I. History of Indian Thought
A. Due to the Indian lack of concern for chronology, many of the details of chronological sequence are either lost or no record was kept
B. Many of the original authors are unknown
C. Four major periods of development
1. Vedic Period (2500-600 B.C.)
a. Literature of this period consists of the four Vedas (Rg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda)
b. Each Veda has four parts- Mantras, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads
i. Mantras (hymns) represent the onset of Indian philosophical thought in poetic form
ii. Brahmanas are religious documents discussing ritualistic precepts and sacrificial duties
iii. Aranyakas encourage meditation and provide foundation for philosophical inquiry
iv. Upanishads are the meditations of philosophers and inaugurate spiritual monism
2. Epic Period (600 B.C.-200 A.D.)
a. Literature of this period is characterized by the indirect presentation of philosophical doctrines (Ramayana, Mahabharata)
b. Includes the rise and development of Buddhism, Jainism, Saivism, and Vaisnavism
c. The Dharmasastras on ethical and social philosophy were compiled
3. Sutra Period (early centuries of Christian era)
a. Systematic treatises of various philosophical schools were composed
b. Transition to self-conscious, critical reflection
c. Six Hindu systems of philosophy presented
i. Nyaya- logical realism
ii. Vaisesika- realistic pluralism
iii. Samkhya- evolutionary dualism
iv. Yoga- disciplined meditation
v. Purva Mimamsa- earlier interpretations of Vedas related to conduct
vi. Uttara Mimamsa- later investigations of the Vedas relating to knowledge (Vedanta-end of the Vedas)
4. Scholastic Period (dates uncertain: approximately 500-1600 A.D.)
a. Commentaries composed to explain Sutras
b. Period of great Indian philosophers- Samkara, Kumarila, Sridhara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vacaspati, Udayana, etc.
II. Spirit of Indian Philosophy
A. Represents a wide variety of viewpoints
B. A set of common themes permeates much of Indian philosophy
1. Concentration upon the spiritual
a. Both humans and the universe are spiritual in essential character
b. Philosophy and religion are closely related- philosophy is a spiritual endeavor
c. Asks, “What is our spiritual destiny?”
2. Intimate relationship between philosophy and life
a. Truth is efficacious in practical life
b. Truth must be lived, not merely known
c. Goal of philosophy is to realize ultimate truth and become one with it
d. Emphasizes the importance of moral purification for the searcher of truth
i. Renunciation of all petty desire, personal motive, and practical interest
ii. Tranquility, self-control, patience, and peace of mind are foundations for moral practice
iii. Desire for release (moksa) represents supreme goal of life
3. Characterized by introspective approach to reality
a. Philosophy is atmavidya- knowledge of the self
b. Truth is sought and to be found within
c. The subjective is of primary importance rather than the external world
4. Tendency towards idealism and monism
a. Reality is ultimately one
b. Reality is ultimately spiritual
5. Intuition is the only method by which the ultimate is known
a. Reason and intellectual knowledge are not enough
b. Reality must be experienced
c. Reason can demonstrate the truth, but not reach the truth
6. Acceptance of authority
a. Specific doctrines may change, but general spirit continues through the ages
b. Those who have realized truth in the past are guides
7. Synthetic Quality
a. All aspects of life go together in a single comprehensive reality
b. Toleration of diverse perspectives
c. Directed towards the emancipation of suffering and freedom from rebirth
d. Non-attachment characterizes the philosophical life
i. One is not concerned with results of action
ii. Avoidance of selfishness
iii. Not enslaved to worldly values
e. Humans reap what they sow
III. Value of Indian Philosophy
A. Humankind’s oldest as well as most continuous speculation about the nature of reality
B. Concerned with the eternal, unchanging truth
C. Landmarks of human thought
D. Contributes to a world perspective and philosophy
E. Important to political unity and understanding
-the oldest Indo-European literary and philosophical monument is the Rg Veda
-the word ‘veda’ signifies wisdom
-while dates of composition are relatively unknown, the Vedas go back to approximately 3500 B.C.
