Guru’s Wisdom



Yoga Is One of the Six Classical Hindu Philosophies



Among the most compelling facts supporting the deep association of yoga with Hinduism is its place as one of the six foundational philosophical systems that have been studied and debated for nearly a millennium. Here is a thumbnail sketch of those schools, known in Sanskrit as the Shad Darshanas (“six perspectives”). There are hundreds of Hindu darshanas, of which six have been distinguished: Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta. Each was tersely formulated in sutra form by its founder or first well-known exponent and elaborated extensively by other writers. These systems are varied attempts at describing Truth and the path to it. Elements of each form part of the Hindu mosaic today.§

Nyaya: “System, rule; logic.” A system of logical realism, founded sometime around 300bce by Gautama, known for its systems of logic and epistemology and concerned with the means of acquiring right knowledge. Its tools of enquiry and rules for argumentation were adopted by all schools of Hinduism.§

Vaisheshika: “Differentiation,” from vishesha, “differences.” A philosophy founded by Kanada (ca 300bce) teaching that liberation is to be attained through understanding the nature of existence, which is classified in nine basic realities (dravyas): earth, water, light, air, ether, time, space, soul and mind. Nyaya and Vaisheshika are viewed as a complementary pair, with Nyaya emphasizing logic, and Vaisheshika analyzing the nature of the world.§

Sankhya: “Enumeration, reckoning.” A philosophy founded by sage Kapila (ca 500bce), author of the Sankhya Sutras. Sankhya is primarily concerned with “categories of existence,” tattvas, which it understands as 25 in number. The first two are the unmanifest Purusha and the manifest primal nature, Prakriti—this male-female polarity is viewed as the fundament of all existence. Prakriti, out of which all things evolve, is the unity of the three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas. The Sankhya and Yoga schools are considered an inseparable pair. Their principles permeate all of Hinduism.§

Yoga: “Yoking; joining.” The ancient tradition of philosophy and practice codified by Patanjali (ca 200bce) in the Yoga Sutras. It is also known as raja yoga, “king of yogas,” or ashtanga yoga, “eight-limbed yoga.” Its object is to achieve, at will, the cessation of all fluctuations of consciousness, and the attainment of Self Realization. Yoga is wholly dedicated to putting the high philosophy of Hinduism into practice, to achieve personal transformation through transcendental experience, samadhi.§

Mimamsa: “Inquiry” (or Purva, “early,” Mimamsa). Founded by Jaimini (ca 200bce), author of the Mimamsa Sutras, who taught that the correct performance of Vedic rites is the means to salvation. §

Vedanta: “End (or culmination) of the Vedas,” sometimes termed Uttara (“later”) Mimamsa. For Vedanta (the “end,” anta, of the Vedas), the main basis is the Upanishads and Aranyakas, rather than the hymns and ritual portions of the Vedas. The teaching of Vedanta is that there is one Absolute Reality, Brahman. Man is one with Brahman, and the object of life is to realize that truth through right knowledge, intuition and personal experience. The Vedanta Sutras (or Brahma Sutras) were composed by Rishi Badarayana (ca 400bce).§