Darshans: Profound Beauty of Hindu Philosophy

The term “Darshan” in Vedic literature doesn’t directly refer to the six philosophical schools that developed later in Hinduism. That school are Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Purva Mimamsa &Vedanta


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Introduction to Darshans

The term “Darshan” in Vedic literature doesn’t directly refer to the six philosophical schools that developed later in Hinduism.

  • Darshan: literally translates to “sight,” “view,” or “way of seeing.”
  • Vedic Literature: The Vedas and related texts focus on rituals, hymns, and the nature of the divine.

Classification of Darshans:

Astika Systems:

  • Foundation: The Vedas provide the foundational texts and are seen as the ultimate authority on knowledge, rituals, and spiritual practices.
  • Integration: All Astika systems integrate Vedic teachings, either through direct acceptance or through interpretation to support their philosophical viewpoints.

Nastika Systems:

  • Rejection: These systems challenge the authority of the Vedas, proposing alternative sources of knowledge and spiritual practices.
  • Focus: They often focus on empirical evidence, logical reasoning, or ethical practices independent of Vedic rituals and doctrines.

The Six Astika Darshans

1. Nyaya

Philosophy of Nyaya (न्याय दर्शन): Prama, Aprama, Asatkaryavada (प्रमा,  अप्रमा, असत्कार्यवाद) - CG Competition Point

  • Founders and Key Texts
    • Founded by Gautama (also known as Aksapada Gautama).
    • Key text: Nyaya Sutras.
  • Core Principles and Methods
    • Focuses on logic and epistemology (study of knowledge).
    • Emphasizes pramana (means of valid knowledge) such as perception, inference, comparison, and testimony.
    • Aims to remove ignorance and achieve liberation through correct knowledge.

2. Vaisheshika

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  • Founders and Key Texts
    • Founded by Kanada (also known as Uluka).
    • Key text: Vaisheshika Sutras.
  • Core Principles and Methods
    • Proposes an atomistic theory where everything is composed of atoms (anu).
    • Emphasizes categories (padarthas) such as substance, quality, activity, and inherence.
    • Focuses on understanding the nature of reality and achieving liberation through knowledge of these categories.

3. Sankhya

Samkhya Darshan I सांख्य दर्शन I Life of Maharishi Kapila

  • Founders and Key Texts
    • Traditionally attributed to Kapila.
    • Key texts: Sankhya Sutras and Sankhya Karika by Ishvara Krishna.
  • Core Principles and Methods
    • Explains the universe through two fundamental realities: Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (matter).
    • Describes evolution of the universe from Prakriti under the influence of Purusha.
    • Emphasizes self-realization and liberation by discerning the difference between Purusha and Prakriti.

4. Yoga

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  • Founders and Key Texts
    • Systematized by Patanjali.
    • Key text: Yoga Sutras.
  • Core Principles and Methods
    • Focuses on the eightfold path (Ashtanga Yoga) which includes: Yama (moral restraints), Niyama (observances), Asana (posture), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (absorption).
    • Aims to still the fluctuations of the mind and achieve union (yoga) with the divine.
    • Emphasizes practices like meditation, ethical discipline, and physical exercises to attain spiritual liberation.

5. Purva Mimamsa

Great Rishi #Jaimini, the founder Purva Mimamsa philosophy - YouTube

  • Founders and Key Texts
    • Founded by Jaimini.
    • Key text: Mimamsa Sutras.
  • Core Principles and Methods
    • Focuses on the ritualistic aspects of the Vedas.
    • Emphasizes Dharma (duty) and Yajna (sacrifice) as means to maintain cosmic order.
    • Uses hermeneutics (interpretation) to understand the Vedic texts and perform correct rituals.
    • Advocates for the eternity and self-sufficiency of the Vedas.

6. Vedanta

Madhaviya Shankara Digvijayam - Sri Sringeri Sharada PeethamSri Sringeri  Sharada Peetham

  • Founders and Key Texts
    • Various sub-schools with key figures like Adi Shankaracharya (Advaita), Ramanuja (Vishishtadvaita), and Madhva (Dvaita).
    • Key texts: Upanishads, Brahma Sutras, and Bhagavad Gita.
  • Core Principles and Methods
    • Concerned with the nature of Brahman (ultimate reality) and Atman (soul).
    • Explores the relationship between the individual soul and Brahman.
    • Different sub-schools offer various interpretations:
      • Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) emphasizes the unity of Atman and Brahman.
      • Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism) sees Brahman as having attributes and the world as real but dependent on Brahman.
      • Dvaita (dualism) maintains a distinction between Atman and Brahman.
    • Aims for moksha (liberation) through knowledge (jnana), devotion (bhakti), or action (karma).

