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 ontology: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the first part in the series called the “the philosophy of jiva gosvami and baladeva vidyabhushana”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Jīva Gosvāmī flourished shortly after Caitanya. He wrote a running commentary on the Bhāgavata-purāṇa which forms the second chapter (Bhāgavata-sandarbha) of his principal work, the Ṣaṭ-sandarbha. In this chapter he says that, when the great sages identify themselves with the ultimate reality, their minds are unable to realize the diverse powers of the Lord. The nature of the Lord thus appears in a general manner (sāmānyena lakṣitam tathaiva sphurat, p. 50), and at this stage the powers of Brahman are not perceived as different from Him. The ultimate reality, by virtue of its essential power (svarūpasthhitayā eva śaktyā), becomes the root support of all its other powers (parāsām api śaktīnām mūlā-śrayarūpam), and through the sentiment of devotion appears to the devotees as the possessor of diverse powers; He is then called Bhagavān. Pure bliss (ānanda) is the substance, and all the other powers are its qualities; in association with all the other powers it is called Bhagavān or God[1]. The concept of Brahman is thus the partial appearance of the total personality denoted by the word Bhagavān; the same Bhagavān appears as Paramātman in His aspect as controlling all beings and their movements. The three names Brahman, Bhagavān and Paramātman are used in accordance with the emphasis that is put on the different aspects of the total composite meaning; thus, as any one of the special aspects of God appears to the mind of the devotee, he associates it with the name of Brahman, Bhagavān or Paramātman[2].

The aspect as Brahman is realized only when the specific qualities and powers do not appear before the mind of the devotee. In realizing the pure consciousness as the nature of the devotee’s own self the nature of the Brahman as pure consciousness is also realized; the realization of the identity of one’s own nature with that of Brahman is effected through the special practice of devotion[3]. In the monistic school of Vedānta, as interpreted by Śaṅkara, we find that the identity of the self with the Brahman is effected through the instruction in the Vedāntic maxim: “that art thou” (tat tvam asi). Here, however, the identity is revealed through the practice of devotion, or rather through the grace of God, which is awakened through such devotion.

The abode of Bhagavān is said to be Vaikuṇtha . There are two interpretations of this word; in one sense it is said to be identical with the very nature of Brahman as unobscured by māyā[4]; in another interpretation it is said to be that which is neither the manifestation of rajas and tamas nor of the material sattva as associated with rajas and tamas. It is regarded as having a different kind of substance, being the manifestation of the essential power of Bhagavān or as pure sattva. This pure sattva is different from the material sattva of the Sāṃkhyists, which is associated with rajas and tamas, and for this reason it is regarded as aprākṛta, i.e., transcending the prākṛta. For this reason also it is regarded as eternal and unchanging[5]. The ordinary guṇas, such as sattva, rajas and tamas, are produced from the movement of the energy of kāla (time); but the sattva-Vaikuṇtha is not within the control of kāla[6]. The Vaikuṇṭha, thus being devoid of any qualities, may in one sense be regarded as nirviśeṣa (differenceless); but in another sense differences may be said to exist in it also, although they can only be of the nature of the pure sattva or the essential power of God[7].

