Eastern Mysticism 2


Prof.Dr. Abdul Hadi W. M.


Mysticism in India derived from the ‘darsana’ (view, wisdom, philosophy) and the ‘agama’ or ‘tantra’. The sources of Indian darsanas and agamas  are Veda and Upanishad.

There are six orthodox schools in the India Darsanas, commonly known as ‘Sad Darsana’ (Six views): Nyaya, Vaishesika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa (Mimamsaka)  and Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta, means the last  teaching of Veda).

The Common ideas in Indian Philosophy:

1. The doctrine of samsara (suffering) or metempsychosis. Life is a circle of samsara.

2. The doctrine of the eternity of the soul (atman), retrospectively as well as prospectively. But a distinction is made between ‘the supreme universal soul’ (paramatman) and ‘the individual soul’ (jivatman). Some schools refused to believe in the atman,  except as a temporarily isolated through ignorance (avidya) and a portion of the Paramatman.

3. The doctrine of the eternity of matter, primordial substance (prakrti) from which the universe was cyclically evolved. Matter may be gross matter, in the  sense accepted by the materialist (Carvaka) or it may be merely the soul overspread by what was called maya (illusion). The latter was more general belief and profoundly influenced Indian life.

4. It was believed that the soul was only able to express consicousness in the thought, or by the use of any other faculty.

5. The union of soul and body is productive of bondage, and in the case of human being, of misery.

6. In view of all the preceding beliefs, heaven and hells were necessary to accomplish the working out of the consequences of acts, that is, karma. To this end was acccepted the belief in a series of births and deaths such as made it posssible for man to receive the due wages of his sins or the reward of his good deeds.

7. Beyond all heaven and hells – both equally undesirerable, since no heaven was conceived as a permanent state, since the end of happiness is necessarily misery – lay the various stages of bliss described as (a) salokya or being in the same place with Brahman; (b) Samipya or being near to Brahman; (c) Sarupya or partaking of the likenesss of Brahman; (d) and Sayyujya or completest union with Brahman.

Consumnation of all tis is called Nirvana or Nirguna, a negative state not to be confused with the idea of extinction, but rather conceived of as absolute qualitiness, the surrender of all supposed separateness, the ‘sliding of the drew-drop into the Ocean’.

Sad Darsana

(Six Ortodox Schools)

            The six orthodox schools will fall into three pair: (1) Nyaya and Vaishesika; (2) Samkhya and Yoga; (3) Purva Mimamsa (Mimamsaka) and Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta).

  1. Nyaya, the system usually placed first, signifies ingoing or analysis. It

is really much more a system of logic than a school of philosophy. Logic is presented in the Nyaya system as the necessary means for furnishing ‘ a correct method of philosophical enquiry into all the objects and subjects of human knowledge. Nyaya is really much more a system of logic than a complete school of philosophy. The textbook of the school is the Nyaya-sutra by Gautama (c. 500 BC), while the true Nyaya is ascribed to Akshapada (c. A.D. 150). Logic is presented in the Nyaya Darsana as the necessary means for furnishing ‘a correct method of philosopical enquiry into all the objects and subjects of human knowledge, including, amongst others, the process of reasoning and laws of thought.’

2. Vaishesika is, in probability, much older than Nyaya. The system extends the logical method of Nyaya to physical investigations, maintaining the reality of souls as well as of such things as space, time, and atoms. According to the Vaishesika’s philosophers, the world is supposedly formed by aggregation of atoms which, although unnumerable and eternal, are not infinite. Some exponents of the system give as a kind of dualism in which eternal atoms, causeless as well as eternal souls, or with the supreme soul. The name of this darsana is from vishesa or particularity, which stressed in its theory of atoms (dvarya). The system extends the logical method of Nyaya to physical investigations, maintaining the reality of souls as well as of such  things like space (akasa), time (kala) and atoms (dvarya).  Vaishesika is ascribed to a sage named, or rather nicknamed, Rsi Kanada (‘the atom-eater’).

