Discussion in 'Hinduism' started by Speechless world, Dec 27, 2015.

  1. Speechless world

    Speechless world New Member

    Sankhya is one of the earliest philosophical schools of thought in India, traditionally attributed to Rishi Kapila. His original work Shastritantra is unfortunately lost. The earliest source of this school we have today is Sankhya Karika of Isvara Krishna with the commentary known as Tattva Kaumudi by a great erudite scholar Vacaspati Mishra . Sankhya Sutras with a commentary known as Vritti by Aniruddha and another commentary known as Sankhya Pravacana Bhashya by Vijnanabhikshu are the other extant texts.Sankhya is one of the atheist philosophies. It differs from other schools mainly in its attribution of “reality” to dual entities – Purusha and Prakriti. It projects the world to be an interplay between the two everlasting Purusha and Prakriti.

    Prakriti is said to be the cause for the manifest universe at both physical and psychological levels. It forms the most basic constituent of matter. Matter here includes both our physical and psychological worlds. But prakriti itself has no cause. Prakriti is a state of equilibrium of the three Gunas: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Prakriti is also a generic term for these three gunas. Sattva denotes lightness or freedom, rajas restlessness and tamas heaviness. These may be found in different proportions in various objects of the world. A substance is classified as satva or rajas or tamas depending on its dominant property. For long philosophers have made an attempt to find the simple elements out of which complex matter is formed, the simple elements being those which cannot be reduced further to any simpler parts. Some like the Naiyaikas end their search with the atoms while the Sankhya ends with “feelings.” Feelings denote the most subtle and simple elements of nature. The Three Gunas are thus not qualities but certain feeling substances.
    Prof S.N. Dasgupta says in the History of Indian Philosophy, Vol I, that as per Sankhya, thought and matter are but two modifications of certain subtle substances which are in essence but three types of feeling entities. Matter gives rise to certain sensations which we equate with feelings about certain objects. Feelings later develop into certain knowledge about that particular object. However, if we go deeper than this, we would notice that even when the sensations disappear what is left is just the crude feeling out of which both thoughts and sensations evolve. Without the prior existence of feelings, there would be neither thoughts nor any external stimulus. Both of these can be reduced to mere feelings.
    Consequently feelings may be said to have an objective existence. This position does not make Sankhya a type of idealism like the one advocated by Berkeley. Berkley says that objects do not exist apart from our ideas of them. Objects may exist apart from our subjective feelings about corresponding external objects. However for Sankhya psychological notions and the external objects are in essence not different from feelings which have a wider existence than both the subject and the object of knowledge. There are broadly three types of feelings: pleasure, pain and dullness which are the manifestations of the three types of feeling substances called: sattva, rajas and tamas (gunas) respectively. These are regarded as the ultimate substances. Sankhya divides causes into two broad categories: efficient and material. Material cause is that cause which subsists in the effect. The efficient cause is every other type of enabling cause. For example, clay is the material cause of the pot; the potter and his stick are the efficient causes. Sankhya Karika adduces five proofs to establish this theory: 1. What is non-existent cannot be brought into existence 2. Effects comprise material cause 3. All effects are not producible from all causes 4. An efficient cause can produce only that for which it is efficient and 5. The effect has the same essence as the cause.
    The cause has the effect existing within it in a potential form awaiting an operation to make it manifest. A non-existent entity neither can be produced nor can any causal operation be brought about on it. For example we do not get curd out of clay or cloth out of milk, because the effect has to be existent in the cause. Every entity has an essence and existence. We say an entity exists when we see that it is capable of being an object of successful activity. When we cognize a tree and go and touch it we realize that our initial cognition of tree was true and the tree actually exists. Such an entity exists in a particular space and time. But the essence of the tree or what the tree actually is, is not an object of successful activity. The essence of an object is what it really is. When we say that the effect exists in a potential form within the cause we mean to say that it has an essence that awaits a causal operation that would confer an existence on it. The cause and the effect share a common essence but a different existence. Clay and the jar are identical because they have identical essences but not an identical existence because they share different spatial and temporal properties. Existence is limited by space and time but essence knows no such limitation. This is however not to say that there is an absolute cleavage between essence and existence, for the distinction is relative to certain aspects of the entity that we wish to address.

