A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

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

This page describes the philosophy of the psychological views and other ontological categories: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the twelfth part in the series called the “speculations in the medical schools”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 12 - The Psychological Views and other Ontological Categories

Caraka in the eighth chapter of the Sūtra-sthāna counts the senses as being five in number. Though both the Sāṃkhya and the Vaiśeṣika systems, to which Āyurveda is largely indebted for its philosophical ideas, admit manas, or mind-organ, as a separate sense (indriya), Āyurveda here differs from them and, as Cakrapāṇi says, separates manas from the ordinary senses by reason of the fact that it has many functions which are not possessed by any of the other senses (cakṣur-ādibhyodhika-dharma-yogitayā)[1]. Caraka himself, however, in another place speaks incidentally of a sixth sense (ṣaḍ-indriya) in connection with the description of sweet taste[2]. Manas is, however, here described as transcending the senses (atīndriya). Cakrapāṇi, in explaining the atīndriya character of manas , says that it is called atīndriya because it is not a cause of the knowledge of external objects like the other senses.

Manas is, indeed, the direct cause of pleasure and pain, but it is the superintendent of all the senses (adhiṣṭhāyaka). Manas is also called sattva and cetas. The self is, however, the permanent subject of all acts of consciousness (cetanā-pratisandhātā). When the manas comes into contact with its objects, viz. pleasure or pain or the objects of thought, and the self makes an effort at grasping these objects, then there is a movement on the part of manas , by which it feels pleasure or pain, or thinks the objects of thought, or moves the sense-organs. Thus, when the self makes an effort and the objects of pleasure or pain or thought are present, then the manas turns to these as its objects and moves the senses, and the senses, guided by it, grasp their respective objects and produce their knowledge.

The one manas appears as diverse on account of the diversity of its objects of thought (e.g. the mind may sometimes take religious thoughts and appear religious and at other times take lustful thoughts and appear lustful), diversity of sense-objects with which it is associated (e.g. the mind may grasp colour, smell or sound, etc.), and diversity of ways of imagination (e.g. “This will do good to me” or “This will do me harm,” etc.). In the same man the mind may sometimes appear as angry, ignorant or virtuous. But in reality the manas is one and the same for each person; all these differences do not appear at the same time with the same person, as might have been the case if there were many minds for one and the same person. Moreover, the manas is atomic; for otherwise many different objects or functions could be performed by one and the same manas at the same time.

It may be asked, if one and the same manas can show different kinds of moral propensities, sattva , rajas or tamas , how can any person be characterized as sāttvika , rājasika or tāmasika ? The answer is that a man is called sāttvika , rājasika or tāmasika according as predominance of one or other of these guṇas is observed in that man.

Manas is supposed to move the senses, which are constituted of ākāśa , air, light, heat, water and earth; and the seats of the senses are the physical sockets of the eye, the ear, the nostrils, the tongue and the skin. The five sense-cognitions are produced through the contiguity of the senses, the sense-objects, manas and soul. They are short-lived {kṣaṇika), but not exactly momentary, as the Buddhists would like to have them[3]. They also are of determinate nature (niścayātmikāḥ). As Cakrapāṇi says, it is quite possible for transitory sense-cognitions to give a determinate report of their objects. Though all the senses are made up of the five elements, yet those senses which contain any element in a preponderating degree were conceived as made up of that element. The sense that has a particular element in a preponderating degree is regarded as having by virtue of that a special capacity for grasping that particular element[4].

The connection of the body, the senses, the manas and the self is called life (jīvita)[5]. The self is everywhere regarded as the agent which unites the acts of consciousness (jñāna-pratisandhātā). Cakrapāṇi says that, since the body is momentary (śarīrasya kṣaṇikatvena), it may be argued that the union of the self with the body is also momentary. The answer that Cakrapāṇi gives to such an objection is that, though the body is momentary, yet, since the momentary bodies are repeated in a series, the series as a whole may be looked upon as one; and, though the union of the self with each term of the series is momentary, yet, since the series may be looked upon as one, its union with the self may also be regarded as one (santāna-vyavasthito ’yam ekatayā ucyate)[6]. In another place Caraka says that the manas , the self and the body are connected together like a tripod, on which life rests; if any one of the components is missing, the unity is broken[7].

