and to this only, that the Indian metaphysician takes up the great problems of life—the origin of man and the universe, and the relation between mind and matter.
It is not likely that these speculations were viewed with much favour by the great body of Brāhmans engaged in ritualistic practices. Not that the metaphysicians actually discountenanced the ceremonial worship of the old mythological gods as vain and nugatory. On the contrary, they expressly admitted the propriety of sacrifices, and commended them as the most meritorious of human acts, by which man could raise himself to the highest degrees of mundane existence, to the worlds of the Fathers and Devas. But, on the other hand, metaphysical speculation itself had gradually succeeded in profoundly modifying the original character of the sacrificial ritual: an allegorical meaning had come to be attached to every item of the ceremonial, in accordance with the strange monotheistic-pantheistic theory of the Brāhmaṇas which makes the performance of the sacrifice represent the building up of Prajāpati, the Purusha or “world man,” and thus the creation of reproduction of the universe. In the Śatap. Br. (vii. 3, 4, 41) he is said to be the whole Brahman (n.), and (vii. 1, 2, 7; xi. 1, 6, 17) he is represented as the breath or vital air (prāṇa), and the air being his self (ātman). It needed but the identification of the Ātman, or individual self, with the Brahman or Paramātman (supreme self), to show that the final goal lay far beyond the worlds hitherto striven after through sacrifice, a goal unattainable through aught but a perfect knowledge of the soul's nature and its identity with the Divine Spirit. “Know ye that one Self,” exhorts one of those old idealists, “and have done with other words; for that (knowledge) is the bridge to immortality!” Intense self-contemplation being, moreover, the only way of attaining the all-important knowledge, this doctrine left little or no room for those mediatorial offices of the priest, so indispensable in ceremonial worship; and indeed we actually read of Brāhman sages resorting to Kshatriya princes to hear them expound the true doctrine of salvation. But, in spite of their anti-hierarchical tendency, these speculations continued to gain ground; and in the end the body of treatises propounding the pantheistic doctrine, the Upanishads, were admitted into the sacred canon, as appendages to the ceremonial writings, the Brāhmaṇas. The Upanishads thus form literally “the end of the Veda,” the Vedānta; but their adherents claim this title for their doctrines in a metaphorical rather than in a material sense, as “the ultimate aim and consummation of the Veda.” In later times the radical distinction between these speculative appendages and the bulk of the Vedic writings was strongly accentuated in a new classification of the sacred scriptures. According to this scheme they were supposed to consist of two great divisions—the Karma-kāṇḍa, i.e. “the work-section,” or practical ceremonial (exoteric) part, consisting of the Saṃhitās and Brāhmaṇas (including the ritual portions of the Āraṇyakas), and the Jñānakāṇḍa, “the knowledge-section,” or speculative (esoteric) part. These two divisions are also called respectively the Pūrva- (“former”) and Uttara- (“latter,” or higher) kāṇḍa; and when the speculative tenets of the Upanishads came to be formulated into a regular system it was deemed desirable that there should also be a special system corresponding to the older and larger portion of the Vedic writings. Thus arose the two systems—the Pūrva- (or Karma-) mīmāṃsā, or “prior (practical) speculation,” and the Uttara- (or Brahma-) mīmāmsā, or higher inquiry (into the nature of the godhead), usually called the Vedānta philosophy.
It is not yet possible to determine, even approximately, the time when the so-called Darśanas (literally “demonstrations”), Philosophical systems. or systems of philosophy which subsequently arose, were first formulated. And, though they have certainly developed from the tenets enunciated in the Upanishads, there is some doubt as to the exact order in which these systems succeeded each other. Of all the systems the Vedānta has indeed remained most closely in touch with the speculations of the Upanishads, which it has further developed and systematized. The authoritative exposés of the systems have, however, apparently passed through several redactions; and, in their present form, these sūtra-works evidently belong to a comparatively recent period, none of them being probably older than the early centuries of our era. By far the ablest general review of the philosophical systems (except the Vedānta) produced by a native scholar is the Sarva-darśana-sangraha (“summary of all the Darśanas”), composed in the 14th century, from a Vedāntist point of view, by the great exegete Mādhava Āchārya.
Among the different systems, six are generally recognized as orthodox, as being (either wholly or for the most part) consistent with the Vedic religion—two and two of which are again more closely related to each other than to the rest, viz.:
- (1) Pūrva-mīmāṃsā (Mīmāṃsā), and (2) Uttara-mīmāṃsā (Vedānta);
- (3) Sānkhya, and (4) Yoga;
- (5) Nyāya, and (6) Vaiśeshika.
