The Buddhist Philosophy of Universal Flux

by Satkari Mookerjee | 1935 | 152,014 words | ISBN-10: 8120807375

A systematic and clear presentation of the philosophy of critical Realism as expounded by Dignaga and his school. The work is divided into two parts arranged into 26 chapters. Part I discusses the Nature of Existence, Logical Difficulties, Theory of Causation, Universals, Doctrine of Apoha, Theory of Soul and Problem of After-life. Part II deals wi...

Chapter XI - The Sāṅkhya Theory of Soul

The Sāṅkhya philosophers posit the existence of the self, which is of the nature of consciousness, pure and simple, as a distinct principle from intelligence, called buddhi or mahat. The buddhi is the primary transformation of Prakṛti or primordial matter, which is the material cause of the world order. Prakṛti is dynamic in nature and is ever changeful. Buddhi, being the first evolute of Prakṛti, inherits the dynamic character of the latter in full, the difference being the preponderance of the sattva principle, which makes it extremely supple and transparent. In fact, buddhi is the highest attenuated matter, which in transparency makes the closest possible approximation to the spirit, whose nature is pure illumination. Now when the spirit and buddhi are brought together, the latter receives the full reflection of the spirit and becomes spiritualised to all intents and purposes. Whatever passes in the buddhi becomes illumined at once by the light of the spirit and knowledge in the real sense of the word takes place. But this is not all. The transformations of buddhi, again, are imaged in the self or the spirit, by virtue of which the self is said to enjoy the pleasure and pain, which are only superposed on it and which in reality are the modifications of buddhi. Thus, though there is no modification in the self, the self assumes the r61e of experiencer of pleasure and pain and suffers bondage, which is nothing but the defilement of its native purity by the false ascription of these modifications. The Sāṅkhya philosopher, however, denies all active initiative to the self even in this false sense. The self is the enjoyer (bhoktṛ) though not an agent (kartṛ).

But the Buddhist refuses to subscribe to the eternal, unitary consciousness of the Sāṅkhyas. If consciousness is one, then why should there be such a variety and multiplicity of cognitions, such as cognitions of word, taste, colour and so on? And these cognitions cannot be lumped into one category, because they are distinct and separate. Moreover, it is said that the self is the enjoyer of pleasure and pain, as presented by the buddhi. But when the self is one and eternal, how can it be said to enjoy pleasure and pain, without forfeiting its uniformity? And why should it wait for the services of Prakṛti for its enjoyment ? Certainly an eternal principle can have no such dependence on an external agent. Again, there is no obligation that Prakṛti should minister to the self according to its needs? Granting that Prakṛti has a disinterested mission in pursuance of which it caters to the needs of the self, does the self undergo any modification in the process of enjoyment? If it does, the self cannot but forfeit its eternal uniformity. If it does not swerve from its native purity, it cannot be supposed to be an enjoyer, which denotes a change of state and change of state means modification.

But it has been said that enjoyment on the part 'of the self is not to be taken literally. It happens in this way: first buddhi undergoes a modification by being transformed into the shape of the object and this transformation of buddhi is imaged on the self. This reception of the image is interpreted as its enjoyment and in this the self does not undergo a modification in the least. But this is only a hoax. If the image gets merged into the identity of the self, the self will have all the incidents of the image, viz., origin and dissolution. If however there is no such identification, the self cannot be supposed to be an enjoyer even by way of fiction. Again how can the unconscious Prakṛti shape its activity according to a well-regulated plan and programme? If it is conceded to have such purposive activity, it is passing strange that it cannot enjoy the fruits of its labour. Certainly a person, who knows to prepare delicious dishes, should also know how to enjoy them.[1]

