A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 5

Southern Schools of Śaivism

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1955 | 79,816 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of paushkaragama: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the fifth part in the series called the “literature of southern shaivism”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

In the Pauṣkarāgama jñāna is defined as consisting of the energy inherent in Śiva. Six categories described are “patiḥ kuṇḍalinī māyā paśuḥ pāśaś ca kārakah.” Lay a, bhoga and adkikāra are the three functions of śakti. Māyā as generated by the actions of men, supplies the elements by which the objects of experience and experience are made. Paśu is that which experiences and reacts. The categories beginning from kalā to earth (kṣiti) are real entities. Laya is called bondage and is regarded as the fifth category. The sixth category is equal to bhukti, mukti, vyakti, phala, kriyā and dīkṣā taken together. Bindu and anus are the real entities. When the manifold creation shrinks into the bindu, we have that stage in Śiva which is called dissolution (laya). In the original state actions of the type of sadṛśa pariṇāma go on. Śiva is described as vispaṣṭa cinmātra and vyāpaka. His energies only can operate, while He remains unmoved. When the energies begin to operate in the bindu, the bindu becomes fit for being the data of experience. This state of bindu with Śiva reflected in it is called the sadā-śiva. Even in this stage there is really no change in Śiva. When the energies are in the state of operation, we have the state of creation, and the experience of it is called bhoga .

The point arises that if the bindu is itself active in creation, then its relation with Śiva becomes redundant. On the other hand, if the bindu is moved by Śiva to active operation, Śiva becomes changeable. The reply is that an agent can affect any material in two ways, either by his simple desire or by his organised effort, as in the case of the making of a pot by the potter. Śiva moves the bindu simply by His saṃkalpa, and therefore He does not suffer any change. In the case of the action of the potter also, it is by the wish of Śiva that the potter can act. Therefore, Śiva is the sole agent of all actions performed by animate beings or by inanimate matter.

It maybe said that Śiva is wholly unconditioned, and therefore He can remain the sole agent without undergoing any change. Another tentative answer is that in the presence of Śiva, the bindu begins to work without any causal efficiency (compare the movement of prakṛti in the presence of puruṣa).

The bindu has sometimes been described as śāntyatīta and other times as the material cause of the creation. This difficulty is explained on the assumption that part of the bindu is śāntyatīta and the other part is responsible for being the material cause of the world. The third category including the bindu and Śiva is called Īśvara. Śiva produces commotion in bindu merely by His presence. In this way Śiva is not only the instrumental agent of all happenings in the inanimate, but He also is responsible for all actions of the human body which are seemingly produced by the human will.

Knowledge and activity are in essence identical, and for that reason, when there is action (vyāpāra), we may feel as if we are the agents of those actions. The element of action that seems to express itself is thus something more than the action, and it is called the adhikāra-kriyā. The action and that which is acted upon is the result of guṇa-saṃkalpa. Śiva stands as the citi-śakti which makes all energies dynamic, as the sun makes the lotus bloom from a distance without any actual interference.

In further explaining the philosophical situation Śiva says that a part of the bindu is in the transcendental (śāntyatīta) state, while the other part is responsible for the creative action. This second category, that is, the lower half of the bindu, is supposed to be moved by Śiva. The energies are often classified under different names as performing different functions. Śakti and śaktimān are the same. They are only differently classified according to their diverse functions.

The inanimate world is inoperative without the action or the interference of a conscious being. That conscious being is God Śiva; even the milk in the udder of the cow flows by the active affection of the cow for the calf. The illustration of the magnet drawing the iron filings does not fit in, for there also is the person who brings the magnet near the iron filings.

It cannot, however, be urged that the puruṣas themselves could be regarded as active agents, for according to the scriptural texts they are also moved to activity by the will of God[1].

The world-appearance cannot be proved to be false or illusory. It is made up of the stuff of one common object called māyā, which is later on conceived as functioning in different ways called sattva, rajas and tamas. The māyā stuff is the repository of all karmas. But yet not all persons gain the fruits of all their karmas. They have to depend upon some other being for the proper fruition of their karmas. This is where God comes in as the ultimate bestower of the fruits of karma.

Mala or impurity is always associated with all souls. The Āgama tries to refute the epistemological view of other systems of thought like the Cārvāka and the monism of Śaṅkara. The Āgama holds that since the souls are eternal, their knowledge must also be eternal due to eternal unchanging cause. The difference of knowledge in individuals is due to the obscuration of their knowledge by the various veils of mala. The original cause of knowledge is all-pervading and is the same in all persons[2].

