(Sample Material) UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit "Indian Philosophy (Uttar Mimamsa)"

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 India.
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 Vedanta philosophy.
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 Madhvacharya.

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 issues.
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 Heaven.

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.

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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 ignorance (avidya).

(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 as follows:

(1) Perception (pratyaksha)
(2) Inference (anumana)
(3) Testimony(shabda)
(4) Comparison (upamana)
(5) Postulation (arthapatti)
(6) Non-cognition (anupalabdhi)

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