-Rg Veda comprises 1,017 hymns divided into 10 books
-henotheistic tendencies throughout the Vedas where many gods are exalted to the highest place of worship for the creation, maintenance and destruction of the universe
-as religious speculation proceeded and progressed, a single deity became necessary to explain the unity of the universe
-a superpersonal monism begins to gradually develop in the vedic literature
-a distinction is eventually made between Brahman (the absolute reality) and Ishvara (the personal God)
-monotheism begins to give way to philosophical monism and the belief in an impersonal, unknowable One
Indra- the god of battle, heroism, and courage, the power of thunderstorms
‘He destroys with light’,’sovereign lord of heaven and earth’,’lord of prosperers and sages’
Agni- the god of fire
‘bestower of treasures,’ ‘son of strength’,’his flame filled Heaven and Earth with light’
Visnu- the all-pervader
‘he in whose three wide strides abide all creatures’, ‘wide-pacing bull’
Brhaspati- the god of prayer
‘gathered to himself the cattle’, ‘forced apart the darkness’
‘far-spreading one’, ‘bright one’
‘protector from fearful evil’
Surya- the sun god
‘knows all creatures that are born’, ‘visible to all’, ‘maker of light’, ‘the highest light’
‘daughter of the sky’, ‘lady of the light’
Vata- the wind god
‘speeds over the earth’, ‘friend of the Waters’, ‘wanders at his will,’ ‘his roarings are heard not seen’
Vak- speech personified, means of communication between men and gods, representative of Spirit
‘first of those who merit worship’, ‘I make the man I love exceedingly mighty’, ‘my home is in the waters’, ‘I hold together all existence’
Varuna- chief of the gods of the natural and moral order
‘guardeth well the thoughts of men’, ‘visible over all is he’, ‘cherishes much wisdom’, ‘in whom all wisdom centers’, ‘all the gods follow his decree’
Visvakarman- the “all worker”, creator of the universe
‘mighty in mind and power’, ‘knoweth all races and all things existing’
Purusa- humanity personified
‘Lord of immortality’, ‘one fourth of him is all beings’, ‘three fourths of him is the immortal in Heaven’
Visvedevas- the pantheon of gods
‘to what is one, sages give many a title’, ‘One All is lord of what is fixed and moving’,’inspirer of the soul’
Prajapati- the unknown god
‘what God with our oblation shall we worship?’, ‘generator of the earth’, ‘producer of the heavens’
-concluding portion of the Vedas
-basis of later Vedanta philosophy
-the word ‘upanishad’ comes from upa (near), ni (down), and sad (to sit)- referring to sitting with a teacher or sage to learn truth
-the Upanishads number over 200
-although dates of authorship are uncertain, the Upanishads are likely to have originated sometime during the 7th and 8th centuries B.C.
-we do not know who the original authors of the Upanishads were
-the Upanishads are sruti or revealed literature ushering forth from the experiences of sages
-their primary intent is to lead one towards spiritual illumination, rather than systematic knowledge
-a single God who is the source of all the earlier vedic gods is sought as the fundamental unity of existence
-Brahman (the objective reality and foundation of existence) is identified with Atman (the subjective ultimate or center of personal experience)
-Truth is within us
-the Supreme is beyond words, categories, and symbolic representations (nirguna Brahman)
-the Supreme is also creator of manifested existence, and source of personal reality (saguna Brahman)
-a distinction is made between the transcendent dimension of Brahman (pure in itself) and immanent Brahman (in the world)
-prayer and meditation is a way to ascend in consciousness by entering the Beyond that is within
-the inner ascent requires moral preparation and purification
1 Sense of calm
4 Patiently enduring
-ultimate goal is identity with the Supreme
-shortest of the Upanishads
-discusses the nature of the way of knowledge and the path of the unattached sage
-knowledge, supernatural or otherwise, is not sufficient unto itself for true wisdom
-‘covet not the wealth of anyone’, ‘unmoving, the One is swifter than the mind’, ‘It is within all this’,’It is outside all of this’
-asks “by whom?” is the universe created, sustained, and continually destroyed
-the singular Atman is the source of all inner and external movements
-those who say they understand the Supreme do not have true knowledge, while those who say they do not understand are the ones who possess true knowledge
