A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

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

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

It has been already said that the study of philosophy and association with saintly characters are the principal means with which a beginner has to set out on his toil for the attainment of salvation. In the first stage (prathamā bhūmika) the enquirer has to increase his wisdom by study and association with saintly persons. The second stage is the stage of critical thinking (vicāraṇā); the third is that of the mental practice of dissociation from all passions, etc. (asaṅga-bhāvanā) ; the fourth stage (vilāpanī) is that in which through a right understanding of the nature of truth the world-appearance shows itself to be false; the fifth stage is that in which the saint is in a state of pure knowledge and bliss (śuddha-saṃvit-mayā-nanda-rūpa). This stage is that of the jīvan-mukta , in which the saint may be said to be half-asleep and half-awake (ardha-supta-prabuddha). The sixth stage is that in which the saint is in a state of pure bliss; it is a state which is more like that of deep dreamless sleep (suṣupta-sadṛśa-sthiti). The seventh stage is the last transcendental state (turyātīta), which cannot be experienced by any saint while he is living. Of these the first three stages are called the waking state (jāgrat), the fourth stage is called the dream state (svapna), the fifth stage is called the dreamless (suṣupta) state, the sixth stage is an unconscious state called the turya, and the seventh stage is called the turyātīta[1].

Desire (icchā) is at the root of all our troubles. It is like a mad elephant rushing through our system and trying to destroy it. The senses are like its young, and the instinctive root inclinations (vāsanā) are like its flow of ichor. It can only be conquered by the close application of patience (dhairya). Desire means the imaginations of the mind, such as “let this happen to me,” and this is also called saṅkalpa. The proper way to stop this sort of imagining is to cease by sheer force of will from hoping or desiring in this manner, and for this one has to forget his memory; for so long as memory continues such hopes and desires cannot be stopped. The last stage, when all movement has ceased (aspanda) and all thoughts and imaginations have ceased, is a state of unconsciousness (avedanam)[2]. Yoga is also defined as the ultimate state of unconsciousness (avedana), the eternal state when everything else has ceased[3].

In this state citta is destroyed, and one is reduced to the ultimate entity of consciousness; and thus, being free of all relations and differentiations of subject and object, one has no knowledge in this state, though it is characterized as bodhātmaka (identical with consciousness). This last state is indeed absolutely indescribable (avyapadeśya), though it is variously described as the state of Brahman, Śiva, or the realization of the distinction of prakṛti and puruṣa[4]. The Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, however, describes this state not as being.essentially one of bliss, but as a state of unconsciousness unthinkable and indescribable. It is only the fifth state that manifests itself as being of the nature of ānanda ; the sixth state is one of unconsciousness, which, it seems, can somehow be grasped; but the seventh is absolutely transcendental and indescribable.

The division of the progressive process into seven stages naturally reminds one of the seven stages of prajñā (wisdom) in Patañjali’s Yoga-sūtra and Vyāsa-bhāṣya. The seven stages of prajñā are there divided into two parts, the first containing four and the second three. Of these the four are psychological and the three are ontological, showing the stages of the disintegration of citta before its final destruction or citta-vimukti[5]. Here also the first four stages, ending with vilāpanl , are psychological, whereas the last three stages represent the advance of the evolution of citta towards its final disruption. But, apart from this, it does not seem that there is any one to one correspondence of the prajñā states of the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha with those of Patañjali.

The Yoga-vāsiṣṭha occasionally mentions the name Yoga as denoting the highest state and defines it as the ultimate state of unconsciousness (avedanaṃ vidur yogam) or as the cessation of the poisonous effects of desire[6]. In the first half of the sixth book, chapter 125, the ultimate state is described as the state of universal negation (sarvāpahnava). Existence of citta is pain, and its destruction bliss; the destruction of citta by cessation of knowledge—a state of neither pain nor pleasure nor any intermediate state—a state as feelingless as that of the stone (pāṣāṇavat-samam), is the ultimate state aimed at[7].

Karma, according to the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, is nothing but thought-activity manifesting itself as subject-object knowledge. Abandonment of karma therefore means nothing short of abandonment of thought-activity or the process of knowledge[8]. Cessation of karma thus means the annihilation of knowledge. The stirring of karma or activity of thought is without any cause; but it is due to this activity that the ego and all other objects of thought come into being ; the goal of all our endeavours should be the destruction of all knowledge, the unconscious, stone-like knowledgeless state[9].

As there are seven progressive stages, so there are also seven kinds of beings according to the weakness or strength of their vāsanās.

There are

  • svapna-jāgara,
  • saṅkalpa-jāgara,
  • kevala-jāgrat-sthita,
  • cirāj-jāgrat-sthita,
  • ghana-jāgrat-sthita,
  • jāgrat-svapna
  • and kṣīṇa-jāgar aka.

Svapna-jāgara (dream-awake) persons are those who in some past state of existence realized in dream experience all our present states of being and worked as dream persons (svapnanara). The commentator in trying to explain this says that it is not impossible; for everything is present everywhere in the spirit, so it is possible that we, as dream persons of their dream experience, should be present in their minds in their vāsanā forms (tad-antaḥ-karaṇe vāsanātmanā sthitāḥ)[10]. As both past and present have no existence except in thought, time is in thought reversible, so that our existence at a time future to theirs does not necessarily prevent their having an experience of us in dreams. For the limitations of time and space do not hold for thought, and as elements in thought everything exists everywhere (sarvaṃ sarvatra vidyate)[11].

By dreams these persons may experience changes of life and even attain to final emancipation. The second class, the saṅkalpa-jāgar as those who without sleeping can by mere imagination continue to conceive all sorts of activities and existences, and may ultimately attain emancipation. The third class, the kevala-jāgar as, are those who are born in this life for the first time. When such beings pass through more than one life, they are called cira-jāgaras. Such beings, on account of their sins, may be born as trees, etc., in which case they are called ghana-jāgaras . Those of such beings suffering rebirth who by study and good association attain right knowledge are called jāgrat-svapna-sthita; and finally, those that have reached the turya state of deliverance are called kṣīṇa-jāgaraka.

Bondage (bandha), according to the Yoga-vāsiṣṭha , remains so long as our knowledge has an object associated with it, and deliverance {mokṣa) is realized when knowledge is absolutely and ultimately dissociated from all objects and remains in its transcendent purity, having neither an object nor a subject[12].

Footnotes and references:


Yoga-vāsiṣṭha , vi. 120.


Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, vi. 126.


Ibid. vi. 126. 99.


Ibid. vi. 126. 71-72.


See my A History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 1, Cambridge, 1922, p. 273.


Icchā-viṣa-vikārasyaviyogaṃyoga-nāmakam. Yoga-vāsiṣṭha, vi. 37. 1; also ibid. vi. 126. 99.


This turīyātīta stage should not be confused with the sixth stage of suṣupti, which is often described as a stage of pure bliss.


sarveṣāṃ karmaṇām evaṃ vedanaṃ bījam uttamam
svarūpaṃ cetayitvāntas tataḥ spaṇḍaḥ pravartate.
vi. n. 2. 26.


Ibid. in. 15. 16.


Ibid. vi. 2. 50. 9. Tātparya-prakāśa.




jñānasya jñeyatāpattir bandha ity abhidīyate
tasyaiva jñeyatā-śāntir mokṣa ity abhidhīyate.
vi. 11. 190. 1.

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