We have seen that the six Indian Philosophies share a common pedigree – the  pristine and fertile grounds of Vedas. All of these six philosophies, for this reason,  share  certain common  characteristics.  Any detailed discussions either on Vedas or on any of the six philosophies are outside the scope of  this paper. However,  a brief  understanding on the common  shared characteristics of these six philosophies together with a snapshot view of these six philosophies  becomes inevitable to set the context for discussions on the ethical aspects contained in them.  This general understanding   and context will help in the discussions on  ethics and pragmatism in  the next and final part of this paper.  

Like Vedas, Indian Philosophies are also a record of the direct experiences  of Truth,  as directly ‘perceived’ by some of the highly evolved sages from the distant past.  These sages were highly “conscious” humans, who intuitively knew the answers to the fundamental questions on ultimate  Truths,  thanks to the extraordinarily high intensity of their consciousness.  Direct Experience is a method of intuitive inner knowing.  To appreciate the value of “intuitive knowledge”, one must understand the term, “consciousness”.  There is another important reason for understanding the term ‘consciousness’ in the context of  this paper. When viewed together, it can be seen that all Indian philosophies are indeed dealing with a single topic throughout. This topic is the  elimination of human suffering in life. It can also be seen that elimination of human suffering is achieved by becoming more and more aware of  ‘life’ in its entirety and leading a life in sync with it. Liberation from suffering is possible only through developing the right knowledge about the ‘sufferer’. This is possible only by  expanding the intensity of our individual consciousness through various life processes.  The Advaita philosophy does in depth discussions on Consciousness and its ramifications. In fact, Advaita philosophy proves that we are ‘consciousness’  and not this body or mind as we mistakenly believe now. The purpose of human life is to expand our consciousness. That is how important the term ‘consciousness’ is. 

Consciousness –  An Brief Introduction 

 Consciousness can be defined as “aware of being aware”. Our ability to know anything at all  is directly  proportional to the intensity of our consciousness. Consciousness is not a ‘thing’. Consciousness  is a quality.  We are aware  that we are alive. That awareness is thanks to our innate ‘consciousness’. A rock too  is alive; but the intensity of a rock’s consciousness  is not expanded enough to hold that knowledge of self-awareness  and demonstrate it in its life.   To illustrate the term ‘consciousness’ graphically we can take one example.  If  the intensity of our consciousness is  comparable to the size of a lemon, when we read a book, the depth of our understanding of the book will be to the size of that lemon. If the intensity of our awareness is comparable to the size of a football, when we read a book, the depth of our understanding of the book will be to the size of that football. Even in our everyday experiences, we can see that different people exhibit different levels of capacity to understand a matter when a matter is explained to them. Some people can grasp, for example,  complex subjects very fast compared to some others who may not be able to grasp them at all. This is not due to the ‘intelligence’ of that person. It is due to the quality of the respective  states of their  consciousness that  their bodies function with. Consciousness is one’s ability to  become aware. On the contrary,  “intelligence”  is the ability to apply the knowledge  that one happens to possess. These terms are inter-related but not the same.  Instant knowing is due to the expanded state of that person’s consciousness. Vedas were the intuitive revelations and subsequent verbal teachings of such great people before the beginning of the recorded history. Great revelations of truths were passed down from generation to generation through word of mouth teachings.  These revelations got subsequently written down much later in time and we called them  Vedas. All the six great  Indian philosophies  are in fact  the teaching ‘notes’  prepared by highly conscious teachers. It is the result  of  the intuitive knowledge and direct experience of  several highly evolved and conscious humans over extended periods of time.  

Common Shared Characteristics 

Such  Direct Experiences referred to above is one of the  most important shared characteristics present in all six Indian Philosophies alike. Each school of Indian Philosophy is spearheaded and developed by a particular Rishi who explained his intuitive knowledge, tested  and confirmed with experiments and logically debated and established. Many others re-experimented and re-debated and got these postulations or Sidhantas re-established.  Their names got inseparably linked with these philosophies. They are not anyone’s intellectual property – they belong to mankind like the instruction manuals provided in the new car you bought.   Thus, Indian philosophies were subjects of repeated peer reviews, many times re-experienced directly through generations after generations. They are not the products of mere armchair pipe dreams. They are real and  directly re-experienceable statements of truth.  

 All Indian Philosophies are founded on the firm grounds of logic and reason.  They are all scientifically debated, peer reviewed and established as well founded “Siddhanta” or systematically  proven postulations. They are all re-experienable any number of times through a series of processes given in the ‘sadhana’ component of these philosophies. They are all peer reviewed. These reviews often ran into several lifetimes of several masters replicating the experiments and reaching the same results each time. Infact, a detailed research methodology and rules  and logics to be used in debating to arrive at valid knowledge are given in Nyaya philosophy.

We can see that all six Indian Philosophies are very open-minded and they respected the philosophical views of one another. They were willing to listen to the points of view of other philosophies and often engaged in rule-based critical debates with a view to improving upon the previous views.    

We can also see that this open-mindedness takes Indian Philosophies to their natural  broadness and completeness. They start from the simplest of human understanding and then gradually build upon it by adding and assimilating new understanding to reach the present level of greatness and vastness. In other words, all of these six Indian philosophies helped each other to build the final robust ocean of knowledge about life in its entirety. 

The principle of Cause and Effect is one of India’s unique contributions to the world. This is popularly known as the “Law of Karma”. All of the six Indian Philosophies acknowledge the existence and operations of the Law of Karma. For every action, there is a reaction. For every effect, there is a cause. The causes that we do not know are called ‘fate’, ‘luck’ etcetera. According to this law, there are no accidents whatsoever. Every experience in life is the effect of some cause that we caused in this life or in some past life.   What we are today is the ‘effect’ of innumerable ‘causes’ that have happened before. What we are doing today, are the ‘causes’ for innumerable ‘effects’ to unfold in the future.  All Indian Philosophies state that the Law of Karma or the Law of Cause and Effect is the only satisfactory answer for our observation of why virtuous people suffer in their life and why many non-virtuous people enjoy life. The seeds of ethics are indeed  the principle of Karma.

All Indian Philosophies are trying to free humans from suffering. All of them have acknowledged human suffering as a fact of life.   We can observe that our life is full of contrasting experiences of duality – pain and pleasure, light and darkness, heat and cold, love and hate etcetera. These dualities come and go cyclically in our experiences, taking us through the rollercoaster emotional rides. As a consequence, we suffer.  Indian philosophies offer solutions to free ourselves from suffering by asking us to develop the right knowledge about who we really are, what is the nature of this world, what is the purpose of life, and so on and so forth.  They unequivocally state that human suffering is due to our failure to understand our own true nature and the nature of everything else around us and due to our failure to build the right relationship with everything else and our failure to conduct our life in an ethically and morally correct manner without falling into the Karmic cycles.  

All Indian philosophies declare alike that there is an eternal center for all humans, which often goes unrecognized by most humans in their routine run of life. This eternal center is called by different names in different schools of Indian Philosophies, such as ‘self’, ‘consciousness’, ‘Atman’, ‘Purusha’, ‘Vigyana’, ‘Soonya’ etcetera. All of the Indian Philosophies state alike that we are this eternal center in truth and our real nature is ever-existing, all-knowing, all-pervasive, eternal and ever blissful. However, we have forgotten or we do not realize  this ture nature of ours, due to our low intensity state of ‘consciousness’.

All Indian philosophies are holistic in nature; meaning, they are composed of many disciplines such as metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, sociology, psychology etcetera. They take into account all parts of human existence into their focus.  They consider and integrate the body, mind, life energy, the self, and man’s relationship with the external world into the scope of their detailed studies. They do not take a compartmentalized, reductionist approach in their studies. This is in stark contrast to the reductionist approach science uses today, such as matter, atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, quarks, leptons, bosons etcetera.  Indian Philosophies take humans as physical, psychological and spiritual beings. To the Indian minds, various disciplines such as metaphysics, epistemology, logic, axiology, aesthetics, ethics, sociology, psychology and physiology are all part of the body and cannot be severed as separate parts from the body without losing its contributing energy. 

Shad Darshans – One script for the Great Escape from Human Suffering

The six great Indian philosophies are collectively called in Sanskrit as “Shad Darshana” . They are  Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Samkhya, Mimamsa, Vedanta and Yoga.  Together, in their larger holistic perspective ,  Shad Darshanas  give  us a complete script for our liberation  from bondage and suffering to freedom and joy.  Putting it  in simple terms,  Nyaya and Vaiseshika give us the necessary methodology and training to gain  knowledge about our  true  nature of things  in life. Right knowledge is a prerequisite for undertaking any right action, which alone will lead us to the right results.  Samkhya Philosophy gives knowledge about our present state of affairs and where on our evolutionary journey we stand today. It explains how we reached our present pitiable state of bondage and suffering.  Vedanta Philosophy gives us an overview of our destination – where we should reach from where we are today so that liberation from suffering is made possible.  Mimamasa and Yoga give us the road map and training to undertake  this very great escape and reach our ultimate destination that Advaita described.   Each of these philosophies are voluminous topics.  We will only have a brief snapshot view of each of them now,  in order  to provide a reasonable context to discuss  the role of Ethics in our great escape from suffering in the next part of this paper. 

Nyaya Philosophy

The subject of Nyaya Philosophy is about the correct methodology for finding Truth.  The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word “Nyaya” is  ‘correct judgment’. In a general way, Nyaya means the conclusion reached by correct thinking, after correct perception from a correct source and correct debate with logical reasoning. Our five senses are for acquiring the knowledge of reality. We can also think about what we perceive in this world because we have a mind too. We develop correct knowledge about this world through correct perception and correct thinking. Incorrect perception and incorrect thinking will lead to incorrect knowledge. Ethics is some of the guidelines for correct thinking.  Nyaya, therefore, insists that the process of knowing should be based on correct thinking as described above. If our thinking about an object is correct, our knowledge and conclusion about the object will also be correct. If our thinking and the process of thinking is flawed, our knowledge will also be flawed.  Nyaya states   that anything that truly exists is definitely  knowable to humans, at least  in principle. They argue that  correct knowledge and understanding is different from simple, reflexive  automatic cognition; they insist that cross-examination and conscious cognition is required before admitting anything as true knowledge.   Nyaya Sutras, believed to be written by Aksapada Gautama, (200 to 600 years before Christ and different from Prince Gautama the Buddha) is one of the important primary texts in Nyaya Philosophy.

Vaisheshika Philosophy

Vaisheshika Philosophy is broadly similar to Nyaya Philosophy. They differ only in certain specific aspects on how differently both of them classify the valid source of true knowledge.  Vyseshika states that knowledge is only of two types, namely Valid knowledge and Invalid knowledge. It gives a method based on logic and reason  to decipher valid knowledge from invalid knowledge.  Vaisheshika and Nyaya are often studied together. It is argued that Nyaya is an off-shoot of Vaisheshika philosophy and Vaisheshika is from a period far distant in antiquity than Nyaya

Sage Kanaada  is believed to be the founder of the Vaisheshika school of philosophy.  The word Vyeshika has originated from the word ‘Visesha’, variously meaning  ‘particle’, ‘atom’, ‘particular’, ‘special’, ‘specific’, ‘distinct’ etc.  Vaisheshika School  is unique in its hypothesis of the first ever atomic theory in human history  explaining the formation of the universe.  In the Vaiseshika system, the  universe is formed  by the aggregation of atoms. These atoms are innumerable and ever existing –  it could neither be made nor could be destroyed ever. They are  perpetually integrated, disintegrated, re-integrated and re-disintegrated by the power of Adrishta. Sage Kanaada did not use the word ‘God’. He merely referred to it as an invisible (Adrishta) force. He refers to it as  the unseen force of Karmas or action -reaction consequences. He attributes the primordial activities of the atoms and souls to the principle of Adrishta. Kanaada defined an atom  as ‘something truly existing, but having no cause, and is eternal’ . It is less than the least perceptible by senses, totally invisible, indivisible, and intangible. Sage Kanaada’s atoms should not be mistaken for the atoms in the modern atomic theory. According to Vaiseshika, there are five atoms in eternal existence, which are earth, water, fire, air, and ether or space.  Each atom has a Visesha or an uniquely distinct  essence of its own. Atom is not a ‘thing’ but a conscious field of real existence as a unique quality.  These atoms are combined in different formations to create the universe as it is today.  Atoms are first combined into an aggregate of two (Dvyanu, couplet). Three of them, again combine into a particle, called Trasarenu (trinity), which can be thought of as the faintest channel in a sunbeam with  just the sufficient amount of physicality to become perceptible. Kanaada did not openly refer to God in his Sutras. Kanaada’s belief was that the formation of the world was the result of Adrishta.  Through the study of Nyaya and Vaiseshka, one can thus clearly see an epistemological unfolding  of a self-aware universe from an atomistic force-field that is  truly existing  but imperceptible to sense based cognition. Nyaya and Vaiseshika  also give a research methodology based on logic and reason so that any knowledge can be  debated and tested for its validity.  

Samkhya Philosophy

Samkhya Philosophy is attributed to Sage Kapila, who is believed to have lived in present day Gujarat some 600 years before Christ.  Many other scholars give a much earlier period. Samkhya Philosophy  is the edifice  upon which Yoga Shastra and Ayurveda Shastra stand tall today. Ayurveda Shastra is designed to give relief from physical and mental suffering. Yoga Shastra is designed to give total freedom from suffering.   This  indicates the enormous relevance and  significance that Samkhya philosophy exerts even today. Samkhya Philosophy literally means  the “Theory of Numbers or Enumeration” . It encapsulates  the  subtle principle of energies that govern the universe, and all the living beings.

Sage Kapila consolidated the theory of causation, the principle of Prakriti (unconscious principle in operation) and Purusha (conscious principle in operation), Evolution of the world, concept of liberation, and the theory of knowledge.  The most significant amongst them are  the  theories of Causation and the theory of creation of the Universe involving Prakriti and Purusha   principles (“tattvas”) and 23 other (total 25) principles.

Samkhya posits that for every  effect there is a cause and for every cause  there is an effect. An example is that of a laxative being the cause for  loose expurgation which is the effect. Smkhya  states that the effect exists in its cause, just as butter exists in the milk.  Samkhya argues that there is a real transformation of a cause into its effect and it is not an apparent illusion of  transformation.  For example, a chair is already present in the wood, where wood is the cause and chair is the effect. Cause and effect theory in Samkhya  is the basis for Ayurveda.  

 In  Samkhya philosophy creation begins  with  the concept of Purusha – which is the  conscious  directive  principle;  when the ‘will’ to create develops in Purusha,  a part of itself is transformed into the   second  concept of ‘Prakriti’ or Matter which is the unconscious creative principle.   Purusha is the  male principle and Prakriti is the female principle.  The best example is to think of Purusha as the designer of a building and think of Prakriti as a segment of the designer  turning himself as the contractor who builds exactly what the designer is asking for. In other words, the contractor is already present in the designer.  In a living entity (called ‘Jiva’ in Samkhya),  Purusha (Consciousnessis present in Prakriti (matter). In other words, a segment of the cause itself is transformed into effect. Consequently, the cause stands pervading the effect causing the formation of Jiva.  When Purusha (Consciousness) withdraws from the Jiva’s  Prakriti (matter), we call it ‘death’ and the matter disintegrates. In the process of creation, when Purusha  is associated with Prakriti, Purusha develops  three covers namely, Mind (Manas), Intellect (Budhi) and Ego (Ahamkara), which are again the  Tattva-evolutes of Prakriti. This is then followed by the formation of further 20 tattvas (Five senses of cognition, Five Senses of Action, Five subtle Elements and Five gross Elements). An entity is a body-mind organism and  is the combination of these 25 Tattvas, according to Samkhya.  The perceiver, the perceived and the process  of  perceiving are all a conglomeration of these 25 elements or Tattvas in Samkhya.   As a consequence of the formation of these  23 principles or tattvas around the Purusha-Prakriti entity (Jiva), Jiva assumes a separate egoic existence, and gets involved in the creation of similar downstream mini creations of its own egoic existence. Suffering is the result of action-reaction-emotion cycles created by the interactions in this complex egoic existence.  It is Samkhya Philosophy that  the concept of Prakriti-Purusha ‘duality’ was first  established. It is the principle of Purusha that is non-dual and absolutely free. Evolution is the process of  Jiva moving farther away from the non-dual Purusha state. Involution is the return journey to the non-dual  Purusha state. Samkhya deals with Evolution, the journey to duality  and  Vedanta deals with involution – the return journey to nonduality. Yoga is the road map for this return journey. 

