Astika and Nastika

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 26 15:20:01 CDT 1999

>While both Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta consider Sruti as Pramana, the other
>Astika ones don't always take this line. AFAIK, the Nastika traditions such
>as Buddhism draws heavily from the Upanishads but rejects the Karma Kand.
>Also, they (Buddhists) don't consider the Sruti to be Pramana. But neither
>do schools such as Sankhya. So why is one considered Nastika and the other
>Astika when both draw from Sruti but don't consider it to be Pramana?

The definition of nAstika and Astika is primarily based on the rejection or
acceptance of the shruti.

The standard nAstikas are ChAravAka, JainA and Bauddha. None of them
accept the shruti and none of them will accept that their doctrines
are derived from it.

All the six brahmanical schools - SAmkhya, Yoga, NyAya, Vaiseshika, Purva
and Uttara MImAmsa (VedAnta) are considered Astika, because all of them
accept the shruti as a valid means of knowledge.

The MundAka Upanishad talks of a false Self which feeds on the pleasures of
the world and the true Self which watches this impassively without being

The SAmkhya represents a valiant attempt at trying to work out a
scheme of metaphysics and psychology of the above formula using pure
logic ie the false Self with the world is PrAkriti (matter - which includes
our mental activity too) and the pure impassive Self is the Purusha. Since
all philosophy, reason etc depend on the basic fact of our existence -
consciousness, awareness - thus the Purusha is equated with pure
consciousness. It's simply trying to prove by logic how you could actually
be an unaffected entity despite all the travails experienced by you in the
world. (And the history of Indian philosophy shows that this is an
impossible task! - and thus the protests and development of the nAstika

But because they rely on logic, doesn't mean that the SAmkhya rejects
the shruti. They accept it, but just interpret it as per their worldview.
Our AchArya's objection with these schools is that they give more preference
to logic than to the shruti itself.

But one significant point is that the SAmkhyas don't have a creator
God in their scheme of things. But so doesn't the PUrva MImAmsa and
even early Vaiseshika. And it's *my opinion* that in their early
phases, except probably for the VedAnta, none of the schools accepted
a creator God - that's the reason salvation is due to *knowledge*
and not due to the will of God. For VedAnta the world itself is God
and the knowledge that you're "that" is the liberator. So rejecting
a creator God also doesn't make one a nAstika. The schools just
preferred to interpret the shruti without a creator God. Actually even
the LOkAyatikas (ChAravAkas) were infact a brahmanical school and were
tolerated aslong as they didn't reject the shruti. Their rejection of the
shruti was the cause of their being branded a nAstika.

Though this is the standard interpretation for Astika and nAstika,
some theistic schools have tried to place more emphasis on the
acceptance or rejection of God as the criterion. That's the reason
some of the AchAryas of the nyAya and other bhakti VedAnta schools
have branded SAmkhya and even Advaitam as nAstika (contrary to popular
belief Advaitam doesn't reject God - but instead rejects man!). But
such condemnation doesn't enjoy popular acceptance, since Advaitam
itself is the most influential school of philosophy in India and
considers SAmkhya/Yoga as closer to its philosophy/ideals than other

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