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SAGE  KAPILA  DISCOURSES  ON  SANKHYA

Sankhya and Yoga are twin disciplines that compliment each other. While Sankhya philosophy speaks of the Soul as Purush, its entrapment by matter (Prakriti) and its eventual release (Moksha) in the context of the human circumstances, Yoga concerns itself with the process by which such liberation can be achieved through disciplines, exercises and modes of meditation.

patanjali

Sage Patanjali father of Yoga

Sankhya philosophy is attributed to the pre-Vedic sage Kapila who stands apart from the galaxy of great Vedic thinkers. There are references to him however in the epic Mahabharata. Historians place him in the period before the sixth century B.C. The discipline and techniques of Yoga are to be found in the Yoga Sutras attributed to the sage Patanjali and the Yoga Bhasya of the legendary poet-sage of the Mahabharata, Veda Vyas.

The indigenous thought of India as represented by Jainism, Sankhya and Yoga bequeathed to Brahmanism which evolved in India following the Aryan advent, ideas about the Soul, Matter and reincarnation, which eventually became firmly embedded in Hindu philosophy as a fundamental premise.

The evolution of the concept of the Soul in Hindu philosophy can thus be traced from the Jain concept of the Jiva to the Sankhya concept of Purush and eventually to the Brahmanical concept of Atman. We saw in the post on Jain philosophy that Jain cosmology was dualistic, conceiving the universe as composed of Jiva the soul force and Ajiva or Cosmic Matter. The process through which Jainism portrays this has been termed as realistic and mechanistic. Both the Jiva and Matter were real not illusory. The Jiva suffered influx of Matter depending on Karmic actions performed. The ideal state of total release from Karmic consequence achieved by the path blazing Tirthankars, by ridding the Jiva of the polluting colours of Matter, led to salvation and liberation in a state of blissful isolation (Kevalam) at the apex of the universe. The components of the universe then were the Tirthankars with other liberated souls, the other Jivas still enmeshed and engulfed by matter and Matter.

In the Sankhya and Yogic view the Soul called the Purush, likewise experienced shrouding by matter, now explained as being composed of three attributes or Gunas – those of clarity (Sattva), passionate activity (Rajas) and inertia (Tamas). In its primal state, the Gunas  of inertial matter were explained as being in a state of equilibrium and at rest. The presence of the Purush created a turbulance of excitement in inert nature on account of the brilliant radiance of these soul forces. Thus stimulated and attracted towards the Purushas, matter acted as iron filings would towards a magnet. Though Purush did not will such an outcome, nevertheless its proximity aroused a consciousness in inert matter in the form of subtle bodies and finally gross bodies which then enveloped the soul force in a material embrace. To use an analogy, the Purush could be compared to fire turning an iron molten. Sankhay does not regard the world as coming into being as a result of the act of a Creator. Creation takes place as a result of  pre-existing matter being thus stimulated by the presence of Purush. Inert matter stimulated by the radiance and proximity of Purush transforms into a subtle body of Mind, Ego, Intellect and Sense Faculties and a corresponding gross body with sense organs.

In Sankhya philosophy the process of the creation of the subtle and gross bodies is developed and presented in immaculate detail in a theory of evolution. This later was adopted in entirety by Hinduism in its explanation of the Soul, Matter and transmigration, making it a major contribution of Sankhya to Hindu philosophy. Briefly, the theory goes thus: the stimulation of Purush’s radiance causes inert matter to acquire consciousness first in a subtle body through the creation of  Mind (Buddhi) from which emerges the Ego (Ahankar) and onwards to the creation of faculties of action (Karmindriya), Intellect (Manas), Faculties of Sense (Gyanindriya), Subtle Counterparts of Sense Experience (Tan-Matra), the Subtle Atoms of the Subtle Body (Param-Anu) and finally a gross body (Sthula-Bhutani) through the interaction of gross elements. As this process of evolution from subtle to gross body takes place, there is a manifold increase in the Tamas Guna, the inert aspect of Prakriti which is responsible for holding together the created entity. In this regard Tamas can be compared to a gravitational force that binds its environment together. When the Yogi through meditation and exercise achieves enlightenment and liberation the Tamas Guna (the glue holding the physicality together) begins to erode and finally dissolves. What then remains is the Sattva Guna of clarity which in the absence of the other two Gunas facilitates authentic understanding, that ones true identity is not the ego personality but the indwelling Purush soul.