-‘It is conceived of by him by whom It is not conceived of’,’when known by an awakening, It is conceived of’
-perhaps most philosophical of Upanishads
-Naciketas chooses knowledge above worldly goods, the good over the merely pleasant
-knowledge of Atman comes by way of intuitive insight, not through reason
-‘not with wealth is a man to be satisfied’,’the wise one (Atman) is not born nor dies’,’more minute than the minute, greater than the great’,’He is to be obtained only by the one whom he chooses’,’though He is hidden in all things, that Self shines not forth’,’an intelligent man should suppress his speech and his mind’,’the wise who perceive Him as standing in oneself , they, and no others, have eternal happiness’,’His form is not to be beheld’
2 Objects of sense
4 Intellect- buddhi
5 Great Self - Atman
6 Unmanifest- avyakta
8 Nothing at all
-presents answers to philosophical questions
-apparently a late Upanishad
-“O friend, it is to the supreme Self (Atman) that everything here resorts”
-most poetical of Upanishads
-two kinds of knowledge presented: higher (para) and lower (apara)
-‘eternal, all-pervading, omnipresent, exceedingly subtle, that is the Imperishable, which the wise perceive as the source of beings’, ‘the world that was not made is not won by what is done’, ‘this Self (Atman) is not to be obtained by instruction, nor by intellect, nor by much learning’,’he, verily, who knows that supreme Brahman, becomes very Brahman’
-presents four states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, profound sleep and turiya
-‘Om!- this syllable is this whole world’,’for truly, everything here is Brahman’
-description of ethical teachings
-presents the doctrine of the “Five Sheaths” of the self- food, breath, mind, intellect, and bliss
-describes the progression to the ultimate bliss of Brahman
-‘speak the truth, practice virtue’, ‘He who knows Brahman attains the highest’,’food is the chief of beings’, ‘breath is the life of beings’,’Brahman is food, austerity, breath, mind, understanding, and bliss’
-life after death discussed
-Atman as intellect proposed
-‘The world is guided by intelligence. The basis is intelligence. Brahman is intelligence.’
-one of the oldest and best known
-status of the individual is determined by character rather than birth
-the psychical principle within (Atman) is identical with the universal principle of nature (Brahman)
-the sun is the eye of Brahman, wind the breath, space the body, wealth the bladder, earth the feet
-progression to Brahman- speech, mind, conception, thought, meditation, understanding, strength, food, water, heat, space, memory, hope, life,
-‘Tat tvam asi (That art thou)’,’all speech is held together by Om’,’this whole world is Brahman’,’into him I shall enter on departing hence’,’Brahman is joy’,’joy (ka) –verily, that is the same as the Void (kha)’,’in the beginning this world was just being, one only, without a second’,’that which is the finest essence- this whole world has that as its self’,’one must desire to understand the truth’
-Atman portrayed as universal, undifferentiated consciousness
-the absolute is indescribable
-‘he is a person’,’whoever thus knows “I am Brahman!” becomes this All’,’from this Self come all vital energies, all worlds, all gods, all beings’,’there are assuredly two forms of Brahman: the formed and the formless, the mortal and the immortal, the stationary and the moving, the actual and the yon’,’of immortality, however, there is no hope through wealth’,’for love of the Self all is dear’,’this great Being, infinite, limitless, is just a mass of knowledge’,’one becomes good by good action, bad by bad action’,’let a Brahmin become disgusted with learning and become as a child’,’do not over-question’,’in the space within the heart lies the ruler of all, the lord of all, the king of all’,’that Self is not this, it is not that’,’restrain yourselves, give, be compassioonate’
-goes in the direction of theism
-‘Over both the perishable and the self the One God rules. By meditation upon Him, by union with Him, and by entering into His being, more and more, there is finally cessation from every illusion’,’truly there is nothing higher than that to be known’,’this whole world is pervaded with beings that are parts of Him’,’His form is not to be beheld. No one soever sees Him with the eye. They who thus know Him with heart and mind as abiding in the heart become immortal’,’by knowing God one is released from all fetters’
