Somatism: A Basic Concept in India's Philosophical Speculations

 

Kunst, Arnold

 

Philosophy East and West  V.18  P261~275

University Press of Hawaii

Honolulu, HI [US] (http://www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/index.html)

 


 

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                The choice of the title and the subject matter of this paper requires a brief explanation. Instead of the not very familiar expression "somatism," I might have chosen something like "qualified idealism" or "quasi-materialism" in Indian thinking; but neither would really do. If the subject of the discussion "were to be idealism, it would become necessary to limit it to the Indian interpretation of reality as something consisting of concepts free of material ingredients.

 

          Moreover, a serious difficulty would also be encountered if idealism were to be considered as a form of subjectivism as opposed to objectivism; for in this case the reality of objective things and events would have to be denied on the assumption that such things and events are a mere projection of our minds. But what would be the use of accepting subjective idealism if, at the same time, we would have to accept as true, as in most instances the Indians have, that the mind itself is a device constructed of physical substances ?

 

        Were we to talk of materialism, we would have to confine ourselves to that system of metaphysics which explains the world as derived from matter and reduced to matter, the existence of which is objectively true, and not just a product of our mind. In the light of this latter definition, a number of Indian philosophical systems might, at first sight, appear closer to Democritus' materialism than to idealism. But in addition to the difficulties just mentioned, there would arise another difficulty: the materialism of the Cārvākas and that of the nineteenth century materialists do not admit concepts of-the transcendental. The denotation of somatism, as conceived by St. Schayer, would seem to escape this difficulty and permit us to wedge such a concept between ideal­ism and materialism without implying the exclusive connotation of either.

Arnold Kunst is a Lecturer-in the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

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          The purpose of this paper is to show that in the structure of Indian thought a somatic interpretation of concepts, which we are used to consider abstract is frequently applied. By qualifying Indian philosophy as somatistic one sug­gests that it generally treats the spiritual phenomena as bodily substances and interprets psychological and epistemological processes as mechanical and dynamic modifications occurring in the substance of the soul and the mind.[1]

 

        Misunderstandings in the interpretation of Indian philosophies often have their origin in some of the legacies inherited from our predecessors- We still remain under the pressure of reactions to Indian thought born in the Sturm und Drang period in which, along with some other of his contemporaries, Johann Gottieb Fichte, the idealist and revolutionary turned mystic, had laid the ground for the fascination with which the first translation of the śakuntalā by Sir William Jones was received. Herder, Goethe, Schiller, the Schlegel brothers, Humboldt, Schopenhauer and many others, of whom only" the Schlegel brothers knew Sanskrit, greeted with unparalleled admiration and awe the influx of further translations from Sanskrit, particularly from the Bhagavadgītā  and the Upaniads, Humboldt raved about the Gītā, and Schopenhauer about the Upaniads, and so, to fit the mood of the period, an uncritically eulogistic attitude, combined with a hyper-idealistic analysis of India's ancient philosophy as the ex Oriente Lux, marked the beginning of the Western attitude toward Indian philosophy and religions. At the other extreme, a view originating largely from missionaries and marked by a Christian-apologetic approach marred the chance for a critical appreciation of the great achievements of Indian philosophers and religious leaders. Neither approach can be denied a degree of positive effect; they did lay the foundation for a subsequent scholarly inquiry into Indian culture, and led to the establishment of academic centers at various universities and institutions all over the world, including Germany, from which a host of pioneers in indological studies emerged. Yet the sobering effect of these centers has not managed completely to eradicate the mark left on the approach to Indian studies by the sentiments born in the period of romanticism, which still prevail, though to an ever diminishing degree, in the West and in India herself. These questions, it seems, merit some consideration, as the atmosphere in which the childhood of indological studies, and particularly studies concerning Indian philosophy and religion, was spent, has a bearing on the present subject. The fact is that, for a variety of reasons, Indian philosophy has often been subjected to an interpretation which (a) imposes purely idealistic con­cepts on those branches of Indian philosophy where idealism, as we understand

[1] Cf. St. Schayer, Ŭber den Somatismus der indischen Psychologie (Kraków: Polish Academy of Sciences, 1936), p. 159.

