Eastern Philosophy
Get Eastern Philosophy essential facts below. View Videos or join the Eastern Philosophy discussion. Add Eastern Philosophy to your Like2do.com topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Eastern Philosophy

Eastern philosophy or Asian philosophy includes the various philosophies of South and East Asia, including Chinese philosophy, Indian philosophy, Buddhist philosophy (dominant in Tibet, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia), Korean philosophy, and Japanese philosophy.[1][2]

According to Victoria S. Harrison, the category of "Eastern philosophy", and similarly "Asian philosophy" and "Oriental philosophy" is a product of 19th-century Western scholarship and did not exist in East Asia or India. This is because in Asia there is no single unified philosophical tradition with a single root.[3]

South Asian philosophies

Hindu philosophies

Adi Shankara the main exponent of Advaita

Hinduism is the dominant religion, or way of life,[note 1] in South Asia. It includes Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism[6] among numerous other traditions, and a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of "daily morality" based on karma, dharma, and societal norms. Hinduism is a categorisation of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid, common set of beliefs.[7] Hinduism, with about one billion followers[8] is the world's third largest religion, after Christianity and Islam.

Hinduism has been called the "oldest religion" in the world, and some practitioners refer to it as San?tana Dharma, "the eternal law" or the "eternal way";[9][10][11] beyond human origins.[11] Western scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion[note 2] or synthesis[12][note 3][12] of various Indian cultures and traditions,[13][14][15] with diverse roots[16][note 4] and no single founder.[20] It prescribes the eternal duties, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings (ahimsa), patience, forbearance, self-restraint, compassion, among others.[web 1][21]

In the early medieval times, after the rise of Muslim powers, Hindu philosophy was classified by Hindu tradition into six ?stika (Sanskrit: "orthodox") schools of thought,[22] or dar?anam (?, "view"), which accept the Vedas as authoritative texts,[23] and four n?stika (? "heterodox") schools which don't draw upon the Vedas as authoritative texts, and developed independent traditions of thought. Nevertheless, the various schools are in many ways related, and share various strands of though. The ?stika schools are:

  1. Samkhya, an atheistic and strongly dualist theoretical exposition of consciousness and matter.
  2. Yoga, a school emphasising meditation, contemplation and liberation.
  3. Nyaya or logic, explores sources of knowledge. Ny?ya S?tras.
  4. Vaisheshika, an empiricist school of atomism
  5. M?ms?, an anti-ascetic and anti-mysticist school of orthopraxy
  6. Ved?nta, the last segment of knowledge in the Vedas, or the 'Jnan' (knowledge) 'Kanda' (section). Vedanta came to be the dominant current of Hinduism in the post-medieval period.

The n?stika schools are (in chronological order):

  1. C?rv?ka, a materialism school that accepted free will exists
  2. ?j?vika, a materialism school that denied free will exists
  3. Jainism, based on the belief in ahimsa or non-violence towards all living beings
  4. Buddhism, based on the teachings and enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama

Each school of Hindu philosophy has extensive epistemological literature called Pramana-sastras.[24][25]

In Hindu history, the distinction of the six orthodox schools was current in the Gupta period "golden age" of Hinduism. With the disappearance of Vaisheshika and M?ms?, it became obsolete by the later Middle Ages, when the various sub-schools of Vedanta (Dvaita "dualism", Advaita Vedanta "non-dualism" and others) began to rise to prominence as the main divisions of religious philosophy. Nyaya survived into the 17th century as Navya Nyaya "Neo-Nyaya", while Samkhya gradually lost its status as an independent school, its tenets absorbed into Yoga and Vedanta.

Jain philosophy

Umaswati codified Jain philosophical thought in the Tattvartha Sutra, which is accepted by all Jains.

Jain philosophy deals extensively with the problems of metaphysics, reality, cosmology, ontology, epistemology and divinity. Jainism is essentially a transtheistic religion of ancient India.[26]:182 It continues the ancient ?rama?a tradition, which co-existed with the Vedic tradition since ancient times.[27][28] The distinguishing features of Jain philosophy are its belief on independent existence of soul and matter, denial of creative and omnipotent God, potency of karma, eternal and uncreated universe, a strong emphasis on non-violence, accent on relativity and multiple facets of truth, and morality and ethics based on liberation of soul. Jain philosophy attempts to explain the rationale of being and existence, the nature of the Universe and its constituents, the nature of bondage and the means to achieve liberation.[29] It has often been described as an ascetic movement for its strong emphasis on self-control, austerities and renunciation.[30] It has also been called a model of philosophical liberalism for its insistence that truth is relative and multifaceted and for its willingness to accommodate all possible view-points of the rival philosophies.[31] Jainism strongly upholds the individualistic nature of soul and personal responsibility for one's decisions; and that self-reliance and individual efforts alone are responsible for one's liberation.[32]

