A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 4

Indian Pluralism

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1949 | 186,278 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

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

Part 4 - Kapila’s philosophy in the Bhāgavata-purāṇa

The Bhāgavata-purāṇa gives an account of Sāṃkhya which is somewhat different from the account that can be got from the classical Sāṃkhya works. There is one beginningless qualityless puruṣa, which shines forth as all the individual souls, self-shining, which transcends the sphere of the prakṛti[1]. It is this puruṣa that playfully (līlayā) accepts the prakṛti that approaches it of its own accord; it is this puruṣa that is probably regarded as Īśvara or God[2]. He however, having perceived the prakṛti as producing diverse kinds of creation out of its own stuff, was Himself blinded (vimūḍha) by the veiling power of ignorance (jñāna-gūhaya) of this prakṛti[3]. By a false imposition the puruṣa conceives itself to be the agent in the changes that take place by the natural movement of the guṇas of prakṛti ; and hence it exposes itself to births and rebirths and becomes bound by the laws of karma. In reality the prakṛti itself is the cause and agent of all its own self-abiding effects, and puruṣa is only the passive enjoyer of all pleasures and pains. In describing the evolution of the categories we have the five gross elements or mahābhūtas, the five tanmātras, the ten senses and the microcosm (antarātmaka) —consisting of manas, buddhi, ahaṃkāra and citta. In addition to these there is the twenty-fifth category, called time (kāla), which some regard as a separate category, not as an evolute of prakṛti, but as the transcendental effort of puruṣa (used in the sense of God)[4]. It is said that God manifests Himself in man internally, as his inner self, as the controller of all his experiences, and externally, as time in the manifold objects of experience. Thus there are twenty-five categories if time, individual soul, and God are taken as one; if time is taken separately and God and puruṣa are taken as one, there are twenty-six categories; and if all the three are taken separately, there are twenty-seven categories[5]. It is the puruṣa which is to be taken as being under the influence of prakṛti and as free of it in its transcendent capacity as God (in an implicit manner). It is by the influence of time (kāla) that the equilibrium of the guṇas in the prakṛti is disturbed and that their natural transformations take place; and through the direction of laws of karma superintended by God the category of mahat is evolved[5]. It is curious that, though mahat is mentioned as a stage of prakṛti, it is only regarded as a creative state (vṛtti) or prakṛti, and not as a separate category. In another passage in the Bhāgavata it is said that in the beginning God was alone in Himself with His own dormant powers, and not finding anything through which He could reflect Himself and realize Himself, He disturbed the equilibrium of His māyā power through the functioning of time and through His own self (puruṣa), impregnating it with consciousness; and thus the process of creation started through the transformations of the prakṛti[6]. In another passage the question is raised how, if God is free in Himself, can He put Himself in bondage to māyā ; and the reply given is that in reality there is no bondage of God, but, just as in dreams a man may perceive his own head to be struck off his body, or may perceive his own reflection shaking in water on account of its ripples, so it is but the reflection of God that appears as individual souls suffering bondage to world-experienceṣ. It follows therefore, according to this view, that individual souls are illusory creations, and that both they and their world-experience must consequently be false[7]. In another passage which immediately follows the previous one it is definitely stated that the world only appears in consciousness, but that in reality it does not exist[8]. It is clear that these passages of the Bhāgavata distinctly contradict the interpretation of its philosophy given by Jīva in the previous section, as they deny the reality of individual souls and the reality of world-appearance.[9] But this is just what we may expect if we remember that the Bhāgavata is a collection of accretions from different hands at different times and not a systematic whole. If the Sāṃkhya theory described in n. 5, III. 5, ill. 7 and ill. 26 be interpreted consistently, then the result is that there are two fundamental categories, God and His own māyā, the prakṛti; that God, in His desire to realize Himself, reflects Himself in the prakṛti, which is but His own power, and it is through this impregnation of Himself in His own power that He appears as individual souls suffering the bondage of prakṛti; it is again through this impregnation of Himself that prakṛti is enlivened by consciousness; and then, through His creative effort, which is designated as time, the equilibrium of the guṇas of prakṛti is disturbed, the transformatory movement is set up in the prakṛti, and the categories are evolved.

In a passage in the fifth chapter (v. 12. 6-9) the existence of wholes is definitely described as illusory. There are no entities but the partless atoms, and even these atoms are imaginary constructions without which it would not be possible to conceive of wholes. All our conceptions of the external world start with atoms, and all that we see or feel gradually grows through a series of accretions. This growth in accretion is not a real growth, but is only an application of the time-sense. Time is therefore co-pervasive with the universe. The conception of an atom is but the conception of the smallest moment, and the entire conception of wholes of atoms as developing into dyad molecules, grosser specks and so on is nothing but advancing temporal construction and the growing combination of time-moments. The ultimate reality underlying all these changes is one all-pervasive unchanging whole, which through the activity of time appears as moments and their accretions (corresponding to atoms and their combinations)[10]. Time is thus not a product of prakṛti but the transcendent activity of God, through which the unmanifested prakṛti is transformed into the gross world and by which all the discrete entities appear as wholes[11]. In God this time exists as His inherent power of activity. It has been pointed out in the last section how Jīva considered time to be the active element of the māyā and the guṇas the passive element.

The first category evolved from the prakṛti is mahat, which contains the germs of the entire universe; it is pure translucent sattva (also called citta and Vāsudeva according to the terminology of the Bhāgavata cult). From the category of mahat the threefold ahaṃkāra, viz. vaikārika, taijasa and tāmasa, was produced. In the terminology this ahaṃkāra is called Saṃkarṣaṇa. All activity, instrumentality and transformatory character as effect is to be attributed to this ahaṃkāra. The category of manas is produced from the vaikārika ahaṃkāra, and it is called Aniruddha in the terminology of the Bhāgavata cult. The Bhāgavata cult here described believed in three vyūhas of Vāmadeva, Saṃkarṣaṇa and Aniruddha, and therefore there is no mention here of the production of the Pradyumna-vyūha. Pradyumna in this view stands for desire; desires are but functions of the category of manas and not a separate category[12]. From the taijasa-ahaṃkāra the category of buddhi is evolved. It is by the functions of this category that the functioning of the senses, the cognition of objects, doubts, errors, determinateness, memory and sleep are to be explained[13]. Both the conative and cognitive senses are produced from the taijasa-ahaṃkāra. From the tāmasa-ahaṃkāra the sound-potential (śabda-tanmātra) is produced, and from it the element of ākāśa is produced. From the element of ākāśa the heat-light-potential (rūpa-tanmātra) is produced, and from that the element of light, and so on.

The puruṣa is immersed in the prakṛti, but nevertheless, being unchangeable, qualityless and absolutely passive, it is not in any way touched by the qualities of prakṛti. It has already been pointed out that the influence of the prakṛti is limited to the image of puruṣa in the prakṛti, and that, being reflected in the prakṛti, the one puruṣa throws a shadow of infinite selves. These selves are deluded by egoism and consider themselves to be active agents, and, though there are no real births and rebirths, yet they continue to suffer the bondage of the saṃsāra cycle like a man who suffers from bad dreams.