It has been observed that buddhi is an intelligent principle and so there is nothing inappropriate about it that it should shape its activity according to the requirements of the self. But this is begging the question. If you grant that buddhi has this intelligence, you cannot consistently affirm that it is unconscious, because intelligence is the invariable characteristic of consciousness. We have no warrant to suppose that the self is something distinct from intelligence and our experience at any rate contradicts such a hypothesis. The example has been trotted out that unconscious milk flows from the cow’s udder with a view to the nourishment of the calf and no prescience can be suspected in this purposive activity. Precisely unconscious buddhi also can follow a teleological plan. To suppose that God guides such activity is to make an unwarranted and uncalled-for assumption. Because the activity of all intelligent persons is motivated either by self-interest or by pity, and God, who has no unsatisfied need cannot have any incentive for creative activity on the score of self-interest.[2] Nor can He be actuated by pity, because before creation there is no occasion, e.g., suffering, to call for his pity. And if God is really merciful and is responsible for creation and if He has a foreknowledge of the eventual suffering of the created beings, He should have desisted from such activity, as you suppose that without his guidance no activity in unconscious matter is possible. If you say that the world-process is a beginningless cycle, and God has to order and arrange the creation of the world in conformity with the deeds of creatures in their previous lives, well, you should dispense with the superfluous appendage in the shape of God and accord supreme power to Karman. So there is no absurdity in thinking that unconscious Prakṛti can work according to a teleological plan for emancipation of the self, which is the highest good for the self. This has been the argument of Vācaspati Miśra.[3] But the analogy of milk’s activity is not germane in all essential particulars to the creative activity of Prakṛti. The milk in question does not move of its own initiative, but is activated by a combination of causes and conditions which come to pass at a particular time. But Prakṛti stands altogether in a different category. Being an eternal principle, uncontingent on any other factor, it should function always and not occasionally. But in that case Prakṛti should produce enjoyment and emancipation without break—an absurd issue which even the Sāṅkhya philosopher must hesitate to accept in spite of his undying love for Prakṛti.

It is, however, contended that buddhi has to be posited to account for origination and dissolution, which cannot appertain to consciousness. But this involves a petitio principii. There is no contradiction between consciousness and origin and death. On the contrary, if consciousness be an eternal fait accompli, the function of sense-organs will be deprived of all meaning, as the sole purpose of sense-organs is to produce knowledge, but this is already there. Certainly there cannot be any necessity for fuel, if fire is present for eternity.[4]

The argument that all composite things have to subserve the interests of another principle and the ultimate principle, which will be so served, cannot but be a spiritual substance, is acceptable so far.[5] But it fails to take into account that this spiritual principle must be capable of receiving supplementation from its accessories, otherwise these accessories cannot render any service to it. And if this spirit derives benefit from these auxiliaries, it cannot afford to be an unchanging static principle. We have no experience of a changeless substance being benefited by others. Even examples of bed and cushion and the like that have been cited to bring home the argument are only helpful because the beneficiary is actionable and so changeful. An unactionable and unchanging spirit cannot have any necessity for accessories, because the latter cannot have any effect on the former. And if the spiritual substance is thus conceded to be capable of change, it will be a fluxional entity which is the position we hold.[6]

Footnotes and references:


kartuṃ nāma vijānāti pradhānaṃ vyañjanādikam |
bhoktuṃ ca na vijānāti kim ayuktam ataḥ pnram |
      T. S., 800.


Cf. Ś lokavāttika—
prayojanam anuddiśya na mando’pi pravartate |
jagac ca sṛjatas tasya kiṃ nāma na kṛtaṃ bhavet |


Vide S. T. K. under
vatsavivṛddhinimittaṃ kṣīrasya yathā pravṛttir ajñasya |
puruṣavimokṣanimittaṃ tathā pravṛttiḥ pradhānasya |
      S. K. Śl. 57.


akṣyarthādy aphalaṃ tu syāc caitanyaṃ śāśvataṃ yadi |
na bhaved indhanenā ’rtho yadi syāc chāśvato’ nalaḥ |
      T. S., 306.


“saṅghātaparārthatvāt triguṇādiviparyayād adhiṣṭhānāt |
puruṣo’sti bhoktṛbbāvāt kaivalyārthaṃ pravṛtteś ca |”
      Sāṅkhya Kārikā, śl. 17.

also, puruṣo’sty avyaktāder vyatiriktaḥ, kutaḥ? saṅghātaparārthatvāt, avyakta mahadahaṅkārādayaḥ parārthāḥ, saṅghātatvāt, śaysnāsanābhyaṅgavat.


pārārthyaṃ cakṣurādīnāṃ yat punaḥ pratipādyate |
śayyāsanādivat tena saṅghātatvena hetunā |
ādheyātiśayārthatvaṃ yady eṣām upapādyate |
iṣṭasiddhir yad iṣṭās te’ smābhir jñānopakāriṇaḥ |
avikāryupakāritvasādhane sādhyaśūnyatā—
dṛṣṭāntasya calasyai’va yuktās te’py upakāriṇaḥ |
      T. 3., śls. 307-09.

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