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There are currents of idealism in both ancient and classical Hindu philosophy. Like Absolute idealism of Hegel, Hindu idealism is essentially monistic, espousing the view that consciousness is the essence or meaning of the phenomenal reality. The presence of idealist concepts in Indian thought has been emphasized by Rupert Sheldrake and Fritjof Capra.
The oldest reference to Idealism in Hindu texts is in Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda. This sukta espouses panentheism by presenting cosmic being Purusha as both pervading all universe and yet being transcendent to it. Absolute idealism can be seen in Chāndogya Upaniṣad, where things of the objective world like the five elements and the subjective world such as will, hope, memory etc. are seen to be emanations from the Self.
Idealist notions have been propounded by the Vedanta and Yoga schools of thought. Idealism was opposed by dualists Samkhya, the atomists Vaisheshika, the logicians Nyaya, the linguists Mimamsa and the materialists Cārvāka. Kashmir Shaivism is also categorized by scholars as realistic idealism.
The essence of Hindu Idealism is captured by such modern spiritual teachers as Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Sri Aurobindo and Sri Sri Anandamurti, also known as P.R. Sarkar. Sri Nisargadatta advocated discovery of the real self. By establishing oneself (as jiva-atma, spiritual soul) in the earnestness of spiritual pursuits, it is possible to transcend the temporal self ("aham-kara" - "I am doer", false ego), limited by desires, fears, memories and mental constructs, and gain blissful immersion from material world (brahmanda, mahat-tattva) into the ocean of the pure consciousness (brahma-jyoti or rays) of God (or Absolute Truth, known in vedanta as Brahman and in Srimad Bhagavatam as Paramatma, Bhagavan, Vishnu, Narayana and Krishna). Theories on Idealism such as theory of Microvitum have been developed by P.R. Sarkar and his disciple Sohail Inayatullah.
- Nisargadatta Maharaj (1973), I Am That (Chetana Publishing, Mumbai, India), ISBN 81-85300-53-4 (paperback).
- Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar (1984), Human Society . Vols. I and II. (Ananda Marga Publications, Calcutta, India).
- Sri Aurobindo (1984), The Life Divine, (Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, USA) ISBN 0-941524-61-2.
- Surendranath Dasgupta (1969), Indian Idealism (Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, USA), ISBN 0-521-09194-2
- Fritjof Capra (2002), The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (Shambhala Publications of Berkeley, California, USA), ISBN 1-57062-519-0.
- Sohail Inayatullah (2001), Understanding P. R. Sarkar: The Indian Episteme, Macrohistory and Transformative Knowledge, (Leiden, Brill Publishers) ISBN 90-04-12193-5.
- Rupert Sheldrake (1982), A New Science of Life (Tarcher).