Spiritual philosophy of hinduism

23.05.2018 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

The philosophy of Hinduism originated in the Indus subcontinent, where it developed for two millennia after the end of the Vedic period.

The schools of Hinduism are so multifaceted that they encompass both a reasonable and spiritual approach to philosophy and religion. In total, there are six orthodox, theistic schools of Indian philosophy, which later became classical Hinduism.

Spiritual philosophy of hinduism

Logical schools of hinduism

The purpose of the logical Hindu schools is to prove that material things exist independently of their perception by the mind. They include Nyaya and Vaisheshika.


Nyaya is a realistic philosophy according to which all objects of the external world exist independently of knowledge by the mind. The doctrine of the Nyaya School of philosophy is based mainly on the laws of logic. The Nyaya Sutras are its basic text.

The philosopher Aksapada Gotama (Gautama) was the instigator of Nyaya. The essence of Nyaya is to study the conditions of correct thinking and the means of knowing reality. It recognizes the existence of four independent sources of true knowledge:

  • Perception (Pratyaksha)
  • Conclusion (Anumana)
  • Comparison (Upamana)
  • Testimony or proof (Shabda)

As an object of cognition, Nyaya considers the self, the body, feelings and their objects, including cognitive ability, mind, activity, mental disabilities, rebirth, feelings of pleasure and pain, suffering and freedom from suffering.

The self (atman) is an independent substance, different from the mind and body. Consciousness is a random, incidental property that becomes unlimited in a state of liberation. Liberation is the absolute cessation of all torment and suffering, achieved through the correct knowledge of reality.

Adherents of the Nyaya school consider God to be the root cause of the education, preservation and destruction of the world. He creates a world of eternal atoms, space, time, ether, minds and souls.


Vaisheshika (“excellent, distinguished”) is a system of Indian philosophy. “Vishesha” means “difference”, “feature”.

The orthodox philosophical school of Vaisheshika adheres to the anatomical theory. It says that the world comes from atoms connected at the will of a supreme being. According to the Vaisheshika Sutra, knowledge of the world is achieved through six positive (bhava) general categories of thought:

  • substance
  • quality
  • action
  • community
  • difference
  • accord

The seventh category (Abhawa) is negative.

The Vaisheshika teachings recognize the Buddhist view of perception and logical inference as sources of knowledge. The school refers souls and substances to immutable facts, and does not participate in the solution of theological questions.

Vaisheshika philosophers divide all objects into two classes: being and non-being. The first class includes everything that relates to positive realities (existing objects, mind, soul, etc.). Six positive realities are corresponding to these positive categories of thinking.

The second class consists of all negative facts (for example, non-existent things) belonging to the seventh category—non-existence.

Nyaya and Vaisheshika have one goal: the liberation of the individual self, which means the absolute cessation of suffering. Such liberation is achieved through the correct knowledge of reality, since the root cause of all pain and suffering is found in ignorance and lies. Schools differ in their independent sources of knowledge and the number of recognized categories of reality.

Dualistic schools

In Hindu philosophy, some schools recognize the equality of spirit and matter in the pursuit of knowing the world. They include Samkhya and Mimamsa.


Samkhya (“calculus”) is considered the oldest orthodox system of Hinduism. It was founded by the ancient Indian Vedic philosopher Kapila. According to its teachings, there are two principles in the world: Prakriti (matter) and Purusha (spirit). This is the dualism of the Samkhya school of philosophy. Based on this idea, the goal of Samkhya is to distract the spirit from matter.

Three Pramans (measures) are the source of reliable knowledge about the school.

  1. This is a direct perception when the senses come into contact with objects. It includes two types of perception: Nirvikalpa (just an impression, not the content of the knowledge of an object) and Savikalpa (a certain perception leading to knowledge).
  2. Anumana (conclusion). This is a logical conclusion.
  3. This is oral proof.

The starting point in the understanding of matter is the doctrine of the presence of an effect in a cause. The dualism of the philosophical school of Samkhya lies in the idea of the beginningless existence of two independent realities—Purusha (undetected consciousness that cognizes matter) and Prakriti (the unconscious source of the world of objects).

Purusha is also pure consciousness, the absolute, unchanging and unknowable reality. Prakriti is the boundless root cause of all objects in the world which are not endowed with consciousness. It consists of three Gunas:

  • Sattva—the basis of reason
  • Rajas—the basis of energy
  • Tamas—the basis of inertia

When the Gunas are in a state of equilibrium, development is impossible. In case of imbalance under the influence of Purusha, various combinations are formed that generate a world of objects.


Mimamsa (“research”, “study”, “reflection”) is an orthodox school of Hinduism, based on Ritualism, Orthopraxy (setting on the “right action”), Anti-Asceticism and Anti-Mysticism. The teachings have had a significant impact on the formation of the social system of Hindu society.

