Six Schools of Indian Philosophy


Indian philosophy mainly refers to Hindu philosophy, which seeks the path of salvation and finding the secret to existence and life. The core beliefs in all Indian philosophy were the concept of Karma and moksha i.e. liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Indian philosophy comprised two sets of philosophers. One of these two sets had orthodox philosophical thought, called Ashthika, which considered Vedas as the primary source of knowledge. Whereas the other set of philosophers rejected the authority of Vedas as the primary source of knowledge and came to be known as Nashtika.

The Nashthika school of thought is further divided into three parts, namely; Buddhism., Jainism, and Charka(school of materialism). In the Ashthika school of thought, there were two main branches − Atheistic(which rejects the existence of the god) and Theistic(believe in the existence of the god). This Ashthika school of thought consisted of six schools of Indian Philosophy.

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Six Schools of Indian Philosophy

The Aasthika school of thought consisted of six schools of Indian philosophy: Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Purva Mimamsa, and Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta.

  • Samkhya − It is one of the earliest philosophical traditions, which was said to be created by Kapila Muni. It believes that everything in the universe has originated from two elements i.e., Purusha(consciousness or soul) and Prakriti(nature and matter). Even though it was the oldest school of thought, it was based on a rational and scientific views. These philosophers believed that the creation of the world is caused by the nature rather than the god. Later by the 4th century AD, they started giving importance to spirit or soul as well. Thus it was also called dualistic philosophy, comprising materialistic and spiritualistic elements for the creation of the world. The Samkhya philosophy provides a theoretical basis for another school of thought, called Yoga.

  • Yoga − It is the practical implementation of the Samkhya philosophy with the existence of the god. Sage Patanjali was the founder of this philosophy. In this philosophy, it is prescribed that one can attain liberation by controlling body, mind, and sense organs, which is possible through Yoga techniques by practicing Ashtanga yoga: Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharna, dhyana, and Samadhi. Here, the god was seen as a guide or a teacher but not as a creator.

  • Nyaya − Another scientific and rational school of philosophy was the Nyaya, the literal meaning of this is “justice”. It was propounded by Gautam Muni. This philosophy gives emphasis to evidence i.e. parmana or pratyaksha pramana. It stresses one should accept anything with reason and experience. According to this, sound knowledge can be gained through: inference, comparison, perception, and testimony.

  • Vaisheshika − The Vaisheshik philosophy is based on metaphysical theory, which emphasizes that everything in the world is reducible to a parmanu i.e., atom. It was propounded by sage Kanada. It accepted only ways to attain correct knowledge-pratyakṣa (perception), and anumāṇa (inference). In a way, it is objective and naturalistic philosophy of the universe, in which each atom in this world or nature is given importance.

  • Purva Mimamsa − This philosophy was initiated by the sage Jaimini. It asserts that valid knowledge can be acquired through Vedas. It talks about the importance of yajna and mantras in sustaining the universe. In a way, it accepted the supreme authority of Vedas, where compliance with the principles of Vedas can lead to a path of salvation.

  • Uttara Mimamsa or Vedanta − This school of philosophy was founded by Bādarāyaṇa. Vedanta philosophy stresses upon the brahmagyan, therefore, it is based on the Upanishadic part of the Vedas. It is further divided into six parts called: Advaita by Adi Shankara, Visishtadvaita by Ramanuja, Dvaita by Madhvacharya, Dvaitadvaita by Nimbarka, Shuddhadvaita by Vallabhacharya, Achintya Bheda Abheda by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Impact of Six Schools of Philosophy

These six schools of Indian philosophy offer different ways to look at the world or universe. Though the paths are different, all of them are leading toward one goal of liberation from the sufferings or attainment of salvation. These philosophies were based on the principles of epistemology, metaphysics, logic, and religion. It impacted society in a way that people started finding the reason or logic behind the existence of everything rather than simply believing in it as a part of blind faith. These philosophies made society more rational and gave importance to self-realization in order to get freedom from the sufferings of the world. All of these schools of Indian philosophy aimed at strengthening society.


Indian Philosophy comprised the numerous endless intellectual traditions which emerged in the Indian subcontinent over different periods of time and therefore its origin cannot be traced back to a particular date instead it belongs to innumerable antiquity. The origin of these philosophies is believed to be divided into three stages: Pre-logic, Logic and Ultra- Logic. The pre-logic covers the pre-Mauryan and the Mauryan period. The logic period was believed to be started with the Kushans to the Gupta period and the ultra-logic started with imperialism in India when India came across the western philosophy of Utilitarianism, Idealism, and empiricism.


The Indian school of philosophy predominantly refers to the Hindu philosophy, which was believed to be started in the Vedic period. These philosophies began to investigate questions related to existence, knowledge, ethics and death etc. It mainly comprised the different intellectual traditions developed over time. The main aim of these philosophies was the attainment of the ‘Enlightenment’ through comprehensive knowledge through the concepts of oneself, nature, and control over mind, soul, and body. The Indian school of philosophy is divided into many branches and sub-branches on the basis of the importance given to Vedas and the god. The two main branches are called Ashthika and Nashtika.


Q1. What was Charvaka?

Ans. Chravakawas the part of the Nashthika school of philosophy. It believed in materialism and it also stresses that there is no other world and that the death is the end of human life.

Q2. What was Buddhist philosophy?

Ans. Buddhism offers a middle path between the extreme ritualism of Hinduism and the Immense austerity of Jainism. He condemned the blind faith in Vedas without knowing the logic and reasons.

Q3. Why did rationalism and logic become the theme of the Indian school of philosophy?

Ans. In ancient India, religion became complex and involved costly rituals, sacrifices, and superstitions. Common people could not understand the Vedic texts written in Sanksrit. The Brahmans interpreted Vedas to suit their power and status. All these things made people start searching for the truth and reasons of their scriptures.

Q4. Why was Jainism considered as a Nashthika philosophy

Ans. Nashtikas mainly a philosophy, which does not believe in the existence of a god. Similarly, Jainism refused the importance of the god rather they placed ‘jina’ higher than god. This philosophy was mainly based on three thought-right faith, right knowledge and right conduct.

Q5. What was the main belief of Shuddhadvaita?

Ans. The Shuudhadvaita is branch of the Vedanta school of philosophy. This philosophy Shuddhadvaita was propounded by Vallabhacharya. The main belief of this school of thought was that Atma is different from Paramatma and one can get closer to Paramatma by following Bhakti. It does not believe in dualism at all and the importance was given to religion.

Updated on: 19-Dec-2022

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