Orthodox and Heterodox


1. In India the Orthodox and Heterodox schools have different ways of functioning. The

principle difference lies in the fact that the Orthodox schools preach the Vedas while the Heterodox schools do not. There are six Orthodox and three Heterodox schools of Indian philosophy.

2. In the Vedic scriptures “what is heard” is referred to as “sruti” and “what is remembered” is referred to as “smriti’. Sruti is a verbal/oral form while smriti is a mostly written form and secondary to sruti.

3. The Upanishads are known to be secret lessons on the nature of reality and the depth of nature. The teachings are disclosed only to and by special teachers.

4. The Vedic world looks up to the Mahabharata and Ramayana – epics, for their legal, social and ethical regulations. These regulations are said to challenge Jainism, Buddhism and

Religion in India

5. The three Heterodox schools are listed below:

  • Jainism – founded by Vardhamana;
  • Buddhism – founded by Prince Siddhartha Gautama
  • Materialism – founded by Carvaka

6. It is believed that “Mimamsa” refers to investigation; the Purva-Mimamsa is considered as the investigation into the right interpretation of the first two parts of the Vedas (sacrifice and rituals). Uttara- Mimamsa is the investigation into the right interpretation of the nature of a Brahman (Upanishad).

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7. The six Orthodox Indian schools of philosophy are as follows:

  • Nyaya – emphasizes the power of the mind; and the importance of acquiring knowledge and removing ignorance. It brings in the concept of the soul being separate from the organs and senses.
  • Vaishesika – emphasizes on the significance of the individual and supports the idea of the soul being a separate entity. It also speaks about materials and detachment from them.
  • Sankhya – focuses on the theoretical knowledge. It tells about the soul being indestructible.
  • Yoga – is based on the practices of the Sankhya school and focuses on discipline and detachment.
  • Mimamsa – focuses on the interpretation of the Vedas. Purva-Mimamsa is about the last two parts of the Vedas. Uttara-Mimamsa is considered to be the Vedanta.
  • Vedanta – refers to the “end” of the Vedas and considers Brahmans to be the ultimate reality. It is also known as the Upanishad.

9. Three main reporters of Vedanta and its positions are:

  • The first teachings of the Upanishads
  • The Bhagvad Gita known as Gita
  • The Vedanta

10. India has a rich history of philosophers. Rabindranath Tagore was a poet and philosopher. Bhagavan Das guided the Indians with his spiritual teachings. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is known worldwide for his philosophy and how he drove India to its independence. Sri Aurobindo Ghose was known for learning about the “ascending and descending” process of the Divine. Last but not the least Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan – one of the most modern Hindu philosophers.

11. Buddhism is driven by three main beliefs:

  • The life of Buddha
  • The teachings of Buddha
  • The Buddhist order which is committed to Buddha’s teachings.

12. There are two main Buddhist schools – the Theravada and the Mahayana. The Theravada looks at Buddha from a more human point of view and connects with him on the more “feelings and emotions” level. On the other hand, the Mahayana thought of Buddha as connects only externally with the worldly life. It is more of a spiritual connection.

13. Some of the earliest Buddhist schools referred to the world as “illusionary” in terms of the of the souls being indestructible and going through various lives, each projected in the illusionary life. Other Buddhist schools considered the world to be real with all its component energies.

14. Asanga and his half-brother Vasubandhu are considered the founders of the Yogacara form of Mahayana Buddhism. Nagarjuna and his disciple Aryadeva are believed to be the founders of the Madhyamik form of Mahayana Buddhism.

15. Buddhism is observed to have a steady decline in India after bhakti movements became popular; the Islamic Rule and destruction of Buddhist temples contributed to the decline as well; though Buddhism had faded into the background the Sangha’s teachings continued to be widespread.

Religion in China

16. The three most important philosophers of Confucianism were – Confucius himself, Memcius and Hsun Tzu. While Confucianism itself was based on humanity and morality, Memcius and Hsun Tzu advocated different aspects of it. While Memcius believed in empowerment through education and strengthening of the mind, Hsun Tzu promulgated an authoritarian and legalistic approach – consisting of rules and rites.

17. Taoism and Confucianism do disagree on a few vital perceptions. Confucianism focuses more on the “righteous” way to live a life whereas Taoism is more free-flowing and focuses on the “natural” way of living a life – in getting in touch with the nature. Confucianism believes in leading a good life by being a righteous and good person, Taoism transcends humanity and speaks of connecting with the Tao – the ultimate reality.

18. Tao is most popularly described as “the ultimate reality”. It is considered impossible to define what exactly Tao means because it is something that is eventually discovered enroute.

19. Mo Tzu advocated “universal love”. According to him people should love everybody just as they love their families. Apart from promulgating universal love he also observed the need of moderation in the social affairs – especially funeral rites.

20. Han Fei’s attitude towards human nature was quite different from that of Confucius. He claimed that human nature is bad and that every individual is selfish and wishes fame and freedom from poverty. Han Fei Tzu developed a very legalistic view towards Confucianism and was more concerned about the rules and rites.

