Contribution of Vachaspati-Mishra to Samkhya System

by Sasikumar. B | 2017 | 35,637 words

This page relates ‘Epistemology and Ontology (conclusion)’ of the research on the Sankhya [Samkhya] school of Indian philosophy with special reference to the contribution of Vachaspati-Mishra. The study includes concepts such as Epistemology (validity and worth of knowledge), Ontology (theory of being or reality), Psychology (science of behavior and mind), Phenomenology (the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness) and Ethics (the removal of errors), all forming an essential part of Samkhya philosophy.

Chapter 3.4 - Epistemology and Ontology (conclusion)

Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī of Vācaspati Miśra is a fairly simple and straight forward exposition of the Sāṅkhyakārikā. The contribution of Vācaspati Miśra to Sāṅkhya philosophy may be outlined into five major topics. They are Epistemology, Ontology, Psychology, Phenomenology and Ethics. The Epistemological and Ontological concepts are discussed in this chapter.

Epistemology is concerned with the conditions of the validity of knowledge. The Sāṅkhya System accepts the three pramāṇas perception, inference and valid testimony. In Vācaspati’s view, perception is the primary and fundamental of all the sources of valid knowledge. It is most powerful among the means of valid knowledge, because it gives a direct or immediate knowledge of the reality of an object and therefore is the root of all other pramāṇas. Vācaspati Miśra argues that the sense capacities are only capable of mere sensing for they apprehend sense objects without any mental ordering or verbal characterization whereas the mind perform the task of ordering and verbalizing the impressions of the senses. He divides inference into two kind viz. vīta and avīta. He discusses the three fold inferences in terms of positive and exchasionary types placing both Pūrvavat and Sāmānyatodṛsṭa under vīta, and śeṣavat under avīta.

Vācaspati says that Vedic testimony is self-evident. It is free from doubt and discrepancy since it is not of a personal origin. He elaborates the three pramāṇas accepted by Sāṅkhyakārikā and establishes that the other five pramāṇas recognized by other philosophers which are included in these three. So he doesn’t reject the other five pramāṇas but establishes their existence in these three pramāṇas. This is also one of the notable contributions of Vācaspati Miśra to Sāṅkhya.

The Sāṅkhya philosophy advocates the ontological dualism of Prakṛti and Puruṣa. Sāṅkhya postulates Prakṛti as the ultimate cause of all worldly existence. It is the equilibrium of three guṇas, i.e., sattva, rajas and tamas. Prakṛti is the substratum of the changing phenomena of the world. Sāṅkhya conceives of Prakṛti as consisting of mass, energy and illumination in the form of tamas, rajas and sattva. Therefore, Prakṛti contains all the potential powers for creating the world all by herself out of herself. This theory of causality of Sāṅkhya is called ‘satkāryavāda’ or pariṇāmavāda, which establishes that effect pre-exists in the cause. Here Vācaspati Miśra refutes the causation theories of other systems like asatkāryavāda, sūnyavāda and vivartavāda etc.

Puruṣa is the only sentient principle in Sāṅkhya System. They accept the plurality of Puruṣa and it is changeless, immutable, and eternal. Bondage of Puruṣa is caused by non-discrimination between Puruṣa and Prakṛti. The attainment of the discriminative knowledge leads to ‘siddhi’ in Sāṅkhya. When the Puruṣa realizes its aloneness from prakṛti it becomes liberated and completely freed from all types of sorrow. The author of Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī accepts two types of liberation viz. Jīvanmukti and Videha-mukti.

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