Those who wish to be emancipated should therefore steadily practise disinclination from worldly joys and keen devotion. They should take to the path of self-control, make their minds free of enmity to all beings, practise equality, sex-control and silence, should remain contented with anything that comes in their way, and should have a firm devotion to God. When they leave their false self-love and egoism and can realize the truth about prakṛti and puruṣa, viz. that the latter is the unconditioned and underlying reality of all, as the one Sun which creates illusions like its reflections in the water; when they understand that the real self, the ultimate reality, is always experienced as the underlying being which manifests our biological, sensory and psychical personality or egohood, and that this reality is realized in deep dreamless sleep (when this egohood temporarily ceases to exist), they attain their real emancipation[14]. The well-known yoga accessories mentioned by Patañjali, such as non-injury, truthfulness, non-stealing, contentment with the bare necessities of life, purity, study, patience, control of the senses, are also regarded as a necessary preparation for self-advancement. The practice of postures (āsana), breath-control (prāṇāyāma), and that of holding the mind steadily on particular objects of concentration, are also advised as methods of purifying the mind. When the mind is thus purified and concentration practised, one should think of God and His great qualities[15]. Devotion to God is regarded as the second means of attaining right knowledge and wisdom about the oneness of the ultimate and the relation between the prakṛti and the illusory individual selves. Thus it is said that, when one meditates upon the beautiful transcendent and resplendent form of Hari and is intoxicated with love for Him, one’s heart melts through devotion, through excess of emotion one’s hair stands on end, and one floats in tears of excessive delight through yearning after God; it is thus that the hook of the mind is dislodged from the sense-objects to which it was attached[16]. When through such excess of emotion one’s mind becomes disinclined to all other objects, and thus there is no object of meditation, the mind is destroyed like a flame extinguished, and the self, returning from the conditions imposed upon it by the transformations of the guṇas, finds itself to be one with the transcendent and the highest self[17]. Devotion is said to be of four kinds, sāttvika, rājasa, tāmasa and nirguṇa. Those who want God’s grace and are devoted to Him in order to satisfy their personal jealousy, pride or enmity are called tāmasa, those who seek Him for the attainment of power, fame, etc. are called rājasa, and those who are devoted to Him or who renounce all their karmas and their fruits to Him through a sense of religious duty or for the washing away of their sins are called sāttvika. But those who are naturally inclined towards Him without any reason save deep attachment, and who would not desire anything but the bliss of serving Him as His servants, it is they who may be said to possess the nirguṇa devotion (bhakti). But this nirguṇa devotion must manifest itself in realizing God as pervading all beings: devotees of this type would consider all beings as their friends, and with them there is no difference between a friend and a foe. No one can claim to possess this high devotion merely by external adorations of God; he must also serve all humanity as a friend and brother[18]. Thus either by yoga methods of self-purification and concentration of the mind on God and His super-excellent qualities, or by a natural love for Him, one may attain the ultimate wisdom, that the one reality is God and that individual selves and their experiences are but mere reflections in prakṛti and its transformations.

It may however be pointed out that even the first method of yoga is associated with some kind of bhakti or devotion, as it involves meditation upon God and the blissful feeling associated with it. The word yoga is not used in this connection in Patañjali’s technical sense (from the root yuj samādhau), but in the more general sense of yoga (yoga as “connection,” from the root yujir yoge). Though this system involves most of the accessories of yoga for the purification of mind and as preparation for concentration, yet the ultimate aim is the realization of unity of the phenomenal self with God, which is entirely different from the yoga of Patañjali. So, as this yoga essentially aims at a unification with God through meditation upon Him, it may also be called a sort of bhakti-yoga, though it in its turn is different from the other bhakti-yoga, in which all the purposes of yoga discipline are served by an excess of emotion for God[19].

Kapila has been described as an incarnation of God, and the philosophy that is attributed to him in the Bhāgavata forms the dominant philosophy contained therein. All through the Bhāgavata the philosophy of theistic Sāṃkhya as described by Kapila is again and again repeated in different passages in different contents. Its difference from the classical Sāṃkhya as expounded by Īśvara-kṛṣṇa or by Patañjali and Vyāsa is too patent to need explanation at any length. In the Bhāgavata, xi. 22 a reference is made to different schools of Sāṃkhya which count their ultimate categories as three, four, five, six, seven, nine, eleven, thirteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, twenty-five and twenty-six, and it is asked how these differences of view can be reconciled. The reply is that these differences do not involve a real difference of Sāṃkhya thought; it is held that the difference is due to the inclusion of some of the categories within others (parasparānupraveśāt tattvānām); for instance, some of the effect categories are included within the cause categories, or some categories are identified from particular considerations. Thus, when one thinks that the puruṣa, being always under the influence of beginningless ignorance (anādyavidyā-yuktasya), cannot by itself attain the knowledge of ultimate reality, it becomes necessary to conceive the existence of a super-person, different from it, who could grant such knowledge; according to this view there would be twenty-six categories. But, when one thinks that there is not the slightest difference between the puruṣa (or the individual soul) and God, the conception of the latter as separate from the former becomes quite unnecessary; on this view there would be only twenty-five categories. Again, those who reckon nine categories do so by counting puruṣa, prakṛti, mahat, ahaṃkāra and the five tanmātras. In this view knowledge (jñāna) is regarded as a transformation of the guṇas, and (prakṛti being nothing more than the equilibrium of the guṇas) knowledge may also be regarded as identical with prakṛtv, similarly actions are to be regarded as being only transformations of rajas and ignorance as transformation of tamas. Time (kāla) is not regarded here as a separate category, but as the cause of the co-operative movement of the guṇas, and nature (svabhāva) is identified with the mahat-tattva. The cognitive senses are here included within the cognitive substance of sattva, the conative senses within the rajas, and the cognitions of touch, taste, etc. are regarded as the fields of the manifestations of the senses and not as separate categories. Those who reckon eleven categories take the cognitive and conative senses as two additional categories and, considering the sensations of touch, taste, etc. as being manifestations of the senses, naturally ignore their claim to be considered as categories. In another view prakṛti, which is moved into activity by the influence of puruṣa, is regarded as different from it, and thus there are the two categories of puruṣa and prakṛti, then are the five tanmātras, the transcendental seer and the phenomenal self; thus there are nine categories in all. Upon the view that there are six categories, only the five elements and the transcendent self are admitted. Those who hold that there are only four categories admit only the three categories of light-heat (tejas), water and earth, and accept the transcendent self as the fourth. Those who hold that there are seventeen categories admit the five tanmātras, five elements and five senses, manas and the self. Those who hold that there are sixteen categories identify manas with the self. Those who hold that there are thirteen categories admit the five elements (which are identified with the tanmātras), the five senses, manas, and the transcendent and the phenomenal selves. Those who admit only eleven categories accept only the five elements, five senses and the self. There are others, again, who admit eight prakṛtis and the puruṣa, and thus reduce the number to nine. The eclectic spirit of the Bhāgavata tried to reconcile the conflicting accounts of the Sāṃkhya categories by explaining away the differences; but to an impartial observer these differences are sometimes fundamental, and at least it is evident that, though these different lines of thought may all be called in some sense Sāṃkhya, they signify the existence of a good deal of independent thinking, the exact value of which, however, cannot be determined for want of detailed and accurate information regarding the development of these schools[20].

