Shada darsana- Six philosophies

One Sanatana Dharma but different paths?

Do we ever wonder why there is so much confusion about God? India, the ancient and pious land known as Bharat Varsha, is supposed to be the spiritual center of the whole world, distributing spiritual knowledge to all the seekers. However, we find that great Indian philosophers and sages from India, each of them present a very different path and understanding of the Absolute Truth. No doubt genuine seekers get confused about where to go as all different philosophies seem logical and authenticate, being proven by various quotations from the Vedas. As a result, the general population got confused. Without the shelter of a bonafide spiritual master common man started considering demigods as equal to Supreme Lord, many became indifferent to our own culture, the rules and regulations thinking them to be outdated or dogmatic, gradually falling down into atheism. Is it a case of Chiraag tale andhera (darkness under the lamp)?

We will try to unlock this great mystery in two steps ( two blogs)-

  1. Understand six philosophies based on Vedas, called Sada Darsana
  2. Learn how theese six philosophies are not separate rather they are like different rungs of a ladder, gradually leading the practitioner to the top of the ladder- Supreme Absolute Truth.

In today’s blog, we will learn about six Vedic philosophies or Sada darsana. We will also see how more or less all the so-called great western philosophers fall in any one of them.

Seeing it from the eyes of Guru, Sadhu and Shastra

There are many theoretical philosophers in the world who put forward their own theories of cause and effect especially about the cause of suffering and its effect on different living beings. Generally there are six great philosophers: Kaṇāda, the author of Vaiśeṣika philosophy; Gautama, the author of logic; Patañjali, the author of mystic yoga; Kapila, the author of Sāṅkhya philosophy; Jaimini, the author of Karma-mīmāṁsā; and Vyāsadeva, the author of Vedānta-darśana.

(SB 1.17.18p)

Six schools of Vedic philosophy

(1) The Mīmāṁsaka philosophers, following the principles of Jaimini, stress fruitive activity and say that if there is a God, He must be under the laws of fruitive activity. In other words, if one performs his duties very nicely in the material world, God is obliged to give one the desired result. According to these philosophers, there is no need to become a devotee of God. If one strictly follows moral principles, one will be recognized by the Lord, who will give the desired reward. Such philosophers do not accept the Vedic principle of bhakti-yoga. Instead, they give stress to following one’s prescribed duty.

(2) Atheistic Sāṅkhya philosophers like Kapila analyze the material elements very scrutinizingly and thereby come to the conclusion that material nature is the cause of everything. They do not accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the cause of all causes.

(3) Nyāya philosophers like Gautama and Kaṇāda have accepted a combination of atoms as the original cause of the creation.

(4) Māyāvādī philosophers say that everything is an illusion. Headed by philosophers like Aṣṭāvakra, they stress the impersonal Brahman effulgence as the cause of everything.

(5) Philosophers following the precepts of Patañjali practice rāja-yoga. They imagine a form of the Absolute Truth within many forms. That is their process of self-realization.

All five of these philosophies completely reject the predominance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and strive to establish their own philosophical theories.

However, Śrīla Vyāsadeva wrote the Vedānta-sūtra and, taking the essence of all Vedic literature, established the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

All five kinds of philosophers mentioned above understand that impersonal Brahman is without material qualities, and they believe that when the Personality of Godhead appears, He is contaminated and covered by the material qualities. The technical term used is saguṇa. They speak of saguṇa Brahman and nirguṇa Brahman. For them, nirguṇa Brahman means “the impersonal Absolute Truth without any material qualities” and saguṇa Brahman means “the Absolute Truth that accepts the contamination of material qualities.” More or less, this kind of philosophical speculation is called Māyāvāda philosophy.

The fact is, however, that the Absolute Truth never has anything to do with material qualities because He is transcendental. He is always complete with full spiritual qualities. The five philosophers mentioned above do not accept Lord Viṣṇu as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but they are very busy refuting the philosophies of other schools.

(CC Madhya 25.56p)

Why only Vyasadeva?

There are six kinds of philosophical processes in India. Because Vyāsadeva is the Vedic authority, he is known as Vedavyāsa. His philosophical explanation of the Vedānta-sūtra is accepted by the devotees. As Kṛṣṇa confirms in the Bhagavad-gītā (15.15):

sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
 mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
 vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham

“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known; indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.

The ultimate goal of studying all Vedic literature is the acceptance of Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is propagating the philosophical conclusion of Śrīla Vyāsadeva and following other great ācāryas like Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu Svāmī, Nimbārka and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself.

