Indian Schools of Philosophy are broadly classified into Orthodox (Astika) and Heterodox (Nastika). Six chief philosophical systems viz. Mimansa, Vedanta, Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya and Vaisheshika are Orthodox schools of Indian Philosophy. These schools accept the authority of the Vedas. So they are called as Orthodox or Astika schools. Three Chief Philosophical Systems viz. the Charvakas, the Bauddha and the Jaina’s are Heterodox Schools of Indian Philosophy. These schools do not accept the authority of the Vedas. So they are called as Heterodox or Nastika schools.
All Indian systems of thought whether Orthodox or Heterodox share some common features. The features of Indian Ethics can be stated as below:-
1. Indian ethics is the oldest moral philosophy in the history of civilization. It is difficult to ascertain the chronology of the Orthodox and the Heterodox schools (except Lord Buddha i.e 487 BC) The remoteness of Indian ethics is responsible for making it well established in the practical life of the followers. Every school of Indian Philosophy confirms the endurance of ethical ideals which are unshaken even today.
2. Indian thinkers suggest some practical means of attaining a life of perfection here in this world. The rules of conduct have been practically followed by the Yoga, the Jain and the Buddhist disciples for thousand years. The aim of Indian moral philosophy is not only to discuss moral ideals but also to follow the path leading to the moral Ideals.
3. Indian ethics has its strong and deep metaphysical foundation. Each school of philosophy, points to metaphysical ideals which are to be actually experienced. There is a synthesis of theory and practice, of intellectual understanding and direct experience of ultimate reality (Kaivalya, Nirvana etc.) In Indian Ethics, intellectualism and moralism are two wings that help the soul in spiritual flight.
4. Indian ethics is absolutistic and spiritualistic. It aims at realization of supreme reality by transcending pleasure and pain; even right and wrong and good and evil. The ideals are attainable by spiritual discipline.
5. Indian Ethics is humanistic. It seeks a balance between individual’s inner and outer life; individual and social life. Moral laws or code of conduct is prescribed in such a way that individual progress and social welfare will lead to harmonious living. The goal a morality is the wellbeing of humanity.
6. Indian ethical thinkers preach non-violence, love, compassion and good will for all living beings. It is not limited to human beings. It includes every living beings, plants, birds, and animals, every visible and invisible form of life.
7. Indian thinkers believe in the Law of Karma. Law of Karma means that all our actions good or bad produce their proper consequences into the life of an individual, who acts with a desire for fruits thereof. It is the general moral law which governs the life of all individuals. Law of Karma is the force generated by an action that has the potency of bearing fruit. It is the law of the conservation of moral values. Except Charvakas, all Indian schools accept the Law of Karma.