India is one of the places where the philosophy as a specific kind of human cognitive activity arose. The Indian philosophy as well as the Greek one is characterized by the sufficiently great quantity of different schools and trends. The 10th century Avicenna the Muslim philosopher having planned a book dedicated to the classical Indian philosophy began it with the question “What is the common foundation appropriate to all Indian philosophy systems that could allow to distinct them from any others?”. The answer he gave was that is the belief in reincarnation. Strictly speaking the answer isn’t correct because not all Indian philosophical or even religious systems shared it. Nevertheless it is quite true to assert that this view is widespread in the Ancient and even Modern India and it has left an inerasable imprint on all sides of the Indian life. From there all other peculiarities of the Indian philosophy and worldview originated. The universe in the traditional Indian outlook is represented as samsara – a wheel of births and deaths, where souls turn. This wheel is the wheel of suffering; the liberation of suffering means liberating of the wheel itself (i. e. liberating of births and deaths and going out of life on the whole). The seeking of the exit out of the samsara is the main task of philosophy (as it’s understood in the Ancient India and unlike as it was in the Ancient Greece, where philosophy was reduced to some pure play of reasoning).
The emergence of philosophy in India dates from the outset of the 1st millennium B.C. and is connected with the so-called Vedas. The Vedas are sets of ancient hymns, enchantments, ritual formulae, they are the most ancient memorial of the Indian religious literature. According to the Hinduist tradition they are eternal and created by nobody. The Vedas contain some passages (such as the legend of Purusha, the first man’s sacrificing, from whose body gods created the universe) which can be treated as the pre-philosophy. Some time later oral commentaries and additions to them were compounded and formed up into the so-called Upanishads (treated by modern investigators already as real philosophy and pre-philosophy). The word Upanishads istranslated literally the sitting at feet [of Teacher or Guru]. Upanishads were given over and restored in secret only among initiated men for a long period of time. Representatives of lower castes (varnas) who had even by chance overheard something from the Upanishads should be cruelly punished (their ears were poured with a melted silver). It was considered that the Upanishads’ wisdom releases men from the power of gods decreasing thereby the livestock of their flock, what gods can severely punish for. Therefore this knowledge should be restored in secret and given over with many precautionary measures.
What do the Upanishads tell of?
At first they tell of different techniques of yogis’ concentration and contemplation allowing to release of the Samsara’s wheel. Further they tell of (and it concerns philosophy directly) ways of liberation, causes of the slavery in Samsara, of the universe’s and human’s building and so on. The central philosophical idea of the Upanishads is that of the Atman – Brahman identity. The individual human soul or Atman is in general the universe soul, mind or the Supreme God or Brahman. Or in other words the individual soul is only a manifestation or some sort of modus of the world mind or the God and nothing else. The God itself is thought as the Nirguna Brahman (the Brahman with no distinctions) which is the omnipresent beginning of all things. The liberation consists in achieving the Brahaman consciousness. This composes a base of the most of the traditional Indian philosophy, world outlook and culture on the whole.
And according to their attitude to Vedas and Upanishads all systems and schools of the Indian philosophy and religion are divided into two groups:
I. Orthodox systems (recognize Vedas’ and Upanishads’authority);
II. Non-orthodox systems (do not recognize this authority).
The orthodox systems in their turn can be divided into those which are completely based on the Vedas’ and Upanishads’ teaching and those which simply recognize their authority. To the first belong Vedanta and Mimamsa; to the second –Vaysheshika, Nyaya, Samkhya and Yoga. Among the non-orthodox are Buddhism, Jainism and Charvaka (Locayata).
The main among the orthodox as well as the non-orthodox (excluding Buddhism) is the system called Vedanta (the word is translated ‘the finishing (end) of Vedas’). This system exerted the most decisive and deepest influence onto the all sides of Indian world outlook and culture and in its own turn had tested a Buddhist influence in some sense even had got a birth thanks to Buddhism). The Vedanta system is divided into three branches:
For the Europeans the Vedanta on the whole is associated beforehand with the Advayta- or Non-Dualism Vedanta. Its founder was the Indian sage Badarayna and its most outstanding representative with whose work it had achieved the greatest point of its development was Shankara. (The latter was often treated as a crypto-Buddhist by his opponents).
According to the Non-Dualism Vedanta the only reality is God 9Brahman) and there is nothing except it: neither inside nor outside. All other things we see around are an illusion created by God by means of the magic power called Maya. The whole visible world is the only Maya subdued to the causal law (or Karma). The Maya itself differs from the God not more than the power of burning from the fire, i.e. they are the same. That is there exists nothing except and beyond the God. The human soul as well is the only manifestation of God (or the world mind in this context) and doesn’t exist by its own separately of it. Its individuality and separateness is also the only illusion. No individual human exists, it’s only a moment within the Brahman. The release from the Samsara consists in realizing it and can be achieved through the Vedas’ study. A man having realized his unity with the Brahman continues to live as he before did but his life is nothing for him now. Inside he’s like a dead (i.e. he goes on to exist as an alive creature outside but inside he has died as an individual and the only god is present there). That is the full and complete liberation.
But this all however concerns only the highest, divine truth pregnant not to everyone, the usual truth may also be recognized. For example usual forms of religious life are also completely admissible if the man their adherent can’t realize yet the highest divine truth. The usual beliefs of usual people can be regarded as some sort of metaphors leading their adepts finally to the same highest truth.
Here some problems concerning those who are not ready to reject completely their self and acknowledge their identity with the God arise. The problem of love [to God} is among them. If I’m myself the God how can I love God as another? (With the so-called Bhakti-love which in the widespread in that time bhaktist cults was regarded as the main way of release). The outlet was suggested in the XII-th century by Ramanuja another Indian wise in his Vishishta-Advayta or Qualified Non-Dualist Vedanta.
According to his teaching the God is the only reality besides which nothing exists outside but inside, within God there are certain components. These components are individual human (and not only human) souls. Every soul is only a demonstration of the Brahman power and doesn’t exist independently but in go and after its liberation it doesn’t merge with it completely and without rest, but restores some autonomy and individuality within it. That is all exists in and through God but isn’t an illusion, but reality, a component inside of God. From here the name Vishishta-Advayta that’s translated Qualified Non-Dualist Vedanta comes. The material, terrestrial world is an illusion but the inner world isn’t. It exists in and through the reality of the Brahman. The release is thereby the transition from the one into world (and from the viewpoint of the Shankara’s Non-dualist Vedanta can be appreciated as a next illusion in going to the full liberation).
The third is the Dvayta- or Dualist Vedanta. It was elaborated in the XIII-th century by Madhva. According to it there are two quite different types of reality: material and divine realities. All said in the Vedas and Upanishads should be understood quite literally except the statement about the Atman-Brahman identity. Every soul is quite distinct in its nature from any other and from God (or gods), who in his (their) turn is (are) eternally distinct from the natural world which he (the Supreme God Vishnu) annihilates and recreates during every new cycle.
This is the brief characteristic of the Vedanta philosophy. There is no exaggeration to say that it compounds the base of all traditional Indian thought. In the new time, beginning from the end the XIX-th century such trend as the Neo-Vedantism arises. Its representatives were the Indian intellectuals who having got a European education and being well acquainted with the European civilization and culture achievements tried to connect these achievements with those of the traditional Indian philosophy. The most famous and significant among them were Sri Aurobindo (Ghosh), Vivekananda, Tilak, Radhakrishnan and others. They sought parallels between results of western science and the Indian thought (Vedanta in particular). They did and found out them.
So they affirmed e. g. that the evolutionary theory and the Vedantic teaching about the universe origin completely confirm each other. The western science depicts how the process of evolution proceeds and the Vedanta philosophy uncovers its causes and moving powers. The complete picture can be given only in result of combined efforts of the Vedantic and western sciences. Human according to the Vedantic viewpoint isn’t the final point of evolution; the evolution goes on further, beyond the human. Human in compliance with this viewpoint is some sort of transient link between the animal and the divine. The task of every human is developing of the divine inside, within itself. There exist e. g. different levels of perception: the subconscious, conscious and super-conscious. The first is the level of animals, the second of humans and the third, the super-conscious – of the divine creatures. The task of mankind consists in ascending to the level of the super-consciousness (the level of saints, buddhas, enlightened and so forth). For instance according to Sri Aurobindo it can be achieved by the united efforts of all humankind.
The system Mimamsa is supplemental towards the Vedanta. If the latter tries to explicate the inner essence of the being, God, human, the meaning of religion etc., so the Mimamsa on the contrary, deals almost exclusively with the outer side of committed religious rites, explaining how they should be fulfilled in the correct way. Because of it was even considered by European investigators as not philosophical but purely theological system. Nevertheless the Mimamsa doesn’t limit itself exclusively with theological problematic but also glances beyond numerous rites and mythological sagas. In particular the Mimamsa very vividly puts a question of sense of fulfilled rites. The answer it gives turns out suddenly be purely skeptic. We can know nothing for sure, assert it. The mythical sagas of gods and spirits are a sort of metaphor, the purpose of which is giving an illusion of sense for those who perpetrate the rites (for they do it). The real state of affairs isn’t knowable. Nevertheless the fulfillment of rites is necessary because the rites have sense by themselves, independently on whether gods, whom they are devoted, exist. The rites have existed forever, they are the formal norms, following which leads to the liberation from the Wheel of Samsara. These norms were discovered by priests in experimental way, all the rest exists only for the uninitiated men and plays an auxiliary role.
The following four systems recognizing the Vedas’ and Upanishads’ authority do not use them as their base and elaborate own views. They can be divided into pairs of mutually supplementing each other systems: Vaysheshika – Nyaya, Samkhya – Yoga; which have a common ontology and some approaches and distributing different functions between themselves.
So in the pair Vaysheshika – Nyaya the first system deals with the problems of ontology, the second with those of logic and epistemology. The ontology of Vaysheshika – Nyaya is that of the ancient Indian atomism. There must be a limit to dividing of substance because in another case we get the merely zeroes, that something consists of nothing [got of the zeroes summing] – this is a contradiction and therefore all must consist of indivisible particles or atoms (for comparing look the argumentation of the Greek atomists). There are different kinds of substance: earth, fire, water, air, ether, time, space, soul and reason. The first four are tangible and consist of atoms; the ether, time and space are intangible substances, every of them is one single, eternal and all-embracing. The reason [an individual reason] is also an eternal, unextended, intangible substance consisting of one-single atom [one individual reason] (because the reason can’t have more than one thought simultaneously). The soul as well is the eternal, all-embracing substance, the substratum for phenomena of consciousness. There are different soul -substances, the superior is the God.
In the pair Samkhya – Yoga the first system fulfill the theoretic, the second – the practical function. The Samkhya proceeds from the material-consciousness dualism. The material is the eternal and passive origin of the world, the consciousness is the active one. The world evolutions start with their junction. The human self under the influence of avidya (ignorance) confuses itself with the body and its feelings. This is the cause of sufferings, the way to releasing goes via the realizing by soul of its difference from the body. Having realized it the soul becomes free and looks at the body and all around as a strange, passionless observer. That’s the bliss of release consists of. But the merely intellectual realizing isn’t sufficient. The permanent training and the personal experience are necessary.
The concrete ways and methods of training and providing this personal experience are given by the system Yoga. According to it the way to release is long and includes eight stages such as:
n restraint [from incorrect acts, carrying harm to living creatures, from adultery, theft, kill and so forth];
n respiration [special techniques];
n concentration [as well special techniques for bridling the mind, consisting in fixing one’s attention on one-single object: fire, point, deities’ images etc.];
n discipline [ascetic and religious practices, freeing a man from the power of his desires];
n posture [special static exercises, the so-called asanas in the Hatha-yoga];
n withdrawal from the sense-objects [distracting the mind of adept from the inner];
n meditation [as a matter of fact the final stage when the inner state of full calmness comes];
n trance [the state of union with the Divine Being comes].
In accordance with these stages different kinds of yoga (making more accent on the accordant moments) exist. They are the Hatha-yoga (physical exercises), Rajah-yoga (royal yoga, techniques of concentration and meditation), Bhakti-yoga (yoga of the love to God), Tantra-yoga (secret yoga), Samadhi-yoga (yoga of trance-Samadhi, the state of the unity with Absolute), Karma-yoga (yoga of action), Guru-yoga (yoga of following one’s guru), Kundalini-yoga (yoga of work with the snake-like energy or kundalini) or even such specific yoga as Sosanika-yoga (yoga of contemplating rotten corpses, that helps to release from terrestrial desires).
It’s worth mentioning also the Yoga’s conception of human. According to it human consists of five – seven (depends on concrete school) bodies. They are physic the body itself in usual comprehension), ether (some shell around the physic body that answers for its health), astral (emotions and desires), mental (thoughts), spiritual (the real self conditioned by karma), cosmic (the Universe itself which finally turns out to be the next body of human and any other living creature), nirvanic (the Void, where the Universe emerged from). To every of the above bodies its own energy center (chakra) corresponds. In general there are more than several hundreds of different chakras, the main in yoga are seven ones corresponding to the above bodies (from down upwards): muladhara, svadhiskhana, manipura, anahata (atman), vishudha, adjna, sahasrara. The individual spiritual development of adept means simultaneously the raising of energy via his chakras from down upwards. The attaining of the top (sahasrara) chakra means that the adept has become the enlightened or Buddha [1, p. 107 – 119].