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A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 1 by Surendranath Dasgupta

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[Footnote 1: Garbha Upani@sad, Atman Upani@sad, Pras'na Upani@sad, etc.
There were however some exceptions such as the Ma@n@dukya, Jabala,
Pai@ngala, S'aunaka, etc.]

32

systems in astronomy. The direct translation of Vis'vakarman or
Hira@nyagarbha into the atman and the Brahman of the Upani@sads
seems to me to be very improbable, though I am quite willing
to admit that these conceptions were swallowed up by the atman
doctrine when it had developed to a proper extent. Throughout
the earlier Upani@sads no mention is to be found of Vis'vakarman,
Hira@nyagarbha or Brahma@naspati and no reference of such a
nature is to be found as can justify us in connecting the Upani@sad
ideas with those conceptions [Footnote ref l]. The word puru@sa no doubt
occurs frequently in the Upani@sads, but the sense and the association
that come along with it are widely different from that of the
puru@sa of the Puru@sasukta of the @Rg-Veda.

When the @Rg-Veda describes Vis'vakarman it describes him
as a creator from outside, a controller of mundane events,
to whom they pray for worldly benefits. "What was the position, which
and whence was the principle, from which the all-seeing Vis'vakarman
produced the earth, and disclosed the sky by his might? The
one god, who has on every side eyes, on every side a face, on every
side arms, on every side feet, when producing the sky and earth,
shapes them with his arms and with his wings....Do thou, Vis'vakarman,
grant to thy friends those thy abodes which are the highest,
and the lowest, and the middle...may a generous son remain here
to us [Footnote ref 2]"; again in R.V.X. 82 we find "Vis'vakarman is
wise, energetic, the creator, the disposer, and the highest object of
intuition....He who is our father, our creator, disposer, who knows
all spheres and creatures, who alone assigns to the gods their names,
to him the other creatures resort for instruction [Footnote ref 3]."
Again about Hira@nyagarbha we find in R.V.I. 121, "Hira@nyagarbha arose
in the beginning; born, he was the one lord of things existing. He
established the earth and this sky; to what god shall we offer our
oblation?... May he not injure us, he who is the generator of the
earth, who ruling by fixed ordinances, produced the heavens, who
produced the great and brilliant waters!--to what god, etc.? Prajapati,
no other than thou is lord over all these created things: may we
obtain that, through desire of which we have invoked thee; may we
become masters of riches [Footnote ref 4]." Speaking of the puru@sa the
@Rg-Veda

__________________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: The name Vis'vakarma appears in S'vet. IV. 17.
Hira@nyagarbha appears in S'vet. III. 4 and IV. 12, but only as the
first created being. The phrase Sarvahammani Hira@nyagarbha which
Deussen refers to occurs only in the later N@rsi@m@h. 9. The word
Brahma@naspati does not occur at all in the Upani@sads.]

[Footnote 2: Muir's _Sanskrit Texts_, vol. IV. pp. 6, 7.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid._ p, 7.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid._ pp. 16, 17.]

33

says "Purusha has a thousand heads...a thousand eyes, and a thousand
feet. On every side enveloping the earth he transcended [it]
by a space of ten fingers....He formed those aerial creatures, and
the animals, both wild and tame [Footnote ref 1]," etc. Even that
famous hymn (R.V.x. 129) which begins with "There was then neither
being nor non-being, there was no air nor sky above" ends with saying
"From whence this creation came into being, whether it was
created or not--he who is in the highest sky, its ruler, probably
knows or does not know."

In the Upani@sads however, the position is entirely changed,
and the centre of interest there is not in a creator from outside
but in the self: the natural development of the monotheistic position
of the Vedas could have grown into some form of developed
theism, but not into the doctrine that the self was the only reality
and that everything else was far below it. There is no relation
here of the worshipper and the worshipped and no prayers are
offered to it, but the whole quest is of the highest truth, and the true
self of man is discovered as the greatest reality. This change of
philosophical position seems to me to be a matter of great interest.
This change of the mind from the objective to the subjective does
not carry with it in the Upani@sads any elaborate philosophical
discussions, or subtle analysis of mind. It comes there as a matter
of direct perception, and the conviction with which the truth has
been grasped cannot fail to impress the readers. That out of the
apparently meaningless speculations of the Brahma@nas this doctrine
could have developed, might indeed appear to be too improbable
to be believed.

On the strength of the stories of Balaki Ga'rgya and Ajatas'atru
(B@rh. II. i), S'vetaketu and Pravaha@na Jaibali (Cha. V. 3 and B@rh.
VI. 2) and Aru@ni and As'vapati Kaikeya (Cha. V. 11) Garbe thinks
"that it can be proven that the Brahman's profoundest wisdom, the
doctrine of All-one, which has exercised an unmistakable influence
on the intellectual life even of our time, did not have its origin
in the circle of Brahmans at all [Footnote ref 2]" and that "it took
its rise in the ranks of the warrior caste [Footnote ref 3]." This
if true would of course lead the development of the Upani@sads away
from the influence of the Veda, Brahma@nas and the Ara@nyakas. But do
the facts prove this? Let us briefly examine the evidences that Garbe
himself

___________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Muir's _Sanskrit Texts_, vol. v. pp. 368, 371.]

[Footnote 2: Garbe's article, "_Hindu Monism_," p. 68.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid._ p. 78.

34

self has produced. In the story of Balaki Gargya and Ajatas'atru
(B@rh. II. 1) referred to by him, Balaki Gargya is a boastful man
who wants to teach the K@sattriya Ajatas'atru the true Brahman,
but fails and then wants it to be taught by him. To this
Ajatas'atru replies (following Garbe's own translation) "it is
contrary to the natural order that a Brahman receive instruction
from a warrior and expect the latter to declare the Brahman to
him [Footnote ref l]." Does this not imply that in the natural order of
things a Brahmin always taught the knowledge of Brahman to the
K@sattriyas, and that it was unusual to find a Brahmin asking a
K@sattriya about the true knowledge of Brahman? At the beginning
of the conversation, Ajatas'atru had promised to pay Balaki one
thousand coins if he could tell him about Brahman, since all people
used to run to Janaka to speak about Brahman [Footnote ref 2]. The
second story of S'vetaketu and Pravaha@na Jaibali seems to be fairly
conclusive with regard to the fact that the transmigration doctrines,
the way of the gods (_devayana_) and the way of the fathers
(_pit@ryana_) had originated among the K@sattriyas, but it is without
any relevancy with regard to the origin of the superior knowledge
of Brahman as the true self.

