Philosophy Of Charvaka

Philosophy of Charvaka

Charvaka originally known as Lokāyata and Bārhaspatya, is the ancient school of Indian materialism. Charvaka holds direct perception, empiricism, and conditional inference as proper sources of knowledge, embraces philosophical skepticism and rejects Vedas, Vedic ritualism, and supernaturalism.  Ajita Kesakambali is credited as the forerunner of the Charvakas, while Brihaspati is usually referred to as the founder of Charvaka or Lokāyata philosophy. Much of the primary literature of Charvaka, the Barhaspatya sutras (ca. 600 BCE), are missing or lost. Its teachings have been compiled from historic secondary literature such as those found in the shastras, sutras, and the Indian epic poetry as well as in the dialogues of Gautama Buddha and from Jain literature.

The Charvaka epistemology holds perception as the primary and proper source of knowledge, while inference is held as prone to being either right or wrong and therefore conditional or invalid. Perceptions are of two types, for Charvaka, external and internal. External perception is described as that arising from the interaction of five senses and worldly objects, while internal perception is described by this school as that of inner sense, the mind. Inference is described as deriving a new conclusion and truth from one or more observations and previous truths. To Charvakas, inference is useful but prone to error, as inferred truths can never be without doubt. Inference is good and helpful, it is the validity of inference that is suspect – sometimes in certain cases and often in others. To the Charvakas there were no reliable means by which the efficacy of inference as a means of knowledge could be established.

Charvaka’s epistemological argument can be explained with the example of fire and smoke. Kamal states that when there is smoke (middle term), one’s tendency may be to leap to the conclusion that it must be caused by fire (major term in logic). While this is often true, it need not be universally true, everywhere or all the times, stated the Charvaka scholars. Smoke can have other causes. In Charvaka epistemology, as long as the relation between two phenomena, or observation and truth, has not been proven as unconditional, it is an uncertain truth. Such methods of reasoning, that is jumping to conclusions or inference, is prone to flaw in this Indian philosophy. Charvakas further state that full knowledge is reached when we know all observations, all premises and all conditions. But the absence of conditions, state Charvakas, can not be established beyond doubt by perception, as some conditions may be hidden or escape our ability to observe. They acknowledge that every person relies on inference in daily life, but to them if we act uncritically, we err. While our inferences sometimes are true and lead to successful action, it is also a fact that sometimes inference is wrong and leads to error. Truth then, state Charvaka, is not an unfailing character of inference, truth is merely an accident of inference, and one that is separable. We must be skeptics, question what we know by inference, question our epistemology.

Charvaka epistemology represents minimalist pramāṇas (epistemological methods) in Hindu philosophy. The other schools of Hinduism developed and accepted multiple valid forms of epistemology.To Charvakas, Pratyakṣa (perception) was the one valid way to knowledge and other means of knowledge were either always conditional or invalid. Advaita Vedanta scholars considered six means of valid knowledge and to truths: Pratyakṣa (perception), Anumāṇa (inference), Upamāṇa (comparison and analogy), Arthāpatti (postulation), Anupalabdhi (non-perception, cognitive proof) and Śabda (word, testimony of past or present reliable experts). While Charvaka school accepted just one, the valid means of epistemology in other schools of Hinduism ranged between 2 and 6.

Charvakas rejected many of the standard religious conceptions of Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, such as an afterlife, reincarnation, samsara, karma and religious rites. They were critical of the Vedas, as well as Buddhist scriptures.  The Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha with commentaries by Madhavacharya describes the Charvakas as critical of the Vedas, materialists without morals and ethics. To Charvakas, the text states, the Vedas suffered from several faults – errors in transmission across generations, untruth, self-contradiction and tautology. The Charvakas pointed out the disagreements, debates and mutual rejection by karmakanda Vedic priests and jñānakanda Vedic priests, as proof that either one of them is wrong or both are wrong, as both cannot be right. Charvakas, according to Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha verses 10 and 11, declared the Vedas to be incoherent rhapsodies whose only usefulness was to provide livelihood to priests. They also held the belief that Vedas were invented by man, and had no divine authority. Charvakas rejected the need for ethics or morals, and suggested that “while life remains, let a man live happily, let him feed on ghee even though he runs in debt”.  The Jain scholar Haribhadra, in the last section of his text Saddarsanasamuccaya, includes Charvaka in his list of six darśanas of Indian traditions, along with Buddhism, Nyaya-Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Jainism and Jaiminiya. Haribhadra notes that Charvakas assert that there is nothing beyond the senses, consciousness is an emergent property, and that it is foolish to seek what cannot be seen. The accuracy of these views, attributed to Charvakas, has been contested by scholars.


Metaphysics, the philosophical study whose object is to determine the real nature of things—to determine the meaning, structure, and principles of whatever is insofar as it is. Although this study is popularly conceived as referring to anything excessively subtle and highly theoretical and although it has been subjected to many criticisms, it is presented by metaphysicians as the most fundamental and most comprehensive of inquiries, inasmuch as it is concerned with reality as a whole.

The term metaphysics is unenlightening. It means “what comes after physics”; it was the phrase used by early students of Aristotle to refer to the contents of Aristotle’s treatise on what he himself called “first philosophy,” and was used as the title of this treatise by Andronicus of Rhodes, one of the first of Aristotle’s editors. Aristotle had distinguished two tasks for the philosopher: first, to investigate the nature and properties of what exists in the natural, or sensible, world, and second, to explore the characteristics of “Being as such” and to inquire into the character of “the substance that is free from movement,” or the most real of all things, the intelligible reality on which everything in the world of nature was thought to be causally dependent. The first constituted “second philosophy” and was carried out primarily in the Aristotelian treatise now known as the Physica; the second, which Aristotle had also referred to as “theology” (because God was the unmoved mover in his system), is roughly the subject matter of his Metaphysica. Modern readers of Aristotle are inclined to take both the Physica and the Metaphysica as philosophical treatises; the distinction their titles suggest between an empirical and a conceptual inquiry has little foundation. Aristotle was not indifferent to factual material either in natural or in metaphysical philosophy, but equally he was not concerned in either case to frame theories for empirical testing. It seems clear, nevertheless, that if the two works had to be distinguished, the Physics would have to be described as the more empirical, just because it deals with things that are objects of the senses, what Aristotle himself called “sensible substance”; the subject matter of the Metaphysica, “that which is eternal, free of movement, and separately existent,” is on any account more remote.

It is also evident that the connection marked in the original titles is a genuine one: the inquiries about nature carried out in the Physica lead on naturally to the more fundamental inquiries about Being as such that are taken up in the Metaphysics and indeed go along with the latter to make up a single philosophical discipline.

The background to Aristotle’s divisions is to be found in the thought of Plato, with whom Aristotle had many disagreements but whose basic ideas provided a framework within which much of his own thinking was conducted. Plato, following the early Greek philosopher Parmenides, who is known as the father of metaphysics, had sought to distinguish opinion, or belief, from knowledge and to assign distinct objects to each. Opinion, for Plato, was a form of apprehension that was shifting and unclear, similar to seeing things in a dream or only through their shadows; its objects were correspondingly unstable. Knowledge, by contrast, was wholly lucid; it carried its own guarantee against error, and the objects with which it was concerned were eternally what they were, and so were exempt from change and the deceptive power to appear to be what they were not. Plato called the objects of opinion phenomena, or appearances; he referred to the objects of knowledge as noumena (objects of the intelligence) or quite simply as realities. Much of the burden of his philosophical message was to call men’s attentions to these contrasts and to impress them with the necessity to turn away from concern with mere phenomena to the investigation of true reality. The education of the Platonic philosopher consisted precisely in effecting this transition: he was taught to recognize the contradictions involved in appearances and to fix his gaze on the realities that lay behind them, the realities that Plato himself called Forms, or Ideas.

Philosophy for Plato was thus a call to recognize the existence and overwhelming importance of a set of higher realities that ordinary men—even those, like the Sophists of the time, who professed to be enlightened—entirely ignored. That there were such realities, or at least that there was a serious case for thinking that there were, was a fundamental tenet in the discipline that later became known as metaphysics. Conversely, much of the subsequent controversy about the very possibility of metaphysics has turned on the acceptability of this tenet and on whether, if it is rejected, some alternative foundation can be discovered on which the metaphysician can stand.

Before considering any such question, however, it is necessary to examine, without particular historical references, some ways in which actual metaphysicians have attempted to characterize their enterprise, noticing in each case the problems they have in drawing a clear line between their aims and those of the practitioners of the exact and empirical sciences. Four views will be briefly considered; they present metaphysics as: (1) an inquiry into what exists, or what really exists; (2) the science of reality, as opposed to appearance; (3) the study of the world as a whole; (4) a theory of first principles. Reflection on what is said under the different heads will quickly establish that they are not sharply separate from one another, and, indeed, individual metaphysical writers sometimes invoke more than one of these phrases when asked to say what metaphysics is—as, for example, the British Idealist F.H. Bradley does in the opening pages of his work Appearance and Reality.

A common set of claims on behalf of metaphysics is that it is an inquiry into what exists; its business is to subject common opinion on this matter to critical scrutiny and in so doing to determine what is truly real.

It can be asserted with some confidence that common opinion is certainly an unreliable guide about what exists, if indeed it can be induced to pronounce on this matter at all. Are dream objects real, in the way in which palpable realities such as chairs and trees are? Are numbers real, or should they be described as no more than abstractions? Is the height of a man a reality in the same sense in which he is a reality, or is it just an aspect of something more concrete, a mere quality that has derivative rather than substantial being and could not exist except as attributed to something else? It is easy enough to confuse the common man with questions like these and to show that any answers he gives to them tend to be ill thought-out. It is equally difficult, however, for the metaphysician to come up with more satisfactory answers of his own. Many metaphysicians have relied, in this connection, on the internally related notions of substance, quality, and relation; they have argued that only what is substantial truly exists, although every substance has qualities and stands in relation to other substances. Thus, this tree is tall and deciduous and is precisely 50 yards north of that fence. Difficulties begin, however, as soon as examples like these are taken seriously. Assume for the moment that an individual tree—what might be called a concrete existent—qualifies for the title of substance; it is just the sort of thing that has qualities and stands in relations. Unless there were substances in this sense, no qualities could be real: the tallness of the tree would not exist unless the tree existed. The question can now be raised what the tree would be if it were deprived of all its qualities and stood in no relations.


The term “hedonism,” from the Greek word for pleasure, refers to several related theories about what is good for us, how we should behave, and what motivates us to behave in the way that we do. All hedonistic theories identify pleasure and pain as the only important elements of whatever phenomena they are designed to describe.  If hedonistic theories identified pleasure and pain as merely two important elements, instead of the only important elements of what they are describing, then they would not be nearly as unpopular as they all are. However, the claim that pleasure and pain are the only things of ultimate importance is what makes hedonism distinctive and philosophically interesting.

Philosophical hedonists tend to focus on hedonistic theories of value, and especially of well-being (the good life for the one living it). As a theory of value, hedonism states that all and only pleasure is intrinsically valuable and all and only pain is intrinsically not valuable. Hedonists usually define pleasure and pain broadly, such that both physical and mental phenomena are included. Thus, a gentle massage and recalling a fond memory are both considered to cause pleasure and stubbing a toe and hearing about the death of a loved one are both considered to cause pain. With pleasureand pain so defined, hedonism as a theory about what is valuable for us is intuitively appealing. Indeed, its appeal is evidenced by the fact that nearly all historical and contemporary treatments of well-being allocate at least some space for discussion of hedonism.  Unfortunately for hedonism, the discussions rarely endorse it and some even deplore its focus on pleasure.

This article begins by clarifying the different types of hedonistic theories and the labels they are often given. Then, hedonism’s ancient origins and its subsequent development are reviewed. The majority of this article is concerned with describing the important theoretical divisions within Prudential Hedonism and discussing the major criticisms of these approaches.

Types of Hedonism

Folk Hedonism

When the term “hedonism” is used in modern literature, or by non-philosophers in their everyday talk, its meaning is quite different from the meaning it takes when used in the discussions of philosophers. Non-philosophers tend to think of a hedonist as a person who seeks out pleasure for themselves without any particular regard for their own future well-being or for the well-being of others. According to non-philosophers, then, a stereotypical hedonist is someone who never misses an opportunity to indulge of the pleasures of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, even if the indulgences are likely to lead to relationship problems, health problems, regrets, or sadness for themselves or others. Philosophers commonly refer to this everyday understanding of hedonism as “Folk Hedonism.” Folk Hedonism is a rough combination of Motivational Hedonism, and a reckless lack of foresight.

Value Hedonism and Prudential Hedonism

When philosophers discuss hedonism, they are most likely to be referring to hedonism about value, and especially the slightly more specific theory, hedonism about well-being. Hedonism as a theory about value (best referred to as Value Hedonism) holds that all and only pleasure is intrinsically valuable and all and only pain is intrinsically disvaluable. The term “intrinsically” is an important part of the definition and is best understood in contrast to the term “instrumentally.” Something is intrinsically valuable if it is valuable for its own sake. Pleasure is thought to be intrinsically valuable because, even if it did not lead to any other benefit, it would still be good to experience. Money is an example of an instrumental good; its value for us comes from what we can do with it (what we can buy with it). The fact that a copious amount of money has no value if no one ever sells anything reveals that money lacks intrinsic value. Value Hedonism reduces everything of value to pleasure. For example, a Value Hedonist would explain the instrumental value of money by describing how the things we can buy with money, such as food, shelter, and status-signifying goods, bring us pleasure or help us to avoid pain.

Hedonism as a theory about well-being (best referred to as Prudential Hedonism) is more specific than Value Hedonism because it stipulates what the value is for. Prudential Hedonism holds that all and only pleasure intrinsically makes people’s lives go better for them and all and only pain intrinsically makes their lives go worse for them. Some philosophers replace “people” with “animals” or “sentient creatures,” so as to apply Prudential Hedonism more widely. A good example of this comes from Peter Singer’s work on animals and ethics. Singer questions why some humans can see the intrinsic disvalue in human pain, but do not also accept that it is bad for sentient non-human animals to experience pain.

When Prudential Hedonists claim that happiness is what they value most, they intend happiness to be understood as a preponderance of pleasure over pain. An important distinction between Prudential Hedonism and Folk Hedonism is that Prudential Hedonists usually understand that pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain in the very short-term is not always the best strategy for achieving the best long-term balance of pleasure over pain.