The fundamental difference of the Bhāgavata school of Sāṃkhya from that of the classical Sāṃkhya is that it admits one puruṣa as the real all-pervading soul, which is the real seer of all our experiences and the basic universal being that underlies all things of this universe. The individual phenomenal selves appear as real entities only by the delusive confusion of the universal puruṣa with the transformations of the prakṛti and by the consequent false attribution of the movements and phenomena of the prakṛti to this universal puruṣa. The false individual selves arise out of such false attribution and there is thus produced the phenomenon of birth and rebirth, though there is no association of the prakṛti with the universal puruṣa. All our world-experiences are mere illusions, like dreams, and are due to mental misconceptions. The emphasis on the illusory character of the world is very much stronger in the passages that are found in the Bhāgavata, XI. 22 than in the passages that deal with Kapila’s philosophy of Sāṃkhya just described; and though the two treatments may not be interpreted as radically different, yet the monistic tendency which regards all worldly experiences as illusory is so remarkably stressed that it very nearly destroys the realistic note which is a special feature of the Sāṃkhya schools of thought[21].

In XI. 13 this monistic interpretation or rather this monistic transformation of Sāṃkhya reaches its culmination; it is held that ultimate reality is one, and that all differences are but mere differences of name and form. Whatever may be perceived by the senses, spoken by words or conceived in thought is but the one reality, the Brahman. The guṇas are the product of mind and the mind of the guṇas, and it is these two illusory entities that form the person; but one should learn that both of them are unreal and that the only reality, on which both of them are imposed, is Brahman. Waking experiences, dreams, and dreamless sleep are all functions of the mind; the true self is the pure seer (sākṣin), which is entirely different from them. So long as the notion of the “many” is not removed by philosophical reasonings, the ignorant person is simply dreaming in all his waking states, just as one feels oneself awake in one’s dreams. Since there is nothing else but the self, and since all else is mere illusion like dreams, all worldly laws, purposes, aims and works are necessarily equally false. One should observe that we have the notion of the identity of our selves, in our wakeful and dream experiences and in our experiences of dreamless deep sleep, and one should agree that all these experiences in all these three stages of life do not really exist, they are all but the manifestations of māyā on the ultimate reality, the Brahman; and thus by such inferences and considerations one should remove all one’s attachments and cut asunder all one’s fetters by the sword of knowledge. One should regard the entire world and its experiences as nothing more than the imagination of the mind—a mere appearance which is manifested and lost; all experiences are but māyā and the only underlying reality is pure consciousness. Thus it is through right knowledge that true emancipation comes, though the body may hold on so long as the fruits of karma are not exhausted through pleasurable and painful experiences. And this is said to be the secret truth of Sāṃkhya and Yoga. It may generally appear rather surprising to find such an extreme idealistic monism in the Bhāgavata, but there are numerous passages which show that an extreme form of idealism recurs now and then as one of the principal lines of thought in the Bhāgavata[22].

The first adoration verse is probably the most important passage in the Bhāgavata. And even in this passage it is said (in one of its prominent and direct interpretations) that the creation through guṇas is false and that yet, on account of the all-pervading reality that underlies it, it appears as real; that the production, maintenance and destruction of the universe all proceed from the ultimate reality, Brahman, and that it is through the light of this reality that all darkness vanishes[23]. In another passage, in vi. 4. 29-32, it is said that Brahman is beyond the guṇas, and that whatever may be produced in the world, or as the world, has Brahman for its ground and cause, and that He alone is true; and that both the atheistic Sāṃkhya and the theistic Yoga agree in admitting Him as the ultimate reality.

It was pointed out in a previous section that according to Jīva the māyā had two parts, formative and constitutive, and it was the latter that was identified with prakṛti or the three guṇas. But this māyā was regarded as an external power of God as distinguished from His essential power. The Viṣṇu-purāṇa, however, does not seem to make any such distinction; it says that the great Lord manifests Himself through His playful activity as prakṛti, puruṣa, the manifold world and time, but yet it considers the prakṛti and the puruṣa to be different from the essential nature of the Lord, and time as that which holds these two together and impels them for the creational forms[24]. Thus, since time is the cause which connects the prakṛti and the puruṣa, it exists even when all creational modes have shrunk back into the prakṛti in the great dissolution. When the guṇas are in equilibrium, the prakṛti and the puruṣa remain disconnected, and it is then that the element of time proceeds out of the Lord and connects the two together[25]. But the prakṛti in both its unmanifested and manifested forms or its contraction and dilation (saṃkoca-vikāsābhyām) is a part of God’s nature; so in disturbing the equilibrium of prakṛti it is God who disturbs His own nature (sa eva kṣobhako brahman kṣobhyaś ca puruṣottamaḥ), and this He does through the instrumentality of time. Through His will He penetrates into the prakṛti and the puruṣa, and sets off the creative operation of the prakṛti, though this operation of the will does not involve any notion of ordinary physical activity[26]. Time is thus regarded as the spiritual influence of God, by which the prakṛti is moved though He remains unmoved Himself. From prakṛti there is the threefold evolution of mahat (sāttvika, rājasa and tāmasa) by a process of differentiation and development of heterogeneity[27]. By the same process the differentiation of mahat into vaikārika, taijasa and bhūtādi takes place as integrated within the mahat as integrated within the prakṛti[28]. Being similarly integrated in the mahat, the bhūtādi is further differentiated into the tanmātric stage and produces first the sound-potential (śabda-tanmātra). From the śabda-tanmātra the element of ākāśa was produced from the relevant matter of bhūtādi ; this śabda-tanmātra and ākāśa was further integrated in bhūtādi and in this integrated state the element of ākāśa transformed itself into the touch-potential (sparśa-tanmātra); then from this touch-potential air was produced by its transformation (through accretion from bhūtādi). Then in association of the integration of the element of ākāśa and śabda-tanmātra with the touch-potential (sparśa-tanmātra) the element of air produced the heat-light-potential (rūpa-tanmātra) in the medium of the bhūtādi, and from that the element of heat-light was produced by an accretion from bhūtādi. Again in association of the integration of touch-potential, the element of air and the heat-light-potential, the element of heat-light transformed itself into the taste-potential in the medium of the bhūtādi, and in a similar way water was produced by an accretion from the bhūtādi. Again, from the integration of taste-potential, heat-light potential and water, the smell-potential was produced by a transformation of the element of water in the medium of the bhūtādi, and out of this smell-potential in integration with the above the element of earth was produced by an accretion from bhūtādi. Out of the taijasa-ahaṃkāra the ten conative and cognitive senses were produced, and manas was produced out of the vaikārika-ahaṃkāra. The five tanmātras are called the unspecialized modifications (aviśeṣa ), and the senses and the gross elements are regarded as fully specialized modifications (viśeṣa)[29].