It has already been pointed out that, according to Caraka, the self is active and that by its activity the mind moves; and it is by the operation of mind that the senses move. The self is also regarded as being cetana (conscious). But this consciousness does not belong to the self in itself, it is attained only by its connection with the senses through manas[8]. It is, however, necessary to note that apart from this self there is, according to Caraka, another transcendent self (paraḥ ātmā), different from the self which participates in the union of the body and the senses (which is also technically called the saṃyogi-puruṣa)[9]. The subtler, or transcendent, self is unchangeable (nir-vikāra).

Knowledge implies a process and a change, and this self manifests consciousness only in those parts where it becomes associated with manas and the senses. Thus, though the self is eternal, yet the rise of consciousness in it is occasional. The unchangeableness of the self consists in its being able to unite with itself its past and future states[10]. If the self were not permanent, it could not unite with itself all its past experiences. The sufferings and enjoyment that affect us should not be attributed to the self, but to manas (dṛśyamāna-rāgādi-vikāras tu manasi).

The special feature of this view of self is that it is permanent and unchangeable; this self seems to hold within it all the individual egos which operate in association with their respective senses, manas and body. It becomes endowed with consciousness only when it is in association with the senses. Pleasure, pain and the movements involved in thought-processes are attributed to manas , though the manas is also considered to derive its activity from the self. The states of consciousness that are produced are all united in the self. The self, thus diverted in its subtler aspect from the senses and manas , is eternal and unchangeable, whereas in its aspect as associated with manas and the senses it is in the sphere of change and consciousness. This view is therefore different from those of the orthodox schools of Indian philosophy.

It is well to note in this connection that the Caraka-saṃhitā begins with an enumeration of the Vaiśeṣika categories, and, though it often differs from the Vaiśeṣika view, it seems to take its start from the Vaiśeṣika. It enumerates the five elements, manas , time, space and self as substances (dravya); it enumerates the guṇas , such as the sensible qualities, the mechanical or physical qualities given in the list beginning with heaviness (gurvādayaḥ), intelligence (buddhi), and those beginning with remoteness (para) and ending with effort (prayatna). But what is this gurv ādi list? There is no such list in the Vaiśeṣika-sūtras.

Cakrapāṇi, however, refers to an enumeration given in a later chapter (1.25. 35) by Caraka, where however these guṇas are not enumerated as belonging to all substances, but only to the food and drink that we take[11]. But the list referred to as par ādi (beginning with par ādi) prayatnānta (ending in prayatna) is not to be found anywhere in the Caraka-saṃhitā. This may be a reference to the Vaiśeṣika-sūtra , 1. 1. 6[12]. But, if this is so, it leaves out a number of other guṇas enumerated in the Vaiśeṣika-sūtra which were counted there in the parādi list[13].

Caraka himself gives a list of guṇas beginning with para which includes some of those guṇas included in the Vaiśeṣika-sūtra already referred to and some more.

The guṇas enumerated are

  1. para,
  2. apara,
  3. yukti,
  4. samkhyā,
  5. samyoga,
  6. vibhāga,
  7. pṛthaktva,
  8. parimāṇa,
  9. saṃskāra,
  10. and abhyāsa[14].

Para means “superiority” or “importance” (pradhāna),
means “inferiority” or “unimportance” (apra-dhāna).

This importance or unimportance is with reference to country, time, age, measure, the rasa resulting from digestion (pāka), potency (vīrya) and taste (rasa). Thus, a dry country is called para and a marshy one apara ; the rains (visarga) of early and late autumn (śarat and hemanta) are called para, whereas the season of drought (winter, spring and summer) is called apara ; with reference to pāka, vīrya and rasa, para and apara mean “suitability” and “unsuitability”—that which is suitable to one is para and that which is unsuitable to him is apara.

Yukti means proper selection of medicines with reference to certain diseases (doṣādy-apekṣayā bheṣajasya samīcīna-kalpanā); samkhyā means “number”; samyoga, the mixing up or compounding of two or more substances; vibhāga, separation; pṛthaktva, difference. The mountains Himalaya and Meru are pṛthak, because they are situated in different places and cannot unite; again, even though a pig and a buffalo may meet together, they always remain different from each other; and again, in the same class, say in a collection of peas, each pea is different in identity from the other; in the last case difference in number constitutes a difference in identity; thus, wherever there is a numerical difference (anekatā), there is difference in identity.

Pṛthaktva thus stands for three kinds of difference,

  1. spatial difference,
  2. difference of characters
  3. and difference of identity due to numerical distinction.

Parimāṇa means measurement by weight, saṃskāra means the production of new qualities and abhyāsa means habit due to constant practice (satata-kriya). It is evident from the above that, though the terms used are the same as those used by Kaṇāda in the Vaiśeṣika-sūtra, yet they are mostly used in different senses in accordance, probably, with medical tradition. But this list does not end with prayatna ; it seems therefore that parādi and prayatnānta stand for two different lists and should not be combined together. We have above the parādi list. The prayatnānta is a different list of guṇas.

