I know in the West one would be taught Western philosophy but even here in India generally, the colleges and unis don't teach ancient Indian philosophy (yes there are exceptions like IITs but very few); instead they teach Hume, Hegel, Plato, Aristotle Kant, Gandhian philosophy (many peps here are going against him nowadays), Frankfurt school, critical theory, feminist phil. I understand that what these schools of thought achieved are really necessary for progressive society but does it also mean that Indian philosophy is outdated maybe even 'rubbish' when it introduces concepts of karma, soul, supreme deity? I'm no expert, however, in the field. I haven't read everything there is - maybe there is more to it than just spirituality?

  • Philosophy before the Scientific Revolution in Europe was a different beast than it is today. It included discussions of nature, wisdom, and spirituality, none of which are still prominent in philosophy. All ancient philosophies are outdated in their discussions of nature because they were all dramatically wrong about it. They are outdated as to wisdom and spirituality, just because those things are no longer big topics in philosophy, probably because they are specific to culture, and philosophy today is pan cultural. Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 21:20
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    @DavidGudeman: Discussed why wisdom has fallen out of fashion in philosophy but may be coming back here: 'Wisdom and John Vervaeke's awakening from the meaning crises' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/82325/… In a complex world full of people trying to pursuade us of things, I'd say we need wisdom more than ever: contact with deep values, and understanding of the integrated centre of our concerns
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 23:35
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    A lot of Western philosophy is as 'rubbish' as a lot of Indian philosophy. Just throw away all the rubbish and keep the good leftovers.
    – user21820
    Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 17:02

8 Answers 8


I find it sad to see a question like this asked in this way. Are Plato & Aristotle 'outdated'? Of course. Are they important influences on the whole tradition after them? Also, of course.

Adi Shankara was a properly great philosopher. You need a flourishing of open debate and valuing of ideas and commentary, to get progress. It's been patchy in India, but Europe had the Dark Ages! At times, Indian thought has been the most sophisticated in the world, and more major religious traditions have their roots there than any other region. And Buddhist thought, especially Yogacara philosophy, is I think of leading importance in understanding consciousness. I think for instance of the metaphor of Indra's Net for sunyata, and alata vijnana as an equivalent of memesphere or noosphere.

Buddhism almost completely died out in mainland India, with the loss of state support for their monasteries and libraries after the arrival of Islamic empires. But much of the most dynamic and influential thought happened in Indua, like Nagarjuna, and resulted in the dynamism of Buddhist thought elsewhere.

To me a major issue is a lack of good translations. A huge amount of Buddhist texts are still not available. The full inheritance and development of Buddhist thought is yet to become universally available.

An important point is the focus in Indian thought, on practice. The machinery of Buddhist philosophy in particular, is not going to begin to make sense to someone who has never meditated. Eg the essence-function distinction in relation to non-dualistic and non-discriminating enlightenment experience.

The Tripitaka alone deserves substantial study by any serious philosophy student, on ethics, ontology, psychology, consciousness studies, and many other topics.

Previous discussion of Indian philosophy: What are some good resources for learning Indian philosophy?

Edited to add:

I was listening to a great programme about the Arthashastra, composed around the 2nd century BCE, and considered the earliest work of Indian political philosophy, and to have influenced more than a millennia of Indian statecraft until extant manuscripts disappeared. A text was rediscovered in 1905 and translated into languages accessible to scholars.

A great deal depends on the continuity of respect for books, libraries, and scholarship, and the mechanics of memorisation and transmission before writing. And then getting good translations that give appropriate context, for understanding the importance of texts now. There is an assumption we know everything ancient people thought, and have all the key texts. We don't, even Aristotle is thought to have many, many lost texts. Classics of medieval literature like Gawain And The Green Knight, depended on a single manuscript that was nearly lost. Brilliant thought and writing is not enough alone.

The Indian Ajnana school, very comparable to sceptics or cynics, is only known from records of debates, and responses to their arguments, in the records of other schools. This pattern of course is also true for scholarship of Ancient Greek thought. But, I would say knowledge, translation, and availability of Ancient Indian texts and their transmission into the Buddhist diaspora, is a long way short of the maturity of scholarship on Ancient Greek thought, which had all the resources of the British Empire put into it to bolster it's prestige. I hope to see Indian thought studied better, and more, in the future, as Indian thought becomes properly valued, and scholarship of it expanded to appropriate scale.

  • Great answer. Hey does your name include capital i’s or lowercase L’s? Because I (probably) @‘d you below my answer. I didnt mention that I also added a link near the top of my answer (one option is to just see my last edits) about evidence for Hume having been exposed to buddhism and buddhist ideas.
    – Al Brown
    Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 0:38
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    +1 Kudos to you!
    – J D
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 15:17

I don't know much about Indian philosophers, but if they follow a plan/path of logic I don't see why they would be ignored. They might not be in fashion now, in your area, but we could learn something new about the nature of our reality that brings these thinkers to front of modern philosophy again.

I would like to learn more about Indian philosophers. If you can suggest one, I would appreciate that.


I believe you might have understood that some ancient philosophies in India are not mere philosophies. They are 'Darsanas'. They are not for understanding like other philosophies. That is why some people still defame Indian philosophy without understanding it properly.

When there is any defect in the understanding of a philosophy, offshoots or branches will certainly emerge from it; it is quite normal.

Since science and technology have great importance in this modern world, I would like to begin the statement like this: 'Through any science, philosophy or analysis if one can eventually reach nothingness, that is good and great.' But, can an ephemeral world or any kind of superimposition emerge from nothingness...? That means, this nothingness must have a broader meaning. And that great thing is dealt in ancient Indian philosophy. Therefore, it certainly implies that those offshoots have no special existence other than the ancient philosophy. So IMHO, even if Indian philosophy is untaught, as you remarked, philosophy without ancient Indian philosophy may last; but not last long. Similar philosophies may be seen in different ancient cultures. The problem arises only when one is against ancient Indian philosophy. I am saying so because macro studies and micro studies using modern technologies are leading to the same truth as stated in ancient Indian philosophy when analysed together.

So ancient Indian philosophy will never become outdated. Concepts of karma, soul, supreme deity and the like have their own significance until the Truth is revealed. They are not to be ignored. Because Indian philosophy gives very great importance to 'Observance of Dharma', its teaching as a philosophy is often overlooked. But though late, many people realize that this is science.

In India generally, the colleges and unis don't teach ancient Indian philosophy

Through the Puranas and the Epics, this philosophy has dissolved even in the blood of the laymen of this country. The sages had designed that also for the goodness of even for the illiterate. So there is no need to teach it as a boring subject as in the case of many other philosophies.

Though the term may be about mythological and legendary lore, if it were outdated, we would not have seen the following meaning regarding ancient Indian philosophy:

The great Sanskrit scholar Raṅgācārya has defined purāṇa as Purā nava (Purā=old; nava =new) meaning things which are as good as new though existing from olden times. Though there are large portions of wide imagination dealing with the human side in the Purāṇas many truths about the universe can be grasped from them.

For details: https://kosha.sanskrit.today/word/te/purANa

The beauty of the penetrating power of ancient Indian philosophy is seen this quote: Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti


Philosophy is cyclical, it progresses in a circular motion, unlike science, which is linear. Therefore, even very old philosophy can and does periodically return to relevance, whereas very old science is generally obsolete.

The reasons ancient Indian philosophy are undervalued have less to do with its age than with a strain of racism and ethnocentrism that is endemic in Western philosophical studies (and that some trace back to Kant). It is unfortunate, but not unprecedented that these prejudices have been embraced even in India. British colonialism was founded on the aggressive promotion and inculcation of the myth of British (and by extension, European) cultural and intellectual superiority, and many post-colonial institutions still swear allegiance to these old ways of thought.

There is an acute irony in the fact that this persists in India even at a time when non-Western philosophies are being rediscovered in the West. Ancient Indian philosophies have long been quite influential in some less mainstream niches in Western philosophy, including Huxley's reformulation of the "perennial philosophy," and the loose family of philosophies characterized as "New Age."

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    I'd add there's some challenge in terminology and the lack of linguistic similarity. As a native English speaker, words in German, Greek, and Latin seem easier to my eyes and easier to recall than words like Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Mīmāṃsā and Vedanta. The same applies for the difficulty in recalling Japanese terminology in zen. I think there's some weight to the argument that cognates and association weigh heavilty in language use.
    – J D
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 15:11

I would say that almost anything (with notable exceptions mentioned below) taught by Advaita sages is available in a more rigorous and defined way (maybe not always perfectly rigorous, just more rigorous) by some modern school of philosophy. Whether it is neutral monism, consciousness monsim, or maybe occasionally even idealism, the monist ideas are certainly there. We also have pantheism. Every possible belief system that can be articulated seems to be argued by someone in current philosophy departments, even monotheism.

Furthermore, much of it originated there. One possible example:

Allison Gopnik, UC-Berkeley professor in the journal “Hume Studies”: Could David Hume Have Known about Buddhism?


Abstract: Philosophers and Buddhist scholars have noted the affinities between David Hume’s empiricism and the Buddhist philosophical tradition. I show that it was possible for Hume to have had contact with Buddhist philosophical views. The link to Buddhism comes through the Jesuit scholars at the Royal College of La Flèche. Charles Francois Dolu was a Jesuit missionary who lived at the Royal College from 1723–1740, overlapping with Hume’s stay. He had extensive knowledge both of other religions and cultures and of scientific ideas. Dolu had had first-hand experience with Theravada Buddhism as part of the second French embassy to Siam in 1687–1688. In 1727, Dolu also had talked with Ippolito Desideri, a Jesuit missionary who visited Tibet and made an extensive study of Tibetan Buddhism from 1716–1721. It is at least possible that Hume heard about Buddhist ideas through Dolu.

Distinction One

One of two notable exceptions is that even relatively recent Advaita teachers often claim that Truth is something beyond cognition. All (and I mean without exception) the advaita teachers I have ever listened to say there is no truth that can be spoken. And some add there is no “one” who can become enlightened, and ultimately, as Papaji said, “There is no student, no teacher, no teaching, and nothing ever happened.” Or as Nisargadatta said, “There is not one iota of truth in this world”. They all also say questions don’t get answered, the questioner finally dissolves (Krishna Menon said this a lot). This may already preview the distinction below that it is ultimately not an academic endeavor. Ramana Marharshi said there are no people and no objects and only silence can really help anything. Not all say this; apparent contradictions are tolerated as paradoxes pointing to a supra-intellectual knowing and truth.

They all say the truth is beyond this dream world and readily admit they are just apparent entities manifested of Parabrahman, making apparent sounds with their apparent mouths. This is not to say the Brahman cannot flow into various apparent forms, but no one can get outside of it all to know it. This actually should be a cornerstone of all monisms, but many other monists don’t realize how fundamental it is.

Ribhu gita (in sanskrit)

The state of firm abidance in that thought-free after Mano nasha constitutes moksha. This is the Truth.

Referring to mind, intellect.

At the same time, some of it is profound, original, and masterfully articulated. I’m only trying to focus on whether it should be in schools and/or is primarily a philosophy and belief system.

An Aside

I wish scientific materialist monists (which used to identify me) would also understand this fact. They are secret dualists who repeatedly sneak in dualism accidentally not noticing they did. They think only material exists and yet claims can be made, conditioned truth exists, agents exist. They don’t realize they have introduced a separate God who evaluates truth, and it is themselves. Almost every philosophical materialist is playing God, while adamantly declaring atheism. By playing God, I mean so-called monists arbitrate truth, make claims, and ground all that in their cartesian theater they dont even notice they’re carrying around with them.

This merges well with the arrogance they exhibit; their main argument is that youre an idiot. Only that argument beats: youre an idiot for believing in <insert something the other person doesn’t actually believe>. The view of the moderately well educated (but not very well educated) that all smart people “know” only matter/energy exists is completely wrong. It is not even close to settled. Many incredibly smart people (I would say the smartest) disagree. It takes some real intelligence and intellectual courage to find the truth after years of monist materialist indoctrination.

End of aside.

Advaita is NOT exactly monism anyway. “Not two” (advaita) was selected instead of “One” very deliberately. The truth cannot be said, even by saying it’s all one.

Buddhism, despite the widespread misconception that it is, is not monist. Not the Buddhas teachings anyway. He declared over and over the existence not just of the impersonal and ever-changing world of phenomena (including mental and physical) but also the definite reality of the Unmanfiest, the unconditioned, the unborn - in short, the transcendent. But he stated away from many metaphysical questions and did not have a rigorous philosophy other than that of how to become enlightened.

This first distinction is compatible with the next one.

Distinction Two

At its best, any “school” of Hinduism is not a school at all, and the concepts being discussed and contemplated are not a belief system, but instead it is a spiritual practice, a method. The ultimate goal is Truth, but not intellectual truth, not correct beliefs per se (Nisargadatta would say there are no true beliefs), and the goal is not figuring anything out. Even the ontologies studied in depth, the various bodies or sheaths (koshas) are being studied with the goal of progressing spiritually. In this sense it is not directly compatible with academic study in my opinion. It may be a good individual adjunct, but not a rigorous group inquiry.

People practice Advaita; they don’t study it. I would say the same of Buddhism. Granted contemplation and investigation of reality are part of that practice, but ideally always with a goal. And certain personality types don’t engage in that at all. Bahkti yoga fir example.

Same goes for Buddhism. The Buddha was all about teaching whatever reduced suffering, period. He distinctly avoided answering whether there is a God. Furthermore, in a clear show of paradox and transcendence of logic, he declared that it is false to say God exists and false to say God does not exist. The fact that he almost never mentioned God is often conflated with him being a hard atheist.

Westerners will practice Advaita or Buddhism and realize their endless indoctrination into monist materialism as the undisputed truth of reality is wrong (the above “answer” to this question is a good example of said indoctrination, blithely declaring metaphysics itself settled science). They will then attempt to bring this realization and some of the teachings into their intellectual or even academic life, which is good in general, but should be done, if at all, via or into more rigorous Western philosophies. As mentioned those now include somewhere anything that has been said or written in Buddhism or Hinduism, even though much if it originated in India, including the link that began this answer.

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    You can confidently declare there is not an original well articulated thought in Indian philosophy? There being mystics & mystic teachings does not put a whole culture irredeemably beyond philosophical discussion, just as Christian & Islamic & Jewish mysticism did not them. I agree with the sneaky substance dualism, but saying physicalist-materialists 'make themselves into a god' doesn't even make sense for the collaborative practice of science. Assume a 'god's eye view' of absolute objectivity though, sure. Anatta is clearly at odds with monism. As a non-dualist tradition, no transcendence.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 23:48
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    One of the titles of Buddha is 'Teacher Of The Devas'. He even is recorded in the Tipitaka as giving a teaching to Maha Brahma, supreme Creator in Hinduism: "Many people worship Maha Brahma as the supreme and eternal creator God, but for the Buddha he is merely a powerful deity still caught within the cycle of repeated existence. In the Brahmajala Sutta (DN 1) the Buddha describes how a supposed Creator God came to believe himself omnipotent and how others came to rely on his sovereignty." accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/jootla/wheel414.html
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 23:54
  • @CriglCragl I didnt intend at all that “there is nothing original or well articulated in buddhism or hinduism”. I dont think that for a second. Much is profound, original, and masterfully articulated. I clearly didn’t communicate well in that aspect. Guess I was trying to focus on whether it should be in schools and/or is primarily a philosophy and belief system. I’ll edit to say that, pasting the first part of this comment. Thanks. // I meant materialists play God in that they arbitrate truth, make claims, and ground all that in their cartesian theater they dont even notice theyre carrying
    – Al Brown
    Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 0:09

here in India generally, the colleges and unis don't teach ancient Indian philosophy

That is a shame. In recent years, many eastern ideas have increasingly been invading modern Western philosophy. Especially since Fritjof Capra wrote The Tao of Physics and the Beatles studied under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Western quantum physics and metaphysical philosophy have been forced into playing catch-up.

As Capra pointed out, many of those ancient Eastern ideas have been validated by what we call "quantum weirdness" and/or have become incorporated into what we call "new age" religions. Only the window dressing has sometimes changed.

Western rationalism and humanism have been important influences too, but other Western schools, from the overly reliant on Christian dogma to the overly materialistic, have become as obsolete as the chakras are in modern medicine.

People often also underestimate how much the various ancient traditions traded ideas as well as goods. For example the illusory nature of reality and the principle of non-self seem to have been recognised at around the same time in India, China and Greece; that timing seems too close to be a coincidence. (Only, the Greeks presently forgot about it and the West did not recover its senses until our modern culture rediscovered the Eastern traditions, some two thousand years later.)

What other ideas might have flowed across the globe between different philosophical traditions over the years? It is my disappointment that too few philosophers care, Eastern or Western or any other, for there is always much to be learned from our friends.


It is outdated, but not because of the philosophers you mention. It is outdated because it was rooted in a false premise. They brought the idea of energy centers in the soul, but I believe that is all that was kept of the Vedic philosophers.

As for Buddhism (which really transcends India), there's still a lot to hang onto, but outside the context of your origin, it all becomes used meaninglessly to basically do nothing amidst chaos and the need for human effort.

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    So the four humours writes off Aristotle then?
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 23:57
  • You'll have to remind me of the four humours. Is that from Ayurveda? Pitta, Kapha and Vitta? I think there's a bit of merit in those, but they're not to be considered "body types".
    – Marxos
    Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 0:30
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    Usually credited to Hippocrates, and taken up by Aristotle who contributed the idea of four basic qualities, hot cold wet & dry, to match the four humours jstor.org/stable/20776509 My point is you are shamelessly orientalising, dismissing seemingly all of Vedic thought for using 'energy centres', but not Aristotle for his equally incorrect model.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 1:44

Let me add a bit. I use this answer too to say I like the answer and comments to other questions made by @CriglCragl. At least someone who makes sense. What do I think?

Universities are a western invention. So logically, only western stuff is taught. Non-western stuff is discussed marginally and directed towards the sideline and taught as, well, non-western philosophy. All stuff in non-western philosophy is considered to be included already in the western way and, so it is claimed, western philosophy carries stuff further and eliminates the non-Truth. A claim that stands further from the truth than western philosophy stands from real life, much further than Indian philosophy.

Isn't Indian philosophy taught because it is outdated? If so, then why are Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Kant, or Hegel taught? These can be said to be old-fashioned and outdated guys too.

So it's not that there are no outdated philosophies taught. These are abundantly represented already. Many of these western philosophies have contents that, seen from the perspective of modern science, are simply wrong. So that cannot be seen as an argument in favor for western philosophy too.

Western philosophies (I'm not even sure if there is such a word in Indian for this) have a feature that is common for all of western thought. It's the crave for abstraction. To make life simpler than it is. To remove thought from life and place it in an a germ-free, clinical, and isolated box. The philosophy of the sciences are a perfect example of this.

So logically, this is taught at universities. Which is a good thing for medern-day people who want to arrange their life according to the western thought, to use a very abstract mode of thinking.

It's a bad thing though for people who don't agree with the western way. The last 300 years (and started in ancient Greece) it has turned the globe and all beings on it, from a colorfull, soft, and wrinkled patchwork into a grey, tight steel blanket. Wars raged (even atomic bombs were thrown and can still be thrown...), people genocided systematically with scientific means, animals are tortured in the name of science, biodiversity is reduced, etc. Western philosophy doesn't take all this into consideration. I think non-western philosophies, and Indian in larticular, do.

  • What about en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Wisdom that helped preserve the Ancient Greek texts and crucial commentaries on them, and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nalanda and en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taixue or the Library of Alexandria in the city in Africa St Augustine was from? "It's the crave for abstraction. To make life simpler than it is" Is that what's happening? Science has begun to lift the corner on the scale of our ignorance. Anyone who doesn't feel wonder at the vast scale and age of our cosmos revealed by science, that's on them, not on science.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 15:33
  • @CriglCragl Science has a liberating force. Undeniably. That's even the reason I studied physics. But that's not how I perceive it's application in the modern work. Science is just one culture amongst many. That's the real liberating insight. There are indeed many things to awe about in our universe! Its a pity though that our politicians and the sciences go hand in hand. Most things cant be solved by science and relentless application will lead to disaster. Sometimes it's better to stop growth or even reverse it. I think our present time is such a sometime.
    – user53283
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 16:16
  • @StarsrstS: The core of science is, look to evidence. Only that.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 16:39
  • @CriglCragl I dont think so. Thats the job of Sherlock Holmes. What is the evidence needed for? To find out the truth of what happens. Its not the core. The core is what the evidence points at. Evidence is a mere tool for science. Not the primary goal
    – user53283
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 16:48
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    @CriglCragl Maybe the best way of looking at western philosophy is how the philosophy of science approaches its subject matter. It separates science from the real science as practiced by real scientists. It abstracts science from scientific practice. Which is why most of the philosophies are mere dream castles. I think that the same holds for western philosophy in general. Which doesnt mean that interesting philosophical questions can be asked. To answer these questions in the framework of western philosophers is mostly misleading or distracting. Unless the question is about the view of the ps
    – user53283
    Commented Aug 1, 2021 at 17:33

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