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stand it, does not necessarily constitute the basic attitude toward phenomena of life, and (b) overlooks the fact that even in systems which appear to be predominantly idealistic, certain concepts or groups of concepts constituting these systems are represented in somatic values. This application of values seems to refer to psychological, ontological, and epistemological speculations, and speculations concerning religions.

     

      While this may not be peculiar to the Indian way of thinking, it definitely is a method widely applied to Indian philosophy and its terminology. It may no doubt be partly traced to mythology; but to attribute this phenomenon only to mythology would be begging the question. Conflicts between good and bad people, drawn from everyday life, and the conflicts in man's soul between his good and bad nature that found their expression in the struggle between Ahura-Mazdāh and Ahriman (Spenta-Mainyu and Agro-Mainyu), and Indra and Vtra, must have been primarily involved in the invention of the myths. However, man's natural impulse to think in both abstract and pictorial forms prompted him not only to invent these myths, but also to use them as a link in the chain of the gradual development of a basic concept of dualism into such sophisticated concepts as heaven and hell, creation and destruction (sṛṣṭi and pralaya), and Brahman and ātman.

 

     A logical development from one stage to another can be construed, as has been beautifully demonstrated by Norman Brown in his- recent book Man and the Universe. In the gveda, for instance, prayers to gods for well-being, wealth, and destruction of enemies in locations allotted to these gods by mythological tradition are intertwined with hymns of speculative character inquiring about God's origin, the secrets of creation, and the causes of life and death.

 

      As for the examination of these developments in terms of chronological succession of ideas, a detailed inquiry into the question of precedence of philosophy over myth, or mythology over philosophy, would take us too long and too far afield. In ancient India, these two seem to have supported and nourished each other continuously. While the speculative mind did impose on the actions of mythical heroes symbolic representations of the mind's complexities, the heroes' behavior, in turn, assisted man in the development of his ritual activity, on the one hand, and in the formation of organized philosophical concepts and systems, on the other. It is, therefore, natural that emulation, as it were, of mythical events and of legendary heroes could serve as a partial explanation of physicalism in Indian philosophy. This explanation would be in accord with the theory expressed by Bronislaw Malinowski.[2]

[2] See his Foundations of Faith and Morals, Riddell Memorial Lectures (London, 1936).

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       It would, however, be difficult to assume that mythology carries the exclusive responsibility for what we call somatism. It may be suggested that the Indian thinker shared with the rest of humanity the proclivity toward formulation of tangible concepts, which can be tackled according to laws attributable to material substances surrounding him. While such tendencies may change in time, as indeed they have, a type of identity between the physical and the conceptual in Indian philosophy was firmly established. It is my belief that for the proper understanding of certain aspects of Indian philosophy this phenomenon cannot be underestimated, as it has affected both the shaping of thoughts and the language in which they were expressed.

Let us briefly consider the concept of time. The Sanskrit denotation of time by kāla was not in use at the very early stages of Indian speculations connected with the processes of creation. Kāla rather signifies, among other-things, the proper occasion or season. According to Wűst, it was originally a pastoral term suggesting the periods of driving out cattle.[3] In the Ŗgveda, the Śatapatha Brāhmaa, and the Bhadārayaka Upaniad, the concept of time had a narrower and more concrete scope. It was savatsara, which literally means a year. In the hymn on creation ( Ŗgveda X. 190. 2) time (or year) is born from the cosmic seas. In the Bhadārayaka Upaniad we find another version of the origin of the year: "In the beginning there was nothing here. By death alone was this [world] developed; in hunger, for hunger is death. He (Prajāpati, the creator) produced the mind (mano' kuruta) (I.2.1) .... "He (Prajāpati, in his manifestation of hunger and death) wished to have another body born of him. He brought about a union of his two further hypostases, mind and speech. That which was the seed became the year (samvatsara) ; previous to that there was no year (na ha purā tata savatsara āsa)" (I. 2. 4). Subsequently, time is identified with the sacrificial horse, which Prajāpati offers to himself, and with the sun, that devours everything. That is why the sun is said to be called aditi, because ad means to eat (I. 2. 5). While the later Vedānta exegetes, like Śakara and others, concluded on the basis of this text that the Upaniad had intended to convey the idea of time as a modification of mind, etc. (though even then there was no suggestion of the time as Kant's Anschauungsform), we must confine ourselves here to the explanation that, at that stage, the genesis of time, as a product of mind and speech, prompted by hunger and death, forms not more than a part of the process of creation; in this context, speech roused by the will of the creator brings forth time as the framework for all the processes of creation. Note-

[3] Zeitschift für Indologie und Iranistik V (1927), 165 ff.

