--> Skip to main content

Astikya – Theism In Hindu Religion

Astikya literally means theism. A person who believes in a force beyond this intelligence is generally believed to be an astika. But his concept has been defined by many great thinkers in Hindu Religion from times immemorial to suit their views. Persons who believed in the existence of God or Superhuman Being were considered to be astikas by the followers of Puranas.

In Taittiriya Upanishad, however, it is stated that a person who accepts the existence of consciousness apart from the gross body and other five sheaths as stated therein is said to be sat in contrast to the person who does not accept the same and called as asat.

There are six systems of philosophy prevalent in Hinduism. Out of them two main systems, the Samkhya and the Mimamsa, do not give importance to the existence of God. The former has identified 25 tattvas, including Purusha, but Ishwara or God is not included. In Mimamsa, God is never defined but is only portrayed as subsidiary to the various rites prescribed in the Vedas. Still these systems of philosophy are classified as astika darshanas. Thus, acceptance of God is not the sole criterion of an astika.

There is a view that an astika should be defined as a person who accepts the validity of the Vedas. Naturally, a person who does not accept the validity of the Vedas is branded as a nastika or atheist. By this definition both the Samkhyas and the Mimamsakas become astikas as both of them accept the validity of the Vedas.

For the Mimamsakas, the Vedas are eternal. They are revealed texts and were not written at any point of time. The Vedantins say that at the time of creation, Vedas, which were existant in the subtle form of ‘om’ came out of the Brahman and were taught to Hiranyagarbha who in turn, propagated the same. Vedas were thus eternal, never altered and compressed in the letter om at the time of the deluge and manifested in the present form at the time of creation.

Thus Vedas, being eternal and unwritten, are considered to be valid. So those who accept their validity are termed astikas. They perform various Vedic rites. This way of life is considered to be good not only for the individuals themselves but for the welfare of the society. In fact, all the rites on the various modes of life given in Vedas, if looked into closely, will show that they aim at the self-sufficiency of the villages, towns etc. When each unit is self-sufficient there will be total happiness. Apart from the physical comforts, mental balance or equanimity was given more importance in the Vedas. Thus, the astikya was given great importance in Vedic literature.

People were never pressurized to accept anything by force. They were given ample scope for using their thinking capacities. Many books were in fact written showing the pros and cons of accepting a view. Thus, people were free to choose their way of life and philosophical trajectory. When one is satisfied with the way of life he has chosen after analyzing all the aspects, he starts following it with heart and soul and naturally has immense faith in it.