The Prashna Upanishad with Shankara’s Commentary
स ईक्शाचक्रे । कस्मिन्नहमुत्क्रान्त उत्क्रान्तो भविष्यामि कस्मित् वा प्रतिष्टिते प्रतिष्टस्यामीति ॥ ३ ॥
sa īkśācakre | kasminnahamutkrānta utkrānto bhaviṣyāmi kasmit vā pratiṣṭite pratiṣṭasyāmīti || 3 ||
3. He thought, ‘what going out, shall I go out; or, what staying shall I stay?’
Com.—The kalâs were stated to have their origin in Purusha in order that the Purusha may be distinctly described. In what order these kalâs come out of their origin was stated for another purpose. That the creation was preceded by intelligence is shown by this statement, i.e., the Purusha of sixteen kalâs, asked for by Bhâradvâja ‘saw,’ i.e., ‘thought.’ The fruit and order of creation are thus explained. On what agent going out of my body I myself will be going out. On what staying in the body, I myself shall stay. Herein, it is objected, that the Âtman is not the creator, and that Pradhâna or Prakriti is the creator. Prakriti, therefore, converts itself into mahat and other forms, for the benefit of the Purusha. It does not stand to reason to say that the Purusha created the universe by his thought of himself; while there is the Prakriti, the state of equilibrium of the three Gunas, satva, etc., competent according to recognised authorities, to create the world; or, while there are the atoms, acting agreeably to the divine will; because, the Âtman being one, has not the necessary materials to create the universe, and further, to attribute creation to the Âtman, is to make the Âtman the author of evils to himself. For, no intelligent being, it is well-known, will do anything to his own trouble. Therefore, the assertion he saw, (thought), etc., is meant to dignify the unintelligent creator Prakriti into an intelligent entity, seeing how the Prakriti in view to bene lit the Purusha acts in an established order, as if possessed of intelligence.
The Purusha is said to create, just as a king is said to do things, when the king’s factotum does all. This contention has no force. It is equally appropriate to view the Âtman as the creator of the universe, as to look upon him as the enjoyer. As, according to the Sânkhya, the Âtman which is mere intelligence and not liable to any change can, be the enjoyer, so according to the follower of the Vêdâs, he can be also the author of creation preceded by thought; for, there is the authority of the sruti on the point. It is urged that, if the Âtman is transformed into a diligent entity, it must be subject to the faults of transiency, impurity and diversity; but where there is a mere change in the intelligence of the Âtman, as during enjoyment, without a change of entity, there can be no fault. It is also urged that in the case of the followers of the Vêdâs who attribute to the Âtman the function of the creation of the universe, they make the Âtman transient and subject to such other faults, by attributing to him a change of entities. This objection is not sound; for, it is admitted that the Âtman has two aspects, one unconditioned and the other assuming distinguishing conditions of name and form imposed upon it by ignorance (avidyâ).
The aspect of the Âtman well-known to be the result of the conditions of name and form, due to ignorance, is admitted, only because it is talked about in the sâstras which deal with the so-called bondage and the emancipation of the âtman. But the entity, in its real nature, is unconditioned, one without a second, incomprehensible to the intellect of all logicians, fearless and pure. It cannot, therefore, be the creator or enjoyer, nor could there be actions, agent or fruit, with reference to it. For, everything is identical with the Âtman. But the Sânkhyas who found that creation, act, agent and fruits were all super-imposed upon the Purusha, by ignorance (avidyâ) recoiled from their position, because of their non-allegiance to the sâstras, and postulated that the Purusha is really the enjoyer. They postulated also the existence of Prakriti, as an entity really distinct from the Purusha and have been overcome by the reasonings of other logicians; similarly, have other logicians been overcome by the Sânkhyas. Thus engaged in supporting conflicting theories and fighting each other like creatures, striving to get at the same piece of flesh, they have all of them been continually drawn away from the truth finding the authorities against each other. In order that those desirous of emancipation may disregard all their theories and strive with zeal to realize the true drift of the Vêdânta, i.e., universal identity, we point out the flaws in the theory of the logicians but we do not do it in the spirit of a logician. It has been accordingly observed ‘having left the causes of all disputes to other disputants, the knower of the Vêdâs, with his intelligence well protected by them, reposes in happiness.’ Again, there is no difference in the nature of the changes required to make the Purusha the creator and the enjoyer respectively. What is that kind or change which would support the theory that the Purusha could be said to be only the enjoyer but not the creator and the Pradhâna to be only the creator and not the enjoyer.