The main purpose of the Indian school of Mimamsa is to explain the nature of dharma (the mandatory performance of a set of rituals in a particular way). Mimamsa denies the achievement of Moksha (liberation) as the goal of life and does not recognize the existence of God the Creator and Ruler of the Universe.

The Purva-Mimamsa-Sutra, compiled by Jaimini around the 3rd-2nd centuries BC, is the fundamental text of the philosophy of Mimamsa.

Mimamsa affirms the self-validity and legitimacy of all knowledge as such. Its adherents believe that knowledge is reliable by virtue of fact. Anything that requires proof is not true knowledge, but it is mistaken for it.

The philosophers of the Mimamsa school recognize the reality and eternity of the world, as well as its constituent material elements and souls (atman). They, like all objects, obey the Law of Karma. At the same time, adherents of the school deny the need for the existence of God the Creator.

According to the teachings, the existence of the world is reduced to eight categories:

  • Substance (Dravya)
  • Quality (Guna)
  • Action (Karma)
  • Universality (Samaya)
  • Inherence (Paratantrata)
  • Energy (Shakti)
  • Similarity (Sadrishya)
  • Number (Sankhya)

The metaphysics of Mimamsa is characterized by realism and pluralism.

Schools aimed at self-knowledge of a person

In addition to studying the origin of the world and its matters, some Hindu schools have paid special attention to issues relating to the soul of man and the meaning of his stay in the universe. Vedanta and Yoga schools specialize in solving such problems.


Vedanta (“end of the Vedas”, “final knowledge”) is a series of philosophical and religious traditions in Hinduism, united by themes, subject and, in part, fundamental texts with comments.

Vedanta, like the Vedic scriptures on which it relies, focuses on self-knowledge, the individual’s understanding of his/her original nature and the nature of the Absolute Truth in the personal (Bhagavan) and impersonal (Brahman) aspects. The philosophy of the Upanishads is the basis of the idea of Vedanta. There are several schools of the ancient Vedanta in India that focus on the peculiarities of the perception of God:

  1. Advaita Vedanta is the only orthodox Vedic teaching, which insists on the unreality and the illusory of the world. According to its teachings, only Brahman is real, and the whole world is illusory. From its illusory hidden forces (Maya) has arisen the material world. Only by attaining true knowledge of Brahman, is liberation
  2. Vishishta Advaita is a school in which representatives claim that Brahman, individual souls and matter have features inherent only to them. According to the supporters of the school, Maya is the hidden creative power of the Absolute. The path to liberation is through love and devotion to God, represented in the form of Vishnu in his original and supreme form.
  3. Dvaita is a teaching based on the complete identification of God with Brahman. The source of the immense Brahman is the supreme form of the god Vishnu or his avatar Krishna. Brahman, individual souls and matter are regarded as eternal and independently existing elements. Only true love and devotion to God will help a person to achieve liberation.

The ancient Indian school of Vedanta leads to a state of self-consciousness or cosmic consciousness. It is understood as a spiritual and inaccessible state of awareness and does not apply to those concepts the meaning of which is achieved with the help of objects of the material world.


Yoga is one of six orthodox Hindu schools. Its main goals are:

  • control of the mind through meditation (dhyana)
  • awareness of the difference between reality and illusion
  • achieving liberation

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali encompass the main text of the theory and practice of yoga.

In a broad sense, Yoga is a set of various spiritual, mental and physical practices aimed at controlling the mental and physiological functions of the body in order to achieve a sublime spiritual and mental state.

The philosophy of yoga is mostly focused on working with the mind, since it is the mind that controls the entire psychophysical structure of a person. Yoga practices help the individual to establish control over his/her mind. To unite the mind and body, a person needs to go through eight stages:

  • Self-restraint (Yama)
  • Complete dedication to spiritual practices (Niyama)
  • Physical activity (Asana)
  • Breath control (Pranayama)
  • The distraction of the senses from contact with their subjects (Pratyahara)
  • Meditation (Dhyana)
  • A peaceful superconscious state of blissful awareness of one’s true nature (Samadhi)

With the development of the school of yoga, several movements specializing in various aspects of self-improvement of the individual have been formed within it.

The practice of Bhakti Yoga is aimed at cultivating the love of God in the heart through Bhakti—devotional service. Sahaja Yoga promotes the spiritual development of the individual through the awakening of Kundalini, after which he/she receives self-realization. Adherents of Surat Shabd Yoga believe that the practice allows you to get out of the circle of rebirth (Samsara) and weakens the law of Karma, provided that the moral way of life and selfless service (Seva) is observed.

Tantric Yoga uses special secret practices and initiations that lead to liberation and spiritual development. Hatha Yoga is seen as a set of psychophysical techniques to calm the fluctuations of the mind and prepare for the practice of classical yoga.

Orthodox schools of Hinduism comprehensively reveal the features of the emergence and structure of the world and the role of God in the creation of all things. They also assign an important role to the human and how one can make  life more moral, gain universal wisdom and become free from suffering.