Contribution of Vachaspati-Mishra to Samkhya System

by Sasikumar. B | 2017 | 35,637 words

This page relates ‘Bhautikasarga (Physical 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 4.1d - Bhautikasarga (Physical evolution)

The evolution of five sukṣmabhūtas, sūkṣmaśarīra, sthūlabhūtas and sthūlaśarīra are included in the bhautikasarga. The gross body is the residence of the subtle body. The intellect, ego and the organs cannot function without physical substratum. [1]

Subtle elements (Sūkṣmabhūtas)

The five subtle elements emanate from the tāmasa ahaṃkāra. They are called aviśeṣas or indeterminate.[2] The five gross fundamental elements arise from the five subtle elements. The basic fundamental elements are said to be in the subtle form. The term tanmātra is used to denote that these elements are devoid of specific character which includes the sukha, dukha, and moha.[3] These are the ones which make them undergo the direct experience.

The specific objects of the rudimentary elements like sound, touch, colour, taste, and odour continue as the gross elements like ākāśa, vāyu, agni, ap, and pṛthvi. The elements which are seen flourishing in the sattva attribute are said to be śānta (calm), prakāśa (turbulent), laghuttva (delusive)[4] and optimistic whereas which are in the rajas attribute are unstable, painful and flexible and that in the tamas are misled, bewildered and lethargic. These attributes have their own specific characteristics and so they are said to be specific objects and also gross. The layman cannot differentiate the similarities and the characteristics of the attributes so are named as non-specific and also subtle.[5]

Subtle body (Sūkṣmaśarīra)

The three kinds of specific objects are the subtle bodies, those born of parents and the gross elements. The subtle bodies last forever and those born of parents are said to perish as fluids, ash, or dirt. The subtle bodies are invisible are said to be assumed. The bodies which are born of parents consists of six sheaths or kośas like hair, blood and flesh from mother and arteries, bones and marrow from the father and the last are that of the ‘prakṛṣṭa’ or the Great.[6]

The subtle body which is shaped primordially is free, eternal, made up of buddhi and its adjuncts including the basic elements are said to migrate and it does not have any experiences and is endowed with characteristics. The process of liberation from Prakṛti led to the evolution of the subtle body in the form of one each for a Puruṣa. As the body is free it can enter even into a solid piece of stone and its characteristics of being eternal helps it be there from the time of evolution to destruction. The subtle body is the sum total of the buddhi, I-principle, the eleven sense-organs and the five basic elements.[7]

The subtle body wanders from one six sheathed body to the other because only when it is in a six-sheathed body can it have experience otherwise it is devoid of experience. The subtle body is endowed with the dispositions of virtue and vice and other limbs of buddhi because there is a strong bond between the subtle body and the buddhi. The presence of the dispositions helps the subtle body to migrate.

It says that the liṅga cannot survive without a support like the painting which cannot be drawn without a canvas or the shadow which cannot exist without solid bodies. The intelligence and ego does not exist without a support or subtle body. The term liṅga is used here to mean the intellect. Vācaspati Miśra says that there is an interval between death and rebirth and in the interval the intellect and other elements needs a place or support. This support is got from the subtle body. In the Scripture, the Mahābhārata, in the vanaparva chapter 296, it is said, “then Yama extracted from Satyavana’s body the thumb sized body which he had entrapped and under his control.”[8] The expression ‘thumb-sized’ is the subtle body and not the Spirit because the Spirit cannot be extracted. So the Puruṣa which is mentioned here means the Subtle body itself. Vācaspati Miśra after giving the evidence of the reality of subtle body moves on to explain the reason and the mode of migration.[9]

The Subtle body for the sake of the Puruṣa’s assumes the role of dramatis personae. This is possible only when it is connected with the cause and result and also with the encompassing power of the Prakṛti. The cause which is mentioned here is related to the qualities like virtue, vice etc. The effect means the embracing of various kinds of physical bodies which depends on the upshot of the qualities of virtue and vice. As an actor who assumes to be the character he plays, the subtle body too takes the character of the body it assumes. For e.g. the actor who plays the role of Paraśurāma, Yudhiṣṭhira or Vatsarāja takes in the character whether a man or a brute so also the subtle body takes in its characters of the physical bodies it accepts.[10]

The good qualities as virtue and other temperaments are instinctive and the incidentals are embedded with ‘cause’ and the ovum, fetus etc., are regarded as ‘effect’. The qualities of like virtue, wisdom, dispassion, and power are innate as the great sage Kapila. So also the qualities like vice, ignorance, passion, and weakness. The incidental qualities are those which are acquired after birth by praying and propitiating the gods and goddesses. The incidental qualities can be acquired by the effort of the individuals as Vālmīki and so on. These can be listed as the ‘cause’. The summative of the things formed in the ovum, fetus, flesh, blood and the like which are stages of the birth of a child is related to the gross physical body.[11] After birth the stages like childhood, youth, and old age are also related to this. These stages are listed as effects.

