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Home > Indian philosphy for Yoga
Indian philosphy for Yoga
Patanjali Yoga and Hatha.. Astika Darshanas Samkhya and Yoga
Indian philosphy for YogaIndian philosophy on spirituality is intricately much deeper and rich than anywhere else. The strong roots have not only been preserved by the Indian culture and traditions since thousands of years, but has also spread to the western nations. It is based on this ideology that conception of Hatha yoga has taken place. And since Hatha yoga has developed post Vedic, it is important to place yoga within the context of Indian philosophy. To know hatha we have to understand at least some of the theoretical themes that underly the practical endeavour of yoga.

This elaborate theme is embedded in Indian philosophy or "Darshanas" (viewpoints or systems). To understand the relation with Hatha Yoga, particular attention is required for the classical Yoga darsana of Patanjali and its relevance to hatha-yoga.

The Six Astika Darshanas
Vedic Samhitas may be seen as the roots the Indian philosophical tradition. The Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads may arise from that roots. Then followed the multiple philosophical `schools` in the post-Vedic era. All this branching was the result of the attempts of various teachers to interpret the Upanishad doctrines in such a way as to form a consistent and intelligible system of thought.

The roots and trunks of tree for Indian philosophical structure are constituted by Shruti, the `heard` or `revealed` wisdom. The branches are known as smriti, the `remembered` wisdom. It is called as such because, just as a memory is based on a real experience but is not the experience itself, so the post-Vedic texts are said to be based on a revelation of truth but not to be truth`s direct expression. Therefore, though all so-called `orthodox` (Astika) systems of Indian thought share a common faith in the infallibility of Shruti, they may not be in total agreement with each other. They may even appear to be at odds with one another over certain nuances of interpretation.

Interestingly, the authority of these schools is derived from their adherence to the Vedic scriptures. Although, they all are secondary to the Vedas and Upanishads themselves, each major `school` is presented not in the form of a long and rigorously argued treatise but as a series of terse statements, known as sutras.

Sutras are the coded medium to convey knowledge in different ways. The traditions of interpretation which are based upon these texts are known as Darshanas. Sutras, like shruti are believed to be verbal expressions of truth or realization.

Darshana denotes a system of philosophy, or doctrine in the sense of a treatise or an enquiry into truth or reality. There exist a semantic distinction between darsana and darsana Shastra. The Indian philosophers consider philosophy both as darsana, the vision of truth; and darsana-shastra, the means to attain it.

There are six principal Astika or Vaidika darsanas, which embody the firm conviction in Veda. Apart from that are Darsanas called Nastika (`non-orthodox`) or Vedavahya (`outside the Veda`) which do not explicitly align themselves with the belief that the Vedas are infallible revealed documents.

The Six Astika Darshanas are:

1. The Vaisesika darshana, founded upon the Vaisesika-Sutra of Kanda.
2. The Nyaya darsana, founded upon the Nyaya-Sutra of Gautama.
3. The Samkhya darsana, founded upon the Samkhya-Sutra of Kapila.
4. The Yoga Darshana, founded upon the Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali.
5. The Purva-mimansa Darshanas, founded upon the Mimamsa-Sutra of jaimini.
6. The Uttara-Mimansa or Vedanta darsana, founded upon the Vedanta-Sutra (a.k.a. Brahma-Sutra) of Badarayana.

All these Darshanas is accepted within the broad framework of orthodox Hinduism, and are often referred as Sanatana-dharma. From the perspective of Sanatana-dharma the foremost Nastika Darshanas i.e. those which fall outside of its own boundary are the Charaka, Jain and Bauddha Darshanas.

These basic Darshanas are founded on the teachings of Charaka (who is usually characterised as an exponent of materialism), Mahavira of the Jain lineage, and Gautama the Buddha respectively.

Certain Saiva systems are also designated as Nastika by the people who are strict worshippers of Vedic interpreters. This judgement is biased against Agama and Tantrika texts as over and above the Vedas. The fact remains that the Agamas and Tantras are a continuation of the Vedas themselves.

Interestingly, Hatha-yoga (a part of Saiva tradition) views itself as being thoroughly Vaidika. This fact is something, which is implicit within the general philosophy of the hatha treatises, and even more explicit in the codes of ethical conducts as prerequisite for the yoga.

The interpretation of these Sutras is difficult task in itself due to the extremely complex format of sutras where by the maximum amount of meaning is condensed into the minimum number of words. Each word and phrase conatins various possible interpretations.

As is often the case, the extent of clear knowledge being conveyed through these sutras is often largely dependent upon an accompanying commentary. The numerous commentaries are dependent upon the analytic ability and perspective of the commentator; hence they are not always compatible with one another. In fact two commentaries written upon the same original sutra may be highly antagonistic in their philosophical meaning.