Throughout its history, the Jain philosophy remained unified and single, although as a religion, Jainism was divided into various sects and traditions. The contribution of Jain philosophy in developing the Indian philosophy has been significant. Jain philosophical concepts like Ahimsa, Karma, Moksa, Samsara and the like are common with other Indian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism in various forms.[33] While Jainism traces its philosophy from teachings of Mahavira and other Tirthankaras, various Jain philosophers from Kundakunda and Umasvati in ancient times to Ya?ovijaya Ga?i in recent times have contributed greatly in developing and refining the Jain and Indian philosophical concepts.

Buddhist philosophies

Vasubandhu (4-5th century CE) was a central figure of Yogacara as well as writing an influential work on Abhidharma, the Abhidharmakosa.

Buddhism is a system of religious beliefs based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Buddhism is a non-theistic religion, one whose tenets are not especially concerned with the existence or non-existence of a God or gods. The Buddha himself expressly disavowed any special divine status or inspiration, and said that anyone, anywhere could achieve all the insight that he had. The question of God is largely irrelevant in Buddhism, though some sects (notably Tibetan Buddhism) do venerate a number of gods drawn in from local indigenous belief systems yet this practice has taken on different meanings and has become a skillful mean within the Tibetan Buddhist practice.

Buddhist philosophy has its foundations in the doctrines of:

Most Buddhist sects believe in karma, a cause-and-effect relationship between all that has been done and all that will be done. Events that occur are held to be the direct result of previous events. One effect of karma is rebirth. At death, the karma from a given life determines the nature of the next life's existence. The ultimate goal of a Buddhist practitioner is to eliminate karma (both good and bad), end the cycle of rebirth and suffering, and attain Nirvana, usually translated as awakening or enlightenment.

See also: Buddhism -- Outline of Buddhism -- Schools of Buddhism


C?rv?ka, also frequently transliterated as Charvaka or C?rv?ka, and also known as Lokayata or Loky?ta, was a materialist and atheist school of thought with ancient roots in India. It proposed a system of ethics based on rational thought. However, this school has been dead for more than a thousand years.

Sikh philosophy

Diagram showing some of the important Sikh beliefs
  • Simran and Sewa - These are the Foundation of Sikhism. It is the duty of every Sikh to practise Naam Simran (meditation on the Lord's name) daily and engage in Sewa (Selfless Service) whenever there is a possibility, in Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship), in community centres, old people's homes, care centres, major world disasters, etc. "Ek ong kar Satanam" and "Waheguru" are some mantras used for this purpose. "Ek ong kar Satanam" roughly translates to "there is one God un-separate from nature and truth is its name". "Waheguru" is used as a meditative practice on the Lord's name.
  • The Three Pillars of Sikhism - Guru Nanak formalised these three important pillars of Sikhism.
    • Naam Japna - A Sikh is to engage in a daily practise of meditation and Nitnem (a daily prayer routine) by reciting and chanting of God's Name.
    • Kirat Karni - To live honestly and earn by ones physical and mental effort while accepting Gods gifts and blessings. A Sikh has to live as a householders carrying out his or her duties and responsibilities to the full.
    • Vand Chakna - Sikhs are asked to share their wealth within the community and outside by giving Dasvand and practising charity (Daan). To "Share and consume together".
  • Kill the Five Thieves - The Sikh Gurus tell us that our mind and spirit are constantly being attacked by the Five Evils - Kam (Lust), Krodh (Rage), Lobh (Greed), Moh (Attachment) and Ahankar (Ego). A Sikh needs to constantly attack and overcome these five vices; be always vigilant and on guard to tackle these five thieves all the time.
  • Positive Human Qualities - The Sikh Gurus taught the Sikhs to develop and harness positive human qualities that lead the soul closer to God and away from evil. These are Sat (Truth), Daya (Compassion), Santokh (Contentment), Nimrata (Humility) and Pyare (Love).

See also Sikhism - Sikh Beliefs - Basic Tenets of the Sikhism - Sikhism Primary Beliefs and Principles

East Asian philosophies


Confucianism(), developed around the teachings of Confucius() and is based on a set of Chinese classic texts.


