A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 1

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

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

Part 18 - Sāṃkhya Atheism and Yoga Theism

Granted that the interchange of the positions of the infinite number of reals produce all the world and its transformations; whence comes this fixed order of the universe, the fixed order of cause and effect, the fixed order of the so-called barriers which prevent the transformation of any cause into any effect or the first disturbance of the equilibrium of the prakṛti? Sāṃkhya denies the existence of īśvara (God) or any other exterior influence, and holds that there is an inherent tendency in these reals which guides all their movements. This tendency or teleology demands that the movements of the reals should be in such a manner that they may render some service to the souls either in the direction of enjoyment or salvation.

It is by the natural course of such a tendency that prakṛti is disturbed, and the guṇas develop on two lines—on the mental plane, citta or mind comprising the sense faculties, and on the objective plane as material objects; and it is in fulfilment of the demands of this tendency that on the one hand take place subjective experiences as the changes of the buddhi and on the other the infinite modes of the changes of objective things. It is this tendency to be of service to the puruṣas (puruṣārthatā) that guides all the movements of the reals, restrains all disorder, renders the world a fit object of experience, and finally rouses them to turn back from the world and seek to attain liberation from the association of prakṛti and its gratuitous service, which causes us all this trouble of saṃsāra.

Yoga here asks, how the blind tendency of the non-intelligent prakṛti can bring forth this order and harmony of the universe, how can it determine what course of evolution will be of the best service to the puruṣas, how can it remove its own barriers and lend itself to the evolutionary process from the state of prakṛti equilibrium? How too can this blind tendency so regulate the evolutionary order that all men must suffer pains according to their bad karmas, and happiness according to their good ones? There must be some intelligent Being who should help the course of evolution in such a way that this system of order and harmony may be attained. This Being is īśvara.

īśvara is a puruṣa who had never been subject to ignorance, afflictions, or passions. His body is of pure sattva quality which can never be touched by ignorance. He is all knowledge and all powerful. He has a permanent wish that those barriers in the course of the evolution of the reals by which the evolution of the guṇas may best serve the double interest of the puruṣa’s experience (bhoga) and liberation (apavarga) should be removed. It is according to this permanent will of īśvara that the proper barriers are removed and the guṇas follow naturally an intelligent course of evolution for the service of the best interests of the puruṣas.

Īśvara has not created the prakṛti; he only disturbs the equilibrium of the prakṛti in its quiescent state, and later on helps it to follow an intelligent order by which the fruits of karma are properly distributed and the order of the world is brought about. This acknowledgement of īśvara in Yoga and its denial by Sāṃkhya marks the main theoretic difference between the two according to which the Yoga and Sāṃkhya are distinguished as Seśvara Sāṃkhya (Sāṃkhya with īśvara) and Nirīśvara Sāṃkhya (Atheistic Sāṃkhya)[1].

Footnotes and references:


Tattvavaiśāradī, IV. 3; Yogavārttika, l. 24; and Pravacanabkāṣya, V. 1-12.