    All changes as per Sankhya are changes of the qualities only. A substance, say, clay remains the same even when transformed into a jug or any other shape. The clay and the jug are the same but conventionally we make a distinction between them based on their practical utility. A lump of clay does not have the capacity to carry water but a jug has. Thus clay and jug are essentially the same but notionally different. Again when a lump of clay is transformed into a jug we can say that clay has the power or capacity to transform itself into a jug. The substance clay is the power-holder (saktiman) and its sakti or potency is to transform into another object, a jug in this case. The substance clay and the potency are the same thing. Their distinction is merely relative but not actual, for in ordinary experience we never find these two things separately. Similarly the emanations of Prakriti are both substantive entities and forces, two aspects of one and the same thing. In all its modifications Prakriti is the same but still generates relatively new substances, the change being a change in the relative qualities but not in the essence. Thus for Sankhya the material world has five forms: a) as appearance in diverse physical characteristic qualities or attributes b) as things or substances forming the unity of genus and species or whole or unity of parts c) as subtle causes or tanmatras d) as the ultimates or universals of the three gunas, and e) in the teleological aspect as conducive to experience and salvation of souls. The gunas , if thrown off balance, try to regroup themselves in one form then another and so on in order to restore the equilibrium. When the equilibrium is restored, it is called pralaya. An evolute is produced from some of the reals of the first stage. The deficiency of the first stage which had gone forth to form new aggregate as the second stage is made good by refilling from Prakriti. By a succession of refillings, the process of evolution proceeds till we come to a stage when no new substance can evolve. The first evolute of Prakriti is mahat. This is the state in which sattva predominates. It holds within itself the buddhi of all Purushas which were lost in the Prakriti during the pralaya. The very first work of Prakriti is thus manifested by separating out of the old buddhis or minds which hold within themselves specific avidya inherent in them with reference to each Purusha. This state of evolution consisting of all collected buddhis is called buddhitattva. Looked at from this point of view it is the widest and universal existence comprising all creation and it is thus called mahat (the great one). Mahat is then disturbed by three parallel tendencies of a preponderance of sattva, rajas and tamas called ahamkaras. The ego or ahamkara is the specific expression of general consciousness which claims experience as “mine.” The function of ego is therefore called abhimanna (self-assertion). As and when the idea of the subject evolves, simultaneously the notion of an object emerges. In self-consciousness we assert our existence as opposed to the object and hence in thought subject and object are inseparable. Both appear simultaneously. The sattvik ahamkara produces manas or mind which is translucent and gives rise to the specific notion of egohood. From tamasika ahamkara through the help of rajas are generated the tanmatras, the immediately preceding causes of gross elements. These tanmatras are sabda tanmatra (the sound potential), Vayu tanmatra (touch potential), rupa tanmatra (colour potential), rasa tanmatra (taste potential) and gandha tanmatra (smell potential). The sound potential with accretion of rudiment matter from tamasika generates akasha or ether. Through the co-mingling of the atoms, the gross elements are produced.
  2. Speechless world

    Speechless world New Member

    The evolutes of Prakriti can be classified as avishesha and vishesha. The former are those products of Prakriti that are capable of originating other products like themselves. The Visheshas cannot originate other tattvas though they are not devoid of causality. When tanmatras are produced from ahamkara, the state of being involved in tanmatras is altogether different from the state of being of ahamkara. It is not a mere change of quality but change of existence or state of being (except from the standpoint of Prakriti as pointed out before). The same is not the case with the products of Visheshas. The curd has the same state of being as the milk from which it is produced. We can make the distinction in this way that avishesha categories are the ones which create other types of categories but the causality of Visheshas is limited within the tattvas or the categories. Mahat is the mother of all avisheshas but since it has been produced by Prakriti, it possesses a linga or specification and hence is included under avisheshas. Prakriti on the other hand is completely indeterminate and uncaused. Evolution is Prakriti rendered determinate. Note also that there is no point of origin in time when Prakriti starts evolving. The association of Purusha and Prakriti is beginningless. The order of evolution of Prakriti is logical and not chronological.

