Umbrella Concepts in Indian Philosophy and the Bhagvad Gita

Indian philosophy or darshan is more practical than Western philosophy. It seeks to help us live our lives, rather than wonder about abstract notions like what is reality? The Bhagvad Gita is a summary of many works that came before it, like the Sankhya school of philosophy and the Upanishads.

Sankhya School of Philosophy

RopeThe Sankhya school of philosophy (mentioned in the Bhagvad Gita) talks about the interplay between purusha and prakriti. We often confuse ourselves with our bodies. Once we realize our souls are separate from our bodies, the pleasure and pain our bodies go through will not affect us.

They also believed that like a rope is woven of three cords, three gunas make up the material world- sattva, rajas and tamas. Again, this thought is covered in detail in the Bhagvad Gita and I discussed it in earlier posts, so I won’t go in detail here.

The Upanishads

The Upanishads were originally the Vedantas or the end of the Vedas. They eschewed the rituals of the Vedas for philosophical discussion. Now the concept of Brahman- the unchanging Ultimate Reality, the cause of everything- was born. The goal of Vedanta was to reach unity with the Brahman- the Ultimate Self by controlling our lower self and it’s impulses. This could be done through study and meditation. Thanks to Luke Muehlhauser’s Ancient Indian Philosophy: A Painless Introduction for providing fodder for today’s post.

Although the prinicipal Upanishads are a dozen odd, I’d like to focus on a few that caught my eye with their poetry. The Isha Upanishad, Kath Upanishad, Mundak Upanishad and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads are the ones I’ll write about from tomorrow.

Mani Rao has translated the Isha Upanishad, so I’ll use that. Picked up the wrong book today for my commute, so I can only write about that tomorrow! Will venture in other translations for the other Upanishads- Eknath Easwaran’s is one that also seems lively. Reader, do recommend any translations you like.





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