Vedic knowledge comprises the four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sāma, and Atharva) with their numerous Samhita, 108 Upanishad, 18 Purāna, Mahabharata, dozens of Tantra texts, and so forth. The above texts, however, are not exhaustive; for example, they don’t contain meticulous details on astronomy, linguistics, grammar, logical reasoning, life sciences, architecture, economics and government, music and art, and so forth. The Vedic texts are also so expansive that it is difficult for anybody to even read all the texts in one life, let alone comprehend their meanings, or their ultimate conclusion. Considering these problems, the Six Systems of Vedic Philosophy were devised to (1) provide a detailed explanation of the key Vedic ideas, (2) present philosophical ideas separate from stories for academic development, (3) apply the Vedic knowledge to practical matters, and (4) complement Vedic texts with the works of other teachers who were followers of the Vedic tradition, but whose voice may have been left out of the Vedic texts. This post discusses the relevance of the Six Systems of Philosophy both for understanding the Vedic mainstream, as well as for how their approach can be the mainstay of academic activity.
Shankarāchārya’s life is full of amazing incidents, but there is one incident that I find particularly interesting. It is the story of how Shankarāchārya debated the husband-wife couple— Maṇḍana Miśra and Ubhaya Bhārati—on the primacy of Mimānsa vs. Vedanta. Aside from the significant philosophical shift that Shankarāchārya’s victory in this debate resulted in, the debate is also a watershed moment because Shankarāchārya had to debate Ubhaya Bhārati while being an sannyasi (who are forbidden from talking to women), and the topic of this debate included human sexuality (of which Shankarāchārya had no direct experience as he had entered sannyasa at the age 12). How Shankarāchārya navigated this treacherous battle, and came out victorious, provides significant insights and lessons into how similar kinds of battles should be fought and won in regard to modern philosophies of materialism, nihilism, and impersonalism.