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Over the ages, various schools of theology developed in Hinduism through a dynamic tradition of philosophical inquiry and debate. In Hinduism, darshana relates to the different ways of “seeing” the Divine and attaining moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth.

Six schools of thought, or darshanas, are recognized as the most influential:

 

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Vaisheshika: considered one of the most ancient atomic theories founded by Sage Kanada. Sage Kanada held that all matter is made up of atoms and these atoms are activated through Divine intervention. Vaisheshika and Nyaya eventually merged.

Nyaya: a system of logic proving the existence of the Divine as well as other core Hindu concepts such as karma. Nyaya insists that nothing is acceptable unless it is in accordance with reason and experience. The thoroughness of Nyaya logic and epistemology greatly influenced succeeding orthodox and unorthodox schools of thought.

Sankhya: considered one of the oldest schools of thought. Sankhya divides all of existence into two categories — Purusha(divine consciousness) and prakriti (matter). Very little Sankhya literature survives today, and there is some controversy over whether or not the system is dualistic because it propounds the existence of these two categories.

Mimamsa or Purva Mimamsa: interprets the rules of Vedic ritual, proffering perfection in ritual as a path towards moksha.

Yoga: more aptly Raja Yoga focuses on quieting the mind through an eight-limb system (Ashtanga yoga) as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for a balanced life and ultimately moksha.

Vedanta: arguably the most influential on modern Hinduism, this theology relies primarily on transcending one’s identification with the physical body for liberation. The means by which an individual can transcend one’s self-identity is through right knowledge, meditation, devotion, selfless service, good works, and other religious and spiritual disciplines. Major sub-schools of Vedanta include Advaita, Dvaita, and Visishtaadvaita.

 

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