The third story of Aru@ni and As'vapati Kaikeya (Cha. V. 11)
is hardly more convincing, for here five Brahmins wishing to
know what the Brahman and the self were, went to Uddalaka
Aru@ni; but as he did not know sufficiently about it he accompanied
them to the K@sattriya king As'vapati Kaikeya who was studying
the subject. But As'vapati ends the conversation by giving them
certain instructions about the fire doctrine (_vaisvanara agni_) and
the import of its sacrifices. He does not say anything about the
true self as Brahman. We ought also to consider that there are
only the few exceptional cases where K@sattriya kings were instructing
the Brahmins. But in all other cases the Brahmins were
discussing and instructing the atman knowledge. I am thus led
to think that Garbe owing to his bitterness of feeling against the
Brahmins as expressed in the earlier part of the essay had been
too hasty in his judgment. The opinion of Garbe seems to have
been shared to some extent by Winternitz also, and the references
given by him to the Upani@sad passages are also the same as we

____________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Garbe's article, "_Hindu Monism_," p. 74.]

[Footnote 2: B@rh. II., compare also B@rh. IV. 3, how Yajnavalkya
speaks to Janaka about the _brahmavidya_.]

35

just examined [Footnote ref 1]. The truth seems to me to be this, that
the K@sattriyas and even some women took interest in the
religio-philosophical quest manifested in the Upani@sads. The enquirers
were so eager that either in receiving the instruction of Brahman
or in imparting it to others, they had no considerations of sex and
birth [Footnote ref 2]; and there seems to be no definite evidence for
thinking that the Upani@sad philosophy originated among the K@sattriyas
or that the germs of its growth could not be traced in the
Brahma@nas and the Ara@nyakas which were the productions of
the Brahmins.

The change of the Brahma@na into the Ara@nyaka thought is
signified by a transference of values from the actual sacrifices to
their symbolic representations and meditations which were regarded
as being productive of various earthly benefits. Thus we
find in the B@rhadara@nyaka (I.1) that instead of a horse sacrifice
the visible universe is to be conceived as a horse and meditated
upon as such. The dawn is the head of the horse, the sun is the
eye, wind is its life, fire is its mouth and the year is its soul,
and so on. What is the horse that grazes in the field and to what good
can its sacrifice lead? This moving universe is the horse which is
most significant to the mind, and the meditation of it as such is
the most suitable substitute of the sacrifice of the horse, the mere
animal. Thought-activity as meditation, is here taking the place
of an external worship in the form of sacrifices. The material
substances and the most elaborate and accurate sacrificial rituals
lost their value and bare meditations took their place. Side
by side with the ritualistic sacrifices of the generality of the
Brahmins, was springing up a system where thinking and symbolic
meditations were taking the place of gross matter and
action involved in sacrifices. These symbols were not only
chosen from the external world as the sun, the wind, etc., from
the body of man, his various vital functions and the senses, but
even arbitrary alphabets were taken up and it was believed that
the meditation of these as the highest and the greatest was productive
of great beneficial results. Sacrifice in itself was losing
value in the eyes of these men and diverse mystical significances
and imports were beginning to be considered as their real truth
[Footnote ref 3].

_______________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Winternitz's _Geschichte der indischen Litteratur_, I.
pp. 197 ff.]

[Footnote 2: The story of Maitryi and Yajnavalikya (B@rh. II. 4)
and that of Satyakama son of Jabala and his teacher (Cha. IV. 4).]

[Footnote 3: Cha. V. II.]

36

The Uktha (verse) of @Rg-Veda was identified in the Aitareya
Ara@nyaka under several allegorical forms with the Pra@na [Footnote
ref 1], the Udgitha of the Samaveda was identified with Om, Pra@na,
sun and eye; in Chandogya II. the Saman was identified with Om, rain,
water, seasons, Pra@na, etc., in Chandogya III. 16-17 man was
identified with sacrifice; his hunger, thirst, sorrow, with initiation;
laughing, eating, etc., with the utterance of the Mantras;
and asceticism, gift, sincerity, restraint from injury, truth, with
sacrificial fees (_dak@si@na_). The gifted mind of these cultured Vedic
Indians was anxious to come to some unity, but logical precision
of thought had not developed, and as a result of that we find in the
Ara@nyakas the most grotesque and fanciful unifications of things
which to our eyes have little or no connection. Any kind of
instrumentality in producing an effect was often considered as pure
identity. Thus in Ait. Ara@n. II. 1. 3 we find "Then comes the origin
of food. The seed of Prajapati are the gods. The seed of the gods
is rain. The seed of rain is herbs. The seed of herbs is food. The
seed of food is seed. The seed of seed is creatures. The seed of
creatures is the heart. The seed of the heart is the mind. The seed
of the mind is speech. The seed of speech is action. The act done
is this man the abode of Brahman [Footnote ref 2]."

The word Brahman according to Saya@na meant mantras
(magical verses), the ceremonies, the hot@r priest, the great.
Hillebrandt points out that it is spoken of in R.V. as being new,
"as not having hitherto existed," and as "coming into being from
the fathers." It originates from the seat of the @Rta, springs forth
at the sound of the sacrifice, begins really to exist when the soma
juice is pressed and the hymns are recited at the savana rite,
endures with the help of the gods even in battle, and soma is its
guardian (R.V. VIII. 37. I, VIII. 69. 9, VI. 23. 5, 1. 47. 2, VII. 22.
9, VI. 52. 3, etc.). On the strength of these Hillebrandt justifies the
conjecture of Haug that it signifies a mysterious power which can
be called forth by various ceremonies, and his definition of it, as
the magical force which is derived from the orderly cooperation of
the hymns, the chants and the sacrificial gifts [Footnote ref 3]. I am
disposed to think that this meaning is closely connected with the
meaning as we find it in many passages in the Ara@nyakas and the
Upani@sads. The meaning in many of these seems to be midway between

________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Ait. Ara@n. II 1-3.]

[Footnote 2: Keith's _Translation of Aitareya Aranyaka_.]

[Footnote 3: Hillebrandt's article on Brahman, _E.R.E._.]

37

"magical force" and "great," transition between which is
rather easy. Even when the sacrifices began to be replaced by
meditations, the old belief in the power of the sacrifices still
remained, and as a result of that we find that in many passages
of the Upani@sads people are thinking of meditating upon this
great force "Brahman" as being identified with diverse symbols,
natural objects, parts and functions of the body.

When the main interest of sacrifice was transferred from its
actual performance in the external world to certain forms of
meditation, we find that the understanding of particular allegories
of sacrifice having a relation to particular kinds of bodily functions
was regarded as Brahman, without a knowledge of which nothing
could be obtained. The fact that these allegorical interpretations
of the Pancagnividya are so much referred to in the Upani@sads
as a secret doctrine, shows that some people came to think that
the real efficacy of sacrifices depended upon such meditations.
When the sages rose to the culminating conception, that he is
really ignorant who thinks the gods to be different from him, they
thought that as each man was nourished by many beasts, so the
gods were nourished by each man, and as it is unpleasant for a
man if any of his beasts are taken away, so it is unpleasant for
the gods that men should know this great truth. [Footnote ref 1].

