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Neo-Hindu Philosophy beginning in the 19th century C. Hindu philosophy is difficult to narrow down to a definite doctrine because Hinduism itself, as a religion, resists identification with any well worked out doctrine. Prior to the modern period of history, authors that we think of as Hindus did not identify themselves by that title.
Its historical usage is thus an umbrella term that identifies many related religious and philosophical traditions that are not clearly part of another Indian tradition, such as Buddhism and Jainism. However, many of the ideas and practices commonly associated with Hinduism can be found in adjacent Indian religio-philosophical traditions, such as Buddhism and Jainism.
Moreover, some of them are not common to all Hindu thinkers. Salient Features and False Starts i. If it were the case that a belief in karma is common to all Hindu philosophies, and only Hindu philosophies, then we would have a clear doctrinal criterion for identifying Hinduism.
Moreover, it is not evident that it is embraced by all sources that we consider Hindu. For instance, the doctrine of karma seems to be absent from much of the Vedas.
Karma is not a sufficient criterion of Hinduism, and it likely is not a necessary condition either. Polytheism Polytheism, or the worship of many deities, is often identified as a distinctive feature of Hinduism. However, it is not true that all Hindus are polytheists.
We could identify Hinduism as the set of religious views that recognize the divinity or exalted status of a core set of Indic deities, but this too would not provide a way to separate Hinduism from Buddhism and Jainism. Belief in certain deities might constitute a necessary condition of Hinduism, but it is not a sufficient criterion.
This approach will not do, for not all views that we consider Hindu recognize the validity of all of these values. This attempt to define Hinduism in terms of a simple doctrine fails, for some of what passes for dharma ethics, morality or duty in the context of particular schools of Hindu philosophical thought share much with non-Hindu, but Indian schools of thought.
Also, there is sufficient variation amongst the schools of Hindu philosophy on moral matters that makes defining Hindu philosophy solely on the basis of a shared moral doctrine impossible.
If there is a core moral theory common to all Hindu schools, it is likely to be so thin that it will also be found as a component of other Indian religions.
Thus, an ethical theory might be a necessary criterion of Hinduism, but it is insufficient. Varna Caste Finally, one might attempt to identify Hinduism with the institution of a caste system that carves society into a specified set of classes whose natures dispose them and obligate them to certain occupations in life.
More specifically, one might argue that Hinduism is any belief system wedded to the idea that any well ordered society is composed of four castes: This approach to defining Hinduism is essentially a rehabilitation of the idea that some core moral doctrine cements Hinduism together.
There are two problems with this approach that renders it unhelpful to identifying Hinduism. Yet, the term continues to be useful because it centers on a stance that separates Hindu thinkers from Buddhist, Jain, or Sikh thinkers. The stance in question is openness to the provisional validity of a core set of Hindu texts.
At the center of the canon of Hindu texts is the Vedas, followed by a large body of literature of secondary religious importance, which largely derive their legitimacy from Vedic thought.
Non-systematic Hindu philosophy is comprised of the philosophical elements of the primary and secondary bodies of canonical Hindu texts, while the systematic Hindu philosophies, which also adopt the congenial disposition towards the Vedas, find their definitive expressions in formal philosophical texts authored by professional philosophers.
Finally, Neo-Hindu philosophy of late likewise adopts a positive disposition to the Vedas, and hence constitutes the latest offering in the history of Hindu philosophy. The Religious Texts a. The Four Vedas The Vedas are a large corpus, originally committed to memory and transmitted orally from teacher to student.
On the basis of linguistic variations in the corpus, contemporary scholars are of the opinion that the Vedas were composed at various points during approximately a year span that can be no later than B. The Vedas are composed in an Indo-European language that is loosely referred to as Sanskrit, but much of it is in an ancient precursor to Sanskrit, more properly called Vedic.
Each of the four Vedas is edited into four distinct sections: However, the earlier portion of the Vedas is not entirely devoid of lofty or philosophical significance. Many of the mantras resurface in the latter portion of the Vedas as dense expressions of metaphysical theses.
This is the idea that the universe is a closed ethical system, supported by a system of reciprocal sacrifice and obligation.
Upon being bound and sacrificed by the gods, the various portions of the Cosmic Person become the various castes: Four major commentarial schools evolved to interpret the import of the later portions of the Vedas.
Over time, however, translations into vernacular languages became popular, and additional texts were authored in vernaculars.
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