The essential power (svarūpa-śakti) and the energy (māyā-śakti) are mutually antagonistic, but they are both supported in God[8]. The power of God is at once natural (svābhāvika) and unthinkable (acintya). It is further urged that even in the ordinary world the powers of things are unthinkable, i.e., neither can they be deduced from the nature of the things nor can they be directly perceived, but they have to be assumed because without such an assumption the effect would not be explainable. The word “unthinkable” (acintya) also means that it is difficult to assert whether the power is identical with the substance or different from it; on the one hand, power cannot be regarded as something extraneous to the substance, and, on the other, if it were identical with it, there could be no change, no movement, no effect. The substance is perceived, but the power is not; but, since an effect or a change is produced, the implication is that the substance must have exerted itself through its power or powers. Thus, the existence of powers as residing in the substance is not logically proved, but accepted as an implication[9]. The same is the case in regard to Brahman; His powers are identical with His nature and therefore co-eternal with Him. The concept of “unthinkableness” (acintyatva) is used to reconcile apparently contradictory notions (durghaṭa-ghaṭakatvaṃ hy acintyatvam). The internal and essential power (antaraṅga-svarūpa-śakti) exists in the very nature of the Brahman (svarūpeṇa) and also as its various manifestations designated by such terms as Vaikuṇtha, etc. (vaikuṇthādi-svarūpa-vaibhava-rūpeṇa)[10]. The second power (taṭasthaśakti) is represented by the pure selves. The third power (bahiraṅga-māyā-śakti) is represented by the evolution of all cosmical categories and their root, the pradhāna. The analogy offered is that of the sun, its rays and the various colours which are manifested as the result of refraction. The external power of māyā (bahiraṅga-śakti) can affect the jīvas but not Brahman.

The māyā is defined in the Bhāgavata (as interpreted by Śrīdhara) as that which is manifested without any object and is not yet perceivable in its own nature, like an illusory image of darkness[11]. This is interpreted in a somewhat different form in the Bhāgavata-sandarbha, where it is said that māyā is that which appears outside the ultimate reality or Brahman, and ceases to appear with the realization of Brahman. It has no appearance in its own essential nature, i.e., without the support of the Brahman it cannot manifest itself; it is thus associated with Brahman in two forms as jīva-māyā and guṇa-māyā. The analogy of ābhāsa, which was explained by Śrīdhara as “illusory image,” is here interpreted as the reflection of the solar light from outside the solar orb. The solar light cannot exist unless it is supported by the solar orb. But though this is so, yet the solar light can have an independent role and play outside the orb when it is reflected or refracted; thus it may dazzle the eyes of man and blind them to its real nature, and manifest itself in various colours. So also the analogy of darkness shows that, though darkness cannot exist where there is light, yet it cannot itself be perceived without the light of the eyes. The prakṛti and its developments are but manifestations or appearances, which are brought into being outside the Brahman by the power of the māyā ; but the movement of the māyā, the functioning of the vital prāṇas, manas and the senses, the body, are all made possible by the fact that they are permeated by the original essential power of God (antaraṅga-śakti)[12]. Just as a piece of iron which derives its heat from the fire in which it is put cannot in its turn burn the fire or affect it in any manner, so the māyā and its appearances, which derive their essence from the essential power of God, cannot in any way affect God or His essential power.

The selves can know the body; but they cannot know the ultimate reality and the ultimate perceiver of all things. It is through māyā that different things have an apparently independent existence and are known by the selves; but the true and essential nature of Brahman is always one with all things, and, since in that state there is no duality, there is nothing knowable and no form separate from it. The ultimate reality, which reveals all things, reveals itself also—the heat rays of fire, which derive their existence from the fire, cannot burn the fire itself[13]. The guṇassattva, rajas and tamas —belong to the jīza and not to Brahman; for that reason, so long as the selves (jīva) are blinded by the power of māyā, there is an appearance of duality, which produces also the appearance of knower and knowable. The māyā is again described as twofold, the guṇa-māyā, which represents the material forces (jaḍātmikā), and the ātma-māyā, which is the will of God. There is also the concept of jīva-māyā, which is, again, threefold—creative (Bhū), protective (Śrī), and destructive (Durgā). The ātma-māyā is the essential power of God[14]. In another sense māyā is regarded as being composed of the three guṇas. The word yoga-māyā has also two meanings—it means the miraculous power achieved through the practice of the yoga when it is used as a power of the Yogins or sages; when applied to God (parameśvara), it means the manifestation of His spiritual power as pure consciousness (cic-chakti-vilāsa). When māyā is used in the sense of ātma-māyā or God’s own māyā, it has thus three meanings, viz., His essential power (svarūpa-śakti), His will involving knowledge and movement (jñāna-kriye), and also the inner dalliance of His power as consciousness (cic-chakti-vilāsa)[15]. Thus, there is no māyā in Vaikuṇtha, because it itself is of the nature of māyā or svarūpa-śakti ; the Vaikuṇtha is, thus, identical with mokṣa (emancipation).

