A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 3

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

This page describes the philosophy of the brahman and the world according to vijnanamrita-bhashya: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the second part in the series called the “the philosophy of vijnana bhikshu”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 2 - The Brahman and the World according to Vijñānāmṛta-bhāṣya

The production, existence, maintenance, modification, decay and destruction of the world are from Brahman as God. He holds within Himself all the energies constituting the prakṛti and puruṣas, and manifests Himself in other diverse forms; Brahman as pure consciousness is associated with the conditioning factor of His own being, the māyā as pure sattva quality in all this creative activity, so from that great Being who is devoid of all afflictions, karmas and their fruits are also produced. The fact that the Brahma-sūtra, II. 2, says that Brahman is that from which the world has come into being and is being maintained implies that the world as it is in its own reality is an eternal fact in the very being of the ultimately real and the unmanifested. The production, the transformation and the destruction of the world are only its phenomenal aspect[1]. Brahman is here regarded as the adhiṣṭhāna-kāraṇa. This means that Brahman is the basis, the ground, the ādhāra (container) as it were of the universe in which it exists as undivided and as indistinguishable from it and which also holds the universe together.

Brahman is the cause which holds together the material cause of the universe so that it may transform itself into it[2]. Brahman is the principle of ultimate cause which renders all other kinds of causality possible. In the original Brahman, the prakṛti and the puruṣas exist in the eternal consciousness and as such are held together as being one with it. The Brahman is neither changeable nor identifiable with prakṛti and puruṣa. It is because of this that, though Brahman is of the nature of pure consciousness and unchangeable, yet it is regarded as being one with the universe and as the material cause. The material cause or upādāna-kāraṇa is the name which is given to changing material cause (the vikāri-kāraṇa) and to the ground cause or the adhiṣṭhāna-kāraṇa. The underlying principle of both the ground cause (adhiṣṭhāna-kāraṇa) and the material cause (upādāna-kāraṇa) is that the effect is held in it as merged in it or indistinguishable from it[3].

The idea involved in avibhāga or oneness with the cause is not regarded as an ordinary relation of identity but as a sort of non-relational relation or a situation of uniqueness which cannot be decomposed into its constituents so that a relational bond may be affirmed of them. The upshot of the whole position is that the nature of the universe is so founded in Brahman which forms its ground that it cannot be regarded as a mere illusory appearance of it or as a modification or a product of it; but while these two possible ways of relation between the cause and the effect fail, the universe as such has no existence, significance or meaning without the ground in which it is sustained and which helps its evolutionary process. The ordinary relation of the sus-tainer and the sustained is inadequate here, for it implies a duality of independent existence; in the present case, however, where Brahman is regarded as the ground cause there is no such duality and the universe cannot be conceived as apart from Brahman which forms its ground and essence while remaining unchanged in its transcendent reality. Thus, though it may have to be acknowledged that there is a relation between the two, the relation has to be conceived as the transcendental one, of which no analogy is found elsewhere.

The seeming pictorial analogy which falls far short of the situation is to be found in the case where water is mixed with milk[4]. Here the existence of the water is dependent upon the existence of the milk so long as the two exist in a mixed condition; and neither of them can be conceived without the other. The nature of the prakṛti and the puruṣa is also manifested from the essence of God’s nature as pure consciousness. The causality of substance, qualities and actions is also due to the underlying essence of God which permeates all things. The difference between the relation of samavāya and this unique relation of indistinguishableness in the ground is that while the former applies to the case of the intimate relation of the effects in and through themselves, the latter refers only to the special fact of the indistinguishable character of the effect in the cause, and has no reference to the relation of the effect-parts among themselves with reference to the whole as an inseparable concatenation of effects. The ordinary organic relation such as that which subsists between the parts of a living body is thus different from that which is referred to here as the indistinguishable character of the effects in the ground.

The parts of the universe as comprising the living and the non-living may be regarded as inseparably united with one another in the whole, but such a relation is an intimate relation between the effects, and the whole is nothing but an assemblage of these. This is what may be called the special feature of samavāya relation. But in the unique relation of indistinguishableness in the ground the effect subsists in the ground in such a manner that the effect has no separate reality from the cause[5]. Brahman in this view is the basis or the substratum—the ground which supports the totality of the unitv of prakṛti and the puruṣas to evolve itself into the universe with its varied forms[6]. It does not, therefore, in itself participate in the changing evolution and transformation of world-forms, but it always exists as one with it, and being in it and supported by it, it develops into the world.