(CC Madhya 25.56p)

It may be argued that Śukadeva Gosvāmī is not the only authority of perfect knowledge in transcendence because there are many other sages and their followers. Contemporary to Vyāsadeva or even prior to him there were many other great sages, such as Gautama, Kaṇāda, Jaimini, Kapila and Aṣṭāvakra, and all of them have presented a philosophical path by themselves. Patañjali is also one of them, and all these six great ṛṣis have their own way of thinking, exactly like the modern philosophers and mental speculators. The difference between the six philosophical paths put forward by the renowned sages above mentioned and that of Śukadeva Gosvāmī, as presented in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, is that all the six sages mentioned above speak the facts according to their own thinking but Śukadeva Gosvāmī presents the knowledge which comes down directly from Brahmājī, who is known as ātma-bhūḥ, or born of and educated by the Almighty Personality of Godhead.

(SB 2.8.25p)

Vedanta is the ultimate conclusion

You know there are six kinds of philosophies in India; the mīmāṁsaka philosophy; and Sāṅkhya philosophy; and nyāya—nyāya means logic—nyāya philosophy; then Māyāvāda philosophy; then Patañjali, yoga system, Patanjali philosophy; and at last, this Vedānta philosophy. So there are six kinds of philosophers. Out of them, only the Vedānta philosophy is compiled by Vyāsadeva. So it is considered that Vedānta philosophy only establishes the existence of God; all other philosophies, they do not admit the existence of God. They are atheistic philosophies.

( SPL, 24/1/1967, San Francisco)

The philosophy of Brahma-mīmāṁsā, or Vedānta, the ultimate conclusion of the Absolute Truth (janmādy asya yataḥ), propounded by Vedavyāsa. Actually Vedānta philosophy is meant for the devotees because in the Bhagavad-gītā (15.15) Lord Kṛṣṇa says, vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham: “I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” Vyāsadeva is an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa, and consequently Kṛṣṇa is the compiler of Vedānta philosophy. Therefore Kṛṣṇa clearly knows the purport of Vedānta philosophy. As stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, whoever hears Vedānta philosophy from Kṛṣṇa is actually aware of the real meaning of Vedānta. The Māyāvādīs call themselves Vedāntists but do not at all understand the purport of Vedānta philosophy. Not being properly educated, people in general think that Vedānta means the Śaṅkarite interpretation.

(CC Madhya 17.96p)

For eons, all over the world, research on the subject of kṣetra and kṣetrajña has been going on. In India the six philosophical schools have extensively discussed this topic, but this discussion has merely been an exercise in logic and sophistry that has led to many differing opinions among the sages. Hence none of these schools has truly practiced jñāna -yoga, the path of perfect knowledge. Only when discussion of kṣetra and kṣetrajña is applied in the Lord’s service does the exercise become jñāna -yoga

(Renunciation through wisdom, 3.2)

Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada – Empowered Acharya in parampara

So the Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya, they are also Vedāntist. And because Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya, they are concerned with the bhakti, bhakti, I mean to say, cult, therefore our society, the Vaiṣṇavas, they were pleased to give me this title, Bhaktivedanta that, “You will explain the Vedānta-sūtra.” So this Bhaktivedanta title was especially offered to me, and I do not know why. That’s all. So that Vedānta means bhakti, devotional service.

( SPL, 24/1/1967, San Francisco)

Devotees should know these six philosophies

Theism is explained completely in the Vedānta-sūtra, whereas in other systems of philosophical speculations, practically no mention is given to the ultimate cause of all causes. One can sit on the vyāsāsana only after being conversant in all systems of philosophy so that one can present fully the theistic views of the Bhāgavatam in defiance of all other systems.

(SB 1.1.7p)

I pray and hope that the above quotes from scriptures helped us to get a general understanding of six philosophies, or Shad darshan as they are called in Sanskrit. Krishna willing, in the next blog, we will hear how each of these six philosophies is interconnected, one leading to the next, gradually meant to elevate our consciousness up to the Supreme Absolute Truth- the lotus feet of Sri Krishna.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Seeing beyond contradictions.

Hare Krishna.

17th December, 2015. Gurgaon.


So many times one come across apparent contradictions in scriptures. Yesterday I read a beautiful explanation of inconceivable nature of Krishna by HH Romapada maharaj in reply to a question at It is so nice to hear explanations on such topics from a self realised soul, suddenly inconceivable becomes conceivable.

Question: I have a question regarding a statement I heard in the past and remembered recently: Seeming paradoxes are found in various places in scripture. For instance, in one scripture it may be said “all the forms of the Lord are equal,” while in another it may be said, “no other form of the Lord is as complete as Krishna.” While he didn’t use this particular example, I have heard from an advanced Vaishnava that such “contradictions” force us as readers to stop and contemplate instead of speeding along thinking that we understand things. I’m wondering if this understanding is correct and if you can elaborate to provide clearer understanding?

Romapada Swami

HH Romapada Swami: As you have hinted within your question, what ‘appears’ to be paradoxes or contradictions within scripture are only seemingly so; factually, there is no real contradiction.

In some instances, scriptures are deliberately filled with apparent double-talk. A typical example is the language of the Upanishads: e.g., “The Supreme Lord walks and does not walk. He is far away, but He is very near as well. He is within everything, and yet He is outside of everything.” (Isopanishad Mantra 5) Such contradictory statements are provided to indicate His inconceivable, transcendental nature. He walks, but His walking is nothing like the walking within this mundane realm. So, thanks to these paradoxes, we are induced to reconsider and reform the deep-rooted material conceptions in our mind when contemplating the Supreme Absolute Truth.

It is not necessarily that all such contradictions are purposefully presented by the scriptures in order to get us to contemplate. It is just the nature of Absolute Truth, which appears to us to be contradictory when we try to capture it within the limited vocabulary of language or within the limited framework of our material mind and intelligence. But by patient and repeated aural reception of the whole message, and by receiving clarification from a realized soul, such contradictions become resolved. The Bhaktivedanta Purports explicitly serve this purpose!

Some of these apparent contradictions, which often become topics of debate among inter-faith discussions, are resolved by understanding the example of higher and lower level mathematics. One may learn in a simple way in elementary math that it is not possible to subtract a bigger number from a smaller one, but as one progressively learns the concepts of negative numbers, rational and irrational numbers, imaginary numbers and so on, instead of seeing contradictions, one’s understanding becomes wider and deeper.

Are they really contradictions?

Often, what appears as contradiction is due to our own lack of understanding or preconceptions about what God or spiritual life must look like. Sometimes it is seen that even when Reality is presented in a very simple and straightforward manner, people find it hard to reconcile. A common example is in understanding how Krishna favors His devotees like the Pandavas. God is supposed to be impartial and yet He gives different rewards to different living entities and He particularly seems to favor and take the side of His devotees. This is not a contradiction, but appears to be so because of not understanding that He EQUALLY reciprocates with everyone as they approach Him. As one’s spiritual understanding and realization matures, such things cease to be contradictions but rather become another impetus for deeply appreciating the qualities of Krishna.

Another way to understand the same thing is that all contradictions are reconciled in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. That is to say, He is simultaneously equal and yet different from all of His other expansions, He is simultaneously impartial and yet partial to His devotees, He is simultaneously present everywhere and yet never leaves His abode in Vrindavan and so on.

Another fundamental reason for seeing contradictions is often due to not understanding Krishna’s Personal nature; Krishna is a Person and He has desires, likes and dislikes, and freedom. Behind all the variegated arrangements one can experience within the material creation, and behind all His dealings with different living entities — is Krishna’s very personal, loving, compassionate nature and inimitable capacity in reciprocating with His different parts and parcels. How He acts and why He does certain things may not always follow a set pattern or formula. Thus, His will is said to be “inscrutable”.

The common tendency amongst those educated in the modern school of rationalism is to try to subject everything, including spiritual topics, to analysis and rationalization and reductionism — but these tools fail us miserably in trying to understand Spirit. You are likely to be familiar with the famous example of the five blind men — each of them came up with completely contradictory pictures of the elephant, while in fact none of them were close to whole truth. Our approach to scripture is often like those blind men, and thus we run into many “contradictions”. Therefore, in order to learn the truth, it is indispensable to approach a seeing man, i.e. a self-realized soul. Under the guidance of such a spiritual master, one can systematically learn to reconcile all contradictions and see the Whole Truth.

We can read this and hundreds of more Q&As by HH Romapada maharaj at . We can even post our questions to maharaj at

By reading the above wonderful article by HH Romapada maharaj I learnt that there are no contradictions in scriptures, it is our limited understanding, by trying to see everything through our material intelligence and rationale,  lack of realisations (as opposed to mere information) and above all not knowing the personality of Krishna. The solution is to take shelter of a bonafide spiritual master and by patiently AND regularly reading Bhaktivedanta purports. I will share my own experience of ‘repeated’ hearing in a future blog.

All glories to HH Romapada Maharaj.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.