21.The resurgence of Taoism accompanied by Buddhism being introduced in China is observed in the middle period. Confucianism became the official state philosophy, however it faced competition (in terms of popularity) from Buddhism.

22. The Confucianism Old Text school criticized superstitions while emphasizing divinations. Wang Ch’ung was an important figure in the Old Text school. The New Text school was a characteristic of Tung Chung-shu.

23. The Neo-Taoist view of Tao enabled the acceptance of the metaphysical principles of Taoism. It also raised the level of development being manifested in wu (nothingness).

24. The Buddhist teachings are worldly and based on the idea of nirvana. The Confucian teachings concentrated on the concept of self, family and society.

25. In China the Buddhist teachings happened through modification and assimilation. The upper class and commoners generally showed interest in the various approaches of Buddhism, and the lower classes seemed to be more comfortable with the doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism.

26. Two important Buddhist schools in China were theT’ien-t’ai and Ch’an. The T’ien-t-ai dealt with the concept of a “single absolute mind” called Bhutatatthata while the Ch’an dealt with concepts of meditation and dharma.

27. The Buddhist and Confucius teachings opposed each other on the point of “self”. According to the Buddhists there was no-self while the Confucians and Ne-Confucians believed in the concept of “self”.

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28. According to the Neo-Confucianist Chu Hsi the Tai, li, and chi are centralized around the Heavenly principles and do not operate on their own.

29. Two leading schools of thought – the School of Principle and the School of Mind were based upon the belief that the human mind is completely unified and perfectly reflects the principle of the universe. However, the scholars of the School of Principle believed in the empirical investigation and the discovery of the principles inherent in all material and intellectual processes, and the scholars of the School of Mind emphasized the idea of the human mind being identical to the universal mind or the Ultimate (li and Chi). Also, the School of Mind did not distinguish between mind, nature and feelings.

31. The modern Chinese philosophy took form the traditions of Buddhism, Confucianism, Neo- Confucianism and Western philosophical imports. Marxism with its practical approach started becoming more popular

Religion in Japan

32. Zen Buddhism, unique to Japan, was one of the highlights of early Buddhism. It is believed to have been imported there from China.

33. Dengyo Daishi is considered the founder of the “Tendai”, and Kobo Daishi is considered the founder of the Shingon sect. The Tendai school used the Lotus Sutra (Saddharmapundarika) to spread awareness of the fact (according to them) that every person was capable of becoming Buddha. The Shingon school systemized the teachings of a Chinese called Mi-Tsung and emphasized on medical formula, mantras etc.

34. Buddhism enhanced the importance of family for the Japanese and also brought in a sense of well being, as it was believed to prevent illnesses and droughts.

35. Confucianism fitted in with the Japanese notions of “Heaven and Human affairs (a mutual relationship between the two)” and “Final Piety” and gathered a stronger foothold in their believs.

36. Japanese Buddhist schools mainly taught with the help of figures. Names of some teachers and their teaching methodologies are listed below:

  • Joboshu taught by Honen Shonin – by instilling faith in chanting the Buddha’s name.
  • Hokke taught by Nichiren – using the Lotus Sutra and Tendi/Shingon ideas
  • Zen founded by Eisai – used the importance of meditating.

37. In Japan Zen Buddhism was the result of a genuine discussion of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. This discussion forms the practical code of the Samurai that dema (self-discipline).

38. The three most important schools of Neo-Confucianism in Japan were – the Chu His school, the Wang-Yang-Ming school and the School of Ancient Learning. There was a school called the Kokugaku which was against Neo-Confucianism and felt the need to return to the teachings of old sages including Confucius and Mencius.

39. Some of the famous texts of the Chu Hsi school are:

  • The Analects or Lunyu
  • The Book of Mencius
  • The Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Men

Some of the contributors are listed below:

  • Fujiwara Seika – Zen thought
  • Hayashi Razan – Idea of Ronin
  • Yamazaki Ansai – Idea of Acupuncture
  • Kaibara Ekken – Ideas of Astronomy/Biology/Medicine and Agriculture.

40. The Chu Hsi School believed in the idea of scholarships and serious study plans; it involved the study of the content laws of nature and the human society. The main representatives of this school were Fujiwara Seika (Zen), Hayashi Razan (Fujiwara’s student) and Yamazaki Ansai (Confucian).

The Wang-Ming school stressed “action” over analysis and considered it the determinant of knowledge. The main representatives of this school were Nakae Toju (believed in the intuitive character of each person), Kumazawa Banzan (was more concerned about the poor than education) and Oshio Heilchiro (philosophy and Martial Arts).

41. The Kogakuka school propagated the Ancient Learning against the Neo-Confucian dissemination. It had to return to the teachings of Confucius and Mencius in a genuine way. The texts of this school were the Forty Seven Ronin.

42. The Tokugawa policy of the national isolation closed Japan to foreigners. In order to keep up with advancements in the Western Technology and medicine during that period Japan developed contacts with the Dejima (Dutch) and established a connection between Rangaku (Dutch studies) and Westernization.

