Philosophers / Thinkers, Social Workers / Reformers



Mahāvīra, also known as Vardhamāna, was the twenty-fourth and last tirthankara. In Jainism, a tirthankara (maker of the river crossing) is an omniscient teacher who preaches the dharma (righteous path) and builds a ford across the ocean of rebirth and transmigration.

Five Vows

He prescribed five major vows (vratas) that both ascetics and householders have to follow. These are five ethical principles that were preached by Mahavira:

  1. Ahimsa (Non Violence) – Mahavira taught that every living being has sanctity and dignity of its own and it should be respected just like we expect our own sanctity and dignity to be respected. In simple words, we should show maximum possible kindness to every living being.
  2. Satya or truthfulness – which leads to harmony in society. One should speak truth and respect right of property of each other's in society. One should be true to his own thoughts, words and deeds to create mutual atmosphere of confidence in society.
  3. Asteya or non-stealing – which states that one should not take anything if not properly given.
  4. Brahmacharya or chastity – which stresses steady but determined restraint over yearning for sensual pleasures.
  5. Aparigraha (Non-possession) – non-attachment to both inner possessions (like liking, disliking) and external possessions (like property).


  • Anekantavada means pluralism and multiplicity of viewpoints.
  • It means that reality is perceived differently from diverse points of view, and that no single point of view is the complete truth, yet taken together they comprise the complete truth.
  • Taking a relativistic viewpoint, Mahāvīra is said to have explained the nature of the soul as both permanent from the point of view of underlying substance (nīshyānay), and temporary, from the point of view of its modes and modification.



Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama, Shakyamuni, or simply the Buddha, was a sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded.


The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path ( Middle path )

1. The truth of Suffering – No matter how much we struggle, we are unable to find the ultimate happiness or satisfaction. Suffering is the common bond we share. Therefore suffering is the real truth of our existence.

2. Desire : The truth about the cause of suffering – Cravings, desires and ignorance about reality are the cause of suffering.

3. The truth about end of suffering – If desire is eliminated, then only the suffering would stop. This stage when all desires are burned is called “nirvana” in Buddhism.

4. The path for ending suffering – This path is called the eightfold path. It emphasizes on a middle path between worldly pleasure and painful asceticism.


The Truth of the Way (Mârgasatya), which is the Middle Way, between the extremes of asceticism and indulgence, or the Eightfold Way, which is

  1. Right Knowledge (or Views), samyagdr.s.t.i,
  2. Right Resolve, samyaksan.kalpa,
  3. Right Speech, samyagvâk,
  4. Right Conduct (or Action), samyakarma,
  5. Right Livelihood, samyagjîva,
  6. Right Effort, samyagvyâyâma,
  7. Right Mindfulness, samyaksmr.ti, and
  8. Right Meditation (or Concentration), samyaksamâdhi.


  • Known for Arthasastra (321 B.C.) and role in foundation of Mouryan Empire
  • His philosophy mainly revolve around material well-being.

Kautilyan Philosophy & Morality

  • Wealth & Power – To him, wealth and power naturally create positive externalitites for the state to maximize overall satifsfaction.
  • Oligarchic Government – He believed in Oligarchic government i.e. rule of elites but learned elites.
  • Noble Lie – Lying for public good (End justify means)
  • Pragmatic View of Man – Man should not be too honest

International Affair

Believed in use of Soft and Hard power. His strategy to deal with matters start with soft powers and move towards use of hard powers as the situation demand.

Soft Power  (The Raj Mandala Model of diplomacy)

  • Immediate neighbour should be suspected at all times
  • Maintain neighbour of immediate neighbour as allies

Hard Power – Use of force

Forign Policy – Sandhi (Cooperation), Samsarya (Protect weak), Dvaidhibhava (Non-allignment), Asana (Indifference), Vigara (Hostility) and Yana (Attack).

