The three levels of Hindu philosophy

1/ The first level related to the metaphysical and spiritual domain.

It says that Brahman is all that exists and our material world (Maya) comes from ignorance.

The Brahman is not a God. It is beyond any quality – it isn’t intelligent, good or bad. It just is.

2/ It also suggests that if we strip away all ignorance, we will discover that the self – the atman – is one and the same thing as the Brahman.

At its core, this level denies the duality of subject and object and says they both are the same.

3/ The second level has more religious connotations because, like all religions, its purpose is the stabilization of society.

The concept of Karma and Dharma ensures that society has net positive interactions. And the rituals and idol worship ensures everyone knows who is in the camp.

4/ This level ensures an ethical code exists and that it’s clear who all share that same ethical code.

The symbols – the idols, the chants, the rituals – take a spiritual dimension on their own, but these are subservient to the belief in one Brahman – the essence of the world.

5/ The third level is psychological – to give guidance to an individual on how to live his/her life.

The suggestion in Gita that one must do work without an expectation of reward is towards minimizing psychological anguish. (See my essay on what does the Bhagavad Gita teach)

6/ To reiterate, the three levels of Hindu philosophy are:

  • METAPHYSICAL: Tat tvam asi. You’re it [it = Brahman]
  • SOCIETAL: Rebirth, Karma, Dharma, and Rituals
  • PSYCHOLOGICAL: Expect no reward

7/ Of course, everyone has their interpretation. Unlike Judeo-Christian religions, there are no definitive books on Hindusim.

Rather than a bug, I think it’s a feature.

It ceases to be a philosophy if you can’t interpret it on your own.

8/ There are some beautiful ideas in Hinduism, though I’m not sure I agree with all of them.

If you have your favorite ideas, let me know. I love diving deep into Indian philosophy.

This essay is a lightly-edited version of a Twitter thread I posted.

Someone made an image out of the three levels:

Made by @nishacharan
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