It will appear from the above and also from what has already been said in the chapter fin the Kapila and Patañjala school of Sāṃkhya in the first volume of the present work that the system of Sāṃkhya had undergone many changes in the hands of various writers at different times. But it is difficult to guess which of these can be genuinely attributed to Kapila. In the absence of any proof to the contrary it may be assumed that the account of Sāṃkhya attributed to Kapila in the Bhāgavata may generally be believed to be true. But Īśvarakṛṣṇa also gives us an account of what can be called the classical Sāṃkhya in his Sāṃkhya-kārikā, which he says was first taught by Kapila to Asuri and by him to Pañcaśikha, and that his account of Sāṃkhya was a summary of what was contained in the Ṣaṣṭi-tantra with the exception of the polemical portions and fables; also that he himself was instructed in the traditional school of Sāṃkhya as carried down from Asuri through generations of teachers and pupils. But the Bhāgavata account of Kapila’s Sāṃkhya materially differs from the Sāṃkhya of the Sāṃkhya-kārikā, for, while the former is definitely theistic, the latter is at least tacitly atheistic, for it is absolutely silent about God; apparently God has no place in this system. But the theistic Sāṃkhya as described in the Bhāgavata, which is of course quite different and distinct from the theistic Sāṃkhya of Patañjali and Vyāsa-bhāṣya, is not an isolated instance which can easily be ignored; for most of the Purāṇas which have a Vaiṣṇava tradition behind them generally agree in all essential features with the theistic element of the Kapila Sāṃkhya of the Bhāgavata, and some of the important Pañcarātra āgamas also in some ways support it. Thus the Ahirbudhnya-saṃhitā describes the Sāṃkhya system as that which believes the prakṛti to be the cause of the manifold world and that this prakṛti is moved into creative transformations through the influence of time by the will of Lord Viṣṇu. There is but one puruṣa, who is the sum-total of all puruṣas and who is absolutely changeless (kūṭastha); there is the prakṛti, constituted of the three guṇas in equilibrium; and there is also the element of time (kāla), through which by the will of the Lord (viṣṇu-saṃkalpa-coditāt) the puruṣa and the prakṛti are connected and the creative movement of the prakṛti set up. The puruṣa, prakṛti and kāla are in their turn but special manifestations of Lord Viṣṇu[30]. The evolution of the gross elements is also described here as being directly from their respective tanmātras. It also believes that the powers of the Lord are supra-logical (acintya), and therefore cannot be contested on purely formal grounds of reason or logical principles of selfcontradiction. It holds however the rather unique view that from time the sattva-guṇa springs into being and from sattva rajas and from rajas tamas, and it also gives a different interpretation of the vyūha doctrine—but these have already been discussed in the chapter on the Pañcarātra philosophy. The Ahirbudhnya, however, ascribes this Sāṃkhya philosophy to Kapila (the incarnation of Viṣṇu) who wrote the Ṣaṣṭi-tantra, and it also enumerates the names of the chapters or tantras of this work[31]. The work is divided into two books; in the first book there is one chapter (tantra) on Brahman, one on puruṣa, three on power (śakti), destiny (niyati) and time (kāla), three on the guṇas, one on the changeless (akṣara), one on prāṇa and one on the agent (kartṛ), one on the Lord, five on cognition, five on actions, five on tanmātras and five on the five gross elements; thus altogether there are thirty-two chapters in the first book. In the second book there are twenty-eight chapters— five on duties, one on experience, one on character, five on afflictions, three on the pramānas, one on illusions, one on dharma, one on disinclination, one on miraculous powers, one on guṇa, one on liṅga or signs, one on perception, one on Vedic performances, one on sorrow, one on final achievement, one on removal of passions, one on customs and one on emancipation[32]. Thus we have a theistic and an atheistic account of Sāṃkhya, both alleged to be based on the Ṣaṣṭi-tantra Śāstra, both described as the philosophy of Kapila and both derived from authoritative ancient texts. Not only does the Bhāgavata refer to Kapila as an incarnation of God, but many of the Pañcarātra texts also allude to him as an incarnation of God Viṣṇu; the Mahābhārata describes him as Bhagavān Hari and Viṣṇu (hi. 47. 18), with Vasudeva (111. 107. 31) and with Kṛṣṇa, and also describes him as a great ṛsi who reduced the sons of Sagara into ashes by his wrath. In the Bhagavad-gītā also Kṛṣṇa says that of the seers he is the sage Kapila (x. 26), but in the Mahābhārata (ill. 220. 21) Kapila is identified with the Fourth Fire. A sage Kapila is also mentioned in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (v. 2), and Śaṅkara says in the commentary on the Brahma-sūtra that this Kapila must be different from the Kapila (who reduced the sons of Sagara to ashes) and the Kapila who wrote the Sāṃkhya philosophy cannot be ascertained. Thus we have at least three Kapilas, the Kapila who reduced the sons of Sagara into ashes, and who is regarded by the Mahābhārata as an incarnation or manifestation of Viṣṇu, Hari or Kṛṣṇa, a Kapila who is regarded as an incarnation of Fire, and the Upaniṣadic sage Kapila, who is regarded there as mature in wisdom. The first two are definitely reputed to be authors of Sāṃkhya philosophy, and Nīlakaṇtha, the commentator on the Mahābhārata, says that it is Kapila (= the incarnation of Fire) who was the author of the atheistic Sāṃkhya[33]. In the Mahābhārata (xn. 350. 5) it is said that the sage Kapila based his Sāṃkhya philosophy on the doctrine that it is the on e puruṣa, the great Nārāyaṇa, who in himself is absolutely qualityless and untouched by all worldly conditions and is yet the superintendent of all phenomenal selves associated with their subtle and gross bodies, and is the ultimate ground of all the cognitional and sense-experiences enjoyed by them, the absolute and ultimate reality which appears as the subjective and the objective world and yet behaves as the cosmic creator and ruler in his four-fold personality as Vāsudeva, Saṃkarṣaṇa, Aniruddha and Pradyumna[34]. Before examining other accounts of Sāṃkhya as found in the Mahābhārata we may point out that Pañcaśikha himself was not only called Kapileya from his sucking the breasts of a woman called Kapilā while an infant, but was also called Paramarṣi Kapila[35]. It seems practically certain that there had been a number of pantheistic, theistic and atheistic varieties of Sāṃkhya. Since the Ahirbudhnya-saṃhitā gives the names of the chapters of the Ṣaṣṭi-tantra, it is almost certain that the author had seen this work, and that his account of Sāṃkhya is in the main in agreement with it. The table of subjects enumerated shows that the work contained a chapter on Brahman, puruṣa, śakti (power), niyati (destiny), and kāla (time), and it is these elements that occur in the Ahirbudhnya account of Sāṃkhya. It therefore seems very probable that the Ahirbudhnya account of Sāṃkhya is largely faithful to the Ṣaṣṭitantra. We know that the Sāṃkhya philosophy of Kapila had begun to change its form in some of its most important features, and it is quite probable that it had changed considerably by the time it was traditionally carried to Īśvarakṛṣṇa. It might still have been regarded as containing the essential instructions of the Ṣaṣṭi-tantra and yet be very different from it; there is no proof that Īśvarakṛṣṇa had a chance of reading this original Ṣaṣṭi-tantra, and it is reasonable to suppose that he had access only to a Jater version oi it or to a revised compendium supposed to be based on it; it may be that the Ṣaṣṭi-tantra, being an ancient work, was probably so loosely worded that it was possible to get different interpretations from it —like the Brahma-sūtra of Bādarāyaṇa—or even that there were two Ṣaṣṭi-tantras[36].

