A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 3

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1940 | 232,512 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

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

Part 3 - The Philosophy of Bhāskara’s Bhāṣya

From what has been said above it is clear that according to Bhāskara the world of matter and the selves consists only in real’ modifications or transformations (pariṇāma) of Brahman’s own nature through His diverse powers. This naturally brings in the question w hether the world and the souls are different from Brahman or identical with him. Bhāskara’s answer to such a question is that “difference” (bheda) has in it the characteristic of identity (abheda-dharmaś ca)—the waves are different from the sea, but are also identical with it. The waves are manifestations of the sea’s own powers, and so the same identical sea appears to be different when viewed with reference to the manifestations of its powers, though it is in reality identical with its powers. So the same identical fire is different in its powers as it burns or illuminates. So all that is one is also many, and the one is neither absolute identity nor absolute difference[1].

The individual souls are in reality not different from God; they are but Ilis parts, as the sparks of fire are the parts of fire; but it is the peculiarity of these parts of God, the souls, that though one with Him, they have been under the influence of ignorance, desires and deeds from beginningless time[2]. Just as the ākāśa, which is all the same everywhere; and yet the ākāśa inside a vessel or a house is not just the same ākāśa as the boundless space, but may in some sense be regarded as a part of it; or just as the same air is seen to serve different life-functions, as the five prāṇas, so the individual souls also may in some sense be regarded as parts of God. It is just and proper that the scriptures should command the individual souls to seek knowledge so as to attain liberation; for it is the desire for the highest soul (paramātman) or God or Brahman that is the cause of liberation, and it is the desire for objects of the world that is the cause of bondage[3].

This soul, in so far as it exists in association with ignorance, desires and deeds, is atomic in nature; and, just as a drop of sandal paste may perfume all the place about it, so does the atomic soul, remaining in one place, animate the whole body. It is by nature endowed with consciousness, and it is only with reference to the knowledge of other objects that it has to depend on the presence of those objects[4]. Its seat is in the heart, and through the skin of the heart it is in touch with the whole body. But, though in a state of bondage, under the influence of ignorance, etc., it is atomic, yet it is not ultimately atomic in nature; for it is one with Brahman. Under the influence of buddhi, ahaṃkāra, the five senses and the five vāyus it undergoes the cycle of rebirths. But though this atomic form and the association with the buddhi, etc., is not essential to the nature of the soul, yet so long as such a relation exists, the agency of the soul is in every sense real; but the ultimate source of this agency is God Himself; for it is God who makes us perform all actions, and He makes us perform good actions, and it is He who, remaining within us, controls all our actions.

In all stages of life a man must perform the deeds enjoined by the scriptures, and he cannot rise at any stage so high that he is beyond the sphere of the duties of work imposed on him by the scriptures[5]. It is not true, as Śaṅkara says, that those who are fit to have the highest knowledge are beyond the duties of life and courses of ritualistic and other actions enjoined by the scriptures, or that those for whom these are intended are not fit to have the highest knowledge; in other wrords, the statement of Śaṅkara that there cannot be any combination (samuccaya) of knowledge (jñāna) and necessary ritualistic duties of life (karma) is false. Bhāskara admits that pure karma (ritualistic duties) cannot lead us to the highest perception of the truth, the Brahman; yet knowledge (jñāna) combined with the regular duties, i.e. jñāna-samuccita-karma, can lead us to our highest good, the realization of Brahman.

That it is our duty to attain the knowledge of Brahman is also to be accepted, by reason of the injunction of the scriptures; for that also is one of the imperative duties imposed on us by the scriptures—a vidhi —the self is to be known (ātmā vā are draṣṭavyaḥ, etc.). It is therefore not true, as Śaṅkara asserted, that what the ritualistic and other duties imposed on us by the scriptures can do for us is only to make us fit for the studv of Vedānta by purifying us and making us as far as possible sinless; Bhāskara urges that performance of the duties imposed on us by the scriptures is as necessary as the attainment of knowledge for our final liberation.

Bhāskara draws a distinction between cognition (jñāna) and consciousness (caitanya), more particularly, self-consciousness (ātma-caitanya). Cognition with him means the knowledge of objective things, and this is a direct experience (anubhava) arising out of the contact of the sense organ, manas, and the object, the presence of light and the internal action of the memory and the sub-conscious impressions (saṃskāra). Cognition is not an active operation by itself, but is rather the result of the active operation of the senses in association with other accessories, such that whenever there is a collocation of those accessories involving the operation of the senses there is cognition[6]. Bhāskara is therefore positively against the contention of Kumārila that knowledge is an entity which is not directly perceived but only inferred as the agent which induces the intellectual operation, but which is not directly known by itself. If an unperceived entity is to be inferred to explain the cause of the perceived intellectual operation, then another entity might be inferred as the cause of that unperceived entity, and another to explain that and so on, and we have a vicious infinite (anavasthā).

Moreover, no unperceived entity can be inferred as the cause of the perceived intellectual operation; for, if it is unperceived, then its relation with intellectual operation is also unperceived, and how can there be any inference at all? Thus, cognition is what we directly experience (anubhava) and there is no unperceived entity which causes it, but it is the direct result of the joint operation of many accessories. This objective cognition is entirely different from the subjective consciousness or self-consciousness; for the latter is eternal and always present, whereas the former is only occasioned by the collocating circumstances. It is easy to see that Bhāskara has a very distinct epistemological position, which, though similar to Nyāya so far as the objective cognition is concerned, is yet different therefrom on account of his admission of the ever-present self-consciousness of the soul. It is at the same time different from the Śaṅkarite epistemology, for objective cognition is considered by him not as mere limitation of self-consciousness, but as entirely different therefrom[7].

It may also be noted that, unlike Dharmarājādhvarīndra, the writer of the Sanskrit epistemological work, Vedānta-paribhāṣā, Bhāskara considers manas as a sense-organ[8]. On the subject of the self-validity of knowledge Bhāskara thinks that the knowledge of truth is always self-valid (svataḥ-pramāṇa), whereas the knowledge of the false is always attested from outside (parataḥ pramāṇa)[9].

As has already been said, Bhāskara does not think that liberation can be attained through knowledge alone; the duties imposed by the scriptures must always be done along with our attempts to know Brahman; for there is no contradiction or opposition between knowledge and performance of the duties enjoined by the scriptures. There will be no liberation if the duties are forsaken[10]. The state of salvation is one in which there is a continuous and unbroken consciousness of happiness[11]. A liberated soul may associate or not associate itself with any body or sense as it likes[12]. It is as omniscient, omnipotent and as one with all souls as God Himself[13].

The attachment (rāga) to Brahman, which is said to be an essential condition for attaining liberation, is further defined to be worship (samārā-dhana) or devotion (bhakti), while bhakti is said to be attendance on God by meditation (dhyānādinā paricaryā). Bhakti is conceived, not as any feeling, affection or love of God, as in later Vaiṣṇava literature, but as dhyāna or meditation[14]. A question may arise as to what, if Brahman has transformed Himself into the world, is meant by meditation on Brahman? Does it mean that we are to meditate on the world? To this Bhāskara’s answer is that Brahman is not exhausted by His transformation into the world, and that what is really meant by Brahman’s being transformed into the world is that the nature of the world is spiritual. The world is a spiritual manifestation and a spiritual transformation, and what passes as matter is in reality spiritual.

Apart from Brahman as manifested in the world, the Brahman with diverse forms, there is also the formless Brahman (niṣprapañca brahman), the Brahman which is transcendent and beyond its own immanent forms, and it is this Brahman which is to be worshipped. The world with its diverse forms also will, in the end, return to its spiritual source, the formless Brahman, and nothing of it will be left as the remainder. The material world is dissolved in the spirit and lost therein, just as a lump of salt is lost in water[15]. This transcendent Brahman that is to be worshipped is of the nature of pure being and intelligence (sal-lakṣaṇa and bodha-lakṣaṇa)[16]. He is also infinite and unlimited. But, though He is thus characterized as being, intelligence, and infinite, vet these terms do not refer to three distinct entities; they are the qualities of Brahman, the substance, and, like all qualities, they cannot remain different from their substance; for neither can any substance remain without its qualities, nor can any qualities remain without their substance. A substance does not become different bv virtue of its qualities[17].