The Nastika Darshans


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  • Founders and Key Texts:

    • Founders: Often attributed to Brhaspati.
    • Key Texts: None of the original texts survive; references found in other works like the Sarvasiddhanta Samgraha.
  • Core Principles and Methods:

    • Materialism: Belief that only the material world exists; denies the existence of an afterlife, soul, and gods.
    • Skepticism: Doubt about religious doctrines and the supernatural.
    • Empiricism: Reliance on direct perception (Pratyaksha) as the only valid source of knowledge.
    • Hedonism: Emphasis on seeking pleasure and avoiding pain as the primary goals of life.


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  • Founders and Key Texts:

    • Founders: Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha).
    • Key Texts: Tripitaka (Pali Canon), Mahayana Sutras, Tibetan Book of the Dead.
  • Core Principles and Methods:

    • Four Noble Truths: Suffering (Dukkha), its cause (Tanha), its cessation (Nirodha), and the path leading to its cessation (Magga).
    • Noble Eightfold Path: Right understanding, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.
    • Non-Theistic: Focus on self-liberation rather than worship of deities.
    • Meditation and Mindfulness: Key practices for achieving enlightenment (Nirvana).


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  • Founders and Key Texts:

    • Founders: Mahavira (24th Tirthankara).
    • Key Texts: Agamas, Tattvartha Sutra.
  • Core Principles and Methods:

    • Ahimsa (Non-Violence): Central principle, strict adherence to non-violence in thought, word, and deed.
    • Anekantavada (Multiple Perspectives): Belief in the multiplicity of viewpoints; truth is complex and multi-faceted.
    • Asceticism: Practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence.
    • Five Vows: Non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-possession.
    • Karma and Rebirth: Belief in the accumulation of karma and its effects on future rebirths, with the goal of achieving liberation (Moksha).

Analysis of Astika & Nastika Darshans

Differences in Epistemology and Metaphysics

Epistemology (Theory of Knowledge)

  • Astika Darshans
    • Vedas as Authority: Astika schools (e.g., Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, Vedanta) accept the Vedas as a crucial source of knowledge.
    • Sources of Knowledge: They generally recognize pratyaksha (perception), anumana (inference), and shabda (verbal testimony) from the Vedas.
  • Nastika Darshans
    • Rejection of Vedas: Nastika schools (e.g., Buddhism, Jainism, Charvaka) do not accept the Vedas as authoritative.
    • Alternative Sources: They emphasize other sources like pratyaksha and anumana, often dismissing Vedic shabda. For example, Buddhism emphasizes direct experience and reasoning.

Metaphysics (Nature of Reality)

  • Astika Darshans
    • Brahman and Atman: Many Astika schools, particularly Vedanta, posit the existence of a supreme reality (Brahman) and an individual soul (Atman).
    • Dualism and Non-Dualism: Schools vary between dualistic (e.g., Samkhya’s Purusha and Prakriti) and non-dualistic views (e.g., Advaita Vedanta’s monistic Brahman).
  • Nastika Darshans
    • Anatman and Impermanence: Buddhism denies a permanent soul (anatman) and stresses impermanence (anicca).
    • Materialism: Charvaka advocates a materialistic view, rejecting spiritual and metaphysical entities.
    • Jiva and Karma: Jainism acknowledges individual souls (jiva) and karma but does not align with Vedic metaphysics.

Impact on Indian Culture and Religious Practices

Cultural Influence

  • Astika Darshans
    • Vedic Traditions: Promoted practices like yajnas (sacrifices) and rituals based on Vedic scriptures.
    • Social Order: Reinforced varna (caste) system and dharma (duty) concepts.
  • Nastika Darshans
    • Reform Movements: Buddhism and Jainism challenged caste distinctions and Vedic rituals.
    • Ethical Focus: Emphasized personal ethics, meditation, and ahimsa (non-violence).

Religious Practices

  • Astika Darshans
    • Rituals and Worship: Emphasize temple rituals, pilgrimages, and adherence to dharma.
    • Yoga and Meditation: Integrated practices like yoga and meditation as paths to moksha (liberation).
  • Nastika Darshans
    • Monastic Traditions: Buddhism and Jainism developed monastic communities focusing on meditation, study, and ethical living.
    • Simpler Practices: Often advocate for simpler, more direct spiritual practices over elaborate rituals.

Influence of Darshans on Indian Society

Educational Systems and Universities

  • Nalanda and Takshashila: These ancient universities were centers of learning where various Darshans (philosophical schools) were taught.

