Sample Material of UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit
Topic: Indian Philosophy (Uttar Mimamsa)
Uttar Mimamsa is the Vedanta, one of the most significant of
all Indian philosophies. As compared to other systems, its advent and growth is
recent. Still it is the most influential orthodox philosophical systems of
The Vedas are the most valuable scriptures of the mankind. They present the most
exalted form of superhuman knowledge and wisdom. The Vedas are eternal. They are
timeless since they might have taken ages to acquire the written form.
The four Vedasare: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and
Atharva Veda. Each of the Vedas is divided into four parts : The Samhitas, the
Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the Upanishads. The Upanishads are the concluding
parts of the Vedas. They expound the supreme philosophical knowledge. The word
‘Vedanta’ usually refers to the Upanishads. The word is a compound of ‘Veda’ and
‘Anta’. It means the ending portion of the Vedas. However, the word ‘Vedanta’,
in a broad sense, covers not only the Upanishads but all the commentaries and
interpretations associated with the Upanishads. All these works constitute the
The great scholar Badarayana(?500-200 B.C) initiated the efforts to simplify the
Upanishadic philosophy. Badarayana is also known as Ved Vyasa. He was the first
scholar to take up the challenging task of systemizing the immensely vast
philosophical doctrines of the Upanishads. The result of his efforts was one of
the most illustrious works on Vedanta. Badarayana’s work is known as
Brahma-Sutra or Vedanta-Sutra. It is also referred to as Uttar-Mimamsa-Sutra.
The Brahma-Sutra has 555 sutras. Most of them are aphoristic and almost
unintelligible at first sight. Hence, a number of commentaries were written to
interpret them. Among these the commentaries of Shamkaracharya, Ramnujacharya
and Madhavacharya are regarded authentic and are held in very high view. They
are regarded as the greatest scholars of Indian philosophy. They are not only
the principal commentators of Brahma-Sutra (Vedanta-Sutra) but are also its
leading interpreters. Thus, we have three major schools of Vedanta based on the
philosophy of the distinguished trio: Advaita(non-dualism) of Shamkaracharya,
Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism) of Ramnujacharya and Dvaita(dualism) of
All three schools are founded on the Vedanta philosophy.
However, there have been differences among them. Even the followers of a
particular system, within their own fold, differ to some degree on certain
The Vedanta philosophy is focused on the Jagat(the universe), the
Jiva(individual soul) and the Brahman (the Supreme Being). Brahman is the
repository of all knowledge and power. Jivas are trapped in the Jagat.
Attached to the physical world and driven by passions and desires, they
remain chained to ceaseless actions (karma). As a result, they subject
themselves to countless births in various forms.
Their transmigration from this birth (life) to the next
depends on the karma(the quality of action). Moksha or mukti (liberation) is the
goal of life. This philosophy, in general, is accepted by all the three schools.
Now let us understand the basic difference among the three schools.
Dvaita refers to ‘two’. Dvaita school is based on the concept
of dualism. Madhavacharya emphasizes the distinction between God and individual
soul (Jiva). In addition, the school differentiates God from matter as well as
the soul from matter. The school maintains that the God, Jiva and the Jagat are
three separate and everlasting entities. God governs the world and has control
over the souls. The souls in its ignorance remains shackled in the world. By
devotion and God’s mercy, the soul can migrate to the Heaven above. It can
obtain Mukti from the cycle of life and death and live with God forever in the
Vishishtadvaita literally means “qualified non-dualism”. Ramanujacharya
stresses that God alone exists. He says that Brahman is God. He is not formless.
The Cosmos and the Jivas form his body.
When the Jiva (soul) realises that he is a part of Paramatman
(God), the soul is liberated. On liberation, his soul enjoys infinite
consciousness and infinite bliss of God. The soul is in communion with God, but
it does not share the power of the creation or destruction.
Advaita means “non-dualism”. Brahman is the sole Supreme Reality. Brahman,
Jagat and Jiva are not different, separate entities.
The Basic Concepts of Advaita Vedanta
The Advaita Vedanta focuses on the following basic concepts:
Brahman, atman, vidya (knowledge), avidya (ignorance), maya, karma and moksha.