-prana (breath/spirit) is the prime mover of the universe and a part of our higher selves
-‘if there were no elements of being, there would be no elements of intelligence’,’this same breathing spirit, in truth, is the intelligential self; it is bliss, ageless, immortal’,’He is the world-protector’
-two forms of Atman enumerated- the noumenal and phenomenal
-the bhutatman reaps the fruits of good and bad action
-‘what is the good of enjoyment of desires?’,’by knowledge (vidya), by austerity (tapas), and by meditation (cinta) Brahman is apprehended’,’incomprehensible is that supreme Self, unlimited, unborn, not to be reasoned about, unthinkable- He whose self is space!’,’freedom from desire is like the choicest extract from the choicest treasure’,’the mind, in truth, is for mankind the means of bondage and release’
-deals with both metaphysics and ethics
-authorship attributed to Vyasa
-the Absolute is not merely impersonal
-God exceeds both the infinite and merely finite
-the Supreme is present in the individual
-Krsna represents the redeeming power in the cosmic creation as a divine incarnation (avatarana) in human form
-God as savior must manifest in times of peril
-delineates yogas to help liberate the self and reach a new understanding of human existence and meaning
-jnana-yoga- the way of knowledge
-bhakti-yoga- the way of devotion
-karma-yoga- the way of action
-the various yogas are complementary to one another and help facilitate inner growth
“Know thou that that by which all this is pervaded is indestructible”
“In this path, no effort is ever lost and no obstacle prevails”
“Let not the fruits of action be thy motive”
“An even mind in success and failure”
“When his spirit is content in itself, then is he called stable in intelligence”
“From attachment springs desire, and from desire comes anger”
“For the unpeaceful, how can there be happiness?”
“Do thou thine allotted work, for action is better than inaction”
“Man attains to the highest by doing work without attachment”
“As men approach me so do I accept them”
“He who is satisfied by whatever comes by chance, who has passed beyond the dualities (of pleasure and pain), who is free from jealousy, who remains the same in success and failure- even when he acts, he is not bound”
“God is that which is to be attained by him who realizes God in his works”
“Knowledge as a sacrifice is greater than any material sacrifice”
“There is nothing on earth equal in purity to wisdom”
“He whose self is harmonized by yoga sees the Self abiding in all beings and all beings in the Self; everywhere he sees the same”
“the mind is difficult to curb and restless, but it can be controlled… by constant practice and non-attachment”
“I am the intelligence of the intelligent. I am the splendour of the splendid”
“I am alike to all beings. None is hateful or dear to me”
“I am death, the all-devouring and the origin of things that are yet to be”
“But thou canst not behold Me with this [human] eye of yours; I will bestow on thee the supernatural eye”
“Man is of the nature of his faith; what his faith is, that, verily, he is.”
“Devoted each to his own duty man attains perfection”
-Buddhism (from buddhi meaning to awaken) arose approximately 2,500 years ago and originated with the enlightenment experiences of Siddhartha Gotama “The Buddha”
-In 563 BC, Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now known as Nepal
-At the age of 29, Siddhartha began to realize that wealth would not bring him happiness and set upon a quest for true enlightenment and a way to overcome suffering. After approximately six years of intense meditation, Siddhartha entered into a state of enlightened being. For the remainder of his life, Siddhartha taught the principles of the ‘middle way’ until he died at the age of 80.
-The Buddha takes up some of the thoughts of the early Upanishads and reformulates them to apply to modern life
-The Four Noble Truths:
-All things eventually pass away including our dreams and hopes, our fears and desires. Nothing can overcome the supremacy of death.
-Life is a stream of becoming. There is nothing permanent in the empirical self.
-Suffering is caused by ignorance (avidya) and selfish craving (tanha).
-When we rid ourselves of ignorance and selfish craving, we are prepared for nirvana- freedom from ignorance, selfish craving, and suffering. Nirvana leads to the attainment of wisdom (prajna) and compassion (karuna).
