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A Journey Through Indian Thinking and the Road to Salvation

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Essay title: A Journey Through Indian Thinking and the Road to Salvation

When thinking about major centers of philosophical thought, most people automatically think about the great Western thinkers thinking about men from Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato to Descartes, Locke, and Kant usually forgetting about another substantial source of philosophy, the Indian subcontinent. The word philosophy is derived from Greek to mean “the love of wisdom” and the Indian people have shown that they truly possess this love from ancient times to today’s modern society. Indian philosophy tries to explain man’s existence from creation to death and what may lay beyond death all in relationship to religion. Indian philosophical thought is slightly different than the Western approach and can be broken down into six parts: (1) knowledge, (2) reality, (3) God(s), (4) space and the universe, (5) man, souls, and mind, and (6) salvation. The Western analogy to this these categories are, respectively: epistemology, ontology, theology, cosmology, psychology, and soteriology. The goal of Indian philosophy can be summed up by the following short and simple statement: right knowledge of reality yields salvation. Hindu religion is very complex and can be describe a rubber band that stretches and changes its shape to encompass a multitude of areas. Indian philosophy and the different schools of thought grew in order to develop the right knowledge that would lead to an understanding of reality and salvation but these developments are not know by most of the normal practitioners of Hinduism. Though not known by the majority, Indian philosophy has greatly affected the development and practice of Hinduism.

The story of Indian philosophy starts with the birth of the civilization on the subcontinent between the years three thousand BCE to twenty-five hundred BCE, depending on the scholar, with the Indus River valley, one of the four cradles of civilization. Like the other cradles, the Indus Valley Civilization arose in the fertile lands that surround the Indus River. The civilization flourished between its conception and around fifteen hundred BCE due to the incoming Aryan migrants. There are two different views by scholars on the Aryan migration into the Indus valley civilization. The first view, the Aryan migration thesis, is that the Aryans, a group of people originating in the Caucasus mountains region, spread east from their origins to eventually reach the fertile plains of the Indus valley and take over a the declining original civilization. From this view we get the term “Indo-European”, a term that links the West to the East in a number of facets. The second view, the cultural transformation thesis, is that the Aryan culture actually originated in the Indus valley and was not introduced by an outside source. No matter the thesis, the Aryan culture played a significant role in the development of Hinduism. From their culture and their interactions with non-Aryans in India, the Dravidians, came the Vedas, with the inception of the Vedas, Hinduism is born.

The practices and tradition of Vedic Hinduism are different than the form of Hinduism practiced today which is called Classical Hinduism. Vedic Hinduism was the popular form for about twenty-five hundred years and its dominance can be broken into two eras: the early Vedic period from three thousand BCE to fifteen hundred BCE and the late Vedic period from fifteen hundred BCE till five hundred BCE. The Vedas can be thought of as the foundation of Hinduism upon which everything else is built. From the early Vedic period comes the Rig Veda and the Yajur Veda. From the late Vedic period come the Sama and Atharva Veda. The Vedas are know as sruti literature and said to have been obtained by direct revelation. As a side note, all other religious texts are known as smrti literature. The material included in the Vedic texts can be broken down into four sections. The first category is Mantra, which are hymns to the various. Second, Brahmana give technical details of rituals from domestic, simple sacrifices to complex fire sacrifices (the practice of fire sacrifice is a major difference between Vedic and Classical Hinduism with Classical Hinduism placing an emphasis more on idol worship). Next, Aranyaka is manuals of Hindu sacramental ritualism. The last category, and of most importance to us, are the Upanishads which are the root core of philosophical authority. There are about one hundred and eight Upanishads with ten of them being of highest importance. Another piece of sruti literature of great importance to Indian philosophy is the Bhagavad-Gita, which comes from the epic tale Mahabharata even though the Mahabharata is an epic that is technically classified as smrti. The reason for this is that the Bhagavad-Gita is a section from the Mahabharata where the deity Vishnu, in the form of Krishna, and the epic hero Arjuna, a warrior and prince, have a discussion on the battlefield. Krishna

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