A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1922 | 212,082 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of samkhya karika, samkhya sutra, vacaspati mishra and vijnana bhiksu: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the fifth part in the series called the “the kapila and the patanjala samkhya (yoga)”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 5 - Sāṃkhya kārikā, Sāṃkhya sūtra, Vācaspati Miśra and Vijñāna Bhiksu

A word of explanation is necessary as regards my interpretation of the Sāṃkhya-Yoga system. The Sāṃkhya kārikā is the oldest Sāṃkhya text on which we have commentaries by later writers. The Sāṃkhya sūtra was not referred to by any writer until it was commented upon by Aniruddha (fifteenth century A.D.). Even Guṇaratna of the fourteenth century A.D. who made allusions to a number of Sāṃkhya works, did not make any reference to the Sāvikhya sūtra , and no other writer who is known to have flourished before Guṇaratna seems to have made any reference to the Sāṃkhya sūtra. The natural conclusion therefore is that these sūtras were probably written some time after the fourteenth century. But there is no positive evidence to prove that it was so late a work as the fifteenth century. It is said at the end of the Sāṃkhya kāi'ikā of īśvarakṛṣṇa that the kārikās give an exposition of the Sāṃkhya doctrine excluding the refutations of the doctrines of other people and excluding the parables attached to the original Sāṃkhya works—the Saṣṭitan-traśāstra.

The Sāṃkhya sūtras contain refutations of other doctrines and also a number of parables. It is not improbable that these were collected from some earlier Sāṃkhya work which is now lost to us. It may be that it was done from some later edition of the Ṣaṣṭitantraśāstra (Saṣṭitantroddhāra as mentioned by Guṇaratna), but this is a mere conjecture. There is no reason to suppose that the Sāṃkhya doctrine found in the sūtras differs in any important way from the Sāṃkhya doctrine as found in the Sāṃkhya kārikā. The only point of importance is this, that the Sāṃkhya sūtras hold that when the Upaniṣads spoke of one absolute pure intelligence they meant to speak of unity as involved in the class of intelligent puruṣas as distinct from the class of the guṇas.

As all puruṣas were of the nature of pure intelligence, they were spoken of in the Upaniṣads as one, for they all form the category or class of pure intelligence, and hence may in some sense be regarded as one. This compromise cannot be found in the Sāṃkhya kārikā. This is, however, a case of omission and not of difference. Vijfiāña Bhikṣu, the commentator of the Sāṃkhya sūtra , was more inclined to theistic Sāṃkhya or Yoga than to atheistic Sāṃkhya. This is proved by his own remarks in his Sāṃkhyapravacanabhāṣya , Yogavārttika, and Vijñānāmṛta-bhāsya (an independent commentary on the Brahmasūtras of Bādarāyaṇa on theistic Sāṃkhya lines). Vijñāna Bhikṣu’s own view could not properly be called a thorough Yoga view, for he agreed more with the views of the Sāṃkhya doctrine of the Purāṇas, where both the diverse puruṣas and the prakṛti are said to be merged in the end in īśvara, by whose will the creative process again began in the prakṛti at the end of each pralaya. He could not avoid the distinctively atheistic arguments of the Sāṃkhya sūtras , but he remarked that these were used only with a view to showing that the Sāṃkhya system gave such a rational explanation that even without the intervention of an īśvara it could explain all facts.

Vijñāna Bhikṣu in his interpretation of Sāṃkhya differed on many points from those of Vācaspati, and it is difficult to say who is right. Vijñāna Bhikṣu has this advantage that he has boldly tried to give interpretations on some difficult points on which Vācaspati remained silent. I refer principally to the nature of the conception of the guṇas, which I believe is the most important thing in Sāṃkhya. Vijñāna Bhikṣu described the guṇas as reals or super-subtle substances, but Vācaspati and Gauḍapāda (the other commentator of the Sāṃkhya kārikā) remained silent on the point. There is nothing, however, in their interpretations which would militate against the interpretation of Vijñāna Bhikṣu, but yet while they were silent as to any definite explanations regarding the nature of the guṇas, Bhikṣu definitely came forward with a very satisfactory and rational interpretation of their nature.

Since no definite explanation of the guṇas is found in any other work before Bhikṣu, it is quite probable that this matter may not have been definitely worked out before. Neither Caraka nor the Mahābhārata explains the nature of the guṇas. But Bhikṣu’s interpretation suits exceedingly well all that is known of the manifestations and the workings of the guṇas in all early documents. I have therefore accepted the interpretation of Bhikṣu in giving my account of the nature of the guṇas. The Kārikā speaks of the guṇas as being of the nature of pleasure, pain, and dullness (sattva, rajas and tamas). It also describes sattva as being light and illuminating, rajas as of the nature of energy and causing motion, and tamas as heavy and obstructing. Vācaspati merely paraphrases this statement of XheKārikā but does not enter into any further explanations. Bhikṣu’s interpretation fits in well with all that is known of the guṇas, though it is quite possible that this view might not have been known before, and when the original Sāṃkhya doctrine was formulated there was a real vagueness as to the conception of the guṇas.

There are some other points in which Bhikṣu’s interpretation differs from that of Vācaspati. The most important of these may be mentioned here. The first is the nature of the connection of the buddhi states with the puruṣa. Vācaspati holds that there is no contact (saṃyoga) of any buddhi state with the puruṣa but that a reflection of the puruṣa is caught in the state of buddhi by virtue of which the buddhi state becomes intelligized and transformed into consciousness. But this view is open to the objection that it does not explain how the puruṣa can be said to be the experiencer of the conscious states of the buddhi, for its reflection in the buddhi is merely an image, and there cannot be an experience (bhoga) on the basis of that image alone without any actual connection of the puruṣa with the buddhi.

The answer of Vācaspati Miśra is that there is no contact of the two in space and time, but that their proximity (sannidhi) means only a specific kind of fitness (yogyatā) by virtue of which the puruṣa, though it remains aloof, is yet felt to be united and identified in the buddhi, and as a result of that the states of the buddhi appear as ascribed to a person. Vijñāna Bhikṣu differs from Vācaspati and says that if such a special kind of fitness be admitted, then there is no reason why puruṣa should be deprived of such a fitness at the time of emancipation, and thus there would be no emancipation at all, for the fitness being in the puruṣa, he could not be divested of it, and he would continue to enjoy the experiences represented in the buddhi for ever. Vijñāna Bhikṣu thus holds that there is a real contact of the puruṣa with the buddhi state in any cognitive state. Such a contact of the puruṣa and the buddhi does not necessarily mean that the former will be liable to change on account of it, for contact and change are not synonymous.

Change means the rise of new qualities. It is the buddhi which suffers changes, and when these changes are reflected in the puruṣa, there is the notion of a person or experiencer in the puruṣa, and when the puruṣa is reflected back in the buddhi the buddhi state appears as a conscious state. The second, is the difference between Vācaspati and Bhikṣu as regards the nature of the perceptual process. Bhikṣu thinks that the senses can directly perceive the determinate qualities of things without any intervention of manas, whereas Vācaspati ascribes to manas the power of arranging the sense-data in a definite order and of making the indeterminate sense-data determinate. With him the first stage of cognition is the stage when indeterminate sense materials are first presented, at the next stage there is assimilation, differentiation, and association by which the indeterminate materials are ordered and classified by the activity of manas called samkalpa which coordinates the indeterminate sense materials into determinate perceptual and conceptual forms as class notions with particular characteristics. Bhikṣu who supposes that the determinate character of things is directly perceived by the senses has necessarily to assign a subordinate position to manas as being only the faculty of desire, doubt, and imagination.

It may not be out of place to mention here that there are one or two passages in Vācaspati’s commentary on the Sāṃkhya kārikā which seem to suggest that he considered the ego (ahaṃkāra) as producing the subjective series of the senses and the objective series of the external world by a sort of desire or will, but he did not work out this doctrine, and it is therefore not necessary to enlarge upon it. There is also a difference of view with regard to the evolution of the tanmātras from the mahat; for contrary to the view of Vyāsabhāṣya and Vijñāna Bhikṣu etc. Vācaspati holds that from the mahat there was ahaṃkāra and from ahaṃkāra the tanmātras[1]. Vijñāna Bhikṣu however holds that both the separation of ahaṃkāra and the evolution of the tanmātras take place in the mahat, and as this appeared to me to be more reasonable, I have followed this interpretation. There are some other minor points of difference about the Yoga doctrines between Vācaspati and Bhikṣu which are not of much philosophical importance.

Footnotes and references:


See my Study of Patañjali , p. 60 fif.

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