5 Essential Books on Indian Philosophy by MLBD

5 Essential Books on Indian Philosophy by MLBD

06 Oct 2021

5 Essential Books on Indian Philosophy by MLBD


1. Indian Philosophy [3 Volumes] by Jadunath Sinha 

The work deals with the subject comprehensively. The treatment closely follows the basic texts of the various schools, which is a unique feature of the work. These volumes deal with the evolution of religious and spiritual thought and philosophical speculation from the principal Upanisads to the Puranas and the Gitas through the Manusamhita and Ramayana and explain the ideas common to them.

The book is based on the study of the original texts. It deals with the epistemology, logic, ontology, psychology, ethics and theology of the different systems, though it specializes in their ontology. It gives comprehensive accounts of the Carvaka, the Vaisesika, the Nyaya, and the Navya Nyaya logic of Gangesa. It deals with BhartrhariÍs linguistic monism as expounded in his Vakyapadiya (Brahma-kanda), which is a unique type of philosophy.

The subject matter of Vol. I is the philosophies of the Upanisads, the Epics, the Puranas, the Gita, the Philosophies of the Carvakas, the Vaisesika, the Nyaya, the Navya Nyaya, the Mimamsa, and the _abdika of Bhartrhari. Vol. II deals with the philosophies of Samkhya, the Yoga, Jainism, Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta and other Theistic Vedanta, Saivism, Saktism: while Vol. III contains the philosophies of Bhëskara, Saivism and different _aiva schools and the problem of post Sankara Advaitavada.

Dr Jadunath Sinha's significant work on Indian Philosophy in three volumes deals with the subject comprehensively. His treatment closely follows the basic texts of the various schools, which is a unique feature of the work. The topics included in the volumes are as under:

Volume I: The major and minor Upanisads; Epics; Puranas; Gita, Carvaka, Vaisesika; Nyaya; Navya Nyaya; Mimamsa; Sabdika.

Volume II: Samkhya; Yoga; Jaina; Early Buddhism; Schools of Buddhism; Background of Vedanta; Advaita; Bhagavad Gita; Bhagavata; Pancaratra; Ramanuja; Madhva; Nimbarka; Vallabha; Caitanya; Saivism & Saktaism.

Volume III: Bhaskara; Kasmira Saiva; Pasupata; Saiva Siddhanta; Srikantha; Vira Saiva; Post-Sankara Advaita.


2. A History of Indian Philosophy [5 Volumes] by Surendranath Dasgupta

The work appears in five volumes. Each volume is devoted to the study of the particular school of thought of Indian Philosophy.

  • Vol. I comprise Buddhist and Jaina Philosophy and the six systems of Hindu thought, viz., Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Mimamsa and Vedanta.
  • Vol. II completes studies in the Sankara school of Vedanta. It also contains the philosophy of the Yogavasistha, the Bhagavadgita and speculations in the medical schools.
  • Vol. III contains an elaborate account of the principal dualistic and pluralistic systems such as the philosophy of the Pancaratra. Bhaskara, Yamuna, Ramanuja, Nimbarka, Vijnanabhiksu and philosophical speculations of some of the selected Puranas.
  • Vol. IV deals with the Bhagavata Purana, Madhva and his school, Vallabha, Caitanya, Jiva Gosvami and Baladeva Vidyabhusana.
  • Vol. V treats the southern schools of Saivism, viz., Saiva Siddhanta, Vira Saivism, philosophy of Srikantha, Saiva philosophy in the Puranas and in some important texts.

In the words of the Oxford Journal 'the collection of data, editing and the interpretation of every school of thought is a feat unparalleled in the field of history of philosophy.


Dasgupta earned the Griffith Prize in 1916 and his doctorate in Indian philosophy in 1920. Maharaja Sir Manindra Chandra Nandi now urged him to go to Europe to study European philosophy at its sources, and generously bore all the expenses of his research tour (1920–22). Dasgupta went to England and distinguished himself at Cambridge as a research student in philosophy under Dr J. M. E. McTaggart. During this time the Cambridge University Press published the first volume of the History of Indian Philosophy (1921). He was also appointed lecturer at Cambridge and nominated to represent Cambridge University at the International Congress of Philosophy in Paris.

His participation in the debates of the Aristotelian Society, London, the leading philosophical society of England, and of the Moral Science Club, Cambridge, earned for him the reputation of being an almost invincible controversialist. Great teachers of philosophy like Ward and McTaggart, under whom he studied, looked upon him not as their pupil but as their colleague. He received his Cambridge doctorate for an elaborate thesis on contemporary European philosophy.