According to the interpretation of the Ahirbudhnya-saṃhitā God or Īśvara is above all, and then there is the category of the unchangeable, the Brahman (consisting of the sum-total of the puruṣas), the prakṛti as the equilibrium of the guṇas, and time (kāla), as has already been explained[37]. Time is regarded as the element that combines the prakṛti with the puruṣas. It is said that the prakṛti, the puruṣas and time are the materials which are led to their respective works in producing the manifold universe by the development of the categories through the will-movement of God (Sudarśana).[38] It is thus one unchangeable puruṣa that appears as the many individuals or parts of the Lord Viṣṇu or Īśvara[39]. The will of Īśvara, otherwise called Sudarśana or saṃkalpa, which is regarded as a vibratory (parispanda) thought movement (jñāna-mūla-kriyātma), is the dynamic cause of the differentiation of prakṛti into the categories (mahat and the rest). Time is not identified here with this power, but is regarded as a separate entity, an instrument through which the power acts. Yet this “time” has to be regarded as of a transcendental nature, co-existent with puruṣa and prakṛti, and distinguished from “time” as moments or their aggregates, which is regarded as the tamas aspect of the category of mahat. The sattva aspect of the mahat manifests itself as definite understanding (buddhir adhyavasāyinī), and the rajas aspect as life-activity (prāṇa). The sattva aspect of mahat as buddhi also manifests itself as virtue, wisdom, miraculous powers and as disinclination from worldly joys (vairāgya), and the tamas aspect as vice (adharma), ignorance, attachment and weakness. In the category of mahat the general sense-power is generated, by which objects are discerned as cognitional modes; the ego (ahaṃkāra) is also generated in the mahat, involving the notion of integrating all experience which belongs to a person (abhimāna) as a cognizer and enjoyer of all experiences. The implication seems to be that the category of mahat manifests itself as the sense-faculties and the person who behaves as the cognizer, because these are the modes through which thought must interpret itself in order to realize its own nature as thought. The sāttvika aspect of the ahaṃkāra is called vaikārika, the rājasa character taijasa and the tāmasa aspect bhūtādi. It is well to point out here that this account greatly differs from the classical Sāṃkhya in this respect, that the sense-power is here generated prior to ahaṃkāra and not from ahaṃkāra, and that, while the evolution of ahaṃkāra is regarded as the evolution of a separate category by the thought-movement of God, the sense-power is regarded only as modes or aspects of buddhi or mahat and not as separate categories. The only sense-faculty that is evolved through the thought-activity of God out of ahaṃkāra is manas, the reflective sense (cintanātmakam ahamkārikam indriyam). From the tamas aspect of ahaṃkāra as bhūtādi the infra-atomic sound-potential (śabda-tanmātra) is produced and from this the element of akāśa. Ākāśa here is supposed to be of two kinds, as the maintainer of sound and as manifesting vacuity, unoccupation or porosity (avakāśa-pradāyi). From the vaikārika ahaṃkāra the organs of hearing and speech are produced as categories through the thought-activity of God. In a similar manner the infra-atomic touch-potential (sparśa-tanmātra) is produced from the bhūtādi, and from this again air, as that which dries up, propels, moves and conglomerates, is produced; again, through the thought-activity of God the organ of touch and the active organ of grasping are produced, and in a similar manner the infra-atomic heat-light-potential (rūpa-tanmātra) is produced from bhūtādi and from that the element of heat-light; from the vaikārika also the visual organ and the conative organs of the two feet are produced, from the bhūtādi the infra-atomic taste-potential (rasa-mātra) is produced and from it water, and from the vaikārika ahaṃkāra the organ of taste and the genitals are produced; from the bhūtādi true infra-atomic smell-potential (gandha-mātra) is produced, and from it earth; from the vaikārika-ahaṃkāra the organs of smell and of excretion are produced. Will, energy, and the five kinds of biomotor activities (prāṇa) are produced jointly from manas, ahaṃkāra and buddhi. The power (śakti) of Hari or Viṣṇu or Īśvara is one, but it is not a physical power, a power that involves mechanical movement, but it is in a sense homogeneous with God, and is of the nature of pure self-determined thought (svacchanda-cinmaya); it is not however thought in the ordinary sense of thought—with particular contents and object—but it is thought in potentiality, thought that is to realize itself in subject-object forms, manifesting itself as a spiritual thought movement (jñāna-mūla-kriyātma). It is this spiritual movement of that which by self-diremption splits itself up (dvidhā-bhāvam ṛcchati) as the thought of God (saṃkalpa), the determiner (bhāvaka) and the passive objectivity (bhāvya) called the prakṛti, and it is through the former that the latter developed and differentiated itself into the categories mentioned above. What is meant by the vibratory movement of the thought of God is simply its unobstructed character, its character of all potentiality for actuality without any obstruction. It is the pure unobstructed flow of God’s thought-power that is regarded as His will, idea or thought (sudarśanatā)[40]. The prakṛti is thus as much spiritual as God’s thought; it represents merely objectivity and the content of the thought of God, and it only has an opportunity of behaving as an independent category of materiality when by the self-diremption of God’s power the thought-energy requires an objective through which it can realize itself.

