Few Terms Used in Indian Philosophy for Reality

What is the nature of reality in Indian context? Before going into this question we must understand what reality is. This is the most difficult question to answer and most important too.

We can define reality as the ultimate source of everything and something that does not have any source. So we can understand the reality as something completely independent.

This definition is not a universally accepted one but just an approach to define its nature in general. Philosophers have given many different explanations for reality. Nature and type of reality is different to every thinker. So, to understand it completely we should not fix our mind with one particular belief or theory and we should study views of all philosophers.

We will discuss different terms used to explain reality in Indian context.

There is a belief that all Indian thinkers identify reality as spiritual but it is not true. Yes there are many Indian thinkers who identify reality as spiritual but there are others too who take it as secular. And there are many others who did not accept secular and spiritual and found something totally different. The views of Indian thinkers are more complicated. They explained other world but never neglected this world too.

Spiritual: connected with the human spirit, rather than the body or physical things.
Secular: not connected with spiritual or religious matters.
– Oxford Dictionaries

In Indian context, the reality can be Physical, Non-physical, Theistic, Non-theistic and more or less a combination of any of these. I will try to explain this statement further in this article.

Theistic – of or relating to theism

Theism- belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world

Agnostic- A person who believes that it is not possible to know whether God exists or not

The word Physical means connected with things that actually exist or are present and can be seen, felt, etc. rather than things that only exist in a person’s mind. In western tradition the word ‘matter’ is used for the word ‘physical’. According to Physicalists the real world contains nothing but matter and energy, and that objects have only physical properties, such as mass, size, shape, motion or hardness etc.

Non-physical means something that is not physical and only exists in a person’s mind. In western tradition the word ‘mind’ is used for the word ‘non-physical’. But we cannot use the word ‘mind’ for ‘non-physical’ in Indian context. Because according to some Indian schools mind is a sixth organ so mind is as physical as any other organ is.

There is an old Victorian joke about mind & matter:

‘What is matter?
– Never mind.
What is mind?
– No matter.’

To understand reality, we have to introduce two other terms, which are ‘realism’ and ‘idealism’. Realism takes the outer world as ultimate reality and idealism takes the outer world as an imagination of mind.

You can imagine the nature and types of reality after reading all these terms – spiritual, secular, theistic, non-theistic, agnostic, physical, non-physical, mind, matter, realism, idealism etc. This is not a full explanation. This is a simple and short view of something infinite.

We will discuss more about it in next articles. Thank you.

2 thoughts on “Few Terms Used in Indian Philosophy for Reality

  1. I love the Victorian joke !
    You give elements of response allowing everyone the freedom to choose a response or simply accept that there is no answer or all the answers. These elements are precise and detailed with great clarity.
    The reality is a perception that evokes a lot of things going through essential elements such as gravity, the cycle of life, the so-called laws of nature . But the reality, strangely, also refers to the opposite. That is to say a potentially malleable space that can be transformed with the liking of our emotions, our thoughts, our needs, our fears.
    Thank you for sharing Vikas.
    _/_ 🙂

    1. 🙂 You said everything that I wanted to say. These are the terms that explains the nature and types of reality in Indian context. There are more terms too… but these are the most basic ones. There are so many schools of thoughts in Indian Philosophy and every school has a different view about reality. So these terms are important to understand the next articles. Otherwise the reader will be confused.

      Thank you so much Maryline.

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