, activity and inertia respectively. The state in which the gunas are in equilibrium is called Prakrti but when disturbed the state is called Vikrti. Disturbance of the equilibrium of Prakrti produces the material world, including the mind, which is supposed to be the finest form of material energy.
Samkhya philosophy explains the dynamics of the body and nature of mind. It is the mother of mathematics as well as Ayurveda and is indeed the very basis of Eastern philosophy.
Yoga - Yoga and Samskhya are allied systems. Although Yoga philosophy was known even in the Vedic and pre-Vedic periods, it was not formally systematized until it was codified by Patanjali in about 200 BC. The Yoga Sutras contain 196 aphorisms, which are divided into four sections. Yoga studies all aspects of human personality and teaches one how to control the modifications of the mind through practice of meditation and detachment and surrender to higher consciousness. It prescribes a holistic system of practice beginning with the yamas and niyamas (ethical and behavioral codes) and proceeding through the asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyahara (control of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and culminating in samadhi. In this system the individual self is the seeker and pure consciousness is the ultimate reality that he finds within. Practicality is the main feature of this system.
Mimamsa - Jamini was the founder of this system that accepts the Veda as the final authority on all questions. It provides a comprehensive method for interpreting and understanding the underlying meaning of the Veda. It lays great emphasis on rituals, worship and ethical conduct and provides a systematic lifestyle and direction. Mimamsa offers guidelines for practical application of Vedantic theory. This school is foremost in the analysis of sound and mantra.
Eventually this school was divided into two groups: the school founded by Prabhakara and the one founded by Kumarila Bhatta. According to the former there are five sources of valid knowledge: perception, inference, comparison, testimony and postulation. According to the latter there is only one source of knowledge – noncognition.
Vedanta - was taught and practiced by the sages of the Vedas and Upanishads and was handed over through a long line of sages. But Veda Vyasa, who codified these teachings in the Brahma Sutras, is considered its founder. Until the time of Sankara, Vedanta was mainly transmitted through oral tradition but sometime between the 6th and 8th centuries a.d. Sankara reorganized the system of this monistic school of thought. After him numerous teachers wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, interpreting it in various ways and thus establishing various schools within the single system of Vedanta.
The major schools of Vedanta are Advaita (nondualistic), Dvaita (dualistic), Dvaitadvaita (both dualistic and non dualistic), Visistadvaita (qualifies nondualism) and Visuddhadvaita (pure non-dualism). Of these schools Sankara’s Advaita and Ramanuja’s Visistadvaita are the most important. Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta covers all the other systems. The main teachings of Vedanta is that self-realization is the actual goal of life, that the essence of the self is the ever existent consciousness and bliss, the Self is free from all qualifications and limitations, that the self is essentially Brahman, supreme consciousness and this Brahman is the absolute, transcendent, attributeless reality but it eternally embodies itself within itself the capacity or power called maya, which is the basis of mind and matter.
Nyaya – Valid knowledge through Logical Criticism
The short form for Nyaya is N. The founder of the N system was Gotama. It is also known as N Vidya or Tarka Sastra – ‘the science of logic and reasoning’. Because N analyses the nature and source of knowledge, it validity and invalidity, it is also known as Anviksiki which means ‘the science of critical study’.
N asserts that obtaining valid knowledge of the external world and its relationship with the mind and self is the only way to attain liberation. If one masters the logical techniques of reasoning and dutifully applies these to daily life, he will rid himself of all suffering. The ultimate aim of N philosophy like other systems of Indian philosophy is liberation – the complete cessation of pain and suffering. Although concerned with the study of logic and epistemology N is a philosophy of life.
The common aims of all the six orthodox schools of Indian philosophy are to describe the nature of the external world and its relationship to the individual, to discuss the metaphysical aspects of the ultimate Reality, and to state the goal of life and means for attaining this goal. In this attempt, all Indian systems divide their course of study into two categories, the study of the unmanifested reality and manifest reality. In N, both these aspects are studied under 16 major divisions called Padarthas.
The sixteen divisions are pramana – the source of knowledge, prameya – object of knowledge, samsaya – doubt, prayojana - the aim, drstana – example, siddhanta – doctrine, avayava – the constituents of inference, tarka – hypothetical argument, nirnaya – conclusion, badha – discussion, jalpa – wrangling, vitanda – irrational argument, hetvabhasa – specious reasoning, chala – unfair reply, jati – generality based on a false analogy and nigrahasthana – the grounds for defeat. The subjects discussed under pramana, the source of knowledge are the most important and are discussed last.
1. Prameya - The Object of Knowledge
Prameya or P for short may be translated as ‘that which is knowable’ or ‘the object of true knowledge’. The word P is derived from the Sanskrit word prama meaning ‘buddhi’ or cognition. That which is the object of cognition is prameya and whatever is comprehended or cognized by buddhi is categorized into twelve objects of cognition known as the Prameyas. These 12 divisions are –
1. Atman the Self, 2. Sarira the body that experiences pleasure and pain, the seat of all organic activities, 3. Indriyas the five senses i.e. smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing that contact external objects and transmit the experience to the mind, 4.Artha the objects of the senses, 5.Buddhi cognition, 6.Manas or the mind that is concerned with the perception of pleasure and pain and according to N limits cognition to time and space. The mind is compared to an atom because it is minute, everlasting, individual and all pervading. 7. Pravrti is activity – vocal, mental and physical, 8. Dosa – mental defects that include attachment (raga), hatred (dvesa), and delusion (moha), 9. Pretyabhava – rebirth or life after death, 10. Phala – the fruits or results of action experienced as pleasure and pain, 11. Dukha – suffering, and 12. Apavarga – liberation or complete cessation of all suffering without the possibility of its reappearance.
According to N philosophy, the goal of life is to understand these 12 aspects of reality as they actually are. Bondage is born of the misunderstanding of these 12 knowable objects and one obtains freedom when he attains the correct knowledge of these 12 aspects of reality.
2. Samsaya or Doubt - It is a state of mind where the mind wavers between conflicting views regarding a single object, is a product of a confused state of mind that is not able to perceive with clarity.
3. Prayojana or Aim - Without an aim or target no one can perform any action. One acts to achieve desirable objects or to get rid of undesirable ones, these objects that motivate one’s activities are known as prayojana.
4. Drstanta or Example - is the use of an example to illustrate a common fact and establish an argument. This is a very important aspect of reasoning for frequently an example can be accepted by both parties to resolve a difference of opinion.
5. Siddhanta or Doctrine - It is a postulate that is accepted as the undisputed truth and that serves as the foundation for the entire theory of a particular system of philosophy. This accepted truth might be derived from direct experience or from reasoning and logic. For e.g. it is the doctrine of N philosophy that there is a God who is the efficient cause of the universe and who organizes / regulates the atoms.
6. Avayava or Constituents of Inference - the term literally means constituents or parts and in this context it refers to the constituents of inference. This is an important part in N philosophy because N strongly emphasizes describing the minute complexities of the pramanas, the sources or methods of receiving correct knowledge. Among these methods inference is the most important source of correct knowledge and N provides a technical method to test the validity of the inference. If an inference contains the following five constituents, then it can give correct knowledge. These are pratijna (statements), hetu (reason), udaharana (example), upanaya (universal proposition) and nigamana (conclusion). Discussed in more detail later.
7. Hypothetical Argument or Tarka - All the systems of Indian philosophy agree that it is the mind’s jabbering that creates confusion within and without. Thus it is important to clear the confusions of the mind before trying to understand something through the mind. For this purpose N philosophy discussed the possible problems of the mind and clarifies its confusions, using such processes as tarka. It is the process of questioning and cross-questioning that leads to a particular conclusion. Tarka can become a great instrument for analyzing a common statement and discriminating between valid and invalid knowledge.
8. Conclusion or Nirnaya - Is certain knowledge that is attained by using legitimate means. If the mind has doubts then tarka can be used to resolve those doubts. But it is not always necessary to pass through a doubtful state. Nirnaya is the ascertainment of assured truth about something that is attained by means of recognized and legitimate sources of knowledge.
9. Discussion or Badha - is a kind of debate between two parties each one trying to convince the other of his point of view. This is an effective and efficient way to reach valid knowledge provided both parties are honest and free from prejudices.
10. Wrangling or Jalpa - is the process by both parties try to attain victory without making an honest attempt to come to the truth, there is an involvement of ego instead of a search for knowledge. It is a type of discussion where each party has a prejudice for his own view and thus tries to gather all possible arguments in his favor.
