India is a vast land, rich in history, beauty, and great ideas. Here, we want to introduce you to ten great minds in Indian thought. These ten thinkers span thousands of years, include several religions, and more than a few fields of expertise.
1. Parshvanatha (7th or 8th century BCE)
The flag of Jainism, each stripe represents a divinity as well as an ethical command. Source
The first teacher of Jainism to be generally recognized as a historical individual, as he is mentioned not only in Jainist texts but in Buddhist works as well. Parshvanatha was a monk who taught for 70 years, and had a wide group of followers. His followers have four restraints: non-violence, non-theft, non-possession, and non-lying, as opposed to the five ethical commands found in other strains of Jainism. He also supported the idea that monks could wear clothes, in opposition to other schools which advocated strict ascetism. A quick introduction to Jainism can be found here.
Souls render service to one another. – A proverb of Jainism.
2. The Buddha (563 BCE- 483 BCE)
Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was born into north Indian nobility and was raised for a life of luxurious rulership and conquest. After discovering that suffering existed in the world outside his palace, he renounced his titles and became a monk; living a life of extreme ascetism in stark contrast to his former royal excess. After years of meditation, he achieved enlightenment and began to preach the four noble truths about the nature of suffering and the way to escape it; by means of the middle way between hedonistic excess and severe asceticism. More information on Buddhism can be found here.
Righteousness, when well-practiced, brings happiness. Truth is the sweetest of flavours. They say the life of one living by wisdom is the best.
3. Chanakya (4th century BCE)
The Maurya Empire, which Chanakya helped to establish, at its territorial height.
A Philosopher and statesman, Chanakya wrote the Arthashastra, an ancient text on political economy which has been compared favorably to the work of Machiavelli; as it focuses on keeping a ruler in power by means of wise rule and empowerment of the poor and not merely wicked statecraft. As an adviser to the emperor Chandragupta Maurya, he was one of the chief architects of the Maurya Empire, which would come to dominate the subcontinent for 150 years and would be led by the great Ashoka at its apex.
“If a king is energetic, his subjects will be equally energetic. If he is reckless, they will not only be reckless likewise, but also eat into his works. Besides, a reckless king will easily fall into the hands of his enemies. Hence the king shall ever be wakeful.”
4. Adi Shankara (8th century)
A theologian who unified several fields of thought in Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, whose ideas on the soul and enlightenment continue to be influential. He wrote several notable commentaries on Hindu holy texts, including the ten principal Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. His theology often focused on the issue of how Moshka could be achieved in life, and he argued that liberation was possible for a self-realized person. He toured India extensively during his short life, and debated many other philosophers in his travels. An introduction to Hinduism can be found here.
“Knowledge of the Self is the one direct means for liberation.”
5. Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539)
The founder of Sikhism who is revered as “The First Guru” of the faith. Born near what is now Lahore, Pakistan in 1469; he preached meditation on the one god, the unity of mankind, service to others, honest conduct, and living a simple life. His teachings were recorded at the time, and collected by other gurus to form almost one thousand of the hymns in the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. For those who would like an introduction to Sikhism, a video introduction is available here.
“Make compassion the cotton, contentment the thread, modesty the knot and truth the twist.”
(For the balance of this article please visit: https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/10-indian-thinkers-and-why-you-should-know-them/)