200 BCE - 300 CE : The Post Mauryan Period - Indian Philosophy - Part -2

March 14, 2018

In the previous lecture of this series, we have covered the sources which help us understand this phase along with a brief introduction of political history of this time. We have also discussed the religious practices being followed at this time which hold genesis of new religious practices like Shaivism and Mahayana Buddhism along with the continued worship of erstwhile gods in the form of Yakshas, Yakshis and Nagas, Nagis. In this lecture, we will discuss about the emergence of Indian Philosophies, i.e., "Darshanas". 


Indian Philosophy:

There are two schools of thought in Indian Philosophy: 


Astika School of Thought: Accepted the authority of Vedas and comprised a number of schools that later came to be considered the six classical systems of Hindu Philosophy.


  1. Samkhya and Yoga

    • Samkhya :

      • Founded by Sage Kapila

      • Ascribed to Ishvara krishna.

      • It is the oldest philosophical school of thought.

      • It holds that the world we see around us really exists.

      • Two fundamental categories of the world are

        • purusha (the spiritual principle) 

        • prakriti (matter or nature).

      • While Purusha's are eternal, unchanging, passive and conscious; Prakriti on the other hand even though being eternal and unchanging is active and unconscious.

      • Prakriti has three gunas or qualities -

        • Sattva (goodness)

        • Rajas (energy or passion).

        • Tamas (darkness or inertia).

      • Liberation consists of the purusha realizing its distinction from prakriti.

      • Samkhya also realises other categories:

        • Buddhi: will and the discriminating faculty.

        • Ahamkara : I-ness.

        • Mind

      • Samkhya considers perception and reliable testimony as valid bases of knowledge and attaches a great deal of importance to inherence.

    • Yoga:

      • ​Founded by Sage Patanjali

      • Yoga Sutra are a manual of yogic practice.

      • It describe the eight stages of yoga- five of which deal with training the body and the rest with perfecting the self, leading to the acquisition of siddhis (signs of success).

      • Aim is cessation of the activities of the mind (chitta-vritti-nirodha).

      • Activities include valid cognition, misconception, conceptualization, sleep and memory. Aim is to focus the mind in such a way as to achieve complete tranquility and control.

      • This is to distinguish the 'seer' or higher self, known as purusha, from that which is seen or manifest, which is known as prakriti.

  2. Nyaya and Vaisheshika.

    •  Nyaya:

      • Founded by Sage Gautama

      • Concerned with logic and epistemology ( a theory connected with nature and bases of knowledge).

      • It laid down a formal method of reasoning to establish the correctness of the Vaisheshika pluralistic explanation of reality.

      • It claimed that true knowledge attained through Vaisheshika would lead to liberation.

      • As per Nyaya, something should be inquired into only if there was some doubt about it, if there was some possibility of arriving at a definite conclusion and if such an inquiry contributed to liberation from the cycle of rebirth. There should be some observable data that could be used in the investigation.

      • Five stages in the Nyaya:

        • A statement of the thesis that is to be proved.

        • A statement of the reason for the thesis.

        • An example that acts as a rule that can be used to support the thesis.

        • Connecting this rule to the thesis.

        • Restatement of the thesis which has been proved.

      • Nyaya system of logic attached importance to perception, reasoning and inference.

    • Vaisheshika:

      • Founded by Sage Kanad

      • Its main text is Vaisheshika sutra of Uluka Kanada.

      • Primarily concerned with Dharma.

      • Dharma was that from which the highest good was achieved. Thus ascribed to the theory of Vedas as it deals with dharma.

      • It is pluralistic realism.

      • Vaisheshika comes from the word vishesh which means particularity thus the aim of the school was to investigate the particularities of the pluralities of things that exist in this world.

      • Identified seven fundamental categories (padartha) of things that exist-

        • Substance, quality, Action, Universality, Particularity, A relation of inherence, and absence or negation.

        • The category of substance was further divided into 9 type of atoms - earth, water, air, ether, space, time, self and mind. First four are material while rest are immaterial.

        • It emphasizes that the quality and substances are inseparable. For example you cannot separate rose and its redness.

  3. Purva Mimansa and Uttara Mimansa. 

    • Purva Mimansa:

      • Founded by Sage Jaimini

      • Mimansa means exegesis i.e. explanation and the school of this name was devoted to Vedic exegesis.

      • Aimed at explaining Vedic texts from the point of view of the nature and goals of sacrificial rituals.

      • Important thinker was Jamini, author of the Mimansa sutra.

      • Held Vedas to be eternal and the authority of the Varna.

      • Kept Sacrifice as the central idea. Used the rules of language framed by Grammarians in order to explain how statements in the Vedas were to be interpreted as injunctions related to sacrifice.

      • Gods were irrelevant; it was the sacrifice that was central.

    • Uttara Mimansa (Vedanta):

      • Founded by Sage Ved Vyas

      • Focused on knowledge rather than sacrificial acts.

      • It was based on an interpretation of the Upanishads.

      • Key text was Badrayana's Brahmasutra or Vedanta Sutra.

      • Aim is to inquire into brahman, the central concept of the Upanishads. Emphasized that all things were part of brahman.

      • Similar to Purva Mimansa, saw Vedas as a valid source of knowledge whose authority is unquestionable.

      • It gave an account of Brahman, the world and relation between the two.

      • It is largely incorporated from the Samkhya system.

      • Framed within a liberation theology with the ultimate aim of knowledge was moksha.

Nastika School of Thought : They rejected the authority of the Vedas. For example: Buddhist, Jaina, Ajivikas  and Charvaka.



Note: Buddhism (Click here) , Jainism (Click here)  and Ajivikas (Click here) have been discussed separately. To read them click on the link given with them.


  1. Charvaka Philosophy:

    • This school was known as Lokayata (literally means found among the people).

    • The tenets are given in a sutra composed by Brihaspati.

    • Followers rejected the authority of the Vedas and Brahmanas. They questioned the efficacy of sacrifice.

    • It was an atheist school. The rejected the ideas of an eternal soul, rebirth, and laws of karma and punya (merit).

    • Materialist doctrine asserted that the body and the consciousness were products of combination of matters  and thus inseparable.

    • Accepted only one basis of knowledge - that which can be perceived by senses.

    • Rejected distinction between good and bad actions and urged that the pleasure of life should be enjoyed.


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