Six Schools of Indian Philosophy

BY: HAREKRSNA.COM

Krsna and Three Sadhus


Apr 22, CANADA (SUN) — A six-part summary of the primary schools of classic Indian philosophy.

There are six main schools of classic Indian philosophy, known as the Sada Darsana, which includes:

  • the Mayavada school of impersonalism authored by Kanada
  • the Nyaya school of logic authored by Gautama
  • the Patanjal school of mystic yoga authored by Patanjali
  • the Sankhya school authored by Kapila
  • the Karma-mimamsa school authored by Jaimini
  • the Vedanta (Brahma-mimamsa) school authored by Vyasadev


"All five of these philosophies completely reject the predominance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and strive to establish their own philosophical theories. However, Srila Vyasadeva wrote the Vedanta-sutra and, taking the essence of all Vedic literature, established the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

All five of the philosophers mentioned above understand that impersonal Brahman is without material qualities, and they believe that when the Personality of Godhead appears, He is contaminated and covered by the material qualities. The technical term used is saguna. They say, "saguna Brahman" and "nirguna Brahman." Nirguna Brahman means impersonal, and saguna Brahman means "accepting material contamination." More or less, this kind of philosophical speculation is called Mayavada philosophy. The fact is, however, that the Absolute Truth has nothing to do with material qualities because He is transcendental. He is always complete with full spiritual qualities. The five philosophers mentioned above do not accept Lord Visnu as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but they are very busy refuting the philosophy of other schools."

Caitanya-caritamrta, Madyam lila 25:56

"In the material world, the word mahatma is understood in different ways by different religionists. Mundaners also come up with their different angles of vision. For the conditioned soul busy in sense gratification, a mahajana is recognized according to the proportion of sense gratification he offers. For instance, a businessman may consider a certain banker to be a mahajana, and karmis desiring material enjoyment may consider philosophers like Jaimini to be mahajanas. There are many yogis who want to control the senses, and for them Patanjali Rsi is a maha-jana. For the jnanis, the atheist Kapila, Vasistha, Durvasa, Dattatreya and other impersonalist philosophers are mahajanas. For the demons, Hiranyaksa, Hiranyakasipu, Ravana, Ravana's son Meghanada, Jarasandha and others are accepted as mahajanas. For materialistic anthropologists speculating on the evolution of the body, a person like Darwin is a mahajana. The scientists who are bewildered by Krsna's external energy have no relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, yet they are accepted by some as mahajanas."

Caitanya-caritamrta, Madyam lila 17:185

"Thus Lord Caitanya gave the direct meaning of Vedanta-sutra. No Vedic scripture should be used for indirect speculation. In addition to Sankaracarya, other materialistic philosophers like Kapila, Gautama, Astavakra and Patanjali have put forward philosophical speculation in various ways. Indeed, the philosopher Jaimini and his followers, who are all more or less logicians, have abandoned the real meaning of the Vedas (devotional service) and have tried to establish the Absolute Truth as subject to the material world. It is their opinion that if there is a God, He will be pleased with man and give man all desired results if man simply performs his material activities nicely. Similarly, the atheist Kapila tried to establish that there is no God who created the material world. Kapila has even tried to establish that a combination of material elements caused creation. Similarly, Gautama and Kanada have given stress to this theory that the creation resulted from a fortunate combination of material elements, and they have tried to establish that atomic energy is the origin of creation. Similarly, impersonalists and monists like Astavakra have tried to establish the impersonal effulgence (brahmajyoti) as the Supreme. And Patanjali, one of the greatest authorities on the yoga system, has tried to conceive an imaginary form of the Supreme Lord."

Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Chapter 21

"Some of the philosophers, who deny all sorts of duality, declare that one's own self is responsible for his personal happiness and distress. Others say that superhuman powers are responsible, while yet others say that activity is responsible, and the gross materialists maintain that nature is the ultimate cause.

As referred to above, philosophers like Jaimini and his followers establish that fruitive activity is the root cause of all distress and happiness, and that even if there is a superior authority, some superhuman powerful God or gods, He or they are also under the influence of fruitive activity because they reward result according to one's action. They say that action is not independent because action is performed by some performer; therefore, the performer himself is the cause of his own happiness or distress. In the Bhagavad-gita (6.5) also it is confirmed that by one's mind, freed from material affection, one can deliver himself from the sufferings of material pangs. So one should not entangle oneself in matter by the mind's material affections. Thus one's own mind is one's friend or enemy in one's material happiness and distress.

Atheistic, materialistic Sankhyaites conclude that material nature is the cause of all causes. According to them, combinations of material elements are the causes of material happiness and distress, and disintegration of matter is the cause of freedom from all material pangs. Gautama and Kanada find that atomic combination is the cause of everything, and impersonalists like Astavakra discover that the spiritual effulgence of Brahman is the cause of all causes. But in the Bhagavad-gita the Lord Himself declares that He is the source of impersonal Brahman, and therefore He, the Personality of Godhead, is the ultimate cause of all causes. It is also confirmed in the Brahma-samhita that Lord Krsna is the ultimate cause of all causes."

Srimad-Bhagavatam 1:17:19 Purport


The Nyaya School

"Then there are the philosophers headed by Gautama and Kanada. They have very minutely studied the cause and effect of the material elements and have ultimately come to the conclusion that atomic combination is the original cause of creation. Present materialistic scientists also follow in the footsteps of Gautama and Kanada, who propounded this theory of Paramanuvada. This theory, however, cannot be supported because the original cause of everything is not inert atoms. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam as well as in the Vedas, wherein it is stated eko narayana asit, Only Narayana existed before the creation. The Srimad-Bhagavatam and Vedanta-sutra also say that the original cause is sentient and both indirectly and directly cognizant of everything within this creation. In the Bhagavad-gita Krsna says, aham sarvasya prabhavah: "I am the original cause of everything," and mattah sarvam pravartate: "From Me everything comes into existence." Therefore, atoms may form the basic combinations of material existence, but these atoms are generated from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus the philosophy of Gautama and Kanada cannot be supported."

Krsna Book, Chapter 87


Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.



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