The self is realised as revealing itself and others. If it is supposed that the self is reflected through buddhi, then even buddhi also may be regarded as conscious self. So the idea of explaining the situation as being the reflection of consciousness in buddhi, also fails. Again this reflection of consciousness in buddhi cannot be regarded as conscious entity. It may also be pointed out that the consciousness as spirit cannot be reflected in buddhi which is known as spiritual. The view of mutual reflection of consciousness into buddhi and buddhi into consciousness is also untenable. It has, therefore, to be admitted that the soul as an eternal being can perceive all things and act as it likes. If the qualities inhere permanently or temporarily in an entity, then that inherence in the entity must be of a permanent or of a temporary nature as the case may be. The consciousness of the soul should, therefore, be regarded as co-extensive with its being. The selves are atomic in size and cannot therefore pervade the whole body. We have already said that the self in revealing itself also reveals other things. We must remember in this connection that an entity like the fire cannot be distinguished from the energy that it has.

Again the objects perceived cannot be regarded as mere ignorance (ajñāna), for one cannot deal with mere ajñāna, just as one cannot bring water without a pitcher. The things we perceive are real entities. This ajñāna cannot be taken in the sense of prāgabhava, for then that would imply another origination of knowledge; or it could be explained as wrong knowledge. This wrong knowledge may be regarded as accidental or natural. If it is accidental or natural, then it must be due to some causes and cannot, therefore, be regarded as wrong knowledge. If it is wrong knowledge only arising occasionally, then it cannot contradict right knowledge. Ordinarily one cannot expect the illusoriness of silver to contradict the knowledge of conch-shell[3]. For this reason the self, which is intuitively realised as all-consciousness, cannot be regarded as having only limited knowledge. That appearance of the souls possessing limited knowledge must be due to its association with impurities. The energy of consciousness is eternal, and therefore its nature cannot be disturbed by the association of impurities which may constitute experience, as arising from dharma and adharma. The malas are regarded as sevenfold, and include within them the passions of mada, moha, etc. These malas are regarded as being natural to the souls. The mala of moha appears in various forms, as attachment to wife, son, money, etc.

It is only the spiritual that can contradict the non-spiritual. Two spiritual entities or the non-spiritual entities cannot contradict each other. One soul cannot be contradicted by another soul.

If the association of malas with the souls is regarded as beginningless, then how can they veil the nature of the self, and what must be the nature of this veil? It cannot be said that this veiling means the covering of what was already illuminated; for in that case, this obscuration of illumination of an entity, which is of the nature of light, must mean its destruction. The reply is that the energy of consciousness (cicchakti) cannot be veiled by the malas. The malas can only arrest its function.

Śakti is defined as being of the nature of immediate intuition and action. If that is so, the śakti is associated with knowable objects. How can then the objects be different from the energy? In reply it is said that the intuitive knowledge and action (dṛkkriyā), the śakti, as such remains united as dṛk and kriyā. They are indivisibly connected as one, and it is for us to think of them as divided into dṛk and kriyā[4]. All words denoting particular objects are for others and are under the veil of mala. By the suppression of mala, the energy is turned away from sense objects. In this way the mala operates against the cicchakti, and thereby malas obscure the omniscient character of the souls.

In the fifth chapter, the Āgama deals with the different kinds of pāśas or bonds. These bonds are kalā, avidyā, rāga, kāla and niyati. These five categories are regarded as proceeding from māyā. The consciousness shows itself through these kalās. The consciousness is associated with both intuitive knowledge and the power of work. The kalās reflect the consciousness of the soul only partially. This reflection is effected in accordance with one’s karma.

All experience is due to the functioning of the power of knowledge and of the objects to be known. This is technically called grāhaka and grāhya. It is by the association of consciousness that the kalās appear to be functioning for the apprehension of things. From kalā comes vidyā. Kalā supplies the basis of experience as time and space. Later on other categories of the intellect also evolve and we have the concept of buddhi as deliberate decision. In this way the different categories such as ahaṅkāra or abhimāna are produced. They in themselves would not be conscious except through the consciousness which impregnates them.

The buddhi manifests itself through diverse forms according to their vāsanās. A full enumeration of them is given in the texts, but we omit them as they are not philosophically important. They, however, include the various instinctive tendencies and delusions which are enumerated in Sāṃkhya and other places.

