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Comprehensive Guide to Hindu Philosophy


General Knowledge  •  3 Jun, 2024  •  16,124 Views  •  ⭐ 1.2

Written by Shivani Chourasia


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Hindu philosophy, one of the world's oldest and most profound philosophical traditions, offers a rich tapestry of spiritual insights and intellectual discourse. It encompasses a wide array of thoughts and practices rooted in ancient Indian culture and spirituality. Understanding Hindu philosophy is essential for both cultural and spiritual enrichment, as it provides a comprehensive framework for living a meaningful and ethical life. Hindu philosophy's significance lies in its ability to address the fundamental questions of human existence, ethics, and the nature of reality. It invites individuals to explore the depths of their consciousness and the universe, encouraging a life of introspection and self-realization.

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Historical Context

Veda
Image Credits: Vedicmatters

The history of Hindu philosophy dates back to the early Vedic period, around 1500 BCE, making it one of the oldest philosophical traditions in the world. Its foundations are laid in the ancient texts known as the Vedas, which were composed over several centuries and form the bedrock of Hindu thought.

  • Vedas: The Vedas are the oldest and most authoritative scriptures in Hinduism, comprising four main texts: the Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda. These texts include hymns, rituals, and philosophical teachings that explore the nature of reality, the self, and the cosmos. The Vedas are divided into four parts: Samhitas (hymns), Brahmanas (rituals), Aranyakas (theological interpretations), and Upanishads (philosophical discourses).
  • Upanishads: The Upanishads, often referred to as Vedanta (the culmination of the Vedas), are philosophical texts that delve into the nature of reality and the self. Composed between 800 and 200 BCE, they are a collection of teachings from various sages and seers. Key Upanishads include the Chandogya Upanishad, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, and Katha Upanishad. These texts introduce central concepts such as Brahman (the ultimate reality) and Atman (the individual soul).
  • Bhagavad Gita: The Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse scripture that is part of the Indian epic Mahabharata, is a dialogue between Prince Arjuna and the god Krishna. Composed around the 2nd century BCE, it addresses the moral and philosophical dilemmas faced by individuals. The Gita covers various paths to self-realization, including karma yoga (the path of action), bhakti yoga (the path of devotion), and jnana yoga (the path of knowledge).
  • Brahma Sutras: Also known as the Vedanta Sutras, the Brahma Sutras systematize and summarize the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. Written by the sage Badarayana around 400-200 BCE, they form the foundational text for the Vedanta school of philosophy.

Core Concepts

The path of attaining Moksha
Image Credits: Indus Scrolls English

Hindu philosophy is characterized by several fundamental concepts that are deeply interconnected and form the basis of its teachings:

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  • Dharma: Dharma refers to the moral and ethical duties and responsibilities that sustain the social and cosmic order. It is a multifaceted concept that encompasses righteousness, law, duty, and order. Dharma varies based on one's age, caste, gender, and occupation, guiding individuals on the path of righteousness and ethical living.
  • Karma: Karma is the law of cause and effect, where every action has consequences. Good actions lead to positive outcomes, while bad actions lead to negative consequences. Karma is not just about physical actions but also encompasses thoughts and intentions. It is the force that drives the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (samsara).
  • Moksha: Moksha is the liberation from the cycle of birth and death (samsara) and the realization of one's true nature. It is the ultimate goal of human life in Hindu philosophy. Achieving moksha involves transcending ignorance and realizing the unity of the individual soul (atman) with the ultimate reality (Brahman).
  • Samsara: Samsara is the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth that all beings undergo. Driven by karma and the desires of the individual soul, samsara is seen as a cycle of suffering and bondage. Liberation from samsara (moksha) is the ultimate aim of Hindu philosophical practice.

These concepts are integral to Hindu thought, guiding individuals toward a life of ethical conduct, spiritual growth, and ultimate liberation.

Schools of Hindu Philosophy

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