Contribution of Vachaspati-Mishra to Samkhya System

by Sasikumar. B | 2017 | 35,637 words

This page relates ‘Pratyayasarga (Psychical evolution)’ 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 4.1c - Pratyayasarga (Psychical evolution)

From Prakṛti there arises the mahat, from mahat ahaṃkāra and from ahaṃkāra the group of sixteen: the five tanmātras, and the eleven indriyas including the mind. From the five tanmātras among the group of sixteen, there arise the five elements.[1] Totally there are twenty-three categories, mahat, ahaṃkāra etc. This is the course of the evolution according to the Sāṅkhyakārikā

Mahat or Buddhi

The mahat is the first evolute of Prakṛti.[2] The mahat is the first vyakta category which is the source of both the subjective categories and the objective categories. We experience this principle as our intellect. But it is only the subjective side of mahat. The objective side is of course cosmic. In Sāṅkhya it is the intellect or buddhi of the cosmic Puruṣa which illumines the individual intellect.

According to the author of Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī buddhi is determination, i.e., determining principle.[3] Virtue, wisdom, dispassion and power, constitute its form when abounding in the sattva attribute, and the reverse of these when abounding in the tamas principle. Buddhi is described as “determination” or the principle that there is no difference between the action of determining and the active agent, that which determines. It is well known that when a man has to do anything, what he does is to review the situation; he ponders over it, regards himself as entitled to do it and then makes up his mind (determines) that he should do it and then does it.[4]

Buddhi is the first evolute of Mūlaprakṛti and the first principle which is vyakta manifest. It is the synonym of mahat which is the principal because it produces the fruit in the shape of knowledge. Vācaspati Miśra holds that buddhi itself is determination which identifies “this is a jar” “this is cloth”' etc. on the principle that the action is not different from the active agent.

Mechanism of Buddhi

Buddhi is the discriminative wisdom and it is the power of decision just as light enters into a dark room through the doors and windows even so knowledge enters the mind through the sense organs. It is the knowledge which gets enriched by itself, connecting the unknown with the known.[5] Knowledge is always due to the operation of buddhi that assumes the forms of the object of perception and buddhi so transformed is then enlightened by the reflection of Puruṣa.[6] As explained by Vācaspati Miśra, buddhi through the sense organs, comes in touch with external objects. At the first moment of this touch there is an indeterminate consciousness in which the particulars of the thing cannot be noticed and it is by the function of mind that the object is determinately perceived.[7] According to him buddhi as a determinate principle there is no difference between the action of determining and the active agent which determines.


Ahaṃkāra is the evolute of mahat. This individuation is said to be self-consciousness 'ḥुुmīnhiṅkīraṃ|'[8] It is the pariṇāma of mahat, not of the self, because the self has no pariṇāma at all. The self is pure consciousness. But the ego is the modification of the content less pure consciousness of mahat.So ahaṃkāra can be considered as the limitation of the universal buddhi. The ‘ego’ or ‘I’ principle is the product of mahat. The self is Puruṣa which is not Prakṛti or vkṛti. The ego is related to every object of experience and is constituted by the three guṇas, sattva, rajas and tamas while Puruṣa or the self is without any constituent and it has no relation to any object. So the real subject of the experience of pleasure, pain and indifference is the ego, not the self.

Ahaṃkāra is of three kinds according to the predominance of the three guṇas, sattva, rajas and tamas.[9] They are called vaikṛta, taijasa and bhūtādi respectively. From that form of ahaṃkāra which is known as vaikṛta, the eleven indriyas proceeded. They are of the nature of sattvaguṇa. The subtle elements proceed from bhūtādi. They are of the nature of tamas. From that form of ahaṃkāra which is known as taijasa, both indriyas and tanmātras proceed.[10] The rajas is the nature of the activity. In either case there is a certain degree of dominance of rajas, as there can be no activity otherwise. But rajas is not the material cause of these two. It can be considered as the efficient cause. Here it is noted that the eleven-fold aggregate is subjective and the subtle elements and the gross elements are objective.

The Mind

In Sāṅkhya the mind has the function of determinate perception. The senses of cognition apprehend the objects vaguely and indefinitely. So they have only the function of indeterminate awareness. This indeterminate apprehension of the sense organs is called 'ālocana'.[11] Determinate perception involves both discrimination and assimilation. It is referred to by the word 'saṅkalpa' which is the action of the mind. Both discrimination and assimilation, which are involved indeterminate perception, are referred to here by the word 'saṅkalpa'.[12]

Functioning of Internal Organ

The internal organs are three in number, i.e., mind, individuation and the intellect. They have distinctive functions, the intellect, the individuation and the mind, are determination, self conciousness and explication respectively.The common function of the organs are the circulation of the five forms of vital breaths, prāṇa, apāna, vyāna, udāna and samāna.[13] In the case of a perception, the functioning of three internal organs and an external organ is said to be either simultaneous or successive. Such is the case in the non perception also.

The functioning of the three internal organs is preceded by the cognition of what is present to the perception.[14] The five organs of cognition and the five of action, together ten are the external organs which are viṣayas of the internal. An external organ functions only in respect of time present. But the internal organs function in the three times, present, past and future.[15] The organs of cognition apprehend both the gross and the subtle elements. The senses of gods and sages only can apprehend the subtle elements. Our senses help as to cognize the gross elements alone. The organ of speech has the function of producing sound alone. But other organs of action relate to various objects and compound of the five elements in different proportions as in the doctrine of ‘pañcīkaraṇa’.

The internal organs ascertain the nature of the objects of the senses. So they are the principal ones while the external organs are only the entrances there to.[16] Thus the external organs, the manas, and the ahaṃkāra, these mutually distinct specifications of the three constituents, sattva, rajas and tamas, comparable in their functioning to a lamp, disclosing the goal of the Puruṣa in its entirety, present it to the intellect.[17] The material worked up by the other organs is presented to the intellect because the intellect brings about the enjoyment of the Puruṣa in respect of all things and it is that intellect itself, which, further, reveals the subtle difference between Mūlaprakṛti and Puruṣa.22  This is the bhoga and Apavarga of Puruṣa in Sāṅkhya.

The Sāṅkhya treats manas, buddhi and ahaṃkāra as the three internal organs with different functions, though they are interrelated to one another, and constitute the psychical apparatus. The Yoga treats them as one and speaks of the ‘citta’ and its modes. Patañjali generally speaks of the citta.[18] Sometimes he refers to buddhi as its equivalent.[19] Vyāsa also generally speaks of the citta, but sometimes mentions buddhi and manas as its equivalents.[20] Vācaspati Miśra distinctly says that the word citta means the internal organ (antaḥkaraṇa) or buddhi.[21]

The Sāṅkhya holds that the mind is neither atomic nor allpervading but of intermediate magnitude, coextensive with the body it occupies. The mind is small with a small body. It is large in a large body. But the Yoga distinguishes between the kāraṇacitta and the kāryacitta. The former is the causal mind. The latter is the effect mind. The former is all pervading. The latter is limited and capable of expansion and contraction. The mind in itself is all-pervading, but its modes expand and contract. Each individual self has a ubiquitous mind. There are countless selves with countless minds which are all-pervading and eternal like ether, which are the instruments of their enjoyments and sufferings. But they are limited by the mass of dispositions of desires due to false knowledge which obstruct their powers of manifesting objects, even as the all-pervading ether is limited by finite adjuncts, a jar, a palace, and the like.

Footnotes and references:


cittābhogo manaskāraścarcā saṃkhyā vicāraṇā| "vimarśo bhāvanā caiva vāsanā ca nigadyate"|| Amarakośa, I.V.3


M.G.Jha: The Sāṃkhya-tattva-kaumudī (trans.), Introduction


āryā matiryasya so'yaṃ "āryamatiḥ" iti| Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī71


Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Vol. IV, p.301


ajāmekāṃ lohitaśuklakṛṣṇāṃ bahvīḥ prajāḥ sṛjamānāṃ namāmaḥ|
ajā ye tāṃ juṣamāṇāṃ bhajante jahatyenāṃ bhuktabhogāṃ numastān|


"trividham" iti| tisro vidhā yasyapramāṇasāmānyasya tat trividham, na nyūnam, nāpyadhikamityarthaḥ| Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī4


pramāṇaviparyayavikalpanidrāsmṛtayaḥ| Yogasūtra.I.6


ṛtambarā tatra prajñā| Yogasūtra.I.48


pratyakṣānumānāgamāḥ pramāṇāni| Yogasūtra.I.7


Vyāsabhāṣya on Yogasūtra.I.7


prativiṣayādhyavasāyo dṛṣṭam| Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


S.S.Sūryanārāyaṇa Śastri:Sāṃkhyakārikā with an introduction, Translation and notes, p.13 and also see Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


saṅkalpeṇarūpeṇa manolakṣyate| 'ālocitamindriyeṇa vastvidam' iti sammugdham 'idamekaṃ naivaṃ' iti samyak kalpayati viśeṣaṇaviśeṣyabhāvena vivecayatīti yāvat| Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 27


"adhyavasāyaśca buddhivyāpāro jñānam| upāttaviṣayāṇāmindriyāṇāṃ vṛttau satyāṃ, buddhestamobhibhave sati yaḥ sattvasamudrekaḥ so'dhyavasāya" iti||
Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 27


Sāṃkhyapravacanabhāṣya, II.32


Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 30 and SāṃkhyapravacanaSūtra, II.32


Sāṅkhyakārikā 33

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