Understanding Indian philosophy through 3 Interesting Concepts and Terms!

Indian Philosophy Explained!

Some major philosophical terms and doctrines in Indian philosophy: 3 Interesting Concepts You Need to Know!

Understanding Indian philosophy through 3 Interesting Concepts and Terms

  1. Ontology: Ontology refers to a branch of philosophy which primarily deals with fundamental concepts such as reality, being, nature, existence, becoming and so on. It initially attempts to understand the basic and fundamental nature of these terms and then analyzes these terms as entities and attempts to fit them into certain distinct categories and then understands how do they fit into these specific fundamental categories. Ontology as a term is derived from the two Greek terms of ‘onto’ which translates as ‘being’ or ‘that which is’ and ‘logia’ which means ‘logical discourse.’ Ontology is primarily included as a branch of philosophy under the conceptual doctrine of metaphysics in philosophy.

Some of the fundamental concepts and questions that ontology focuses upon include the following:

  1. What constitutes the concept of reality?
  2. What can be considered to be existent?
  3. What is considered as a physical object?
  4. Can all existing entities be considered merely as objects?
  5. How many possible levels of existence are there and what constitutes a ‘level’?

A typical example of ontology from Indian philosophy would involve a discussion about the schools of Samkhya-Yoga tradition and the Nyaya-Vaisesika schools in Indian philosophy.

  • The Sankhya school of thought reduces the existence of the world and the Universe as being attributed to simply two concepts of spirit and matter. The term Sankhya is a Sanskrit term referring to reflection as a means to understand the nature of reality. This tradition considers matter and spirit as the ultimate form of reality and further considers the self as a pluralistic element and terms it as Purusas.

The Nyaya-Vaisesika schools of thought in Indian philosophy are also deep descendants of ontological realms of philosophy. They propose a theory that all the elements in the world are reducible as atoms (paramanu) and one’s experiences can be derived from the interplay of substance (function of atoms, their number and their spatial arrangements), quality, activity, commonality, particularity and inherence. Everything is composed of atoms, qualities, emerging from an aggregate/totality of atoms, but the aggregation and basic nature of these atoms is predetermined by cosmic forces. Although a particular substance is considered as a summation of qualities and activities, but is different from both. There are nine kinds of substances, which include earth(prithvi), fire (agni), water (jal), air (vayu), ether (akasa), time, space, soul and mind (manas).

2.Epistemology: Epistemology refers to the branch of philosophy which deals mainly with knowledge about things. It concerns mainly with perception, justification, reasoning, testimony and memory in order to understand one’s knowledge about any concerned concept. It basically relies on evidential information as a basis to assess and test one’s knowledge. It focuses on questions such as whether there should be a foundational belief in order to make the existence of an existing belief or proposition as plausible enough, it analyzes the potential sources of knowledge, how does one acquire knowledge and how is that knowledge considered by the mind in its essence.

One of the most remarkable features about epistemology as a discipline is that it pays equal emphasis on truth, knowledge, belief and justification. Knowledge in epistemological terms is understood as the development of a basic awareness and understanding of either a concept or about some personality. It is prominently acquired through discussion and deliberation amongst learned individuals or by persistent reflection based on the experience and insight acquired through the occurrence of uncertain events.

Truth can be understood as an attribute dealing with an acquaintance of facts and the nature of reality. Truth can be discovered in any form and not limited simply as a judgement or a belief but it can be existent also in the form of an utterance, narrative, proposition, statement or a testimony.

In most of the cases, belief is considered as equivalent to truth of facts, but it is not limited to justifying any fact but in turn gives an insight into the perspective ability and consciousness of the individual. It includes all attributes such as values, virtues, traits and the basic ideology of a person’s mind.

Similarly, there is justification which pays attention at testimonies, supportive statements and utterances which are supplemented to make one’s knowledge about a particular concept or belief as more plausible and it strengthens their trust onto it.

Epistemological beliefs and inspired schools of thought based on it include the Vedanta-Mimamsa philosophy and the Carvakas in the Vedas of Indian philosophy. The Mimamsa-Vedanta philosophy considers knowledge as an entity which is inherently known to be true by the individual possessing it. While the Nyaya-Vaisesika philosophy considers knowledge to be unconscious of itself until there are significant efforts made in order to realize it consciously by using rationalism and skepticism as instruments of challenging beliefs about several unchallenged conceptions of an ignorant mind. It translates majorly to the legal statement of “Innocent until proven guilty”, the only difference here is that in this context, it is particularly framed as “Innocent until reasonably challenged”.

In Indian philosophy, epistemology is conventionally understood as equalizing knowledge and cognition. Therefore, the Sanskrit term ‘jnana’ is understood in English both as knowledge and cognition, but unlike cognition knowledge cannot be false, therefore it is absurd to understand jnana as false.

On the contrary, the materialist ideological school of the Carvakas in Indian philosophy, denies inference to be an effective instrument in order to attain true knowledge since it doesn’t involve any sort of experiential intelligence and is simply based on assumptions and presuppositions of certain propositions and can be largely understood as ‘hearsay’. Whereas, it states that perception solely can lead one to the path of attaining true knowledge with correct cognitions, since it involves pragmatism in its core beliefs and also because it can be challenged and proven as conceivable or reasonably acceptable. Testimony and inferences, according to the Carvakas, are essentially false and weakened sources of information since they begin their skepticism itself by pre-supposing the given testimonial as true since it has been stated by an individual deeply devoted to that school of thought.

3. Monism: Monism refers to a view in Indian philosophy which considers a single cause as the Creator of the Universe in diversity and it simply doesn’t attribute creation and the existence of oneself as an effect of the presence of a particular deity or God. Therefore, this view appears in two forms, namely as kala (time) and aditi (the Infinite). It attributes the virtues of creation, sustenance, nourishment, existence and power of being the Ultimate Reality. The monists trace the existence of the individual as an entity since millions of years even preceding the existence of natural resources and the other elements of nature. But, since the individual himself is self-sustained, he therefore also possesses the latent power out of which could develop the entire Universe and even gods later.


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