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Ancient Indian Philosophy - Food for the Soul!

Philosophies of India

India has rich tradition of extensive literature on philosophy, health science- Ayurveda, Geometry, Astrology, music, sculpting etc.

Though Vedas and Upanishads are our sacred scriptures, their language makes it difficult for common man to get benefitted by their timeless teachings. The philosophy fills that gap. Six Indian philosophies that we call “ Shad Darshan “ are teachings of Vedas only but explained in a language commonly understood by an ordinary person. These are six philosophies each written by a sage explaining his point of view of the teachings contained in Vedas. These philosophies are called astik branch of Indian philosophy, astik means they believe in the teachings of Vedas and don’t contradict them.

These are:

The important Darshans that are mostly referred to are:

Samkhya Darshan

Yoga Darshan

Samkhya Darshan

Samkhya darshan deals with the theory of evolution. How this universe came into being.

Maharshi Kapil says that there are three types of pains in the world:

  1. Adhyatmik - There are two types:

    1. bodily diseases like cough, cold, fever, diabetes, heart problem etc

    2. mental diseases like tension anxiety, depression etc.

  2. Aadhibhautik - It is pain given by others like dog bite, snake bite or accidents.

  3. Adhidevik - It is nature's fury like flood, famine, draught, earthquake , fire etc.

To alleviate these pains permanently Samkhya talks about discrimination between Prakriti and Purusha.

What is Prakriti?

Prakriti is this physical world. It is inanimate jada जड़ Tatva. Whatever we see, other than ourselves is Prakriti including our body and mind. Prakriti is made of three Gunas - Satva, Rajas and Tamas.

What is Purusha?

Purusha on the other hand, is the animate or chetan tatva, that is our soul;

Please note that it is not related to male gender here.

What are other differences between Prakriti and Purusha?

Prakriti is eternal, ever changing, made up of three gunas and creative forces.

Purusha on the other hand though eternal but changeless, non doer, free from gunas and observes just as a seer.

How this evolution takes place?

When the three Gunas are in balance, prakriti remains unmanifest, in invisible form. Since there is only one other element that is Purusha, and when Prakriti looks at it, the equilibrium of gunas get disturbed and Prakriti starts evolving. When Prakriti evolves, the first thing that gets produced from Prakriti is Mahat (the universal intelligence principle). From Mahat what gets produced is Ahamkara. From Ahamkara what gets produced is set of sixteen elements -

  • These are five sense organs(jnanendriyas) (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin),

  • Five organs of action (karmendriyas) - (legs, hands, speech, excretory organ (anus or guda) and reproductive organ (upasth),

  • Five subtle elements called tanmatras (sense of sight, hearing, smelling, taste and touch) and,

  • Mind.

From five subtle elements, five gross elements - panch mahabhootas - fire, water, air, earth and sky are produced.

These are termed as 25 elements of Samkhya.

What is Mahat?

Mahat is universal intelligence. We also have intelligence. In us it is a discriminative, determining faculty. It decides what is wrong and what is right? What should be done and what should not be done. In prakriti, mahat does that planning. How many planets, galaxies, other cosmic bodies sun moon should be there, there location, movement is decided by mahat. Then mountains, oceans, forests, various types of species - including birds, animals, insects and humans all were planned by mahat.

What is ahamkara? What role does it play?

Ahamkara is individualistic principle of Prakriti. Whatever is produced by Prakriti is unique; it's one of its own kind. Prakriti never repeats its models. Millions and millions of human beings take birth every day and this has been going on for years but each human being is different from others; so is in animal kingdom - it appears that all cows are similar but it is not so, each one is different. Imagine the scenario where all human beings would have been alike or for that matter all animals, trees, birds etc. There would have been a chaos and confusion all around.

So what is the philosophy of samkhya?

Samkhya says the Prakriti attracts us as the body and Prakriti and our bodies both are made up of three gunas and panch mahabhootas so they have homogeneity but then in the process we suffer from three types of pains as mentioned above all through our lives. So remedy suggested by Samkhya is discrimination between Prakriti and Purusha.

Purusha means soul. We are Purusha and not part of Prakriti - we are changeless, eternal and free from all gunas. If we keep this discrimination in mind, we will be free from all the sufferings. Due to wrong identification with body and mind, (thinking that we are nothing but our body and mind) we get attracted by prakriti and in the process we suffer. The true position is we are not body and mind , we are soul- my identity is my soul and not body and if we behave accordingly, we will not be affected by dualities of the prakriti - birth-death; pleasure-pain; profit – loss; appreciation-criticism and things like that.

Soul cannot be touched by any of these things as it is beyond Gunas. So samkhya says identify yourself as soul and live life accordingly. This has been by the way teaching of all scriptures including Bhagwad Gita.

How does it translate into ordinary life?

Our soul is true love, all bliss, all light and all knowledge. Vedas say Tat Twam Asi - That Thou Art. You are supreme joy and you are eternal bliss. It is only when you forget this that you lose your happiness. You forget your true nature. You forget that you are an aspect of the Divine. It is this lack of self knowledge, this Avidya that makes you unhappy. Identifying yourself with body makes you unhappy. How can you find it outside, when your inside is dark and clouded.

How do we cultivate this feeling of identification with soul?

Remind yourself that you are not better of by possessing objects – TV, car, house and also income. But despite possessing more objects and earning higher income, you are not satisfied. And this thing will remain the same till you retire from this thought process. So what is wrong? Why are we not happier now compared to our earlier years even when we had nothing. The rule is things/ objects cannot make us happy though they seem to be so. We are inadequate, we are not complete, we are not whole; only He is. So right thing to understand is identity ourself with soul- our soul is whole, complete and doesn’t lack in any measure. It is divine essence in us. And when we do that we become complete, we are whole; no longer inadequate and incomplete. Then we don’t depend on outside objects to be happy; our soul is nothing but supreme love, supreme bliss and all that you want. Then you lead a truly fulfilling and satisfying life.

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