India's 5 Glorious Ancient Universities, which were destroyed by invasion |  Trunicle

    • Curriculum: Included teachings of Nyaya (logic), Vaisheshika (atomism), Sankhya (enumeration), Yoga, Mimamsa (ritual exegesis), and Vedanta (end of the Vedas).
    • Scholars: Attracted students and teachers from all over Asia, fostering intellectual exchange and development.

Impact on Art, Literature, and Social Norms

  • Art and Architecture: Philosophical themes influenced the design of temples, stupas, and sculptures.
    • Iconography: Depictions of deities and symbolic representations tied to philosophical concepts.

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  • Literature: Rich body of texts, from Upanishads to Bhagavad Gita, based on various Darshans.
    • Epics and Puranas: Reflect ethical and philosophical ideas, shaping cultural narratives.

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  • Social Norms: Philosophies like Dharma (duty/righteousness) and Karma (action/consequence) permeated societal values.
    • Caste System: Justified through philosophical texts, influencing social structure.

Role in Shaping Indian Legal and Political Thought

  • Dharma Shastras: Legal texts derived from philosophical ideas, guiding law and order.
    • Manusmriti: An example of a text that integrates philosophical principles into legal codes.
  • Political Thought: Ideas from Darshans influenced ancient Indian polity.
    • Arthashastra: A treatise on statecraft and military strategy, reflecting the influence of Nyaya and Vaisheshika in its logical and pragmatic approach.
    • King’s Duty: Philosophies emphasized Raj Dharma (duty of the ruler) for just governance

Modern Relevance and Application

  • Modern Adaptations: How ancient Indian philosophical systems (Darshanas) are being reinterpreted to address today’s issues.
  • Practical Use: The application of these philosophies in areas like psychology, ethics, and spirituality in modern life.
  • New Perspectives: How scholars and practitioners are finding new meanings and relevance in traditional teachings.
  • Intellectual Impact: The way Darshanic philosophies have shaped the thoughts and actions of contemporary Indian intellectuals.
  • Leadership: How these philosophies influence the policies and vision of modern Indian leaders.
  • Cultural Renaissance: The role of Darshanic teachings in the revival and promotion of Indian culture and values.
  • Cross-Cultural Exchange: How Darshanic ideas are being incorporated into global philosophical discussions.
  • Comparative Philosophy: The comparison and contrast of Indian philosophies with Western and other Eastern philosophies.
  • Global Influence: The growing recognition and influence of Darshanic thought in international academic and cultural contexts.


  • Darshans have a profound and lasting influence on spiritual and philosophical thought.
  • They serve as foundational frameworks for understanding reality and existence.
  • Each Darshan offers unique perspectives, contributing to a diverse tapestry of wisdom.
  • They continue to inspire and guide spiritual practices and daily living.
  • The teachings of Darshans are integrated into various aspects of culture and society.
  • Their principles are timeless, providing relevance across generations.
  • Darshans encourage ongoing intellectual and spiritual exploration.
  • They foster a deeper connection to the divine and the self.
  • The legacy of Darshans highlights the importance of contemplation and introspection.
  • Through Darshans, the quest for truth and enlightenment remains a central pursuit.


The six Darshan Shastra, also known as the six schools of Hindu philosophy, are:

  1. Samkhya: Focuses on dualism, proposing the existence of two independent realities: Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (matter).
  2. Yoga: Closely linked to Samkhya, it emphasizes achieving liberation through physical and mental disciplines.
  3. Nyaya: Known for its emphasis on logic and reasoning, aiming to establish a foundation for valid knowledge.
  4. Vaisheshika: Proposes an atomic theory of the universe, explaining the world through a combination of permanent atoms and the principle of non-existence.
  5. Purva Mimamsa: Focuses on the correct interpretation of Vedic rituals and their significance.
  6. Vedanta: Considers the Vedas as the ultimate source of knowledge and explores the nature of reality, Brahman (ultimate reality), and the Atman (individual soul).

Vedic literature is broadly categorized into four main parts:

  1. Samhitas: These are collections of hymns and poems, with the Rigveda being the oldest and most revered.
  2. Brahmanas: They explain the rituals and sacrifices mentioned in the Samhitas, providing detailed instructions and interpretations.
  3. Aranyakas: These texts contain philosophical reflections and are considered a bridge between the earlier ritualistic focus and the later Upanishads.
  4. Upanishads: They are the core philosophical texts of Hinduism, dealing with questions of reality, Brahman, Atman, and the path to liberation (moksha).