Prudential Hedonism is an integral part of several derivative types of hedonistic theory, all of which have featured prominently in philosophical debates of the past. Since Prudential Hedonism plays this important role, the majority of this article is dedicated to Prudential Hedonism. First, however, the main derivative types of hedonism are briefly discussed.

Motivational Hedonism

Motivational Hedonism (more commonly referred to by the less descriptive label, “Psychological Hedonism”) is the theory that the desires to encounter pleasure and to avoid pain guide all of our behavior. Most accounts of Motivational Hedonism include both conscious and unconscious desires for pleasure, but emphasize the latter. Epicurus, William James, Sigmund Freud, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and (on one interpretation) even Charles Darwin have all argued for varieties of Motivational Hedonism. Bentham used the idea to support his theory of Hedonistic Utilitarianism (discussed below). Weak versions of Motivational Hedonism hold that the desires to seek pleasure and avoid pain often or always have some influence on our behavior. Weak versions are generally considered to be uncontroversially true and not especially useful for philosophy.

Philosophers have been more interested in strong accounts of Motivational Hedonism, which hold that all behavior is governed by the desires to encounter pleasure and to avoid pain (and only those desires). Strong accounts of Motivational Hedonism have been used to support some of the normative types of hedonism and to argue against non-hedonistic normative theories. One of the most notable mentions of Motivational Hedonism is Plato’s Ring of Gyges example in The Republic. Plato’s Socrates is discussing with Glaucon how men would react if they were to possess a ring that gives its wearer immense powers, including invisibility. Glaucon believes that a strong version of Motivational Hedonism is true, but Socrates does not. Glaucon asserts that, emboldened with the power provided by the Ring of Gyges, everyone would succumb to the inherent and ubiquitous desire to pursue their own ends at the expense of others. Socrates disagrees, arguing that good people would be able to overcome this desire because of their strong love of justice, fostered through philosophising.

Strong accounts of Motivational Hedonism currently garner very little support for similar reasons. Many examples of seemingly-pain-seeking acts performed out of a sense of duty are well-known – from the soldier who jumps on a grenade to save his comrades to that time you rescued a trapped dog only to be (predictably) bitten in the process. Introspective evidence also weighs against strong accounts of Motivational Hedonism; many of the decisions we make seem to be based on motives other than seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Given these reasons, the burden of proof is considered to be squarely on the shoulders of anyone wishing to argue for a strong account of Motivational Hedonism.

Normative Hedonism

Value Hedonism, occasionally with assistance from Motivational Hedonism, has been used to argue for specific theories of right action (theories that explain which actions are morally permissible or impermissible and why). The theory that happiness should be pursued (that pleasure should be pursued and pain should be avoided) is referred to as Normative Hedonism and sometimes Ethical Hedonism.  There are two major types of Normative Hedonism, Hedonistic Egoism and Hedonistic Utilitarianism. Both types commonly use happiness (defined as pleasure minus pain) as the sole criterion for determining the moral rightness or wrongness of an action. Important variations within each of these two main types specify either the actual resulting happiness (after the act) or the predicted resulting happiness (before the act) as the moral criterion. Although both major types of Normative Hedonism have been accused of being repugnant, Hedonistic Egoism is considered the most offensive.

Hedonistic Egoism

Hedonistic Egoism is a hedonistic version of egoism, the theory that we should, morally speaking, do whatever is most in our own interests. Hedonistic Egoism is the theory that we ought, morally speaking, to do whatever makes us happiest – that is whatever provides us with the most net pleasure after pain is subtracted. The most repugnant feature of this theory is that one never has to ascribe any value whatsoever to the consequences for anyone other than oneself. For example, a Hedonistic Egoist who did not feel saddened by theft would be morally required to steal, even from needy orphans (if he thought he could get away with it). Would-be defenders of Hedonistic Egoism often point out that performing acts of theft, murder, treachery and the like would not make them happier overall because of the guilt, the fear of being caught, and the chance of being caught and punished. The would-be defenders tend to surrender, however, when it is pointed out that a Hedonistic Egoist is morally obliged by their own theory to pursue an unusual kind of practical education; a brief and possibly painful training period that reduces their moral emotions of sympathy and guilt. Such an education might be achieved by desensitising over-exposure to, and performance of, torture on innocents. If Hedonistic Egoists underwent such an education, their reduced capacity for sympathy and guilt would allow them to take advantage of any opportunities to perform pleasurable, but normally-guilt-inducing, actions, such as stealing from the poor.

Hedonistic Utilitarianism

Hedonistic Utilitarianism is the theory that the right action is the one that produces (or is most likely to produce) the greatest net happiness for all concerned. Hedonistic Utilitarianism is often considered fairer than Hedonistic Egoism because the happiness of everyone involved (everyone who is affected or likely to be affected) is taken into account and given equal weight. Hedonistic Utilitarians, then, tend to advocate not stealing from needy orphans because to do so would usually leave the orphan far less happy and the (probably better-off) thief only slightly happier (assuming he felt no guilt). Despite treating all individuals equally, Hedonistic Utilitarianism is still seen as objectionable by some because it assigns no intrinsic moral value to justice, friendship, truth, or any of the many other goods that are thought by some to be irreducibly valuable. For example, a Hedonistic Utilitarian would be morally obliged to publicly execute an innocent friend of theirs if doing so was the only way to promote the greatest happiness overall. Although unlikely, such a situation might arise if a child was murdered in a small town and the lack of suspects was causing large-scale inter-ethnic violence. Some philosophers argue that executing an innocent friend is immoral precisely because it ignores the intrinsic values of justice, friendship, and possibly truth.

Philosophy of Jain

Jainism is properly the name of one of the religious traditions that have their origin in the Indian subcontinent. According to its own traditions, the teachings of Jainism are eternal, and hence have no founder; however, the Jainism of this age can be traced back to Mahavira, a teacher of the sixth century BCE, a contemporary of the Buddha. Like those of the Buddha, Mahavira’s doctrines were formulated as a reaction to and rejection of the Brahmanism (religion based on the Hindu scriptures, the Vedas and Upanisads) then taking shape. The brahmans taught the division of society into rigidly delineated castes, and a doctrine of reincarnation guided by karma, or merit brought about by the moral qualities of actions. Their schools of thought, since they respected the authority of the Vedas and Upanisads, were known as orthodox darsanas (‘darsanas’ means literally, ‘views’). Jainism and Buddhism, along with a school of materialists called Carvaka, were regarded as the unorthodox darsanas, because they taught that the Vedas and Upanisads, and hence the brahman caste, had no authority.

Nature of jiva

According to Jainism jiva means a living soul in a state of bondage and in association with matter, subject to the modifications and aspects of Nature, karma and rebirth.  The souls are numerous and exist everywhere, not only in living beings, but in inanimate objects as well. They are every where, in every rock, in every drop of rain, in every particle of water, in every breeze of the wind, in every tongue of the flame, and in every ray of light.

Thus when a person is drinking water, eating food or lighting a stove to cook his food, he is likely to hurt the beings inside those objects and incur karma. Because of the ubiquitous nature of souls and their hidden presence in inanimate objects poses numerous problems for the beings upon earth since they cannot avoid hurting or harming them due to their ignorance and carelessness. From this perspective, even brething may potentially lead to sinful karma.

A Jain therefore shows extreme caution in his day to day living as he deals with the various objects of the world. Since he does not want to attract bad karma by disturbing other living souls and forcing them to find new bodies elsewhere, he exercises utomost care and caution in his movements and actions to avoid injury and harm to others and avoid retribution for himself.

This caution manifests in every aspect of his life from the way he eats and sleeps to the profession he choses and the actions he performs. The Jain scriptures protects them further from possible self-destuction by laying down a strict code of conduct and suggesting the consequences that await those who violate them.

As a result, a Jain shows extreme diligence in selecting his food and eating it. He avoids eating roots and tubers like potatoes, which harbor not only individual souls but also clusters of souls. He redues of quantity of food and water to the exten possible and avoids actions such as lighting lamps and using excess running water, which may potentially harm the souls living in the space of the five elements, to save himself from the consequences of destroying life and interfering with the destiny of innumerable souls. Many Jains also cover their mouhts with white cloth after the night fall, to avoid inhaling insects and other microorganisms hidden in the air. They also walk carefully watching their steps to avoid huring the beings present in the earth or moving upon it.

Jainism recognizes five types of beings depending upon the number of the senses they possess:

  • Those with five senses: Gods, men, beings in the hell and higher animals such as monkeys, elephants, snakes, horses, etc., come under this category. These beings possess manas which gives them varying degrees of intelligence and rationality.     
  • Those with four senses: In this category the beings do not possess the sense of hearing. Many insects fall into this category.  
  • Those with three senses: In this category, the beings do not possess the sense of hearing and the sense of sight. Many insects are placed under this category including the moths, because of their tendency to move towards light and fire and destroying themselves.  
  • Those with two senses. In this category the beings possess only the sense of taste and the sense of touch. Many worms, leeches, shell fish fall into this category.  
  • Those with only one sense: In this category the beings possess only the sense of touch. These are again divided into five sub categories: i) the plant bodies containing only one soul or a cluster of souls such as the tubers and roots, ii) earth bodies made of earth material such as coals, minerals, stones and so on, iii) water bodies made up of water such rivers, lakes, water falls, lakes, ponds and even a drop of water, iv) fire bodies made up of fire such lightning, a lamp or candle light, or the fire in the kitchen stove, and finally v) the air bodies made of wind and gases such as a breeze or a storm wind.  

According to Jainism the whole world is an aggregate of living souls hidden in every form and every object. The number of souls never change, because the souls are eternal and indestructible. When a soul becomes liberated, its place is automatically filled with another soul from another body.

The souls undergo continuous change from one condition to another because of the karma, which binds tthem to matter and keeps them chained to the cycle of births and deaths. They attain true liberation when they are freed from all conditionalities, bonds, desires and association with matter.  It happens when the jivas succeed in arresting the inflow of karma and purifying their bodies through good conduct and righteous actions. Foremost among the virtues is the practice of non-violence, truthfulness, non-covetiousness etc. The practice of nonviolence is central to the ethics of Jainism. In the journey of liberation each aspirant should practice it to perfection. In Jainism, nonviolence is a way of life, because injury to other beings especially those jivas with higher number of senses makes liberation extremely difficult.


Anekantavada, in Jainism, the ontological assumption that any entity is at once enduring but also undergoing change that is both constant and inevitable. The doctrine of anekantavada states that all entities have three aspects: substance (dravya), quality (guna), and mode (paryaya). Dravya serves as a substratum for multiple gunas, each of which is itself constantly undergoing transformation or modification. Thus, any entity has both an abiding continuous nature and qualities that are in a state of constant flux.

Pancha Mahavrata

Right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct are the three most essentials for attaining liberation in Jainism. In order to acquire these, one must observe the five great vows:

  • Non-violence – Ahimsa
  • Truth – Satya
  • Non-stealing – Achaurya or Asteya
  • Celibacy/Chastity – Brahmacharya
  • Non-attachment/Non-posession – Aparigraha

Ahimsa in Jainism

Ahinsa in Jainism is a fundamental principle forming the cornerstone of its ethics and doctrine. The term ahinsa means nonviolence, non-injury and absence of desire to harm any life forms. Vegetarianism and other nonviolent practices and rituals of Jains flow from the principle of ahinsa. The Jain concept of ahinsa is very different from the concept of nonviolence found in other philosophies. Violence is usually associated with causing harm to others. But according to the Jain philosophy, violence refers primarily to injuring one’s own self – behaviour which inhibits the soul’s own ability to attain moksha (liberation from the cycle of births and deaths).At the same time it also means violence to others because it is this tendency to harm others that ultimately harms one’s own soul. Furthermore, the Jains extend the concept of ahinsa not only to humans but to all animals, plants, micro-organisms and all beings having life or life potential. All life is sacred and everything has a right to live fearlessly to its maximum potential. Living beings need not fear those who have taken the vow of ahinsa. According to Jainism, protection of life, also known as abhayadānam, is the supreme charity that a person can make.


Satya is one of the five vows prescribed in Jain Agamas. Satya was also preached by Mahavira.According to Jainism, not to lie or speak what is not commendable. The underlying cause of falsehood is passion and therefore, it is said to cause hiṃsā (injury). According to the Jain text Sarvārthasiddhi: “that which causes pain and suffering to the living is not commendable, whether it refers to actual facts or not”.

 According to Jain text, Puruşārthasiddhyupāya:

All these subdivisions (injury, falsehood, stealing, unchastity, and attachment) are hiṃsā as indulgence in these sullies the pure nature of the soul. Falsehood etc. have been mentioned separately only to make the disciple understand through illustrations.


Asteya is the Sanskrit term for “non-stealing”. It is a virtue in Jainism . The practice of asteya demands that one must not steal, nor have the intent to steal another’s property through action, speech and thoughts. Asteya is considered as one of five major vows of Jainism. It is also considered one of ten forms of temperance (virtuous self-restraint) in Indian philosophy.

In Jainism, it is one of the five vows that all Śrāvakas and Śrāvikās (householders) as well as monastics must observe.The five transgressions of this vow as mentioned in the Jain text, Tattvārthsūtra are: “Prompting another to steal, receiving stolen goods, underbuying in a disordered state, using false weights and measures, and deceiving others with artificial or imitation goods”.


Aparigraha is the concept in which possessions should include only what is necessary at a particular stage in one’s life. It is a form of self-restraint that avoids the type of coveting and greed by which material gain destroys or hurts people, other living things or nature in general. Aparigraha is the opposite of parigraha, which means “the focus on material gain.”  Aparigraha is one of the main lessons in the Bhagavad Gita, which states that a yogi should give up possessions that hinder his/her yogic path. Doing so frees the yogi from dependence on sensual and bodily demands, allowing experience of the true Self at a deeper level.  In the context of a yoga class, aparigraha is the acceptance of what the body is capable of doing while practicing, rather than the desire to perfect a pose as someone else has.


Brahmacharya is a concept within Indian religions that literally means “conduct consistent with Brahma”. In simple terms on the path of Brahma.  Brahmacharya is different from English term “celibacy,” which merely means non-indulgence in sexual activity. Brahmacharya is when a person controls his citta, abstaining through word, thought, and deed from physical or sensual pleasures to achieve Brahmagyan.  In one context, brahmacharya is the first of four ashrama (age-based stages) of a human life, with grihastha (householder), vanaprastha (forest dweller), and sannyasa (renunciation) being the other three asramas. The brahmacharya (bachelor student) stage of life – from childhood up to twenty-five years of age – was focused on education and included the practice of celibacy. In this context, it connotes chastity during the student stage of life for the purposes of learning from a guru (teacher), and during later stages of life for the purposes of attaining spiritual liberation.

Philosophy of Buddha


Paticca-samuppada or pratityasamutpada, the chain, or law, of dependent origination, or the chain of causation—a fundamental concept of Buddhism describing the causes of suffering and the course of events that lead a being through rebirth, old age, and death.

Existence is seen as an interrelated flux of phenomenal events, material and psychical, without any real, permanent, independent existence of their own. These events happen in a series, one interrelating group of events producing another. The series is usually described as a chain of 12 links (nidanas, “causes”), though some texts abridge these to 10, 9, 5, or 3. The first two stages are related to the past (or previous life) and explain the present, the next eight belong to the present, and the last two represent the future as determined by the past and what is happening in the present. The series consists of: (1) ignorance (avijja; avidya), specifically ignorance of the Four Noble Truths, of the nature of humanity, of transmigration, and of nirvana; which leads to (2) faulty thought-constructions about reality (sankhara; samskara). These in turn provide the structure of (3) knowledge (vinnana; vijnana), the object of which is (4) name and form—i.e., the principle of individual identity (nama-rupa) and the sensory perception of an object—which are accomplished through (5) the six domains (ayatana; shadayatana)—i.e., the five senses and their objects—and the mind as the coordinating organ of sense impressions. The presence of objects and senses leads to (6) contact (phassa; sparsha) between the two, which provides (7) sensation (vedana). Because this sensation is agreeable, it gives rise to (8) thirst (tanha; trishna) and in turn to (9) grasping (upadana), as of sexual partners. This sets in motion (10) the process of becoming (bhava; bjava), which fructifies in (11) birth (jati) of the individual and hence to (12) old age and death (jara-marana; jaramaranam).

The formula is repeated frequently in early Buddhist texts, either in direct order (anuloma) as above, in reverse order (pratiloma), or in negative order (e.g., “What is it that brings about the cessation of death? The cessation of birth”). Gautama Buddha is said to have reflected on the series just prior to his enlightenment, and a right understanding of the causes of pain and the cycle of rebirth leads to emancipation from the chain’s bondage.  The formula led to much discussion within the various schools of early Buddhism. Later, it came to be pictured as the outer rim of the wheel of becoming (bhavachakka; bhavachakra), frequently reproduced in Tibetan painting.

Ashtanga Marga

Eightfold Path, Pali Atthangika-magga, Sanskrit Astangika-marga, in Buddhism, an early formulation of the path to enlightenment. The idea of the Eightfold Path appears in what is regarded as the first sermon of the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, which he delivered after his enlightenment. There he sets forth a middle way, the Eightfold Path, between the extremes of asceticism and sensual indulgence. Like the Sanskrit term Chatvari-arya-satyani, which is usually translated as Four Noble Truths, the term Astangika-marga also implies nobility and is often rendered as the “Eightfold Noble Path.” Similarly, just as what is noble about the Four Noble Truths is not the truths themselves but those who understand them, what is noble about the Eightfold Noble Path is not the path itself but those who follow it. Accordingly, Astangika-marga might be more accurately translated as the “Eightfold Path of the (spiritually) noble.” Later in the sermon, the Buddha sets forth the Four Noble Truths and identifies the fourth truth, the truth of the path, with the Eightfold Path. Each element of the path also is discussed at length in other texts.

In brief, the eight elements of the path are: (1) correct view, an accurate understanding of the nature of things, specifically the Four Noble Truths, (2) correct intention, avoiding thoughts of attachment, hatred, and harmful intent, (3) correct speech, refraining from verbal misdeeds such as lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, and senseless speech, (4) correct action, refraining from physical misdeeds such as killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, (5) correct livelihood, avoiding trades that directly or indirectly harm others, such as selling slaves, weapons, animals for slaughter, intoxicants, or poisons, (6) correct effort, abandoning negative states of mind that have already arisen, preventing negative states that have yet to arise, and sustaining positive states that have already arisen, (7) correct mindfulness, awareness of body, feelings, thought, and phenomena (the constituents of the existing world), and (8) correct concentration, single-mindedness.

The Eightfold Path receives less discussion in Buddhist literature than do the Four Noble Truths. In later formulations, the eight elements are portrayed not so much as prescriptions for behaviour but as qualities that are present in the mind of a person who has understood nirvana, the state of the cessation of suffering and the goal of Buddhism.

According to a more widely used conception, the path to enlightenment consists of a threefold training in ethics, in concentration, and in wisdom. Ethics refers to the avoidance of nonvirtuous deeds, concentration refers to the control of the mind, and wisdom refers to the development of insight into the nature of reality. The components of the Eightfold Path are divided among the three forms of training as follows: correct action, correct speech, and correct livelihood are part of the training in ethics; correct effort, correct mindfulness, and correct concentration are included in the training in concentration; and correct view and correct intention are associated with the training in wisdom.


Anatmavada (The doctrine that the atman or “I” does not exist)—in Buddhism the view that there is no substantial soul or enduring “I” as the ground of man’s psychological acts.  

The concept of anatman did not appear in the teachings of the Buddha. He regarded the non-phenomenal soul as an absolute mystery. Nagasena in his commentaries on Buddha’s teaching explained that the human “I” is an uninterrupted train of ideas and states without an existing subject who would experience them (atman), and that individual immortality is a groundless abstraction. All the arising and transitory factors of existence depend on each other only functionally (dharma). They are processes without any ground upon which they would occur; the only reason for their existence is a so-called causal braid which is the stream of conscious life.  In the interpretation of hinayana, the “I” (pudgala) has no distinct existence in relation to the five real psychic elements (shape, feeling, perception, disposition, and intelligence) which constitute personal life. The alleged unity of the individual that appears in the awareness of one’s own “I” is an illusion that results from the continuity of momentary and changing states of consciousness. In the mahayana interpretation, the world is an illusion and the changing states of consciousness are not real. There are different views within this school of the subject of internal experience: the Yogacara (idealist) school thinks that the stream of consciousness is the constantly growing and changing “I”, but it is merely the background and store of an infinite variety of psychological experiences that have no beginning or end; the Madhyamika school thinks that the “I” is only a simple series of passing states of consciousness. The doctrines of later Buddhist schools clearly depart from primitive Buddhism which stated only that the skandhas do not constitute the real “I” and the made no explicit statement regarding the soul substantially or insubstantially.


The most important philosophy of Buddhist philosophy is the transientness . According to this, everything in this universe is momentary and mortal. Nothing permanent. Everything is changeable. This body and universe are in the same way that the organized form of horses, wheels and palanets is called chariot, and separating them does not mean the existence of a chariot.  The origin of this theory is based on the four truths given by the great Buddha . These four truths are :

  • The world is a home of sorrows.
  • The reason for this misery is
  • These sorrows can be eliminated.
  • There is a way to end these miseries.

Philosophy of Samkhya

Samkhya, also spelled Sankhya, one of the six systems (darshans) of Indian philosophy. Samkhya adopts a consistent dualism of matter (prakriti) and the eternal spirit (purusha). The two are originally separate, but in the course of evolution purusha mistakenly identifies itself with aspects of prakriti. Right knowledge consists of the ability of purusha to distinguish itself from prakriti.

Although many references to the system are given in earlier texts, Samkhya received its classical form and expression in the Samkhya-karikas (“Stanzas of Samkhya”) by the philosopher Ishvarakrishna (c. 3rd century CE). Vijnanabhikshu wrote an important treatise on the system in the 16th century.

The Samkhya school assumes the existence of two bodies, a temporal body and a body of “subtle” matter that persists after biological death. When the former body has perished, the latter migrates to another temporal body. The body of subtle matter consists of the higher functions of buddhi (“consciousness”), ahamkara (“I-consciousness”), manas (“mind as coordinator of sense impressions”), and prana (“breath,” the principle of vitality).

Samkhya posits the existence of an infinite number of similar but separate purushas, none superior to any other. Because purusha and prakriti are sufficient to explain the universe, the existence of a god is not hypothesized. The purusha is ubiquitous, all-conscious, all-pervasive, motionless, unchangeable, immaterial, and without desire. Prakriti is the universal and subtle nature that is determined only by time and space.

The chain of evolution begins when purusha impinges on prakriti, much as a magnet draws iron shavings to itself. The purusha, which before was pure consciousness without an object, becomes focused on prakriti, and out of this is evolved buddhi (“spiritual awareness”). Next to evolve is the individualized ego consciousness (ahamkara, “I-consciousness”), which imposes upon the purusha the misapprehension that the ego is the basis of the purusha’s objective existence.

The ahamkara further divides into the five gross elements (space, air, fire, water, earth), the five fine elements (sound, touch, sight, taste, smell), the five organs of perception (with which to hear, touch, see, taste, smell), the five organs of activity (with which to speak, grasp, move, procreate, evacuate), and mind (as coordinator of sense impressions; manas). The universe is the result of the combinations and permutations of these various principles, to which the purusha is added.

Largely outside the above system stands that of the three primal qualities of matter that are called gunas (“qualities”). They make up the prakriti but are further important principally as physiopsychological factors. The first is is tamas (“darkness”), which is obscurity, ignorance, and inertia; the second is rajas (“passion”), which is energy, emotion, and expansiveness; and the highest is sattva (“goodness”), which is illumination, enlightening knowledge, and lightness. To these correspond personality types: to tamas, that of the ignorant and lazy person; to rajas, that of the impulsive and passionate person; to sattva, that of the enlightened and serene person.


Satkaryavada is a hypothesis according to which the effect pre-exists in a potential state. The causal process involves a modification of a stable underlying reality. The effect is not produced as a reality that is distinct from its underlying cause. It is a specific rearrangement of that causal substrate.  The Samkhya system is based on the principle of Satkaryavada. The effect pre-exists in the cause here. Cause and effect are seen as temporal aspects of the same thing. It is considered as theory of existent causes. The effect lies latent in the cause which in turn seeds the next effect. It maintains that effect is real. Before its manifestation it is present cause in a potential form.

According to Satkaryavada principle the cause is hidden inside the effect. This effect exists due to several reasons:

  • what is nonexistent cannot be produced;
  • for producing a specific material cause is resorted to;
  • everything cannot be produced;
  • A specific material cause is capable of producing a specific product alone that effect;
  • There is a particular cause for a particular effect.

Nature of Prakriti and Purusha

Prakriti, in the Samkhya system (darshan) of Indian philosophy, material nature in its germinal state, eternal and beyond perception. When prakriti (female) comes into contact with the spirit, purusha (male), it starts on a process of evolution that leads through several stages to the creation of the existing material world. Prakriti is made up of three gunas (“qualities” of matter), which are the constituent cosmic factors that characterize all nature. In the Samkhya view, only prakriti is active, while the spirit is confined within it and only observes and experiences. Release (moksha) consists in the spirit’s extrication from prakriti by its own recognition of its total difference from it and noninvolvement in it. In early Indian philosophical texts the term svabhava (“own being”) was used in a sense similar to prakriti to mean material nature.

Purusha, (Sanskrit: “spirit,” “person,” “self,” or “consciousness”) in Indian philosophy, and particularly in the dualistic system (darshan) of Samkhya, the eternal, authentic spirit.  In Samkhya and also in Yoga, purusha (male) is opposed to prakriti (female), the basic matter constituting the phenomenal universe, as the two ontological realities. All animate and inanimate objects and all psychomental experiences are emanations of prakriti. It is confusion of purusha with prakriti that keeps the spirit in bondage; disassociation of purusha from prakriti is its liberation.  In one of the early creation myths related in the Rigveda, India’s oldest text, purusha is also the primal man from whose body the universe was created. He was both sacrificer and victim, and his rite was the imagined prototype for later Vedic and Hindu sacrifices.

Philosophy of Nyaya Prama

Nyāya (literally “rule or method of reasoning”) is a leading school of philosophy within the “Hindu umbrella”—those communities which saw themselves as the inheritors of the ancient Vedic civilization and allied cultural traditions. Epistemologically, Nyāya develops of a sophisticated precursor to contemporary reliabilism (particularly process reliabilism), centered on the notion of “knowledge-sources” (pramāṇa), and a conception of epistemic responsibility which allows for default, unreflective justification accorded to putatively veridical cognition. It also extensively studies the nature of reasoning in the attempt to map pathways which lead to veridical inferential cognition. Nyāya’s methods of analysis and argument resolution influenced much of classical Indian literary criticism, philosophical debate, and jurisprudence. Metaphysically, Nyāya defends a robust realism, including universals, selves, and substances, largely in debate with Buddhist anti-realists and flux-theorists. Nyāya thinkers were also India’s most sophisticated natural theologians. For at least a millennium, Nyāya honed a variety of arguments in support of a baseline theism in constant engagement with sophisticated philosophical atheists, most notably Buddhists and Mīmāṁsakas (Hindu Ritualists).

The Nyāya-sūtra opens with a list of its primary topics, sixteen items which may be grouped into the following four categories: epistemology, metaphysics, procedures and elements of inquiry, and debate theory. That Nyāya’s initial topic is epistemology (pramāṇas, “knowledge-sources”) is noteworthy. Both the sūtras and the commentarial tradition argue that epistemic success is central in the search for happiness, since we must understand the world properly should we desire to achieve the goods it offers.Vātsyāyana claims that while Nyāya’s metaphysical concerns overlap with other, more scripturally-based Hindu schools, what distinguishes Nyāya is a reflective concern with evidence, doubt and the objects of knowledge. He further defines Nyāya’s philosophical method as the “investigation of a subject by means of knowledge-sources”. Importantly, the pramāṇas are not simply the means by which individuals attain veridical cognition. They are also the final court of appeals in philosophical dispute. Uddyotakara thus claims the best kind of demonstrative reasoning occurs when the pramāṇas are deployed in concert in order to establish a fact.