In the Kena we find it indicated that all the powers of
the gods such as that of Agni (fire) to burn, Vayu (wind) to
blow, depended upon Brahman, and that it is through Brahman
that all the gods and all the senses of man could work. The
whole process of Upani@sad thought shows that the magic power
of sacrifices as associated with @Rta (unalterable law) was being
abstracted from the sacrifices and conceived as the supreme power.
There are many stories in the Upani@sads of the search after the
nature of this great power the Brahman, which was at first only
imperfectly realized. They identified it with the dominating power
of the natural objects of wonder, the sun, the moon, etc. with
bodily and mental functions and with various symbolical
representations, and deluded themselves for a time with the idea
that these were satisfactory. But as these were gradually found
inadequate, they came to the final solution, and the doctrine of
the inner self of man as being the highest truth the Brahman
originated.

___________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: B@rh. I. 4. 10.]

38

The meaning of the word Upani@sad.

The word Upani@sad is derived from the root _sad_ with the prefix
_ni_ (to sit), and Max Muller says that the word originally meant the
act of sitting down near a teacher and of submissively listening to
him. In his introduction to the Upani@sads he says, "The history
and the genius of the Sanskrit language leave little doubt that
Upani@sad meant originally session, particularly a session consisting
of pupils, assembled at a respectful distance round their teacher
[Footnote ref 1]." Deussen points out that the word means "secret" or
"secret instruction," and this is borne out by many of the passages of
the Upani@sads themselves. Max Muller also agrees that the word was used
in this sense in the Upani@sads [Footnote ref 2]. There we find that
great injunctions of secrecy are to be observed for the communication
of the doctrines, and it is said that it should only be given to a
student or pupil who by his supreme moral restraint and noble desires
proves himself deserving to hear them. S'ankara however, the
great Indian exponent of the Upani@sads, derives the word from
the root _sad_ to destroy and supposes that it is so called because it
destroys inborn ignorance and leads to salvation by revealing the
right knowledge. But if we compare the many texts in which the
word Upani@sad occurs in the Upani@sads themselves it seems that
Deussen's meaning is fully justified [Footnote ref 3].

The composition and growth of diverse Upani@sads.

The oldest Upani@sads are written in prose. Next to these we
have some in verses very similar to those that are to be found in
classical Sanskrit. As is easy to see, the older the Upani@sad the
more archaic is it in its language. The earliest Upani@sads have
an almost mysterious forcefulness in their expressions at least to
Indian ears. They are simple, pithy and penetrate to the heart.
We can read and read them over again without getting tired.
The lines are always as fresh as ever. As such they have a charm
apart from the value of the ideas they intend to convey. The word
Upani@sad was used, as we have seen, in the sense of "secret
doctrine or instruction"; the Upani@sad teachings were also intended
to be conveyed in strictest secrecy to earnest enquirers of
high morals and superior self-restraint for the purpose of achieving

______________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Max Muller's _Translation of the Upanishads, S.B.E._ vol.
I.p. lxxxi.]

[Footnote 2: _S. B.E._ vol. I, p lxxxi.]

[Footnote 3: Deussen's _Philosophy of the Upanishads,_ pp. 10-15.]

39

emancipation. It was thus that the Upani@sad style of expression,
when it once came into use, came to possess the greatest charm and
attraction for earnest religious people; and as a result of that we
find that even when other forms of prose and verse had been
adapted for the Sanskrit language, the Upani@sad form of composition
had not stopped. Thus though the earliest Upani@sads
were compiled by 500 B C., they continued to be written even so
late as the spread of Mahommedan influence in India. The
earliest and most important are probably those that have been
commented upon by S'ankara namely B@rhadara@nyaka, Chandogya,
Aitareya, Taittiriya, Is'a, Kena, Katha, Pras'na, Mundaka and
Mandukya [Footnote ref 1]. It is important to note in this connection
that the separate Upani@sads differ much from one another with regard
to their content and methods of exposition. Thus while some of
them are busy laying great stress upon the monistic doctrine of
the self as the only reality, there are others which lay stress upon
the practice of Yoga, asceticism, the cult of S'iva, of Visnu and
the philosophy or anatomy of the body, and may thus be
respectively called the Yoga, S'aiva, Visnu and S'arira Upani@sads.
These in all make up the number to one hundred and eight.

Revival of Upani@sad studies in modern times.

How the Upani@sads came to be introduced into Europe is an
interesting story Dara Shiko the eldest son of the Emperor
Shah Jahan heard of the Upani@sads during his stay in Kashmir
in 1640. He invited several Pandits from Benares to Delhi, who
undertook the work of translating them into Persian. In 1775
Anquetil Duperron, the discoverer of the Zend Avesta, received
a manuscript of it presented to him by his friend Le Gentil, the
French resident in Faizabad at the court of Shuja-uddaulah.
Anquetil translated it into Latin which was published in 1801-1802.
This translation though largely unintelligible was read by
Schopenhauer with great enthusiasm. It had, as Schopenhauer
himself admits, profoundly influenced his philosophy. Thus he

______________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Deussen supposes that Kausitaki is also one of the earliest.
Max Mueller and Schroeder think that Maitray@ani also belongs to the
earliest group, whereas Deussen counts it as a comparatively later
production. Winternitz divides the Upani@sads into four periods. In
the first period he includes B@rhadara@nyaka, Chandogya, Taittiriya,
Aitareya, Kausitaki and Kena. In that second he includes Ka@thaka, Is'a,
S'vetas'vatara, Mu@ndaka, Mahanarayana, and in the third period he
includes Pras'na, Maitraya@ni and Man@dukya. The rest of the Upani@sads
he includes in the fourth period.]

40

writes in the preface to his _Welt als Wille und Vorstellung_
[Footnote ref 1], "And if, indeed, in addition to this he is a partaker
of the benefit conferred by the Vedas, the access to which, opened to
us through the Upanishads, is in my eyes the greatest advantage which
this still young century enjoys over previous ones, because I believe
that the influence of the Sanskrit literature will penetrate not less
deeply than did the revival of Greek literature in the fifteenth
century: if, I say, the reader has also already received and
assimilated the sacred, primitive Indian wisdom, then is he best
of all prepared to hear what I have to say to him....I might express
the opinion that each one of the individual and disconnected
aphorisms which make up the Upanishads may be deduced as
a consequence from the thought I am going to impart, though
the converse, that my thought is to be found in the Upanishads
is by no means the case." Again, "How does every line display
its firm, definite, and throughout harmonious meaning! From every
sentence deep, original, and sublime thoughts arise, and the whole
is pervaded by a high and holy and earnest spirit....In the whole
world there is no study, except that of the originals, so beneficial
and so elevating as that of the Oupanikhat. It has been the solace
of my life, it will be the solace of my death! [Footnote ref 2]" Through
Schopenhauer the study of the Upani@sads attracted much attention in
Germany and with the growth of a general interest in the study
of Sanskrit, they found their way into other parts of Europe as
well.

The study of the Upani@sads has however gained a great
impetus by the earnest attempts of our Ram Mohan Roy who
not only translated them into Bengali, Hindi and English and
published them at his own expense, but founded the Brahma
Samaj in Bengal, the main religious doctrines of which were
derived directly from the Upani@sads.

______________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Translation by Haldane and Kemp, vol. I. pp. xii and xiii.]