The impressions that he had made by his speeches and in the debates at the Paris Congress secured for him an invitation to the International Congress at Naples in 1924, where he was sent as a representative of the Bengal Education Department and of the University of Calcutta; later on, he was sent on deputation by the Government of Bengal to the International Congress at Harvard in 1926. In that connection, he delivered the Harris Foundation lectures at Chicago, besides a series of lectures at about a dozen other Universities of the United States and at Vienna, where he was presented with an illuminated address and a bronze bust of himself. He was invited in 1925 to the second centenary of the Academy of Science, Leningrad, but he could not attend for lack of Government sanction. In 1935, 1936 and 1939 he was invited as visiting professor to Rome, Milan, Breslau, Königsberg, Berlin, Bonn, Cologne, Zurich, Paris, Warsaw and England.


3. Logic, Language and Reality: (Indian Philosophies and Contemporary Issues) by Bimal K. Matilal

The word 'philosophy' as well as the conjuring expression 'Indian philosophy' has meant different things to different people-endeavours and activities, old and new, grave and frivolous, edifying and banal, esoteric and exoteric. In this book, the author has chosen deliberately a very dominant trend of classical (Sanskrit) philosophical literature as his subject of study. The age of the material used here demands both philological scholarship and philosophical amplification. Classical pramanasastras usually deal with the theory of knowledge, the nature of inference and language, and the related questions of ontology and semantics. Several important concepts and theories have been singled out for critical analysis and clarification in modern terms so that the results may be intelligible to modern students of both Sanskrit and philosophy. It is hoped that such an attempt will kindle the enthusiasm of young scholars in the field and inspire them to proceed in this comparatively new area of research and explore further and more interesting possibilities.


The Late Bimal Krishna Matilal was a jubilee scholar in 1954-56, and recipient of Hem Chandra Goswami Prize and Gold Medal in 1956.  He started teaching at the University of Toronto, Canada in 1965.  He was a Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at the University of Oxford.  He was the author of The Word and the World: India's Contribution to the Philosophy of Language (OUP India, 1990), Perception: An Essay on Classical Indian Theories of Knowledge (2016), and Logical and Ethical Issues of Religious Belief (1982), and the editor of Moral Dilemmas in the Mahabharata (1989).


4. The Essentials of Indian Philosophy by M. Hiriyanna

The present work is a simpler and shorter account of the authors previously published Outline of Indian Philosophy. Therefore, in accordance with the aim kept in view in writing, it leaves out many of the details included in the previous one. The difference between them, however, does not consist merely in these omissions: There is also variation in the treatment of some topics, as, for instance, in the first two chapters dealing with early Indian thought. At least in two cases, again, there are important additions. In the earlier book, Buddhism was dealt with in reference to two stages of its growth. There is a third phase, representing the doctrine as it was originally taught by Buddha; and a brief resume of it, as it has been reconstructed by scholars in recent years, also finds a place here. Similarly, the account of the Vedanta has been amplified by the inclusion of the Dvaita system. In treating such a subject as Indian Philosophy, it is difficult to avoid the use of Sanskrit terms; but their number appearing in the body of the work has been reduced as far as possible, and a Glossary is provided to help the reader in finding out their meanings readily. It provides a concise, connected account of Indian philosophy, and interpretation and criticism are provided within the limits of the volume.

The Essentials of Indian Philosophy provides a concise, connected account of Indian philosophy, and interpretation and criticism are provided within the limits of the volume. An introductory chapter summarises Vedic religion and philosophy, and then Indian thought respectively with the early post-Vedic period and the age of the systems. A brief historical survey accompanies each natural division of the subject, in addition to an exposition of its theory of knowledge, ontology and practical teaching. A glossary of Sanskrit terms and a good subject index is provided.

Mysore Hiriyanna was an eminent Indian philosopher, Sanskrit scholar and authority on Indian aesthetics. He was a Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Mysore and a contemporary of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. His classes on Indian Philosophy were comprehensive.


5. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy by Satischandra Chatterjee & Dhirendramohan Datta

The object of this book is to provide a simple introduction to the Indian systems of philosophy. Each one of these systems has had a vast and varied development. An attempt has been made to introduce the reader to the spirit and outlook of Indian philosophy and help him to grasp thoroughly the central ideas rather than acquaint him with minute details. Modern students of philosophy feel many difficulties in understanding the Indian problems and theories. Their long experience with university students has helped the authors to realise these, and they have tried to remove them as far as possible. This accounts for most of the critical discussions which could otherwise have been dispensed with.

The book has been primarily written for beginners. The first chapter which contains the general principles and basic features of Indian philosophy, as well as a brief sketch of each system, gives the student a bird's-eye view of the entire field and prepares him for a more intensive study of the systems which are contained in the following chapters. It is hoped, therefore, that the book will suit the needs of university students at different stages, as well as of general readers interested in Indian Philosophy.