Bhāskara denies the possibility of liberation during lifetime (jīvan-mukti); for so long as the body remains as a result of the previous karmas, the duties assigned to the particular stage of life (āśrama) to which the man belongs have to be performed; but his difference from the ordinary man is that, while the ordinary man thinks himself to be the agent or the doer of all actions, the wise man never thinks himself to be so. If a man could attain liberation during lifetime, then he might even know the minds of other people. Whether in mukti one becomes absolutely relationless (niḥsam-bandhaḥ), or whether one becomes omniscient and omnipotent (as Bhāskara himself urges), it is not possible for one to attain mukti during one’s lifetime, so it is certain that so long as a man lives he must perform his duties and try to comprehend the nature of God and attend on Him through meditation, since these only can lead to liberation after death[18].

Footnotes and references:


abhe da-dharmas ca bhedo yathā rnahodadher abhedah sa eva taraṅqādy-ātmanā vartamāno bheda ity ucyate, na hi taraṅgā-dayaḥ pāṣāṇā-diṣu dṛśyante tasyaiva tāḥ śaktayaḥ śakti-śaktiniatoś ca ananyatvaṃ anyatvaṃ cn-palakṣyate yathagner dahana-prakāśanā-di-śaktayaḥ.. . .tasmāt sarvam ekā-tiekā-tmakaṃ natyantam abhinnaṃ bhinnaṃ vā.
11. 1. 18.


Ibid. 1. 4. 21.


rāgo hi paramātma-viṣayo yaḥ sa mukti-hetuḥ viṣaya-viṣayo yaḥ sa bandha-hetuḥ.


Ibid. 11. 3. 18, 22, 23.


Bhāskara-bhāṣya, i. i. i. In holding the view that the Brahma-sūtra is in a sense continuous with the Mīmāṃsā-sūtra, which the former must follow— for it is after the performance of the ritualistic duties that the knowledge of Brahman can arise, and the latter therefore cannot in any stage dispense with the need for the former—and that the Brahma-sūtras are not intended for any superior and different class of persons, Bhāskara seems to have followed Upavarsa or Upavarsācārya, to whose commentary on the Mīmāṃsā-sūtra he refers and whom he calls the founder of the school (śāstra-sampradāya-pravartaka). Ibid. I. 1. 1, and II. 2. 27.

See also I. 1. 4: ātma-jñānā-dhikṛtasya karmabhir vinā apavargā-nupapatter jñānena karma samuccīyate.


jñāna-kriyā-kalpanāyāṃ pramāṇā-bhāvāt.. . . ōlokendriya-manaḥ-saṃskāreṣu hi satsu saṃvedanam utpadyate iti tad-abhāve notpadyate, yadi punar aparam jñāttaṃ kalpyate tasyāpy anyat tasyāpy anyad ity anavasthā; na ca jñāna-kriyānumāne liṅgam asti,samvedanam iti cen na, agṛhīta-sambandhatvāt.
1.1 i.


kecid āhuḥ ātmā pramāyām indriya-dvāropādhi-nirgama-viṣayeṣu vartate ... tad idam asamyag darśanam;... ālokendriyādibhyo jñānam utpadyamānaṃ ... cānyad iti yuktam.


Ibid. II. 4. 17.


Ibid. I. 4. 21.


Ibid. III. 4. 26.


Ibid. IV. 4. 8.


Ibid. IV. 4. 12.


muktaḥ kāraṇā-tmānaṃ prāptaḥ tadvad evasarva-jñaḥ sarva-śaktiḥ.
iv. 4. 7.


Ibid. III. 2. 24.


Ibid. III. 2. 11, 13, 17.


Ibid. III. 2. 23.


na dharma-dharmi-bhedena svarūpa-bheda iti; na hi guṇa-rahitaṃ dravyam asti na dravya-rahito guṇaḥ.
111. 2. 23.


Bhāskara-bhāṣya, hi. 4. 26.

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