Vijñāna Bhikṣu says that the Vaiśeṣikas believe that God is the dynamic or the instrumental agent, whereas he thinks that the causality of God cannot be regarded as being either of the samavāyi, asamavāyi or nimitta types, but is a fourth kind of conception— cause as ground or container[7]. He also describes this type of causation as being adhiṣṭhāna, a term with which we are familiar in Śaṅkara Vedānta. But the difference between the two kinds of conception of adhiṣṭhāna kāraṇa is indeed very great, for while Bhikṣu considers this to be the unchangeable ground which sustains the movements of the principle of change in it in an undivided unity, Śaṅkara regards adhiṣṭhāna as the basis of all changes which are unreal in themselves. According to Bhikṣu, however, the changing phenomena are not unreal, but they are only changes which are the modifications of a principle of change which subsists in an undivided unity with the ground cause. When they say that the world is both being and non-being (sad-asadrūpa), and is hence unreal and illusory, the Śaṅkarites suffer from a grave misconception.

The world is called sat and as at (being and non-being), because it represents the principle of becoming or change. It is affirmed as “this” and yet because it changes it is again not affirmed as “this.” The future forms of the changing process are also non-existent as it were in the present form and the present form is also nonexistent as it were in the future forms that are to be. Thus, any of its forms may be regarded as not existing and hence false when compared with an entity that always exists and in the same form[8]. All objects of the world so far as they are past and future are contradicted by their present states and are therefore regarded as false, but so far as they are perceived in their present state they are regarded as real[9].

The universe has, however, an eternal and immutable form as pure consciousness in the very nature of Brahman from which it is separated out as the world of matter and souls. The pure consciousness in itself is the only ultimate reality which is ever the same and is not subject to any change or process of becoming. Both the individual souls and the world of matter are ultimately dissolved and merged in Brahman, the pure and ultimate consciousness. These, therefore, are regarded as being names and forms when compared with the ultimate changeless Reality, Brahman[10]. But this does not mean that the universe of matter and souls is absolutely unreal and mere māyā or illusion. If all that appears were absolutely false, then all moral values would disappear and all notions of bondage and emancipation would become meaningless. If the falsity of all things except the pure consciousness can be proved by any means, that itself would prove that such proofs have validity and that therefore there are other things over and above pure consciousness which may be valid. If such proofs are invalid but can establish the validity of pure consciousness as against the validity of all other things, then such proofs may also prove the reality of all other things in the world.

It may be held that what ordinary people consider as true can be proved to be invalid by what is regarded by them as valid means of proof; but on the Śaṅkarite view nothing is regarded as valid and therefore there are no proofs by which the validity of the world-process can be maintained. But the reply that naturally comes to such a view is that though the validity of the world may not be proved, yet that does not lead to the conclusion that the world-process is unreal; for even if its validity is not proved, its validity or reality may at least be doubtful. There is, therefore, nothing by which we may come to any conclusion about its invalidity and unreality. The reality of the universe is of a different order from that of Brahman, which is of the nature of pure consciousness, as the former consists of practical efficiency (artha-kriyā-kāritva). But even though in the state of a changing process the reality of the world is only its reality as becoming and as causal efficiency, yet it has also an ultimate reality in itself, since it has come into being from the ultimate reality, Brahman.

The world of matter and souls exists in God as pure consciousness and therefore as one with Him. When from out of its state as pure consciousness it is manifested as the world of matter and souls, we mark it as the stage of creation. When again they retire back into God as being one with His consciousness, that is marked as the state of dissolution[11]. The universe of matter and souls is also ultimately to be regarded as being of the nature of consciousness, and is as such a constituent of the ultimate pure consciousness in which it remains as it were merged and lost. The world of visible forms and changes is also thus of the nature of thought, and only the ignorant regard them as mere objects[12]. When the scriptural texts speak of the identity of the world and Brahman they refer to this ultimate state in which the world exists in the pure consciousness—Brahman as one with it. But it is not only in the state of dissolution that the world exists in Brahman in undivided unity, but in the state of creation also the world exists in Brahman as one with it, for all the so-called mechanical and other kinds of forces that are to be found in matter and w'hich constitute its reality are but the energy of God. And as the energy is always conceived as being one with that which possesses it, it is believed that the world with all its changes exists in God[13]. In the state of pralaya the world-energies exist in God as some form of consciousness or conscious energy which is later on manifested by Him as material energy or matter.

The unity of the world-energies in God is such that though these retain some kind of independence yet it is so held up and mixed up as it were in the reality of God that it cannot be separated from Him. Their independence consists in the fact that they are of the nature of energy, but as God possesses them they can have no existence and they cannot be conceived as apart from Him. As thus described the world of matter has no permanent reality, and the consciousness of this fact may be called the bādha or contradiction (pāramārthika-sattvā-bhāva-niścaya eva bādhaḥ)[14]. But in spite of this bādha the universe has a relative or vyavahārika existence (tādrśa-bādhe’pi ca sati jñāna-sādhanā-dīnāṃ vyavahārika-sattvāt).