Kautilyan Morality

  • Raksha – Protection of Life and Liberty
  • Palana – Law and Justice
  • Yogakshema – Welfare of people


  • Was disciple of Socrates(although not confirmed,but they must have met as they were in the same city)
  • Influenced by Socrates Idea –
  • In dialogue form the thought of Socrates emerges as we don’t have any written text by Socrates.
  • Blended Ethics, Political Philosophy, moral psychology, Epistemology and Metaphysics.
  • Academy in Athens
  • Philosophical System-“Platonism”-quality of goodness is universal.
  • In favour of Philosopher King who would maintain justice and virtue.
  • Felt democracy could lead to demagoguery and anarchy.
  • Argued for body of knowledge-possible to heal political problems like factionalism, Corruption of Moral .

Central work “Republic”

  • Deals with Idea of Justice- i.e. Justice is universal Value and the foundation of the best political order.
  • Discussed happiness,virtue, Platonic  love.

Three Parts of Soul 

  1. Reason –Desire truth and the good of Individual
  2. Spirit- Preoccpied with honour and competitive behavior.
  3. Appetite- Direct in satiating base tastes and desires.


  • Father of logic and reason.
  • Disciple and Contemporary of Plato.
  • Defined  fundamental principal of rational view of  existence of man ‘s consciousness.
  • His school called Lyceum- his research student known as “Peripatetics”.
  • Logic and reasoning –tools for conduct of Scientific Invention.
  • His logic= verbal reasoning> lies Syllogism.
  • Defined soul =perfect expression or realization of a natural body.
  • Ethics is means to find chief end or highest good,  in Greek “eudaimonia”(actually more than happiness).
  • Happiness = activity of rational soul in accordance with Virtue.
  • Virtue are subset of good qualities that people have –that is not innate and acquire by Practice and lost by disuse.


Guru Nanak Dev

He was the founder Prophet of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. Nanak’s teachings can be found in the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib, recorded in Gurmukhi.


  • There is only one God –  'One' Omnipotent God
  • Guru Nanak emphasised that all human beings can have direct access to God with no need of rituals or priests.
  • He rejected the authority of the Vedas and attacked the citadel of the Hindu caste system, setting up a unique spiritual, social, and political platform based on equality, fraternal love, goodness, and virtue.
  • He also rejected the path of renunciation (Tyaga or Yoga), and emphasised the leading of householder's life, while being unattached to gross materialism. 
  • The selfless services of mankind (Sewa), Kirtan and Satsang.
  • Promoting equality of all human beings, including downtrodden and the poor, and laid special emphasis to assert the equality of women. 
  • Nanak calls upon devotees to engage in worship through the word of God. 
  • Naam implies God, the Reality, is a mystical word or formula to recite or meditate upon (shabad in Gurbani).

Through popular tradition, Nanak’s teaching is understood to be practised in three ways:

  • Vaṇḍ Chakkō: Sharing with others, helping those with less who are in need
  • Kirat Karō: Earning/making a living honestly, without exploitation or fraud
  • Naam Japna: Meditating on God's name to control the five weaknesses of the human personality.


Kabir (1440-1518 AD)

  • Kabir was a constructive reformer. He has founded a Panth or a sect.
  • The followers of Kabir sect are to be found principally among lower castes.


  • He claimed social equality for the low caste Ṡūdrās with the other castes.
  • Kabir denounces what is irrational and inhuman in the division of society into castes oneself and then puts it on. 
  • The chief aim of the teaching of Kabir was to find an acceptable means to reconcile the differences between diverse castes and religious communities.
  • His cherished wish was to abolish the caste system and the antagonism of religion based on blind superstition or on the selfish interest of a minor group of people exploiting the ignorance of others.
  • His desire was to establish peace in social and religious spheres among the people and unite them for they were separated one from the other on the grounds of religion.

Bhakti Movement

  • kabir was one of the prominent poets of Bhakti Movement.
  • The Bhakti movement has preached human equality and openly condemned rituals and caste prejudices. 
  • It is radically new and basically different from the old established traditions and ideas of religious authority.
  • It seeks to refashion the collective life on the new lines upholding the values of justice and equality for all people in the society.