It was said that the intelligent Âtman changes in itself and enjoys but is not converted to anything distinct from itself; whereas Prakriti is converted into different entities and thus acquires the characters of diversity, impurity and dullness, but not so Purusha. To this we answer that this is really no distinction, being purely verbal. If it be urged that the Âtman, which is purely intelligent, undergoes a change when the time of enjoyment comes and that when the enjoyment is over, it gives up the change becoming purely intelligent again, it may be said similarly that Prakriti is changed into forms, like mahat, withdraws itself from them, and becomes Prakriti again, and the distinction in respect of the changes undergone by Purusha, and Pradhâna is, therefore, verbal. If it be urged that even during the time of enjoyment, the Purusha is purely intelligent as before it, then it is plain that the enjoyment attributed to the Purusha is not real. If it be urged that the intelligent Purusha undergoes real change during enjoyment and enjoys by means of that change, this enjoyment may be attributed to Pradhâna as well, seeing that it also undergoes change during enjoyment. If it be urged that the change in the intelligence of Purusha alone is enjoyment, we see no reason why fire, etc., which possess special attributes such as heat, etc., are not said to enjoy. Nor could it be said that Pradhâna and Purusha enjoy simultaneously; for, it would be then inappropriate to hold that Pradhâna is working for another. It is well-known that of two enjoyers, one cannot be dependent upon the other as chief, in the same way that two lights cannot be, in enlightening each other.
If it be said that the reflection of the intelligence of the Purusha in the mind, which is essentially sâtvic in its nature and has the attribute of enjoyment, is what is meant by the capacity to enjoy, of the Purusha which is really not subject to any modification, we say ‘no’; for, if such capacity does not affect the Purusha, the making him the enjoyer is meaningless. If the misery of enjoyment does not attach to the Purusha, he being always devoid of changes, to remove what, is the sâstra leading to emancipation made? If it be said that the sâstra is made to remove the evil, merely superposed by ignorance, on the Purusha, then the theory that Purusha is really the enjoyer alone, not creator, that Pradhâna is the creator alone, not enjoyer; that there is a real and distinct entity other than the Purusha should not be respected by those wishing for emancipation, as it is unsupported by âgamas, superfluous and unreasonable. If it be urged that even if there were but one entity, i.e., the Âtman, the compiling of the sâstra is superfluous, we say ‘no.’ There is no such defect. The alternative doubt, whether the compilation of the sâstras is superfluous or otherwise, can arise only if there be those who compose the sâstras and those who seek its fruits. If the Âtman were one, there can be no composer of the sâstras, etc., different from that. In their absence, this alternative question is itself inappropriate. When the oneness of the Âtman is admitted, the use of the sâstras is also admitted by you. When that is admitted, the sruti points out the inappropriateness of the alternative supposition. ‘But, where to him all becomes surely Âtman, there who could see what and by whom, etc.’
The appropriateness of compiling the sâstra is also pointed out, when Sealing from the standpoint of ignorance, without the knowledge of the real existing entity. Thus at length, in the Vâjasanêyaka ‘where he sees as if quality exists, etc.’ In this Atharvamantrôpanishad also, a division of the sâstra is made at the very beginning, as that relating to Parâ (higher) Vidyâ and to Apara (lower) Vidyâ. Therefore, there is no scope for the army of the arguments of logicians entering into this domain of oneness of the Âtman well-guarded by the hand of the royal authority of Vêdânta. By this, it must be understood that the fault of ‘want of materials’ in creating, pointed out in the Brahman by others, has been refuted, as the Brahman appears possessed of a diversity of many powers and means, due to conditions of name and form produced by ignorance; as also the objection that the âtman brings misery on itself, etc. As for the illustration that the king is by courtesy called the doer, when the king’s factotum is the real doer, that is not here in point. For, then, the primary import of the authoritative sruti ‘he saw, etc.,’ will be affected. Where the primary meaning of a word cannot be possibly accepted, there alone is a secondary meaning allowed. But here to say that a non-intelligent thing puts forth well-regulated activity in the cause of Purusha taking note of persons emancipated and bound, of doer, deed, place, time and causes and for the purposes of securing such results as bondage, emancipation, etc., does not stand to reason. But on the view already stated that the omniscient lord is the creator, this stands to reason.
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