11. Irrational reasoning or Vitanda - specifically it is argumentation that is aimed at refuting or destroying an antagonist’s position and that is not at all concerned with establishing or defending one’s position. Where as in wrangling both sides seek to establish their own position, in Vitanda either or both sides tries to refute the other’s position instead of establishing one’s own.
12. Specious reasoning or Hetabhasa - means irrational argument. This specious reasoning is a fallacy of inference and it is discussed later in this chapter section on inferences.
13. Unfair reply or Chala - here it is used to designate a statement that is meant to cheat or fool someone. Here one takes a word or phrase that has been used in a particular sense, pretends to understand it in a sense other than that which was intended, and then denies the truth of this deliberate misinterpretation of the original speaker’s words.
14. Generality based on a false analogy or Jati - as is used here it is a technical term used to describe a debate in which an unfair reply or conclusion is based on a false analogy.
15. Grounds for defeat or Nigrahasthana - may be translated as the grounds on which a person is defeated in his argument. When a proponent misunderstands his own or his opponent’s premises and their implications, then he becomes helpless and must eventually admit his defeat in the debate.
16. PRAMANA or The Sources of Valid Knowledge
Pramana or PR for short is that through or by which the prama – valid knowledge is received. There are four distinct fountains of correct knowledge. These are perception (pratyaksa), inference (anumana), comparison (upamana) and testimony (sabda). Before discussing these sources of knowledge, we must first examine the definition of knowledge and the method of distinguishing correct from false knowledge.
In N philosophy, knowledge is divided into two categories namely anubhava or experiential knowledge and smriti or memory. The former is received from the four PR’s referred to above and the latter which is based on memory is derived from the storehouse of one’s mind which in turn is also based on anubhava only as you cannot remember something that you have not experienced. These two categories can be divided into valid and invalid knowledge. In the language of N philosophy, valid experiential knowledge is called prama and nonvalid is called aprama.Prama can be received through perception, inference, comparison and testimony. Aprama is divided into doubt (samsaya), faulty cognition (bhrama) and hypothetical argument (tarka).
According to N philosophy, true knowledge is that which corresponds to the nature of its object, otherwise the knowledge is false. To perceive a thing in its true nature is true knowledge. N philosophy says that validity or invalidity of knowledge depends on its correspondence or noncorrespondence to the facts. Example it one wants to have correct knowledge of sugar one tastes it. True knowledge leads a person to successful practical activity, while false knowledge makes one helpless and leads to failure / disappointment.
1. Perception - is knowledge produced by the contacts of senses with the objects of the world. N philosophy has several different systems of classification of perception. There are two kinds of perceptions: laukika (ordinary) and aalukika (extraordinary). If it is the former then perception is derived from direct contact with a sense object and the latter when the object is conveyed to the senses through unusual modes – not directly present to the senses. Modes of perception are either external or internal. The former are faculties of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell are involved in bringing the object to the mind. The latter is the Mind that perceives the quality of the soul like desire, pleasure and pain.
In N philosophy ordinary perception is divided into indeterminate (nirvikalpa) or determinate (savikalpa). The former is the primary cognition of a thing before a judgment is used to specify different characteristics. Example when one sees a table; one perceives the mere existence of the table without comprehending its color or shape. Only upon further inspection does one recognize that it is round etc. Determinate perception always precedes indeterminate perception and is always valid knowledge because it is explicit and definite.
There are three kinds of extraordinary (alaukika) perceptions: perception of classes (samanya laksana), perception based on association (jnana laksana) and intuitive perception (yogaja). The realization that all people are mortal is an instance of the external perception of classes. A different type of extraordinary perception – association – is involved when one says something looks delicious or that stone looks hard. These assertions imply that the taste of food or hardness of stone can be perceived by the eyes. N says that the past appearance of touch and taste are so closely associated with the visual appearance of the causative agents that whenever the eyes see food the past appearance of taste and touch come alive. This present perception of taste and touch due to the revival of past knowledge of the color of the food is perception based on association. The third kind of extraordinary perception is called yogaja, the knowledge born of yoga practices. Intuitive knowledge comes after the mind is cleansed through yogic practices. Those who have achieved spiritual perfection and perceive intuitive knowledge instantly are called Yukta yogins. Those who are on the path of the spiritual journey, need concentration to attain intuitive knowledge are called Yunjan yogins.