1. The (Pūrva-) Mīmāṃsā is not a system of philosophy in the proper sense of the word, but rather a system of dogmatic criticism Mīmāṃsā. and scriptural interpretation. It maintains the eternal existence of the Veda, the different parts of which are minutely classified. Its principal object, however, is to ascertain the religious (chiefly ceremonial), duties enjoined in the Veda, and to show how these duties must be performed, and what are the special merits and rewards attaching to them. Hence arises the necessity of determining the principles for rightly interpreting the Vedic texts, as also of what forms its only claim to being classed among speculative systems, viz. a philosophical examination of the means of, and the proper method for, arriving at accurate knowledge. The foundation of this school, as well as the composition of the Sūtras or aphorisms, the Mīmāṃsā-darśana, which constitute its chief doctrinal authority, is ascribed to Jaimini. The Sūtras were commented on by Śabara Svāmin; and further annotations (vārttika) thereon were supplied by the great theologian Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, who is supposed to have lived about A.D. 700 and to have worked hard for the re-establishment of Brāhmanism. The most approved general introduction to the study of the Mīmāṃsā is the metrical Jaiminīya-Nyāya-mālā-vistara, with a prose commentary, both by Mādhava Āchārya. This distinguished writer, who has already been mentioned several times, was formerly supposed, from frequent statements in MSS., to have been the brother of Sāyaṇa, the well-known interpreter of the Vedas. The late Dr Burnell has, however, made it very probable that these two are one and the same person, Sāyaṇa being his Telugu and Mādhavāchārya his Brāhmanical name. In 1331 he became the jagadguru, or spiritual head, of the Smārtas (a Vedāntist sect founded by Śankarāchārya) at the Math of Śṛingeri, where, under the patronage of Bukka, king of Vidyānagara, he composed his numerous works. He sometimes passes under a third name, Vidyāraṇya,-svāmin, adopted by him on becoming a sannyāsin, or religious mendicant.
2. The Vedānta philosophy, in the comparatively primitive form in which it presents itself in most of the older Upanishads, Vedānta. constitutes the earliest phase of sustained metaphysical speculation. In its essential features it remains to this day the prevalent belief of Indian thinkers, and enters largely into the religious life and convictions of the people. It is an idealistic monism, which derives the universe from an ultimate conscious spiritual principle, the one and only existent from eternity—the Ātman, the Self, or the Purusha, the Person, the Brahman. It is this primordial essence or Self that pervades all things, and gives life and light to them, “without being sullied by the visible outward impurities or the miseries of the world, being itself apart”—and into which all things will, through knowledge, ultimately resolve themselves. “The wise who perceive him as being within their own Self, to them belongs eternal peace, not to others.” But, while the commentators never hesitate to interpret the Upanishads as being in perfect agreement with the Vedāntic system, as elaborated in later times, there is often considerable difficulty in accepting their explanations. In these treatises only the leading features of the pantheistic theory find utterance, generally in vague and mystic, though often in singularly powerful and poetical language, from which it is not always possible to extract the author's real idea on fundamental points, such as the relation between the Supreme Spirit and the phenomenal world—whether the latter was actually evolved from the former by a power inherent in him, or whether the process is altogether a fiction, an illusion of the individual self. Thus the Kaṭha-upanishad offers the following summary: “Beyond the senses [there are the objects; beyond the objects] there is the mind (manas); beyond the mind there is the intellect (buddhi); beyond the intellect there is the Great Self. Beyond the Great One there is the Highest Undeveloped (avyaktam); beyond
- Muṇḍaka-upanishad, ii. 2, 5.
- From such allusions, or statements, in the Upanishads, some scholars have actually gone the length of claiming the origin of this cardinal doctrine of Vedānta philosophy for the Kshatriyas. It seems to us, however, very much more likely that these anecdotes were introduced by the Brahmanical sages of set purpose to win over their worldly patrons from their materialistic tendencies to their own idealistic views. Kapila, the author of the materialistic Sānkhya, is supposed to have been a Kshatriya, and so, we know, was the Śākya Muni.
- Cf. P. Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads (Edinburgh, 1906).
- Cf. Muṇḍaka-upanishad, i. 4, 5, where these two divisions are called “the lower (apara) and the higher (para) knowledge.”
- These works have all been printed with commentaries in India; and they have been partly translated by Ballantyne and by K. M. Banerjea. The best general view o the systems is to be obtained from H. C. Colebrooke's account, Misc. Essays, i. (2nd ed.), with Professor Cowell's notes. Compare also the brief abstract given in Goldstücker's Literary Remains, vol. i. A very useful classified index of philosophical works was published by F. Hall (1859).
- Edited in the Bibl. Ind.; translated by E. B. Cowell and A. E. Gough (1882).
- Text and Commentary, Bibl. Ind.
- Edited by Th. Goldstücker, completed by E. B. Cowell; also ed. Āhand-Ser. (Bombay, 1892).
- Vaṃsa-brāhmaṇa, Introd.
- Kaṭha-upanishad, ii. 5, 12.
- Kaṭha-up., i. 3, 10; ii. 6, 7.