The relationships of the Sanatana Dharmic tradition and its various sects

In India various religious sects have co-existed in an unusually peaceful atmosphere for centuries; another noteworthy feature is the fact that there had been a creative dialogue among these sects. The need to study this aspect of Sanatana Dharmic tradition is all the more relevant today as the exclusivist religious thoughts are shaking the foundation of civilization itself and to pretend ignorance of this clash is not possible anymore.

The relationships of the Sanatana Dharmic tradition and its various sects need a careful analysis; by this we shall be able to appreciate – those features that helped them co-exist and survive together without losing their distinct philosophical stands and mundane outlook and how by creative mutual exchange of thoughts and ideas contributed to the culture of peace This will not only emphasize the underlying connectedness of the truth taught at various times but would also be a help to understand the comparative contribution of these sects to the human thought. In particular a short analysis of the and Bauddha darshana in respect of their fundamental is attempted here.

The ritualistic bend of thought i.e. looking man into wider holistic connection of man with the cosmos through ritual (and the perennial search of real) in India gave great scope for analogies to explain real behind apparent, essence behind superfluous- the time-bound and the transcending ultimate. No wonder analogies have been liberally employed in Shruti, Smriti and mundane literature. Even in our daily conversation we are much given to use them.

In sphere of Dharmic tradition analogies played a seminal role in shaping the dialogues of the elect and perception and understanding of the masses. It was through these analogies, the complex philosophies were presented to the people across region. They made instant sense to people. They represented the essence of the philosophical school and acted as typical identity tags for them.

With roots in Upanishads, Vedanta or the school of the Aastika (orthodox and reverent to Vedas) philosophical system is a school that has shown incredible flexibility in structure and it has helped this school in assimilating many salient features of the other Aastika and even Nastikas without diluting
characteristic precepts.

Vedanta thus has taken preponderance over the other orthodox schools of Darshana. It developed into one so inclusive a system that it acted as bedrock for discussion for even dissenting schools. The reason was its inclusivity and ability to synthesize knowledge with daily life of a common man. This is a characteristic that is present in all those other schools that grew across vast tract of Bharatvarsha and survived to us today. Even the Bhakti school despite the obvious differences otherwise has used the Vedantic logic, analogies etc.; so much so that their differences are limited either to replacing the by a personal God or about the Adhikarbheda (competency of the aspirant) for the discipline and truth. Chronologically also the Bhakti Movement is the right successor of the Vedanta especially if we take into consideration the contribution of the Vedanta Darshana to it.

The Bhakti movement never had to face the type of opposition that Vedanta faced; there hardly are any examples where they were asked to defend against questions of the atheistic school of Jaimini or Kaplia; for them the floodgates had already been opened by Sankara. Various schools of the Bhakti movement were assimilative philosophically, but held rigid views of particular personal Godhead. Though Bhakti was a well established school before advent of Islam in the sub-continent, we can safely assume that advent of a religion so different in religious views, ethical and moral norms furthered its growth and resilience. It was Bhakti movement that supported the tradition when sources of learning was under intense pressure; knowledge so essential for faith was simply not available, the Varna and Jaati were increasingly sought to play the roles of tribes and clans of central Asian hordes, the Vaidic conception of universe was at low ebb and few reforms were attempted from within.

The reason behind the unmatched flexibility of the Vedanta philosophy lies in its ability to sustain the empirical or rational along with the super-conscious. Thus texts had been given preponderance over the Smriti. Vedanta concerns with the absolute and the essence of reality. The test of truth for it rests in an objects’ ability to exist in the three i.e, eternally, thus the phenomenal world stands falsified.

In his introduction to the commentary on Vedanta Sutra, questions the reality of our experience; our senses may deceive us, memory may be an illusion, the forms of the world may be a fancy; every knowledge is open to doubt but not the doubter. ‘All means of knowledge exists as dependent on self-experience and since such experience is its own proof there is not necessity for proving the existence of self.’ (2) Such a self (properly the identity of it) is posited as a being transcending the three awasthas (states namely that of wakefulness, dream and deep sleep) perceptible in its purity in the Turiya, (the fourth state); also called Pratyagatmana (meaning the one whose existence is understood by turning one’s vision inward), it is the substratum reality that persists in all awasthas and it is also the unborn eternal. The reality is Atman (also called Brahman) and alone real and is Sat-chit-ananda.

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