The causality of prakṛti and paruṣa is limited to their specific capacities which determine the nature of modifications. But God is the universal all-cause behind them which not only shows itself through these specific limitations but which regulates the inner harmony and order subsisting in them and in their mutual relations. Thus the visual organ is limited in its function to the operation of vision, and the tactile organ is limited in its function to the operation of touch, but the functions and activities of all these are organized by the individual self which operates and manifests itself through them. Thus Brahman in this sense may be regarded as being both the instrumental and the material cause[15]. According to Sāṃkhya and Yoga th e prakṛti is supposed to be associated with the puruṣas through the inner and inherent teleology, but according to the Vedāntic view as interpreted by Bhikṣu their mutual association is due to the operation of God[16].

Footnotes and references:


atra cai’taḍ yata ity’anuktvā jartmā-dyasya yata iti vacanād avyakta-rūpeṇa jagan nityam eva ity ācāryyā-śayaḥ.
I. 1.2.


kiṃ punar adhiṣṭhāna-kāraṇatvam ucyate tad evā’ dhiṣṭḥāna-kāraṇaṃ yatra’ vibhaktam yeno’ paṣṭabdham ca sad upādānā-kāraṇaṃ kāryā-kāreṇa pāriṇamate.


Kāryā-vibhāgā-dhāratvasyai’ vo’ pādāna-sāmūnya-lakṣaṇatvāt.
I. I. 2.


aribhāgaś cā’ dhāratāvat svarūpa-sambandha-viśeṣotyanta-saṃmiśraṇa-rūpo dugdha-jalādy-ekatā-pratyaya-niyāmakaḥ.


tatra samavāya-sambandhena yatrā’ vibhāgas tad vikāri-kāraṇam; yatra ca kāryasya kāraṇa’vibhāgena avibhāgas tad adhiṣṭhāna-kāraṇam.


yadi hi paramā-tmā dehavat sarvaṃ kāraṇaṃ na dhitiṣṭheta tarhi dravya-guṇa-karmā-di-sādhāraṇā-khila-kārye itthaṃ mula-kāraṇam na syāt.


asmābhis tu samavāy-asamavāyibhyām udāsīnaṃ nimitta-kāraṇebhyaś ca vilakṣaṇatayā caturtham ādhāra-kāraṇatvam.


eka-dharmeṇa sattva-daśāyāṃ pariṇāmi-vastūnām atītā-nāgata-dharmeṇa asattvāt.
I. I. 3.


ghaṭā-dayo hi anāgatā-dy-avasthāṣu vyaktā-dy-avasthābhir bādhyante iti. ghaṭā-dayo mithyā-śabdena ucyante vidyamāna-dharmaiś ca tadānīṃ na bādhyante iti satyā ity api ucyante.


jñāna-svarūpaḥ paramā-tmā sa eva satyaḥ jīvāś cā’ṃśatayā amśiny ekībhūtāḥ athavā’ vayavattvena paramā-tmā-pekṣayā te’ py asantaḥ.


pralayehi puṃ-prakṛtyā-dikaṃ jñāna-rūpeṇai’va rūpyate na tv artha-rūpeṇa arthato vyañjaka-vyāpārā-bhāvāt.
I. 1.4.


jñāna-svarūpam akhilaṃ jagad etad abuddhayaḥ I (?). artha-svarūpaṃ paśyanto bhrāmyante moha-saṃplave.


śaktimat-kārya-kāraṇā-bhedenai’va brahmā-dvaitaṃ bodhayanti. . . ayaṃ ca tarva-kālo brahmaṇi prapañcā-bhedaḥ.


Vijñānā-mṛta-bhāṣya, i. i. 4.


Brāhmaṇas tu sarva-śaktikatvāt tat-tad-upādhibhiḥ sarva-kāraṇatvaṃ yathā cakṣurā-dīṇāṃ darśanā-di-kāraṇatvaṃ yat praty-ekam asti tat sarvaṃ sarvā-dhyakṣasya jīvasya bhavati, etena jagatobhinna-nimitto-pādānattvaṃ vyākhyā-tam.
1. 1. 2.


bhedā-bhedau vibhāgā-vibhāga-rūpau kāla-bhedena aviruddhau anyonyā-bḥāvaś ca jīva-brahmaṇor ātyantika eva.
, I. I. 2.

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