43. The Kokugaku National Learning School was set up as an attempt to find support for a distinct national identity and pre-eminence in the early literature and native documents.

44. Some of the most important figures in the modern Japanese philosophy are listed below:

  • Nishimura Shigeki, Inoue Enryo – Marxism; Marxism and Religion
  • Onishi Hajime – Critical Thinking
  • Nishi Amane, Abe Jiro – Personalism
  • Watsuji Tetsuro – Ethics
  • Nakae Tokusuke, Amano Teiyu – Universal ethics
  • Tomonaga Sanjuro, Kato Hiroyuki – Self and Culture

45. Nishida Kitaro’s notion of “pure experience” gave rise to three major ideas which formed the foundation of the Kyoto school. They were – reality, ethics and religion. Two other leading figures associated with the Kyoto school are Tanabe Hajime and Nishitani Keiji.

46. Watsuji Tesuro was one of the most important modern ethics philosophers. He stressed on the importance of strong Japanese rationality in keeping with the intellectual and cultural history of Japan. Watsuji Tesoro’s ethics were based on the philosophical anthropology.


1. The philosophical message of the Nasadiya Hymn is relevant in the Rig Veda. The world is believed to have been created in two stages; in the first stage the world is a single entity commonly represented as an egg floating in the waters. In the second stage the single entity is divided into two – the Heavens and the Earth. The Nasadiya Hymn is about the first stage and describes the mechanism of emergence from a state of manifest.

2. The terms “atman” “Brahman” and “tat tvam asi” are of great importance in the Upanishads. Atman refers to one’s true self, Brahman refers to the ultimate reality, and Tat Tvam Asi refers to the idea of “thou art that” or roughly translated who you are.

3. In the Bhagvad Gita Lord Krishna discusses the questions of reality – the most important of them all about being Atman and Brahman. It is his message that Brahman means being and that fact is not affected by the world or any events.

4. The three aspects of the Brahman nature are as below:

  • Creative principle of reality
  • All the encompassing
  • All being

5. The Vaishesika atomist theory reduces the nature of reality; and consequently the universe, and arrives at the conclusion that all material objects are made up of atoms.

6. The three stages are achieved during the process of evolution of purusha from the unity of purusha and prakriti – from soul to spirit.

7. The three “gunas” (characteristics) of prakriti are:

  • Transparency
  • Activity
  • Inactivity

8. The Satkarya and asatkarya Veda differ in the fact the former is an existent effect and the latter a non-existent effect; the effect does not pre-exist.

9. Sankara viewed the world as unreal and an illusion. The non-dualism of the Advaita is rooted in three interpretations – the Upanishads, Brahma Sutra and the Bhagvad Gita. The Badranarayana is interpreted as monoism and reasserts that in reality the world is of one substance.

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10. To Sankara Brahmans are the “only” reality. There can be both nirguna and sarguna. Brahman is the only reality and what actually exists is Brahman.

11. Jiva and Atman united form Advaita in the Vedanta. Jiva refers to one’s reality and Atman refers to the Brahman.

12. According to the Sankara’s view the world is a result of Brahmans.

13. In the Vedanta the word avidya means a natural tendency to super-impose the self and non-self (Adhyasa). The word Maya (Adi/Mula Prakriti) refers to a name/form in its nascent stages.

14. According to Ramanujam reality boils down to three fundamental entities – God (Ishvara), the world (Matter) and Souls (Lives). Individual souls represent the body of God and make reality. The Brahmans restore great attributes to the world.

15. Madhva’s five distinctions are an opposite to the Sankara’s ideas of non-dualism; he describes them as dualist. The distinctions are listed below:

  • Between God and the Soul
  • Between God and the Matter
  • Between Soul and the Matter
  • Between one soul and another
  • Between one part of Matter and another part.

16. The Upanishads, Brahma Sutra and Bhagvad Gita cover the fundamental and the most important – final parts of the Vedas in a common way and send out the same message on the basic level.

17. Buddha was known to be silent when he did not want to make statements related to the metaphysical questions. However, he respected metaphysical questions regarding the ultimate reality.

18. The Three Marks of Existence within Buddhism are those of impermanence, suffering and non-self. According to Buddhism the sound knowledge impermanence and non-self will eliminate suffering.

19. Sravastivadin Schools: Realists – Everything exists. Material and Mental things are not illusions. They are direct perceptions of objects. Sautranika Schools: Perceptions of things are not possible, Nothing is permanent, everything is an illusion.

20. Mahayana Buddhism is based on the belief of Sunyata or nothingness.

21. The Nagarjuna’s middle way seeks to move away from the extremes and apply the views of reality. The two extremes are the “existence” of all things and the “non-existence” of all things.

22. Nagarjuna rejected the theories of cause and effect because they assumed only either a positive stance or a negative stance and consisted of static notions. He concluded that all things are relative to all other things.

23. The Vijnananvada view of reality advocates that nothing is real outside of the mind. It reigns on consciousness and believes that nothing is eternal.

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