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worthy is the emphasis in this Upaniad on the destructive qualities of time as stimulated by death and hunger. In the Śatapatha Brāhmaa (XI. 1.6) time emerges from the golden egg (hiramayam aṇḍam), the yet unfolded embryo of dormant life. From time thus emerged emanates the world creator, Prajāpati. As may be seen, the order of the emergence of time varies. While in most cases time precedes the creation or the creator, it is also confirmed that the creator precedes time, which is one of his creations. In the Atharvaveda (XIII. 2. 39-41), Rohita (the red one == the Sun) has precedence over time.

 

       In this same Atharvaveda the appellation of time is already conveyed by kāla, which in its later development, be it as deity or a less clearly denned substance, constitutes an important topic of speculation in most Indian philosophical systems. Even at stages of higher sophistication it was identified with gods, and as we have seen before, mainly those gods who are endowed with the power of destruction: Kāla himself is death, Mtyu; Time is Prajāpati , Viṣṇu, or Śiva (mahākāla). In the Jaiminīya Brāhmaa (I. 11), in the Bhadārayaka Upaniad (IV. 4.6) and in the Maitrī Upanişad (VI. 15) in which the center of the universe is represented as sun, time operates as a destructive substance "this side of the sun," that is, in the empirical world, but does not exist on the other side of the sun where everything is immortal, ergo timeless. The concept of time as a destructive substance remains largely and basically unaltered even when ontological and metaphysical speculations in India reach their more sophisticated stages. Time is the cause of the origination, duration, and disappearance of all effects, says Praśastapāda in the Vaiśeikabhāya. It is a substance which, according to theories laid down by the Vedāntins and the Vaiśeşikas, differs from other bodies in degree of texture and grossness. Because of its extremely delicate fabric (sūkmatva) it is not accessible to any sensuous cognition. Its other quality is all-pervasiveness (vibhutva); it can therefore penetrate all other substances which are grosser in density. The purua. of the Sākhya, however, is so infinitely more delicate in texture than time that time cannot penetrate it, and therefore does not operate in the purua zone. Being an indivisible (anavayava) and an eternal (nitya) substance, it cannot be measured. What is measured is not time itself, but bodies which exist in time, since the prerequisite for measur-ability is a degree of coarseness, of which time, as has been mentioned, pos­sesses a very low degree. In the same way as it is impossible to measure time itself, it is also impossible to subdivide it. The division into past, present, and future is not a division of a generic concept into particulars (jāti: viśa). The three phases of time are manifested by, or are inferable from, the changes

 

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to which empirical objects are subjected. Endowed with these qualities, time like space, is an objective, "gaseous" substance pervading all phenomena. In the Caraka Sahi(1.48), which enumerates the nine categories of substance accepted by the Sāṁkhya and the Vaiśeika systems, it is said:

khādiiny ātmā mana kālo diśaśa dravyasamgrahah ("the air and other elements, the soul, the mind, time, and space are the sum total of substances").

With further development of philosophical thought in India, the peak of which was the denial of the reality of empirical phenomena, and the concentration on the impermanence and unworthiness of empirical life the notions of time underwent parallel changes and revisions. With philosophy and soteriology gradually moving toward the dichotomic interpretation of the unreal empirical world as set against the absolute as the only true reality, ideas of time tended to sway toward more abstract speculations; yet the underlying conceptions of time as substance were not altogether abandoned. One of the main characteristics of the theories of time (kālavādas) is, as has already been briefly mentioned, the emphasis on the three aspects of time (traikālya), the present, the past, and the future, and their relationship to the surrounding phenomena. The ontology of the Buddhist positivists (Sarvāstivādins) accepts the objective existence of these three discrete phases of time and, in fact, asserts that each of them is identical with the elements (dharmas) themselves ; these elements are indeed real as the past, the present, and the future, according to their discrete phases of existence. They are in constant transition (adhvan) from one phase to another, each stage or phase of their existence lasting only for an infinitesimally brief moment (kaa).

