A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1932 | 241,887 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of origination: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the third part in the series called the “the philosophy of the yogavasishtha”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

The world as such never existed in the past, nor exists now, nor will exist hereafter; so it has no production or destruction in any real sense[1]. But yet there is the appearance, and its genesis has somehow to be accounted for. The ultimate entity is, of course, of the nature of pure cessation (śānta), as described above. The order of moments leading to the manifestation of the world-appearance can be described in this way: At first there is something like a self-reflecting thought in the ultimate entity, producing some indescribable objectivity which gives rise to an egohood. Thus, on a further movement, which is akin to thought, is produced a state which can be described as a self-thinking entity, which is clear pure intelligence, in which everything may be reflected. It is only this entity that can be called conscious intelligence (cit). As the thought-activity becomes more and more concrete (ghana-saṃvedana), other conditions of soul (jīva) arise out of it. At this stage it forgets, as it were, its subject-objectless ultimate state, and desires to flow out of itself as a pure essence of creative movement (bhāvanā-mātra-sāra).

The first objectivity is ākāśa, manifested as pure vacuity. At this moment arise the ego (ahaṃta) and time (kāla). This creation is, however, in no sense real, and is nothing but the seeming appearances of the self-conscious movement (sva-saṃvedana-mātrakam) of the ultimate being. All the network of being is non-existent, and has only an appearance of existing. Thought (saṃvit), which at this moment is like the ākāśa and the ego and which is the seed (bīja) of all the conceivings of thought (bhāvanā), formulates by its movement air[2]. Again, following the ākāśa moment and from it as a more concrete state (ghanībhūya), comes forth the sound-potential (kha-tan-mātra).

This sound-potential is the root of the production of all the Vedas, with their words, sentences and valid means of proof. Gradually the conceivings of the other tan-mātras of sparśa, tejas, rasa and gandha follow, and from them the entire objective world, which has no other reality than the fact that they are conceptions of the self-conscious thought[3]. The stages then are, that in the state of equilibrium (sama) of the ultimate indescribable entity called the Brahman, which, though pure consciousness in essence, is in an unmanifested state, there first arises an objectivity (cetyatva) through its self-directed self-consciousness of the objectivity inherent in it (sataś cetyāṃśa-cetanāt) ; next arises the soul, where there is objective consciousness only through the touch or connection of objectivity (cetya-saṃyoga-cetanāt) instead of the self-directed consciousness of objectivity inherent in itself. Then comes the illusory notion of subjectivity, through which the soul thinks that it is only the conscious subject and as such is different from the object (cetyaika-paratā-vaśāt).

This moment naturally leads to the state of the subjective ego, which conceives actively (buddhitvākalanaṃ), and it is this conceiving activity which leads to the objective conceptions of the different tan-mātras and the world-appearance. These are all, however, ideal creations, and as such have no reality apart from their being as mere appearance. Since their nature is purely conceptual (vikalpa), they cannot be real at any time. All that appears as existent does so only as a result of the conceptual activity of thought. Through its desire, “I shall see,” there comes the appearance of the two hollows of the eye, and similarly in the case of touch, smell, hearing and taste. There is no single soul, far less an infinite number of them. It is by the all-powerful conceptual activity of Brahman that there arises the appearance of so many centres of subjective thought, as the souls (jīvas). In reality, however, the jīvas have no other existence than the conceptualizing activity which produces their appearance. There is no materiality or form: these are nothing but the self-flashings of thought (citta-camatkāra).

Manas, according to this theory, is nothing but that function of pure consciousness through which it posits out of itself an object of itself. Here the pure conscious part may be called the spiritual part and its objectivity aspect the material part[4]. In its objectivity also the cit perceives nothing but itself, though it appears to perceive something other than itself (svam evānyatayā dṛstvā), and this objectivity takes its first start with the rise of egohood (ahaṃtā).

But to the most important question, namely, how the original equilibrium is disturbed and how the present development of the conceptual creation has come about, the answer given in the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha is that it is by pure accident (kākatālīya-yogena) that such a course of events took place. It is indeed disappointing that such a wonderful creation of world-appearance should have ultimately to depend on accident for its origin[5]. It is considered irrelevant to enquire into the possibility of some other cause of the ultimate cause, the Brahman[6].

Footnotes and references:


bandhyā-putra-vyoma-bane yathā na staḥ kadācana
jagad-ādy akhilaṃ dṛśyaṃ tathā nāsti kadācana
na cotpannaṃ na ca dḥvarnsi yat kilādau na vidyate
utpattiḥ kīdṛśī tasya nāśa-śabdasya kā kathā.

      III. 11. 4, 5.


manaḥ saṃpadyate lolaṃ kalanā-kalanonmukham ;
kalayantī manaḥ śaktir ādau bhāvayati kṣaṇāt.
ākāśa-bḥāvanāmaccḥāṃ śabda-bīja-rasortmukhīm
tatas tāṃ ghanatāṃ jātam ghana-spanda-kramān manaḥ.
      IV. 44. 16, 17.

A comparison of numerous passages like these shows that each mental creation is the result of a creative thought-movement called bhāvanā, and each successive movement in the chain of a succession of developing creative movements is said to be ghana, or concrete. Ghana has been paraphrased in the Tātparya-prakāśa as accretion (upacaya). Bhāvāna is the same as spanda ; as the result of each thought-movement, there was thought-accretion (ghana), and corresponding to each ghana there was a semi-statical creation, and following each ghana there was a spanda (ghana-spanda-kramāt).


III. 12.


cito yac cetya-kalanaṃ tan-manastvam udāḥṛtam
cid-bhāgo ’trājaḍo bḥāgo jāḍyam atra hi cetyatā.

      III. 91. 37.


III. 96. 15, IV. 54. 7.


Brahmaṇaḥ kāṛaṇaṃ kiṃ syād iti vaktuṃ na yujyote
svabhāvo nirviśeṣatvāt paro vaktuṃ na yujyate.

      IV. 18. 22.

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