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 the categories: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the third part in the series called the “the philosophy of vallabha”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Time is also regarded as a form of God. Activity and nature (karma-svabhāvam) are involved in the concept of time or kāla. Time in its inner essence consists of being, intelligence, and bliss, though in its phenomenal appearance it is manifest only with a slight tinge of being[1]. It is supra-sensible and can be inferred only from the nature of effects (kāryānumeya). It may also be defined as eternally pervasive and the cause and support of all things. Time is the first cause that disturbs the equilibrium of the guṇas. The sun, the moon, etc., are its ādhibhautika forms, the atoms are its ādhyatmika form, and God is its ādhidaivika form. The time that the sun takes in passing an atom is the time-atom; being thus too small it cannot be any further divided. It is only by the conglomeration of the smallest time-units that long spans of time are produced; for time is not one whole of an all-pervasive character of which the smaller units of time are parts.

Karma or action of all descriptions is regarded as universal; it only manifests itself in diverse forms and specific conditions as specific actions of this or that individual. Since it is this universal karma that manifests itself as different actions of diverse men, it is unnecessary to admit adrṣṭa as a separate category belonging to self, which remains after the destruction of a karma and gives its fruit after a remote time; it is also unnecessary to admit dharma and adharma as important categories; for they are all included in the concept of this universal karma, which manifests itself in diverse forms under diverse conditions. The application of the terms dharma and adharma is thus only the method of logical interest; it thus explains how the specific can produce svarga without the intermediary of adrṣṭa, or how the karma of one person (putreṣṭi, “sacrifice”) can produce fruit in another, i.e., the son. How a karma should manifest itself in its fruits or with reference to the performer and other persons is determined by the conditions and as explained in the scriptures; the production of a fruit in specific forms in specific centres does not mean its destruction but its disappearance[2].

Svabhāva (“nature”) is admitted as a separate category. It also is identified with God; its function consists in the inducement of God’s will. It is therefore defined as that which produces change (pariṇāṃa-hetutvaṃ tal-lakṣaṇaṃ); it is universal and reveals itself by itself before all other things. There may, however, be subtle changes which are not at first noticeable; but, when they become manifest, they presume the function of svabhāva, without which they could not have come about. It is from this that the twenty-eight categories have evolved: they are called tattva, because they are of the nature of “that,” i.e., God; all lattvas are thus the unfolding of God. The causality involved in the manifestation of svabhāva is a specific causality following a definite cause, and is giving rise to the evolutionary series of the tattvas ; in this sense it is different from the causality of God’s will, and is only a cause in the general manner.

Of these categories sattva may be counted first.

  1. Sattva is that which, being of the nature of pleasure and luminosity of knowledge and non-obstructive to the manifestation of pleasure, behaves as the cause of attachment to pleasure and knowledge in individuals[3].
  2. Rajas is that which, being of the nature of attachment, produces clinging or desire for actions in individuals.
  3. Tamas is that which produces in individuals a tendency to errors, laziness, sleep, etc.

There is a difference between the Sāṃkhya conception of these guṇas and Vallabha’s characterization of them (which is supposed to follow the Pañcarātra, Gītā and Bhāgavata). Thus, according to the Sāṃkhya, the guṇas operate by themselves; but this is untenable, as it would lead to the theory of natural necessity and atheism. Nor can rajas be defined as being of the nature of sorrow; for the authoritative scriptures speak of its being of the nature of attachment. When these qualities are conceived as being produced from God, they are regarded as being of the nature of māyā as the power of intelligence and bliss of God[4].

These (sattva, rajas and tamas) should be regarded as identical with māyā and products of māyā. Nor are these guṇas for the sake of others (parārtha)y as is conceived by the Sāṃkhya; nor are they inextricably mixed up with another, but their co-operation is only for building the puruṣa. God thus manifests Himself as the form of the māyā, just as cotton spreads itself as threads. God, as unqualified, produces all His qualities by Himself; in His nature as pure being He produces sattva, in His nature as bliss He produces tamas, in His nature as intelligence He produces rajas[5].

