The vast fertile plains of India with an extensive network of rivers, a climate suitable for agriculture and plentiful labor made for prosperity among her people. When the need for food, clothing and shelter were fulfilled and other needs reasonably met and the struggle for life was won over, questions rose in the minds of her people: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? What is mind? How do we experience pleasures of life? Why pain? How do we overcome pain? What happens after death? Who or what is God? The result of inquiry into these questions resulted in ‘ darshanas’ or the Indian systems of Philosophy.
The Indian mystics looked within themselves to find the answers to these questions. They were guided instinctively to go within themselves and not seek answers outside. They intuitively experienced the answers to the questions regarding goals of life and Divinity in a very clear and logical manner. They were lead to see the truth and hence their thoughts were called ‘darshanas’ meaning ‘ vision’ or self realization. These illuminating thoughts of the Rishis or Seers were called the darshanas.
There are six systems of Indian philosophies or metaphysical systems or Shad Darshanas. These are visions of reality as experienced by the mystics. Each of them was compiled during the times of before and after the time of Christ. The six systems had some differences and some common factors. The following two factors were common to all the six systems:
*The soul undergoes endless cycles of rebirth and death – the doctrine of reincarnation of the soul and the cosmology of endless cosmic cycles
*The possibility of the soul reaching perfection in this phenomenal world and transcending the cycle of rebirths and death i.e. attaining self realization or enlightenment or merging with God.
The above two themes are also found in Buddhism and Jainism. They first appeared in the Upanishads.
The six darshanas are:
Vaisheshika or “Atomism”
Nyaya or “Logic”
Purva Mimamsa or ritualistic interpretation of the Vedas
Samkhya or the enumeration of the various cosmic principles (tattwas), which are considered separate from the true self or consciousness (Purusha)
Yoga or techniques for meditation and transcendence
Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta or metaphysical speculation
• Brahman – The Creator – Existence and Nature of Brahman
• Jiva –The Part of Brahman which separates from it- Nature of Jiva or the Individual soul
• Jagat – The Created -Creation of Jagat or the world
• Returning back to Brahman -Moksha or Liberation and the disciplines that lead to it
Today, Vaisheshika, Nyaya, and Mimamsa do not have significant impact on the Indian thought and philosophy of life. Samkhya has been assimilated by Vedanta and has become a part of it. Yoga is popular worldwide as a practical technique of physical health and mental meditation. The darshanas of philosophy conclude that despite the best efforts of man, his life is full of misery and has less of happiness and bliss. He puts in continuous effort but is rarely content. Seeking an escape route from the world’s miseries, pains and the roller coaster life of human existence is one of the main goals of human life.