Once it is admitted that the unthinkable power of God can explain all contradictory phenomena and also that by yoga-māyā God can directly manifest any form, appearance or phenomena, it was easy for the Vaiṣṇavas of the Gaudiya school to exploit the idea theologically. Leaving aside the metaphysical idea of the non-Vaiṣṇava nature of the relation of God with I Iis powers, they tried by an extension of the metaphysical formula to defend their religious belief in the theological nature of the episodes of Kṛṣṇa in Vṛndāvana, as related in the Bhāgavata. Thus they held that Kṛṣṇa, including His body and all His dress and ornaments and the like, the Gopīs, with whom He had dalliance, and even the cows and trees of Vṛndāvana, were physically existent in limited forms and at the same time unlimited and spiritual as a manifestation of the essential nature of God. The Vaiṣṇavas were not afraid of any contradiction, because in accordance with the ingeniously-devised metaphysical formula the supra-logical nature of God’s power was such that through it He could manifest Himself in all kinds of limited forms, and yet remain identical with His own supreme nature as pure bliss and consciousness. The contradiction was only apparent; because the very assumption that God’s power is supra-logical resolves the difficulty of identifying the limited with the unlimited, the finite with the infinite[16]. The author of Ṣaṭ-sandarbha takes great pains to prove that the apparent physical form of Kṛṣṇa, as described in the Bhāgavata-purāṇa, is one with Brahman. It is not a case in which the identity is to be explained as having absolute affinity with Brahman (atyanta-tādātmya) or as being dependent on Brahman: if the Brahman reveals itself in pure mind, it must appear as one, without any qualitative difference of any kind; if, in associating Brahman with the form of Kṛṣṇa, this form appears to be an additional imposition, it is not the revelation of Brahman. It cannot be urged that the body of Kṛṣṇa is a product of pure sattva ; for this has no rajas in it, and therefore there is no creative development in it. If there is any rajas in it, the body of Kṛṣṇa cannot be regarded as made up of pure sattva ; and, if there is any mixture of rajas, then it would be an impure state and there can be no revelation of Brahman in it. Moreover, the text of the Bhāgavata-purāṇa is definitely against the view that the body of Kṛṣṇa is dependent only on pure sattva, because it asserts that the body of Kṛṣṇa is itself one and the same as pure sattva or pure consciousness[17]. Again, since the body of Kṛṣṇa appears in diverse forms, and since all these forms are but the various manifestations of pure consciousness and bliss, they are more enjoyable by the devotee than the Brahman[18].

In the Paramātma-sandarbha the jīva or individual is described as an entity which in its own nature is pure and beyond māyā, but which perceives all the mental states produced by māyā and is affected by them. It is called Kṣetrajña, because it perceives itself to be associated with its internal and external body (kṣetra)[19]. In a more direct sense God is also called Kṣetrajña, because He not only behaves as the inner controller of māyā but also of all those that are affected by it and yet remains one with Himself through His essential power[20]. The Kṣetrajña should not be interpreted in a monistic manner, to mean only a pure unqualified consciousness (nirviśeṣaṃ cid-vastu), but as God, the supreme inner controller. The view that unqualified pure consciousness is the supreme reality is erroneous. Consequently a distinction is drawn between the vyaṣṭi-kṣetrajña (the individual person) and the samaṣṭi-kṣetrajña (the universal person)—God, the latter being the object of worship by the former. This form of God as the inner controller is called Paramātman.

God is further supposed to manifest Himself in three forms: first, as the presiding lord of the totality of selves and the prakṛti, which have come out of Him like sparks from fire—Saṅkarṣaṇa or Mahāviṣṇu; secondly, as the inner controller of all selves in their totality (samaṣṭi-jīvāntaryāmī)— Pradyumna. The distinction between the first and the second stage is that in the first the jīva and the prakṛti are in an undifferentiated stage, whereas in the second the totality of the jīvas has been separated outside of prakṛti and stands independently by itself. The third aspect of God is that in which He resides in every man as his inner controller.

