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The Six Darshanas

Traditionally, there are six Indian philosophies or metaphysical systems, called darshanas or "Visions (of reality)".  Each is based on a particular seminal text, or sutra, compiled in the centuries immediately before and after the time of Christ.  In the spirit of Indian syncretism these are considered complimentary rather than contradictory, but the critical reader will notice obvious divergences and contradictions as regards their conception of the soul and the Absolute reality.  All however share two axiomatic assumptions:

  1. The doctrine of the endless cycle of rebirth, or reincarnation (which is associated with a cosmology of endless cosmic cycles); and
  2. The possibility of transcending phenomenal existence, of breaking free of the "wheel of rebirth" (to give a Buddhist phrase) and so attaining the state of eternal transcendent perfection (Moksha or Liberation).

These twin themes, which first appear in the Upanishads, are also shared by the "heterodox" religions of Buddhism and Jainism.

 The six darshanas are:

 Of these, Vaisheshika, Nyaya, and Mimamsa no longer have any serious impact on Indian thought; Samkhya has been assimilated by Vedanta, and Yoga remains popular as a practical technique of bodily health and mental mediatation..


web pageIndian Philosophy - good overall intro




internal linkThe Rise Of The Indian Schools Of Philosophy
internal linkThe Appeal of Eastern Thought





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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 1998, revised 9 November 1998