About Hindu Scriptures
By Swami Sivananda
VI. Shad-Darshana (“Six Philosophies”), a.k.a. Upa-Vedangas
The six darshanas or ways of seeing things, are usually called the six systems or six different schools of thought. The six schools of philosophy are the six instruments of true teaching or the six demonstrations of Truth. Each school has developed, systematized and correlated the various parts of the Veda in its own way. Each system has its sutrakara, i.e., the one great Rishi who systematized the doctrines of the school and put them in short aphorisms or Sutras
The Sutras are terse and laconic. The rishis have condensed their thoughts in the aphorisms. It is very difficult to understand them without the help of commentaries by great sages or rishis. Hence, there arose many commentators or bhashyakaras. There are glosses, notes and, later, commentaries on the original commentaries.
The darshanas are grouped into three pairs of aphoristic compositions which explain the philosophy of the Vedas in a rationalistic method of approach. These pairs are:
nyaya and vaiseshika
sankhya and yoga
mimamsa and vedanta
The shad-darshana (the six schools of philosophy) or the shat-shastras are:
Nyaya represents the logical approach to spirituality, founded by Gautama Rishi:
Nyaya Sutras by Gautama Rishi: 537 sutras divided in five chapters, dealing with the analytical process of cognition.
Vaiseshika deals with the material aspect of creation and the path of discrimination, founded by Kanada Rishi:
Vaiseshika Shastra by Kanada Rishi: 373 sutras divided in twelve chapters, written as a supplemental science to nyaya, and acknowledging the authority of scripture.
Sankhya presents a dualistic conception of purusha (soul) and prakriti (nature), founded by Kapila Muni):
Sankhya Shastra by Kapila Muni: six chapters describing the world as real, and the purpose of life is freedom by understanding the difference between purusha and prakriti.
Additional texts on sankhya: Sankhya Karika by Ishvara Krishna
4. Purva (or karma) mimamsa
Purva mimamsa deals with outer practices, i.e. rituals, and was founded by Sage Jaimini:
Mimamsa Sutras by Jaimini in twelve chapters.
Yoga concerns itself with inner practice, and was founded by Patañjali Maharshi:
Yoga Sutras by Patañjali Maharshi : 194 sutras divided in four parts, expounding on the eightfold limbs process of God-realization. It is also known as raja yoga.
Additional texts on yoga:
Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The first systematic exposition on the much misunderstood science of Hatha Yoga.
Gheranda Samhita. The classic tantric text on yoga in the form of a dialogue between the sage Gheranda and an inquirer.
Shiva Samhita. A detailed Sanskrit classic on the practice of yoga.
6. Uttara (or sharirika) mimamsa, a.k.a. Vedanta
Vedanta concerns itself with the realization of the Truth, and was founded by Sage Vyasa:
Vedanta Sutras by Sage Bhadrayana .
Brahma-Sutras by Sage Vyasa : 555 aphorisms presenting the entire philosophy of the Vedas. A good knowledge of the Upanishads is required before studying this work.