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Darsana and Philosophy: From Oriental and Western Standpoint

The entire Vedic history has not depicted the inhuman traits and discrimination on any basis like sex, race, caste, color, religion, culture.
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Oriental Darsana

Philosophical birthright of Aryans in the Hin-Kush Himalayan range and Gangatic Plain flowered in between 2000 and 15000 B.C. In the bank of Sindhu River (Present Pakistan) Aryan prospered with civilization. Later they were called “Hindus”. It is said that Aryans to the date lacked the pronunciation of the sound ‘S’. Instead, they uttered ‘H’ for ‘S’. Hindu is a term given by Parasis. Aryans continued to migrate from central Asia towards east, Aryan flourished rich culture and science in the present territory known as Iran. 

Darsana takes its origin in the course of life and enters back into utility of life to make it more meaningful. The term “dars´ana” used in the oriental tradition for “philosophy” is a rough approximation and lends itself to a variety of meanings not connoted by its Western counterpart.  The word darsana came from the word drs which means to see or a “way of seeing.” “Seeing” as the end result of dars´ana is “seeing within”—the oriental seer sees the truth and makes it a part of his understanding. “Seeing within” should not, of course, be understood in a subjectivist sense; it signifies “seeing” or “insight” using the intellectual means with, the help of which insight is gained. Indian philosophy is not merely a search for knowledge of the ultimate reality but also a critical analysis of the data provided by perception. Leaving aside dars´ana, another term used to describe Indian philosophy is “a¯nvı ¯ks.ikı ¯,” which has been defined as “a critical examination of the data provided by perception and scripture.” It is the way of living and dwelling deeply into the problems of life, family, society and nation. Darsana is putting the intuition to proof and propagating it logically. Atmavidya or Brahmavidya are another terms for philosophy in eastern origin. Atmavidya is supported by Anviksiki or the science of inquiry. And Brahmavidya is an exposition of the external nature of reality or the innermost nature of the world. Defining philosophy is not easy task. In Sanskrit, Darsana literally means to make something revealed or obvious by process of investigation or logical reasoning. Some of the early Darsanik were Vasistha and Visvamitra, Yajnavalkya and Gargi, Buddha and Mahavira, Gautama and Kanada, Kapila and Patanjali, Badaryana and Jaimini, Samkara and Ramanuja. They are credited to establish the foundation of the oriental Darsan. They are the personality who sets the course of oriental philosophical history.  First recorded philosophy in east is the Vedic Darsan emerged in Aryan Civilization composed most probably around 2000 BCE (the earliest of the four Vedas)

The hymns of Vedas are the source of Indo-Aryan Philosophical tradition. Etymologically Vedas means intellect, wisdom or expertise. The Latin version of this term is ‘uied’. A section of knowledge or intellect reflecting on norms about socio-economic and political behaviors of persons was described as dharma, literally meaning ‘a body of rules or norms for acceptable behaviors. It covers all aspect of life. 

 According to Samkara ‘Darsana’ is an exposition of the external nature of reality or the innermost nature of the world. It is the self-expression of the growing spirit of mankind and the Darsanik are its voice. Darsana is a human effort to comprehend the problems of the universe; it is subject to the influences of race and culture. Darsana is human interest reflected in the way of life.

Types of Darsana 

  1. Vedic or Orthodox Darsana (Astik)
  2. Heterodox Darsana (Nastik)

Orthodox Darsana relies on the Vedas for the answer of the philosophical question. It regards Vedas as the ultimate source of knowledge and its authority cannot be challenged. And Heterodox Darsana rejects the authority of Vedas. There are six different schools of thoughts which upheld this Orthodox Darsana, they are Nyana Darsana, Baiseshika Darsana, Samkhya Darsana, Yoga Darsana, Mimamsa Darsana, and Vedanta Darsana( Brahmhinic Hinduism). Unlikely there are four different branches of Heterodox Darsana, they are Charvaka Darsana(Materialistic School), Buddhist Darsana, Jainism and Sikhism. 

Nyaya Darsana points out that no stable philosophy can be built except on the foundation of logic. The Baiseshika Darsana warns us that all fruitful philosophy must take into account the constitutions of physical nature. We cannot build in the clouds. Philosophic scheme must be in harmony with the result of natural science. Reality appears not only in science and human life, but in religious experience, which is the subject matter of Yoga system. The Purva Mimamsa and the Vedanta lays stress on ethics and morality as the foundation of Darsana. 

Chief function of Darsana is to distinguish the real from unreal, the external from transitory. Other functions are the ordering of life and the guidance of action, philosophy is steering that directs our course through the changes and chances of the world. When philosophy is alive, it cannot be remote from life of the people. The ideas of thinkers are evolved in the process of their life history. It sharpens the consciousness of human imperfection and thus deepens sense of perfection in us, which reveals the imperfection of our passing lives. That the world is not so transparent to our intellects as we could wish is not to be wondered at the philosopher is only the lover of wisdom and not its possessor. It is the end of the voyage that matters but the voyage itself.  To travel is a better thing than to arrive.