  1. Samkhya, which signifies ‘number’, or ‘synthesis’, is  the oldest of the

 philosopical systems.  The word of samkhya occurs in later Upanishad and in the Mahabharata. This darsana is ascribed to Kapila, a semimythical sage of veru early data.  The oldest surviving  textbook of the system is Samkhya-karika of Isvara Krishna (c. 4th Century A.D.). This book was translated into Chinese about A. D. 550). Samkhya Darsana has had very great influence upon general religious life of India. This school is frankly dualistic, asserting the fundamental impossibility of explaining consciousness in term of matter. On the one hand are postulated an innumerable, though not infinite, number of uncreated souls, eternally separate one from the other. On the other hand is everactive potentiality of Nature (Prakrti) the produses, the eternal, rootless evolver. This latter is conceived of as a subtle, elementary essence made up of three constituent qualities or gunas (Triguna): sattva (goodness), rajas (passion, activity) and tamas (darkness, solidity). From this Prakrti, thus conceived, everything is produced. But this is only when Prakrti is in union with the soul, Purusha. In later Hinduism Prakrti becomes a real Mother Nature and is identified with the female energy (sakti) of Siva. The first product of the association of Purusha and Prakrti is conscousness (mahat and its manifestations buddhi). Then are created in turn the five subtle element of ether, air, earth, light and water. After this come the five organs of sense and five organs of action. Thus is formed the subtle body, which accompanies the soul from one existence to another and ‘is, therefore, the real principle of metempsychosis. The subtle body, held in bondage by the union, herein learn its misery and endeavors to escape.

  1. Yoga, which means ‘yoking’, i.e. withe the divine, is a practical

concession to those who were unable or unwillng to endure the stark pessimism of the Samkhya. It is concession in two respects: first, in the acceptance of a Supreme Being – whence the system is sometimes called the theistic Samkhya — and secondly in providing a practical disciple where by the soul may be united with this Supreme Being.  In brief, Yoga is an art for the securing of the larger vision and for the acquiring of power – latent in all men, but commonly unrealised – through which the lower self is conquered and the transcendenal self set free for fellowship with God (Brahman, Isvara, Paramasiva). The textbook of Yoga is a fanous work of Patanjali who has been identified with Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata, and a commentary on the the celebrated Grammar of Panini. As a matter of fact, the Yoga-sutra of Patanjali does go back tp the second century B. C.  But the practices which are characteristic of Yoga are certaibky much older than the time of Patanjali.

  1. Purva-mimamsa (the earlier investigation) or Mimamsaka, and

sometime known as the karma mimamsa, is a system of Vedic interpretation ascribed to Jaimini. Mimamsaka, like the Yoga, an essensially practical system, teaching the authority of the Veda, the ceremonial duty of man in reference to sacrifies, and the method by which these are to be offered. Theologically it is either polytheistic or  agnostic, so long as these duties are not interfered with. “The Supreme Being or Parama Brahman might exist, but was not necessary to the system”. On the other hand the Veda was eternal, as are all articulate sounds.

6. Vedanta, that is the end of the Veda, whose alternative name of Uttara-mimamsa (the later investigations) shows its connection philosopically with the Mimamsa of Jaimini. Vedanta is a school, represents a definite gathering up of the philosophical doctrines of the Upanishad in an attempt to frame a system which will embrace them all. But the formulation of Vedanta extends over a long period of literary history, down t the time of the most celebrated exponent, the great Sri Samkara of the 7th – 8th cendtury A. D. It has also in modern times been the philosophic creed of Indian teacher such as Ram Krishna Parahamsa and Svami Vivekananda.

Vedantism is really a kind of pantheistic monism, expressing its main

tenet and such term as advaita (non-dualism), and such Upanishadic phrase as “Brahma exists truly, the world falsely; the soul is only Brahman and no other”. And “ All this universe indeed is Brahman; from him does it proceed; into him it is dissolved; in him it breathes.”

A Vedantist believe that “All else but Brahman is maya or illusion “

Vedantism is really a kind of pantheistic monism, expressing its main tenets in such terms as advaita (a= non, dvaita = dualism). In the Upanishadic phrases, “Brahma exists truly, the world falsely; the soul (atman) is only Brahman and no other”. Other Upanishadic phrases is, “All this universe indeed is Brahman; from him does it proceed; into him it is dissolved; in him it breathes.”

The Essential Principles of Vedantism

The ultimate cause of all such false impression is avidya (ignorance), simply postulate, but does not in any way seek to account for. It is this ignorance, which prevents the soul from recognizing that the empirical world is mere maya, or illusion.

Thus to the Vedantist the universe is like a mirage, which the soul, under the influence of desire (trishna or thirst) fancies it perceives just as the panting hart sees – before it sheets of water in the fatamorgana (miraga-trishna or deer-thirst).

The illusion vanishes as it by magic, when the scales fall from eyes, on the acquisition of true knowledge. Then the semblance of any distinction between the soul and God disappears and salvation (moksha) the chief end of man, is attained.

All schools of Vedanta to be based upon the Upanishad. The teaching of Upanishad is predominantly monistic through it is not easy to determine what particular form of monism is taught. The former of this schools, Badarayana (2nd century B. C.) in the Vedanta Sutra, refute the dualistic view of Samkhya.

In the Sutra of Badarayana, there is reference to as many as seven Vedantic teachers and he alludes to difference view among them in respects of essensial points like the nature of moksha and the need of samkyasa for the spiritual aspirant.

Vedanta Sutra or Brahma Sutra is the basis for the famous exegesis of Sri Sankara (7th – 8th century A. D. ). The commentary of Ramanuja, a qualified Vedantist of the twelfth century, differs in many particulars from Sri Sankara.

It is natural that, in addition to the orthodox schools which we have described, attempts were made here and there to found eclectic systems of philosophy by the combination of elements borrowed from two or more of the Darsana.

A favourite combination was that which used the systems of the Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta to make a new school. The piece eclecticism appears first in one of tthe Upanishad, Svetastara Upanishad, in which the supreme spirit is idenfied with Siva (Civa). More fullly it appears in Bhagavad Gita  or  Divine Song.

Quotations from the Upanishad

From the” Mundaka Upanishad”:

“My son! There is nothing in this world that is not God (Brahman). He is action, purity, everlasting Spirit. Find Him in the cavern, gnaw the knot of ignorance (avidya).

Shining, yet hidden, Spirit lives in the cavern. Everything that sways, breathe, opens, closes, lives in Spirit; beyond learning, beyond everything, better than anything, living, unliving.

It is the undying blazing Spirit, thet seed of all seeds, wherein lay hidden the world and all its creatures. It is life, speech, mind, reality, immortality.

From the “Chandogya Upanishad”:

In this body, in this town of Spirit, there is a little house  shaped like a lotus and a little that house there is a little space…There is as much in that little space within the heart as there is in the whole world outside. Heaven, earth, fire, wind, sun, moon, lightning, stars, whatever is and whatever is not, everything is there. What lies in that space does not decay when the body decays, not does it fall when the body fall. The space is the home of Spirit. Every desire is there. Self is there, beyond decay, and death, sin and sorrow, hunger and thirst; His aim truth, His will truth.

My son!  Though you do not find that Being in the world.  He is there. That Being is the seed; all else but His expression. He is truth. He is Self, Shwetaketu!! You are that (Tat tvam asi).

Commentary: Man is the house of Spirit; in a sense he is Spirit for ‘you are that’. The self he thinks he knows is not his true self; it is an empirical, phenomenal self, conscious only in fits and starts, unstable, subject to change, decay, and death; it has no fixed identity.

Within man dwells however, a Greater Self, the Atman, which is immortal and unchanging, a divine light; the unsleeping seer, the true Self. This self is present in all, yet distinct from all. It is a universal self and at the same time a

Happold (1970), “ The splendid Hindu vision of the spiritual nature of the universe and of man tended to result in an exaggerated otherworldliness, and too great emphasis on the virtue of passivity as opposed to action.

From the Katha Upanishad:

The Self knows all, is not born, does not die, is not the effect of any cause; is eternal, sel-existent, imperishable, ancient. How can the killing of the body kill Him. He who thinks that He kills, he who thinks that He is killed, is ignorant. He does not kill nor is He killed. The Self is lesser than the least, greater than the greatest. He lives in all hearts.

