A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

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

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

The first evolute of the prakṛti is generated by a preponderance of the sattva (intelligence-stuff). This is indeed the earliest state from which all the rest of the world has sprung forth; and it is a state in which the stuff of sattva predominates. It thus holds within it the minds (buddhi) of all puruṣas which were lost in the prakṛti during the pralaya. The very first work of the evolution of prakṛti to serve the puruṣas is thus manifested by the separating out of the old buddhis or minds (of the puruṣas) which hold within themselves the old specific ignorance (avidyā) inherent in them with reference to each puruṣa with which any particular buddhi is associated from beginningless time before the pralaya. This state of evolution consisting of all the collected minds (buddhi) of all the puruṣas is therefore called buddhitattva. It is a state which holds or comprehends within it the buddhis of all individuals. The individual buddhis of individual puruṣas are on one hand integrated with the buddhitattva and on the other associated with their specific puruṣas.

When some buddhis once begin to be separated from the prakṛti, other buddhi evolutions take place. In other words, we are to understand that once the transformation of buddhis is effected for the service of the puruṣas, all the other direct transformations that take place from the prakṛti take the same line, i.e. a preponderance of sattva being once created by the bringing out of some buddhis, other transformations of prakṛti that follow them have also the sattva preponderance, which thus have exactly the same composition as the first buddhis. Thus the first transformation from prakṛti becomes buddhi-transformation. This stage of buddhis may thus be regarded as the most universal stage, which comprehends within it all the buddhis of individuals and potentially all the matter of which the gross world is formed. Looked at from this point of view it has the widest and most universal existence comprising all creation, and is thus called mahat ( the great one). It is called liñga (sign), as the other later existences or evolutes give us the ground of inferring its existence, and as such must be distinguished from the prakṛti which is called aliñga , i.e. of which no liṅga or characteristic may be affirmed.

This mahat-tattva being once produced, further modifications begin to take place in three lines by three different kinds of undulations representing the sattva preponderance, rajas preponderance and tamas preponderance. This state when the mahat is disturbed by the three parallel tendencies of a preponderance of tamas, rajas and sattva is called ahaṃkāra , and the above three tendencies are respectively called tāmasika ahaṃkāra or bhūtādi , rājasika or taijasa ahaṃkāra, and vaikārika ahaṃkāra. The rāja-sika ahaṃkāra cannot mark a new preponderance by itself; it only helps (sahakāri) the transformations of the sattva preponderance and the tamas preponderance. The development of the former preponderance, as is easy to see, is only the assumption of a more and more determinate character of the buddhi, for we remember that buddhi itself has been the resulting transformation of a sattva preponderance. Further development with the help of rajas on the line of sattva development could only take place when the buddhi as mind determined itself in specific ways. The first development of the buddhi on this line is called sāttvika or vai-kārika ahaṃkāra. This ahaṃkāra represents the development in buddhi to produce a consciousness-stufif as I or rather “mine,” and must thus be distinguished from the first stage as buddhi, the function of which is a mere understanding and general datum as thisness.

The ego or ahaṃkāra (abhimāna-dravya) is the specific expression of the general consciousness which takes experience as mine. The function of the ego is therefore called abhimāna (self-assertion). From this again come the five cognitive senses of vision, touch, smell, taste, and hearing, the five conative senses of speech, handling, foot-movement, the ejective sense and the generative sense; the prāṇas (bio-motor force) which help both conation and cognition are but aspects of buddhi-movement as life. The individual ahaṃkāras and senses are related to the individual buddhis by the developing sattva determinations from which they had come into being. Each buddhi with its own group of ahaṃkāra (ego) and sense-evolutes thus forms a microcosm separate from similar other buddhis with their associated groups. So far therefore as knowledge is subject to sense-influence and the ego, it is different for each individual, but so far as a general mind (kārana buddhi) apart from sense knowledge is concerned, there is a community of all buddhis in the buddhitattva.

Even there however each buddhi is separated from other buddhis by its own peculiarly associated ignorance (avidyā). The buddhi and its sattva evolutes of ahaṃkāra and the senses are so related that though they are different from buddhi in their functions, they are all comprehended in the buddhi, and mark only its gradual differentiations and modes. We must again remember in this connection the doctrine of refilling, for as buddhi exhausts its part in giving rise to ahaṃkāra, the deficiency of buddhi is made good by prakṛti; again as ahaṃkāra partially exhausts itself in generating sense-faculties, the deficiency is made good by a refilling from the buddhi. Thus the change and wastage of each of the stadia are always made good and kept constant by a constant refilling from each higher state and finally from prakṛti.

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