Much transpired in the Indian subcontinent over a very very long period of time, in terms of definitive understanding about life and its reality before accepted, peer validated thought systems were codified for the civil world to ponder, practise and know. The happenings pertain to times so long ago that it is well nigh impossible to hazard a guess as to when it took place. But the thought systems themselves are astonishingly clear even millennia after they had been in vogue, each preserved in series of pithy texts outlining the content from start to end.
Each one of the six thought systems present the second, or shall we say the reverse, flow of consciousness : from the individual to the universal, the whole. In Dr Kenneth Chandler’s words : The first flow of knowledge of the Veda is the flow from the One into the many. The eternal oneness of pure Being or pure consciousness knows itself. And in knowing itself, it breaks itself into many. The infinite One collapses into a point, and into infinitely many points. These points of consciousness are finite, separate, isolated points of individual consciousness. But they are all ultimately points of the one infinite whole of consciousness. Each is a collapsed point of the infinite whole, and in the process of returning to wholeness, the finite points of consciousness expand back into the infinite One from which they began. This is the fundamental process of creation that is expressed in the Rig Veda and in the Vedic literature.
The referred thought systems acknowledge the Vedas as their base and their nature or goal is set in its accord. Though this quote of Dr Chandler pertains to the Vedas itself, I present it in the context of what the originator and pioneers of the thought systems have shared : The Veda is expression of the knowledge the seer passes by while transcending beyond the individual consciousness formed in gross and subtle receptacles available in the mind-body complex, or during the descent from that undifferentiated sublimity. Whilst cleansing the seer’s own mental and intellectual universe of all flaws and taints, the direct experience also retains the awareness of that oneness pervading all creation. It is not localised to individual awareness, as is confirmed by several seers contemporary, before and after; it is universal. Anyone else too can gain the same transcendental experience of the infinite, unbounded silence, and confirm the truth.
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From a very broad consideration, it seems that Vedanta is the last of the thought systems to develop and also the overarching one the seers finally agreed upon : There is but one Truth, one Existence, one Being, which is perceived to be many and regarded diversely in accordance with the nature of the seer being.
It does seem that Vedanta rose in view through two practice verticals : action and reasoning. The action vertical rose over several centuries, perhaps millennia, along Purva Mimamsa and (Raja) Yoga practice. The former has no place for a super deity — God, believing entirely on the power of action performed and regarding the unseen immanence as the sole cause behind the certain fruits or consequence of the deed done as prescribed. Yoga does have God — the super being, compared to the individual — in its core but not as a performer of miracles or as lord of the universe. God, Yoga suggests, embodies the ultimate evolved being the individual himself is heading to be when his own practice matures and completes.
Along the other practice vertical — of reason — is Nyaya or logic and Samkhya. Buddhism is largely drwn from the Nyaya method of right knowledge to attaining moksha or nirvana. It also allied to the insistence on certitude of knowledge in respect of any real thing, as detailed in Vaisheshika school of thought, which Jainism borrows. In their ultimate consequences however, Yoga and Samkhya are almost identical, though the latter ends with dualism being the eternal reality while the former eschews such consideration and presents the Self Absolute as the supreme truth.
Vedanta proves to be the mother thought by virtue of having a place for all the other five in its fold. It is Brahman, the sole ultimate definitive and absolute reality of experience in Yoga, and Maya, the inexplicable unknown and indeterminate reality of all forms gross, subtle and causal. The One is immutable, our Self; the other is illusory except until it lasts, as reality is in our dreams.