A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 3

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

This page describes the philosophy of bhikshu’s criticism of the samkhya and yoga: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the eighth part in the series called the “the philosophy of vijnana bhikshu”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 8 - Bhikṣu’s criticism of the Sāṃkhya and Yoga

In commenting on the Brahma-sūtra, 11. 1. 1, 2, 3, Bhikṣu says that Manu speaks of the original cause as being the prakṛti, and so also does the Sāṃkhya, and both of them are regarded as authoritative[1]. But since the Sāṃkhya doctrine of atheism is contradicted by the opinions of Patañjali and Parāśara, the view of the Brahma-sūtras cannot be interpreted merely on the atheistic suggestion of Sāṃkhya. It has also to be admitted that the atheistic portion of Sāṃkhya has no authoritative support either in the Vedas or in the Purāṇas and has therefore to be regarded as invalid[2].

It is wrong, however, to suppose that Kapila really intended to preach atheism. He quoted atheistic arguments from others and showed that even if God were not accepted emancipation could be obtained by differentiation of prakṛti from puruṣa. The Sāṃkhya also emphasizes the fact that emancipation can be obtained merely by knowledge. This, however, should not be interpreted as being in conflict with the Upaniṣadic texts which declare that emancipation can be obtained only by the true knowledge of God. For these signify only that there are two ways of obtaining emancipation, the inferior one being through knowledge of the distinction of prakṛti and puruṣa, and the superior one through the true knowledge of God. The Yoga also shows two ways of emancipation, the inferior one being through the ordinary Yoga processes, and the superior one through the renunciation to God of all actions and through devotion to Him. It is also wrong to suppose that the Sāṃkhya is traditionally atheistic, for in the Mahābhārata (Śānti-parvan 318. 73) and Matsya Purāṇa (4. 28) we hear of a twenty-sixth category, the God.

So the difference between the theistic and the atheistic Sāṃkhya is due to the difference of representation as the true Sāṃkhya doctrine and the Sāṃkhya doctrine which proposes to ensure emancipation even for those who are not willing to believe in God. In this connection Bhikṣu admits the probability of two different schools of Sāṃkhya, one admitting Īśvara and the other not admitting it, and it is only the latter which he thinks to be invalid[3]. He also refers to the Kūrma Purāṇa in which the Sāṃkhyists and the Yogins are said to be atheistic. The chief defect of the Śaṅkara school is that instead of pointing out the invalidity of theistic Sāṃkhya, Śaṅkara denies all theistic speculations as non-vedic and misinterprets the Brahma-sūtras accordingly. Bhikṣu refers to Praśna, 4. 8, where the twenty-three categories of Sāṃkhya are mentioned and only prakṛti has been omitted. The mahat-tattva is not mentioned directly, but only as buddhi and citta.

The fourfold division of the buddhi-tattva as manas, buddhi ahaṃkāra and citta is also admitted there. In the Garbha Upaniṣad eight prakṛtis and sixteen vikāras are mentioned. In the Maitreyo-paniṣad we hear of the three guṇas and their disturbance by which creation takes place. We hear also that the puruṣas are pure consciousness. In Maitrī Upaniṣad, v. 2, it is said that the tamas, being disturbed by the supreme being, gives rise to rajas and that to sattva[4]. In the Cūlikā Upaniṣad the categories of the Sāṃkhya doctrine are also mentioned in consonance with the monistic doctrine of the Vedānta. It also says that there are various schools of the Sāṃkhya, that there are some who admit twenty-six categories, others twenty-seven, and again others who admit only twenty-four categories. There is also said to be a monistic and also a dualistic Sāṃkhya and that they find expression in three or five different ways. Thus Vijñāna Bhikṣu says that the Sāṃkhya doctrine is definitely supported by the Upaniṣadic texts.

Concerning the Yoga also it can be said that only that part of it may be regarded as opposed by the Upaniṣads which holds a separate and independent existence of prakṛti as apart from Īśvara. In the Sūtras of Patañjali it is said that God helps the movement of the prakṛti only by removing the obstacles, just as a ploughman enables water to pass from one field to another. But the Upaniṣads definitely say that God is the generator of the movement and the disturbance of the prakṛti. The sattva body of God is thus there held to be a product of prakṛti as it comes into being from the prakṛti through desire in a previous creative cycle. The sattva body of God is thus derived from the prakṛti, through the will of God serving as the vehicle of the will of God for the removal of the obstructions in the course of the evolutionary process of the prakṛti. Prakṛti in itself therefore is not regarded by Patañjali as the upādhi of Īśvara[5].

Bhikṣu seeks to explain this part of the Yoga doctrine also in the same manner as he did with the Sāṃkhya by accepting the so-called abhyūpagama-zāda. He maintains that the Yoga holds that even if it is considered that the prakṛti is independent and runs into evolutionary activity by herself, undetermined by the eternal knowledge and will of God, and even if it be admitted that the eternal God has no eternal knowledge and will and that the movement of prakṛti is due to an inner teleology in accordance with karma, and that in the beginning of the creation prakṛti is transformed into the sattvo’pādhi of God, even then by self-abnegation to God kaivalya can be attained. Thus, in the Yoga view the upādhi of Īśvara is a product and not the material or the instrumental cause of the world, whereas in the Vedānta view as propounded by Bhikṣu the upādhi of Īśvara is both the material and the instrumental cause of the world, and this upādhi which forms the material stuff of the world is prakṛti herself and not her product.

In the Yoga view God is eternal, but His thought and will are not eternal. This thought and will are associated with the sattva part of prakṛti which lies embedded in it at the time of pralaya which only shows itself at the beginning of a new creative cycle through the potency left in it by the will of God in the previous creative cycle. God, in the view of Yoga, is thus not both the material and the instrumental cause of the world as the Vedānta holds. According to the Vedānta as explained by Bhikṣu, the prakṛti plays her dual part; in one part she remains as the eternal vehicle of the eternal knowledge and will of God, and through the other part she runs through an evolutionary process by producing disturbances of sattva, rajas and tamas. This also explains the Purāṇic view of the gradual derivation of sattva, rajas and tamas as stages in the evolution of prakṛti through which at a later stage the cosmic evolution takes place. Thus the prakṛti which remains associated with God as the vehicle of His knowledge and will is unchangeable and eternal[6].

Footnotes and references:


sāṃkhyaṃ vogaṃ pañca-rātraṃ vedāḥ pāśupataṃ tathā I. (?) paras-parāṇy niigāny etāni hetubhir na virodhayet.
ii. i. i.


itaś ce’śvara-pratiṣedhā-ṃśe kapila-smṛteḥ mūlānām anupalabdheḥ a-pratya-kṣatvāt durvalatvam ity āha.



athavā kapilai-ka-deśasya prāmāṇyam astu.
, n. i. 2.


tamo vā idm ekamagre āsīt vai rajasas tat pare syāt tat pareṇe’ritaṃ viṣamatvaṃ prayāty etad rūpaṃ tad rajaḥ khalv ī-ritaṃ viṣamatvaṃ prayāty etad vai sattvasya rūpaṃ tat sattvam eva.
     Maitrī Upaniṣad,
v. 2.


yogā hī’śvarasya jagan-nimittatvaṃ prakṛtitvenā’bhyupagacchanti Iśvaro-pādheh sattva-viśeṣasya purva-sargiya-tat-saṃkalpa-vaśāt sargā-dau sva-tantra-prakṛtita utpaty-aṇgīkārāt.
II. i. 2.


Vijñānā-mṛta-bhāṣya, pp. 271, 272.

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