Yoga Philosophy

The literary meaning of the Sanskrit word Yoga is “ to unite”. The word ‘Yoga’ implies the process of returning home to reunite our  ego-centric awareness to Purusha-centric awareness, at one level of understanding. Essentially it is the involution process.   ‘Yoga’ is a very popular word the worldover today. But the Yoga  version that is popular is limited to just one aspect of the eight aspects of the Yoga Philosophy – the Asanas or Physical Postures that are used mostly for physical well being. Infact, Yoga Shastra is a total technology – an applied science – designed and perfected  to liberate humans from all sufferings by pushing their existence from a lower unconscious level to a higher conscious level.  The popular limited use of  Asana for physical benefit is comparable to bringing a crane to lift a pin from the ground.  Yoga Philosophy is built on the metaphysics revealed in SamkhyaSmakhya is the science and Yoga Shastra is the technology or the science applied in daily life.

Yoga Sutras is the foundational text with 196 sutras composed by Sage Patanjali.  The life period of  Sage Patanjali is still being debated amongst the scholars and it could be anytime ranging from 500 BCE to 3rd century AD. Sage Patanjali organized Yoga Shastra into eight segments, called Ashtanga Yoga, where Ashta means the number eight. Strictly speaking, these eight fold action plans are the practical and sequential steps one must take to achieve total liberation from bondage and suffering in human life. 

These eight steps are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Prathyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Yama and Niyama are the codes of conduct or ethical aspects that humans need to strictly practice to release one from suffering. We will discuss this in detail in the next part of this article.  We have seen in Samkhya Philosophy that  the  entire universe and all living beings are  composed of  and governed  with the  subtle principle of energies.  These are conscious energies called “Prana”. There are different types of Pranas functioning in our body. Health and well being is possible only when these Pranas are allowed to move unhindered in our body. It is, therefore, important to keep our physical body supple and flexible so that the Pranic movement is not cut off anywhere in the body. Asanas are practiced for this purpose of keeping the physical body flexible and agile. Pranayama is practiced to keep our mind sharp and attuned by manipulating the pranic moments in a way that will result in expansion of consciousness. Prathyahara is the practice of internalization of our focus and attention, since Energy flows where our attention goes. Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi are the next three states and we call it  “meditation”.  In meditation, one  remains internally focussed and poignantly conscious with full internal awareness but devoid of  thought streams stealing ones focus and attention. These are the eight  practical steps we need to practice and become good at. Our interactions in life should be modified in line with the Yama and Niyama  principles. Yoga Shastra promises that truthful practice of  Ashtanga Yoga will liberate us from all suffering. 

Mimamsa Philosophy 

The literary meaning of the Sanskrit word “Mimamsa” is ‘critical investigation’. The first organized work on Mimamsa Philosophy is “Mimamsa Sutra” of  Sage Jaimini. The objective of Mimamsa Philosophy is to provide rules for the interpretation of the Vedas,   and to give a philosophical justification for observing Vedic rituals. It is the forerunner to Vedanta philosophy. Fundamentally both Mimamsa and Vedanta are intellectual in nature. Mimamsa is the former part and Vedanta is the later part. Mimamsa deals with the former Aranyaka segment of  Vedas while Vedanta deals with the later Upanishadic segment of Vedas. For the sake of easier understanding we can say that both are intellectual studies of VedaMimamsa being the entry level studies and Vedanta being advanced level studies. 

