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Six Schools of Indian Philosophy

Yoga is a classical school of Indian philosophy: To understand the true


nature of Yoga as a path of spiritual realization, it is necessary to have some
small understanding of the six classical schools or systems of Indian
philosophy, of which Yoga is one. By understanding Yoga in that context, it is
easier to more fully delve into Yoga as the enlightenment practice that it
actually is, rather than the mere physical fitness program it has come to be
known as. The sincere seeker can then discriminate between authentic
teachings and modern adaptations.

Yoga contains, or is built on other philosophies: It is important to note


that the Yoga system contains, or is built on four of the other systems or
schools of Indian philosophy (Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimasa, and Sankhya). In
other words, it is not necessary to go into great depth into those as separate
studies and practices. They are adequately incorporated into the Yoga
system, from the standpoint of doing the practices. In addition, the Vedanta
system is a practical companion to the Yoga. It is also important to note that
while there is not universal agreement, many consider the teachings of
Buddha to be a seventh system or school of Indian philosophy, rather than a
separate system, in that his methods come from the same root. Not
surprisingly, it is mostly those who self identify as Buddhists who think of
Buddha's teachings as a totally separate system and not a seventh school of
Indian philosophy.

Dates of these systems: The exact dates of formalizing the six systems
are not known, as the studies were originally purely oral, since writing had
not yet been created. However, estimates generally range from about 2,000-
3,000 or more years ago. Some say the roots of these are as much as 5,000-
10,000 years ago, or more. The absence of clear dates is also explained as
coming from the fact that the practitioners were so focused on the timeless
quality of higher truths that they simply didn't care to record dates.

Yoga Practical methods for direct experience: Yoga


systematically deals with all of the levels of one's being,
striving to experience the eternal center of consciousness.
Yoga is best described in the Yoga Sutras and involves
systematic witnessing of your inner states, so as to
experientially go beyond all of them to the center of
consciousness. Yoga is often called Sankhya-Yoga, as Yoga
contains the practical methods to realize in direct
experience the truths of Sankhya philosophy (below).
Sankhya Framework of manifestation: Sankhya philosophy offers
a framework for all the levels of manifestation, from the
subtlest to the grossest. Sankhya comes from samyag
akhyate, which literally means that which explains the
whole. Sankhya deals with prakriti (matter), purusha
(consciousness), buddhi or mahat (intelligence), ahamkara
(I-am-ness), three gunas (elements of stability, activity, and
lightness), mind (manas), cognitive and active senses
(indriyas), and the five subtle and gross elements (earth,
water, fire, air, and space). In light of its breadth, it contains
all of the domains of Vaisheshika, Nyaya, and Mimasa,
which are described below.

Vedanta Contemplative self-inquiry: Vedanta philosophy and


practice provides contemplative methods of self-inquiry
leading to the realization of one's true nature, that which is
not subject to death, decay, or decomposition. A major key
of these practices is contemplation on the Mahavakyas. The
teachings of Vedanta are best captured in the books of the
Upanishads.
Vaisheshika Physical sciences: The Vaisheshika system was
developed by Prashastapada and emphasizes the physical
sciences such as chemistry. It includes exploring the
elements of earth, water, fire, air and space, as well as
time, mind and soul.

Nyaya Reasoning: The Nyaya system was founded by the ancient


sage Gautama, and deals with logic, the process of
reasoning. Doubt is considered a prerequisite for
philosophical inquiry. Other systems of Indian philosophy
draw on this process.

Mimasa Freedom through action: The Mimasa system was


founded by Jaimini and pursues freedom through action. It
has a detailed philosophy related to ritual, worship and
ethical conduct, which developed into the philosophy of
karma.

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