However, before such a liberation is reached if the gross body terminates in death, the surviving subtle body retaining the residual traces of many life times of desire, aspirations, potentials, habits, inclinations, patterns of behaviour etc as so many fragrances, odours and scars (Vasanas and Sanskars), determines the nature of a new existence and reincarnates. Reincarnations can continue from one life to another indefinitely. The Purush however remains untainted and pure as ever without attributes, qualities or movement – imperishable, inactive, impassive, indifferent and unaffected though its radiance continues to induce life and stimulate activities. When perfect knowledge of the Purush is gained by a seeker or Yogi, at the end of such a life not only the  gross body perishes at death but the subtle body also dissolves with all its Sanskaras being eliminated and the Gunas of matter are released back to their inert equilibrium, the Purush resuming its isolation from matter as an independent entity. While in this state, in Jainism the Tirthankar though isolated is omniscient, in Sankhya the Purush abides in eternal unconsciousness as one would in the deep sleep state. The Purush in this state is not described as being blissful – it merely is itself. This portrayal of the Purush also contrasts with the Brahmanical concept of the liberated Atman as pure consciousness merging with Brahman, the super-consciousness.

According to Sankhya what obstructs liberation and helps to consolidate the subtle and gross bodies and their tendency to falsely identify with ego are the afflictions (Klesh). The afflictions consist of ignorance (Avidya), false impressions of ego, attachments, aversions, the wish that life goes on forever – in a word ones personality. Whereas Jain philosophy spoke of the soul being infiltrated by matter, Sankya’s emphasis (being psychological rather than material) is on ignorance (Avidya) as the main cause for soul’s entrapment. Here there is no actual influx of Karmic matter which needs to be resisted and repelled, rather there is the need for the Yogi to overcome his ignorance caused by the Gunas of action (Rajas) and inertia, slothfulness, dullness, and indiscretion (Tamas) and then with the remaining Guna of clarity (Sattva) to behold and discern the truth of ones reality. As the Gunas of action and inertia wash away the radiance of the Purush shines forth and the realization dawns that one is not the personality, that ones essence is the luminosity within which was hitherto shrouded by the body and its personality. Now finally one becomes aware of ones true identity. This is called the discrimination of insight (Vivek) which alone overcomes ignorance (Avidya) and frees one from the entrapment of the Gunas of Prakriti (Nature). The insight takes one to the state of isolation (Kaivalya) which truly reflects the state of the Purush (Soul).

The Dualistic and atheistic philosophies of Jainism and Sankya being pre-Aryan and indigenous, treat the soul forces as being plural and the field of nature as substantial rather than an illusion generated by Maya as in Vedanta Hinduism. Brahmanism on the other hand being Monist and non-dualistic emphasizes that there is only one essence Brahman which creates a mirage of numerous souls that regard themselves as individuals when there is nothing other than Brahman though each soul entity experiences that Brahman as its Self. The mechanistic and materialistic approach of Jain Philosophy and the psychological approach of  Sankhya thought was superseded by the deeply metaphysical and spiritual interpretation of Brahmanism in a grand synthesis in contemporary Hindu thoughts and beliefs.

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The Syllable Om Credit: hinduterminal.org

The Syllable Om
Credit: hinduterminal.org

The somewhat incompatible outcome of the efforts of Upanishadic thinkers to reconcile the contradictions in the concept of Brahman through the dialectics of Realism had left disciples confused regarding the manner in which they were to conceive and meditate on the essence of Brahman. This was brilliantly resolved with the extraordinary intuitive discovery that the truth was not out there but right here within in the self.

Disciples were told that there was only one way the search for unity of Brahman could be successfully experienced – not by looking for it outside in the illusory world of diversity or through strenuous intellectual acrobatics by trying to fathom  and comprehend the qualities and nature of Brahman which was without qualities and incomprehensible. The only way was to look within, for the self was itself the unity they had long been searching for elsewhere.

The Chandogya Upanishad declared:

”As far verily as this world-space extends, so far extends the space within the heart… everything here is contained within it.” This going within to grasp the nature of unity occurs either in dreamless sleep or deepest meditation:

”When one is sound asleep, composed, serene and knows no dream – that is the self.” the unity with Brahman is a blissful state of consciousness in which individuality and all distinctions are overcome.

The short Mandukya Upanishad was the culmination of all Upanishadic thought – it explains in 12 verses the four aspects of the Self (Atman):

The first is the waking state – the individual moving and living in the phenomenal world. It enjoys and consumes gross matter.

The second is the ”Shining One inwardly cognitive” when in dream filled sleep. It enjoys subtle dream objects which arise from dream memories.

The third is the deep sleep state ”just a cognitive mass, consisting of bliss and feeds on bliss”. Here the self becomes undivided in dreamless sleep and is pure blissful consciousness. This indeed is the Lord of All ( Sarveshvar), the Omniscient ( Sarvagyana ), the indweller ( Antaryami), the source of all (Yoni – the great womb), this is the origin and the end of all beings ( an apt description of what we generally term as God ?).

The fourth which is beyond the realms even of deep sleep and beyond the beginning and the end of all beings is the real self to be realized ( through meditation) and is termed Turiya. The qualities of this final level of self is described thus:

”neither inward nor outward turned consciousness, nor both; not a dormant omniscience; neither knowing nor unknowing, invisible, ineffable, intangible, devoid of characteristics, inconceivable, undefinable ( all this because being the only subject there is no object and therefore no comparison to give it any shape,colour, form or attributes) – its sole essence being the assurance of its own Self, the cessation of all development ( differentiated existence), tranquil, peaceful-blissful, without a second (Advaitam) – this isAtman, the self which is to be realized.”

However, all four aspects together constitute the whole of Brahman/Atman.

Furthermore, according to the great Madukya Upanishad ( and specially intended for those who wish to meditate on the self) these aspects together can also be discerned in the sphere of sound ( Hindu creation myths begin with the resonance of sound rather than the unleashing of light) as the syllable Om ( A U M ), each of the states corresponding to one of the letters and the fourth to Silence – A is the waking state, U the dream state, M the deep sleep state and the fourth is silence within which the resonating sound of OM arises, vibrates and subsides. This is a manifestation of Brahman-Atman as a syllable. This resonating sound is the whole of this visible universe, past, present and future and the fourth, silence is what is beyond time. All stages of the sound are as important as the silence which precedes and follows its utterance as it is their totality that constitutes the universal essence of Brahman-Atman.

Practitioners of Yoga  are told that with this resounding sound they can begin to sense the unity of Brahman.

We see that thus was the final unity of Reality reached by the Upanishads, moving from Realism to Idealism.

The syllable Om symbolizing Brahman-Atman has today come to represent Hinduism as the Cross has Christianity, the Crescent Islam,  Yin Yang the Tao and the Menorah and Star of David, Judaism.

I recently happened to come across an excellent series of  five videos on U Tube on meditation which clearly were inspired by Upanishadic concepts though there is a liberal overlay of some New Age concepts also. However to get a vivid idea of the Self within and how accessing it can lead to enlightened states, through the medium of excellent and imaginatively created video footage, it may be worthwhile for those interested to go have a look:

As I said it is on U Tube and is titled – ” HOW TO ACCESS YOUR SUPERCONSCIOUSNESS’ ‘  – really worth a visit.

manasa

credit: saibharati.com

Parallel to the development of the concept of Brahman as Universal Essence was that of the Soul or Atman also as being the Universal essence. The Atman was in like manner  shown as being both ubiquitous and immanent. This thought derived its inspiration from the Rig-Vedic concept of the Cosmic Person from whose eye emerged the Sun, the Moon from his mind, fire from his mouth, the wind from his breath, the sky from his head, the earth from his feet etc. Thus the Cosmic Person was seen as projecting into the forces of nature and the world.

A further extension of this thought in the Upanishads was to create a correspondence not only to the world in general but to the individual as well. Thus fire now entered the mouth of a person and became speech, wind entered the nose and became breath, the Sun became sight in the eyes, the moon became his mind and so on. While on the one hand creation was shown as emerging from the Universal Essence, on the other the created forces were shown  as producing the faculties of man. Thus the microcosm and the macrocosm were connected.

From the Cosmic Person analogy also arose the thought that the Universal Essence was a Great Soul of which the individual soul was an aspect (Ansha). Thus in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad it is stated:

”Atman is the person in the earth and the person in the body… in fire and in speech; in wind and in breath; in the Sun and in the eye… in truth and truthfulness; in humanity and in the human; in the Self and in the self.”

The idea of the  immanence of Brahman had a cosmic magnificence while that of the extension of the Universal Soul at the core of beings as individual souls, was even more extraordinary with profound spiritual implications. It was philosophically and ethically elevating and deeply significant for the future course of Indian thought and spirituality. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad clearly defines the emerging insight:

”That same thing, namely, this self, is the trace of this All; for by it one knows this All. Just as  ( if it were)a footprint” 

Again in the Svetashvatara Upanishad the same theme is reiterated:

” with the nature of this self, as with a lamp, a practitioner of Yoga beholds here the nature of Brahman”

The cosmic Brahman as an idea and the subtle Atman concept then began to be connected as we see in the Chandokya Upanishad : ”Who is our Atman? What is Brahman? Finally the two concepts merged and Brahman and Atman became synonymous. Thus the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad cleary states:

‘Verily, that great unborn soul, undecaying, undying, immortal, fearless is Brahman.’

And again in the Svetasvatara Upanishad it is affirmed:

‘The Soul which pervades all things…this is Brahman.’

This grand union of two complimentary concepts implied that the unitary cosmic realism of the first was now one with the innermost spiritual essence of the self and the not-self, the great spirit of a supersoul. Furthermore the linkage between the individual self and the Great Self was the ultimate step to an authentic Monism as in the resounding declaration of the Chandokya Upanishad”

‘Tat tvam asi’ – ‘That thou art’

credit:lightworkers.org

credit:lightworkers.org

 

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