[Footnote 2: Max Muller says in his introduction to the Upanishada
(-_S.B.E._ I p. lxii; see also pp. lx, lxi) "that Schopenhauer should
have spoken of the Upanishads as 'products of the highest wisdom'...that
he should have placed the pantheism there taught high above the
pantheism of Bruno, Malebranche, Spinoza and Scotus Erigena, as brought
to light again at Oxford in 1681, may perhaps secure a more considerate
reception for those relics of ancient wisdom than anything that I could
say in their favour."]

41

The Upani@sads and their interpretations.

Before entering into the philosophy of the Upani@sads it may
be worth while to say a few words as to the reason why diverse
and even contradictory explanations as to the real import of the
Upani@sads had been offered by the great Indian scholars of past
times. The Upani@sads, as we have seen, formed the concluding
portion of the revealed Vedic literature, and were thus called the
Vedanta. It was almost universally believed by the Hindus that
the highest truths could only be found in the revelation of the
Vedas. Reason was regarded generally as occupying a comparatively
subservient place, and its proper use was to be found in its
judicious employment in getting out the real meaning of the
apparently conflicting ideas of the Vedas. The highest knowledge
of ultimate truth and reality was thus regarded as having
been once for all declared in the Upani@sads. Reason had only to
unravel it in the light of experience. It is important that readers
of Hindu philosophy should bear in mind the contrast that it
presents to the ruling idea of the modern world that new truths
are discovered by reason and experience every day, and even in
those cases where the old truths remain, they change their hue
and character every day, and that in matters of ultimate truths no
finality can ever be achieved; we are to be content only with as
much as comes before the purview of our reason and experience
at the time. It was therefore thought to be extremely audacious
that any person howsoever learned and brilliant he might be
should have any right to say anything regarding the highest
truths simply on the authority of his own opinion or the reasons
that he might offer. In order to make himself heard it was necessary
for him to show from the texts of the Upani@sads that they
supported him, and that their purport was also the same. Thus
it was that most schools of Hindu philosophy found it one of their
principal duties to interpret the Upani@sads in order to show that
they alone represented the true Vedanta doctrines. Any one
who should feel himself persuaded by the interpretations of any
particular school might say that in following that school he was
following the Vedanta.

The difficulty of assuring oneself that any interpretation is
absolutely the right one is enhanced by the fact that germs of
diverse kinds of thoughts are found scattered over the Upani@sads

42

which are not worked out in a systematic manner. Thus each
interpreter in his turn made the texts favourable to his own
doctrines prominent and brought them to the forefront, and tried
to repress others or explain them away. But comparing the
various systems of Upani@sad interpretation we find that the
interpretation offered by S'a@nkara very largely represents the view
of the general body of the earlier Upani@sad doctrines, though
there are some which distinctly foreshadow the doctrines of other
systems, but in a crude and germinal form. It is thus that Vedanta
is generally associated with the interpretation of S'a@nkara and
S'a@nkara's system of thought is called the Vedanta system, though
there are many other systems which put forth their claim as representing
the true Vedanta doctrines.

Under these circumstances it is necessary that a modern interpreter
of the Upani@sads should turn a deaf ear to the absolute
claims of these exponents, and look upon the Upani@sads not as
a systematic treatise but as a repository of diverse currents of
thought--the melting pot in which all later philosophic ideas were
still in a state of fusion, though the monistic doctrine of S'a@nkara,
or rather an approach thereto, may be regarded as the purport of
by far the largest majority of the texts. It will be better that a
modern interpreter should not agree to the claims of the ancients
that all the Upani@sads represent a connected system, but take the
texts independently and separately and determine their meanings,
though keeping an attentive eye on the context in which they
appear. It is in this way alone that we can detect the germs of
the thoughts of other Indian systems in the Upani@sads, and thus
find in them the earliest records of those tendencies of thoughts.

The quest after Brahman: the struggle and the failures.

The fundamental idea which runs through the early Upani@sads
is that underlying the exterior world of change there is an unchangeable
reality which is identical with that which underlies
the essence in man [Footnote ref 1]. If we look at Greek philosophy in
Parmenides or Plato or at modern philosophy in Kant, we find the
same tendency towards glorifying one unspeakable entity as the
reality or the essence. I have said above that the Upani@sads are

_______________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: B@rh. IV. 4. 5. 22.

43

no systematic treatises of a single hand, but are rather collations
or compilations of floating monologues, dialogues or anecdotes.
There are no doubt here and there simple discussions but there
is no pedantry or gymnastics of logic. Even the most casual
reader cannot but be struck with the earnestness and enthusiasm
of the sages. They run from place to place with great eagerness
in search of a teacher competent to instruct them about the nature
of Brahman. Where is Brahman? What is his nature?

We have noticed that during the closing period of the Sa@mhita
there were people who had risen to the conception of a single
creator and controller of the universe, variously called Prajapati,
Vis'vakarman, Puru@sa, Brahma@naspati and Brahman. But this
divine controller was yet only a deity. The search as to the
nature of this deity began in the Upani@sads. Many visible objects
of nature such as the sun or the wind on one hand and the various
psychological functions in man were tried, but none could render
satisfaction to the great ideal that had been aroused. The sages
in the Upani@sad had already started with the idea that there was
a supreme controller or essence presiding over man and the
universe. But what was its nature? Could it be identified with
any of the deities of Nature, was it a new deity or was it no deity
at all? The Upani@sads present to us the history of this quest and
the results that were achieved.

When we look merely to this quest we find that we have not
yet gone out of the Ara@nyaka ideas and of symbolic (_pratika_)
forms of worship. _Pra@na_ (vital breath) was regarded as the most
essential function for the life of man, and many anecdotes are
related to show that it is superior to the other organs, such as the
eye or ear, and that on it all other functions depend. This
recognition of the superiority of pra@na brings us to the meditations
on pra@na as Brahman as leading to the most beneficial results.
So also we find that owing to the presence of the exalting
characters of omnipresence and eternality _akas'a_ (space) is
meditated upon as Brahman. So also manas and Aditya (sun)
are meditated upon as Brahman. Again side by side with the
visible material representation of Brahman as the pervading Vayu,
or the sun and the immaterial representation as akas'a, manas or
pra@na, we find also the various kinds of meditations as substitutes
for actual sacrifice. Thus it is that there was an earnest quest
after the discovery of Brahman. We find a stratum of thought

44

which shows that the sages were still blinded by the old ritualistic
associations, and though meditation had taken the place of sacrifice
yet this was hardly adequate for the highest attainment of
Brahman.

Next to the failure of the meditations we have to notice the
history of the search after Brahman in which the sages sought to
identify Brahman with the presiding deity of the sun, moon,
lightning, ether, wind, fire, water, etc., and failed; for none of
these could satisfy the ideal they cherished of Brahman. It is
indeed needless here to multiply these examples, for they are
tiresome not only in this summary treatment but in the original
as well. They are of value only in this that they indicate how
toilsome was the process by which the old ritualistic associations
could be got rid of; what struggles and failures the sages had to
undergo before they reached a knowledge of the true nature of
Brahman.

