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  • 10 Dec 2022 GS Paper 1 Indian Heritage & Culture

    Day 28

    Question 1: What is the orthodox school of Philosophy? Discuss the Vedanta school of Philosophy. (250 Words)

    Question 2: What is the heterodox school of Philosophy? Discuss the Charvaka or Lokayata school of Philosophy. (250 Words)

    Answer 1


    • Introduce the orthodox school of Philosophy.
    • Discuss the Vedanta school of Philosophy.
    • Conclude suitably.


    Philosophy has a long tradition in the literature of ancient India. Several philosophers were engaged with the mysteries of life and death and what is beyond these two forces. More often than not there are overlaps between the religious denominations and the philosophy that they propound. The difference between various philosophical schools crystallised once the state and varna-divided social order became the mainstay of the Indian subcontinent. All the schools agreed that man should strive for the fulfilment of four goals: Artha, Dharma, Kama, and Moksha.


    Orthodox Schools of Philosophy believed that Vedas were the supreme scriptures that hold the secrets to salvation. They did not question the authenticity of the Vedas. They had six sub-schools that were called the Shada Darshanas: Samakhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimansa, and Vedanta.

    Vedanta School of Philosophy:

    Vedanta is made of two words- ‘Veda’ and ‘ant’, i.e., the end of the Vedas. This school upholds the philosophies of life as elaborated in the Upanishads. The oldest text that formed the basis of this philosophy was Brahmasutra of Badrayana that was written and compiled in 2nd century BCE.

    The philosophy propounds that Brahma is the reality of life and everything else is unreal or Maya. Furthermore, the atma or the consciousness of self is similar to the brahma. This argument equalizes atma and brahma and if a person attains the knowledge of the self, he would automatically understand brahma and would achieve salvation.

    This argument would make brahma and atma indestructible and eternal. There were social implications of this philosophy, i.e., that true spirituality was also implicit in the unchanging social and material situation in which a person is born and placed.

    But the philosophy evolved in the 9th century AD through the philosophical intervention of Shankaracharya who wrote commentaries on the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. His changes led to the development of Advaita Vedanta. Another major philosopher of this school was Ramanujan who wrote in the 12th century AD. His intervention led to some differences in Vedanta school:

    Shankaracharya’s View Ramanujan’s View
    He considers brahma to be without any attributes. He considers brahma to possess certain attributes.
    He considers Knowledge or jnana/gyan to be the main means of attaining salvation. He considers loving the faith and practicing devotion as the path to attain salvation.

    The Vedanta theory also gave credence to the Theory of Karma. They believed in the theory of Punarjanama or rebirth. They also argued that a person would have to bear the brunt of their actions from the previous birth in the next one. This philosophy would also allow people to argue that sometimes they suffer in their present birth because of a misdeed of the past and the remedy is beyond their means except through the finding of one’s brahma.

    Sub-School of Vedanta:

    Sub-School Chief Exponent Details
    Advaita (Monism or Non-dualism) Adi Shankaracharya (8th century AD)
    • It is the oldest extant sub-school of Vedanta which emphasises Jivanmukti, the idea that moksha (liberation) is achievable in this life in contrast to other Indian philosophies that emphasise videhamukti, or moksha after death.
    • The goal in Advaita is to gain self- knowledge and complete understanding of the identity of Atman and Brahman.
    • Correct knowledge of Atman and Brahman leads to dissolution of all dualistic tendencies and then finally to liberation (moksha).
    Vishishtadvaita (Qualified Monism or Non-dualism) Ramanuja (11-12th century AD) It relates to non-dualism of the qualified whole, in which Brahman alone is seen as the Supreme Reality, but is characterised by multiplicity, according to this sub-school "all diversity subsumes to an underlying unity”.
    Shiv-Advaita (Shavite Qualified Non-dualism) Srikanta Sivacharya (12th Cent. AD) It states that Shiva and Brahma are one and the same.
    Dvaita (Dualism) Madhavacharya (1238-1317 AD). As per this school, there lies a fundamental difference between Atman (individual soul) and Brahman (ultimate reality or God Vishnu).
    Dvaitadvaita (Differential Monism or Dalistic Non-dualism) Nimbaraka (13th C.AD) According to this philosophy, humans are both different and non-different from God.
    Shuddh-Advaita (Pure Non-dualism) According to this, God and Soul are not distinct, but one. The followers of this school belong to Pushtimarg Sampradaya. For the followers of the sect, Shrinathji Temple at Nathdwara (Rajasthan) and the compositions of eight poets (astachap) are central to the worship by the followers of the sect.
    Achintya Bheda Abheda (Inconceivable oneness and difference) Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534) This Vedanta sub-school was followed by Gaudiya Vaishnavas. The school is understood as an integration of the strict dualist (dvaita) theology of Madhvacharya and the qualified monism (Vishishtadvaita) of Ramanuja. According to this school, the supreme lord and individual soul are simultaneously one and different. ISKCON follows this philosophy.

      In Vedanta Philosophy, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras are considered to be the primary sources of knowledge. These three texts together are called the Prasthanatrayi.

      Answer 2


      • Introduce the heterodox school of Philosophy.
      • Discuss the Charvaka or Lokayata school of Philosophy.
      • Conclude suitably.


      The proponents of heterodox school of Philosophy do not believe in the originality of the Vedas and questioned the existence of God. They are divided into five major sub-schools: Buddhism (Buddhist philosophy), Jainism (Jain philosophy), Charvaka school or Lokayata philosophy, Ajnana and Ajivika.


      Charvaka school or Lokayata Philosophy:

      Brihaspati laid the foundation stone of this school, and it was supposed to be one of the earliest schools that developed a philosophical theory. The philosophy is old enough to find mention in the Vedas and Brihadarankya Upanishad. The Charvaka School was the main propounder of the materialistic view to achieve salvation. As it was geared towards the common people, the philosophy was soon dubbed as Lokayata or something derived from the common people.

      The word ‘Lokayata’ also meant a keen attachment to the physical and material world (loka). They argued for a complete disregard of any world beyond this world that was inhabited by a person. They denied the existence of any supernatural or divine agent who could regulate our conduct on earth. They argued against the need to achieve salvation and also denied the existence of brahma and God. They believed in anything that could be touched and be experienced by the human senses. Some of their main teachings are:

      • They argued against Gods and their representatives on the earth – the priestly class. They argued that a Brahman manufactures false rituals so as to acquire gifts (dakshina) from the followers.
      • Man is the centre of all activities, and he should enjoy himself as long as he lives. He should consume all earthly goods and indulge in sensual pleasure.
      • The Charvakas do not consider ‘ether’ as one of the five essential elements as it cannot be experienced through the perception. Hence, they say the universe consists of only four elements: fire, earth, water and air.
      • This school argues that there is no other world after this one, hence death is the end of a human being and pleasure should be the ultimate objective of life. Hence, they propounded the theory of ‘eat, drink and make merry’.


      The materialistic philosophies dominated over the idealist ones. The idealist philosophers responded by critiquing the indulgences recommended by the former group. They recommended that man should follow the path of God and rituals towards salvation. Yet, both the schools grew and many more texts discussing their theories were produced in the coming decades.

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