The Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha

by E. B. Cowell | 1882 | 102,190 words | ISBN-13: 9788174791962

The Sarva-darsana-samgraha (English translation) of Madhava Acharya is a compendium of different philosophical schools of Hindu thought and Pancadasi, an important text in the Advaita Vedanta tradition. Full title: Sarvadarśanasaṅgraha or Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha: Review of the Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy (author Mādhava Ācārya)...

Chapter XIV - The Sāṅkhya System

"But how can we accept the doctrine of illusory emanation [thus held by the grammarians, following the guidance of the pūrva and uttara Mīmāṃsā schools], when the system of development propounded by the Sāṅkhyas is still alive to oppose it?" Such is their loud vaunt. Now the Śāstra of this school may be concisely said to maintain four several kinds of existences, viz., that which is evolvent[1] only, that which is evolute only, that which is both evolute and evolvent, and that which is neither. (a.) Of these the first is that which is only evolvent, called the root-evolvent or the primary; it is not itself the evolute of anything else. It evolves, hence it is called the evolvent (prakṛti) since it denotes in itself the equilibrium of the three qualities, goodness, activity, and darkness. This is expressed [in the Sāṅkhya Kārikā], "the root-evolvent is no evolute." It is called the root-evolvent, as being both root and evolvent; it is the root of all the various effects, as the so-called "great one," &c., but of it, as the primary, there is no root, as otherwise we should have a regressus ad infinitum. Nor can you reply that such a regressus ad infinitum is no objection, if, like the continued series of seed and shoot, it can be proved by the evidence of our senses,[2]—because here there is no evidence to establish the hypothesis. (b.) The "evolutes and evolvents" are the great one, egoism, and the subtile elements,—thus the Sāṅkhya Kārikā (§ 3), "the seven, the great one, &c., are evolute-evolvents." The seven are the seven principles, called the great one, &c. Among these the great principle, called also the intellect,[3] &c., is itself the evolute of nature and the evolvent of egoism; in the same manner the principle egoism, called also "self-consciousness" (abhimāna), is the evolute of the great one, intellect; but this same principle, as affected by the quality of darkness, is the evolvent of the five rudiments called subtile elements; and, as affected by the quality of goodness, it is the evolvent of the eleven organs, viz., the five organs of perception, the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and skin; the five organs of action, the voice, hands, feet, anus, and generative organ; and the mind, partaking of the character of both; nor can you object that in our arrangement the third quality, activity, is idle, as it acts as a cause by producing action in the others. This has been thus declared by Īśvara Kṛṣṇa in his Kārikās[4] (§ 24-27), "Self-consciousness is egoism. Thence proceeds a twofold creation, the elevenfold set and the five elemental rudiments. From modified[5] egoism originates the class of eleven imbued with goodness; from egoism as the source of the elements originate the rudimentary elements, and these are affected by darkness; but it is only from egoism as affected by activity that the one and the other rise. The intellectual organs are the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, and the skin; those of action are the voice, feet, hands, anus, and organ of generation. In this set is mind, which has the character of each; it determines, and it is an organ (like the other ten) from having a common property with them."[6] All this has been explained at length by the teacher Vācaspati Miśra in the Sāṅkhya-tattva-kaumudī.

(c.) The "evolute only" means the five gross elements, ether, &c., and the eleven organs, as said in the Kārikā, "The evolute consists of sixteen;" that is, the set of sixteen is evolute only, and not evolvent. Although it may be said that earth, &c., are the evolvents of such productions as cows, jars, &c., yet these are not a different "principle" (tattva) from earth, &c., and therefore earth, &c., are not what we term "evolvents;" as the accepted idea of an evolvent is that which is the material cause of a separate principle; and in cows, jars, &c., there is the absence of being any such first principle, in consequence of their being all alike gross [i.e., possessed of dimensions] and perceptible to the senses. The five gross elements, ether, &c., are respectively produced from sound, touch, form, taste, and smell, each subtile element being accompanied by all those which precede it, and thus the gross elements will have respectively one, two, three, four, and five qualities.[7] The creation of the organs has been previously described. This is thus propounded in the Sāṅkhya Kārikā (§ 22)—

"From nature springs the great one, from this egoism, from this the set of sixteen, and from five among the sixteen proceed the five gross elements."