The six Astika darshanas are commonly grouped into three pairs. The pairing includes :

  • Vaisesika Sutra and Nyaya Sutra

  • Samkhya Sutra and Yoga Sutra

  • Purva- and Uttara-mimamsa.

  • The pairing can be useful as one work can shed more analytical insight in the other work. However, the couplings can tend to obscure the fact that all six of the Darshanas have a tremendous amount in common, and that they are all directed towards a "goal of human liberation or Self-realisation."

    The intra and inter conflicts between various Darshanas can be regarded as the subjective choice available for the person or seeker.

    Indian philosophy is much deeper rather than "the knowledge for the knowledge sake." The philosophical enterprise here acts as a method for cultivating virtue and self-understanding. It is for this reason that, Indian philosophical systems or Darshanas may also be referred to as Moksha-shastra. Moksha means `deliverance`, `release` or liberation` and shastra being the `teaching` or `doctrine` for achieving that end.

    All six of the Astika Darshanas, plus the tradition of Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, subscribe to a philosophical schematic, which may be honed down to four basic principles. Gautama Buddha Propounded this in his sermon on the Four Noble Truths. The fact being that, these truth resonate within pre-Buddhist philosophy as much as in that which followed it.

    These basic principles are best expressed in terms of a medical analogy, in which a disease is identified, the root cause is diaganosed, possible medication are thought of, and the final stage where the disease is cured.


    The initial most point of consideration is that human existence is afflicted by an illness. The most common Sanskrit term for this illness is "dukha", which comprises the prefix "dus", `implying evil, bad, difficult, hard`, etc., added with kha, whose meanings include `the hole made by an arrow,` and `the hole in the navel of a wheel through which the axis runs`. Therefore, the translation of duhkha being `difficult axle-hole`, which metaphorically refers to the inability of the `wheel of life` (dharma-Chakra) to run smoothly when under the influence of avidya (perceptual ignorance).

    For the single word translation `dissatisfaction` comes closest, for it connotes a general underlying sense of something`s being not quite right and atmosphere of disturbance, discomfort and distress.

    As the sage Aniruddha, states that the physical body is the location of duhkha as the five the senses lead to duhkha. Even the temporary pleasures (Sukha) are duhkha because it is inevitably followed by distress.

    The bottom line being that there are no such things as pleasurable experiences, but that all experiences are transitory and are therefore incapable of bringing profound and lasting satisfaction in themselves. This `dissatisfaction` this duhkha. According to the Indian Darshanas, this is the illness perpetually suffered by humankind.

    Cause of Dukha
    The second basic principle agreed upon by the Indian systems concerns the cause of duhkha. The root cause consists in a false relationship with the phenomenal world.

    This false relationship is one in which the worldly experiences are seen as having meaning and permanence in themselves, rather than as the momentary and decaying products of an unmanifest source. Such a relationship or mode of perception is said to lead to the belief that enduring happiness and fulfillment can be gained from worldly experiences. The fact being that the momentary happiness of a human is in the hands of external events that are as unreliable as fickle.

    Thus the relationship is one of attachment (raga) to phenomena. The cause discerned for this attitude is Aviveka (non-discernment), Avidya (ignorance).

    Possibility of Release from Samsara
    Samsara is this outer world of external occurrences, momentary events and hence superficial and false relationships. The third principle common to the Indian Darshanas consists in an affirmation of the possibility of release from Samsara.

    This state is also known as wandering, in which the world is experienced as duhkha.

    Since the entrapment in this fickle world is our own doing, the state of release invariably involves a transformation of perception as well. Its through this release one comes to realise the true nature of reality and of one`s own identity.

    This state is denoted by myriad terms, including: Moksha (Release), Kaivalya (Absoluteness), Nirvana (extinction of attachment and ignorance). All these terms are far in depth but most closely can be described by the English term `Self-realisation` (the true spiritual Self or essence of everything is implied). Otherwise, though all acknowledges the existence of such dimension, the precise nature is highly disagreed upon by the Darshanas.

    Moksha is the cure for all "dukhas", or the diseases of the human race. It is the fourth and the final principle. There is no possible state after this, as human soul reaches his final destination.

    Interestingly, the practical methods to reach that state of liberation are absent from the texts, but the idea that such methods exist is always implicit within them. The term most commonly used to denote a system of techniques for attaining liberation is yoga. This term also refer to the goal or end purpose itself. Thus it should be emphasised that yoga forms are the `technical substructure` that provides the experiential core around which the `ideological superstructures` of the various Indian philosophical systems are constructed. | Home | Sitemap | Contact Us