The difficulty is that the buddhi and ahaṅkāra seem to cover the same ground. How is it then possible to distinguish buddhi from ahaṅkāra ? To this the reply is that when something is deliberately known as this or that, we have the stage of buddhi . But in the stage of ahaṅkāra we seem to behave as knowers, and all objects that come to our purview are labelled as parts of our knowledge. There is no means by which the ego-consciousness of any individual can be confused with the ego-consciousness of another. They are thus realised as different from one another[5].

The Āgama describes the three kinds of creation as sāttvika, rājasa and tāmasa as proceeding from three kinds of ahaṅkāra, and describes the origination of jñānendriyas, karmendriyas, tanmātras and manas. When things are perceived by the senses and their value as this or that is attested by an inner function, so that the red can be distinguished from the blue, that inner function is called manas[6].

When we perceive an animal having certain peculiarities, then we can extend the use of the word to denote another animal having the same kind of features. The inner function by which this is done is manas.

The Āgama gives an elaborate description of the cognitive senses and particularly of the organ of the eye. The mere proximity of consciousness cannot generate the activity. This can only be generated by the association of the consciousness with the sense organs.

The Āgama criticises the Buddhist position and supposes that the Buddhist doctrine of artha-kriyā-kāritā can hold good only if the entities are not momentary, but have extensive existence.

Speaking of the guṇas, the Āgama refuses to admit their substantive nature. It is only when certain guṇas are in a collocated state that we call them guṇa reals.

Our senses can only perceive certain objective qualities, but they cannot perceive any substratum behind them. Therefore it is logically incorrect to infer any substratum, which may be called guṇas as reals. After a discussion about what may be the original material cause either as partless atoms or as immaterial prakṛti, the Āgama decides in favour of the latter. But this prakṛti is not the state of equilibrium (sāmyāvasthā) of th e guṇas as the Sāṃkhya holds.

The Āgama discusses the prāpya-kāritva and aprāpya-kāritva of the different senses. It also says that movement does not belong originally to every atom, but it belongs only to the living atoms, the souls. It cannot also be due to the mere presence of other things.

When the manas is associated with cicchakti, then it attains the knowledge of all things by the exercise of the internal organs. At the first moment this knowledge is indeterminate. Later on various determinations become associated with it. The perception of things at different times becomes synthetised and concretised, otherwise the various memory images might arise before the mind and prevent the formation of a synthetic image, as we find in the case of a concrete perception.

It is only the ego-consciousness or the abhimāna that produces in us the sense agency (katṛtva). Without this sense of abhimāna there would be no difference between the self and other material objects. From ego-consciousness there proceeds the deliberate consciousness of decision (niścaya).

Knowledge of things cannot arise merely from buddhi, for the stuff of buddhi is material. Consciousness can only arise occasionally in consequence of its relation with cicchakti. If the mental states are always changing, then they cannot be perceived as constant, though they may appear to be so, like the flame of a lamp which changes from moment to moment, but yet appears to be the same.

Turning to the doctrine of artha-kriyā-kāritā of the Buddhists, the Āgama says that if the doctrine of artha-kriyā-kāritā be accepted, then the existence of things cannot properly be explained. The proper view is that of pariṇāma-vāda. If the things are momentary, then effects cannot be produced, for a thing must remain for at least two moments in order to produce an effect. If the two moments are separate entities, then one cannot be the cause of the other. The causal change can only be with reference to the existing things, but not with regard to the entities which are momentary. In order that there may be a production, the thing must remain for two moments at least. Things that are existent need not always be productive. The production of an effect may depend on accessory causes. A jug cannot be produced by threads, but the threads may produce a piece of cloth. This shows that the effect is always already in the cause.

It cannot also be held that our mental states are identical with the external objects, for in that case it would be difficult to explain the multiplicity of our cognitive states in accordance with their objects. We would not be able to explain how one entity assumes so many diverse forms. The only course left is to admit some external objects with which our senses come into contact. These objects consist of a conglomeration of tanmātras. It is in and through this conglomeration of tanmātras that new qualities arise to which we give the names of different bhūtas. The difference between tanmātras and bhūtas is that the former are more subtle and the latter more gross. This view is somewhat different from the Sāṃkhya view, for here the bhūtas are not regarded as different categories, but only as a conglomeration of tanmātras. The idea that the guṇas are certain objective entities is again and again repudiated. It is held that it is the conglomeration of guṇas that is regarded by us as substantive entity.