(d.) The soul is neither,—as is said in the Kārikā, "The soul is neither evolvent nor evolute." That is, the soul, being absolute, eternal, and subject to no development, is itself neither the evolvent nor the evolute of aught beside. Three kinds of proof are accepted as establishing these twenty-five principles; and thus the Kārikā (§ 4).

"Perception, inference, and the testimony of worthy persons are acknowledged to be the threefold proof, for they comprise every mode of demonstration. It is from proof that there results belief of that which is to be proven."

Here a fourfold discussion arises as to the true nature of cause and effect. The Saugatas[8] maintain that the existent is produced from the non-existent; the Naiyāyikas, &c., that the (as yet) non-existent is produced from the existent; the Vedāntins, that all effects are an illusory emanation from the existent and not themselves really existent; while the Sāṅkhyas hold that the existent is produced from the existent.

(a.) Now the first opinion is clearly untenable, since that which is itself non-existent and unsubstantial can never be a cause any more than the hare's horn; and, again, the real and unreal can never be identical.

(b.) Nor can the non-existent be produced from the existent; since it is impossible that that which, previous to the operation of the originating cause, was as non-existent as a hare's horn should ever be produced, i.e., become connected with existence; for not even the cleverest man living can make blue yellow.[9] If you say, "But are not existence and non-existence attributes of the same jar?" this is incorrect, since we cannot use such an expression as "its quality" in regard to a non-existent subject, for it would certainly imply that the subject itself did exist. Hence we conclude that the effect is existent even previously to the operation of the cause, which only produces the manifestation of this already existent thing, just like the manifestation of the oil in sesame seed by pressing, or of the milk in cows by milking. Again, there is no example whatever to prove the production of a thing previously non-existent.

Moreover, the cause must produce its effect as being either connected with it or not connected; in the former alternative the effect's existence is settled by the rule that connection can only be between two existent things; in the latter, any and every effect might arise from any and every cause, as there is nothing to determine the action of an unconnected thing. This has been thus put by the Sāṅkhya teacher:—"From the supposed non-existence of the effect, it can have no connection with causes which always accompany existence; and to him who holds the production of a non-connected thing there arises an utter want of determinateness." If you rejoin that "the cause, though not connected with its effect, can yet produce it, where it has a capacity of so doing, and this capacity of producing is to be inferred from seeing the effect actually produced," still this cannot be allowed, since in such a case as "there is a capacity for producing oil in sesame seeds," you cannot determine, while the oil is non-existent, that there is this capacity in the sesame seeds, whichever alternative you may accept as to their being connected or not with the oil [since our before-mentioned dilemma will equally apply here].

From our tenet that the cause and effect are identical, it follows that the effect does not exist distinct from the cause; thus the cloth is not something distinct from the threads, as it abides in the latter [as its material cause]; but where this identity is not found, there we do not find the relation of cause and effect; thus a horse and a cow are distinct from each other [for one is not produced from the other, and therefore their qualities are not the same]; but the cloth is an acknowledged effect, and therefore not anything different from its cause.[10] If you object that, if this were true, the separate threads ought to fulfil the office of clothing, we reply, that the office of clothing is fulfilled by the threads manifesting the nature of cloth when they are placed in a particular arrangement. As the limbs of a tortoise when they retire within its shell are concealed, and, when they come forth, are revealed, so the particular effects, as cloth, &c., of a cause, as threads, &c., when they come forth and are revealed, are said to be produced; and when they retire and are concealed, they are said to be destroyed; but there is no such thing as the production of the non-existent or the destruction of the existent. As has been said in the Bhagavad Gītā (ii. 16)—

"There is no existence for the non-existent, nor non-existence for the existent."