Gross elements (Sthūlabhūtas)

The gross elements are the last evolutes of Prakṛti. They are ākāśa, vāyu, agni, ap and pṛthivi. They are called viśeṣas.[12] They possess specific characters, including special dimension. These five elements can be called gross atoms. But they are the more specialized forms of the subtle elements existing simply as potentialities of the material world including matter and energy. Ākāśa is derived from the ākāśa tanmātra; vāyu is derived from ākāśa and sparśa tanmātras and so on.

The two-fold creation must have two variants that are the subjective and objective. These two are inseparable and one cannot exist without the other. So the creation is abouttwofold process. The fruition of the elementary elements is from the liṅga which represents the objective evolutionary process and the buddhi is the cause of the evolution of the bhāva or the subjective process. The process of bhoga happens only when there are objects of experience and also the tool to experience. This bhoga is the aim of the Puruṣa. The bhoga happens only if there are two bodies like the physical and the subtle.[13]

The bhoga stands nil if there are no organs of sense. So the sense organs and the internal organs along with the attributes of virtue and other temperaments are a must to have the bhoga. Another thing is that the discriminative knowledge is an important factor which is a must thing for the evolution process. By using the example of the seed and the sprout the mutual interdependence of the things for the possible evolution process is explained.[14] This is because there was no beginning for the process of evolution whereas the subjective and objective factors of evolution have a beginning because they follow the impulse of the previous cycle. So this theory is free of all problems.

Gross body (Sthūlaśarīra)

The forms of bhautikasarga are eightcelestial, five for animals, and only one for the human being. The eight forms of the celestial are the Brahma, the Prajāpati, the Indra, the Pitṛ, the Gandharva, the Yakṣa, the Rākṣasa and the Piśāca.[15] The five forms of animals are the cattle, deer, bird, reptile along with the immobile things.[16] The human being is said to have only one form because the Brāhmaṇas and the rest are taken as one aspect. The thing which does not have a body is included in the category of immobile things.

The topmost development that is of the celestial factors flourishes in the realm of sattva, the lower platform of the evolution that is about the animals is seen in the tamas and that of the middle one which pertains to the human being is in the Rajas platform.[17] All the evolution from the Brahma to the tuft of grass is based on the predominance of the attributes. In the sattva attribute, which pertains to the heavenly evolution, thrives the bhūḥ, bhuvaḥ, svaḥ, mahaḥ, janaḥ, tapaḥ and satya.[18] The tamas gives the place for delusion and this is seen in the lower type of evolution. The third level of evolution which consists of continents and oceans is full of pain and disgust due to the actions which are both righteous and unjustifiable is seen in the attribute of rajas.

Footnotes and references:


Yogatattvavaiśāradī. I.7


trividhamanumānamākhyātaṃ, tat liṅgaliṅgipūrvakam| Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


liṅgaṃ vyāpyaṃ liṅgi vyāpakam| Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


dhūmādirvyāpyaṃ vahnyādirvyāpakam| Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


Yogatattvavaiśāradī on Yogasūtra.I.7




śaṅkitasamāropitopādhinirākaraṇena ca svabhāvapratibaddhaṃ vyāpyam, yena pratibaddhaṃ tat vyāpakam|
Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


tatra prathamaṃ tāvat dvividham vītamavītaṃ ca| anvayamukhena pravartamānaṃ
vidhāyakaṃ vītam, vyatirekamukhena pravartamānaṃ niṣedhakamavītam|


vītaṃ dvedhā-pūrvavat sāmānyato dṛṣṭaṃ ca| tatraikaṃ dṛṣṭasvalakṣaṇasāmānyaviṣayaṃ yattatpūrvavat, pūrvaṃ prasiddham, dṛṣṭasvalakṣaṇasāmānyamiti yāvat, tadasya viṣayatvenāstyanumānajñānasyeti pūrvavat|
Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī 5


Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


"āptāścāsau śrutiścetyāptaśrutiḥ|" Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


Bibhupadhi: Indian philosophy of religion, p.198


ayuktaṃ caiteṣāṃ vijñānāt vicchinnamūlatvātpramāṇaviruddhārthābhighānācca kaiścideva mlecchādibhiḥ puruṣāpasadaiḥ paśuprāyaiḥ parigrahādbhoddhavyam|
Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


āptopadeśaḥ śabdaḥ| Sāṃkhyapravacanasūtra, I.101


na tribhirapauruṣeyatvādvedasya tadarthasyātīndriyatvāt|
Sāṃkhyapravacanasūtra, V.41


nijaśaktyabhivyakteḥ svataḥ prāmāṇyam|
Sāṃkhyapravacanasūtra, V.51


taśca svataḥ pramāṇam| Sāṅkhyatattvakaumudī on Sāṅkhyakārikā 5


apauruṣeyavedavākyajanitatvena sakaladoṣāśaṅkāvinirmukteryuktaṃ bhavati|
evaṃ vedamūlasmṛtītihāsapurāṇavākyajanitamapi jñānaṃ yuktaṃ bhavati|

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