2. Inference - is the process of knowing something through the medium of a sign or linga that is invariably related to it. Inference involves the process of analyzing memories, correlations and uncontaminated arguments. There is a systematic method of testing the validity of inferential knowledge, for there are always some inseparable constituents to an inference, and if any of these parts are missing or if there is any defect in the parts, then the knowledge inferred is invalid.
The Sanskrit word for inference is Anumana that may be defined as ‘the cognition or knowledge that follows from some other knowledge’. An e.g. is ‘ The hill is on fire because there is smoke on the hill, and where there is smoke there is fire’. In this case we perceive smoke on the hill and arrive at the knowledge of the existence of fire on the hill on the basis of our previous knowledge of the universal relationship between smoke and fire. Thus, it is apparent that inference is a process of reasoning in which one passes through certain necessary stages to reach a conclusion, which is called inferential knowledge. In the process of inference, one reaches a conclusion regarding a particular fact through the knowledge of a sign and of the sign’s universal relationship to the conclusion. In this case the smoke is linga or sign, the relationship between smoke and fire is known as vyapti. As a result of this relationship, knowledge of the fire on the hill arises that is known as Nirnaya or conclusion.
Three parts of inference: Thus, an inference contains three parts, the minor term (paksa), the major term (sadhya) and the middle term (hetu or linga). In the process of inference, the first step is the apprehension of smoke (hetu) on the hill, the second step is the recollection of the universal relationship between smoke and fire, and the third step is the cognition of fire (sadhya). When used as a formal statement or verbal expression designed to convince others, however the structure of inference is changed. The first step will be the predication of the major term in relation to the minor term. There is fire on the hill. The second step will be the formation of the middle term in relation to the minor term. There is visible smoke on the hill. The third step will be the formation of the middle term in its universal or invariable relationship with the major term. Where there is smoke, there is fire.
Thus inference may be said to be a syllogism consisting of atleast three categorical premises. But when one is analyzing the whole process of an inference, it is necessary to state the inference in a systematic and comprehensive chain of arguments. One must then state a syllogism in the form of five premises (avayavas) that constitute a valid inference – are pratijna (fact), hetu (reason), udaharana (example), upanaya (application) and nigamana (conclusion).
To gain a proper understanding of the workings of logic, it is necessary to examine more closely how a systematic syllogism functions.
The Fallacies of Inference - are called Hetvabhasa. This term means ‘a reason (hetu) that appears to be valid but is not really so’. There are five kinds of fallacies namely sabyabhicara, viruddha, satpratipaksa, asiddha and badhita. The first means ‘irregular middle’. In a correct inference, the middle term is uniformly related to the major term. An irregular middle term can lead to a wrong conclusion. Eg All Himalayan beings are saints, tigers are Himalayan beings, and thus tigers are saints. Here there is no relation between the middle term Himalayan beings and the major term saints, thus the inference is incorrect.
Viruddha, the second kind of fallacy means contradictory middle. A contradictory middle is one that dismissed the very proposition it is meant to prove. The third term satpratipaksa means ‘inferentially contradictory middle’. This type of fallacy arises when the middle term of an inference is contradicted by the middle term of another inference that proves a completely opposite fact about the major term. The fourth type of fallacy is asiddha, an unproved middle. In this type of fallacy, the middle term is not an established fact but is an unproved assumption. The fifth is badhita, a noninferentially contradicted middle. Here the middle is contradicted by some other source of knowledge.
3. Comparison - According to N, comparison is the third valid source of experiential knowledge. This kind of knowledge comes when one perceives the similarity between the description of an unfamiliar object and its actual appearance before one’s senses. For example, suppose that a trustworthy person has told you that there is such a thing as a crabapple that looks like a regular red apple but is smaller and has a longer stem. One day in the woods you come across upon a tree bearing fruit that you have never seen before but reminds you of apples. You remember your friend’s description of crabapple tree, and you come to the conclusion that this must be a crabapple tree.
