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In this section you will find articles related to Yoga, Vedanta, Buddhism and Samkhya. I have given below a brief introduction to the psycho-philosophies of India for those who are not acquainted fully with the pan-Indian picture. Those who are already familiar with it can skip the introduction and directly click on the links to the articles at the end of the introduction.

Indian psychology is actually an offshoot of Indian philosophy. Philosophy is referred to in Sanskrit as 'Darsana'. The word 'Darsana' means 'vision' or 'insight'. Thus in the Indian context philosophy is viewed as a total vision of life, one's world-view. In ancient India spiritual life was the central focus. As such the mundane and the sacred co-existed. The ancient spiritual traditions addressed knowledge as a unitary body. Thus Yoga is simultaneously a system of philosophy, psychology, healing and spiritual practice. All these aspects of Yoga are intermingled within the larger framework of Vedic/Yogic approach to knowledge. Thus Yoga, Buddhism and Vedanta are not mere philosophies as they have their respective psychological perspectives too embedded within their philosophies.

The roots of most religious and philosophical thought of India are lost in the hoary past. Most Indian thought that we study today as a systematized body of knowledge, has its roots in the pre-historic mists, in the depths of the unconscious. The roots may be in the form of spiritual impulses arising from the unconscious minds of the pre-historic people which led to a multiplicity of traditions. What we know of the various sects, cults, traditions and religions of India today is largely based on later periods of time, especially post-vedic, when the various ideas were systematized as distinct schools of thought. Quite often the modern versions and interpretations are the result of careful evaluation of the particular school of thought as well as its rival schools of thought. At times certain compelling ideas of a different school of thought that was earlier perceived as a rival, were not only incorporated but also presented as part of one's own school of thought. Thus the Yoga that we are acquainted with today is the Vedantic version with a theistic basis and not the same as the original version or the one that was redacted by Patanjali. It should be remembered that even by Patanjali's own admission, he was not the founder of the system. Yoga in its earliest forms was a set of psycho-spiritual practices from the hoary past. The theoretical basis for Yoga was later supplied by Samkhya, the mother of all Indian philosophies. Gradually the heterodox practices of Yoga developed into a systematized world view which finds expression in Patanjali's Yoga.

In its original forms Samkhya was a protagonist of the naturalistic, pluralistic and materialistic viewpoints. Originally Samkhya seems to have been non-vedic. From this early non-vedic nucleus that gave rise to the distinct systems of Samkhya-Yoga, other heterodox Indian systems too seem to have evolved. While Jainism based its theory mostly on Samkhya, Buddhism took mostly to Yoga. Due to regular systematizations all these systems are now vastly different from their beginnings. The impetus for systematization seems to have come from the Upanishadic phase when Vedic knowledge began to be systematized. In spite of the divergent paths that each system seems to have adopted, all these systems continued to influence each other. There were a series of successful contacts between the Vedic tradition and the heterodox systems including earlier Samkhya-Yoga. One thing that was originally common to all these four great systems (Samkhya-Yoga, Jaina and Bauddha/Buddhist) is either the rejection or minimal involvement of any Supernatural principle. They were uncompromisingly pragmatic and there was hardly any role for grace. There was a heavy (if not absolute) reliance on human effort or purushardha. The Upanishads (and consequently Vedanta too) on the other hand rely also on grace and look to divine intervention, in spite of their emphasis on purushardha. Though different, all these systems (Samkhya-Yoga, Vedanta, Buddhism and Jainism) have mutually influenced each other and share some similarities too. Hence they all share the same page here.


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