It includes, as Cakrapāṇi says,

Prayatna means that particular quality by the rise of which in the soul the manas is moved to activity.

Karma (movement) is described as prayatnādi-ceṣṭitam. i.e. a movement of the nature of conscious effort; the word ādi in prayatnādi is explained by Cakrapāṇi as meaning “of the nature of[15].”

Samavāya means the relation of inseparable inherence, as in the case of qualities and substances. Cakrapāṇi, in explaining the nature of samavāya , says that it is eternal, so that, even when in a particular case it may disappear, it continues to exist in other cases. It is never destroyed or created anew, but only its appearance is or is not manifested in particular cases[16]. In the case of sāmānya and viśeṣa , again, Caraka seems to add a new sense to the words. In the Vaiśeṣika systems the word sāmānya means a class concept; but here it means the concrete things which have similar constituents or characteristics; and viśeṣa , which means in Vaiśeṣika ultimate specific properties differentiating one atom from another, means in Caraka concrete things which have dissimilar and opposite constituents or characteristics. Sāmānya and viśeṣa thus have a significance quite different from what they have in the Vaiśeṣika-sūtras.

The principle of sāmānya and viśeṣa is the main support of Āyurveda; for it is the principle which underlies the application of medicines and the course of diets. Substances having similar constituents or characteristics will increase each other, and those having dissimilar constituents or characteristics will decrease each other. Thus a substance having the characteristics of vāta will increase vāta and decrease śleṣman, which is dissimilar to it, and so on. Sāmānya is thus defined as tulyārthatā , i.e. performing similar purposes. Instead of having only a conceptual value, sāmānya and viśeṣa are here seen to discharge a pragmatic work of supreme value for Āyurveda.

As regards the theory of substances (dravya) also, though Caraka borrowed the enumeration of categories, Cakrapāṇi says that the simpler bhūtas formed parts of the complex ones (bhūtāntarānupraveśa), and in support of this idea he quotes a sūtra from the Nyāya-sūtra, which, however, there occurs as an opponent’s view, since the theory of bhūtānupraveśa was not believed in by the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika school; with that school none of the elements entered into any other, and their qualities were fixed in themselves. However, in spite of these modifications, the relation of Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika with Caraka seems to be close. But the detailed description of the school of Sāṃkhya, in iv. i ,as has already been mentioned and explained in the first volume of the present work, in the chapter on Sāṃkhya, does not seem to have much bearing on the needs of Āyurveda; and so the whole chapter does not appear to fit in with the rest of the work, and it is not referred to in other parts of the book. It is not improbable that this chapter was somehow added to the book from some other treatise.

Suśruta does not, like Caraka, enumerate the categories of the Vaiśeṣika, and his account of Sāṃkhya is very faithful to the traditional account given in īśvarakṛṣṇa’s Kārikā and in the Sāṃkhya-sūtra.

Having described the Sāṃkhya theory, Suśruta says that according to medical science the causes of things are sixfold, viz.

  1. nature of things (svabhāva),
  2. God (Īśvara),
  3. time (kāla),
  4. accidental happenings (yadṛcchā),
  5. destiny (niyati)
  6. and evolution (pariṇāma)[17].

As Ḍalhaṇa points out, Suśruta has in several places referred to the operation of all these causes. Thus the formation of the limbs of the body in the foetus-state is said to be due to nature (svabhāva) ; God as fire is said to operate as the digestive fire in the stomach and to help digestion; time as seasons is said to be the cause of the increase and decrease of doṣas; destiny means virtue and vice, and diseases and recovery from them are sometimes attributed to these. Jejjaṭa, in commenting on Suśruta (as reported by Ḍalhaṇa), says that all the above six causes, with the exception of God, are but different names of prakṛti. Gayī, however, thinks that the above six causes represent the instrumental cause, though prakṛti may still be considered as being the material cause (upādāna-kāraṇa).

As Ḍalhaṇa and Gayī think, there is no reason to suppose that Suśruta described the Sāṃkhya doctrine; for, immediately after describing the sixfold causes, he speaks of the elements as being constituted of the three guṇas, sattva , rajas and tamas. Even the senses are regarded as being material. Souls are according to Āyurveda eternal, though they are limited to their bodies and are not all-pervasive. They are manifested when the semen and the blood combine, and it is this bodily self, suffering transmigration owing to virtue and vice (called karma-puruṣa), with which medical science is concerned.

When the self is in association with manas , it has the following qualities:

  • pleasure,
  • pain,
  • desire,
  • hatred,
  • effort,
  • prāṇa and apāna (the upward current of breath and the downward force acting in the direction of the rectum),
  • the opening and closing of the eyelids, the action of the intellect as decision or buddhi (niścaya),
  • imagination (saṃkalpa),
  • thought (vicāraṇā),
  • memory (smṛti),
  • scientific knowledge (vijñāna),
  • energy (adhya-vasāya)
  • and sense-cognitions (viṣayopalabdhi).

The qualities of manas are divided into three classes, viz.

  1. sāttvika,
  2. rājasa
  3. and tāmasa ;

of these the sāttvika ones are

  • kind actions,
  • the desire of enjoying gradually,
  • mercy,
  • truthfulness,
  • virtue,
  • faith,
  • self-knowledge,
  • retentive power (medhā),
  • intelligence (buddhi),
  • self-control (dhṛti),
  • and sense of duty for the sake of duty (anabhiṣaṅga) ;

the rājasa qualities are

  • suffering,
  • impatience,
  • pride,
  • untruthfulness,
  • cruelty,
  • boastfulness,
  • conceit (māna),
  • joy,
  • passion
  • and anger;

the tāmasa qualities are

  • dullness,
  • viciousness,
  • want of retentive power,
  • idleness and sleepiness.

Footnotes and references:


Cakrapāṇi’s commentary on Caraka-saṃhitā, 1. 8. 3.


Caraka-saṃhitā, 1. 26. 41, tatramadhuro rasaḥ...ṣaḍ indriya-prasādanaḥ.


Cakrapāṇi’s commentary on Caraka-saṃḥitā, 1.8. 11. Kṣanikā ity āśutara - vināśinyaḥ na tu bauddha-siddhāntavad eka-kṣaṇāvasthāyinyaḥ.


tatra yad-yaḍ-ātmakam indriyam viśeṣāt tat-tad-ātmakam evārtḥam anu-gṛhṇāti tat-svabḥāvād vibhutvāc ca.
      (Caraka, 1. 8. 14.)


Caraka, 1. 1. 41. The other synonyms of life are ḍhāri, nityaga and anubandha.


Ibid. 1. 1. 41.


sattvam ātmā śatīraṃ ca trayam etat tri-daṇḍavat
lokas tiṣṭhati saṃyogāt tatra sarvaṃ pratiṣṭbitam.


idam eva cātmanaś cetanatvaṃ, yad indriya-saṃyoge sati jñāna-śālitvaṃ, na nikṛṣṭasyātmanas' cetanatvam. Cakrapāṇi on Caraka, I. 1. 47.


nirvikāraḥ paras tv ātmā satva-bhūta-guṇendriyaiḥ.
      Caraka, 1. 1. 55.

tena sattva-śafīrātma-melaka-rūpo ya ātma-śabdena ucyate taṃ vyāvartayati.
      Cakrapāṇi on the above.


nityatvaṃ cātmanaḥ pūrvāparāvasthānubhūtārtha-pratisandhānāt.
      Cakrapāṇi on Caraka, 1. 1. 55.


āhāratvam āhārasyaikavidḥam arthābhedāt sa punaḥ...viṃśati-guṇo guru-laghu-śītoṣṇa-snigdha-rūkṣa-manda-tīkṣṇa-stḥira-sara-mṛdu - kaṭḥina - viśada -pic-chila-ślakṣṇa-khara-sūkṣma-sthūla-sāndra-dravānugamāt.


paratvāparatve buddhayaḥ sukha-duḥkḥe iccḥā-dveṣau prayatnaś ca guṇāḥ.
1. 1.6.


rūpa-rasa-gandḥa-śparśāḥ saṃkḥyā-parimāṇāni pṛtḥaktvaṃ saṃyoga-vibhāgau paratvāparatve.


Parāparatve yuktiś ca saṃkhyā saṃyoga eva ca, vibhāgaś ca prtḥaktvaṃ ca parimaṇam athāpi ca, saṃskārabhyāsa ity ete guṇāḥ jñeyāḥ parādayaḥ.
I. 26. 27-29.


ādi-iabdaḥ prakāravācī. Cakrapāṇi’s commentary on Caraka-saṃhitā, I. 1. 48.


Ibid. 1. 1. 49.


Suśruta-saṃhitā, III. I. II.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: