List of Heterodox Schools of Indian Philosophy

The Indian Philosophy refers to the ancient philosophical traditions of Indian sub-continent which can be orthodox or heterodox. Every Indian School of Philosophy accepted the theory of karma and rebirth, and the ideal of moksha is conceived as liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. Moksha/liberation is considered as the highest goal of human struggle. But the basis difference is that- orthodox School recognize the authority of Vedas whereas heterodox schools don’t believe in the authority of Vedas.

Heterodox Schools of Indian Philosophy

The Schools of Indian Philosophy that do not accept the authority of Vedas are by definition unorthodox (nastika) systems. The heterodox schools of Indian Philosophy are discussed below:

1. Ajivika (Fatalism)

It is one of the heterodox (Nastik) schools of Indian Philosophy. Makkhali Gosala was the proponent of this philosophy. He was the first disciple of Vardhaman Mahavira. According to him every object of the universe is coordinated with fate and destiny. This philosophy believed in Karma, Fatalism and extreme passivity. It was very popular during the time Bindusara (Mauryan Emperor).

2. Unchedvadi (Materialism)

Ajita Kesakambali was an ancient Indian philosopher in the 6th century BC and considered as the first known proponent of Indian materialism. As per this philosophy "with death, all is annihilated."

3. Nityavadi (Eternalism)

Pakudha Kaccayana was the proponent of this philosophy. According to him, earth, water, fire, air, joy, sorrow and soul were eternal.

Buddhist Mudras, Hand Gestures and their Meaning

4. Sandehvadi (Agnosticism)

Sanjaya Belatthiputta was the proponent of agnosticism. He said, "I don't think." So, I don't think in that way otherwise. I don't think not or not."

5. Akriyavadi (Amoralism)

Purana Kassapa was the proponent of this philosophy. It denies any reward or punishment for either good or bad deeds.

The Sramana movement gave rise to the diverse range of heterodox beliefs, ranging from accepting or denying the concept of soul, atomism, antinomian ethics, materialism, atheism, agnosticism, fatalism to free will, idealization of extreme asceticism to that of family life, strict ahimsa (non-violence) and vegetarianism to permissibility of violence and meat-eating.

Six Philosophical Systems or Shada Darsana of India


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