The Concepts of Astika and Nastika

Astika and Nastika
Astika and Nastika

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘opposites attract’, but when it comes to Indian philosophy, we’re about to discover that ‘opposites define each other’.

Dive into Āstika and Nāstika philosophies, two distinct systems that have shaped the beliefs and opinions of India for centuries.

Through this article, we’ll explore the differences between these two systems, and gain a deeper understanding of the complex world of Indian philosophy.

Key Takeaways

  • Āstika and Nāstika are concepts used to classify Indian philosophies, with Āstika schools accepting the Vedas as authoritative and Nāstika schools not accepting them.
  • Āstika schools include Nyāyá, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā, and Vedānta, while Nāstika schools include Buddhism, Jainism, Chārvāka, Ājīvika, and Ajñana.
  • The orthodox-heterodox terminology used to classify these philosophies is criticized for its unsophisticated and flawed translations of Āstika and Nāstika, lacking scholarly roots in Sanskrit.
  • Astika is often defined as those who believe in the existence of Atman (Self), while Nastika denies the existence of Self.

Definition and Classification of Āstika and Nāstika Philosophies

We define Āstika and Nāstika as concepts used to classify Indian philosophies. Āstika schools accept the Vedas as authoritative, while Nāstika schools do not. There’s disagreement over the exact definitions of these concepts, but they’re usually associated with theism and atheism, respectively.

Āstika is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘asti’, meaning ‘there is’. Traditional etymology defines Āstika as ‘he whose opinion is that Īśvara exists.’ The six most studied Āstika schools are Nyāyá, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta.

Meanwhile, the five most studied Nāstika schools are Buddhism, Jainism, Chārvāka, Ājīvika and Ajñana. Criticisms have been raised about the orthodox-heterodox terminology, as these translations are unsophisticated and flawed.

We move on to discuss the Āstika schools of Indian philosophies.

Āstika Schools of Indian Philosophies

We’re discussing the Āstika schools of Indian philosophies and their distinctive beliefs.

The six most studied Āstika schools are Nyāyá, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā, and Vedānta. These schools are deeply influenced by the Vedas and accept them as a reliable source of knowledge.

Nyāyá pays special attention to logic, while Vaiśeṣika is an atomist school. Sāṃkhya is an enumeration school, while Yoga is based on the teachings of Patañjali. Mīmāṃsā is a tradition of Vedic exegesis and Vedānta is the Upaniṣadic tradition.

Chārvāka is a materialist school, Ājīvika is a fatalist school, and Ajñana is an agnostic school. All these schools share a common rejection of the authority of the Vedas.

Nāstika Schools of Indian Philosophies

Discussing the Nāstika schools of Indian philosophies, we’ll explore their unique beliefs.

The five most studied Nāstika schools are Buddhism, Jainism, Chārvāka, Ājīvika, and Ajñana, all of which deny the authority of the Vedas and critique the orthodox-heterodox terminology.

They’ve had a significant influence on Indian philosophy, particularly in their critique of the caste system, and have had an impact on the social structure. For example, Buddhism and Jainism are well-known Nāstika schools, while Ājīvika is a fatalistic school that believes suffering is predestined.

Comparing Buddhist and Jain Nāstika schools, both deny the existence of a Self and reject the Vedic authority. Furthermore, Ajñana is an agnostic school that suspends judgment, and Chārvāka is a materialistic school that denies the existence of an afterlife.

These unique beliefs and critiques of the Vedic authority demonstrate the impact of Nāstika schools on Indian philosophy.

Criticism of Orthodox-Heterodox Terminology

We’ve encountered criticism of the orthodox-heterodox terminology when examining Āstika and Nāstika. The classification lacks scholarly roots in Sanskrit and is a construct of Western languages. Recent scholarly studies have pointed out the flaws in the unsophisticated translations of Āstika and Nāstika.

Historical debates have evolved around the definition and role of Vedic authority, as well as their impact on social standing. Here are three points to consider:

  1. The terms Āstika and Nāstika have been used to classify various Indian intellectual traditions.
  2. The definition of Nāstika in Manusmriti is based on rejecting the Vedic literature, while Astika isn’t defined.
  3. Being labeled Nāstika was a serious threat to the social standing of a Buddhist and could lead to expulsion from the monastic community.

Subtopics on Definition of Astika and Nastika

Frequently, we explore the various definitions of Āstika and Nāstika.

Historical interpretations of the terms often differ, with some sources connecting the terms to theism and atheism while others focus on accepting Vedic literature as an authoritative source.

Etymology and meaning of the terms, too, can vary. Āstika is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘asti’ meaning ‘there is’ and is related to accepting the existence of another world while Nāstika is the negative form.

Comparative analysis of the two terms reveals how different schools of thought have influenced social hierarchy and philosophical discourse.

Jayaditya and Vamana, 7th-century scholars, defined Astika as one who believes in the existence of another world, while Nagarjuna considered Vaiśeṣika, Sāṃkhya, and Jainism as Nastika schools.

Manibhadra, an ancient Jain scholar, defined Astika as one who accepts the existence of another world, and Haribhadra, a Jainism scholar, defined Nastika as one who denies other worlds.

Understanding the implications and interpretations of Āstika and Nāstika is essential for appreciating Indian philosophical thought.

Frequently Asked Questions on Astika and Nastika

What Are the Differences Between ĀStika and NāStika Philosophies?

We see a contrast between Āstika and Nāstika philosophies in their acceptance or rejection of theism, rituals, and superstitions. Āstika accepts them, while Nāstika rejects them. Belief and non-belief, science and superstition are key differences between them.

How Do the ĀStika Schools View the Vedas?

Weaving beliefs of karma, rituals, and Vedantic interpretations together, the āstika schools view the Vedas as essential to understanding the Upanishadic texts. Rejecting the Vedas is not an option, as they are seen as integral to their philosophical system.

How Do the NāStika Schools Differ From the ĀStika Schools?

Nāstika schools differ from Āstika schools in their rejection of Vedic authority, their rejection of the four classes, and their focus on meditation, karma theory, and spiritual practices instead of dharma texts and dharma debates.

What Is the Origin of the Terms ĀStika and NāStika?

We trace the origin of ‘āstika’ and ‘nāstika’ to the inclusion of Sāṃkhya, Mīmāṃsā, Vedānta, Advaita, and Dvaita philosophies. These terms refer to acceptance or rejection of the Vedas as authoritative, rather than theism or atheism.

What Are the Implications of Being Labeled NāStika in Buddhist Culture?

Being labeled Nāstika in Buddhist culture has significant implications, including the denial of non-dualism, heterodoxy, faith, scripture, ritual, and contemplation. It can lead to expulsion from the monastic community and a loss of respect from society.

Conclusion : Astika and Nastika

We have come to the conclusion that Āstika and Nāstika philosophies are unique and complex systems of thought, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

While the orthodox-heterodox terminology has been criticized, it’s still a useful tool to classify Indian philosophies.

Ultimately, by understanding the concepts of Āstika and Nāstika, we gain a deeper appreciation for Indian philosophical thought and its influence on the world.

With this knowledge, we can better appreciate the beauty and complexity of these philosophies and their impact on our lives.


A seeker of serenity in a bustling world, Bryan crafted Calm Egg from his own journey through meditation and wellness. Passionate about sharing the peace he's found, Bryan has curated a haven for those navigating life's stresses. Off the digital realm, he's often found deep in meditation or enjoying nature's tranquility. Dive into Calm Egg and discover Bryan's handpicked practices for a balanced life.

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