    Purusha is pure consciousness, the self, the ‘metaphysical principle of unity underlying subjective experience’. Vijnanabhikshu provides the following argument to prove the existence of the Purusha: 1. The objects exist for someone other than themselves. 2. The self is not what constitutes the three gunas. 3. The inanimate objects have to be controlled by some conscious principle. These arguments depend on the subject – object dichotomy. However, for this to be true, the self has to be known independently through direct experience. Therefore, the inferential proofs do not establish the self. The inferential arguments can only strengthen the introspective awareness of the self. They also clarify the notion of the self. The self is neither the experiencer nor the enjoyer of objects. The actual experiencer is a product of Purusha and Prakriti resulting from the absence of discrimination on the part of the Purusha between itself and Prakriti. Seeing, hearing etc are attributed to the self but they are not possessed by the Purusha. Just as the King is called a warrior through the agency of his army which he happens to command, the immutable self or Purusha is denoted as the seer, hearer etc. The instruments of senses such as the eye, ear etc. function by virtue of being in the proximity to the Purusha. Experiencer-ship and Agency get attributed to the self but they do not belong to it. The “I” consciousness is a mental state and is different from the pure consciousness which enlivens experience.
    But then how does the Purusha which is completely different from Prakriti appear as an empirical subject? Three possible mechanisms are suggested by the commentators. According to Bhoja, Sattva, in the proximity of Purusha, manifests buddhi by which the whole of Prakriti becomes an object of experience for Purusha like iron filings moving in the proximity of a magnet. According to Vacaspati Mishra in addition to the proximity of Purusha with sattva aspect of Prakriti, Buddhi catches a reflection of Purusha by which the mental states of Buddhi become intelligized to being called the experience of a person. Proximity in his opinion means yogyata or a capacity and not a physical contact, by which buddhi and Purusha seem to be united or identified. Because of such a yogyata, though Purusha remains absolutely untouched by the modifications of Prakriti, it experiences the states of Prakriti. Vijnabhikshu explains this phenomenon through a theory of dual reflection. When the states of Buddhi get reflected in Purusha, there is the notion of a person or an empirical subject born in the Purusha. When pure consciousness of Purusha is reflected in the Buddhi, conscious states arise in it. “The notion of the knower as ‘I’, the experiencer, cannot be generated in the buddhi by the reflection of pure consciousness, for mere reflection cannot serve any purpose. Purusha is reflected in Buddhi but the states of Buddhi are also reflected in Purusha on account of which Purusha seems to be an empirical subject, a jiva. It is worth noting that in all these explanations sattva is the predominant medium through which Purusha and Prakriti become connected. Though Sattva is not pure consciousness, it is translucent and resembles Purusha in this aspect. Consequently, discrimination between Buddhi and Purusha is lost easily. Because of this loss, man gets the notion of a self (personality), according to Panchasikha. There are innumerable number of Purusha-s and are considered to be all-pervading because there are no spatial and temporal limitations. Their all-pervading nature is like innumerable number of lamps emitting light simultaneously.