Puruṣa or ātman may be defined from three points of view: it may be defined as beginningless, qualityless, the controller of prakṛti, and apperceivable as the object of the notion of “I”; it may also be defined as purely self-luminous; and, again, as that which, though not in reality affected by the qualities or defects of the universe, is yet associated with them. In the self-being of a self-luminous and blissful nature there is some kind of consciousness and bliss in the absence of all kinds of objects, as in deep dreamless sleep. It is thus consciousness which represents the true nature of the self, which, in our ordinary experience, becomes associated with diverse kinds of ignorance and limits itself by the objects of knowledge.

The puruṣa is one, though it appears as many through the confusing power of māyā due to the will of God. The notion of the doer and the enjoyer of experiences is thus due to misconception. It is for this reason that emancipation is possible; for, had not the self been naturally free and emancipated, it would not be possible to liberate it by any means. It is because the self is naturally free that, when once it is liberated, it cannot have any further bondage. If the bondage were of the nature of association of external impurities, then even in emancipation there would be a further chance of association with impurities at any time; it is because all bondage and impurities are due to a misconception that, when once this is broken, there is no further chance of any bondage[6].

Prakṛti, however, is of two kinds:

  1. as associated with ignorance, causing the evolutionary series, and
  2. as abiding in God and holding all things in God—the Brahman.

Jīva, the phenomenal individual, is regarded as a part of the puruṣa. It may be remembered that the concept of puruṣa is identical with the concept of Brahman; for this reason the jīva may on the one hand be regarded as a part of the puruṣa and on the other as part of the Brahman, the unchangeable. The various kinds of experiences of th e jīva, though apparently due to karma, are in reality due to God’s will; for whomsoever God wishes to raise, He causes to do good works, and, whomsoever He wishes to throw down, He causes to perform bad works. Prakṛti is in its primary sense identical with Brahman; it is a nature of Brahman by which He creates the world. As Brahman is on the one hand identical with the qualities of being, intelligence and bliss, and on the other hand regarded as associated with them, so also the prakṛti may be regarded as the identity of the guṇas and also as their possessor. This is the distinction of Vallabha’s conception of prakṛti from the Saṃkhya view of it. The other categories of mahat, etc., are also supposed to evolve from the prakṛti more or less in the Samkhya fashion: manas, however, is not regarded as an indriya.

Footnotes and references:


etasyaiva rūpāntaraṃ kāla-karma-svabhāvāḥ kālasyāṃśa-bhūtau karma-svabhāvau tatra antaḥ-sac-ci-dānando vyavahāre īṣat-sattvāṃśena prakaṭaḥ kāla iti kālasya svarūpa-lakṣanaṃ.
p. 165.


tal-lakṣaṇaṃ ca vidhi-niṣedha-prakāreṇa laukika-kriyābḥiḥ pradeśato’bhivyañjana-yogyā vyāpikā kriyeti... etenaivāḍṛṣṭasyāpyātma-guṇatvaṃ nirākṛtaṃ veditavyam. evaṃcāpurvādṛṣṭadharmādharmādipadairapīdamevocyate. ataḥ sādhāranye’pi phala-vyavasthopapatter na karma-nānātvamity api. dāna-hiṃsādau tu dharmādharmādi-prayogo’ bhivyañjakatvopādhinā bhāktaḥ.
pp. 168-9.


sukhānāvarakatve prakāśakatve sukhātmakatve ca sati sukhāsktyā jñānā-saktyā ca dehino dehādy-āsakti-janakaṃ sattvam.
      Commentary on Anubhāṣya, p. 170.


ete ca guṇā yada bhagavataḥ sakāśād eva utpadyante tadā māyā cic-chakti-rūpā ānanda-rūpā vijñeyā.
p. 171.


sad-aṃśāt sattvam, ānandāṃśāt tamaḥ, cidaṃśāt rajas.
p. 172.


evaṃ tasya kevalatve siddhe yas tasmin kartṛtvādinā saguṇatvapratyayaḥ sa sṛṣṭy-anukūla-bhagavad-icchayā prakṛty-ādy-aviveka-kṛtaḥ...ata eva ca mukti-yogyatvam. anyathā bandhasya svābhāvikatvāpattau mokṣa-sāṣṭra-vaiyarthyā-patteḥ svābhāvikasya nāśāyogāt pravṛtti-vidhau tu anuṣṭhāna-lakṣaṇāprāmāṇyā-patteś ca...so’yaṃ na nānā, kintv-eka eva sarvatra.
pp. 175—6.

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