And, in fact, it is by inference from its effects that we establish the existence of the great evolvent, Nature (prakṛti). This has been said [in the Kārikā, § 9]—

"Effect exists, for what exists not can by no operation of cause be brought into existence; materials, too, are selected which are fit for the purpose; everything is not by every means possible; what is capable does that to which it is competent; and like is produced from like."[11]

Nor can we say [with the Vedāntin] that the world is an illusory emanation from the one existent Brahman, because we have no contradictory evidence to preclude by its superior validity the primâ facie belief that the external world is real [as we have in the case of mistaking a rope for a snake, where a closer inspection will discover the error]; and again, where the subject and the attributed nature are so dissimilar as the pure intelligent Brahman and the unintelligent creation, we can no more allow the supposed attribution to be possible than in the case of gold and silver [which no one mistakes for each other]. Hence we conclude that an effect which is composed of happiness, misery, and stupidity, must imply a cause similarly composed; and our argument is as follows:—The subject of the argument, viz., the external world, must have a material cause composed of happiness, misery, and stupidity, because it is itself endued therewith; whatever is endued with certain attributes must have a cause endued with the same,—thus a ring has gold for its material cause, because it has the attributes of gold; our subject is a similar case, therefore we may draw a similar conclusion. What we call "being composed of happiness" in the external world is the quality of goodness; the "being composed of misery" is the quality of activity;[12] the "being composed of stupidity" is the quality of darkness; hence we establish our cause composed of the three qualities (i.e., prakṛti, Nature). And we see that individual objects are found by experience to have these three qualities; thus Maitra's happiness is found in his wife Satyavatī, because the quality of "goodness" in her is manifested towards him; but she is the misery of her fellow-wives, because the quality of "activity" is manifested towards them; while she causes indifference to Caitra who does not possess her, because towards him the quality of "darkness" is manifested. So, too, in other cases also; thus a jar, when obtained, causes us pleasure; when seized by others it causes us pain; but it is viewed with indifference by one who has no interest in it. Now this being regarded with no interest is what we mean by "stupidity," since the word moha is derived from the root muh, "to be confused," since no direct action of the mind arises towards those objects to which it is indifferent. Therefore we hold that all things, being composed of pleasure, pain, and stupidity, must have as their cause Nature, which consists of the three qualities. And so it is declared in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (iv. 5)—

"The one unborn, for his enjoyment, approaches the one unborn (Nature) which is red, white, and black, and produces a manifold and similar offspring; the other unborn abandons her when once she has been enjoyed."

Here the words "red," "white," and "black," express the qualities "activity," "goodness," and "darkness," from their severally possessing the same attributes of colouring, manifesting, and concealing.

Here, however, it may be objected, "But will not your unintelligent Nature, without the superintendence of something intelligent, fail to produce these effects, intellect, &c.? therefore there must be some intelligent superintendent; and hence we must assume an all-seeing, supreme Lord." We reply that this does not follow, since even unintelligent Nature will act under the force of an impulse; and experience shows us that an unintelligent thing, without any intelligent superintendent, does act for the good of the soul, just as the unintelligent milk acts for the growth of the calf, or just as the unintelligent rain acts for the welfare of living creatures; and so unintelligent Nature will act for the liberation of the soul. As it has been said in the Kārikā (§ 57)—

"As the unintelligent milk acts for the nourishment of the calf, so Nature acts for the liberation of soul."

But as for the doctrine of "a Supreme Being who acts from compassion," which has been proclaimed by beat of drum by the advocates of his existence, this has well-nigh passed away out of hearing, since the hypothesis fails to meet either of the two alternatives. For does he act thus before or after creation? If you say "before," we reply that as pain cannot arise in the absence of bodies, &c., there will be no need, as long as there is no creation, for his desire to free living beings from pain [which is the main characteristic of compassion]; and if you adopt the second alternative, you will be reasoning in a circle, as on the one hand you will hold that God created the world through compassion [as this is His motive in acting at all], and on the other hand[13] that He compassionated after He had created. Therefore we hold that the development of unintelligent Nature [even without any intelligent superintendent]—in the order of the series intellect, self-consciousness, &c.,—is caused by the union of Nature and Soul, and the moving impulse is the good of Soul. Just as there takes place a movement in the iron in the proximity of the unmoved magnet, so there takes place a movement in Nature in the proximity of the unmoved Soul; and this union of Nature and Soul is caused by mutual dependence, like the union of the lame man and the blind man. Nature, as the thing to be experienced, depends on Soul the experiencer; and Soul looks to final bliss, as it seeks to throw off the three kinds of pain, which, though really apart from it, have fallen upon it by its coming under the shadow of intellect through not recognising its own distinction therefrom.[14] This final bliss [or absolute isolation] is produced by the discrimination of Nature and Soul, nor is this end possible without it; therefore Soul depends on Nature for its final bliss. Just as a lame man and a blind man,[15] travelling along with a caravan, by some accident having become separated from their companions, wandered slowly about in great dismay, till by good luck they met each other, and then the lame man mounted on the blind man's back, and the blind man, following the path indicated by the lame man, reached his desired goal, as did the lame man also, mounted on the other's shoulders; so, too, creation is effected by Nature and the soul, which are likewise mutually dependent. This has been said in the Kārikā (§ 21)—

"For the soul's contemplation of Nature and for its final separation the union of both takes place, as of the lame man and the blind man. By that union a creation is formed."

"Well, I grant that Nature's activity may take place for the good of the soul, but how do you account for its ceasing to act?" I reply, that as a wilful woman whose faults have once been seen by her husband does not return to him, or as an actress, having performed her part, retires from the stage, so too does Nature desist. Thus it is said in the Kārikā (§ 59)—

"As an actress, having exhibited herself to the spectators, desists from the dance, so does Nature desist, having manifested herself to Soul."

For this end has the doctrine of those who follow Kapila, the founder of the atheistic Sāṅkhya School, been propounded.

E. B. C.

Footnotes and references:


I borrow this term from Dr. Hall.


Compare Kusumāñjali, i. 4.


One great defect in the Sāṅkhya nomenclature is the ambiguity between the terms for intellect (buddhī) and those for mind (manas). Mādhava here applies to the former the term antaḥkaraṇa or "internal organ," the proper term for the latter. I have ventured to alter it in the translation.


It is singular that this is Mādhava's principal Sāṅkhya authority, and not the Sāṅkhya Sūtras.


Vaikṛta is here a technical term meaning that goodness predominates over darkness and activity. On this Kārikā, comp. Dr. Hall's preface to the Sāṅkhya-sāra, pp. 30-35.


As produced, like them, from modified egoism. The reading saṃkalpavikalpātmakam must be corrected by the Sāṅkhya Kārikā.


Cf. Colebrooke Essays, vol. i. p. 256. The tanmātras will reproduce themselves as the respective qualities of the gross elements.


A name of the Buddhists.


I.e., the nature of a thing (Svabhāva) cannot be altered—a man cannot be made a cow, nor a woman a man.


I take arthāntaram here as simply bhinnam (cf. Tārānātha Tarkavācaspati's note, Tattva Kaumudī, p. 47).


Colebrooke's translation.


Or "passion," rajas.


In other words—on the one hand the existing misery of beings induced God to create a world in order to relieve their misery, and on the other hand it was the existence of a created world which caused their misery at all.


Bondage, &c., reside in the intellect, and are only reflected upon soul through its proximity (cf. Sāṅkhyapravacanabhāṣya, i. 58).


This apologue is a widely spread piece of folk-lore. It is found in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrim, fol. 91, b, and in the Gesta Romanorum.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: