Philosophers of Eastern Religions
Does anybody have any answers to the question of what is our purpose? Is there life after death? What do we need to accomplish while we are alive? What is real or moral? Is there a God? These are main philosophical questions that the human race has been trying to answer. Religion is an explained philosophy and be it divine or a practice, it is a way of life. It is not surprising to see that religion of the Eastern World had a few people stand out as important intellectuals. Sankara, Ramanuja, and Madhva were great intellectuals that interpreted the Upanishads, the philosophy of Hinduism, and taught their own interpretations. Buddhism started with Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, and later, Nagarjuna, a follower of Buddhism, offered his philosophy. (Oxtoby) Together, their teachings have been trying to answer the main philosophical questions as a basis for human faith.
In Hinduism, Sankara taught a form of thought called the Vedanta philosophy. Sankara's main position is that the soul of humans, atman, and the Ultimate Reality, Supreme Being, or God, Brahman, is non-dualistic. Each is a separate reality but tied together. "The deepest part of our being, is one with the essence of the world" (Radhakrishnan 507). Sankara also believed that ignorance was just illusion or maya. The absence of maya can be learned through the Brahman. (Basham) Moksa is knowledge that maya is illusion and to be free from it, one must learn truth. The way to learn truth is through devotion and ethics. (Radhakrishnan) Once a person knows the truth, then the life cycle of reincarnation or samsara ends. "The soul redeemed from reincarnation return[s] forever into the Brahman at the end of the world period" (Schweitzer 163). People caught in maya will continue false ethics although Brahman does not differentiate between good and evil. A better way of life and good ethics is a fight against samsara but is not going to end it. Action or karma of moral ethics and truth will. (Schweitzer) Sankara strongly believed in the teacher student role. Ignorance is illusion and the student not knowing the truth of Brahman remains in samsara. (Radhakrishnan)
Ramanuja is on the opposite side of non-dualism. Ramanuja believes that reality is dualistic. The Atman and the Brahman are separate. The main reason is maya is contained in atman and can not exist in the same reality with Brahman. The Ultimate Reality is infinite and maya is finite. How can a world of ignorance be contained in a world of all knowing. (Oxtoby) Ramanuja's analogy of how a "jug contains water" was in support that Atman and Brahman are not connected. (Van Buitenen 114) There will always be a Supreme Being to the Atman no matter how devoted or free the soul is. (Radhakrishnan) Through devotion of God, a person must do the good, be non-violent, truthful, and must know that the atman is contained in the body and not connected to it. ...