The Āgama then criticises the theory of atoms which are partless. It is held that the partless atoms cannot have sides in which other atoms could be associated. The question is raised that tanmātras being formless (amūrta) cannot themselves be the causes of all forms. The world of forms thus leads us to infer some material as its cause. To this Śiva replies that the prakṛti can be regarded as being endowed with form and also as formless[7].

Śiva in further replying to the questions says that things having form must have other entities endowed with forms as their causes. Therefore one may infer that the atoms are the causes of the world. In that case one cannot deny the fact that the atoms have forms. In further discussing the subject Śiva says that the atoms are many and they have parts. So they are of the same type as other effects, such as jug, etc. As such the cause of the world must be regarded as being something which is formless. All effects are anitya, dependent on others (āśrita), and have parts and are many. The Śaivism, therefore, holds that their cause must be different, it must be one, independent and partless. Therefore it discards the view that the atoms are the material cause of the world[8]. The gross elements gradually evolved from the five tanmātras.

The Āgama refutes the view that ākāśa is mere vacuity. Had it been a vacuity, it would have been a negation, and a negation always belongs to the positive entity. The Āgama also refutes the possibility of ākāśa being regarded as any kind of negation. Śabda is regarded as the specific quality of ākāśa.

The Āgama says that it admits only four pramāṇas: pratyakṣa, anumāna, śabda, and arthāpatti. In reality it is pure consciousness devoid of all doubts that constitutes the truth underlying the pramāṇas. Doubt arises out of the oscillation of the mind between two poles. Memory refers to objects experienced before. In order that any knowledge may attain to the state of proper validity, it must be devoid of memory and doubt.

Pure consciousness is the real valid part in knowledge. Buddhi being itself a material thing cannot be regarded as constituting the valid element of knowledge. It is in and through the kalās that the pure consciousness comes into contact with the objective world. This perception may be either nirvikalpa or savikalpa. In the nirvikalpa perception there is no reference in the mind to class concepts or names. By the nirvikalpa perception one can perceive things as they are without any association of names, etc.

Perception is of two kinds:

  1. as associated with the senses, and
  2. as unassociated with the senses as in the case of intuitive knowledge by yoga.

When associated with senses the perceptive function removes the veil between the objects and the self, so that the objects can be directly perceived. In explaining the nature of perception the Āgama follows the Nyāya technique of saṃyukta-samavāya, etc., for explaining the situation. It believes like Nyāya in five types of propositions, namely pratijñā, hetu, dṛṣṭānta, upanaya and nigamana.

Footnotes and references:


vivādādhyāsitaṃ viśvaṃ viśva-vit-kartṛ-pūrvakam,
kāryatvād āvayoḥ siddhaṃ kāryaṃ kumbhādikaṃ yathā.
First patala.


tac ceha vibhu-dharmatvān na ca kvācitkam iṣyate,
nityatvam iva tenātmā sthitaḥ sarvārtha-dṛk-kriyaḥ.
jñātṛtvam api yadyasya kvācitkaṃ vibhutā kutaḥ,
dharmiṇo yāvatī vyāptis tāvad-dharmasya ca sthitiḥ,
yathā paṭa-sthitaṃ śauklyaṃ paṭaṃ vyāpyākhilaṃ sthitam,
sthitaṃ vyāpyaivam ātmānaṃ jñātṛtvam api sarvadā,
na ca nirviṣayaṃ jñānam parāpekṣaṃ svarūpataḥ.
Fourth patala.


kiñ caitad anyathā-jñānaṃ na samyag jñāna-bādhakam.
Fourth patala.


avibhāgasya bḥāgoktau tad-vibhāga upādhitah.
Fourth paṭala.


yady abhinnam ahaṅkṛt syāu devadatto ’pyahaṃ matiḥ,
attyasyām upajāyeta nātmaikatvaṃ tataḥ sthitam.

      Sixth patala.


cakṣuṣā locite hy arthe tamarthaṃ buddhi-gocaram,
vidadhātīḥa yad viprās tanmanaḥ paripatḥyate.

      Sixth patala.


māyā tu paramā mūrta nityānityasya kāraṇam,
ekāneka-vibḥāgādhvā vastu-rūpā śivātmikā.

      Sixth paṭala.


tato na paramāṇūnāṃ ḥetutvam yuktibhir mataṃ.
      Sixth paṭala.