The jīvas are described as atomic in size; they are infinite in number and are but the parts of God. Māyā is the power of God, and the word is used in various senses in various contexts; it may mean the essential power, the external power, and it has also the sense of pradhāna[21].

The author of the Ṣaṭ-sandarbha denies the ordinary Vedāntic view that the Brahman is pure consciousness and the support (āśraya) of the objects (viṣaya or māyā or ajñāna). He regards the relation between māyā and Brahman as transcendental and supra-rational. Just as various conflicting and contradictory powers may reside in any particular medicine, so also various powers capable of producing manifold appearances may reside in Brahman, though the manner of association may be quite inexplicable and unthinkable. The appearance of duality is not due to the presence of ajñāna (or ignorance) in the Brahman, but through His unthinkable powers. The duality of the world can be reconciled with ultimate monism only on the supposition of the existence of the transcendent and supra-rational powers of God. This fact also explains how the power of God can transform itself into the material image without in any way affecting the unity and purity of God[22]. Thus both the subtle jīvas and the subtle material powers of the universe emanate from Paramātman, from whom both the conscious and the unconscious parts of the universe are produced. Paramātman, considered in Himself, may be taken as the agent of production (nimitta-kāraṇa), whereas in association with His powers He may be regarded as the material cause of the universe (upādāna-kāraṇa)[23]. Since the power of God is identical with the nature of God, the position of monism is well upheld.

On the subject of the relation between the parts and the whole the author of the Ṣaṭ-sandarbha says that the whole is not a conglomeration of the parts, neither is the whole the transformation of the parts or a change induced in the parts. Nor can the whole be regarded as different from the parts or one with it, or as associated with it. If the whole were entirely different from the parts, the parts would have nothing to do with the whole; if the parts were inherent in the whole, then any part would be found anywhere in the whole. Therefore the relation between the parts and the whole is of a supra-logical nature. From this position the author of the Ṣaṭ-sandarbha jumps to the conclusion that, wherever there is an appearance of any whole, such an appearance is due to the manifestation of Paramātman, which is the ultimate cause and the ultimate reality (tasmād aikya-buddhyālambana-rūpaṃ yat pratīyate tat sarvatra paramātma-lakṣaṇaṃ sarvakāraṇam asty eva, p. 252).

All manifestations of separate wholes are, therefore, false appearances due to similarity; for wherever there is a whole there is the manifestation of God. In this way the whole universe may be regarded as one, and thus all duality is false[24].

Just as fire is different from wood, the spark and the smoke (though the latter two are often falsely regarded as being identical with the fire), so the self, as the separate perceiver called Bhagavān or Brahman, is also different from the five elements (the senses, the antaḥkaraṇa and the pradhāna) which together pass by the name of jīva[25].

Those who have their minds fixed on the Supreme Soul (Paramātman) and look upon the world as its manifestation thereby perceive only the element of ultimate reality in it; whereas those who are not accustomed to look upon the world as the manifestation of the supreme soul perceive it only as the effect of ignorance; thus to them the Paramātman, who pervades the world as the abiding Reality, does not show Himself to be such. Those who traffic in pure gold attach no importance to the various forms in which the gold may appear (bangles, necklaces and the like), because their chief interest lies in pure gold; whereas there are others whose chief interest is not pure gold, but only its varied unreal forms. This world is brought into being by God through His inherent power working upon Himself as the material cause; as the world is brought into being, He enters into it, controls it in every detail, and in the last stage (at the time of pralaya) He divests Himself of various forms of manifestation and returns to Himself as pure being, endowed with His own inherent power. Thus it is said in the Viṣṇu-purāṇa that the ignorant, instead of perceiving the world as pure knowledge, are deluded by perceiving it as the visible and tangible world of objects; but those who are pure in heart and wise perceive the whole world as the nature of God, as pure consciousness.