-The Eightfold Path to Enlightenment:
-The Five Primary Precepts:
-Compassion represents the pinnacle of enlightened being in thought, speech and deed- caring, giving, listening, and attending to the real needs of others is a primary goal of Buddhist philosophy and ethics. One must be the truth to know the truth.
-The Buddha remains relatively silent upon matters of metaphysical import in an attempt to stay focused on the plight of human existence and the way to overcome suffering.
Confucius (551-479 BC)
- Biographic Information- born in the state of Lu in modern Shantung, he was a descendant of a noble but fairly poor family, apparently studied under no particular teacher but became one of the most learned persons of his era, began his career as a teacher in his twenties and thirties, dedicated his entire life to education, he died at the age of 73
- The works of Confucius help lay the foundations for Chinese civilization
- Confucius helped shape one of the dominant characteristics of Chinese philosophy, namely, humanism
- He does not discuss spiritual beings or refer to the possibility of life after death
- Confucius concentrated on the plight of human welfare- the nature of a good society, harmonious human relations, and proper government
- He advocated a form of government based on virtue and moral example than upon punishment or force
- Confucius believed in the perfectibility of all men and women
- He does not adhere to the traditional caste system or prescribe to the idea of hereditary nobility. Rather, Confucius taught that nobility is based on quality of character.
- Confucius contemplated the nature of ideal man instead of a supernatural being
- The Concept of the Mean- more than simply moderation, the mean represents the central, balanced, and harmonious state of being for both the individual and society
- Jen- the perfect man or woman. He or she is a person who abides by the Golden Rule- “wishing to establish his own character, he also establishes the character of others, and wishing to be prominent himself, he also helps others to be prominent.”
- Notable quotes from The Analects:
1:2 “Filial piety and brotherly respect are the root of humanity.”
1:14 “The superior man does not seek fulfillment of his appetite nor comfort in his lodging….Such a person may be said to love learning.”
1:16 “[A good person] does not worry about being known by others but rather worries about not knowing them.”
2:24 “To see what is right and not do it is cowardice.”
4:5 “Wealth and honor are what every person desires. But if they have been obtained in violation of moral principles, they must not be kept. Poverty and humble station are what every person dislikes. But if they can be avoided only in violation of moral principles, they must not be avoided.”
4:11 “The superior person thinks of virtue, the inferior person thinks of possessions.”
4:12 “If one’s acts are motivated by profit, he will have many enemies.”
5:25 “It is my ambition to comfort the old, to be faithful to friends, and to cherish the young.”
6:18 “To know it [learning or the Way] is not as good as to love it, and to love it is not as good as to take delight in it.”
7:7 “There has never been anyone who came with as little a present as dried meat [as tuition] that I have refused to teach him something.”
7:15 “With course rice to eat, with water to drink and with a bent arm for a pillow, there is still joy. Wealth and honor obtained through unrighteousness are but floating clouds to me.”
8:8 “Let a person be stimulated by poetry, established by the rules of propriety, and perfected by music.”
8:13 “Have sincere faith and love learning. Be not afraid to die for pursuing the good Way.”
11:11 “If we are not yet able to serve humankind, how can we serve spiritual beings.”
12:1 “To master oneself and return to propriety is humanity.”
12:2 “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.”
12:19 “In your government what is the need of killing? If you desire what is good, the people will be good. The character of a ruler is like wind and that of the people is like grass. In whatever direction the wind blows, the grass always bends.”
13:6 “If a ruler sets himself right, he will be followed without his command. If he does not set himself right, even his commands will not be obeyed.”
13:16 “There is good government when those who are near are happy and those far away desire to come.”
13:27 “A person who is strong, resolute, simple, and slow to speak is close to jen.”
14:36 Someone said, “What do you think of repaying hatred with virtue?” Confucius said, “In that case what are you going to repay virtue with? Rather, repay hatred with uprightness and repay virtue with virtue.”
