Indian philosophy encapsulates the philosophical speculations of all Indian thinkers, ancient or modern, theist or atheist. This philosophy is found by some to be synonymous with Hindu philosophy. If the word ‘Hindu’ refers to India in all its geographical sense, then the former statement would be true. But if the word refers to the followers of the Hindu religion then the supposition would be incorrect and misleading. Take the case of ancient writings of the orthodox Hindu philosophers like the Sarva-sangha-sangraha by Madhavacharya in which we also find the views of atheists and materialists along with those of the orthodox Hindu thinkers.
The philosophy is popular for its unflinching passion for finding the ultimate truth. And even though there were many schools who were onto this journey and their views differed drastically many a time, yet each school made it a point to hear and understand the points put forth by other schools, see if they differed on the stance or not, before coming to a conclusion.
This approach led to the formation of a method used during philosophical discussions in India. First came the views of a philosopher’s opponent which came to be called the prior view (Purvapaksa). This was followed by the refutation (Khandana) of this view. And in the end came the philosopher’s own views and the evidence that proved them to be valid; this was called the subsequent view (Uttarapaksa) or the conclusion (Siddhanta).
For instance, in the case of the texts written on the Vedanta, we will find the views of all other schools discussed and treated with care. Same is the case with Jaina or Buddhist texts. The systems in themselves thus became an encyclopaedia. In return for this considerate treatment of the rival positions, most philosophical schools in India ended up achieving great clarity on where they stood.
And this turned out to be extremely helpful in certain cases where the original (primary) text/s of a particular school of thought had perished over time. Their entire philosophy could be found in the (secondary) texts of the remaining schools! Like in the case of the Charvaka school.
In the next part of this series we’ll be looking at the schools of Indian Philosophy & how they came about.