Footnotes and references:


ānanda-mātraṃ viśeṣyaṃ samastāḥ śaktayaḥ viśeṣaṇāni viśiṣṭo Bhagavān.
p. 50.


tatraikasyaiva viśeṣaṇa-bhedena tad aviśiṣṭatvena ca pratipādanāt tathaiva tat-tad-upāsakapuruṣānubhava-bhedāc ca āvirbhāva-nāmnor bhedaḥ.
p. 53.


nanu sūkṣma-cid-rūpatvaṃ padārthānubhave kathaṃ pūrṇa-cid-ākāra-rūpa-madīya-brahma-svarūpaṃ sphuratu tatrāha, ananyabodhyātmatayā cid-ākāratā-sāmyena śuddha-tvaṃ padārthaikyabodhya-svarūpatayā. yady api tādṛg-ātmānubhavānantaraṃ tad-ananya-bodhyatā-kṛtau sādhaka-śaktir nāsti tathāpi pūrvaṃ tadartham eva kṛtayā sarvatrā’pi upajīvyayā sādhana-bhaktyā ārādhitasya śrī-bhagavataḥ prabhāvād eva tad api tatrodayate.
p. 54


yato vaikuṇṭhāt paraṃ Brahmākhyaṃ tattvaṃ paraṃ bhinnaṃ na bhavati. svarūpa-śakti-viśeṣāviṣkāreṇa māyayā nāvṛtaṃ tad ev tad-rūpam.
p. 57.


yatra vaikuṇṭhe rajas tamaś ca na pravartate. tayor miśraṃ sahacaraṃ jaḍaṃ yat sattvaṃ na tad api. kintu anyad eva tac ca yā suṣṭhu sthāpayiṣyamāṇā māyātaḥ parā bhagavat-svarūpa-śaktiḥ tasyāḥ vṛttitvena cid-rūpaṃ śuddha-sattvākhyaṃ sattvam.
p. 58.


Ibid. p. 59. This view, that the guṇas are evolved by the movement of kāla, is not accepted in the ordinary classical view of Sāṃkhya, but is a theory of the Pañcarātra school. Cf. Ahirbudhnya-saṃhitā, chs. 6 and 7.


nanu guṇādy-abhāvān nirviśeṣa evāsau loka ity āśaṃkya tatra viśeṣas tasyāḥ śuddha-sattvātmikāyāḥ svarūpānatirikta-śakter eva vilāsa-rūpa iti.
, P. 59.


te ca svarūpa-śakti-māyā-śakti paraspara-viruddhe, tathā tayor vṛttayaḥ sva-sva-gaṇa eva parasparāviruddhā api bahvyaḥ tathāpi tāsām ekaṃ nidhānaṃ tad eva.
p. 61.


loke hi sarveṣāṃ bhāvānāṃ maṇi-mantrādīnāṃ śaktayaḥ acintya-jñāna-gocarāḥ acintyaṃ tarkāsahaṃ yaj-jñārtaṃ kāryānyathānupapatti-pramāṇakaṃ tasya gocarāḥ santi.
pp. 63-4.


Ibid. p. 65.


ṛte’rthaṃ yat pratīyeta na pratīyeta cātmani
tad vidyād ātmano māyāṃ yathā bhāsaṃ yathā tamaḥ.


svarūpa-bhūtākhyām antaraṅgāṃ śaktiṃ sarvasyāpi pravṛtty-anyathā-nupapattyā.
p. 69.


svarūpa-vaibhave tasya jīvasya raśmi-sthānīyasya maṇḍalasthānīyo ya ātmā paramātmā sa eva svarūpa-śaktyā sarvam abhūt, anādita eva bhavann āste, na tu tat-praveśena, tat tatra itaraḥ sajīvaḥ kenetareṇa karaṇa-bhūtena kaṃ padārthaṃ paśyet, na kenāpi kam api paśyet ity-arthaḥ; na hi raśmayaḥ svaśaktyā sūrya-maṇḍalāntargata-vaibhvaṃ prakāśayeyuḥ, na cārciṣo vahniṃ nirdaheyuḥ.
p. 71.


mīyate anayā iti māyā-śabdena śakti-mātram api bhaṇyate.
p. 73.


