Nyaya,Vaisesika, Sankya and Yoga
Darshana is the name given to ancient systems of Indian philosophy as they were the visions of Self acquired by Indian mystics searching within rather than outside. The six Darshanas, grouped as ‘Shaddarshanas’ are those that belong to the orthodox group that accept the authority of Vedas and are also called Asthika systems. They are; Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa. Each Darshana was codified by a great Vedic sage -- Nyaya by Gautama, Vaiseshika by Kanada, Sankhya by Kapila, Yoga by Patanjali, Purva Mimamsa by Jaimini and Uttara Mimamsa by Vyasa. They all deal with Brahman or God, Jiva or individual soul, Jagat or world and Moksha or liberation, All the systems believe in the law of karma and consider this world as one created for providing us with a platform for performing our roles conforming to Vedic code of Dharma, thereby gradually improving our spiritual fibre to reach the final goal of liberation. Let us see each one of them briefly.
Nyaya – The Nyaya school of philosophy is based on texts known as the Nyaya Sutras, which were written by Sage Gautama. Nyaya Darshana is the basis of all Sanskrit philosophical studies. The followers of Nyaya Darshana believed that obtaining valid knowledge was the only way to obtain release from suffering. They therefore took great pains to identify valid sources of knowledge and to distinguish these from mere false opinions. The Nyaya Darshana accepts four Pramanas (means of knowledge) viz. Pratyaksha, Anumana, Upamana and Sabda. The Nyāya system accepts Isvara or God as the srshti, sthithi, laya karanam for the world. However, God does not create the world out of nothing or out of Himself, but out of the paramanus,-the smallest particles of earth, water, fire and air, and substances- space, time, ether, minds and souls. God is thus the efficient cause only and not the material cause for its creation. According to Nyāya Darsana, the jivas or individual souls are infinite in number. They are eternal and indestructible. The primary aim of life, according to the Nyāya school is the attainment of mokṣa, liberation from the cycle of birth and death. He can get this liberation only by acquiring tattvajnana or true knowledge of his soul as distinct from the body and the mind as also the senses. For this he should undergo the threefold sadhana of sravaṇa, manana and nididhyasana to destroy all mithya jnana and acquire tattvajnana. This system has provided a firm basis for the development of vast polemic literature by the later writers of many schools, especially of Vedanta.
Vaiseshika - The basic text is the Vaiseṣika Sūtras of Sage Kaṇāda. Vaisheshika system is closely associated with the Nyaya system. It states that the universe has two aspects, one eternal and one non-eternal. The eternal constituents of the universe are Paramanus, the four kinds of atoms - earth, water, fire, and air; and the five substances – space, time, direction, mind and souls. These are not subject to change and cannot be created or destroyed. Another part of the universe is non-eternal, subject to creation and destruction in a particular time and space. They accept the existence of God called Ishwara or Maheshwara which is the Supreme Intelligent Being under whose will and guidance this world is created, sustained and dissolved. He is the karmaphaladhata in respect of all living beings, The Vaiseshika concepts of God, liberation of soul, and of the path to liberation are all basically the same as the Nyaya concepts that have been discussed earlier. Over the centuries, the school merged with the Nyaya system of Indian philosophy to form the combined school of Nyaya-Vaisesika because of their closely related metaphysical theories.
Sankhya - Sankhya philosophy is regarded as the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems and its basic text is Sankhya Sutras of Sage Kapila. The Sānkhya accepts only three Pramāṇas; Pratyakṣa, Anumāna and Sabda. Its philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two eternal realities: Purusha (souls) and Prakrti (matter). The Purushas are many, conscious and devoid of all qualities. They are the silent spectators of Prakrti which is composed of three gunas: satva, rajas and tamas. When the equilibrium of the gunas is disturbed, the world order evolves. This disturbance is due to the samyoga or effective contact between the Purusha and Prakrti. The totality of the karmas of the Puruṣas disturbs the balance of the guṇas in Prakṛti and sets in motion the process of evolution. The main cause of bondage of the Purusha and his consequent suffering in the world is aviveka or ignorance of his own identity as pure consciousness leading to continuous cycle of birth and death. Kaivalya or liberation can come only from vivekakhyati or right knowledge. The Sānkhya Darsana accepts both Jivanmukti and Videhamukti. However, since Chaitanya or consciousness is his essence, he will ever remain in his own state. The Samkhya system has been closely associated with the Yoga school of philosophy.
Yoga – Though there are many schools of Yoga, the one that is counted as part of Shad-darshanas is the one systematized by Sage Patanjali, on the basis of his work, Yoga Sutras. This Yoga system, also known as ashtanga-yoga (the yoga of eight parts), is closely allied to Sankhya system. Indeed, ashtanga-yoga is the practical application of Sankhya philosophy for the attainment of liberation. While the Sankhya system accepts only Purusha, the individual soul and Prakrti, the nature or matter as the fundamental realities and does not accept Ishwara or God, the Yoga Darshana accepts all the principles of the Samkhya and also Ishwara or God, in addition. Also the Yoga system deals primarily with sadhanas or spiritual disciplines while the Sankhya system gives primary importance to tattvajnana or enquiry into the nature of truth. By following these sadhanas (eight steps of yoga) one realises his essential nature and is instantly freed from samsara, the cycle of transmigration, and attains kaivalya. Realization of this goal of Yoga is known as moksha, nirvana and samadhi. This realization of the Atma is nothing other than attaining the infinite Brahman. This system discusses the nature of mind, its modifications, impediments to growth, afflictions and the method for attaining the highest goal of life, Kaivalya and is highly practical.