When it comes to philosophies, there are an infinite variety.
Some philosophies apply to life in the material world, and don’t extend to the spiritual realm. We will discard these philosophies, because they pertain to the temporary. It is not that they are devoid of value, but that for a spiritualist they are not of too much consequence in the long run, from the perspective of eternity.
Often, followers of various philosophies debate, quarrel, bicker, and disagree with each other in mild and severe forms. Sometimes, a difference in philosophy results in quarrels, enmities, violence, murder, and even war!
This article does not claim to list and explain all the different philosophies, but simply summarizes the chief ideas.
I wrote before about the chief philosophies that drive our modern world, such as voidism and randomness, which are merely imaginations.
Actually, when thinking of philosophies, one should consider the tale of the 6 blind men and the elephant.
Once upon a time, 6 blind men were taken to “see” an elephant… those who are blind in vision use their other senses to “see”… we don’t mean any offense to blind readers of this post, but this is how the story goes.
One touched the side of the elephant.
The second touched the tail
The third touched the tusk
The fourth touched the trunk
The fifth, the ear of the elephant.
The sixth, the leg of the elephant.
Then they all came out and began to tell each other what the elephant is like. One said the elephant is like a wall (side), the second said it is like a stiff rope (tail), the third said it is just like smooth spear, and the fourth said it is like a snake (trunk). The fifth said it is like a smooth tray (ear) and the sixth said it is just like a tree trunk (leg).
All of them began to disagree with each other, and eventually got into an argument about what the elephant is like.
All the blind men were partially right, but could not synthesize their partial truths into one consistent whole.
Scholars looking at philosophies are just like those blind men.
In particular, there are 2 main spiritual philosophies
Advaita – This philosophy describes that all is one, and there are variants of these philosophies all the way from Kevaladvaita, Shuddhadvaita, Vishishtadvaita. This philosophy encapsulates practically all of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
Dvaita – This philosophy describes that God is one and the living entities are separate from God… and in some remaining ways describes the key difference between God and the living entity, between God and nature, and so on.
And scholars have fought over this for thousands of years.
So many philosophies… is there one that encapsulates and synthesizes them all?
Only God can establish something perfect…
धर्मं तु साक्षाद्भगवत्प्रणीतं
न वै विदुऋर्षयो नापि देवा: ।
न सिद्धमुख्या असुरा मनुष्या:
कुतो नु विद्याधरचारणादय: ॥ १९ ॥
dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītaṁ
na vai vidur ṛṣayo nāpi devāḥ
na siddha-mukhyā asurā manuṣyāḥ
kuto nu vidyādhara-cāraṇādayaḥ
Real religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although fully situated in the mode of goodness, even the great ṛṣis who occupy the topmost planets cannot ascertain the real religious principles, nor can the demigods or the leaders of Siddhaloka, to say nothing of the asuras, ordinary human beings, Vidyādharas and Cāraṇas.https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/6/3/19/
In the 16th Century, God Himself appeared in the form of Lord Chaitanya and described the ultimate synthesis of all valid philosophies.
कृष्णवर्णं त्विषाकृष्णं साङ्गोपाङ्गास्त्रपार्षदम् ।
यज्ञै: सङ्कीर्तनप्रायैर्यजन्ति हि सुमेधस: ॥ ३२ ॥
yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ
In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Kṛṣṇa. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Kṛṣṇa Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/11/5/32/
Lord Chaitanya’s philosophy is as follows:
achintya bheda abheda – simultaneous inconceivable oneness and difference.
This philosophy is different from all the valid and invalid philosophies, but beautifully synthesizes the correct aspects of all valid philosophies.
I am just a humble servant of the servant of the servant ad infinitum of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. If anyone wishes to understand this in more detail, they are invited to thoroughly study the books of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (ask me how), and then, after understanding Srila Prabhupada’s books, into the famous writings of Srila Jiva Goswami, the 6 Sandarbhas.