Ibid. pp. 73-4.


Ibid. pp. 70-92. satya-jñānānantānandaika-rasa-mūrtitvād yugapad eva sarvam api tat-tad-rūpaṃ vartata eva, kintu yūyaṃ sarvadā sarvaṃ na paśyatheti (p. 87).

tataśca yadā tava yatrāṃśe tat-tad-upāsanā-phalasya yasya rūpasya prakāśanecchā tadaiva tatra tad-rūpaṃ prakāśate iti. iyaṃ kadety asya yuktiḥ. tasmāt tat tat sarvam api tasmin śrī-kṛṣṇa-rūpe’ntarbḥūtam ity evam atrāpi tātparyam upasaṃharati (p. 90).

tad ittham madhyamākāra eva sarvādhāratvāt bibhutvaṃ sādhitam. sarva-gatatvād api sādhyate. citraṃ vataitad ekena vapuṣā yugapat pṛthak gṛheṣu dvyaṣṭa-sāhasraṃ striya eka udāvahat.


tasya śuddha-sattvasya prākṛtatvaṃ tu niṣiddham eva tasmāt na te prākṛta-sattva-pariṇāmā na vā tat-pracurāḥ kintu sva-prakāśatā-lakṣaṇa-śuddha-sattva-prakāśitā.
, p. 148, also pp. 147-8.


Ibid. p. 149.


Ibid. p. 209.


māyāyāṃ māyike’pi antar-yāmitayā praviṣṭo’pi svarūpa-śaktyā svarūpa-stha eva na tu tat-saṃsakta ity arthaḥ, vāsudevatvena sarva-kṣetra-jñātṛtvāt so’paraḥ kṣetrajña ātmā paramātmā. tad evam api mukhyaṃ kṣetrajñatvaṃ paramātmany eva.
p. 210.


tadevaṃ sandarbha-dvaye śakti-traya-vivṛtiḥ kṛtā. tatra nāmābhinnatā-janita-bhrānti-hānāya saṃgraha-ślokāḥ māyā syād antaraṅgāyāṃ bahiraṅgā ca sā smṛtā

pradhāne’pi kvacid dṛṣṭā tad-vṛttir mohinī ca sā,
ādye traye syāt prakṛtiś cic-chaktis tvantaraṅgikā
śuddha-jīve’pi te dṛṣṭe tatheśa-jñāna-vīryayoḥ.
cinmayā-śakti-vṛtyos tu vidyā-śaktir udīryate
cic-chakti-vṛttau māyāyāṃ yoga-māyā samā smṛtā
pradhānāvyākṛtā-vyaktaṃ traiguṇye prakṛteḥ param
na māyāyāṃ na cic-chaktāv ityādyūhyam vivekibhiḥ.
p. 245.


Ibid. p. 249.


Ibid. p. 250.


tasmāt sarvaikya-buddhi-nidānāt pṛthag dehaikya-buddhiḥ sādṛśyabhramaḥ syāt, pūrvāparāvayavānusandhāne sati parasparam āśayaikatva-sthitatvenā’vaya-vatvsādhāraṇyena caikyasādṛśyāt praty-avayavam ekatayā pratīteḥ, so’yaṃ deha iti bhrama eva bhavatī’ty arthaḥ, prati-vṛkṣaṃ tad idaṃ vanaṃ itivat.
p. 253.


yatholmukāt viṣphuliṅgād dhūmād api svasambhavāt
apy ātmatvena vimatād yathāgniḥ pṛthag ulmukāt
bhūtendriyāntaḥkaraṇāt pradhānāj-jīva-saṃjñitāt
ātmā tathā pṛthag draṣṭā bhagavān brahma-saṃjñitaḥ.
p. 254.

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