In the normal evolutionary cycle of life, one progresses slowly from one stage to the next stage. One moves, from the ordinary struggle for material existence in the world to the higher truths of existence. The attempt to unravel the higher truths is an internal journey. An attempt to embark on such path and its understanding is generally called Philosophy. It also means love of knowledge. Serious reflections on such ideals by our ancient savants, sages, seers, rishis brought them intuitive perception and various mystical experiences, which gave them a clearer and deeper understanding of life. This seeing or experiencing got the appellation ‘Darshan’.
Almost all the darshans found to their dismay that life is full of misery and hence their chief aim became to alleviate it. The drive of inner search by our ancient Hindu sages lead them to form six different schools of thoughts which today are called Shad Darshan. Three underlying things, which are essential for it, are
Shravan (attentive listening to the precepts of truth expounded by Rishis.)
Manan (Sincere and continuous reflection on truth.)
These became the chief tools of Hindu philosophers in their quest for truth. All hold Vedas as their prime source of inspiration for enlightenment and believed that following it one can surely find truth and hence freedom from misery and suffering. The six schools of thoughts laid down by our ancient rishis are as follows:
Nyaya Darshan : written by rishi Gautam, around 550 BC.
Vaisheshik Darshan : written by Rishi Kanad, around 600 BC.
Samkhya Darshan : written by Kapil Muni.
Yogdarshan : written by Sage Patanjali, around 200 BC.
Mimansa Darshan : written by Rishi Jaimini, around BC 200
Vedanta Darshan : written by Rishi Badrayan, around 500-200 BC.
Their teaching were written in the form of Sutras, memorized and orally transmitted by Guru to his disciple, thus there were no chances of wrong information. Later on, various scholars wrote commentaries and expositions on them, which were called Bhashya, Tika, Vritti or Vartika etc. in poetry and prose. Debating with each other their own and others point of view this knowledge was deepened and sharpened.
All differed with each other on their philosophies but they unanimously agreed on a few points,
Presence of human suffering,
Need to attain total freedom from this misery and suffering,
Belief in the law of karma,
Life is given to improve upon our karmas to achieve higher spiritual pedestal.
One thing which was common to all the great rishis who laid down these different thought schools was that they all were ascetics of the highest order and continuously meditated on the higher self or atma. Thus through inner journey they laid bare the path to final emancipation, both through Gyan and Vigyan.