Unknowability of Brahman and the Negative Method.

It is indeed true that the magical element involved in the
discharge of sacrificial duties lingered for a while in the symbolic
worship of Brahman in which He was conceived almost as a deity.
The minds of the Vedic poets so long accustomed to worship
deities of visible manifestation could not easily dispense with the
idea of seeking after a positive and definite content of Brahman.
They tried some of the sublime powers of nature and also many
symbols, but these could not render ultimate satisfaction. They
did not know what the Brahman was like, for they had only a
dim and dreamy vision of it in the deep craving of their souls
which could not be translated into permanent terms. But this
was enough to lead them on to the goal, for they could not be
satisfied with anything short of the highest.

They found that by whatever means they tried to give a
positive and definite content of the ultimate reality, the Brahman,
they failed. Positive definitions were impossible. They could not
point out what the Brahman was like in order to give an utterance
to that which was unutterable, they could only say that it was not
like aught that we find in experience. Yajnavalkya said "He
the atman is not this, nor this (_neti neti_). He is inconceivable,
for he cannot be conceived, unchangeable, for he is not changed,
untouched, for nothing touches him; he cannot suffer by a stroke

45

of the sword, he cannot suffer any injury [Footnote ref 1]." He is
_asat_, non-being, for the being which Brahman is, is not to be
understood as such being as is known to us by experience; yet he is
being, for he alone is supremely real, for the universe subsists by
him. We ourselves are but he, and yet we know not what he is. Whatever
we can experience, whatever we can express, is limited, but he is the
unlimited, the basis of all. "That which is inaudible, intangible,
invisible, indestructible, which cannot be tasted, nor smelt, eternal,
without beginning or end, greater than the great (_mahat_), the fixed.
He who knows it is released from the jaws of death [Footnote ref 2]."
Space, time and causality do not appertain to him, for he at once forms
their essence and transcends them. He is the infinite and the vast, yet
the smallest of the small, at once here as there, there as here; no
characterisation of him is possible, otherwise than by the denial
to him of all empirical attributes, relations and definitions. He
is independent of all limitations of space, time, and cause which
rules all that is objectively presented, and therefore the empirical
universe. When Bahva was questioned by Va@skali, he expounded
the nature of Brahman to him by maintaining silence--"Teach
me," said Va@skali, "most reverent sir, the nature of Brahman."
Bahva however remained silent. But when the question was put
forth a second or third time he answered, "I teach you indeed but
you do not understand; the Atman is silence [Footnote ref 3]." The way
to indicate it is thus by _neti neti_, it is not this, it is not this.
We cannot describe it by any positive content which is always limited
by conceptual thought.

The Atman doctrine.

The sum and substance of the Upani@sad teaching is involved
in the equation Atman=Brahman. We have already seen that the
word Atman was used in the @Rg-Veda to denote on the one hand
the ultimate essence of the universe, and on the other the vital
breath in man. Later on in the Upani@sads we see that the word
Brahman is generally used in the former sense, while the word
Atman is reserved to denote the inmost essence in man, and the

_________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: B@rh. IV. 5. 15. Deussen, Max Muller and Roer have all
misinterpreted this passage; _asito_ has been interpreted as an
adjective or participle, though no evidence has ever been adduced;
it is evidently the ablative of _asi_, a sword.]

[Footnote 2: Ka@tha III. 15.]

[Footnote 3: Sa@nkara on _Brahmasutra_, III. 2. 17, and also Deussen,
_Philosophy of the Upanishads_, p. 156.]

46

Upani@sads are emphatic in their declaration that the two are one
and the same. But what is the inmost essence of man? The self
of man involves an ambiguity, as it is used in a variety of senses.
Thus so far as man consists of the essence of food (i.e. the physical
parts of man) he is called _annamaya_. But behind the sheath of
this body there is the other self consisting of the vital breath
which is called the self as vital breath (_pra@namaya atman_).
Behind this again there is the other self "consisting of will" called
the _manomaya atman_. This again contains within it the self
"consisting of consciousness" called the _vijnanamaya atman_. But
behind it we come to the final essence the self as pure bliss (the
_anandamaya atman_). The texts say: "Truly he is the rapture;
for whoever gets this rapture becomes blissful. For who could
live, who could breathe if this space (_akas'a_) was not bliss? For
it is he who behaves as bliss. For whoever in that Invisible,
Self-surpassing, Unspeakable, Supportless finds fearless support, he
really becomes fearless. But whoever finds even a slight difference,
between himself and this Atman there is fear for him [Footnote ref 1]."

Again in another place we find that Prajapati said: "The self
(_atman_) which is free from sin, free from old age, from death and
grief, from hunger and thirst, whose desires are true, whose cogitations
are true, that is to be searched for, that is to be enquired;
he gets all his desires and all worlds who knows that self [Footnote
ref 2]." The gods and the demons on hearing of this sent Indra and
Virocana respectively as their representatives to enquire of this self
from Prajapati. He agreed to teach them, and asked them to look
into a vessel of water and tell him how much of self they could
find. They answered: "We see, this our whole self, even to the
hair, and to the nails." And he said, "Well, that is the self, that
is the deathless and the fearless, that is the Brahman." They went
away pleased, but Prajapati thought, "There they go away,
without having discovered, without having realized the self."
Virocana came away with the conviction that the body was the
self; but Indra did not return back to the gods, he was afraid and
pestered with doubts and came back to Prajapati and said, "just
as the self becomes decorated when the body is decorated, well-dressed
when the body is well-dressed, well-cleaned when the
body is well-cleaned, even so that image self will be blind when
the body is blind, injured in one eye when the body is injured in
one eye, and mutilated when the body is mutilated, and it perishes

_____________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Taitt. II. 7.]

[Footnote 2: Cha. VIII. 7. 1.]

47

when the body perishes, therefore I can see no good in this theory."
Prajapati then gave him a higher instruction about the self, and
said, "He who goes about enjoying dreams, he is the self, this
is the deathless, the fearless, this is Brahman." Indra departed
but was again disturbed with doubts, and was afraid and came
back and said "that though the dream self does not become blind
when the body is blind, or injured in one eye when the body is
so injured and is not affected by its defects, and is not killed by
its destruction, but yet it is as if it was overwhelmed, as if it
suffered and as if it wept--in this I see no good." Prajapati gave a
still higher instruction: "When a man, fast asleep, in total
contentment, does not know any dreams, this is the self, this is the
deathless, the fearless, this is Brahman." Indra departed but was
again filled with doubts on the way, and returned again and said "the
self in deep sleep does not know himself, that I am this, nor does
he know any other existing objects. He is destroyed and lost.
I see no good in this." And now Prajapati after having given a
course of successively higher instructions as self as the body, as
the self in dreams and as the self in deep dreamless sleep, and
having found that the enquirer in each case could find out that this
was not the ultimate truth about the self that he was seeking,
ultimately gave him the ultimate and final instruction about the
full truth about the self, and said "this body is the support of the
deathless and the bodiless self. The self as embodied is affected
by pleasure and pain, the self when associated with the body cannot
get rid of pleasure and pain, but pleasure and pain do not
touch the bodiless self [Footnote ref 1]."