This source of knowledge, upamana, is not recognized as valid in many other systems of philosophy. The Carvaka system of philosophy, for instance does not accept this as a source of knowledge, because this system maintains that perception is the sole source of valid knowledge. The Buddhist system of philosophy recognizes Upamana as a valid source of knowledge but regards it as a mere compound of perception and testimony. The Vaisesika and Samkhya systems explain upamana as simply a form of inference, and the Jaina system maintains that it merely a kind of recognition. The Mimamsa and Vedanta systems agree with N in considering upamana as an independent source of knowledge, but they explain it in a different way, which will be discussed later.
4. Testimony - or Sabda means ‘words’, it is the knowledge of objects derived from words and sentences, and according to N, the fourth and final source of valid experiential knowledge. Not all-verbal knowledge is valid. In N philosophy, sabda is defined as the statement of an Apta, a person who speaks and acts the way he thinks. Such a person’s mind, action and speech are in perfect harmony, and he is therefore accepted as an authority. Thus his verbal or written statement is considered to be a valid source of knowledge. The Veda is considered to be the expression of certain venerable aptas, great sages who realized the truth within and who transmitted their experiences into words.
The validity of verbal knowledge depends upon two conditions, one the meaning of the statement must be clearly understood and two the statement must be the expression of a trustworthy person i.e. an apta.
The N system gives a detailed description of the nature of sabda because testimony is considered to be a valid source of knowledge and should thus be analyzed thoroughly. In a testimony words and sentences are used – but what is a sentences, what is a word, what is the nature of their construction. A sentence is a group of words arranged in a certain manner and word as a group of letters arranged in a specific order. The essential nature of any word lied in its meaning, and there must be specific rules governing the arrangement of words in the formation of sentences. Without rules the words of a trustworthy person could be misconstrued.
The Potency of Words - The N system states that all words are significant symbols and that all words have the capacity to designate their respective objects. This capacity of words is called sakti or potency and in the N system, potency is said to be the will of God. The ordering of words in a sentence is very important. Further N maintains that there are four factors that are essential in the proper functioning of sentences and without which they cannot express the intended meaning. These are Akamksa (expectancy), yogyata (fitness), sannidhi (proximity) and tatparya (intention).
Akamksa means expectancy, is the quality by which all the words in a sentence imply or expect one another, it is the need that each word has for the other words in a sentence. Expectancy is the interdependence of the words in a sentence for expressing a complete meaning.
Yogyata means fitness, refers to the appropriateness of words in a sentence, to the absence of contradiction in its terms. Although sentences may be grammatically correct, they do not express valid knowledge.
Sannidhi means proximity is very important words to be used within the limits of an appropriate time and space.
Tatparya means intention and it refers to the meaning one intends a sentence to convey. A word may have various meanings depending on its context, so one has to be careful to determine the real intention of the person who uses the word. Because of the unique nature of Sanskrit language and its symbolic usages, the Veda and related ancient religio-philosophical scriptures are full of this kind of complexity and in determinability of intention. In order to clarify this and understand the Vedic testimony properly, N recommends that one study Mimamsa philosophy because it provides systematized rules and interpretations for understanding the real meaning of the Veda.
The Concept of an Individual Soul
There are different concepts of the soul among the various schools of Indian philosophy. The Carvaka system states that the soul consists of the living physical body and its attributes. According to the Buddhists, there is no soul. Buddhism teaches that the stream of ever changing thoughts and feelings is the ultimate reality. This may be termed as soul, but it is not considered to be a permanent entity, as is maintained by other philosophies.
According to the concept of soul held by N and Vvaisesika systems, the soul is a unique substance, of which all desires, aversions, pleasures, pains and cognitions are qualities. The soul is indestructible and its attribute is consciousness. Because it is not limited by time and space, the soul is also seen as infinite or pervading. There are many souls, because one person’s experience does not overlap those of another person, one’s experience is completely distinct from any others.
N gave various arguments to prove the existence of the soul. It first argues that the body is not soul because immaterial consciousness cannot be said to be an attribute of the material body, which in itself in unconscious and unintelligent. Neither can the functioning of the senses explain the process of imagination, memory and ideation. The mind cannot be the soul because the mind is considered to be an imperceptible substance. Nor can the soul, as the Buddhists maintain, be identified as the ever-changing series of cognitions. In sum, the soul is not consciousness, but is a substance having consciousness as its attribute.