Ahimsa & Love

  • Kabir holds very strongly the doctrine of ahiṁsā (non-violence) and treats it as sinful if life in any form is injured or taken away.
  • Kabir preaches for the harmony, love, understanding of Hindus and Muslims.
  • He declares the equality of all men recognizing no banners of caste or creed and peaceful co-existence. His concept of non-violent (ahimsa) society is indicative of a peaceful community living in virtue and goodness.
  • He has set before the world an idea of love and universal brotherhood. As the love of God prevails in the world, the love of one’s neighbor should prevail amongst men. 
  • Kabir demands the moral purity and does not restrict it to one particular kind of life. Obedience to the master to his commands must not be blind. The believer has to rely on his reason and follow according to the details of his conscience.

Raja Rammohan Rai

  • He was a social thinker.
  • Known for struggle against Sati system and founding 'Brahmo Samaj'
  • He appreciated British rule as 'a boon in disguise' because it will eventually transplant democratic governance in India.


  • Social reforms should precede political reforms
  • He gave primacy to freedom of expression
  • opposed to many customs and beliefs of the decadent social system
  • promoted human equality and played important role in removal of the disabilities of women in social life.
  • He seeks to assimilate the new values created by Western science to blend them with the traditional values of India in order to meet the challenge of the new age.
  • The two complementary concepts of the philosophy of Brahma Samaj are faith in a single Godhead and the brotherhood of man.

Playing a glowing tribute to Ram Mohan Roy, Vivekananda said:

“Raja Ram Mohan Roy had put India on the march towards progress and freedom.”

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

  • Founder of 'Arya Samaj'
  • His philosophy is inspired by Vedas.
  • Described God as an active agent of creation.
  • Refuted 'advaita' (Non duality) and 'Nirgun Brahman' (God beyond attributes)
  • Critical of caste system and emphasised that in Vedas, caste system was based on merit not birth.
  • Fought against Paradah system, child marriage, polygamy, the evil practice of sati, forced widowhood and several other bad practices are believed to be in vogue on the sanction of the Vedas.
  • Promoted education, especially among women.

Mahatma Gandhi makes a substantial estimate of his character. He says:

“Among the many rich legacies, that Swami Dayananda has left us his unequivocal pronouncement against untouchability is undoubtedly one.”

Swami Vivekananda

  • one of the greatest thinkers of Indian Renaissance.

Views on Religion

  • The cause of orthodoxy and superstitions was loss of faith in spiritual values.
  • Religion is being and becoming, not hearing or acknowleding.

Neo-vedanta –

  • He identified humanity with divinity (Oneness of God and Man)
  • Selfless action in service of humanity
  • Service of man is service of God (If you want to find God, serve man).

We must not only tolerate other religion, but positively embrace them and that the truth is basis of all religion.

Views on Freedom

  • Freedom is the precondition for the human growth
  • He said, "Our natural right to be allowed to use your own body, intelligence and wealth according to our will, without doing any harm to others, and all the members of a society ought to have the same opportunity for obtaining wealth, education or knowledge.”

Ravindra Nath Tagore admired his work, said-

"If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive, nothing negative"

Sri Aurobindo

  • Known for political movements as well as his spiritual journey
  • Carried forward the process of the renaissance of HInduism on the asis of Vedanta
  • Deepend the concept of Nationalism and profounded theroy of passive resistance in India.


  • Unity of God and Man
  • True message of Vedanta – Selfless action or Karma Yoga
  • World is one part of the total cosmic domain transformable by the spirit.
  • We progress not from error to truth, but from partial truth to more complete truth.
  • Transcendence is to be sought in this life rather than the next.

Concept of two 'negation'

  1. Spiritualism – reality is spirit
  2. Materialism – spirit is illusion

Aurobindo said, both negations are opposite poles of the same error. Answer lies in between.