The four pramāṇas are perception, inference, analogical reasoning, and testimony. We will discuss them in order. Then, we will consider Nyāya’s theory of knowledge in general.


This sūtra provides four conditions which must be met for cognition to be perceptual. The first, that cognition arises from the connection between sense faculty and object, evinces Nyāya’s direct realism. It is such connection, the central feature of the causal chain which terminates in perceptual cognition, which fixes the intentionality of a token percept. Uddyotakara enumerates six kinds of connection (sannikarṣa) to account for the fact that that we perceive not only substances, but properties, absences, and so on: (i) conjunction (samyoga), the connection between a sense faculty and an object; (ii) inherence in what is conjoined (saṁyukta-samavāya), the connection between a sense faculty and a property-trope which inheres in an object; (iii) inherence in what inheres in what is conjoined (saṁyukta-samaveta-samavāya), the connection between a sense faculty and the universal which is instantiated in a property-trope; (iv) inherence (samavāya), the kind of connection which makes auditory perception possible; (v) inherence in what inheres (samaveta-samavāya), the connection between the auditory faculty and universals which inhere within sounds; (vi) qualifier-qualified relation (viśeṣya-viśeṣaṇa-bhāva), the connection which allows for the perception of inherence and absence in objects. In all cases, the perceptual cognition is born of connection between a sense faculty and an occurrent fact or object.

The second condition, that the cognition produced is not dependent on words, has a somewhat complicated interpretive history. Generally, Nyāya holds that ordinary perception involves concept deployment. Therefore, this restriction does not endorse a view held by the Buddhist Dignāga and his followers, that genuine perception is non-conceptual (kalpanā-apodha). Still, the meaning of avyapadeśya is disputed amongst Naiyāyikas. On one reading, this qualification serves the purpose of distinguishing between perceptually and testimonially generated cognitions. The latter also require information provided by the senses but further require the deployment of semantic and syntactic knowledge. An allied reading suggests that while involving the application of concepts, perception of an object is often causally prior to speech acts involving it.

The third, “non-deviating” condition blocks false cognitions, like the misperception that an oyster shell is a piece of silver, from the ranks of pramāṇa-born. This is tied to the Nyāya notion that pramāṇas are by definition inerrant, and that false cognitive presentations are not truly pramāṇas but pseudo-pramāṇas (pramāṇa-ābhāsa). Though we may mistakenly take a pseudo-pramāṇa, like the illusion of a person in the distance, to be the real thing, it is not. “Perception” and similar pramāṇa-terms have success grammar for Nyāya.

The fourth, “determinate” condition blocks cognitions which are merely doubtful from the ranks of the pramāṇa-born. Dubious cognitions, like that of a distant person at dusk, do not convey misleadingly false information, but being unclear, they do not properly apprehend the object in question. It could be a person or a post. As such, one neither correctly grasps its character nor falsely takes it to represent accurately a certain object. Later Naiyāyikas, most notably Vācaspati Miśra, read the qualifiers “notdependent on words” and “determinate” disjunctively, in order to say that perception may be non-propositional or propositional. However anachronistic this may be as an interpretation of the Nyāya-sūtra, this division is accepted by later Nyāya.

Inference (anumāna)

Nyāya-sūtra 1.1.5 defines inference as follows:  

An inferential cognition is preceded by that [perception], and is threefold: from cause to effect, from effect to cause or from that which is commonly seen.

This definition is somewhat elliptical. But it focuses on the fundamental character of inference: it is a cognition which follows from another cognition owing to their being conceptually connected in some way. Etymologically, anumāna means “after-cognizing”. Inference follows from an earlier cognition, “that” in the sūtra above. Vātsyāyana interprets “that” (tat) to refer to a perceptual cognition, and suggests that perceptual cognition precedes inference in two ways: (i) to engage in inference requires having perceptually established a fixed relationship between an inferential sign and the property to be inferred, and (ii) perceptual input triggers inference in that one must cognize the inferential sign as qualifying the locus of an inference. He provides a more explicit definition of inference as “a ‘later cognition’ of an object by means of cognition of its inferential sign”

Second, inference is triggered by the recognition of a sign or mark, whose relationship with some other object (property or fact) has been firmly established. The primary cause of an inferential cognition is an immediately prior “subsumptive judgment” (parāmarśa) which grasps an inferential sign as qualifying an inferential subject (the locus of the inference), while recollecting the sign’s invariable concomitance with some other fact or object. The two fundamental requirements for inference are, therefore, awareness of pakṣadharmatā, the inferential mark’s qualifying the locus of the inference, and vyāpti, the sign’s invariable concomitance with the target property or probandum. A paradigmatic act of inference to oneself is: “There is fire on that mountain, since there is smoke on it,” which is supported by the awareness that fire is invariably concomitant with smoke. Naiyāyikas examine and standardize the conditions under which invariable concomitance (vyāpti) between a probans and a target fact is established.

Analogical Reasoning (upamāna)

Nyāya-sūtra1.1.6 defines analogyas follows:  

“Analogy makes an object known by similarity with something already known”.  

Naiyāyikas commonly frame analogy as a means of vocabulary acquisition, and it has a severely restricted scope compared with the other pramāṇas. The standard example involves a person who is told that a water buffalo looks something like a cow and that such buffalo are present in a certain place in the countryside. Later, when out in the countryside, he recognizes that the thing he is seeing is similar to a cow, and therefore is a water buffalo. The cognition “That thing is a water buffalo,” born of the recollection of testimony regarding its similarity with a cow and the perception of such common features, is paradigmatically analogical. Though most of the other schools either reduce analogy to a more fundamental pramāṇaor conceive of it in very different terms (Mīmāṁsā conceives of it as the capacity by which we apprehend similarity itself), Nyāya contends that the cognition in question is sui generis analogical, though it incorporates information from other pramāṇas.


Testimony (śabda)

Testimony is defined as follows:

“Testimony is the assertion of a qualified speaker”.  

The semantic range of āpta (“authority,” “credible person”) includes expertise, trustworthiness, and reliability. Vātsyāyana claims that an āpta possesses direct knowledge of something, and a willingness to convey such knowledge without distortion . It is clear, though, that Nyāya does not require any kind of special expertise from such a speaker in normal situations. Nor does a hearer need positive evidence of trustworthiness. Mere absence of doubt in the asserter’s ability to speak authoritatively about the issue at hand is enough. Testimony is thus thought of as a transmission of information or content. A person attains an accurate cognition through some pramāṇatoken. In a properly functioning testimonial exchange, she bestows the information apprehended by the initial cognition to an epistemically responsible hearer. On such grounds, Uddyotakara notes that testimonial utterances may be divided into those whose contents are originally generated by perception or by inference. Jayanta likewise claims that the veridicality or non-veridicality of a testimonial cognition is dependent on the speaker’s knowledge of the content of her statement and her honesty in relating it. Vātsyāyana illustrates a levelheaded frankness about testimony’s importance, noting that “in accord with knowledge gained by testimony, people undertake their common affairs.” Uddyotakarasimilarlyrecognizes that testimony has the widest range of any source of knowledge, far outstripping what one may know from personal perception, inference or analogy.

Non-pramāṇa Epistemic Capacities

From the sūtra period, Nyāya recognizes a number of epistemic capacities which are nevertheless considered non-pramāṇa. They are not considered independent pramāṇas for one of two reasons: (i) they are reducible to subspecies of other pramāṇas, or (ii) they do not produce the specific kind of cognitions which a pramāṇa must deliver. A core locus of debate amongst classical Indian thinkers is the nature and number of pramāṇas. Nyāya contends that the above four are the only irreducible sources of knowledge, which subsume all other kinds.


In Asatkaryavada i. e. the effect does not pre-exist in its material cause but is a new creation, a real beginning. They said, if the cloth already exists in the threads, then why should not the threads serve the purpose of the cloth?

A cause is defined as an unconditional and invariable consequent of a cause. The same cause produce the same effect and the same effect is produced by the same cause. Plurality of causes is ruled out.

Philosophy of Vaisheshika

The term Vaisesika is derived from the term visesa. The Vaisesika system lays stress on particularity (visesa) of the eternal substances. Ether, space, time, souls, internal organs, and the atoms of earth, water, fire and air are eternal. Each of them has a particularity which is its distinctive feature. The Vaisesika emphasizes the plurality and distinctness of physical things and individual souls. Its special feature is the doctrine of atomism.

Kanada (300 B.C.), the author of the Vaisesika Sutra, is the founder of the Vaisesika system. It specializes in the philosophy of nature. Kanada speaks of the six categories: substance, quality, action or motion, community, particularity, and inherence. The later Vaisesikas clearly recognize non-existence as the seventh category. Kanada does not clearly mention God in the Vaisesika Sutra.

Prasastapada (400 A.D.), Sridhara (1000 A.D.) and Udayana (1000A.D.) discuss the theistic proofs, the nature of God, and His creation of the world out of the atoms and dissolution of it into them. The Vaisesika discusses the nature of the individual self, the proofs for its existence, the plurality of finite souls, and their bondage and liberation.

Knowledge of Vaisesika Philosophy

Knowledge is a quality of the self, which inheres in it. It is in the nature of manifestation. It manifests an object, physical or mental. The genus of knowledge inheres in it.

There are innumerable cognitions apprehending an. infinite number of objects. But knowledge is mainly of two kinds, valid knowledge and invalid knowledge. Valid knowledge is what apprehends an object in its real nature. Invalid knowledge is what apprehends an object as different from it.

It is of four kinds:

(i) Doubt,

(ii) Illusion,

(iii) Indefinite perception, and

(iv) Dream.

(i) Doubt is indefinite knowledge. The perception of the common quality of two objects and the recollection of their peculiar qualities generate a doubt as to whether the object perceived is one or the other. The common quality of a post and a man e.g., height, is perceived.

Then their special qualities are remembered. The mind oscillates between the two memory images. This is doubtful perception of an external perceptible object, which is expressed in such a form: ‘Is it a post or a man?’

(ii) Illusion is the knowledge of one object as another different from it. It is a definite knowledge which does not apprehend the real nature of an object. A cow is misperceived as a horse. Illusion is wrong perception by a sense-organ vitiated by the bodily humors—flatulence, bile, or phlegm, a subconscious impression produced by the perception of an object which is not present, conjunction of the self with manas, and demerit.

(iii) Anadhyavasaya is indefinite knowledge in which both alternatives are un-manifest. Uha is a doubtful perception in which only one alternative is manifest to consciousness. When a familiar or an unfamiliar object is perceived as ‘something’ owing to inattention or interest in a special thing, we have indefinite perception. A person unfamiliar with a jackfruit tree has an indefinite perception of it.

He has definite knowledge of an entity endued with being hood, genus of substance, genus of earth, genus of tree, colour, and the like. He also perceives the genus of jackfruit tree. But he does not know that its name is jackfruit tree. He has indefinite knowledge of its name. His indefinite perception of the jackfruit tree as ‘something’ is anadhyavasaya.

Dream is mental perception of a person through the sense-organs, whose sense-organs have ceased to function, and whose manas is overpowered by sleep. It arises from a particular conjunction of the self with manas called sleep, subconscious impressions, and merit or demerit.

It appears like perception of unreal objects through the sense-organs. It is of three kinds. It arise from the strength of subconscious impressions, or defects of bodily humours, or merits and demerits.

A person dreams of his beloved woman owing to the intensity of the subconscious impression of her generated by repeated thoughts of her. One dreams of flight in the sky owing to flatulence. One dreams of entering into fire owing to excess of bile. One dreams of crossing a river owing to predominance of phlegm.

These dreams are due to defects of bodily humours. The auspicious dreams which betoken good are due to merit. The inauspicious dreams which betoken evil are due to demerit. Dreams are cognitions produced by the internal organ overpowered by sleep.

3. Valid Knowledge of Vaisesika Philosophy

Valid knowledge is of four kinds, perception, inference, recollection, and intuition due to austerities.

(i) Perception is external or internal. Internal perception is due to conjunction of the self with the infernal organ. Cognition, pleasure, pain, desire, aversion, and volition are apprehended by internal perception. External perception is of five kinds, olfactory, gustatory, visual, tactual, and auditory.

Perception is either indeterminate or determinate. Earth, water, and fire are perceived owing to the conjunctions of the self with the manas, of the manas with the sense-organs, and of the sense-organs with the objects, when they have extension and manifest colour, and consist of many parts. The substances endued with qualities, actions and communities, and qualified by other substances are perceived.

(ii) Recollection is produced by a particular conjunction of the self with manas, a subconscious impression, and suggestive forces or cues. The self is the inherent cause, conjunction of the self with manas, the non-inherent cause, and a subconscious impression, the efficient cause of recollection.

It apprehends a past object, seen, heard, or felt in the past owing to a particular conjunction of the self with manas and revival of its subconscious impression produced by intensity, frequency, or emotional appeal of a past experience. Perception, recollection, or thought of a connected experience is the exciting cause of recollection.

Attention, intention to recall, inhibition of contrary suggestive forces, perception of a similar object and the like are its exciting causes. Recollection is a kind of valid knowledge. It apprehends the real nature of an object perceived in the past.

(iii) Intuition due to austerities is the intuition of the sages, who are the authors of the scriptures. It is immediate apprehension of the real nature of the past, present and future objects, of the Moral Law and other super-sensible objects owing to a particular conjunction of the self with manas and a peculiar merit born of austerities. It is akin to yogic perception. It is produced by a special kind of merit born of austerities, while yogic perception is due to intense meditation.

It is produced by the internal organ, and not by the external sense-Organs. It is a distinct and vivid perception through the internal organ called pratibhajnana. The sages have this kind of intuition in abundance. But even the common people have momentary flashes of intuitive non-sensuous perception. A young girl ‘ says, ‘My heart says: my brother will come to-morrow.’ This is non-sensuous intuition. It is a kind of valid ‘ knowledge.

Inference is the knowledge derived from the mark, from which the existence of the probaadum is inferred as its effect, or cause, or conjunct, or antagonist, or inherent. From a rainfall in the source of a river (cause) a flood in the river (effect) is inferred. From smoke (effect) the existence of a fire (cause) is inferred. From a body (conjunct) the existence of the tactual organ (conjunct) conjoined with it is inferred.

From an infuriated serpent the existence of a mongoose (antagonist) hidden behind a bush is inferred. From the heat of water the existence of a fire (inherent) is inferred. Heat inheres in fire, but not in water. The causal relation between the probans and the probandum is shown by the members of an inference. A mark or probans preceded by the knowledge of a well-known and well- established general principle leads to the knowledge of the probandum.

4. Categories (Padartha) of Vaisesika Philosophy

Padartha literally means the meaning of a word. It is an object of knowledge, and capable of being named. It is knowable and nameable. It is an. object of valid knowledge. Kanada brings all objects of valid knowledge under six categories.

They are substance (dravya), quality (guna), action or motion (karma), generality (samanya), particularity (visesa), and inherence (samavaya). Kanada does not mention non-existence or negation. The later Vaisesikas add the seventh category of non-existence. Sridhara, Udayana and Sivaditya recognize seven categories including non-existence.

Substance is the substratum of quality and action. A book is a substance. Its colour, extension, solidity, dimension’ and the like are its qualities. Its motion is its action. Its qualities and motion subsist in it. Quality cannot subsist in itself, but it subsists in a substance, which is its substratum. Quality is comparatively permanent and passive, but action or motion is temporary and dynamic. The genus of man subsists in many individual persons.

It is a generality or community. An eternal substance has particularity which distinguishes it from other eternal substances. Space is one, eternal and ubiquitous substance. It has a particularity which distinguishes it from other eternal substances, time, ether and the like. Inherence is the inseparable relation between substance and quality, substance and action, a generality and an individual, an eternal substance and its particularity, and a composite substance and its component parts.

When a jar is destroyed, there is negation or non-existence of the jar. Substances the main category. All other categories depend on it for their existence. Substance is the substratum of quality, action, community, particularity and inherence.

The first six categories have existence, name ability and know ability. They are objects of the positive notion of being. They can be known without depending on their counter- entities, and expressed by names. They are capable of being known, though they exist independently of being known. The three categories of substance, quality and action-are related to being-hood (satta) which subsists in them.

The three categories of generality, particularity and inherence are related to themselves and devoid of relation to being-hood. They are neither causes nor effects. They are eternal and incapable of being expressed by the word ‘object’ They are non-spatial and timeless ontological entities. Substance, qualify and action are causes capable of producing effects and liable to destruction. They exist in time and space.

5. Substance (Dravya) of Vaisesika Philosophy:

Kanada defines a substance as an entity which has qualities and actions, and which is the inherent or material cause of an effect. A substance is the substrate of qualities and actions. It is not a mere collection of qualities and actions. It is not a mere aggregate of qualities as the Buddhist realist maintains.

Nor is it a mere complex of ideas as the Buddhist idealist maintains. It has a real, objective existence. It differs from its qualities and actions because it is their substrate. If it were not different from them, it would not be their substrate.

Qualities and actions are devoid of qualities and actions. They are not self-existent, but they exist in a substance. The relation between a substance and its qualities and actions is inherence. A substance is the material or inherent cause of its effect.

This characteristic distinguishes it from a quality and an action. But the conjunction of threads, which is a quality, is its non-inherent cause. The whole is not a mere aggregate of parts as the Buddhist realist maintains. It has an existence over and above that of its parts. They are its material cause; it inheres in them. The relation between a material cause and its product is inherence.

A substance has the genus of substance which inheres in it. Substances are eternal and non-eternal. Non-eternal substances consist of parts, and are produced by their combination, and destroyed by their separation. Composite substances art produced and destroyed by something different from themselves. They are non-eternal.

They are not self-subsistent and independent, but they subsist in their component parts. But simple and part-less substances like the atoms of earth, water, fire and air are eternal. They are neither produced nor destroyed. They are self-existent, independent and endued with particularities. Space, time, ether and souls, which are incorporeal and ubiquitous, are eternal. Minds (manas) are atomic and eternal. They are neither produced nor destroyed.

6. Quality (Guna) of Vaisesika Philosophy

Kanada defines a quality as an entity inhering in a substance, and devoid of quality, which is not an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction. Prasastapada adds one more characteristic of a quality. He defines it as an entity related to the genus of quality, abiding in a substance, and devoid of quality and action.

A quality inheres in a substance, which is its substrate. It depends upon a substance for its subsistence. But it is not identical with a substance. If it were so, it would not be related to a substance as the content of a substrate.

A substance is the substrate of its quality, which is its content. Qualities in here in a substance. But sometimes a substance also inheres in another substance. A composite substance inheres in its component parts. So a quality is defined as- devoid of qualities.

A composite substance is not devoid of qualities. But a quality is devoid of qualities. An action or movement also inheres in a substance, and is devoid of quality. It is an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction. But a quality is not an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction. Hence a quality is different from an action.

A quality is devoid of action. A substance only has an action. A fan has motion; but its colour is devoid of motion. A quality has no motion, but it seems to be in motion because its substrate is in motion. A quality is devoid of quality. Number is the quality of a substance, but it is not a quality of its colours, odours, tastes and other qualities. A quality has a community, the genus of quality. A colour has the genus of colour.

A quality differs from community, particularity and inherence, which are devoid of community. It differs from a substance because it is devoid of quantities, while the latter is endued with qualities.

It differs from an action, which is devoid of qualities, but which is an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction. A quality is not their unconditional cause. A quality exists through relation to being hood. The genus of quality subsists in a quality, but may possess an inferior community also. A colour possesses the genus of colour also.

7. Action or Motion (Karma) of Vaisesika Philosophy

Kanada defines an action as an entity, which inheres in one substance, which is devoid of a quality, and which is an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction. Action is physical motion, and resides in a substance like a quality.

But an action is its dynamic and temporary feature, whereas a quality is its static and enduring feature. Conjunction, which with each other. But an action or motion abides in substance only. It does not reside in many substances.

Conjunction of a book with a table resides in the two substances. But the motion of a fan resides in it only. An action, like a quality, resides in a substance, and is devoid of a quality. But it is an unconditional cause of conjunction and disjunction, whereas a quality is not their cause.

The motion of a carriage is the direct and immediate cause of its disjunction from one part of the ground and conjunction with another part of it. An action is a non-inherent cause of conjunction and disjunction.

The carriage which is a substance, is the inherent or material cause of its disjunction from one part of the ground, and of its conjunction with another part of it. But its motion is their non-inherent cause. Its colour, which is its quality, is never their non-inherent cause. Motion has the genus of motion which inheres in it.

Motion resides in a corporeal substance of limited dimension. It is non-eternal, and resides in a non-eternal substance. An incorporeal, ubiquitous substance, like ether, time, space or a soul, is incapable of motion. It cannot change its position. Motion is produced by heaviness, fluidity, effort and conjunction. It is destroyed by the destruction of its basic substance, or its conjunction with another substance.

Five kinds of action or motion are recognized, viz., upward motion, downward motion, contraction, expansion, and locomotion. Upward motion brings a body into contact with a higher region, e.g., throwing a stone upward. Downward motion brings a body into contact with a lower region, e.g., throwing a stone downward from a tree to the ground. Contraction brings the parts of a body closer to one another, e.g., the rolling of a cloth.

Expansion makes the parts of a’ body farther from one another, e.g., the unfolding of a cloth. All other kinds of motion are comprised in locomotion. Walking, evacuation, flaming up, and slanting motion are different kinds of locomotion.

8. Community or Generality (Samanya)


Kanada says, ‘Community and particularity depend upon the intellect to indicate their existence.’ They are not conceptual constructs, but ontological entities. Community is the cause of assimilation. It is the objective basis of the notion of common characters among many individuals which- are quite different from one another. It is the essential and common character of many individuals. It is natural and not accidental. It is one and eternal, and exists in many individuals.

There is one community in many individuals. There is the genus of cow in many cows, which is one, and not different in different individual cows ‘Community inheres in many individuals. It exists in many individual entirely and simultaneously without differing in its essential nature. It produces an abstract universal concept of many individuals.

(i) Community inheres in all its Individuals. The genus of cow exists in all individual cows. It does not exist in all individuals—cows, goats, sheep and the like. It is not perceived in all individuals. Though a community is not- limited to a particular place, it exists in all its proper individuals, which are produced’ by their causes and collocations of conditions. They only are its substrates.

(ii) Community exists in all its proper individuals with an identical nature. It does not differ in its nature in different individuals.

(iii) Community exists in many individuals. The genus of cow exists in all cows. It does not exist in one cow. Ether is one. So there is no genus of ether.

(iv) Community is the cause of the concept of common character in many individuals. It is the universal class-essence existing in many similar individuals, and produces a concept which is an assimilative cognition. A concept is produced by a community, which is objective basis.

(v)Community exists simultaneously in its identical nature in many individuals. It does not cease to exist in one individual, when it comes to exist in another new-born individual.

(vi) Community is eternal. It is one in many individuals, and therefore eternal. If it were not eternal, one community could not subsist in many non-eternal individuals past, present, and future.

(vii) Community is different from the individuals, which are its substrates. If it were not different from its substrates, it would be produced and destroyed with them. But it is not produced, when they are produced, and it is not destroyed, when they are destroyed. It is eternal, while they are temporary.

Further, the individuals are different ‘from one another, and produce discriminative cognitions,’ which apprehend their different specific characters. But community produces assimilative cognition, which apprehends their common character. So a community is different from its proper individuals.

The genus of earth is inferior to the genus of substance. The genus of colour is inferior to the genus of quality. The genus of upward motion is inferior to the genus of motion. So there is a hierarchy of genera with Being as the highest genus and the lowest genera at the bottom. There is the highest genus (para jati). There are the lowest species (apart jati). There are the subaltern genera and species (parapara jati).

Being (satta) is the highest generality. Substances, qualities, and actions exist through relation to Being. Being is common to them. But it is different from them. Substances, qualities, and actions are different from one another. But Being is identical in them.

So it is different from its substrates, and inheres in them. There is one Being in substances, qualities, and actions. It does not differ in its different substrates. We perceive them all as existing. Being is the one, identical common factor in them. It has no special distinguishing marks. So Being is one.

9. Particularity (VISESA) of Vaisesika Philosophy

Kanada defines particularity as the ultimate distinguishing feature of an eternal substance, which is known by its discrimination from the other eternal substances.

It depends upon the intellect to indicate its existence. Particularities are the final distinctive characters of eternal substances. They subsist in the eternal substances, the atoms, ether, time, space, self and manas. One particularity inheres in each of them, which distinguishes it from the other eternal substances.

Particularities do not require other particularities to distinguish them from one another, because it would lead to infinite regress. They not only distinguish their substrates from one another, but they also distinguish themselves from one another. They distinguish their substrates from one another without the aid of other attributes, because then they would lose their distinctive character.

They are devoid of a community. If they had a community, that would distinguish their substrates from one another. They exist in single substances only. They do not exist through inherence of Being in them, which is a generality.

Eternal substances have particularities, which distinguish them from one another. But their qualities have no particularities. They also are distinguished from one another by the particularities of their substrates. Eternal substances are infinite in number, and their particularities also are innumerable.

Composite non-eternal substances are distinguished from one another by their parts, qualities, actions, conjunction with other substances, and the like. A white cow is distinguished by her quality. A cow moving fast is distinguished by her action.

A cow with a large bell is distinguished by her conjunction with another substance. But the two atoms of earth, which have the same form, quality, and action are distinguished from each other by their particularities.

Composite substances are distinguished from one another by their parts. They do not require particularities to distinguish them from one another. But the eternal substances, for example, atoms, which are part less, homogeneous, and endued with the same qualities and actions, are distinguished from one another by their particularities.

Two liberated souls, whose special qualities are destroyed, are distinguished from each other by their particularities. If they had no particularities, they would be indistinguishable from each other. Particularities are necessary to ensure their existence as distinct entities.

10. Inherence (Samavaya) of Vaisesika Philosophy

Kanada defines inherence as the relation between a material cause and its effect, which is the cause of the notion ‘this subsists in this abode.’ Prasastapada defines it as the relation which subsists between two inseparable entities related to each other as the substrate and the content, and which is the cause of the nation ‘this subsists in this abode’. It is not the relation between two entities, which are capable of separate existence and subsistence in different substrates.

Separable entities are capable of existing apart from each other and residing in different substrates. A cloth subsists in its constituent yarns. Though the yarns subsist in their parts, which are different from the cloth, yet both cannot subsist in different substrates apart from each other. The cloth subsists in the yarns, which compose it.

Though they have an independent existence apart from the cloth, yet it has no independent existence apart from them. The yarns are the substrate, and the cloth is its content. They are its material cause, and it subsists in them.

Inherence is a relation between a substance and a quality, a substance and an action, a genus and an individual, an eternal substance and its particularity, a whole and its parts. A quality inheres in a substance.” An action inheres in a substance. A genus inheres in an individual. A particularity inheres in an eternal substance. A composite whole inheres in its constituent parts. An effect inheres in its material cause.

Inherence is inseparable relation between two non-pervasive entities, which are restricted to particular places and which are known to be different from each other. Inseparable relation implies incapacity of its relata for independent existence.

Inherence is inseparable relation between two entities, one of which is incapable of separate existence apart from the other. A composite whole cannot exist apart from its parts. But when it is destroyed, the parts can exist apart from it. But so long as the whole exists, it and its parts cannot exist apart from each other. A quality cannot exist apart from its substance. But the substance can exist apart from its quality at the moment of its production.

It acquires its qualities at the next moment. But so long as a quality persists, a substance cannot exist apart from it. An action cannot exist apart from its substance. But the substance can exist without its action. An action is temporary, while its substance is enduring. But so long as an action lasts, a substance cannot exist apart from it.

An individual cannot exist apart from its genus. But the genus exists before the individual is born and after it is destroyed. But so long as the individual lasts, the genus cannot exist apart from it. The genus and the individual are inseparably related to each other. The genus exists in the other individuals. But its existence in them does not affect its inseparable relation to a particular individual. A particularity cannot exist apart from an eternal substance.

An eternal substance also cannot exist apart from its particularity. There is mutual dependence here. But in the other instances there is one-sided dependence. Therefore inherence is an internal relation. It is an external relation.

Inherence is one, because it has the same distinguishing feature. There is no evidence of its distinctions. One inherence can account for all notions ‘this subsists in this abode’. So it is useless to assume many inherences.