The soul experiences the external world through the mind and senses. All the cognitions and conscious states arise in the soul, when the soul is related to the mind, the mind to the senses, and the senses to the external objects. It is because of this sequential contact that the whole process actuates. How can one know whether there is such a thing as an individual soul? The N system answers that the soul is not known by sensory perception but rather by inference or testimony. The existence of the soul in inferred from the functions of desire, aversion and volition, from the sensations of pain and pleasure, and from memories of these. These memories cannot be explained unless one admits a permanent soul that has experienced pain and pleasure in relation to certain objects in the past. One’s own soul can be known through mental perception, but someone’s soul in another body can only be inferred.
The Concept of Liberation
Like other systems of Indian philosophy, the N system maintains that the ultimate goal of human life is to attain liberation which means ‘absolute freedom from all pain and misery’. This means a state where the soul is completely released from all bondage and from its connection with the body.
To attain the state of liberation, one has acquire true knowledge of the soul and of all the objects of experience. This knowledge is called ‘tattvajnana’, that means to ‘know reality as completely distinct from unreality’. N systems prescribe a three-fold path for reaching the goal of liberating knowledge. One is sravana, the study of scriptures. Besides studying the scriptures one has to listen to authoritative persons and saints. Following this, one must use his own reasoning powers to ponder over what he has learnt. This process of rumination is called Manana. Finally, one must contemplate on the soul, confirm his knowledge and practice that truth in life. This is called Nididhyasana. Through this a person realizes that the true nature of the soul is totally different from the body, mind, senses and all other objects of the world. The truth realized within dispels the darkness of self-identification and misunderstanding considering ‘I-ness and Thy-ness’.
When this happens a person begins to perform his duties selflessly without having any desire to reap the fruits of action. The fire of knowledge roasts one’s past karmas like seeds, thereby making them unable to germinate. Thus, true knowledge leads a person to the state where there is no cycle of birth and death. This state is called liberation.
The Concept of God
According to N, God is considered to be the efficient cause of creation, maintenance and destruction of the universe. God does not create the world out of nothing or out of himself but rather out of eternal atoms of space, time, mind and soul. The creation of the universe refers to the ordering of these central entities, which are in coexistence with God, into a mortal world. Thus, God as the first efficient cause of the universal forces is the creator of the world. And God is also the preserver, as he causes the atoms to hold together and continue their existence in a particular order that maintains the physical universe. God is also called the destroyer, because he lets loose the forces of destruction when the energies of the mortal world require it. God is one, infinite and eternal, and the universe of space, time, of mind and soul, does not limit him. God is said to possess six perfections, infinite glory, absolute sovereignty, unqualified virtue, supreme beauty, perfect knowledge and complete detachment.
N provides a few arguments to establish the theory of God. The first is the causal argument. According to this line of reasoning, the entire universe is formed by the combination of atoms. Mountains, fields, rivers etc must have a cause, for they are made up of parts, have limited dimensions and are not intelligent. This being so, they cannot be the cause themselves and require the guidance of an intelligent cause. That cause must have direct knowledge of all matter and of the atoms that underline all matter. He must be omnipresent and omniscient. This entity cannot be the soul because it does not have the knowledge of other souls. Therefore, there must be an ultimate intelligent entity, which is termed as God.
The second argument is based on Adrsta, that means ‘the unseen or the unknown’ and may be translated as providence of fate. N system inquires as to why some people are happy while others unhappy. It is the law of karma, which governs the life of every individual soul, requires that every human being must reap the fruits of his own actions. There is often a long interval of time between an actions and its effect, however, and many pleasures cannot be traced to any action performed in this life. Likewise many actions performed in this life do not produce fruits immediately. The sum total of all the punya (good deeds) and paap (bad deeds) are collected in the soul is called Adrsta or fate and this produces present pain and pleasure. Adrsta is not an intelligent principle and must be guided by some intelligent agent to the proper consequences. That intelligent agent, who guides, directs adrsta through proper channels to produce proper consequences is called God.
A third argument for God is based on scriptural testimony. According to this reasoning, the Veda – Upanishads and all other authoraritive scriptures state the existence of God. These scriptures were written by great sages who had experienced the truth within. Thus, the authority of testimony depends on direct experience, which is the only source of knowledge about any and all facts. The Veda is the expressions of such direct experiences of God. Therefore, God exists.