There’s a slight distinction here. The four Vedas (Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda) form the foundation of Vedic literature. The six Darshan Shastra, while drawing upon Vedic thought, are distinct philosophical schools that emerged later in Hindu intellectual history

The exact dating of Vedic literature is a complex topic with ongoing debate. Scholars generally estimate the composition of the Vedas to range from 1700 BCE to 500 BCE, with the Rigveda being the oldest.


1. Which ancient Indian text is considered as the foundational text of Vedanta Darshan?

  • a) Rigveda
  • b) Upanishads
  • c) Bhagavad Gita
  • d) Brahma Sutras

Solution: b) Upanishads

2. Which Darshan focuses primarily on the ethical and moral principles of life?

  • a) Nyaya
  • b) Mimamsa
  • c) Sankhya
  • d) Yoga

Solution: a) Nyaya

3. Who is considered the founder of the Nyaya Darshan?

  • a) Patanjali
  • b) Kanada
  • c) Gautama
  • d) Charaka

Solution: c) Gautama

4. Which Darshan primarily concerns itself with the study of rituals and ceremonies prescribed in the Vedas?

  • a) Yoga
  • b) Sankhya
  • c) Mimamsa
  • d) Vedanta

Solution: c) Mimamsa

5. The Bhagavad Gita is part of which Darshan?

  • a) Sankhya
  • b) Yoga
  • c) Vedanta
  • d) Samkhya

Solution: b) Yoga

6. Which Darshan focuses on the study of metaphysics and the nature of reality?

  • a) Nyaya
  • b) Vedanta
  • c) Yoga
  • d) Mimamsa

Solution: b) Vedanta

7. Who is the author of the Yoga Sutras, a foundational text of the Yoga Darshan?

  • a) Patanjali
  • b) Vyasa
  • c) Shankaracharya
  • d) Adi Shankara

Solution: a) Patanjali

8. Which Darshan is primarily concerned with logical reasoning and epistemology?

  • a) Nyaya
  • b) Vedanta
  • c) Mimamsa
  • d) Sankhya

Solution: a) Nyaya

9. The doctrine of ‘Neti, Neti’ (not this, not this) is associated with which Darshan?

  • a) Sankhya
  • b) Vedanta
  • c) Yoga
  • d) Mimamsa

Solution: b) Vedanta

10. Who is considered the author of the foundational text of Sankhya Darshan?

  • a) Vyasa
  • b) Patanjali
  • c) Kapila
  • d) Gautama

Solution: c) Kapila

11. The concept of ‘Purusha’ and ‘Prakriti’ is central to which Darshan?

  • a) Yoga
  • b) Sankhya
  • c) Nyaya
  • d) Vedanta

Solution: b) Sankhya

12. Which Darshan is known for its emphasis on the classification of knowledge and logical analysis?

  • a) Yoga
  • b) Mimamsa
  • c) Nyaya
  • d) Vedanta

Solution: c) Nyaya

13. Who is considered the author of the foundational text of Mimamsa Darshan?

  • a) Jaimini
  • b) Gautama
  • c) Kanada
  • d) Patanjali

Solution: a) Jaimini

14. The doctrine of ‘Pratityasamutpada’ (dependent origination) is associated with which Darshan?

  • a) Vedanta
  • b) Sankhya
  • c) Yoga
  • d) Buddhism

Solution: d) Buddhism

15. Which Darshan emphasizes the importance of self-discipline and meditation for spiritual liberation?

  • a) Nyaya
  • b) Mimamsa
  • c) Yoga
  • d) Vedanta

Solution: c) Yoga

16. The term ‘Avidya’ (ignorance) is central to the philosophy of which Darshan?

  • a) Sankhya
  • b) Vedanta
  • c) Nyaya
  • d) Mimamsa

Solution: b) Vedanta

17. Who is considered the founder of the Mimamsa Darshan?

  • a) Kanada
  • b) Jaimini
  • c) Patanjali
  • d) Kapila

Solution: b) Jaimini

18. The concept of ‘Karma’ and ‘Dharma’ is central to which Darshan?

  • a) Vedanta
  • b) Mimamsa
  • c) Sankhya
  • d) Nyaya

Solution: b) Mimamsa

19. Which Darshan is known for its emphasis on empirical observation and analysis?

  • a) Vedanta
  • b) Sankhya
  • c) Nyaya
  • d) Mimamsa

Solution: c) Nyaya

20. The concept of ‘Atman’ (self) and ‘Brahman’ (universal consciousness) is central to which Darshan?

  • a) Sankhya
  • b) Yoga
  • c) Vedanta
  • d) Nyaya

Solution: c) Vedanta

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