A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

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

This page describes the philosophy of nature of agency (kartritva) and the illusion of world creation: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the sixth part in the series called the “the philosophy of the yogavasishtha”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 6 - Nature of Agency (Kartṛtva) and the Illusion of World Creation

Whenever we ascribe agency (kartṛtva) to any person in respect of deeds producing pleasure or pain, or deeds requiring strenuous exercise of will-power, as those of the Yoga discipline, we do it wrongly; for agency consists in the grasp of will and resolution, and so it is an internal determination of the mind, of the nature of dominant and instinctive desires and inclinations (vāsanābhidhānaḥ)[1]. The inner movement of feeling in the person towards the enjoyment of experiences takes place in accordance with these fixed desires or inclinations leading him to specific forms of enjoyment. All enjoyment is thus a natural consequence of our nature and character as active agents. Since all active agency (kartṛtva) consists in the inner effort of will, the enjoyment following such an inner exercise of will is nothing but the feeling modifications of the mind following the lead of the active exercise of the will.

All action or active agency is thus associated with root inclinations (vāsanā), and is thus possible only for those who do not know the truth and have their minds full of the root inclinations. But those who have no vāsanā cannot be said to have the nature of active agents or of enjoying anything. Their minds are no doubt always active and they are active all the time; but, as they have no vāsanā, they are not attached to fruit, and there is the movement without any attachment. Whatever is done by manas is done, and what is not done by it is not done; so it is the manas that is the active agent, and not the body; the world has appeared from the mind (citta or manas), is of the essence of manas, and is upheld in manas. Everything is but a mental creation and has no other existence.

Ultimately, everything comes from Brahman; for that is the source of all powers, and therefore all powers (śaktayaḥ) are seen in Brahman—existence, non-existence, unity, duality and multiplicity all proceed from Brahman. The citta, or mind, has evolved out of pure consciousness (cit) or Brahman, as has already been mentioned, and it is through the latter that all power of action (karma), root desires (vāsanā), and all mental modifications appear. But, if everything has proceeded from Brahman, how is it that the world-appearance happens to be so different from its source, the Brahman? When anything comes out of any other thing, it is naturally expected to be similar thereto in substance. If, therefore, the world-appearance has sprung forth from Brahman, it ought to be similar in nature thereto; but Brahman is sorrowless, while the world-appearance is full of sorrow; how is this to be explained? To such a question the answer is, that to a person who has a perfect realization of the nature of the world-appearance, as being a mere conceptual creation from the Brahman and having no existence at all, there is no sorrow in this world-appearance nor any such quality which is different from Brahman.

Only in the eyes of a person who has not the complete realization does this difference between the world-appearance and Brahman seem to be so great, and the mere notion of the identity of Brahman and the universe, without its complete realization, may lead to all sorts of mischief. On this account instruction in the identity of the Brahman and the world-appearance should never be given to anyone whose mind has not been properly purified by the essential virtues of self-control and disinclination to worldly pleasures[2]. As in magic (indrajāla), non-existent things are produced and existent things are destroyed, a jug becomes a cloth, and a cloth becomes a jug, and all sorts of wonderful sights are shown, though none of these appearances have the slightest essence of their own; so is the entire world-appearance produced out of the imagination of the mind. There is no active agent (kartṛ) and no one enjoyer (bhoktṛ) of the pleasures and sorrows of the world, and there is no destruction whatsoever[3].

Though the ultimate state is the indescribable Brahman or cit, yet it is from manas that all creation and destruction from cycle to cycle take their start. At the beginning of each so-called creation the creative movement of manas energy is roused. At the very first the outflow of this manas energy in the direction of a conceptual creation means an accumulation of energy in manas , called ghana , which is a sort of statical aspect of the dynamical energy (spanda). At the next stage there is a combination of this statical state of energy with the next outflow of energy, and the result is the stabilized accretion of energy of the second order; this is again followed by another outflow of energy, and that leads to the formation of the stabilized energy of the third order, and so on. The course of thought-creation is thus through the interaction of the actualized energy of thought with the active forms of the energy of thought, which join together, at each successive outflow from the supreme fund of potential energy.

Thus it is said that the first creative movement of manas manifests itself as the ākāśa creation, and that, as a result of this creative outflow of energy, there is an accretion of energy in manas ; at this moment there is another outflow (spanda) or movement on the part of manas , as modified by the accretion of energy of the previous state, and this outflow of manas thus modified is the creation of air. The outflow of this second order, again, modifies manas by its accretion, and there is a third outflow of energy of the manas as modified by the previous accretion, and so on. This process of the modification of energy by the outflow of the manas modified at each stage by the accretion of the outflow of energy at each of the preceding states is called ghana-spanda-krama[4].

The creation of all the so-called tan-mātras (subtle states) of ākāśa , vāyu, tejas, ap and kṣiti takes place in this order, and afterwards that of the ahaṃkāra and buddhi, and thus of the subtle body (pury-aṣṭaka); thereafter the cosmic body of Brahman is formed and developed in accordance with the root desire (vāsanā) inherent in manas. Thus here we have first the ākāśa tan-mātra, then the vāyu tan-mātra from the ākāśa tan-mātra plus the outflow of energy, then, from the ākāśa tan-mātra plus the vāyu tan-mātra plus the outflow of energy of the third order, tejas tan-mātra , and so on. Then, after the tan-mātra, the ahaṃkāra and the buddhi, we have the subtle body of eight constituents (five tan-mātras, ahaṃkāra, buddhi and the root manas), called the pury-aṣṭaka of Brahmā. From this develops the body of Brahmā, and from the creative imagination of Brahmā we have the grosser materials and all the rest of the world-appearance. But all this is pure mental creation, and hence unreal, and so also are all the scriptures, gods and goddesses and all else that passes as real.

Footnotes and references:


yohyantara-sthāyāḥ manovṛtter niilayaḥ upādeyatā-pratyayo vāsanābhtdhā-natatkartṛtva-śabdenocyate.
      IV. 38. 2.


ādau śama dama-prāyair gimaiḥ śiṣyaṃ viśodhayet
paścāt sarvam idaṃ brahma śuddhas tvam iti bodhayet.
IV. 39. 23.


nātra kaścit kartā na bhoktā na vināśam eti.
      IV. 39. 41.


IV. 44. 13-30.

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