It is sometimes accused that the Mimamsa philosophy is reinforcing the ritualistic habits in people. This is not ture.  These rituals include burning incense, offering flowers, sprinkling water, reciting mantras, performing certain gestures etcetera.  These are intended to be external symbolic acts  representing certain actual deeply meaningful actions. For example, certerain swift gestures actually represent manipulation of pranic energy in a purposeful manner. Likewise, exact production of certain vibratory sound patterns are intended by mantras. There is a whole science of sound behind the pronunciations of Mantras. Vibrations produce effects in the energy patterns.   When the underlying significance of these rituals are understood, rituals actually become enjoyable.   Rituals are also  intended to  herald  lifelong discipline  which is essential to start with, since   a much more demanding discipline  and commitment is required in life as one graduates into Vedanta

Another significant aspect of  Mimamsa Philosophy is its emphasis on Dharma and Adharma – virtue and nonvirtue.  The term Dharma also means duty, morality, righteousness and so on and so forth.  These are the baby steps for establishing a life rooted in ethics, responsibility and commitment to all forms of life in and around oneself. According to Mimamsa Philosophy, activities that styme the activities of  others is Adharama. Mimamsa defines  ‘duty’ as that which one is responsible for and that without which one cannot live a happy and peaceful life. One’s duty unites one with others in the family, society, nation and the universe. Mimamsa  says the highest duty of one is to realize one’s own inner Self in its purity while allowing others to do the same.  All other duties are second to  this preeminent duty. 

The concept of God and Goddess in Mimamsa is also significant.  Without realizing the underlying principles behind this, the anthropomorphic representation  of God and Goddess will make very little sense.  Just as modern scientists have developed mathematical equations and scientific laws to explain the order and lawfulness of the universe, supremely conscious and evolved Vedic sages with immense intuitive powers  developed form-equations and sound patterns to express the order, harmony, lawfulness, energy  structures and dynamics of the universe. The form equations are deities and sound patterns are mantras. For those who have not yet evolved to a level of consciousness of those sages, these heavyweight abstracts were given as symbolic shapes and images – much like the A,C,D picture cubes given to kindergarten children. 

Other teachings given in Mimamsa philosophy are  selfless action, non-attachment, self-discipline, daily activities for psychophysical wellbeing, social awareness, sense of equality, unity in diversity and so on and so forth. To sum it up, Mimamsa Philosophy is a huge treasure house of esoteric wisdom gift-wrapped in ritualistic clothe. 

Vedanta Philosophy

As we have seen, Vedanta and Mimamsa are closely associated.  Mimamsa is the entry level of Vedic  teaching while Vedanta is the advanced level teaching of the same. Vedanta Philosophy is the distilled form  of all Upanishadic teachings, which is the grand finale of  Vedas. In ancient India, the education of a child was never considered as complete, until he studies the Upanishads and experientially understands them.  

The literary meaning of the Sanskrit word Vedanta is ‘end of Veda’.  It was Sage Vyasa (also known as Badarayana) who first systematically arranged the Upanishadic teaching in an organized manner and ironed out all the seemingly  conflicting  concepts   in them and wrote  the preeminent ‘Brahma Sutra’, which is one of the most acclaimed the principal texts on Vedanta.  The life period of Badarayana is believed to be somewhere in between 200 to 500 years before Christ. 

Because the Upanishadic teachings are highly intellectual and Upanishads are written in terse, hard-to-understand verses, many teachers have interpreted it in many different ways. Therefore, many different Vedanta Schools have traditionally come into existence.  Most popular amongst them are the  Vedantic interpretations of  Shankara, Rmanauja, Madhava, Vallabha, and Nimbaraka.  However, the most outstanding interpretation on Vedanta is that of Adi Shankara. Much of the knowledge we have today on Vedanta is from the works of Adi Shankara. The Vedanta version popularized by Adi Shankara is called “Advaita Vedanta”