Western Philosophy

The discipline of philosophy emerged at a certain moment in history. It was not born as a natural organism. Rather it was an artificial construct that had to be invented and legitimatized as a new and unique cultural practice. This took place in Athens in the Fourth century BCE, when Plato appropriated the term ‘philosophy’ for a new and specialized discipline. Before Sixth century BC philosophy, science and theology were not separate. Philosophy as a separate subject matter began with Thales from Greece who predicted eclipse that occurred in the year 585 B.C.  The word ‘philosophy’ has its root in Greek term philosophia, literally it means the love of wisdom or search of wisdom (philein = to love + Sophia = wisdom) in the sense of theoretical or cosmic insight. In the ancient time philosophy represented the academic study of anything. Philosophy thus originally signified any general practical concern, encompassing in its scope what today are generally known as the natural and social sciences. It came to be more understood as a way of thinking about questions. Philosophy has its root in man sense of wonder. As used originally by the ancient Greeks, the term “philosophy” meant the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and comprised all areas of speculative thought, including the arts, sciences and religion

The early development of civilization in Egypt and Mesopotamia was due to the Nile, the Tigris, and the Euphrates, which made agriculture very easy and very productive. The civilization was in many ways similar to that which the Spaniards found in Mexico and Peru. During the course Philosophy was again sunken by theology as Christianity rose and Roman fell. Its second great period, from the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries, was dominated by the Catholic Church, except for a few great rebels, such as the Emperor Frederick II (1195-1250). This period was brought to an end by the confusions that culminated in the Reformation. The third period, from the seventeenth century to the present day, is dominated, more than either of its predecessors, by science; traditional religious beliefs remain important, but are felt to need justification, and are modified wherever science seems to make this imperative. Few of the philosophers of this period are orthodox from a Catholic standpoint, and the secular State is more important in their speculations than the Church. Descartes is the founder of modern philosophy. 

Philosophy is the vision of truth and philosophers are those who does not give up but tirelessly pursue his quest for the truth. It denotes the particular and rigorous exercise of rationality. They are the one who love wisdom; recognize that there is a lot they do not understand, who knows in reality very little. Philosophy is not something one can learn but perhaps one can learn to think philosophically. Philosophers have always dwelt in the search for the answer or the questions like, how the world is came into origin, what is god, what are its features, is there life after death, what is knowledge, what is real and unreal and many such. Philosophers aim at the truth about fundamental matters, and in doing so they offer arguments. And that particular argument is philosophy. 

An overview on Eastern Darsana and Western Philosophy 

The context of oriental philosophy is particular to a specific set of cultural conditions, and its lineage is likewise different from the complex set of social, cultural, intellectual, and sociopolitical forces that have formed Western philosophy. Philosophy is the critical study of the most fundamental questions that human kind has been able to ask. The philosophy in the west are most commonly divided into Metaphysics- the branch of philosophy that study the nature of reality, Epistemology- study of nature of knowledge and Value theory- study of ethics and aesthetics. Whereas: eastern philosophy sees them together. Oriental philosophy is greatly older than the western philosophy. It is even challenging to mark out the exact date of origin of eastern philosophy. On the other hand most scholars agree that western philosophical tradition began in pre-Christian Greece. The philosophy in the east is outcome of what the philosopher lived and teach the people to live the life in genuine way. Philosophy is not different from life itself in east whereas west nurtured philosophy as love of wisdom and not its possessor. The inquiry of knowledge gave birth to western philosophy unlikely the virtue of living ideal life gave rise to eastern philosophy. Philosophy cannot be learned but one can be learn to be philosophical. The scholars in the eastern world considered that their personal identity was less important. They rather focused in objective of the literature which aimed to explain about final truth that would open way for Mokshya attainment of Parmatma- Salvation. Probably, therefore, authors of these texts did not feel necessary to earmark the date of origin uniquely.   The entire globe is balanced and controlled as coincidence of both Eastern and Western philosophy. Eastern and Western Philosophy is regarded as the two wheel of the same cart. Cart here means the whole world.  It is the claim of generation to make aware that Nepal is the Nation of Mount Everest, Sita, Bhrikuti and Araniko are pre-ambassador of peace, Nation of Gautam Buddha and to convoy the Vedic essence of peace and intellectual essence to the whole world. The entire Vedic history has not depicted the inhuman traits and discrimination on any basis like sex, race, caste, color, religion, culture. Our entire civilization has been shaped by the Vedas, epics like Mahabhatata, Ramayana, Bhagwata Gita, and Upanishads.

Oriental philosophy has always been the bedrock for the establishment and continuity of the human values like gratitude, sacrifice, philanthropic, duty, goodwill, respect and humbleness. Duty is more emphasized than rights. Oriental philosophy is rich and variegated and has always regarded every living and non living organism as equal on the basis of rights. They respect vegetation, water, air, stone, sun, mud as theses are reflected in their worship. Entire nature is worshiped.  These are some of the common values created by the oriental philosophy.  

Though the history of philosophy is different, it has shaped the human reason to of the people living in the world. Philosophy has always guided the way of life of people as steering guides the vehicle to reach its destination. There are numerous of philosophical question yet to be answered which hopefully in the coming days the philosophers will answer. Philosophy is giving meaning to life. of logical reasoning. Philosophy in the oriental tradition was not simply an intellectual luxury, a merely conceptual hair splitting, a mere attempt to win an argument, or defeating an opponent, although all these excesses characterized many works of oriental philosophy. Underlying these excesses, there was an awareness of a thorough process of thinking towards a distant goal on the horizon for the individual person or for humankind as a whole.

Author Ravi Shankar Chaudhary is LLM( Criminal Law and Justice)Student at Kathmandu School of Law.

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