Neo-Confucianism is a later further development of Confucianism but also went much more differently from the origin of Confucianism. It started developing from the Song Dynasty and was nearly completed in late Ming Dynasty. Its root can be found as early as Tang Dynasty, often attributed to scholar Tang Xie Tian. It has a great influence on the countries of East Asia including China, Japan and Korea as well as Vietnam. Zhu Xi is considered as the biggest master of Song where Neo-Confucianism and Wang Yangming is the one of Ming's. But there are conflicts between Zhu's school and Wang's.


Taoism (or Daoism) is traditionally contrasted with Confucianism in China. Taoism's central books are the Dao De Jing (Tao-Te-Ching), traditionally attributed to Laozi (Lao Tzu), and the Nan Hua Jing (Zhuang Zi/Chuang Tzu).[]


Legalism advocated a strict interpretation of the law in every respect. No judgment calls. Morality was not important[]; adherence to the letter of the law was paramount.


Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan. It is a sophisticated form of animism that holds that spirits called kami inhabit all things. Worship is at public shrines or in small shrines constructed in one's home. According to Shinto practice, relationship with the kami that inhabit this world is foremost in a person's duties; the kami are to be respected so that they may return our respect. Shinto further holds that the "spirit" and "mundane" worlds are one and the same. Of all of the tenets of this philosophy, purity is the most highly stressed. Pure acts are those that promote or contribute to the harmony of the universe, and impure acts are those that are deleterious in this regard. As a faith, Shinto is heavily influenced by Chinese religions, notably Taoism and Buddhism.

Modern developments

Neo-Hinduism and Hindu modernism

Gandhi with famous poet Rabindranath Tagore, 1940

In response to colonialism and their contact with Western philosophy, 19th century Indians developed new ways of thinking now termed Neo-Vedanta and Hindu modernism. Their ideas focused on the universality of Indian philosophy. The first of these movements was that of the Brahmo Samaj of Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833).[34]Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) was very influential in developing the Hindu reform movements and in bringing the worldview to the West.[35] The work of Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan have also had a large impact on modern Hindu thought.

Buddhist modernism

Hu Shi and DT Suzuki during his visit to China in 1934

Buddhist modernism refers to "forms of Buddhism that have emerged out of an engagement with the dominant cultural and intellectual forces of modernity."[36] Forces which influenced modern Buddhists like Anagarika Dhammapala, Chögyam Trungpa and DT Suzuki included Enlightenment values, Western Science and Romanticism. Buddhist modernism includes various movements like Humanistic Buddhism, Secular Buddhism, the Vipassana movement, and Engaged Buddhism.

New Confucianism

New Confucianism (Chinese: ; pinyin: x?n rú ji?) is a traditionalist revival of Confucian thought in China, beginning in 20th century Republican China and is associated with New Conservatism. Key New Confucians of the first generation are Xiong Shili and Feng Youlan. The second generation (1950-1979) include individuals like Tang Junyi, Mou Zongsan, and Xu Fuguan, all three students of Xiong Shili. Together with Zhang Junmai, the second generation published the New Confucian Manifesto in 1958.


Maoism is a Chinese Marxist philosophy based on the teachings of 20th-century Communist Party of China revolutionary leader Mao Zedong. It is based partially on earlier theories by Marx and Lenin, but rejects the urban proletariat and Leninist emphasis on heavy industrialization in favor of a revolution supported by the peasantry, and a decentralized agrarian economy based on many collectively worked farms.


Juche, usually translated as "self-reliance", is the official political ideology of North Korea, described by the regime as Kim Il-Sung's "original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought".[37] The idea states that an individual is "the master of his destiny"[38] and that the North Korean masses are to act as the "masters of the revolution and construction".[38]

Syntheses of Eastern and Western philosophy

There have been many modern attempts to integrate Western and Eastern philosophical traditions.

Arthur Schopenhauer developed a philosophy that was essentially a synthesis of Hinduism with Western thought. He anticipated that the Upanishads (primary Hindu scriptures) would have a much greater influence in the West than they have had. However, Schopenhauer was working with heavily flawed early translations (and sometimes second-degree translations), and many feel that he may not necessarily have accurately grasped the Eastern philosophies which interested him.

Recent attempts to incorporate Western philosophy into Eastern thought include the Kyoto School of philosophers, who combined the phenomenology of Husserl with the insights of Zen Buddhism. Watsuji Tetsurô, a 20th-century Japanese philosopher attempted to combine the works of Søren Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger with Eastern philosophies. Some have claimed that there is also a definite eastern element within Heidegger's philosophy. For the most part this is not made explicit within Heidegger's philosophy, apart from in the dialogue between a Japanese and inquirer. Heidegger did spend time attempting to translate the Tao Te Ching into German, working with his Chinese student Paul Hsaio. It has also been claimed that much of Heidegger's later philosophy, particularly the sacredness of Being, bears a distinct similarity to Taoist ideas. There are clear parallels between Heidegger and the work of Kyoto School, and ultimately, it may be read that Heidegger's philosophy is an attempt to 'turn eastwards' in response to the crisis in Western civilization. However, this is only an interpretation.

The 20th century Hindu guru Sri Aurobindo was influenced by German Idealism and his integral yoga is regarded as a synthesis of Eastern and Western thought. The German phenomenologist Jean Gebser's writings on the history of consciousness referred to a new planetary consciousness that would bridge this gap. Followers of these two authors are often grouped together under the term Integral thought.

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung was deeply influenced by the I Ching. The I Ching (Book of Changes) is an ancient Chinese text from the Shang Dynasty (Bronze Age 1700BC-1050BC), and uses a system of Yin and Yang, which it places into hexagrams for the purposes of divination. Carl Jung's idea of synchronicity moves towards an Oriental view of causality, as he states in the foreword to Richard Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching (Book of Changes). He explains that this Chinese view of the world is based not on science as the West knows it, but on chance.


Some Western thinkers claim that philosophy as such is only characteristic of Western cultures. Martin Heidegger is even reported to have said that only Greek and German languages are suitable for philosophizing.[39] It is still commonplace in Western universities to teach only Western philosophy and to ignore Asian philosophy altogether, or consider only newer Western-influenced Asian thought proper "philosophy". Carine Defoort, herself a specialist in Chinese thought, has offered support for such a "family" view of philosophy,[40] while Rein Raud has presented an argument[41] against it and offered a more flexible definition of philosophy that would include both Western and Asian thought on equal terms. In response, OuYang Min argues that philosophy proper is a Western cultural practice and essentially different from zhexue, which is what the Chinese have,[42] even though zhexue (originally tetsugaku) is actually a neologism coined in 1873 by Nishi Amane for describing Western philosophy as opposed to traditional Asian thought.[43]

See also


  1. ^ Hinduism is variously defined as a "religion", "set of religious beliefs and practices", "religious tradition", "a way of life" ([4]) etc. For a discussion on the topic, see: "Establishing the boundaries" in [5]
  2. ^ Lockard 2007, p. 50: "The encounters that resulted from Aryan migration brought together several very different peoples and cultures, reconfiguring Indian society. Over many centuries a fusion of Aryan and Dravidian occurred, a complex process that historians have labeled the Indo-Aryan synthesis." Lockard 2007, p. 52: "Hinduism can be seen historically as a synthesis of Aryan beliefs with Harappan and other Dravidian traditions that developed over many centuries."
  3. ^ Hiltebeitel 2007, p. 12: "A period of consolidation, sometimes identified as one of "Hindu synthesis," Brahmanic synthesis," or "orthodox synthesis," takes place between the time of the late Vedic Upanishads (c. 500 BCE) and the period of Gupta imperial ascendency" (c. 320-467 CE)."
  4. ^ Among its roots are the Vedic religion of the late Vedic period (Flood 1996, p. 16) and its emphasis on the status of Brahmans (Samuel 2010, pp. 48-53), but also the religions of the Indus Valley Civilisation (;[16]Lockard 2007, p. 52; ;[17][18]) the Sramana or renouncer traditions of north-east India (;[14][19]) and "popular or local traditions" ([14]).


  1. ^ Ram-Prasad, Chakravarthi; "Eastern philosophy" (2005)
  2. ^ Fischer-Schreiber, Ehrhard, Friedrichs; "Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion" (1994)
  3. ^ Harrison, Victoria S; "Eastern Philosophy: The Basics, Introduction
  4. ^ Sharma 2003, pp. 12-13.
  5. ^ Flood 2008, pp. 1-17.
  6. ^ Nath 2001, p. 31.
  7. ^ Georgis 2010, p. 62.
  8. ^ "The Global Religious Landscape - Hinduism". A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Major Religious Groups as of 2010. The pew foundation. Retrieved 2013. 
  9. ^ Bowker 2000.
  10. ^ Harvey 2001, p. xiii.
  11. ^ a b Knott 1998, p. 5.
  12. ^ a b Samuel 2010, p. 193.
  13. ^ Hiltebeitel 2007, p. 12.
  14. ^ a b c Flood 1996, p. 16.
  15. ^ Lockard 2007, p. 50.
  16. ^ a b Narayanan 2009, p. 11.
  17. ^ Hiltebeitel 2007, p. 3.
  18. ^ Jones & Ryan 2006, p. xviii.
  19. ^ Gomez 2013, p. 42.
  20. ^ Osborne 2005, p. 9.
  21. ^ PV Kane, Samanya Dharma, History of Dharmasastra, Vol. 2, Part 1, pages 4-5;
    Alban Widgery, The Principles of Hindu Ethics, International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 40, No. 2, pages 232-245
  22. ^ For an overview of the six orthodox schools, with detail on the grouping of schools, see: Radhakrishnan and Moore, "Contents", and pp. 453-487.
  23. ^ Klaus Klostermaier (2007), Hinduism: A Beginner's Guide, ISBN 978-1851685387, Chapter 2, page 26
  24. ^ Karl Potter (2002), Presuppositions of India's Philosophies, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0779-0, pages 25-26
  25. ^ P Bilimoria (1993), Prama epistemology: Some recent developments, in Asian philosophy - Volume 7 (Editor: G Floistad), Springer, ISBN 978-94-010-5107-1, pages 137-154
  26. ^ Zimmer, Heinrich (1969). Joseph Campbell, ed. Philosophies of India. New York: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01758-1. 
  27. ^ Sangave, Dr. Vilas A. (2001). Facets of Jainology: Selected Research Papers on Jain Society, Religion, and Culture. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan. ISBN 81-7154-839-3. , p. 14
  28. ^ Oldmeadow, Harry (2007). Light from the East: Eastern Wisdom for the Modern West. Indiana: World Wisdom Inc. ISBN 1-933316-22-5. ,p. 141
  29. ^ Warren, Herbert (2001). Jainism. Delhi: Crest Publishing House. ISBN 81-242-0037-8. 
  30. ^ Brodd, Jeffery; Gregory Sobolewski (2003). World Religions: A Voyage of Discovery. Saint Mary's Press. ISBN 0-88489-725-7.  pp.95-96
  31. ^ Mohanty, Jitendranath (2000). Classical Indian Philosophy. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-8476-8933-6. 
  32. ^ Carrithers, Michael (June 1989). "Naked Ascetics in Southern Digambar Jainism". Man, New Series. UK: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 24 (2): 219-235. JSTOR 2803303. p.220
  33. ^ Zydenbos, Robert J. (2006). Jainism Today and Its Future. München: Manya Verlag. 
  34. ^ Michelis, Elizabeth De (2005), A History of Modern Yoga: Patanjali and Western Esotericism, Continuum, ISBN 978-0-8264-8772-8
  35. ^ Georg, Feuerstein (2002), The Yoga Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass
  36. ^ McMahan, David L. (2008). The Making of Buddhist Modernism. Oxford University Press. page 6
  37. ^ Paul French (2014). North Korea: State of Paranoia. Zed Books. ISBN 978-1-78032-947-5. [page needed]
  38. ^ a b North Korean Government (2014). Juche Idea: Answers to Hundred Questions. Foreign Languages Publishing House, Democratic People's Republic of Korea. 
  39. ^ Augstein, Rudolf; Wolff, Georg; Heidegger, Martin (31 May 1976). "Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten". Der Spiegel. pp. 193-219. Retrieved 2013.  English translation by William J. Richardson in Sheehan, Thomas, ed. (2010) [1981]. Heidegger: the Man and the Thinker. reprint; 1st edition. Piscataway, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. pp. 45-67. ISBN 978-14-1281-537-6. 
  40. ^ Defoort, Carine. (2001). "Is There Such a Thing as Chinese Philosophy? Arguments of an Implicit Debate", Philosophy East and West 51 (3) 393-413.
  41. ^ Raud, Rein. (2006) "Philosophies versus Philosophy: In Defense of a Flexible Definition". Philosophy East & West 56 (4) 618-625. [1]
  42. ^ OuYang Min. (2012). "There is No Need for Zhongguo Zhexue to be Philosophy" Asian Philosophy 22 (3) 199-223.
  43. ^ Havens, Thomas R.H. (1970).Nishi Amane and Modern Japanese Thought Princeton: Princeton University Press, p.50.


Printed sources

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Top US Cities