Advaita literally means “absence of duality”.  In common English language Advaita is referred to as ‘nondualism’ or monism. As the name  indicates Advaita postulates a theory of  the unity or oneness of existence.  According to Advaita, everything is either Brahman or a projection of Brahman. This is in sheer contrast to the dualistic views held in Samkhya, where the manifested world is the result of Purusha-Prakrti duality, by the actual transformation of the cause into effect.  In Advaita Vedanta, the manifested  worlds and beings are mere projections, appearances, or illusions where only an illusion of transformation happens like in the magic show of a magician. The individual souls (atman in Advaita and Jiva in Samkhya) are also Brahman alone in Advaita. Advaita uses the analogy of forest and woods being the same.  In their embodied state  atman or soul is subject to delusion and ignorance;  therefore,  beings cannot perceive Brahman who is hidden in all; therefore, in the embodied state, the atman  mistakenly accepts the world as true.  Advaita uses the famous analogy of  seeing a snake on a rope in darkness. When the light is brought, the snake disappears and   the rope appears. Likewise, Advaita, argues that the world is unreal and Brahamn alone is real. “Brahma Satyam, Jagt Midhya” is the  maxim in Advaita, which means “ Brahman is true, Universe is false”.  Advaita holds the view that the illusion is due to ignorance and with knowledge the illusion will vanish, just as light vanishes the snake in the rope.  Advaita Vedanta uses elaborate logic, numerous  analogies, and  intellectual debates to drive the point home – “Brahma Satyam, Jagt Midhya”.   In the end, Adi Shankara will convince you that  “Brahma Satyam, Jagt Midhya” and “ Prjnanam Brahma’, meaning, Brahman and Consciousness are one. In the ultimate understanding of Advaita Vedanta, the manifested universe is Brahman. It exists in Brahman. The knower of knowledge is Brahman. The known is Brahman. The process of knowing is Brahman. All understandings otherwise are mere ignorance, lack of right knowledge. One does  not know this truth since in the embodied state the indwelling Brahman (read ‘consciousness’) is severely limited. The only intent and purpose in life, therefore,  should be to expand the consciousness that  one is  and regain the full glory to the extent possible.

Adi Shankara had, however, stated that one must take a point of view in this matter. One must either view the manifested world from the standpoint of Brahman or from the standpoint of this seemingly real world. From the point of view of Brahman, everything is unreal and false. From the point of view of the Universe, everything is real. If the Universe is real, God is real, suffering is real, liberation is real. If the world is unreal, God is unreal, suffering is unreal and liberation is unreal.  A practical way to conduct the Advaita way of life is to know that the world is unreal, but pretend and behave in this world as if the world is real, but knowing fully well that it is unreal. 

Understanding  and appreciating Advaita Vedanta is an intellectual journey from duality to non-duality. It is a quantum leap from multiplicity and diversity  to unity and harmony. Advaita Vedanta is  considered as the ultimate  human understanding of life and existence.

Learning Outcome – Part 1 & 2

Vedas are the records of  fundamental life lessons on life and existence  taught  by  highly evolved and supremely conscious humans  who lived in distant antiquity. These teachers  are called ‘Rishis’ or ‘sages’.  These sages taught  their life lessons verbally to those who are ready for such a teaching and learning process in a manner most suitable and appropriate for the grasping  level of their students. They obtained these valuable knowledge  after accessing their inner core of existence  intuitively from within. The six great Indian Philosophies (Shad Darshanas) are the well structured, well documented and logically articulated commentaries of the same teachings.  But they are  offered in a specific format, after testing and trying the lessons by similarly evolved and conscious  sages who lived in later centuries. All six Darshanas are narrations on a single theme, namely, ending human sufferings. These philosophies also gave necessary  tools and training to prepare humans for ending their suffering. These philosophies are highly practical in nature. They give tools to expand our consciousness so that we can use it and expand our own awareness and knowledge to lead a correct life to get  correct results which is to transcend our pain and suffering. It is in this context that Ethics is born.

With this general background and  context in view,  let us now look at the  role and significance of ethics  in India Philosophies and the great pragmatism they hold.