15:20 “The superior person seeks room for improvement in oneself, the inferior person seeks it in others.”
15:38 “In education there should be no class distinction.”
16:1 “For when wealth is equally distributed, there will not be poverty; when there is harmony, there will be no problem of there being too few people; and when there are security and peace, there will be no danger to the state…”
17:2 “By nature humans are alike, through practice they have become far apart.”
· More commentaries have been written about it than any other Chinese classic.
· 5,250 words
· More English translations than any other Chinese book.
· Combination of poetry, philosophical speculation, and mystical reflection.
· Tao- the meaning or way of life, te- the appropriate use of life, ching- text or classic
· Suggests that people ought to live life according to instinct and conscience.
· Legend suggests that Lao Tzu attempted to escape the decadence he found in the hearts of his contemporaries while riding a water buffalo. As he reached the limits of the kingdom, the gate keeper requested that he record his philosophical ideas in writing for others.
Notable Quotes from Tao-te Ching:
Ch. 1 - “The Tao that can be told of is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;
The named is the mother of all things.”
Ch. 2 - “Being and non-being produce each other”
Ch. 3 - “Do not exalt the worthy, so that the people shall not compete.
Do not value rare treasures, so that the people shall not steal.
Do not display objects of desire, so that the people’s hearts shall not be disturbed.”
Ch. 4 - “Tao is empty (like a bowl),
It may be used but its capacity is never exhausted.”
Ch. 7 -“Heaven is eternal and Earth everlasting.
They can be eternal and everlasting because they
do not exist for themselves.”
Ch.8 - “The best person is like water.
Water is good, it benefits all things and does not
compete with them.
It dwells in lowly places that all disdain.
This is why it is so near to Tao.”
Ch. 9 - “When gold and jade fill your hall,
You will not be able to keep them,
To be proud with honor and wealth
Is to cause one’s own downfall.”
Ch. 10 - “Can you love the people and govern the state without cunning?”
Ch. 14 - “We look at it (Tao) and do not see it;
Its name is The Invisible.
We listen to it and do not hear it;
Its name is The Inaudible.
We touch it and do not find it;
Its name is the Subtle (formless).”
Ch. 16 -“Attain complete vacuity,
Maintain steadfast quietude.”
“To know the eternal is called enlightenment.”
“The person who knows the eternal is all-embracing.
Being all-embracing, s/he is impartial.
Being impartial, s/he is akin to a king or queen.”
Ch. 17- “The best rulers are those whose existence is barely known by the people.
The next best are those who are loved and praised…”
Ch. 19- “Let people hold onto these:
Have few desires.”
Ch. 20- “Abandon learning and there will be no sorrow.”
“The multitude all possess more than enough, I alone seem to have lost all.”
Ch. 22 -“To yield is to be preserved whole.
To be bent is to become straight.
To be empty is to be full.
To be worn out is to be renewed.
To have little is to possess.
To have plenty is to be perplexed.
Therefore the sage embraces the One
And becomes the model of the world.”
Ch. 23-“The person who follows virtue is identified with virtue.”
Ch. 25-“It may be considered the mother of the universe.
I do not know its name; I call it Tao.”
Ch. 27-“A good traveler leaves no track or trace.”
Chuang Tzu (399-295 BC)
-Nature is spontaneous, in constant flux, and incessantly transformational.
-Nature binds all things into one- equalizing all things and opinions.
-The person of purity harmonizes with Nature and does not attempt to impose human will upon it.
-The supreme goal of the individual is spiritual emancipation and peace.
-Selfishness in the form of wealth, fame, bias, or subjectivity is abandoned to the higher dictates of unity with Nature.
-One does not need to quarrel over right and wrong.
-The Tao in Chuang Tzu is transcendental.
-An emphasis is made on following one’s own inner nature, nourishing it, and adapting it to environment.
-The writings of Chuang Tzu made a tremendous impact on Zen Buddhism and Chinese landscape painting and poetry.
-Not much is known about the person behind Chuang Tzu except that his personal name was likely Chou, he was once a small official who received, and later declined, an offer to become prime minister.