Introduction to Hindu Philosophy–Vedanta and Samkhya

Tutor: Dr Raj Balkaran
Start date: 10 October 2021
Enrolments still open for a limited time


In this course, we look at Vedanta and Samkhya, two of the six Indian philosophical systems that are recognised as orthodox because they accept the Veda as revealed scripture. We begin with a brief look at all six of the systems before considering Vedanta and Samkhya in greater detail. These two still have the most relevance today, and this would apply to Vedanta in particular, although Samkhya is still highly significant for reasons that will become clear as the course progresses.


Course Video

Videos are one of the most important parts of an online course.

Our courses offer two distinct types of video.

  1. Video on demand. Core videos for your course available to watch at any time. Audio versions are also available for download.
  2. Live Zoom sessions. We have six Zoom sessions open to all our students. These cover a range of topics. They let you explore other areas of study, and to meet tutors and students from other courses. Recordings are also made available after the session has ended.

Session One: An Introduction to Advaita Vedanta

We begin our study with the Advaita school of Vedanta. We pay particular attention to the teachings of Shankaracharya.

Session Two: The Life and Works of Shankaracharya

There are said by some sources to be ten biographies of Shankaracharya. Of these, only five seem to exist today, the best known of which is called the Shankara Digvijaya, written by Madhava Vidyaranya in the fourteenth century.

Session Three: The Teachings of Shankaracharya

We look at Shankaracharya’s ideas. These are largely built upon the teachings of the Upanishads, on the aphorisms of the Vedanta Sutras, and on the writings of earlier acharyas, most notably Gaudapada.

Session Four: Ramanuja and Visishtadvaita

In this session we are going to look at another of the main schools of Vedanta, the Visishtadvaita (visishta advaita). This is generally associated with the work of Ramanujacharya, a Tamil Brahmin teacher who lived in the South of India in the 11th century AD.

Session Five: Madhvacharya and the Dvaita Vedanta

The contribution of Madhvacharya to the overall system of Vedanta is too often minimised or overlooked altogether. We take a look at his work and its relevance.

Session Six: Understanding Samkhya

There are few today who would identify themselves as adherents of the Samkhya system of religious philosophy. However, this was not the case in the past when Samkhya appears to have rivalled Vedanta. We might classify Samkhya, along with Vaiseshika and Nyaya, as an interesting ancient phenomenon but no longer of any great relevance to the contemporary Hindu tradition. To do so would, however, be a mistake, for despite there being few overt manifestations of Samkhya, it continues to have a significant influence over Indian religious thought.

Session Seven: The Samkhya-Karika

For this second of our two sessions on Samkhya we focus on a close reading of the Samkhya Karika, which is widely accepted as the principal text outlining the ideas of the Samkhya system.


Course delivery is 100% online

7–9 weekly sessions

Study in your own time

Your tutor is available by email and forums

Communicate online with your fellow students

All course materials are delivered via the web

Student forums with tutor participation

Recorded lectures available in video and mp3 format

All required lecture notes included

Audio interviews with specialists in Hindu Studies

Supplementary materials taken from the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies teaching and research programme

Assessment is optional and is on the basis of successful completion of a single essay of 2000 words, with the exception of our Sanskrit courses which are assessed on weekly course work.

Courses can be completed in as little as seven weeks. There is a final deadline for essays or course work of twelve weeks from the beginning of the course.

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