    The main objection raised against Sankhya is that a suitable mechanism for Prakriti to serve the purpose of Purusha is unintelligible. Both these entities being unrelated to each other, it is not clear how a harmony exists between the needs of Purusha and the acts of Prakriti. It is also not clear how the equilibrium of Prakriti gets disturbed by Purusha. The only solution to these problems is to admit the existence of Isvara which guides the movements of Prakriti and aids in the liberation of Purusha. Later Sankhya thinkers like Vijnanabhikshu do adopt this solution.
    Sankhya successfully eliminates the need of a God from its total metaphysical system. It is the first attempt at the development of a systematic atheism without admission of materialism. First it has to be understood that the teleology of Prakriti is unconscious and it serves the needs of the Purusha because that is its nature. The introduction of Isvara would lead to problems because such a being would act either to serve his own interests or those of other beings out of sympathy. In the former case he cannot be a perfect being and in the latter case he lacks the capacity because Purushas are in no misery before creation. The blind teleology of Prakriti and the theory of Karma allow Sankhya to eliminate the need of any God to supervise nature and souls.
    The question about the disturbance of equilibrium of Prakriti is actually meaningless in Sankhya. The state of equilibrium is not a state of motionlessness. It is rather one of high tension, with the intense activity of the Gunas being arrested due to their mutual counteraction. This state of arrest is not permanent nor is it the natural state of Prakriti. Rather it is in the very nature of Prakriti to have movement. It has its periods of movement and rest. Strictly speaking Prakriti does not require any agent to disturb her because she herself is of a moving nature.
    The association of Prakriti and Purusha is said to be beginningless. The creation happens spontaneously from the Prakriti under the direction of the Purusha and both are intimately associated with each other, like a lame man sitting on the shoulder of a blind man who is the navigator. The analogy indicates how creation proceeds in spite of the fact that Purusha is devoid of any activity and Prakriti is devoid of intelligence and sentiency.
    Another objection raised against Sankhya is about the concept of multiple Purushas. It makes no sense to talk about many Purushas as infinite monads of pure consciousness because the factors differentiating one individual from another are attributable to Prakriti. For Prakriti is not like maya that could act as an adjunct to apparently limit the one spiritual principle and make it appear as a limited individual. So we cannot posit one Purusha who could be made to appear as diverse in many buddhis. Sankhya Karika.18 enumerates three possibilities for the theory of multiplicity of Purusha-s. They are: 1. the individual allotment of birth and death 2. the non-simultaneity of activities and 3. diverse modifications due to the three Gunas. If Purusha were to be a single entity, then if one is born all would have been born and if one dies, all would die. Similarly, if one body is active, all bodies would be simultaneously active and if one body were to be inactive, all bodies would be simultaneously inactive. The variation in the psychological traits of the human beings is attributed to have resulted from the differences in the activity of the three Gunas.
    Also one would have to sacrifice the theory of the inherent teleology of Prakriti, for its movements serve the ends of Purusha and not of reflected selves. Consequently the theory of multiplicity of Purushas is consistent with its entire philosophical outlook.
    Prof S. Radhakrishnan says in Indian Philosophy (P:321, 19XX ): “The argument that if the Purusha-s were not many but only one, then all individual souls existing in bodies would have to die at the same time, assumes that birth and death apply to eternal Purusha, which is not allowed in Sankhya system…..” This criticism is not valid. Birth and Death do apply to Purusha but birth does not imply a fresh existence for Purusha but a fresh association with a different mind-body complex. If what was meant was that the arguments for multiplicity of Purusha-s only prove the multiplicity of the jiva-s or the empirical subjects, then it may be pointed out that the jiva itself is insentient and different from Purusha, so it cannot be an object of activity for Prakriti. Prakriti cannot produce new mind-body complexes for the jiva, because it is tied to Purusha. It would seem that Sankhya is thoroughly consistent in holding that Purusha-s are many.
  3. Speechless world

    Speechless world New Member

    As per Sankhya system, human experience is the result of an error in not discriminating between Purusha and Prakriti. Hence knowledge born out of discrimination between the two will lead to liberation. Strictly speaking bondage and liberation are states of Prakriti and not that of Purusha. Because Purusha seems to be affected with pleasure and pain, bondage and liberation are ascribed to him. Prakriti by its very nature serves the purpose of Purusha. When Purusha desires to experience the manifestations of Prakriti, it gets that but when dispassion is born into Purusha and he wishes for liberation, it is Prakriti again which serves this need of Purusha. How exactly is liberation affected by the aspirant is explained by Yoga school of thought. Most importantly, however, discrimination is born in buddhi and this leads to disjunction of Purusha from Prakriti. Purusha is left alone and undisturbed by any further modifications of Prakriti. Prakriti leaves Purusha for good as a dancing girl recluses herself from dancing after exhibiting herself to the spectators. The show is over and Purusha rests in its own nature. The state of liberation is not of bliss, for bliss is not apart from magnified pleasure. Unlike in Advaita, bliss does not form a part of the nature of pure consciousness. Purusha is isolated from all mutations of Prakriti and shines in its own nature. This is Kaivalya, the emancipation and the natural state of Purusha.

    Resources :
    1. Sankhya Karika with Vacaspati Mishra’s commentary Tattva Kaumudi (published by Ramakrishna Mission Publications)
    2. Sankhya Sutras with commentary of Vijnanabhikshu and Aniruddha translated by Dr Nandalal Sinha
    3. History of Indian Philosophy Vol. 1 by Prof S.N. Dasgupta
    4. Yoga Philosophy in relation to other systems of Indian Thought by Prof S.N. Dasgupta. (Both the above works of Prof Dasgupta contain excellent explanations of Sankhya and Yoga School and the above article is greatly indebted to both these works.)
    5. Positive Sciences of Hindus by B.N. Seal (This work contains a very detailed explanation of evolution of different categories of Prakriti, anyone interested in more details about this topic may refer to this work).
    6. Radhakrishnan, S., The Indian Philosophy.

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