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Indian Philosophy

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Indian philosophy is traditionally divided into four periods: 1) the Vedic period; 2) the classical (or Brahmin-Buddhist) period, lasting from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. approximately; 3) the post-classical or Hinduistic period, from the 10th to the 18th centuries; and 4) the modern period, from the British conquest to the present day.

Oriental philosophy was always closely bound up with religion, starting with Hinduism itself. Hinduism is a system of religious ideas and concepts which has persisted in most of the Indian Subcontinent from the early Middle Ages till the present day, although it includes elements that come from a very remote past. Thus Shivaism has pre-Vedic roots and is related to the idea of Shiva, the lord of fettered animals. In its modern form, however, it arose from the general social and ideological crisis in India in the 6th-4th centuries B.C. In the Hinduistic period, the Vishnu and Shiva systems were developed. It was stated that the Brahman of the Upanishads is the god Shiva, Siva or Vishnu. In his great History of Philosophy, Hegel writes: "Indian culture is developed to a high degree, and it is imposing, but its philosophy is identical with its Religion, and the objects to which attention is devoted in Philosophy are the same as those which we find brought forward in Religion. Hence the holy books or Vedas also form the general groundwork for Philosophy." (G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, vol. 1, p. 126.)

In Hinduism, certain dialectical elements can be found in embryo, such as the idea of the three phases of creation (Brahma), maintenance of order (Vishnu) and destruction or disorder (Shiva). Ian Stewart, who has written on Chaos Theory, points out that the difference between the gods Shiva, "the Untamed", and Vishnu is not the antagonism between good and evil, but that the real principles of harmony and discord together underline the whole of existence. "In the same way," he writes, "mathematicians are beginning to view order and chaos as two distinct manifestations of an underlying determinism. And neither exists in isolation. The typical system can exist in a variety of states, some ordered, some chaotic. Instead of two opposed polarities, there is a continuous spectrum. As harmony and discord combine in musical beauty, so order and chaos combine in mathematical beauty." (Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? p. 22.)

Hegel was not entirely fair to Indian philosophy, since he ignored the non-Vedic materialist strain in Indian philosophy, with his customary prejudice towards materialism in general. However, it is true that the genesis of Indian philosophy is to be found in the oldest of the Indian writings, the Vedas.

Under the impact of Islam, several other monotheistic religions arose in the 10th century, notably Sikhism as an attempt to reconcile Hinduism with Islam. Hinduism is characterised by an extreme proliferation -almost an over-production- of gods. At one time, the number of gods and goddesses in India (330 million) outstripped the current total population. But from the earliest times we also find the opposite tendency: a tendency in the direction of materialism and atheism.

Indian philosophy arose on the basis of one of the oldest of human civilisations, a line of cultural development which far pre-dates the culture of Western Europe. The Indian cultural traditions has its roots as far back as the 10th-15th centuries B.C. and extends in a virtually unbroken thread down to the present day, showing considerable vitality and exuberance. The original source for all Indian philosophy is the ancient body of oral literature known as the Vedas, the most famous of which is the Rig-Veda. These contain, in addition to hymns to nature-gods and details of rituals, other material of a clearly philosophical character. As early as 1500 B.C. the Rig-Veda asks the question: Where does the universe come from? Likewise, the opening verse of one of the Upanishads asks: "Propelled by what does a directed mind fall upon its object? By whom was life first set in motion? Urged by whom are these words being spoken? Which god harnesses the eyes and ears?"

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Multisubj Yb TruthSeeker - 12 Kasım 2007 23:37

The latest Gods to be added are: Shirdi Sai Baba, Satya Sai Baba, Amritanandamayi etc.

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