As we described in the previous chapter, Vedanta is the system developed by Badarayana’s Vedanta Sutra. This is mainly based on the Upanishad teachings.

Different commentators interpret the Vedanta differently. There are mainly three systems: (1) the Advaita or absolute monism of Sri Sankara or Samkara; (2) the Visista advaita or differential monism or qualified monism of Ramanuja; (3) the Dvaita or dualism of Sri Madhva.

All schools of Vedanta to be based upon the Upanishads whether this claim can be fully establisdhed in every case or not, there is no doubt that they derive a considerable part of their material from the triple foundation of the last Veda (prasthanatraya) i. e. the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Vedanta-Sutra.

Though differing from one another in important matters, all current schools of Vedanta, alike claim to represent percisely what Badarayana, the founder of this darsana, himself taught. The extremely laconic form of Badarayana’s sutra has rendered such variety in interpretations possible. In fact, then, they are more difficult to get at their meaning than is that of those ald treatises. The result is that even as regards the most essentia; points there is ambiguity. We do not for instance know for certain whether, according to Badarayana the world actually ‘emerges from Brahman’ (parimama Brahman) or is only a phenomenal appearance of it (vivarta).

Commentators of Badarayana’s sutra give diffrerence interpretations on this mattter. Sri Samkara  upholds the latter view (vivarta-pada or theory of the phenomenal appearance of Brahman). Other commentators llike Bhaskara and Yadavaprakasa hold the former view, that is theory of parimana. Though these interpretations do not abolish the conception of God, they prefer to look upon the Brahman as tthe Absolute and may therefore be described as predominant;y philosophic. There have also been purely theistic interpretations of Sutra, especially subsequent to Samkara; and among them again we find distinctions due to the identifications of the supreme God with Visnu or Siva. Ramanuja and

Sri Madhva uphold the supremacy of Visnu, while Samkara and Srikhanta exaltts Siva above him.

Three mains topics of these schools:are — (1) the nature of ultimate reality; (2) the nature of human spirit and the relation between ultimate reality and human spirit; (3) the nature of world and the relation between ultimate reality and world.

  1. Nature of Brahman or the Ultimate Reality : According to Sri Sankara, the ultimate reality is Para Brahman means highers Brahman. This is Nirguna and Nirvishesa Brahman, means Brahman without attributes or quality.  According to Sri Sankara, Saguna and Savishesa Brahman is ‘apara Brahman’, means reality with quality and attribute is a lower Brahman. This apara (lower) Brahman is unreal and it is due to Maya (illusion) or avidya (ignorance). According to Ramanuja the ultimate reality is saguna and savishesa Brahman and it is the real Brahman and not apara Brahman due to Maya.

According to Sri Madhva also real Brahman is saguna dan savishesa Brahman.

  1. Nature of Jiva and its relation to Brahman: Jiva in Vedanta means human spirit. According to Sri Sankara, jiva is identical with Brahman and in reality  Brahman itself conditioned by limiting adjuncts due to avidya or Maya. According to Ramanuja, jiva is an ontologicall entity different from Brahman. Jiva is amsa or  part of Brahman and it is relation of essential attribute to its substance. This is difference cum non difference. According to Sri Madhva , there is no organic relation  between Brahman and Jiva. Only some attributes are similar to Brahman and Jiva, and is absolutely different from Brahman.


  1. Nature of world (jagat) and its relation to Brahman:

According to Sri Samkara, Brahman is both the instrumental and material cause of the universe. Apart from Brahman, the jagat has no existence. So Jagat is unreal and illusory manifestation of the real being due to avidya and Maya. According to Ramanuja, also Brahman is the instrumental cause and the material cause of the universe. But according to him the jagat is real as there is a causal relation between Brahman and jagat. Casual relation means different state of the same substance. According to Sri Madhva, Brahman is only the instrmental cause and the material cause is prakrti. Universe or Jagat is real but absolutely different from Brahman.

The evolution of the world is conceived as various stages in Vedanta. The stages are described as manistestations of kosha or body, i.e. the body of the atman . The manifestations consist in six stages:

  1. 1.       At the centre there is atman or ultimate reality;
  2. 2.        Then ananda maya consist of bliss,
  3. 3.       Next vijnana maya consist of wisdom,
  4. 4.       Then mano maya means mind,
  5. 5.       Then prana maya or life,
  6. 6.       The last is called Annamaya or food.

