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Indian and Chinese Philosophy

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Adrián Slavkovský

This textbook offers a brief overview of the main philosophical schools of the two most significant cultures in ancient Asia, from where these thoughts have spread widely – it concerns ancient India and China. Most important philosophical concepts of that region like holistic or ceremonial approach to reality, openness to transcendence, pluralism of opinions, behaviour leading by a sense of harmony are somehow complementary to our prevailing contemporary Western thought. Therefore they can be enriching and balancing for us and our culture.
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2. Origins of Indian Philosophy. Vedas, Upanishads

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Keywords: Vedas, Upanishads, brahma, atman, karma

2.1 Vedic Period, the Vedas

Indian philosophy belongs to the first manifests of philosophical thinking; its roots go back to 2000 B.C. In the period 1500 – 500 B.C., the oldest texts with philosophical elements were formed – the Vedas. They concerned texts, which were originally passed on by word of mouth; therefore, they are also called shruti – the one which was heard. Their original language is Sanskrit, which belongs to the major family of Indo-European languages. It was formed in a community, which did not use writing. That is why it does not have its own alphabet. The Sanskrit texts were later recorded with different types of fonts. From the 11th century A.D. on, the most widespread was a record in the script Devanagari. Sanskrit plays the same role within Indian philosophy ← 19 | 20 → and culture as the ancient Greek and Latin plays within European philosophy. Thanks to a common origin, some words of this language can seem comprehensible and familiar to us. The word “Veda” has the same root as our words “vedieť,” “vidieť,” “veda,” and means knowledge or wisdom. The transcription of the word is not completely conventional. The most commonly used system is IAST (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration), which is a transliteration scheme that allows a lossless Romanisation of Indic scripts with the latest standard ISO 15919 from 2001.

Our culture has only a few Sanskrit words and they are used in a...

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