In another chapter of the Ahirbudhnya-saṃhitā it is said that the power in its original state may be conceived to be pure stillness (staimitya-rūpa) or pure vacuity (śūnyatva-rūpiṇī), and it is out of its own indescribable spontaneity that it begins to set itself in motion[41]. It is this spontaneity, which springs out of itself and is its own, that is described as the thought of God or its self-dirempting activity, its desire for being many. All creation proceeds out of this spontaneity; creation is not to be described as an event which happened at a particular time, but it is the eternal spontaneity of this power of God that reveals itself as eternal creation, as eternal and continuous self-manifestation[42]. Whatever is described as movement (kriyā), energy (vīrya), self-completeness (tejas) or strength (bala) or God are but different aspects of this power. The strength (bala) of God consists in the fact that He is never tired or fatigued in spite of His eternal and continuous operation of creation; His energy (vīrya) consists in this, that, though His own power is split up as the material on which His power acts, He does not suffer any change on that account[43]. His lustre of self-completeness (tejas) consists in this, that He does not await the help of any instrument of any kind for His creative operations[44]: and it is the self-spontaneity of this power that is described as His agency (kartṛtva) as the creator of the world. God is described as being both of the nature of pure consciousness and of the nature of power. It is the all-pervasive consciousness of Himself that constitutes the omniscience of God, and, when this stillness of omniscience and self-complete steady consciousness as pure differenceless vacuity dirempts itself and pulsates into the creative operation, it is called His power. It is on this account that the power (śakti) of God is described as thought-movement (jñāna-mūla-kriyātmaka). This power or consciousness may be regarded both as a part of God, and therefore one with Him, and also as His specific character or quality; it is this power which dirempts itself as consciousness and its object (cetya-cetana), as time and all that is measured by time (kalya-kāla), as manifest and unmanifest (vyaktāvyakta), as the enjoyer and that which is enjoyed (bhoktṛ-bhogya), as the body and that which is embodied (i deha-dehin)[45]. The conception of puruṣa seems to indicate the view of a conglomeration of the individual selves into a colony or association of individual selves, like the honeycomb of the bees[46]. They are regarded as unchangeable in themselves (kūṭastha), but yet they are covered over with the dusty impurities of beginningless root-desires (vāsanā), and thus, though pure in themselves, they may be also regarded as impure[47]. In themselves they are absolutely unaffected by any kind of affliction, and, being parts of God’s nature, are omniscient and eternally emancipated beings. These puruṣas are, however, through the will of God or rather of necessity through the creative operation of His power, differently affected by ignorance (avidyā), which makes them subject to various kinds of affliction, and, as a result thereof, their own natures are hidden from themselves and they appear to be undergoing all kinds of virtuous and sinful experiences of pleasures and pains; and, being thus affected, they are first associated with the creative power (śakti) of God, and then, as this power first evolves itself into its first category of time as the all-determining necessity (niyati), they become associated with it; and then, as the third movement posits itself as all-grasping time, they become associated with that category, and then, as the sattva-guṇas gradually evolve from kāla, the rājasa guṇas from sattva and the tāmasa guṇas from rajas, the colony of puruṣas is associated first with sattva, then with rajas and then with tamas. When all the guṇas are evolved, though the three guṇas are then all disturbed for further creative operation, they are not disturbed in all their parts; there are some parts of the guṇa conglomeration which are in equilibrium with one another; and it is this state of equilibrium of the guṇas that is called prakṛti[48]. The account of the evolution of the various categories from the creative will of God up to the prakṛti does not occur in the seventh chapter of the Ahirbudhnya, which is definitely described as the Sāṃkhya philosophy of Kapila; it is only a Pañcarātra account given to supplement that of the Sāṃkhya, which starts from the evolution of the categories from the prakṛti —the equilibrium of the guṇas. According to the Pañcarātra account of the Ahirbudhnya-saṃhitā the colony or the honeycomb of the puruṣas thus forms a primal element, which is associated with the self-evolving energy of God from the first moment of its movement, continues to be so associated with each of the evolving stadiums of categories up to the evolution of the prakṛti, and later on with all the other categories that are evolved from the prakṛti. In the account of Kapila Sāṃkhya as found in the Ahirbudhnya-saṃhitā this conglomeration of the puruṣas is admitted to be the changeless category that is associated with the evolution of the categories and descends gradually through the successive stages of their evolution until we come to the complete human stage with the evolution of the different senses and the gross elements. Unlike the account of puruṣa that is found in the classical Sāṃkhya treatises, which regards the puruṣas as being absolutely untouched by the instinctive root-desires (vāsanā) and the afflictions, it considers (like the Jains) that the puruṣas are coated with the impurities of vāsanās and kleśas, though in themselves they are essentially pure; again, the classical Sāṃkhya considers that the vāsanās are produced in a beginningless way, through karma, through an endless series of births and rebirths, whereas the Pañcarātra holds that different puruṣās are originally associated with different vāsanās according to the will of God. Unlike the account of the classical Sāṃkhya, where the vāsanās are regarded as a part of prakṛti as buddhi or citta, in this it is an original extraneous impurity of the puruṣas. It is probable, however, that this account of vāsanās and their original association with the puruṣas through the will of God did not form any part of the philosophy of Kapila’s Ṣaṣṭi-tantra, but was a supplementary doctrine introduced by the author of the Ahirbudhnya, as it is not mentioned in the seventh chapter of the work, which is definitely devoted to the account of Sāṃkhya.

The Sāṃkhya thought described in the Gītā has been explained in the second volume of the present work, and it will be seen that, though the Gītā account is unsystematic and nebulous, with significant details missing, it is essentially theistic and intimately associated with this Ahirbudhnya account of Kapila Sāṃkhya; and as such is fundamentally different from the classical Sāṃkhya of the Sāṃkhya-kārikā.

In Chapter 22 of the nth book of the Bhāgavata a reference is made to various schools of Sāṃkhya admitting different categories of being or evolutes[49]. Thus some Sāṃkhyists admitted nine categories, some eleven, some five, some twenty-six, some twenty-five, some seven, some six, some four, some seventeen, some sixteen and some thirteen. Uddhava requested Lord Kṛṣṇa to reconcile these diverse opposing views. In reply Lord Kṛṣṇa said that the different enumeration of the categories is due to the varying kinds of subsumption of the lower categories into the higher or by the omission of the higher ones, i.e. by ignoring some of the effect entities (as being already contained in the cause) or by ignoring some of the successive causal entities (as being present in the effect)[50]. Thus, there may be systems of Sāṃkhya schools where the tanmātras are not counted or where the gross elements are not counted as categories. The explanation in all such cases is to be found in the principle that some thinkers did not wish to count the tanmātras, as they are already contained in the gross elements (ghate mṛdvat); whereas others did not count the gross elements, as these were but evolutes in the tanmātras (ṃrdi ghatavat). But there are differences of opinion not only as regards the evolutionary categories of prakṛti, but also as regards the souls or the puruṣas and God. Thus there are twenty-four evolutionary categories (including prakṛti); puruṣa is counted as the twenty-fifth category, and according to the theistic Sāṃkhya God or Īśvara is counted as the twenty-sixth. It may be objected that the above principle of reconciliation of the diverse counting of categories by subsuming the effect under the cause, or by ignoring the former, cannot apply here. The theistic Sāṃkhya admits Īśvara on the ground that there must be some being who should communicate self-knowledge to individual souls, as they cannot, by themselves, attain it. If on such a view the theistic school of twenty-six categories is regarded as valid, the other school of twenty-five categories becomes irreconcilable. To this the reply is that there is no intrinsic difference in the nature of puruṣa and Īśvara, as they are both of the nature of pure consciousness. The objection that even on the above supposition the self-knowledge communicated by Īśvara has to be counted as a separate category is invalid, for self-knowledge, being knowledge, is only the heightening of the sattva quality of the prakṛti and as such falls within prakṛti itself. Knowledge is not a quality of the puruṣa, but of the prakṛti. The state of equilibrium in which the guṇas are not specifically manifested is called prakṛti. An upsetting of the equilibrium leads to the manifestation of the guṇas, which have, therefore, to be regarded as attributes of the prakṛti. The puruṣa, not being an agent, cannot possess knowledge as an attribute of its own. So, all activity being due to rajas and all ignorance being due to tamas, activity and ignorance are also to be regarded as constituents of prakṛti. Time (kāla) also is to be identified as God, because it is by the agency of God that the guṇas combine, that He is regarded as the cause of the combination of the guṇas. The view which regards kāla as the cause of the combination of the guṇas is grounded on this fact, and it is for that reason that in the scriptures kāla has been regarded as the name of Īśvara. As everything proceeds from the category of mahat, that itself is called svabhāva or nature. Thus the two apparently conflicting views that kāla and svabhāva are to be regarded as the ultimate causes of the world may well be reconciled with the Sāṃkhya according to the above interpretation.

The school of Sāṃkhya which reckons nine categories counts merely puruṣa, prakṛti, mahat, ahaṃkāra and the five elements. Those who reckon eleven count the five cognitive and conative senses and the manas only. Those who reckon five categories count the five sense objects only. Those who reckon seven count the five sense-objects, the soul and God. Those who reckon six include within them the five sense-objects and th e puruṣa. There are others, however, who regard earth, water, fire and the soul as four categories. Others take the five sense-objects, the eleven sense-organs and the puruṣa as categories. By excluding manas some hold that there are only sixteen categories. Others take the five sense-objects, the five cognitive senses, manas, soul and God, and thus arrive at the thirteen categories. Others take the five sense-objects, the five cognitive senses and the sense as the eleven categories. Others count prakṛti, mahat, ahaṃkāra, the five tanmātras and the puruṣa as the nine categories.