(1) Brahman is the Ultimate, Supreme Reality. Brahman is
eternal. Brahman is beyond words. It is beyond names and forms. Brahman can not
be perceived nor could it be described by words. It is beyond senses and
intellect. It is indefinable. However, if at all it has to be described;Brahman
can be considered as Pure Consciousness.
In Vedanta philosophy, the svaroop of Brahman is referred to
as Sachchidananda. Brahman isSachchidananda i.e. Sat-Chitta-Ananda(Pure
Existence-Pure Consciousness-Pure Bliss). Brahman is eternal, immutable,
inexpressible and unthinkable pure-existence, but it is not the cause or the
creator of the universe.
(2) Atman is the inmost Self or Spirit of man but different
from the ‘empirical ego’. Atman is the fundamental, ultimate, eternal, immutable
pure consciousness. Thus, it appears that Brahman is the ultimate reality behind
all world-objects and Atman is pure spirit in all beings. Truly speaking, both
Brahman and Atman are not different realities. They are identical. For practical
purposes, they are referred to separately, which they are not. They are the
eternal, all-pervading realities underlying all existence. They are two
different ‘labels’ for one and the same reality behind all the objects, all
matter, all beings of the universe.
(3) Maya is the unique power (shakti) of Brahman. Maya is
trigunatmika; it has three gunas or attributes. But Shuddha Brahman is nirguna
and is free from attributes. Shuddha Nirguna Brahmanalone is the Supreme
Reality. When Nirguna Brahman comes to acquiesce Maya and acknowledges the gunas
of maya, it is known as Saguna Brahman. Saguna Brahman is God, the creator,
sustainer and destroyer of the world. Saguna Brahman is Ishvara or a ‘personal
god.’ Man worships gods in different forms and names.
(4) Brahman manifests itself in the world with the help of
Maya. The world and the world objects come into existence due to the power of
maya. Maya and its creation is termed illusory. It does not mean that the world
is not real. Unreality and illusion are different. An illusion may not be an
unreality for an illusion is grounded in reality. Reality is that which exists
on its own. Mayais dependent on Brahman. Maya has created the world of
appearances. So the world is illusion. But this does not mean at all that the
world is non-existent. The AdvaitaVedanta, with the help of the famous
“rope–snake” illustration, maintains that ‘it is neither ultimately real, nor
wholly unreal, illusory and non existent.’
(5) Avidya (ignorance) has its seat in the human intellect.
Avidya means not only absence of knowledge, but also erroneous knowledge. A man
trapped in Avidya does not know what is real and thinks that the appearances are
real. An individual identifies himself with empirical self. He equates his
existence with the physical body. Under the influence of Maya and Avidya, he
dissociates himself from the Ultimate Reality. When the man acquires knowledge,
the duality of the self and Brahman disappears. He realizes that the self is
really one with Brahman. This realization of the self puts an end to the
(6) Moksha is freedom from bondage of ignorance. Man suffers
in the grip of incessant desires and ignorance. Upon realization of the self,
one becomes free from the shackles of desires, aspirations, passions, karma and
avidya. This is Moksha (kaivalya) or liberation. Moksha is to be attained here
and now during this life-span only.
(7) Knowledge and truth are of two kinds: the lower one and
the higher one. The lower, conventional knowledge and truth is referred to as
vyavavahrika satya. It is a product of the senses and the intellect. The higher
one is referred to the paramarthika satya. It is absolute. It is beyond words,
thoughts, perception or conception. It is in no way, related to the senses and
the intellect. It is non-perceptual and non-conceptual. It is a product of
sublime intuition and “divine vision”. The higher knowledge and truth brings
about radical transformation in an individual so it is soteriological.
(8) Advaita Vedanta recognizes the six pramanas (sources and criteria of
valid knowledge) on the basis of the Mimamsa school of Kumarila Bhatta. They are
(1) Perception (pratyaksha)
(2) Inference (anumana)
(4) Comparison (upamana)
(5) Postulation (arthapatti)
(6) Non-cognition (anupalabdhi)