The Vaibhāşikas, another positivist school of Buddhism, refer to a notion of the orthodox Sarvastivadins (Abhidharmakośa V.63) according to which the past and the future exist in reality and substance (dravyatas), and participate in the present. Vasubandhu, a philosopher of the fourth century a.d., rejects this thesis not because of its apparent physicalism, but because such a proposition would assume time to be the cause of transition, a doctrine which he cannot accept. We cannot, of course, enter into details of these complex discussions; in the various branches of their doctrine the Buddhists have developed a number of theories concerning time. In the Mādhyamika branch, for instance, speculations about the three times have ventured into the most intricate ontological and psychological spheres. The main point in the disputations seems to have been the possibility or impossibility of the actual, physical, and objective existence of time. Among the arguments on the phases of time are: "Do the past and future exist?" Answer: "No, because they would resist each other"; "Can the future and the past occupy space?" "No; only the present can. The past does not exist anywhere and the future does

 

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not exist yet; only currently existing substances (rūpa) can occupy space."[4] As in the period when time was largely a mythical concept, we can also witness here, at a much advanced stage of speculation, time represented as possessing a spatial dimension.

           

        In Buddhism we have to wait for Nāgārjuna who, though discussing the possibility of time's real existence, eventually concludes that time, as a permanent unit which undergoes no change itself, cannot function as the cause of change in other phenomena. He believes that the concept of time existing apart from things, an empty time, is not tenable. It might be thought to exist in relation to things that change; but objects changing per se cannot be accepted as real, and so the reality of time cannot be established.[5]

        

      In a similar vein, discussions among the Jains centered on the reality and non-reality, the substantiality or non-substantiality of time. The Śvetāmbaras preferred to regard time as a dravya, or substance; but the Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras generally agreed that time is the principal basis for changes in the empirical world.

 

           The space at my disposal does not permit me to enter into more details concerning the philosophy of time, which has fascinated India since the earliest period of her speculations, I have now only scratched the surface in the mere attempt to show that while in the West, with some exceptions, time has been largely the subject of abstract and mathematical inquiry and an inquiry into the mind postulating time, Indian scholastics placed the emphasis (also with some exceptions) more on the possibility of time's existence as an objective entity. The whole subject naturally deserves much more investigation. It has been said, even if not without some exaggeration, that, if the history of the Indian philosophy of time is ever written, it will be in large measure a history of Buddhist thought.

 

          Another concept which has occupied India's philosophers and religious leaders alike and has fascinated Western philosophers, mystics, and theosophists, is action (karman) conceived as a decisive factor forming man's

[4] Cf. Stanislaw Schayer, Contributions to the Problem of Time in Indian Philosophy (Kraków: Polish Academy of Sciences, 1938), p. 17. Schayer's passage is a translation from Hsiian Tsang's Chinese translation of the now non-existent Sanskrit work by Saghabhadra, the Nyāyānusāra (sometimes called the Abhidharmanyāyānusāra`āstra). The Chinese text of the passage can be found in Vol. XXIX (No. 1562) of the Taishō Tripitaka in Chinese,J.. Takakusu and K. Watanabe, editors (Tokyo, 1924-1929), p. 636.

 

[5] dhyamikaśāstra XIX and comm. Cf. Mādhyamaka-śāstra, P. L. Vaidya, ed., Buddhist Sanskrit Texts, No. 10 (Darbhanga: The Mithila Institute, 1960), pp. 163 ff; see also Max Wallesser, Die mittlere Lehre (Mādhyamika-śāstra) des Nāgārjuna, nach der tibetischen Version übertragen (Heidelberg: Carl Winter's Universitätsbuchhandlung, 1911), and Die mittlere Lehre des Nāgārjuna, nach der chinesischen Version ubertragen (Heidelberg: Carl Winter's "Universitätsbuchhandlung, 1912).