It is regrettable that apart from a reference to the above schools of Sāṃkhya and the attempts at their reconciliation found in the Bhāgavata, it is not possible to trace these doctrines to the original works, which must have long preceded the period of the composition of the Bhāgavata. The Bhāgavata is interested in the theistic Sāṃkhya doctrine, as has already been shown, and attempts to reconcile the conflicting schools of Sāṃkhya as being substantially one school of thought. It further holds that the prakṛti and its manifestations are produced through the operation of the diverse power of the māyā of Īśvara. At the time of dissolution (pralaya) God remains in absolute identity with Himself, and the guṇas, which are the various manifestations of His māyā power, remain in equilibrium—a state in which all His energies are sleeping as it were. By His own inherent energy He breaks the equilibrium of His sleeping energy and sets Himself to the work of the creation— the prakṛti with its evolutes—and thereby associates them with jīvas, which are merely His parts, and which thus are deluding the dualistic experience of the world, which they enjoy and for which they suffer; and He also shows them the right way by instructing them through the Vedas[51]. The self in its transcendent nature is pure experience and as such is devoid of and is absolutely unassociated with any kind of objective form. The association of objectivity and of content is as illusory as creations in dreams, and must be regarded as products of māyā[52].

Puruṣa as pure experience (anubhava-svarūpa) is to be differentiated and comprehended as different from passing mental states, as the content of the waking, dream and dreamless stages by the method of agreement and difference (anvaya-vyatireka). For, through the contents of experience in the various constituents involved in the mental states, that which remains constant, like a thread in a garland of pearls, is the pure experiencer, the self. Self is therefore to be regarded as different from the contents of the mental states which it illuminates[53].

Footnotes and references:


anādir ātmā puruṣo nirguṇaḥ prakṛteḥ paraḥ
pratyag-dhāmā svayaṃ-jyotir viśvaṃ yena samanvitam.
iii. 26. 3.


ay am īśvara ity ucyate.
commentary on ibid.


Subodhinī points out here that in this state, in which the puruṣa blinds himself, he is called jīva. Vijaya-dhvajī, however, takes it in the sense that the transcendent puruṣa or Īśvara which had accepted the prakṛti as its own thus blinds the individual souls through it. Śrīdhara says that there are two kinds of puruṣa, īśvara and jīva; and, further, that according to its blinding power (āvaraṇa-śakti) and creative power (vikṣepa-śakti) prakṛti is twofold; and that puruṣa also is twofold, according as it behaves as individual souls or as God.


prabhavaṃ pauruṣaṃ prāhuḥ kālam eke yato’ bhayam.
in. 26. 16.


Prakṛti is not included in this enumeration; if it were, there would be twenty-eight categories.


Ibid. II. 5. 22, 23.


Ibid. III. 5. 22-27.


Bhāgavata-purāṇa, III. 7. 9-12.


arthābhāvaṃ viniścitya pratītasyāpi nātmanaḥ.
ill. 7. 18.

anātmanah prapañcasya pratītasyāpi arthābhāvam artho’tra nāsti kintu pratiti-mātram.
      (Śrīdhara’s comment on Bhāgavata, III. 7. 18).


Ibid. III. 11. 1-5.


This view of time is different from the yoga view of time as moments (as explained by Vijñāna-bhiksu in his Yoga-vārttika, in. 51). There a moment is described as the movement of a guṇa particle through a space of its own dimension, and the eternity of time is definitely denied. Time in that view can only be the discrete moments.


Ibid. III. 26. 27.

yasya manasaḥ saṅkalpa-vikalpābhyāṃ kāma-sambḥavo varttata iti kāma-rūpā vṛttilakṣaṇatvena uktā na tu pradyumna-vyūhotpattiḥ tasya saṅkalpādi-kāryatvābhāvāt.

(Śrīdhara’s comment on the above.)


Those who believe in four vyūhas call this the pradyumna-vyūha.


Bhāgavata-purāṇa, m. 27.


Ibid. m. 28.


evaṃ harau bhagavati prati-labdha-bhāvo
bhaktyā dravad-hṛdaya utpulakaḥ pramodāt
autkaṇṭhya-vāṣpa-kalayā muhur ardyamānas
tac cāpi citta-baḍiśaṃ śanakair viyuṅkte.
III. 28. 34.


muktāśrayaṃ yan nirviṣayaṃ viraktam
nirvāṇam ṛcchati manaḥ sahasā yathā’rciḥ
ātmānam atra puruṣo’vyavadhānam ekam
anvīkṣate prati-nivṛtta-guṇa-pravāhaḥ.
III. 28. 35.


yo māṃ sarveṣu bhūteṣu śāntam ātmānam īśvaram
ḥitvā’rcāṃ bḥajate mauḍhyād bhasmany eva juhoti saḥ
aham uccāvacair dravyaiḥ kriyayotpannayā’naghe
naiva tuṣye’rcito’rcāyāṃ bhūta-grāmāvamāninaḥ.
III. 29. 22, 24.


yataḥ sandhāryamānāyāṃ yogino bhakti-lakṣaṇaḥ
āśu sampadyate yoga āśrayaṃ bhadram īkṣataḥ.
II. 1. 21.


In Aśvagho§a’s Buddḥa-carita there is an account of Sāṃkhya which counts prakṛti and vikāra. Of these prakṛti consists of eight categories—the five elements, egoism (ahaṃkāra), buddhi and avyakta, and the vikāra consists of seventeen categories—the five cognitive and the five conative senses, manas, buddhi and the five kinds of sense-knowledge. In addition to these there is a category of kṣetrajña or self or ātman.


yathā mano-ratha-dhiyo viṣayānubhavo mṛṣā
svapna-dṛṣṭāś ca dāśārha tathā saṃsāra ātmanaḥ
arthe hy avidyamāne’pi saṃsṛtir na nivartate
dhyāyato viṣayān asya svapne’narthāgamo yathā.
XI . 22. 55, 56.


Ibid. XI. 13.


janmādyasya yato’nvayād itarataś cārtheṣv abhijñaḥ svarāṭ
tene brahma hṛdā ya ādikavaye muhyanti yat sūrayaḥ.
tejo-vāri-mṛdāṃ yathā vinimayo yatra trisargo’mṛṣā
dhāmnā svena sadā nirasta-kuhakaṃ satyaṃ param dhīmahi.
I. 1. 1.


vyaktaṃ viṣṇus tathāvyaktaṃ puruṣaḥ kāla eva ca.
krīḍato bālakasyeva ceṣṭāṃ tasya niśāmaya.
viṣṇoḥ svarūpāt parato hi te’nye rūpe pradhānaṃ puruṣaś ca viprās
tasyaiva te’nyena dhṛte viyukte rūpādi yat tad dvija kāla-saṃjñam.
I. 2. 18, 24.


guṇa-sāmye tatas tasmin pṛthak puṃsi vyavasthite
kāla-svarūpa -rūpaṃ tad viṣṇor maitreya vartate.


pradhānaṃ puruṣaṃ cāpi praviśyātmeccḥayā hariḥ
kṣobhayāmāsa saṃprāpte sarga-kālevyayāvyayau



This view of the evolution of three different kinds of mahat is peculiar to the Viṣṇu-purāṇa, which is different from the classical Sāṃkhya.


This second stage is in agreement with the doctrine of Sārnkhya as explained in the Vyāsa-bhāṣya on the Yoga-sūtra, II. 19 of Patañjali.


Viṣṇu-purāṇa, i. 2. See also Dr Sir B. N. Seal’s interpretation of this passage in P. C. Ray’s Hindu Chemistry, Vol. ii, pp. 90-5.

The same verses occur in the Padma-purāṇa (Svarga-khaṇḍa) regarding the evolution of the Sāṃkhya categories.


puruṣaś caiva kālaś ca gunaś ceti tridhocyate
bhūtiḥ śuddhetarā viṣṇoḥ
      Ahirbudhnya-saṃhitā, VI. 8.


sāṃkhya-rūpeṇa saṃkalpo vaiṣṇavah kapilād ṛṣeḥ
udito yādṛśaḥ pūrvaṃ tādṛśaṃ śṛṇu me’khilam
ṣaṣṭi-bhedaṃ smṛtaṃ tantraṃ sāṃkhyaṃ nāma mahāmune
prākṛtaṃ vaikṛtaṃ ceti mandate dve samāsataḥ.    Ibid.
XII. 19.


Ibid.XII . 20-30.


Nīlakantha’s commentary on the Mahābhārata, in. 220. 21.


See the Mahābhārata, XII. 351 . See also the commentary of Nīlakanfha on it.


yam āhuḥ Kāpilam sāṃkhyaṃ paramarṣim prajāpatim.
xii. 218. 9.

This Pañcaśikha is also described as pañca-rātra-viśārada, well-versed in the pañca-rātra rites.


In the Māṭhara-vṛtti of Māṭharācārya on the Sāṃkhya-kārikā of Īśvarakṛṣṇa it is said that Ṣaṣṭi-tantra means a tantra or work dealing with sixty subjects and not a work containing sixty chapters (tantryante vyutpādyante padārtha iti tantram).

These sixty subjects are:

  • five viparyayas or errors,
  • twenty-eight defects (aśakti),
  • nine false satisfactions (tuṣṭi),
  • and eight miraculous achievements (siddhi)

—altogether fifty items (kārikā 47)—

the other ten subjects being the existence of prakṛti as proved by

  • five reasons (called the category of astitva),
  • its oneness (ekatva),
  • its teleological relation to puruṣas (arthavattva and pārārthya),
  • the plurality of the puruṣas (bahutva),
  • the maintenance of the body even after jīvan-mukti (sthiti),
  • association and dissociation of prakṛti with puruṣa (yoga and viyoga),
  • difference of prakṛti and puruṣa (anyatva),
  • and final cessation of prakṛti (nivṛtti).

Māṭhara quotes a Kārikā enumerating the latter ten subjects:

  1. astitvam,
  2. ekatvam,
  3. arthavattvam,
  4. pārārthyam,
  5. anyatvam,
  6. arthanivṛttiḥ.
  7. yogo viyogo,
  8. bahavaḥ pumāṃsaḥ,
  9. sthitiḥ,
  10. śarīrasya viśeṣa-vṛttih.

(Māṭhara-vṛtti, 72.)

This enumeration, however, seems to be entirely arbitrary, and apparently there is nothing to show that the Ṣaṣṭi-tantra was so called because it treated of these sixty subjects.


anyūnānatiriktaṃ yad guṇa-sāmyaṃ tamomayaṃ
tat sāṃkhyair jagato mūlaṃ prakṛtiś ceti kathyate.
kramāvatīrṇo yas tatra catur-manu-yugaḥ pumān
samaṣṭiḥ puruṣo yoniḥ sa kūṭastha itīryate
yat tat kālamayaṃ tattvaṃ jagataḥ samprakālanaṃ
sa tayoḥ kāryam āsthāya saṃyojaka-vibhājakaḥ.
vii. 1-3.


mṛt-piṇḍī-bhūtam etat tu kālādi-tritayaṃ mune
viṣṇoḥ sudarśanenaiva sva-sva-kārya-pracoditaṃ


kūtastho yaḥ purā proktah pumān vyomnaḥ parād adhaḥ
mānavo devatādyāś ca tad-vyaṣṭaya itīritāḥ.
jīva-bhedā mune sarve viṣṇu-bhūty-āṃśa-kalpitāḥ.


avyāghātas tu yas tasya sā sudarśanatā mune
jñāna-mūla-kriyātmāsau svacchaḥ svacchanda-cinmayaḥ.
VII. 67.


svātantryād eva kasmāccit kvacit sommeṣam ṛcchati.
V. 4.


satataṃ kurvato jagat.


tasyopādāna-bhāve’pi vikāra-viraho hi yaḥ
vīryaṃ nāma guṇaḥ so’yam acyutatvāparāhvayam.
. II. 60.


sahakāry-anapekṣā yā tat tejaḥ samudāhṛtam.
II. 61.


Ibid. V. 6-12.


sarvātmanāṃ samaṣṭir yā kośo madhu-kṛtām iva.
VI. 33.


śuddhyaśuddhimayo bhāvo bhūteḥ sa puruṣaḥ smṛtah
anādi-vāsanā-reṇu-kuṇṭhitair ātmabhiś citaḥ.
VI. 34.


codyamāne’pi sṛṣṭyartham pūrṇaṃ guṇa-yugaṃ tadā
aṃśataḥ sāmyam āyāti viṣṇu-saṃkalpa-coditam.
VI. 62.


kati tattvāni viśveśa saṃkhyātāny ṛṣibhiḥ prabho
nava-ekādaśa-pañca-trīṇy atha tvam tha śuśruma
kecit ṣaḍviṃśatiṃ prāhur apare pañcaviṃśatiṃ
saptaike nava-ṣaṭ kecic catvāry ekādaśāpare
kecit saptadaśa prāhuḥ ṣoḍaśaike trayodaśa.
i, 2.


anupraveśam darśayati ekasminnapīti pūrvasmin kāraṇabhūte tattve sūkṣma-rūpeṇa praviṣṭāni mṛdi ghaṭavat. aparasmin kārya-tattve kāraṇa-tattvāni anugatatvena praviṣṭāni ghaṭe mṛdvat.
      Śrīdhara’s commentary on sloka 8.


sa vai kilāyaṃ puruṣaḥ purātano
ya eka āsīd aviśeṣa ātmani

agre guṇebhyo jagad-ātmanīśvare
nimīlitātman niśi supta-śaktiṣu
sa eva bḥūyo nijavīrya-choditaṃ
sva-jīva-māyāṃ prakṛtiṃ sisṛkṣatīm
anāma-rūpātmani rūpa-nāmanī
vidhitsamāno’nusasāra śāstrakṛt.
I. 10. 21, 22.


ātma-māyām ṛte rājon parasyānubhavātmanaḥ
na ghaṭetārthasambandhaḥ svapnadraṣṭur ivāñjasā.
II. 9. 1.

Illusion or māyā is defined as that which manifests non-existent objects but is not manifested itself.

ṛte’rthaṃ yat pratīyeta na pratīyeta cātmani
tad vidyād ātmano māyāṃ yathābhāso tathā tamaḥ.
II. 9. 33.


anvaya-vyatirekeṇa vivekena satātmanā
sarga-sthāna-samāmnāyair vimṛśadbhir asatvaraiḥ
budher jāgaraṇaṃ svapnaḥ suṣuptir iti vṛttayaḥ
tā yenaivānubhūyante so’dhyakṣaḥ puruṣaḥ paraḥ.
VII. 7. 24, 25.

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: