Amarakoshodghatana of Kshirasvamin (study)

by A. Yamuna Devi | 2012 | 77,297 words | ISBN-13: 9788193658048

This page relates ‘Philosophy (1): Some concepts of Sankhya philosophy’ of the study on the Amarakoshodghatana of Kshirasvamin (in English) which represents a commentary on the Amarakosha of Amarasimha. These ancient texts belong the Kosha or “lexicography” category of Sanskrit literature which deals with the analysis and meaning of technical words from a variety of subjects, such as cosmology, anatomy, medicine, hygiene. The Amarakosa itself is one of the earliest of such text, dating from the 6th century A.D., while the Amarakoshodghatana is the earliest known commentary on that work.

Philosophy (1): Some concepts of Sāṅkhyā philosophy

The Sāṅkhya is one of the earliest schools of philosophy. The Sāṅkhya doctrines are traced in some Upaniṣads as in Kaṭhopaniṣad (I. 3. 10-1) and Śvetāśvatara upaniśad (I. 8). Tradition regards Kapila as the founder of this system. Sāṅkhyākārikā of Īśvarakṛṣṇa is the earliest available and a popular text of this system. The basic principles of this school are twenty four or twenty five tattvas. The Puruṣa, is neither the productive, nor the produced and also without any attributes; Pradhāna or prakṛti is the root product being purely productive; the buddhi and others are productive and produced; the non-productive but the produced principles are the eleven organs mind, five sense organs and five motor organs; and the five material substances.

In the Sāṅkhya philosophy, the prakṛti is considered as primordial cause also called avyaktā and pradhāna. Another characteristic feature of this system is the doctrine of three guṇassattva, rajas and tamas; and the fundamental concept of this school of philosophy is that puruṣas are many.

Some of these concepts found in Amarakośa or the commentary are discussed below:

(a) Pradhāna or prakṛti

[Primordial cause:]
[(I. 3. 29; p. 38) (III. 3.73; p. 286-87)[1] (III. 3. 200; p. 319)]

(i) Kṣīrasvāmin explains these terms in terms of Sāṅkhya philosophy that Pradhāna is ‘that which contains or holds every thing within’ and ‘that which makes from the beginning’–

pradhatte'ntaḥ sarvaṃ pradhānam |
prārambhātkriyate'nayā prakṛtiḥ |

(ii) Explaining the term prakṛti (III. 3. 73; p.286-87) in the meaning of yoni, Kṣīrasvāmin once again quotes from Sāṅkhyā Kārikā (3) That ‘the primordial cause is non-changing’–

yonirupādānakāraṇaṃ yathā—mūlaprakṛtiḥ |;

The same is repeated illustrating the term mūla (III. 3. 200; p. 319) in the sense if ādi or primordial–

mūla pratiṣṭhāyāṃ ādye yathā—mūlaprakṛtiravikṛtiḥ |

(iii) Kṣīrasvāmin also adds that the guṇas namely sattva, rajas and tamas in their equilibrium state is called avyakta

sattvarajastamasāṃ sāmyāvastha—āvyaktākhyā |

(iv) The different states brought about by the passing of time on the body is denoted as youth and others–

kālakṛto dehāderbhedo'vastha—ānyathāsthitiryauvanādiḥ |

Thus the main aspects of the prakṛti according to this school is well brought out at various instances by Kṣīrasvāmin

(b) Guṇas (I. 3. 29; p. 38)–


Amarakośa mentions the three guṇas namely sattva, rajas and tamas. These are explained by Kṣīrasvāmin in terms of Sāṅkhya school[2] thus—

Sattva as illuminating the good and the cause of knowledge and pleasure–

sattvaṃ sādhutvaprakāśakaṃ jñānasukhahetuḥ |;

Rajas as exciting or desiring and cause of pain

rajo rāgātmakaṃ duḥkhahetuḥ |;

He also adds rajas as that which is active (III. 3. 231; p. 328)–

upaṣṭambhakaṃ calaṃ ca rajaḥ |

Tamas as that which veils and cause of delusion–

tāmyatenena tama āvarakaṃ mohahetuḥ | tamas (III. 3. 231; p. 328)

Is also a thick veil–

guruvaraṇakameva tamaḥ |

(c) Buddhi (I. 4. 1; p. 38)–


Amarakośa gives as synonyms 14 words for intellect or understanding begining with buddhi[3]. Jñapti is one of the synonyms which Kṣīrasvāmin explains as:

‘Pleasing by some or the other means’

jñaptiḥ kathañcittoṣaṇārthe |

In this context Kṣīrasvāmin makes a special note of Sāṅkhya and Vaiśeṣika views where the Sāṅkhyā school takes all these synonyms in the verse as the charecteristics of mind while the Vaiśeṣika and other schools take them as synonyms–

sāṃkhye buddhi dharmasyaite paryāyāḥ vaiśeṣikādau caturdaśāpi buddhyarthāḥ |

(d) Hetu (I.3.28; p.37)–


Amarakośa distinguishes hetu–cause from nidāna–the primordial cause[4].

Kṣīrasvāmin explaining the primardial cause refers it as upādānakāraṇaṃ which he says is different from sahakārikāraṇaṃ

nidīyate janyatenena nidānam | ādāvārambhe kāraṇamupādānakāraṇam sahakārikāraṇamanyat |

Footnotes and references:


prakṛtiḥ yoni liṅge ca |


prītyaprītiviṣādātmakāḥ prakāśa pravṛttiniyamārthāḥ |
guṇāḥ ||
sattvaṃ laghu prakāśakamiṣṭhamupaṣṭhambhakaṃ calaṃ ca rajaḥ |
guru varaṇakameva tamaḥ pradīpavaccārthato vṛttiḥ ||


buddhir manīṣā dhiṣaṇā dhīḥ prajñā śemuṣī matiḥ | prekṣopalabdhiś cit saṃvit pratipaj jñapti cetanāḥ ||


hetur nā kāraṇaṃ bījaṃ nidānaṃ tvādikāraṇam |

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