 

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character, conduct, and indeed his physical shape in the present and future lives. In time, the concept of action has become, in India, a yardstick by which man's soteriological status and his position in the community and society could be measured. In the early Vedic period we first observe karman as a ritual and sacrificial act performed for the propitiation of a god or gods as an act of emulation of, and contribution to, the established world order (ta), and eventually as an act of protection against evil. Any act so intended if performed with sufficient precision required by the prevailing circumstances, was expected unmistakably to achieve its desired effect. Acts are performed equally by gods and by men and by other creatures; the main characteristic of the act performed is that its effect is hardly a matter of chance. One may be tempted to say that a set of acts is like a set of ingredients intended for the preparation of a chemical solution. If combined in proper proportions and in well-determined circumstances, these ingredients are bound to bring about this and no other solution. The causal nexus between the sacrificial act and its effect is invariable. It applies equally to physical acts as to those arising from emotional, mental, or verbal impulses. So as to avoid any misunderstanding, I deliberately refrain from applying the connotation of magic to the mechanics of action, especially action of ritualistic character, unless it is agreed that in magic, equally as in an act of sacrifice, the primary emphasis is not placed on any conjuring tricks, but on the deeply embedded notion of cause-and-effect relation, which exists between relevant phenomena on all levels of interplay. By the act of sacrifice the deity is forced to counteract correspondingly to the intention stated in the sacrificial ritual. Acts, good or bad, are assessed on the basis of the potential fruit they are expected to bear, whether directed toward gods or toward members of the family or community, When directed toward oneself as a vehicle of moral or soteriological attainment, the balance of their final effect is adjudicated by a method closer to a type of mathematical computation than to the kind of judgment conceived in Christian eschatology.

       In the Sahitās and partly in the Brāhmanas the emphasis is placed on the ritual and sacrificial act. In their later development, speculations concerning karman are almost exclusively concerned with soteriological attainments intermingled with the ethical and moral aspects of the deed. This latter aspect has been occasionally questioned by scholars, though, to my mind, unjustly. While the true significance of karman, be it in the meaning of an act or destiny, is normally attributed to the introvert rather than extrovert perfor­mance, it is at the same time involved in the broad sphere of ethics which forbid one to hurt other beings (ahisā), encourage one to serve as an example to others, and admit that a good act performed vis-à-vis others is. a

 

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factor contributing to one's self-deliverance. In the Upaniads, for instance, we often come across moralistic admonitions always to speak the truth, and to love one's fellow creatures. Prayers are usually addressed in the first person plural, and, subject to some obligations of secrecy, disciples are admonished by their teachers to spread the acquired knowledge to others. In the Śvetāśvatara Upaniad (VI. 22) it is enjoined that the supreme wisdom enshrined in the Vedānta should not be entrusted to a person whose mind is not well composed, who has no sons and is without pupils:

Vedānte parama guhya purākalpe pracoditam/ nāpraśāntāya dātavya nāputrāyāśiyāya vā//

As the scriptures, including the Upaniads, were not normally accessible to the common man, and the execution of their injunctions was in practice regulated by the royal court and by brahmans, the benefits of the ethical and moral precepts are not likely to have been shared by all. In the case of the caste system they were far from beneficial. But at this stage we are more interested in the assessment of the inner structure of the karman philosophy than of its social efficacy.

  And so in Buddhism we find altruism and caritas as an intimate part of a religious creed. What better example of care for others could be found than Gautama Buddha's decision to delay his entry into nirvāa until he has assured himself that he can divulge his doctrine to others and show them the way to escape miseries and suffering?

   In its further development, detectable in the Upanisads and other so-called orthodox schools as well as among Buddhists and the Jains, karman is almost totally embraced by the concept of saṁsāra, that is, a cycle of empirical lives to which each individual is subjected according to the. quality and quantity of the karman performed and accumulated. While the quality of the accumu­lated karman is essential to the nature of the career during one's life and to the deliverance from the miseries of the empirical life, its quantity also determines the duration of the saṁsāra, which may last eons and eons of eons. We therefore find a fairly common view in the Vedanta and in Buddhism and Jainism that action and involvement in activity are, indeed, a hindrance to emancipation. In the Vedanta, action is a barrier to the merger of the individual ātman with the universal Brahman, of which ātman is only an empirical hypostasis. In Buddhism non-action is a necessary condition for the attainment of nirvāa, as one of the characteristics of nirvāa is the absence of empirical reality. At the peak of a man's career—and this applies to the yogin as well as to other candidates for emancipation—he may reach a station

 

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  where, although under duress, or pressures of the processes of life, he must act by thinking and speaking and breathing, etc. The union mystique with the Universe reached in his lifetime permits him to detach himself totally from the consequences of his deeds. He is then, still in his lifetime, freed from the bondage of saṁsāra.

   Along with the popular conception of karman understood as merit and demerit, in most philosophical systems we come across views on the functioning of karman. In the fourth ucchvāsa of Daṇḍin's Daśakumāracarita, Kāntimatī says to her son Arthapāla, whom she discovers after many years of separation, that she did not deserve to enjoy the delights of his childhood, bhāgyarāśer vinā, which literally means "without having accumulated the appropriate amount of merits." The language used by Dain reflects both the popular and the philosophical concept of karman as a more or less solid substance;however much the interpretation of the operation of this body may have varied according to the siddhānta—the set of dogmas adopted by individual systems.

     In the Milinda Pañha, Nāgasena tells King Milinda that "just ... as the monarchs of the world are alike in kind, but among them, so alike in kind, one may overcome the rest, and bring him under his command—just so among things beyond the grasp of the imagination is the productive effect of Karma by far the most powerful. It is precisely the effect of Karma," continues Nāgasena, "which overcomes all the rest, and has them under its rule; and no other influence is of any avail to the man in whom Karma is working out its inevitable end. ... It is as when a Jungle fire has arisen on the earth, then can not even a thousand pots of water avail to put it out, but the conflagration overpowers all, and brings it under its control."[6] Such is the view of Nāgasena expressed some two centuries after Buddha's death. In this description karman is viewed as a dynamic cumulative substance which, as a sum total of man's previous acts, is the molder of his character and total personality and of his future career and destiny.

    In Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakośa, this overwhelming enslavement of beings by the universality of karman is implicitly questioned. Here Vasubandhu defines action, as, in the first place, pure volition or impulse (cetayitvā) and secondly as the act that is produced by volition or impulse (cefayitvā):It needs to be added that with the Buddhists the idea of volition covers more than just the will of the individual to act. The individual act is subjected to

[6]Milmdapañha IV. 4.3. Cf. T. W. Rhys Davids, The Questions of King Milinda translated from the Pali, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XXXV (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1890), pp. 262-263.

 

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the total body of the will of the Universe, or as Stcherbatsky suggests,[7] the πowutov klvoûv or élan vital, in that karman, as a somatic substance, regulates the process of the accumulation and composition of the elements-monads (dharmas) and decides upon the nature and consistence of the phenomena and objects into which the dharmas are formed. Among other things this modification of the function of karman allows the Buddhist to consider the human mind to appear free (there are copious references in Buddhist texts to indeterminism) since, though the will of the universe determines man's action, he is free to draw from the universal store of the karman- substance, or he may choose to detach himself from the pressures and reduce his participation in the whirlpool of universal activity. In other words, he may desist from the initiative of setting in motion the volition part of the act which is defined as cetanā, and thus forego the involvement in the deed itself which is the unavoidable derivative and product of the act of volition (cetayitvā). It is, for instance, argued in the Abhidharmakośa (I.69f.) that Buddha's beautiful elocution (the accent of Brahmā = brahmasvaratā) is the result of the long ; career which he underwent through generations. But, notwithstanding this, he is free to use this voice at his will. While dharmas molded into the organ of his speech are the result of karman heredity, his actual speech is not; its use is but a spontaneous act of his individual choice, and as such it is not involved in the universal process of the karman production.

   A very interesting idea of karman has been conceived by the Jains. That karman is a physical body is not a matter of speculative conclusion, but an assertion by the Jains themselves. With typical propensity for meticulous classification of things, the Jains have divided the world into five basic sub­stances (dravya). One of them is jīva, which is an objective and real substance. For the lack of a better equivalent it is usually rendered in English by "soul." There are an infinite number of fivas; each is endowed with consciousness and intelligence, and with an infinite number of qualities (gu as). Among these qualities there are eight "natural" gu as signifying purity, energy, and immortality which, however, seldom come to the surface as they are neutralized or counteracted by extraneous influences. The extraneous influence imposed on jīva is mainly karman, which is a delicate physical substance (pudgala) stimulating changes in the jīva, just as a medicine applied to the body provokes changes in it. The karman is glued to the jīva by energy called bandha, which thus produces a union between the jīva-substance and the karman-matter. In terms of soteriological processes this union, resulting

[7] The Conception of Buddhist Nirvāṇa (Leningrad: The Academy of Sciences of the USSR, 1927), p. 238.

 

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from the inflow (āsrava) into the jīva of the karman corpuscles, holds the individual in the state of saṁsāra, and prevents the naturally pure jīva from abiding in a state of perfection. The vicious circle arising from the infection of the jīva by the karman, which thus conditions the individual's character and personality, of necessity prompts the individual toward further action and toward further involvement by attracting more of the karman-corpuscles to infect his jīva with ever greater intensity. If he follows a set of rules, however, including such moral injunctions as modesty, honesty, non-injury to others, abstemiousness, etc., the good karman comes to replace the bad. In this way the inflow of good karman and the withering away of bad karman constitute a purifying process by which the jīva comes closer to its original state of perfection. A further stage then follows, which is marked by shutting out (saṁvara) karman altogether. By application of very stern rules (asceti­cism, fasting, meditation, mortification of the body, etc.) the final stage of destruction of karman (nirjarā) is attained. The destruction of karman in the jīva enables that jvua to ward off completely the further inflow of karman. It is sadly true that there exists a category of jīvas who will never be free of karman and are doomed to perpetual sasāra. These jīvas turn into eternal nigodas, a class of imperceptible living beings, a sort of microscopic animalcules, which wander in the world in a state of relative well-being for want of knowledge of any better destiny.

    In the light of the nature of this very complex system of karman, of which I have given merely a greatly simplified gist, the Jains concluded that the way to emancipation for a human being is a lonely affair. Amitagati (an eleventh century philosopher) says in the Bhāvanādvātriśati that "a being enjoys the good and bad effect of the karman which he himself did previously; if it were possible for a person to experience the act performed by somebody else, one's own actions would become fruitless."[8] A Tīrthankara, 'the passage maker,' i.e., a Jain Arhat who has in his lifetime freed himself from the effects of karman, may show the way to others as an example, but cannot do the work for them. This is different from the concept of grace (prasāda) prevailing, among others, in the Śaiva cult, where deeds performed by man are arranged by the deity according to its whim.

    The concepts of time and karman in Indian philosophy have been singled out as rather characteristic examples in a series of speculative processes which seem to show that, without the obvious tendency on the part of the philosopher to construe a materialistic system, ideas have been adapted to a treatment applicable to physical entities. It is natural that this type of treat-

[8] Dvātriṃśikā, Māṇikchand-Digambara-Jaina-Grantha-Mālā 13 (Bombay, 1918).

 

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ment accorded to single concepts does not stand in isolation but embraces to a considerable extent the totality of the system, of which specific concepts are a part.

   One of the oldest systems in India, the Sākhya, has in its soteriological, cosmological, and psychological doctrine introduced a set of classifications which point to the somatistic nature of that doctrine. Leaving aside for the present any differentiation between the earlier and later Sākhya theories, between Kapila and Īśvarak a, which would otherwise complicate a somewhat telescoped exposition, we can see that, according to the Samkhya, substantialism is the guiding factor in the hierarchy of elements forming the structure of the world. The fundamental element in this structure is prakti, which in its primordial and unevolved (avyakta) state, containing all existence in a dormant state of perfect balance, is the basic principle and the cause of the world. It is sometimes identified with the puru a, which is absolute consciousness. The evolution begins with the emanation from the prakti of the subtlest substances (sūk mabhūta), which, owing to a variety of circumstances, are densified into gross matter (sthūlabhūta). It is significant that the evolution moves from subtle to gross and not inversely. The first evolute is the buddhi, the subtlest of them all. It becomes the substance of that inner organ of the being which enables it to differentiate and to judge. It is the element of that transitional stage when a dualistic division begins, by which the object is juxtaposed against the subject. We shall not consider the philosophical and logical difficulty connected with the concept of buddhi which, though sui generis an evolute, still remains within the sphere of the avyakta (i.e., the primordial, unmanifested). Yet, it is the first step from perfect balance toward imbalance. From the buddhi evolves the ahakāra, a sort of ego-factory, which establishes the relation of various constituents of the prakti into a relationship between the individual subject and the objects and events around him. The important part of the system is that the material of which objects are built is the same material from which the mental and psychological apparatus is constructed. In this manner, perception, cognition, and understanding are actually a matter of physical contact between the corresponding constituents of the subject and those of the object. The difference again is in the respective densities of the subjective and the objective, between the experienced and the experienced. Thus the manas, the mind, and the senses, sight, taste, and so forth (manas is an intellectual sense) can perceive and apperceive by contact with the object based on the affinity of the elements of which both are constructed.

    Differences in the texture of all these elements are possible because of the three primary constituent substances (guas) with which prakti is endowed.

 

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These guas are diversified and transposed into the evolutes. They are the delicate sattva, the rajas and gross tamas, or the intelligence-substance, the energy-substance and the mass or perhaps the inertia-substance. These con­stituents are in complete balance in prakti. The unfolding of prakti is basically the process of upsetting this balance and mixing the guas in various proportions. The nature and consistency of each unfolded substance is in direct proportion to the distribution of guas comprised in the substance. In the reverse process the dissolution of the gua-endowed bodies into the original state of balance is the return to the primordial stage of prakti, the stage of ideal poise, which is tantamount to the destruction of the original, secondary, tertiary, etc., evolutes. Thus, through the process of benevolent destruction called pralaya and through involution, as in a drama plot shown in reverse order, gross bodies are diluted into subtle bodies, and subtle bodies are shattered back into the state of calm, where suffering and sasāra are no more.

   As in Buddhism, so in Sākhya, suffering is inherent in becoming, in existing, and in death. There is, however, a possibility of a sort of microcosmic pralaya by which an individual can free himself from involvement in karman and sāsāra, by accelerating this process on a personal scale. It is mainly the Yoga philosophy which shows the practical way man can dissociate. himself from the pains of empirical existence. Owing to the identity of structure between the objective and the subjective, there is close interrelation in Samkhya between the macrocosmic and the microcosmic, between the cosmological and the psychological. The mumuku or the aspirant for deliverance is just a diminutive emulation of the yearning of the world to go back to the stage of the pralaya.

    In regard to the status of the Sākhya system, there arose among scholars in the West the question: Is Samkhya an idealistic philosophy or not? Barthelémy Saint-Hilaire says it is idealistic because it is a system "qui fait sortir le monde de I'intelligence est du moi."[9] (There he had in mind the purua and the buddhi.) Said Richard Garbe: "buddhi und ahakāra sind die ersten Entwickelungsstufen]en der Urmaterie, sie gehören . . . ausschliesslich der Welt des Stoffes an."[10] It probably matters little what seal is set to the Sākhya system and under what nomenclature we know it. If, however, it belongs, as Garbe would see it, just to the world of matter, we would have to analyze the other philosophical systems in the same vein, including even Mahaayaana Buddhism, where the concepts of citta and vijñāna, i.e., pure con-

[9] Cf. Richard Garbe Die Sākhya-Philosophie, eine Darstellung des indischen Rationalismus (Leipzig: Verlag von H. Haessel, 1894), p. 198.

[10] Ibid.

 

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sciousness in the chain of the invariable succession of causal connections (pratītya-samutpāda), are also represented in physicalist terms.

This would be misleading. For better or for worse, most Indian philosophical systems are of idealistic content even if the concepts behind those ideas are treated as, or are at par with, somatic substances, Somatism, physicalism, or substantialism might perhaps convey, as has been suggested, the notion of this mixture better than either idealism or materialism. For the sake of comparison, the sound and so much maligned Cārvāka stands, as little as we know of it, on solid grounds as a materialistic system. But in the light of the evidence in our possession it is markedly different from the Sāṁkhya, let alone Buddhism or Jainism.

   In conclusion, it is perhaps necessary to mention, as a footnote to what has been said, that in Indian philosophical systems such as Advaita Vedānta and Mahāyāna Buddhism there is a conception of reality within reality, that is, empirical reality (vyavahāra, savtti) enveloped in the framework of absolute reality (paramārthatva). In these philosophies the conditional acceptance of the empirical reality, the reality of bodies gross and infinitely subtle (we may also call it māyā), arises from the premise that for a living being it is the only means of attaining absolute reality. Therefore, when speaking of the rejection of empirical reality by the Vedāntins and the Mahāyānists we have to keep in mind that such rejection is effected, as it were, sub specie aeternitatis only. It is therefore to be understood that within the limits of empirical reality, action, time, nature, and society have to be in a way recognized for the purpose of philosophical and logical discussions, because it is exactly within the framework of such reality that arguments brought up against the existence of empirical life can bring the Advaitin and the Mahāyānist closer to the absolute. Paradoxically enough, it was the subject of metaphysics that Buddha refused to discuss because it came within the realm of unutterables.