One inherence is enough to relate all its relation substances and their qualities, substances and their actions, wholes and parts, genera and individuals, eternal substances and their particularities. Inherence is eternal, though its relata are transient. It is not produced by any cause, and does not pertain to relations in time. It is different from conjunction, which is a temporary relation.

Just as one Being inheres in many existing entities, so one inherence subsists between innumerable pairs of relata. Just as Being is eternal, so inherence is eternal. Inherence is different from conjunction, which is a temporary relation.

An effect is mainly produced by a material cause. It is produced by a non-material cause and an efficient cause with the aid of a material cause. If it had a material cause, it would be related to its cause either by itself or by another inherence.

It cannot be related to its cause by itself, because then it would be substrate of itself. But no entity can be both a substrate and its content, and can subsist in itself. Nor can inherence be related to its cause by another inherence, for it would lead to infinite regress. Therefore inherence is uncaused and eternal.

Inherence is not conjunction, since the latter is a relation between two substances, while the former is a relation between a substance and another substance or non-substance.

Conjunction is a separable relation, while inherence is an inseparable relation. In conjunction the relata exist as unrelated to each other before they are conjoined. But in inherence the relata are always related to each other, when they are related as a substrate and its content.

Inherence is eternal, while conjunction is temporary. Conjunction is produced, but inherence is uncaused. Conjunction is destroyed by disjunction of its relata, but inherence is indestructible. Conjunction is a relation between two independent substances, but inherence is a relation between a substrate and its content.

Inherence is a natural and inseparable relation, while conjunction is an adventitious and separable relation. Inherence is a separate category, while conjunction is a quality. Inherence is one, while conjunctions are many. Inherence is imperceptible, while conjunction is perceptible.

Inherence is different from substance, quality, action, community, and particularity, because it is a relation between a substance and the other categories. It is different from nonexistence. So it is a distinct category.


11. Non-Existence (Abhava)

Udayana divides the categories into existence and nonexistence. He divides the former into substance, quality, action community, and particularity, and the latter into prior nonexistence, posterior non-existence, absolute non-existence, and mutual non-existence. Prior non-existence is the non-existence of an effect in its material cause before its production. A jar is produced from clay. There is prior non-existence of the jar in clay. It is without a beginning, but has an end.

It is destroyed by the production of the effect. When the jar is produced, its prior non-existence is destroyed. Thus prior non-existence is not produced but destroyed. It is beginning less but non-eternal. If it is not destroyed, the effect cannot be produced.

Posterior non-existence is the non-existence of an effect by its destruction. When an effect is destroyed, and loses its specific nature, it has posterior non-existence. It has a beginning but no end. Poster non-existence is produced by the destruction of an effect, but it can never be destroyed. When a jar is destroyed by the stroke of a club, it has posterior non-existence in its fragments, which is produced by an efficient cause.

The non-existence of a cow in a horse and the non-existence of a horse in a cow are mutual non-existence. It is one and eternal, but it is related to different objects when they are produced. The knowledge of non-existence of a cloth in a jar depends on the knowledge of the jar as well as the cloth, which is its counter-entity. Mutual non-existence has for its counter-entity identity between two things. Negation other than mutual negation is negation of relation.

Absolute negation is non-existence in all times. There is absolute negation of colour in air. There is absolute negation of the genus of earth in water, and of the genus of water in earth. Absolute negation does not refer to production or destruction. It does not refer to the past or the future. It is neither prior negation nor posterior negation. It is negation in all times.

It is neither produced nor destroyed, but eternal by nature. Absolute negation is different from mutual negation. Mutual negation is denial of identity between two things, which have specific natures. But absolute negation is denial of an absolutely non-existent entity in all times and in all places.

The category of negation or non-existence is absolutely necessary for the Vaisesika philosophy of realistic pluralism. If there were no prior non-existence, an effect would not be produced. If there were no posterior non-existence, there would be no destruction of an effect.

If there were no mutual non-existence, there would not be different things with specific natures. If there were no absolute non-existence, all things would exist always and everywhere. If there were no nonexistence, all things would be eternal.

Philosophy of Mimamsa Dharma

Mīmāṃsā, a Sanskrit word meaning “revered thought,” is the name of one of the six astika (“orthodox”) schools of Hindu philosophy, whose primary inquiry is into the nature of dharma (duty) based on close hermeneutics of the Vedas. Its core tenets are ritualism (orthopraxy), anti-asceticism and anti-mysticism. The central aim of the school is elucidation of the nature of dharma, understood as a set of ritual obligations and prerogatives to be performed properly, in order to maintain the harmony of the universe and further the personal well-being of the person who performs them.

Mimamsa is more accurately known as Pūrva Mīmāmsā, “prior inquiry,” since it investigates the “earlier” (pūrva) portions of the Vedas, the Samhitas and Brāhmanas. Its earliest commentator was Jaimini during the third to first centuries B.C.E.; later commentators include Śābara (fifth century), Kumarila Bhatta, and Prabhākara (c. 700 C.E.). Mimamsa made important contributions to Hindu thought in the fields of logic and epistemology, and its literature is closely allied to the Hindu legal system. Mimamsa’s arguments against Buddhism may have contributed in some part to the decline of Buddhism in India.

Mimamsa is the name of one of the six astika (“orthodox”) schools of Hindu philosophy, whose primary inquiry is into the nature of dharma (duty) based on close hermeneutics of the Vedas. Its core tenets are ritualism (orthopraxy), anti-asceticism, and anti-mysticism.  The Sanskrit word “mimamsa” literally means “revered thought” and was originally applied to the interpretation of the Vedic rituals which commanded the highest reverence. The word is now used to signify any critical investigation. Mimamsa gives both rules according to which the commandments of the Veda are to be interpreted, and a philosophical justification for Vedic ritualism.

Purva Mimamsa

Mimamsa and Vedanta are treated as allied systems of thought. Both are based on the Vedas, and both are attempts to interpret the Vedas. The earlier portion of the Vedic texts, the Samhitas and Brāhmanas, is called Karmakānda and deals with rituals and sacrifices. The latter part, the Upanishads, is called the Jnānakānda and deals with the knowledge of reality. Mimamsa is more accurately known as Pūrva Mīmāmsā, “prior inquiry,” since it investigates the “earlier” (pūrva) portions of the Vedas, while Uttara Mīmāmsā (“posterior or higher inquiry”) is the opposing school of Vedanta. Pūrva Mīmāmsā deals with Dharma, and Uttara Mīmāmsā deals with Brahma, so Mimamsa is sometimes referred to as Dharma-Mimamsa, and Vedanta as Brahma-Mimamsa. A number of teachers of Vedanta have regarded the two schools as part of the same system, considering the study of Purva Mimamsa as a good means of purification of the soul, or even a necessary prerequisite for the study of Vedanta.

Mimamsa is a priestly scholastic science, which defines the inherited patterns of Brahmanic liturgical life. These liturgical patterns were not always clearly elucidated in the Vedas themselves; in the later Brahmanas, the term “mimamsa” is associated with elaborations on points of ritualistic practice. Over the centuries, as priestly interpretations proliferated, there was an increasing demand for this type of definitive elaboration. The foundational text for the Mimamsa school is the Purva Mimamsa Sutras (written third to first century B.C.E.) of Jaimini, a student of Badarayana, containing about 3,000 sutras. The text, commenting on the early Upanishads, aimed at an exegesis of the Vedas with regard to ritual practice (karma) and religious duty (dharma), and summarized discussions that had been ongoing for centuries.  A major commentary on the Purva Mimamsa Sutras was composed by Śābara around the fifth or sixth century. The school reached its height with Kumarila Bhatta and Prabhākara (fl. c. 700 C.E.). Bhatta produced several seminal theses on Mimamsa, such as Mimamsaslokavarttika, and his arguments against Buddhism, and in particular against its attack on the Vedic sacrificial system, may have contributed in some part, to the decline of Buddhism in India. For some time in the Early Middle Ages, the Mimamsa school exerted near-dominant influence on learned Hindu thought, but it fell into decline during the High Middle Ages and today is all but eclipsed by Vedanta.


Mimamsa considers the Vedas to be eternal, authorless (apaurusheyatva), and absolutely infallible. They are uncreated; sages and seers apprehend them and transmit them to the rest of humankind. Dharma can be known only from revelation in the Veda, which is its source, and not through either perception or reasoning.


Dharma as understood by Mimamsa can be loosely translated into English as “virtue,” “morality,” or “duty,” the set of ritual obligations and prerogatives that, if properly performed, maintains the harmony of the world and furthers the personal well-being of the person who performs them.  Jaimini defines “dharma” as a command or injunction which compels people to action. It is the supreme duty, the “ought,” the categorical imperative. “Artha” (wealth, worldly status) and “Kama” (aesthetic enjoyment), which deal with ordinary common morality, can be learned through worldly intercourse. Dharma and Moksa (liberation), which deal with true spirituality, are revealed only by the Veda. Dharma consists in the commands of the Veda, and action is the final import. Dharma is not something which exists by itself; it can only be produced by acting according to the injunctions of the Vedas. By necessity, an action is associated with its effect or consequence. An action performed during earthly life produces an unseen potency, apurva, in the soul of the agent, which, when obstructions are removed and the time becomes ripe, yields fruit.


Mimamsakas are pluralistic realists, believing in the reality of the external world and of individual souls. Mimamsa does not admit the existence of any God as the creator and destroyer of the universe. There is no reason to suppose that the universe ever had any beginning in time, or that any God created it. God has no body with which to fashion the world. The school has a mechanistic view of creation; everything comes into existence through natural processes, as children are born from parents. Mimamsa emphasizes the operative Law of Karma, Unseen Power (apurva), and God is ruled out as unnecessary hypothesis. Mimamsa does not deem it necessary, as Nyaya does, that the process of dharma and adharma should have God as a supervisor. Dharma and adharma (merit and demerit) pertain to the agent performing them, and no one can have any knowledge of them.

The self

The Vedic injunctions promising rewards to be enjoyed in another world assume the reality of individual selves. The self is distinct from the body, the senses and the understanding. Prabhakara and Kumarila both admit plurality of individual souls, and regard the self as an eternal (nitya), omnipresent (sarvagata), ubiquitous (vibh), infinite (vyapaka) substance (dravya) which is the substratum (ashraya) of consciousness, and which is a real knower (jnata), enjoyer (bhokta), and agent (karta). Consciousness is not regarded as the essence of the self. The self is characterized by the potency to know. Self is always the subject of any kind of knowledge, is a necessary element of every knowledge experience, and therefore can never become an object of knowledge or cognition.  Mimamsa views liberation as the enjoyment of life in heaven, and not the state of ultimate release found in most other systems of Indian thought. Later Mimamsa thinkers were influenced by other systems of thought; Prabhakara (seventh century C.E.) defines liberation as “the absolute cessation of the body caused by the disappearance of all dharma and adharma (merit and demerit).” Kumarila Bhatta considers it to be the state of the self free from pain.

Verbal cognition and semantics

The Mimamsa school traces the source of the knowledge of dharma neither to sense-experience nor inference, but to verbal cognition (knowledge of words and meanings). In this respect it is related to the Nyaya school. In order to understand the correct dharma for specific situations, it is necessary to rely on examples of explicit or implicit commands in the Vedic texts. An implicit command must be understood by studying parallels in other, similar passages. If one text does not provide details for how a priest should proceed with a particular action, the details must be sought in other, related Vedic texts. This preoccupation with precision and accuracy required meticulous examination of the structures of the sentences conveying commands, and led to an extensive exegesis of the Vedas and a detailed analysis of semantics.

Kumarila Bhatta and his followers (known as Bhāttas) argued for a strongly compositional view of semantics called abhihit Anvaya, in which the meaning of a sentence was understood only after first understanding the meanings of individual words. Words were regarded as independent, complete objects. This view was debated over some seven or eight centuries by the followers of Prabhakara school within Mimamsa, who argued that words do not directly designate meaning; any meaning that arises is because it is connected with other words (anvitAbhidhAna, anvita = connected; abhidhā = denotation). This view was influenced by the holistic arguments of Bhartrihari’s sphota (flash, insight) theory. Essentially the Prābhākaras argued that sentence meanings are grasped directly, from perceptual and contextual cues, skipping the stage of grasping singly the meanings of individual words.

Sanskrit , the holy language of the Vedas, was regarded, not as a historical tongue based on convention, but as an emanation of being (sat) in sound (sabda), giving the sacred Vedas and mantras the power to touch the essence of truth, and work magic. It was this power that made sacrifices effective, rather than divine intervention, for though the offerings were addressed to deities, the deities themselves were supported by the power of the sacrifices.

Theory of Apurva

Apurva, also spelled as Apoorv, in Vedanta philosophy is the performative element of an injunction that justifies ritualistic acts and their results. As an explanatory concept it serves as a mediator.

Bhartrhari explains that pravrtti can be viewed in four ways as apurva, kala-sakti, kriya and kala. Kumarila Bhatta explains that Apurva is the newly known vidhi or that what is not known before hearing a vedic sentence. Salikanatha explains that Apurva is that which is not cognisable by any of the ordinary means of knowledge. And, according to Nagesa, the conclusion that if pravrtti is identified with the universal Dharma it can be properly called Apurva, is the view adopted by Prabhakara who holds that the meaning of verbal endings is karya, and niyoga (obligation) is the very karya that prompts a man to fulfil itself . Karya is apurva or niyama (restriction), apurva is something which has not arisen before the performance of the sacrifice but newly born after it. Niyoga or Apurva is the supersensuous result of an action which later on produces the sensible result or prayojana, the final purpose of the action, Therefore, Apurva is something different from action itself and it is to be understood with regard to its capability of bringing about the heavenly world.

Mimamsikas reject the contention that Apurva is dharma which Nayayikas consider it is. Dharma is what is conveyed by sreyas-sadhana by the Vedas, which particular sadhana does not convey bhavana or volition of the performer. And moreover, Sreyas-sadhana and Apurva are not conveyed by the Sruti, Apurva is by implication understood to be the intermediary cause with sacrifice itself being the instrumental cause.The Vaisesikas hold the view that the Adrshta, also called Apurva, is the cause of the world process. But, there is no proof of Apurva being a pleasure. Adi Shankara rejects the notion that the statement Atmetyevopasita is the primary injunction, Apurva Vidhi, to meditate on Brahman as one’s own Self because Self-knowledge is not an action that can be enjoined.The Later Advaita thinkers, such as Madhusudana, held the view that just like Apurva as a subtle state continues to linger after the sacrifice is over, ignorance remains in the subtle state of avidya even after the dawn of knowledge, and as there is an interval between cause and effect similarly there is an interval between knowledge and body-fall.

Philosophy of Advaita Vedanta

Advaita Vedānta is one version of Vedānta. Vedānta is nominally a school of Indian philosophy, although in reality it is a label for any hermeneutics that attempts to provide a consistent interpretation of the philosophy of the Upaniṣads or, more formally, the canonical summary of the Upaniṣads, Bādarāyaņa’s Brahma Sūtra. Advaita is often translated as “non-dualism” though it literally means “non-secondness.” Although Śaṅkara is regarded as the promoter of Advaita Vedānta as a distinct school of Indian philosophy, the origins of this school predate Śaṅkara. The existence of an Advaita tradition is acknowledged by Śaṅkara in his commentaries. The names of Upanṣadic teachers such as Yajñavalkya, Uddalaka, and Bādarāyaņa, the author of the Brahma Sūtra, could be considered as representing the thoughts of early Advaita. The essential philosophy of Advaita is an idealist monism, and is considered to be presented first in the Upaniṣads and consolidated in the Brahma Sūtra by this tradition. According to Advaita metaphysics, Brahman—the ultimate, transcendent and immanent God of the latter Vedas—appears as the world because of its creative energy (māyā). The world has no separate existence apart from Brahman. The experiencing self (jīva) and the transcendental self of the Universe (ātman) are in reality identical (both are Brahman), though the individual self seems different as space within a container seems different from space as such. These cardinal doctrines are represented in the anonymous verse “brahma satyam jagan mithya; jīvo brahmaiva na aparah” (Brahman is alone True, and this world of plurality is an error; the individual self is not different from Brahman). Plurality is experienced because of error in judgments (mithya) and ignorance (avidya). Knowledge of Brahman removes these errors and causes liberation from the cycle of transmigration and worldly bondage.

For classical Advaita Vedānta, Brahman is the fundamental reality underlying all objects and experiences. Brahman is explained as pure existence, pure consciousness and pure bliss. All forms of existence presuppose a knowing self. Brahman or pure consciousness underlies the knowing self. Consciousness according to the Advaita School, unlike the positions held by other Vedānta schools, is not a property of Brahman but its very nature. Brahman is also one without a second, all-pervading and the immediate awareness. This absolute Brahman is known as nirguņa Brahman, or Brahman “without qualities,” but is usually simply called “Brahman.” This Brahman is ever known to Itself and constitutes the reality in all individuals selves, while the appearance of our empirical individuality is credited to avidya (ignorance) and māyā (illusion). Brahman thus cannot be known as an individual object distinct from the individual self. However, it can be experienced indirectly in the natural world of experience as a personal God, known as saguņa Brahman, or Brahman with qualities. It is usually referred to as īśvara (the Lord). The appearance of plurality arises from a natural state of confusion or ignorance (avidya), inherent in most biological entities. Given this natural state of ignorance, Advaita provisionally accepts the empirical reality of individual selves, mental ideas and physical objects as a cognitive construction of this natural state of ignorance. But from the absolute standpoint, none of these have independent existence but are founded on Brahman. From the standpoint of this fundamental reality, individual minds as well as physical objects are appearances and do not have abiding reality. Brahman appears as the manifold objects of experience because of its creative power, māyāMāyā is that which appears to be real at the time of experience but which does not have ultimate existence. It is dependent on pure consciousness. Brahman appears as the manifold world without undergoing an intrinsic change or modification. At no point of time does Brahman change into the world. The world is but avivarta, a superimposition on Brahman. The world is neither totally real nor totally unreal. It is not totally unreal since it is experienced. It is not totally real since it is sublated by knowledge of Brahman. There are many examples given to illustrate the relation between the existence of the world and Brahman. The two famous examples are that of the space in a pot versus the space in the whole cosmos (undifferentiated in reality, though arbitrarily separated by the contingencies of the pot just as the world is in relation to Brahman), and the self versus the reflection of the self (the reflection having no substantial existence apart from the self just as the objects of the world rely upon Brahman for substantiality). The existence of an individuated jīva and the world are without a beginning. We cannot say when they began, or what the first cause is. But both are with an end, which is knowledge of Brahman. According to classical Advaita Vedānta, the existence of the empirical world cannot be conceived without a creator who is all-knowing and all-powerful. The creation, sustenance, and dissolution of the world are overseen by īśvaraīśvara is the purest manifestation of Brahman. Brahman with the creative power ofmāyā is īśvaraMāyā has both individual (vyaśti) and cosmic (samaśti) aspects. The cosmic aspect belongs to one īśvara, and the individual aspect, avidya, belongs to many jīvas. But the difference is thatīśvara is not controlled by māyā, whereas the jīva is overpowered by avidyaMāyā is responsible for the creation of the world. Avidya is responsible for confounding the distinct existence between self and the not-self. With this confounding, avidya conceals Brahman and constructs the world. As a result thejīvafunctions as a doer (karta) and enjoyer (bhokta) of a limited world. The classical picture may be contrasted with two sub-schools of Advaita Vedānta that arose after Śaṅkara: Bhamatiand Vivarana. The primary difference between these two sub-schools is based on the different interpretations for avidya and māyā. Śaṅkara described avidya as beginningless. He considered that to search the origin of avidya itself is a process founded on avidya and hence will be fruitless. But Śaṅkara’s disciples gave greater attention to this concept, and thus originated the two sub-schools. TheBhamati School owes its name to Vacaspati Miśra’s (ninth century) commentary on Śaṅkara’s Brahma Sūtra Bhāṣya, while the Vivarana School is named after Prakāṣātman’s (tenth century) commentary on Padmapāda’s Pañcapadika, which itself is a commentary on Śaṅkara’s Brahma Sūtra Bhāṣya. The major issue that distinguishes Bhamati and Vivaranaschools is their position on the nature and locus of avidya. According to the Bhamati School, the jīva is the locus and object of avidya. According to the VivaranaSchool, Brahman is the locus of avidya. The Bhamati School holds that Brahman can never be the locus of avidya but is the controller of it as īśvara. Belonging to jīvatulaavidya, or individual ignorance performs two functions – veils Brahman, and projects (vikṣepa) a separate world. Mulaavidya (“root ignorance”) is the universal ignorance that is equivalent to Māyā, and is controlled by īśvara. The Vivarana School holds that since Brahman alone exists, Brahman is the locus and object of avidya. With the help of epistemological discussions, the non-reality of the duality between Brahman and world is established. The Vivarana School responds to the question regarding Brahman’s existence as both “pure consciousness” and “universal ignorance” by claiming that valid cognition (prama) presumes avidya, in the everyday world, whereas pure consciousness is the essential nature of Brahman.

Kautilya Theory of Saptanga

According to Kautilya, a state has seven elements or constituents, namely, Swamin— the King, Amatya—the Minister, Janapada—the Land, and the People, Durga—the Fortress, Kosha—the Treasury, Danda—the Army and Mitra—the Allies. This entire set-up of the kingdom was described as Saptanga theory in ancient India.

The Swamin refers to the king, regarded as the indispensable, integral and inseparable part of the state in ancient India. King in all cases belonged to the noble and royal family who possessed qualities of both head and heart. Amatya or the minister refers to all the officials involved in the functioning of the government. It is their responsibility to ensure that the government runs smoothly. Janapada implies the land and the people and, according to Kautilya, must be fertile.

The term ‘Durga’ in the ancient India means fort, which is considered an extremely important element. Usually, forts were constructed on the borders of the territory. Kautilya, in fact, divided these forts into water, hill, desert and forest forts. The fifth element is Kosha or the treasury. Kautilya opined that a king must amass wealth to promote the welfare of the people and also maintain his army.

Danda referred to the armed forces to protect the state from aggressions and maintain law and order within the state. Kautilya suggested that it is the responsibility of the king to see that his army is content with its role in the state. Finally, Mitra refers to a friend or allies.

A king must have certain dependable friends who help him in all calamities. A king’s immediate neighbour becomes an enemy and an enemy’s enemy becomes a friend of the king. The Saptanga theory was, in fact, famous all through the ancient period.

The state was regarded as a physical organism and its elements as the parts of the body. It was stated that king was considered the head, ministers as the eyes, and treasury as the face, army as the mind, fort as the hands and country as a whole as the legs of the human body.

Kautilya theory of Mandal

The mandala system was a theoretical construction of states by Kautilya in his Arthasastra. The word “mandala” means circle in Sanskrit. It is a geographical concept of division of lands of the king (the vijigishu) and the neighboring kingdoms.  It was “perhaps the first theoretical work on an ancient system of kings, kingdoms and empires in the intellectual history of mankind that can be considered to be analogous to a model of international relations.  ”Kautilya’s fundamental objective was to make the state, the Empire, that is, safer, stronger and expand the same.  “Kautilya’s work represented the dominant trend in ancient Indian political thinking, in so far as it regarded territorial conquest as a necessary political function of every monarch.”  Kautilya envisaged that the potential conqueror king (the vijigishu) could become the overlord of the international master system of politics if he followed the mandala theory.  He has provided many strategies and methods to reach his ultimate goal. For Kautilya, the ultimate goal of the vijigishu is the attainment of happiness and welfare of the kingdom. Kautilya adds that this can be attained only from conquest. And to attain this goal, he must be prepared to do anything and everything, for nothing is superior to the welfare of the state.  For Kautilya war is necessary and diplomacy is nothing but preparation for war. He said that “A King who understands the true implication of diplomacy conquers the whole world.  ”Kautilya also made an assumption that every immediate neighbouring state is an enemy, or at least the vijigishu should see his immediate neighbour as an enemy. On the other hand, the state next to the neighbour’s state will be the enemy of the enemy. Thus the third state will be a natural ally for the vijigishu. Thus alternate states are enemies of each other in Kautilya’s mandala.

The Main Elements of Mandala Notion


The Vijigishu: The potential conqueror or the central king. Kautilya will call a king vijigishu if and only if he has the ambition as well as the potential strength to go on conquest. It is important to note that when one talks about the central king being the vijigishu, he is not the only one who is a vijigishu! Any and every other king in the mandalas who have similar ambitions and the potential strength may be called a vijigishu. Thus, it is not that there is only one vijigishu in the mandalas. In this concept, the border of the kingdom of the vijigishu is divided into two parts, the front and the rear.

Ari: The immediate neighbour in the front is the Ari, or the Enemy. As mentioned above, every neighbouring state are enemies, the Ari is the enemy in the front.

Mitra: The next neighbour to the Ari, or the enemy of the enemy. Kautilya’s foreign policy is based on the principle of “the enemy of the enemy is my friend”. Mitra means friend or ally in Sanskrit. Mitra is the natural ally of the vijigishu.

Ari Mitra: The next state adjacent to the Mitra’s front border; or the mitra’s arch enemy is the Ari Mitra. Naturally the Ari Mitra is the ally of the ally of the Ari (enemy) and enemy of the Vijigishu.

Mitra Mitra: The next state adjacent to Ari Mitra (his arch enemy). He is naturally the Mitra’s friend and the vijigishu’s ally as well!


The mandala theory was the first model of an international political system. Although it was written more than 2000 years ago, it contains a high degree of sophistication. Kautilya has clearly defined the universal set of his international system, the boundaries of the four mandalas (circles of states) as well as the boundaries of the structural elements and the subsets. Kautilya has also shown a high degree of sophistication with regard to conceptualization and classification of the various levels and typographies of the system as well as of the policies.

Kautilya clearly stated that happiness is the king’s end and power is the means to acquire the same. Kautilya developed a value free realist international relations model more than 1500 years before Machiavelli or any western scholar of his type did. Thus he may be called a pioneer in this regard.

As illustrated with examples earlier, most of the aspects of Kautilyan diplomacy in the mandala are found in modern day diplomacy in some way or the other. Be it espionage, or the six policies or the four upayas, all are in some way or the other relevant in today’s world. Moreover, in Kautilya’s model there is no such concept of ‘permanent friends or enemy, because today’s mitra may be appeared tomorrow as ari or enemy. This idea is quite pragmatic from the perspective of international relations.

Guru Nanak – Social-ethical philosophy

A close study of the life of Guru Gobind Singh, his precepts and his utterances would lead us to the conclusion that the Sikh social ethics has four pronounced ingredients. These are social equality, universal-brotherhood, seeking good of all (altruism) and social service. These ingredients are inter­related and interactive. Altruism and social service are, in fact, practical measures to realize universal brotherhood, the actualization of which in its turn, depends on the extent to which the principle of social equality is realized in the conduct of those who form the social fabric. This concept is rooted in the belief that the whole matter is a unity and the moral world is that where this principle is crystallized in day to day life. The Guru’s concern for this unity was very acute and had been so vital a motivating force that he was very vocal and copious in his comments upon the contemporary social institutions which instead of unifying mankind on the principle of social equality propped up the inequitable and inquisitional social organisations and social ethics. In the process he made critical examination of the contemporary historical condition in India with a view to highlighting the problem of social equality in all its aspects in the contemporary context as also to suggest fresh formulations.

Equality In Terms of Different Religions and Nationalities

When Guru Nanak addressed himself to the task of shaping the society as per his conception, many religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism etc. were prevalent in the country. We understand religion at normative level is an attempt to instil harmony among the people to enable them improve their living as also to understand the secrets of the creation vis-a-vis God and his human beings. All religions, in fact, at the time of their birth or rise, project the modus operandi as stated above, but as times pass on, they fall victim to the parochialism of spirit or the narrow social political views of the people whom they profess to elevate. It was because of this that in Guru’s times, the religious groups were at loggerheads with one another. The followers of Islam especially the Sunnis were committed to safeguard the interests of their own sect and they enjoyed sadistic pleasure in torturing the votaries of other religious groups particularly the Hindus. The idea of Dar-ul-Harb is indicative of this fanatical attitude. The Hindus, in their turn, fared no better. They did not appreciate the good points of Islam and Islamic culture—rather they branded the Muslims as Malechhas—the profaned. There were very few persons among the Hindus and Muslims known as Sufis and Saints who understood the real role of religion but their number was slender and their voice was not heard in the din and noise of the communal clamour. If there were no riots on a large scale, it was either because of passivity of the Hindus or out of their fear of Imperial Muslims or because of the fact that Muslims were happy at their achievements.Christianity and other religions also did not prepare the psyche so as to enable people to appreciate and respect diverse religio-cultural paths. But the need of the hour was the development of peoples’ flexible attitude, towards all religions and religious groups along with their social and culture projections. The profile of the response could be visualized in the teachings of the Bhaktas particularly of the 14th and 16th centuries. Perhaps being earlier attempts their expressions were not forthright and their views were not categorical.



Equality In Terms of Preceptor-Disciple Relations


On March 29, 1699, the Baisakhi day, the tenth Guru floated the Order of the Khalsa. He administered Pahul to the five Sikhs who unhesitatingly responded to the call of the Guru to offer their heads thereby fulfilling Guru Nanak’s injunction to “enter the quarter of love with their heads on the palms of thy hands.” Guru Gobind Singh honoured them with the title of Guru’s Five Beloved Ones. They are ever remembered in the daily prayer of the Sikhs along with his four martyred sons, an honour which with characteristic generosity of Guru Gobind Singh, the unique, the mighty, could confer on sons of the spirit not less dear to him than the sons of his flesh. Just after their baptism, the Guru himself made a request before his disciples to baptize him likewise. This indeed was a unique and deeply meaningful action unparalleled in the world history. Nowhere else has it been seen that the founder of a faith has put himself in such a position of humility and begged of the disciples to confer upon him the faith by giving him what he has already given to them. The significance of this act is deep and abiding. On the basis of this act lay two ideas very crucial for democracy: one, an intellectually apprehended idea which recognized the value and sanctity of the individual personality and places its faith in the capacity of a man’s soul to grasp and pursue the good, and the second, the Master not only showed himself to be humble in spirit, thus giving the lesson which he and his predecessors had preached for generations but demonstrated also his identification with his disciples. The disciple, if he/she be true at heart and have dedicated himself to the Master’s mission is worthy enough to take Guru’s place and in Guru’s words, “To meditate on the Name himself and to lead others towards such meditation, their own faces bright with the light divine, they bring salvation to countless others.” It is when the Guru has identified humbly with disciples of such devotion and purity that it is just and right for him to change places with them. The Guru loves such disciples as they love him. Both became part of the flame exuding sameness or identification. Love being the base of identification is the seed of development which may be called democracy, equality or by any other name political. But all such labels are inadequate, for they lack the dimension of spiritual love, which is the true basis of such relationship.

Gender Equality – Status of Women

In Sikhism, the issue of the status of women has been tackled from many angles. Scriptural support has been extended in favour of woman that she is not at all inferior to a man. Guru Nanak says, “From the woman is our birth, in the woman’s womb are we are shaped. To the woman are we engaged and to the woman are we wedded. Woman is our friend and from woman is our family. If woman dies, we seek another; women are the bonds of the world. Why do we call women evil who give birth to kings. From the woman is the woman, without woman there is none, except God the creator. Verily, society the home, and the country where there is a true woman of divine virtues, are honoured, and become dignified and exalted in the Darbar of the True One.”

From this spiritual authority, it is clear that woman was assigned the status, in no way, inferior to a man. In fact home, society and country are honoured only if woman is held in esteem.

The Gurus in some of their compositions address themselves in feminine gender in relation to God. God himself acts as a woman. Metaphysical argument is also harnessed to impress upon the people that woman occupies equal status to man. It is held that since all mankind is emanation of God, it is ridiculous and unjust to deny equality to woman. Guru Arjan says, “Thou art my father thou art my mother”, (Tun mera pita tun hai mera mata) he does not make use of Mata—Mother—in feminine gender, thereby pointing out that physical differences also have no meaning in determining the status of women.

Against the background of spiritual-cum-metaphysical thoughts vis-a-vis woman as delineated above, Guru Gobind Singh discussed further the status of women. He did not regard ‘woman’ as hurdle or obstruction on the path of ultimate goal of self-realization. He rejected asceticism or renunciation as the pre-requisite and regarded householder’s life if led in a righteous manner, superior to that of an ascetic, and was not contradictory to the Moral Order. In fact, in the reckoning of the Guru, the Moral Order was meaningless if it was not to be realized in this world. To regard woman a ‘temptress’ or ‘seductress’ or ‘unclean’ was preposterous in his eyes. Guru Gobind Singh’s remarks in this context were pertinently magnificent. The discipline of Sannyas, (renunciation) consists of going to the forest after leaving one’s home, getting the hair matted and performing ablutions, growing long nails, getting instructions from the Guru Yogi, applying ashes on the whole body. Instead of all these Yogic rituals, the Guru says, that one should live in one’s house and develop moral virtues and remember God. One should enjoy all gifts of nature with moderation. A home can provide the environment of a forest if one is anchorite at heart. Countenance will be better than a Yogi’s matted hair which is nothing but hypocrisy. Instead of getting instructions from a Yogi, one should listen to one’s own inner self—Atam Updesho. One can see one’s real self and soul of the world and can realise the Supreme Being in his own home by eating frugally, sleeping frugally, coupled with qualities of love, mercy and forbearance, by practicing mildness and patience and by keeping away lust, wrath, covetousness, and obstinacy from one’s mind.

Family being the smallest but the most important social unit was sure to draw the attention of the Guru. A close study of the utterances of the Gurus would show that they all recognized this institution as the most fundamental salient of our social structure but they wanted a change in its conceptual structure and in the relation between different members of the family. The Guru never viewed this institution either as patriarchal unit or matriarchal unit because he never recognized the supreme authority of the eldest male member or the eldest female member in a family. He, on the other hand, wanted harmonious relationship among the members of the family on equal terms. In his views the principle of division of work and responsibilities was the right basis of relationship between different members of the family, and this being so, its each member was as important as the other. Father was a father only if he performed the duties bestowed upon him by divine order, and mother was ordained to function as a mother. From the point of procreation, either sex is equal, and in fact, it is co-operative effort of both the partners that procreation takes place. In no case, either sex, individually or conjointly, with the opposite sex can create anything, which is the miracle of God but an ability that He has vested in both parents equally.

The institution of family is very closely knit with marriage, which to a great extent, is the fulcrum of family, as also its adhesive. This is why at all places where people began to make conscious effort to grow as a civilized group, marriage was considered to be a sacrament. Indians were no exception to it. Guru Gobind Singh also recognized the fact and regarded marriage very sacred and an act deserving God’s benediction. It is really an irony that bridegrooms regard themselves superior to their brides, and do not feel abashed at their demands of dowry and other favours. Sikhism has condemned this attitude of the males and have regarded both of them two flames of the same light (ek jyoti doe murti). The variegated customs, which have grown around marriage, are meaningless accretions. Sex, of course, is a natural act of husband-wife relationship for furtherance of creation but to treat sexual gratification as the chief object of marriage tantamount to reducing oneself to animal level. The Guru says that the marriage should not be regarded as a union of bodies. If it is so, then this union may break at any level. Bodies go on changing and with the passage of time deterioration sets in physical beauty. Therefore he says that marriage instead of being a union of bodies should be a union of souls, of minds, leading to love of each other’s qualities and care for each other’s well-being. It is only in this context, which is at once moral and spiritual that marriage is Anand. Anand is different from pleasure although marriage signifies a physical relationship but ideals are embodied into it when it goes beyond a mere sensory experience. The word Anand indicates a physical immanence as well as a spiritual transcendence. The withdrawal from the physical by the ascetic monk was substituted by the realization of transcendence of Anand. The fulfilment was thus more meaningful and more valuable.

Guru Gobind Singh conceived in this unit of society a partial realization of God, as in the establishment of the Khalsa he had conceived a total realization of the Supreme Being. All the social units in the Khalsa Order are really the evolutionary stages of the manifestation of God, of the Sargonisation of the Nirguna, of the actualization of the possible of the potential. The first and the foremost step is the intimately fastened tie of man and woman in marriage. God manifested in this universe through the principle of His will which appeared in opposites: Haumai and Nam, individuation and universalisation. This bi-polar nature of reality continues till we reach the moral man as the higher achievement. The combination of man and woman in the highest moral order is the unity of bipolarity, the first achievement of ultimate Anand. Mating is a universal characteristic but mating in the moral order is possible only in man, hence Anand. Thus marriage in Sikhism has a metaphysical, moral and spiritual base.

Universal Brotherhood

The ideal of social equality is not the ultimate aim of the ethics of Sikhism. The equality may be maintained without feeling affection or regard for the person who is held to be equal but such bare equality would not be enough because it does not conform to the ideal of humanistic morality. Therefore it is essential that it should be doped with idea of spiritual unity of mankind. Thus the material content to the social ethics in Sikhism is provided from the same premises of spiritual unity which was used for propping up human equality. Guru Gobind Singh’s ideas in this regard are very expressive. He says, “As out of a single fire millions of spark arise in separation but come together again when they fall back in the fire; as from a heap of dust, particles of dust swept up fill the air, and then fall in the heap of dust; as out of single stream countless waves rise up, and being water, fall back in the water again; so from God’s form emerge animate and inanimate things and since they arise from Him, they shall fall in Him again.” The Guru in this statement asserts that everyone ought to treat everyone else as member of the same human brotherhood. Earlier, his predecessor Gurus had also made such assertions. Guru Arjan Dev says, “Thou art our only father, we are all thy children.” He was much pained at the attitude of ‘duality’ of certain people and had to make a very significant remark that true meeting with the Guru implied abandonment of the sense of duality. In fact the Guru equates the meeting of the Guru with the demolition of the walls of ‘otherness’—the other being a cosharer of the same source of emanation and a part of the same spiritual order. The universal brotherhood is thus linked together by bonds stronger than family or national affiliations.

In Guru Gobind Singh’s vision, “The whole humanity is one. That a man is to be honoured not because he belongs to this or that caste or creed but because he is a man, an emanation of God whom God has given the same senses and the same soul from Himself as to the other men. The Guru disliked the segmentation of the humanity on grounds of different modes of worship, appearances, castes, creeds and wished the people to cultivate right perspective and understanding so that they might be able to appreciate that there is an essential unity of human kind. Without realising this truth, “fools have wrangled and died over discussion of these differences.” They are incapable of realising that one should “Recognise the whole of humanity as one in spirit.” According to J.S. Ahluwalia, “Sikh religion is universal. It is not an ethnicity specific, region specific or caste specific religion. The different ethnicities of the first five Sikhs initiated into the Order of the Khalsa through the sacrament of holy Amrit by Guru Gobind Singh mean that this religion is not bound down to particular ethnicity. Guru Gobind Singh in his composition (Akal Ustat), refers to different people in terms of their ethnic identities co-worshipping God. Contemporary ethnicised Punjabiaised form of Sikhism is just one of the possibly many more determinate forms of Sikh religion flowing out in other ethnic contexts.

New ethno­-religious species, developing out of the parental genus would really make a religion embodying universalism and upholding as one of its cornerstones. Sikhism is also not tied down to a particular region, though the Punjab is the natural habitat of Sikhism where it has grown during the last five hundred years. The whole of Earth planet having revered as ‘mother’ in Guru Nanak’s Japji, (Pavan guru, pani pita mata dhart rnahat…) there is no specific holy land or promised land conceived as such in Sikhism.” According to Professor Avtar Singh, “The argument of the Guru seems to be that brotherhood is a reality but is not visible because of the pall of ego or Haumai (individuation). Once this partitioning pall is removed, the relationship should be visible clearly. As a matter of fact, the whole of social ethics of the Sikhs is oriented towards the demolition of this (false) wall of separation, and the realisation of order and still wider identification is indicative of the progressive realization of the ideal.”


In Sikhism, another social ideal is the welfare and happiness of others before one’s own. This ideal in the modern parlance is known as altruism. This ideal has been adequately praised in Sikhism. Bhai Gurdas says, “The test of a good man is that he seeks the welfare of others always. The bad man is selfish. He does no good to others. An altruist is far away from egocentricity. His is a heart always anxious to serve anybody without accepting or deeming any reward whatsoever. He/she regards altruism as an opportunity to receive divine sanctification since the Creator is present in His creation. Naturally any altruistic activity done in a spirit of selflessness takes one nearer to God. Altruism implies love and concern of human beings for others and thus enables them to completely moralize themselves. The Gurus, therefore, had always stressed on par-upkar (Good service to others) as the cardinal virtue, and true to this spirit almost all the moral codes (Rehatnamas) compiled by contemporaries or semi contemporaries of Guru Gobind Singh affirmed this aspect. The compiler of Prem Sumarg says, “When food is ready, pray for someone to come and share your food so that your food may be sanctified.” If a needy person turns up, consider him/her to be an answer to your prayer. In case no one comes, you ought to go out and seek out someone and if by chance no one is available, lay aside some food to be served in emergency. Bhai Chaupa Singh in consonance with this strain required the Sikhs to consider altruistic service to the needy as ‘rendition to the Guru’.

Guru Ghasidas and Satnam Pantha

Guru Ghasi Das (1756–1836) was Guru(teacher) of the Satnami sect in the early 19th century.Satnami sect is similar to sikhism ,opposite to inequality of Hinduism.It was Guru Ghasidas to start treating everyone as same in deep forested part of Chhattisgarh, India.  Ghasi Das was born on 18 December 1756 in Girodpuri, District – Balodabazar. Guru Ghasidas was the son of Mahngu Das and Amrotin Devi. Ghasidas preached Satnam particularly for the people of Chhattisgarh. After Ghasi Das, his teachings were carried on by his son, Balakdas. Guru Ghasidas was the founder of the Satnami community in state of Chhattisgarh. During his lifetime, the political atmosphere in India was one of exploitation. Ghasidas experienced the evils of the caste system at an early age, which helped him to understand the social dynamics in a caste-ridden society and reject social inequality. To find solutions, he travelled extensively across Chhattisgarh.  Saint Guru Ghasidas established Satnami community in Chhattisgarh, India based on “Satnam” (meaning “Truth”) and equality. The Guru’s teachings and philosophy is similar to sikhism. Guru Ghasidas created a symbol of truth called “jaitkhambh” – a white painted log of wood, with a white flag on the top. The structure indicates a white man who follows the truth “satnam” is always steadfast and is the pillar of truth (satya ka stambh). The white flag indicates peace.




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