As a philosopical system, Vedanta is one of the Hindu’s philosophy most closest to the religion of India. It deals with the religiois and philosophical speculations of Upanishad.


Advaita of Sri Samkara

(Monism Vedanta)

Sri Samkara is generally assigned to the eight century (788-820 AD). His system is traceable to Karika-sutra of Gaudapada (6th century AD) and Mandukya Upanishad. He is a thinker of the first rank in Vedantism. But he says that he is merely expounding what is contained in the Vedas.

In the introduction to his commentary on the Vedanta-sutra he asks

whether there is anything in experience which may be regarded as fountational. Our senses may be deceive us, our memory may be an illusion (maya). The forms of the world may be pure fancy. The objects of knowledge may be open tp doubt, but the doubter himself cannot be doubted. “All the means of knowledge exist only as dependen on self experience and since such experience is its own proof there is no necessity for prving the existense of self. It cannot be proved because it is the basis of all proof. The self is self estblished and is different from all else, physical and mental. As is self-established and is different from all elsem physical and mental. As the subject is not the object. It has being in itself and for itself. It is undifferenttiated conscioussness, which remains unaffected even when the body is reduced tpo ashes and the mind perishes. The self (atman) is existence, knowledge, and bliss. It is universal and unfinite.

The object-world is dependent. It is changing but is not a mental fiction.

We perceive objects; we do not invent the corresponding       ideas. The world perceived is as real as the individual perceiver. Samkara repudiates the subjectivism of the Buddhis Idealist (Yogacara). He also holds that the world is not non-existent. It is not abhava (non-existent) or sunya (void). Nevertheless, the world is not ultimate reality. Our ignorance (avidya) is born of a confusion of the transcendental subject (atman) with empirical existence (anatman).

When we start from the cosmic-end, as it were, we find that the world is

bound up by the categories of space, time, and cause. These are not self-contained or self-consistents. They point to something unalterable and absolute, which remains identical with itself in all its manifestations.

Brahman is the basis and ground of all experience. Brahman is different

from the space-time-cause world. Brahman has nothing similar to it, nothing different from it, and no internal differentation, for all thsese are empirical distinction. Brahman is the non-empirical, the non-subjective, the wholly other, but it is not non-being. It is the highest being.

With Samkara, atman is the same as Brahman, the essense of the subject, the deepest part of our being, is one with the essense of the world.  The empirical world cannot exist by itself. It is wholly dependent on Brahman, but the changes of the empirical order do not affect the integrity of Brahman. The world depends on Brahman, but Brahman depends on nothing. Ignorance affects our whole empirical being. It is another name for finitude.

To remove ignorance is to realisise the truth. We reach wisdom when

error is disssipated. The highest representation of the absolute being through logical categories is Isvara, the creator and governor of the universe, Brahman cast through the molds of logic, is Isvara or Saguna Brahman (Brahman with qualities), determinate Brahman. Brahman, as the Absolute as nirguna Brahman (qualityless Brahman) is the basis of the phenomenal world, presided over by  Isvara. In this universe, we have God (Isvara), selves and the world.

The individual self (atman) is the agent of activity. It is the universalself or

Atman limoited or inviduated by the object. It is connected with buddhi or understanding, and this connection lasts until release is attained.

By the practice of ethical virtues and by the pursuit of devotion and

knowledge we reach the goal of self-realization (moksa). Moksa (self-realization or freedom) is the direct realization of the truth which has been there from eternity. On the attainment of freedom nothing happens to the world. Only our view of it changes. Moksa is not the dissolution of the world but is the displacement of a false outlook (avidya) by the right outlook , wisdom (vidya).

Dvaitadavaita’s Ramanuja

(Qualified Non-Dualism)

Ramanuja (11th Century) fixed his attention on the world, self and God.

