Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Hinduism: Philosophy and Practice

While the practice of Hinduism is polytheistic, its philosophy is dualistic and materialistic in the case of one dominant movement, and monotheistic and idealistic in the case of another dominant movement. Thus, there is a divergence between practical Hinduism and the philosophies of Hinduism. The two philosophies which have dominated Hindu thought in the last three thousand years are Samkhya and Vedanta. 

The Samkhya school is strongly dualistic, and it is often regarded as materialistic—it holds that the universe is a creation of two independent realities: Prakriti (the feminine principle—nature or instinct) and Purusha (the masculine principle—consciousness or intelligence). God, according to Samkhya, is not the creator of the universe, which is an outcome of the coming together of the two eternal realities, Prakriti and Purusha. The Vedanta school is strongly monotheistic; it denies independent reality and sees god in everything. The god of Vedanta is greater than the universe—the universe is contained in the god who himself is inexhaustible and extends beyond the limits of the universe. 

In the Mahabharata (Shanti Parva section), Bhishma elucidates Krishna’s philosophy of the Vedanta. Krishna has directly expressed his philosophy in the Mahabharata (Bhishma Parva section) in the Gita, which has elements of both Samkhya and Vedanta. 

Several millennia after the Mahabharata war, the Vedanta school branched into four movements: Sankaracharya’s Advaita Vedanta, Ramanujacharya’s Vishishtadvaita, Madhavacharya’s Dvaita Vedanta, and Vallabhacharya’s Shuddhadvaita. The Samkhya school is no longer an independent movement but it continues to exercise immense influence through its hold on the Yoga movements, certain Bhakti (devotional worship) movements, and on Buddhism and Jainism.

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