Compare Chinese philosophy to Indian thought during the first Millennium B. C. Between 800 B. C. and 300 B. C. , four philosophical revolutions took place in or near the river valley civilizations. These revolutions were crucial to the development of organized and strong civilizations, and therefore essential to the successive events that occurred in history. Although all four revolutions are very important, Chinese Philosophy and Indian Religion are probably the most considered and studied ones.
This does not mean that Greek and Jewish religion re not significant; only that Chinese and Indian philosophy have had greater influence both in ancient and present times. For that reason both philosophical revolutions must be compared to then analyze why these river valley civilizations became so influential societies. Chinese philosophical revolution was probably the most uncomplicated and continuous revolution of all. Due to geographical and cultural benefits, China was able to develop a unique culture, which was not affected by outside forces, usual at the time.
Chinese philosophy started to appear in the late years of the Zhou (Chou) dynasty, which lasted from about 1045 BC to 256 BC. During this era of political and social disorder, feudal states gained economic and military power and moved toward independence. Feudal bonds were broken and internal wars broke out, which led to complete chaos. In the meantime, social and economical changes resulting from trade and commerce were replacing the agricultural society. Due to this political and social anarchy, a new class of people was formed. This class consisted of men who wanted to reunify the empire and restore order to society through learning and wisdom.
From this new class, there were several schools that proposed solutions to the chaotic situation of the Chinese Empire. Among these, Confucianism was one of the most influential schools of the time. Confucius, the founder of the school, believed that to reestablish order and prosperity, the imperial government, social and family organizations, and the rules of propriety, had to be restored. The most important element in his system, however, was the individual. Each human being had to maintain personal virtues such as honesty and love.
This would ring harmony to family, society, and state. The second great philosophy of the classical age was Daoism (Taoism). The philosopher Laozi (Lao-tzu) is considered as the founder of this school. While Confucianism wanted the development of human beings through moral education, Daoism sought to preserve human life by following the Way of Nature. Daoism attempted to bring the individual into perfect harmony with nature. Finally, among the most important philosophies was Legalism. They believed that human nature was evil and that strict rules were needed to control human conduct.
The Legalists developed a political philosophy that emphasized strict laws and harsh punishments in the control of society. Indian civilization has a very sharp contrast comparing to Chinese civilization. Neither its geographical and cultural aspects helped to develop a distinctive civilization, as china did. For instance, the Indus civilization collapsed by the middle of the second millennium B. C. , and was replaced by the Indo- Aryan people who absorbed some traditions and built a whole new civilization. As a consequence of this modification, Indian thought and religion began to lourish after 600 B. C. Ancient Indian thought appears in scriptures called Veda. It also includes mystical pieces known as Upanishads (700 to 100 BC), and early Buddhist writings (300 BC to AD 500).
The oldest literature of Indian thought is the Veda, a collection of poems and hymns composed over several generations beginning as early as 1200 BC. Four collections were made, so it is said that there are four Vedas, and all of them came to be viewed as sacred in Hinduism. Most of the poems of the Veda are religious and tend to be about the activities of various gods. Yet some Vedic ymns and poems regard philosophic themes. Indian thought became more precise with the Upanishads, which were mystical pieces.
Upanishads were very important to the development of several classical philosophies. In the Upanishads, views about Brahman (God) and atman (one’s true self) were proposed. After the Upanishads, Buddhism, now a major world religion, was also developed. Buddhism is concerned with mystical experience. Buddhist thinkers commonly compare enlightenment (nirvana) experience to awakening from a dream. Chinese philosophy and Indian though differed vastly.
Not only because of different geographical positions, but because the thoughts and explanations were very different. Chinese philosophers focused more on finding solutions to restore society and government. This is obviously a consequence of a political crisis. Chinese thought is more realistic, while Indian is more mystical and spiritual. Even though both philosophies cared about the individual, the approaches were distinct. Chinese philosophy cared about the individual’s ethics and morals and its participation in society.
On the other hand, Indian hought cared more about the individual’s inner peace and soul, and their main goal was to achieve full enlightenment or nirvana. The latter could only be achieved by accepting that life was about suffering and to overcome this suffering, self discipline and concentration was needed. Hence, Chinese and Indian philosophies were very different concerning thoughts, explanations and sentiments. Although Chinese and Indian philosophies developed in different continents and had different cultures, similarities can be found among them.
First, it is not accidental that both philosophical revolutions develop near or in iver-valley civilizations. These areas were more developed than other areas, both technologically and culturally. Second, both revolutions were causes of political and social crisis. The discovery of iron meant better weapons, which led to more powerful armies. The relation of humans to nature changed drastically, which led to new views of the world and universe. With so many changes occurring, new ideas had to be proposed both to restore society and to reunify empires. Furthermore, both revolutions had the same purpose; to answer unsolved questions about the human condition.
To conclude, Chinese and Indian philosophies are very significant and valuable to our society. They have influenced our daily life and our world both politically and religiously. Chinese thought inclines towards humanism rather than spiritualism, rationalism rather than mysticism, and syncretism rather than sectarianism. Indian philosophy is spiritual, mystical and fulfilling, and by combining them we have one extensive, rich, and complex philosophy. These civilizations deserve our recognition for they were, are and will always be the beginning of philosophical thought.