For him all these are real, but the world and the selves (atman) depend on God. He believes in the continnued indvidual existence of the released selves, while Brahman as eternally free from all imperfections, matter is unconscious, and the invidual selves are subject to ignoranca (avidya) and suffering (samsara) prior to release. They (God, selves and the world) form a unity, as a matter and the controlling power of the body, which includes the world and the selves. Apart from Brahman they are nothing. The individual self and inanimate nature are essentially different from God, though they have no existence or purpose to serve apart from himorhis service. Ramanuja’s theory, therefore, is a non-dualisme (monism) with a difference, namely, that the One Brahman (Saguna Brahman) has two form: selves (atman) and matter (prakrti).

Ramanuja rejects the doctrine of the phenomenality of the world, admit the inalienable individuality of selves, and holds that the Supreme Brahman (Parama Brahman) is personal. For him, there can be no such thing as undifferentiated Brahman. Knowledge (jnana) is always of the determinate.

Though Samkara did not mean by knowledge theoritical learning, there was a tendency among his followers to emphasize it. In other side, Ramanuja stresses devotion (bhakti) not jnana.

Salvation, according to Ramanuja, is not the disappearance of the self but its release from limiting bariiers. The self cannot be dissolved into God. One substance cannot be dissolved into anothe. However high a man may rise, there will always be God superior to him whom he should reverence, worship, and adore. The released self has a permanent intuition of God. Its essenntial nature, which is obscured by ignorance and passion in the state of bondage is manifested in the state of release.

Dvaita of Sri Madhva

(Dualism Vedanta)


Sri Madhva (1197-1276 M)  is a Vaisnava’s philosopher. He holds that God, selves and the world exist permanently, but the latter two are subordinate to God and dependent on Him. Brahman or God possesses all perfection and is identified with Visnu. The Supreme directs the world. He is endowed with a supernatural body and is regarded as transcendent to the world as well as immanent in it, since he is the inner ruler of all selves.

Sri Madhva’s system or darsana as contrasted with other schools of Vedanta, is noted for its doctrine of five fundamental differences:

  1. Between God  (Brahman) and the individual self  (atman).
  2. Between God and matter (prkrti).
  3. Between individual selfs.
  4. Betwen selves (atman) and matter (prakrti).
  5. Between individual’s material substances.

For Sri Madhva, everything on earth is a living organism. The self is not an absolute agent, since it is of limited power and is dependent on God. It is by nature blissful, though it is subject to pain and suffering on account of its connection with a material body due to its past karma.

So long as it ois not freed from impurities it wanders about in changing forms of axistence. No two selves (atman) are alike. God cannot be aproached directly. Vayu whose ancestry can be traced to the Vedic air, being in Madhva’s system the mediatoir. The divine will is supreme. It sets men free or casts the into bondage.

Salvation, for Sri Madhva, consists in the perpetuation of the indovidual self in the copndition of release, where the self takes delight in adoration and worship God.



The most important contribution to Indian thought and mysticism made by the Samkhya darsana is the conception of three gunas (triguna): sattva (goodness), rajas (activism) and tamas (darkness). These gunas constituents rather qualities, as pervading nature and man alike. Even for this view, however we find a basis in Upanishad., where water, fire and earth appear as three fundamental elements derived from the Creator and pervaed by Him.

The Yoga is closely allied as a philosophy  with the Samkhya in itself. Yoga is merely the application of the the will on the concentration of the mind, whence it denotes concentration aims at union with a deity as it may often have done, the sense may have come to be that of unity, the result being put for the effort. But originally the object of Yoga was doubtless often to secure by practices of repression of the breath, sitting in certain postures and deep concentration, magic power such as are believed throughout Indian though to be the forms of such excercises, for we find the same doctrine in Buddhism and Jainism.

As a darsana the Yoga has been developed under Samkhya influence. The only real difference being that the Yoga, as a result of the early connextion with the desire of finding union with a god, insists on finding a place for the deity as the twenty-sixth piinsiples in addition to the twenty-five of the Samkhya.  The spirit is in constant connextion with subtle matter and power, wisdom and goodness. The Yoga thus figures as theistic Samkhya, while the Samkhya appears as non-theistic. Both systems in fusion with Vedanta ideas appear largerly in the epic literatures such as the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita. And again in the purana litetarure and the Law Book of Manu (Kutaranava).