As the anecdote shows, they sought such a constant and unchangeable
essence in man as was beyond the limits of any change.
This inmost essence has sometimes been described as pure
subject-object-less consciousness, the reality, and the bliss. He is
the seer of all seeing, the hearer of all hearing and the knower of all
knowledge. He sees but is not seen, hears but is not heard, knows
but is not known. He is the light of all lights. He is like a lump
of salt, with no inner or outer, which consists through and through
entirely of savour; as in truth this Atman has no inner or outer,
but consists through and through entirely of knowledge. Bliss is
not an attribute of it but it is bliss itself. The state of Brahman
is thus likened unto the state of dreamless sleep. And he who
has reached this bliss is beyond any fear. It is dearer to us than

____________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Cha. VIII. 7-12.]

48

son, brother, wife, or husband, wealth or prosperity. It is for it
and by it that things appear dear to us. It is the dearest _par
excellence_, our inmost Atman. All limitation is fraught with pain;
it is the infinite alone that is the highest bliss. When a man
receives this rapture, then is he full of bliss; for who could breathe,
who live, if that bliss had not filled this void (_akas'a_)? It is he
who behaves as bliss. For when a man finds his peace, his fearless
support in that invisible, supportless, inexpressible, unspeakable
one, then has he attained peace.

Place of Brahman in the Upani@sads.

There is the atman not in man alone but in all objects of the
universe, the sun, the moon, the world; and Brahman is this atman.
There is nothing outside the atman, and therefore there is no
plurality at all. As from a lump of clay all that is made of clay
is known, as from an ingot of black iron all that is made of
black iron is known, so when this atman the Brahman is known
everything else is known. The essence in man and the essence
of the universe are one and the same, and it is Brahman.

Now a question may arise as to what may be called the nature
of the phenomenal world of colour, sound, taste, and smell. But
we must also remember that the Upani@sads do not represent so
much a conceptional system of philosophy as visions of the seers
who are possessed by the spirit of this Brahman. They do not
notice even the contradiction between the Brahman as unity and
nature in its diversity. When the empirical aspect of diversity
attracts their notice, they affirm it and yet declare that it is all
Brahman. From Brahman it has come forth and to it will it
return. He has himself created it out of himself and then entered
into it as its inner controller (_antaryamin_). Here is thus a glaring
dualistic trait of the world of matter and Brahman as its controller,
though in other places we find it asserted most emphatically that
these are but names and forms, and when Brahman is known
everything else is known. No attempts at reconciliation are made
for the sake of the consistency of conceptual utterance, as
S'a@nkara the great professor of Vedanta does by explaining away
the dualistic texts. The universe is said to be a reality, but the
real in it is Brahman alone. It is on account of Brahman that
the fire burns and the wind blows. He is the active principle in
the entire universe, and yet the most passive and unmoved. The

49

world is his body, yet he is the soul within. "He creates all,
wills all, smells all, tastes all, he has pervaded all, silent and
unaffected [Footnote ref 1]." He is below, above, in the back, in front,
in the south and in the north, he is all this [Footnote ref 2]." These
rivers in the east and in the west originating from the ocean, return
back into it and become the ocean themselves, though they do not know
that they are so. So also all these people coming into being from the
Being do not know that they have come from the Being...That which
is the subtlest that is the self, that is all this, the truth, that self
thou art O S'vetaketu [Footnote ref 3]." "Brahman," as Deussen points out,
"was regarded as the cause antecedent in time, and the universe
as the effect proceeding from it; the inner dependence of the
universe on Brahman and its essential identity with him was
represented as a creation of the universe by and out of Brahman."
Thus it is said in Mund. I.I. 7:

As a spider ejects and retracts (the threads),
As the plants shoot forth on the earth,
As the hairs on the head and body of the living man,
So from the imperishable all that is here.
As the sparks from the well-kindled fire,
In nature akin to it, spring forth in their thousands,
So, my dear sir, from the imperishable
Living beings of many kinds go forth,
And again return into him [Footnote ref 4].

Yet this world principle is the dearest to us and the highest
teaching of the Upani@sads is "That art thou."

Again the growth of the doctrine that Brahman is the "inner
controller" in all the parts and forces of nature and of mankind as
the atman thereof, and that all the effects of the universe are the
result of his commands which no one can outstep, gave rise to a
theistic current of thought in which Brahman is held as standing
aloof as God and controlling the world. It is by his ordaining, it
is said, that the sun and moon are held together, and the sky and
earth stand held together [Footnote ref 5]. God and soul are distinguished
again in the famous verse of S'vetas'vatara [Footnote ref 6]:

Two bright-feathered bosom friends
Flit around one and the same tree;
One of them tastes the sweet berries,
The other without eating merely gazes down.

______________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Cha. III. 14. 4.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._ VII. 25. i; also Mu@n@daka II. 2. ii.]

[Footnote 3: Cha. VI. 10.]

[Footnote 4: Deussen's translation in _Philosophy of the Upanishads_, p.
164.]

[Footnote 5: B@rh. III. 8. i.]

[Footnote 6: S'vetas'vatara IV. 6, and Mu@n@daka III. i, 1, also Deussen's
translation in _Philosophy of the Upanishads_, p. 177.]

50

But in spite of this apparent theistic tendency and the occasional
use of the word _Is'a_ or _Is'ana_, there seems to be no doubt
that theism in its true sense was never prominent, and this acknowledgement
of a supreme Lord was also an offshoot of the exalted
position of the atman as the supreme principle. Thus we read in
Kau@sitaki Upani@sad 3. 9, "He is not great by good deeds nor low
by evil deeds, but it is he makes one do good deeds whom he
wants to raise, and makes him commit bad deeds whom he wants
to lower down. He is the protector of the universe, he is the
master of the world and the lord of all; he is my soul (_atman_)."
Thus the lord in spite of his greatness is still my soul. There are
again other passages which regard Brahman as being at once
immanent and transcendent. Thus it is said that there is that
eternally existing tree whose roots grow upward and whose
branches grow downward. All the universes are supported in it
and no one can transcend it. This is that, "...from its fear the fire
burns, the sun shines, and from its fear Indra, Vayu and Death
the fifth (with the other two) run on [Footnote ref 1]."

If we overlook the different shades in the development of the
conception of Brahman in the Upani@sads and look to the main
currents, we find that the strongest current of thought which has
found expression in the majority of the texts is this that the
Atman or the Brahman is the only reality and that besides this
everything else is unreal. The other current of thought which is
to be found in many of the texts is the pantheistic creed that
identifies the universe with the Atman or Brahman. The third
current is that of theism which looks upon Brahman as the Lord
controlling the world. It is because these ideas were still in the
melting pot, in which none of them were systematically worked
out, that the later exponents of Vedanta, S'a@nkara, Ramanuja,
and others quarrelled over the meanings of texts in order to
develop a consistent systematic philosophy out of them. Thus it
is that the doctrine of Maya which is slightly hinted at once in
B@rhadara@nyaka and thrice in S'vetas'vatara, becomes the foundation
of S'a@nkara's philosophy of the Vedanta in which Brahman
alone is real and all else beside him is unreal [Footnote ref 2].

_________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Ka@tha II. 6. 1 and 3.]

[Footnote 2: B@rh. II. 5. 19, S'vet. I. 10, IV. 9, 10.]

51

The World.

We have already seen that the universe has come out of
Brahman, has its essence in Brahman, and will also return back
to it. But in spite of its existence as Brahman its character as
represented to experience could not be denied. S'a@nkara held
that the Upani@sads referred to the external world and accorded
a reality to it consciously with the purpose of treating it as merely
relatively real, which will eventually appear as unreal as soon
as the ultimate truth, the Brahman, is known. This however
remains to be modified to this extent that the sages had not
probably any conscious purpose of according a relative reality to
the phenomenal world, but in spite of regarding Brahman as the
highest reality they could not ignore the claims of the exterior
world, and had to accord a reality to it. The inconsistency of this
reality of the phenomenal world with the ultimate and only
reality of Brahman was attempted to be reconciled by holding
that this world is not beside him but it has come out of him, it
is maintained in him and it will return back to him.

The world is sometimes spoken of in its twofold aspect, the
organic and the inorganic. All organic things, whether plants,
animals or men, have souls [Footnote ref 1]. Brahman desiring to be many
created fire (_tejas_), water (_ap_) and earth (_k@siti_). Then the
self-existent Brahman entered into these three, and it is by their
combination that all other bodies are formed [Footnote ref 2]. So all
other things are produced as a result of an alloying or compounding
of the parts of these three together. In this theory of the threefold
division of the primitive elements lies the earliest germ of the later
distinction (especially in the Sa@mkhya school) of pure infinitesimal
substances (_tanmatra_) and gross elements, and the theory that each
gross substance is composed of the atoms of the primary elements. And
in Pras'na IV. 8 we find the gross elements distinguished from their
subtler natures, e.g. earth (_p@rthivi_), and the subtler state of earth
(_p@rthivimatra_). In the Taittiriya, II. 1, however, ether (_akas'a_)
is also described as proceeding from Brahman, and the other elements,
air, fire, water, and earth, are described as each proceeding
directly from the one which directly preceded it.

____________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Cha. VI.11.]

[Footnote 2: _ibid._ VI.2,3,4.]

52

The World-Soul.

The conception of a world-soul related to the universe as the
soul of man to his body is found for the first time in R.V.X. 121. I,
where he is said to have sprung forth as the firstborn of creation
from the primeval waters. This being has twice been referred
to in the S'vetas'vatara, in III. 4 and IV. 12. It is indeed very strange
that this being is not referred to in any of the earlier Upani@sads.
In the two passages in which he has been spoken of, his mythical
character is apparent. He is regarded as one of the earlier
products in the process of cosmic creation, but his importance
from the point of view of the development of the theory of
Brahman or Atman is almost nothing. The fact that neither the
Puru@sa, nor the Vis'vakarma, nor the Hira@nyagarbha played an
important part in the earlier development of the Upani@sads
leads me to think that the Upani@sad doctrines were not directly
developed from the monotheistic tendencies of the later @Rg-Veda
speculations. The passages in S'vetas'vatara clearly show how from
the supreme eminence that he had in R.V.X. 121, Hira@nyagarbha
had been brought to the level of one of the created beings. Deussen
in explaining the philosophical significance of the Hira@nyagarbha
doctrine of the Upani@sads says that the "entire objective universe is
possible only in so far as it is sustained by a knowing subject. This
subject as a sustainer of the objective universe is manifested in
all individual objects but is by no means identical with them. For
the individual objects pass away but the objective universe continues
to exist without them; there exists therefore the eternal
knowing subject also (_hira@nyagarbha_) by whom it is sustained.
Space and time are derived from this subject. It is itself accordingly
not in space and does not belong to time, and therefore
from an empirical point of view it is in general non-existent; it
has no empirical but only a metaphysical reality [Footnote ref 1]." This
however seems to me to be wholly irrelevant, since the Hira@nyagarbha
doctrine cannot be supposed to have any philosophical importance
in the Upani@sads.

The Theory of Causation.

There was practically no systematic theory of causation in the
Upani@sads. S'a@nkara, the later exponent of Vedanta philosophy,
always tried to show that the Upani@sads looked upon the cause

___________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Deussen's _Philosophy of the Upanishads_, p. 201.]

53

as mere ground of change which though unchanged in itself in
reality had only an appearance of suffering change. This he did
on the strength of a series of examples in the Chandogya
Upani@sad (VI. 1) in which the material cause, e.g. the clay, is
spoken of as the only reality in all its transformations as the pot,
the jug or the plate. It is said that though there are so many
diversities of appearance that one is called the plate, the other the
pot, and the other the jug, yet these are only empty distinctions of
name and form, for the only thing real in them is the earth which
in its essence remains ever the same whether you call it the pot,
plate, or Jug. So it is that the ultimate cause, the unchangeable
Brahman, remains ever constant, though it may appear to suffer
change as the manifold world outside. This world is thus only
an unsubstantial appearance, a mirage imposed upon Brahman,
the real _par excellence_.

It seems however that though such a view may be regarded
as having been expounded in the Upani@sads in an imperfect
manner, there is also side by side the other view which looks
upon the effect as the product of a real change wrought in the
cause itself through the action and combination of the elements
of diversity in it. Thus when the different objects of nature have
been spoken of in one place as the product of the combination
of the three elements fire, water and earth, the effect signifies a real
change produced by their compounding. This is in germ (as we
shall see hereafter) the Pari@nama theory of causation advocated
by the Sa@mkhya school [Footnote ref 1].

Doctrine of Transmigration.

When the Vedic people witnessed the burning of a dead body
they supposed that the eye of the man went to the sun, his breath
to the wind, his speech to the fire, his limbs to the different parts
of the universe. They also believed as we have already seen in
the recompense of good and bad actions in worlds other than our
own, and though we hear of such things as the passage of the
human soul into trees, etc., the tendency towards transmigration
had but little developed at the time.

In the Upani@sads however we find a clear development in
the direction of transmigration in two distinct stages. In the one
the Vedic idea of a recompense in the other world is combined with

____________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Cha. VI. 2-4.]

54

the doctrine of transmigration, whereas in the other the doctrine
of transmigration comes to the forefront in supersession of the
idea of a recompense in the other world. Thus it is said that
those who performed charitable deeds or such public works as the
digging of wells, etc., follow after death the way of the fathers
(_pit@ryana_), in which the soul after death enters first into smoke,
then into night, the dark half of the month, etc., and at last reaches
the moon; after a residence there as long as the remnant of his
good deeds remains he descends again through ether, wind, smoke,
mist, cloud, rain, herbage, food and seed, and through the assimilation
of food by man he enters the womb of the mother and is
born again. Here we see that the soul had not only a recompense
in the world of the moon, but was re-born again in this world [Footnote
ref 1].

The other way is the way of gods (_devayana_), meant for those
who cultivate faith and asceticism (_tapas_). These souls at death
enter successively into flame, day, bright half of the month, bright
half of the year, sun, moon, lightning, and then finally into
Brahman never to return. Deussen says that "the meaning of
the whole is that the soul on the way of the gods reaches regions
of ever-increasing light, in which is concentrated all that is bright
and radiant as stations on the way to Brahman the 'light of
lights'" (_jyoti@sa@m jyoti@h_) [Footnote ref 2].

The other line of thought is a direct reference to the doctrine
of transmigration unmixed with the idea of reaping the fruits of
his deeds (_karma_) by passing through the other worlds and without
reference to the doctrine of the ways of the fathers and gods,
the _Yanas_. Thus Yajnavalkya says, "when the soul becomes
weak (apparent weakness owing to the weakness of the body with
which it is associated) and falls into a swoon as it were, these senses
go towards it. It (Soul) takes these light particles within itself and
centres itself only in the heart. Thus when the person in the eye
turns back, then the soul cannot know colour; (the senses) become
one (with him); (people about him) say he does not see; (the senses)
become one (with him), he does not smell, (the senses) become
one (with him), he does not taste, (the senses) become one (with
him), he does not speak, (the senses) become one (with him), he
does not hear, (the senses) become one (with him), he does not
think, (the senses) become one with him, he does not touch, (the
senses) become one with him, he does not know, they say. The

___________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Cha. V. 10.]

[Footnote 2: Deussen's _Philosophy of the Upanishads_, p. 335.]

55

tip of his heart shines and by that shining this soul goes out.
When he goes out either through the eye, the head, or by any
other part of the body, the vital function (_pra@na_) follows and all
the senses follow the vital function (_pra@na_) in coming out. He
is then with determinate consciousness and as such he comes
out. Knowledge, the deeds as well as previous experience (_prajna_)
accompany him. Just as a caterpillar going to the end of a blade
of grass, by undertaking a separate movement collects itself, so
this self after destroying this body, removing ignorance, by a
separate movement collects itself. Just as a goldsmith taking a
small bit of gold, gives to it a newer and fairer form, so the soul
after destroying this body and removing ignorance fashions a
newer and fairer form as of the Pit@rs, the Gandharvas, the gods,
of Prajapati or Brahma or of any other being....As he acts and
behaves so he becomes, good by good deeds, bad by bad deeds,
virtuous by virtuous deeds and vicious by vice. The man is full
of desires. As he desires so he wills, as he wills so he works, as
the work is done so it happens. There is also a verse, being
attached to that he wants to gain by karma that to which he
was attached. Having reaped the full fruit (lit. gone to the
end) of the karma that he does here, he returns back to this
world for doing karma [Footnote ref 1]. So it is the case with those who
have desires. He who has no desires, who had no desires, who has
freed himself from all desires, is satisfied in his desires and in
himself, his senses do not go out. He being Brahma attains
Brahmahood. Thus the verse says, when all the desires that are
in his heart are got rid of, the mortal becomes immortal and
attains Brahma here" (B@rh. IV. iv. 1-7).

A close consideration of the above passage shows that the
self itself destroyed the body and built up a newer and fairer
frame by its own activity when it reached the end of the present
life. At the time of death, the self collected within itself all
senses and faculties and after death all its previous knowledge,
work and experience accompanied him. The falling off of the
body at the time of death is only for the building of a newer
body either in this world or in the other worlds. The self which
thus takes rebirth is regarded as an aggregation of diverse categories.
Thus it is said that "he is of the essence of understanding,

__________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: It is possible that there is a vague and obscure reference
here to the doctrine that the fruits of our deeds are reaped in other
worlds.]

56

of the vital function, of the visual sense, of the auditory sense, of
the essence of the five elements (which would make up the
physical body in accordance with its needs) or the essence of desires,
of the essence of restraint of desires, of the essence of anger, of
the essence of turning off from all anger, of the essence of dharma,
of the essence of adharma, of the essence of all that is this
(manifest) and that is that (unmanifest or latent)" (B@rh. IV. iv. 5).
The self that undergoes rebirth is thus a unity not only of moral
and psychological tendencies, but also of all the elements which
compose the physical world. The whole process of his changes
follows from this nature of his; for whatever he desires, he wills
and whatever he wills he acts, and in accordance with his acts
the fruit happens. The whole logic of the genesis of karma and
its fruits is held up within him, for he is a unity of the moral
and psychological tendencies on the one hand and elements of
the physical world on the other.

The self that undergoes rebirth being a combination of diverse
psychological and moral tendencies and the physical elements
holds within itself the principle of all its transformations. The
root of all this is the desire of the self and the consequent fruition
of it through will and act. When the self continues to desire and
act, it reaps the fruit and comes again to this world for performing
acts. This world is generally regarded as the field for performing
karma, whereas other worlds are regarded as places where the
fruits of karma are reaped by those born as celestial beings. But
there is no emphasis in the Upani@sads on this point. The Pit@ryana
theory is not indeed given up, but it seems only to form a part
in the larger scheme of rebirth in other worlds and sometimes in
this world too. All the course of these rebirths is effected by the
self itself by its own desires, and if it ceases to desire, it suffers no
rebirth and becomes immortal. The most distinctive feature of
this doctrine is this, that it refers to desires as the cause of rebirth
and not karma. Karma only comes as the connecting link between
desires and rebirth--for it is said that whatever a man desires he
wills, and whatever he wills he acts.

Thus it is said in another place "he who knowingly desires is
born by his desires in those places (accordingly), but for him whose
desires have been fulfilled and who has realized himself, all his
desires vanish here" (Mu@n@d III. 2. 2). This destruction of desires
is effected by the right knowledge of the self. "He who knows

57

his self as 'I am the person' for what wish and for what desire
will he trouble the body,...even being here if we know it, well if
we do not, what a great destruction" (B@rh. IV. iv. 12 and 14). "In
former times the wise men did not desire sons, thinking what
shall we do with sons since this our self is the universe" (B@rh. IV.
iv. 22). None of the complexities of the karma doctrine which
we find later on in more recent developments of Hindu thought
can be found in the Upani@sads. The whole scheme is worked
out on the principle of desire (_kama_) and karma only serves as
the link between it and the actual effects desired and willed by
the person.

It is interesting to note in this connection that consistently
with the idea that desires (_kama_) led to rebirth, we find that
in some Upani@sads the discharge of the semen in the womb of a
woman as a result of desires is considered as the first birth of
man, and the birth of the son as the second birth and the birth
elsewhere after death is regarded as the third birth. Thus it is
said, "It is in man that there comes first the embryo, which is
but the semen which is produced as the essence of all parts of
his body and which holds itself within itself, and when it is put
in a woman, that is his first birth. That embryo then becomes
part of the woman's self like any part of her body; it therefore
does not hurt her; she protects and develops the embryo within
herself. As she protects (the embryo) so she also should be
protected. It is the woman who bears the embryo (before birth)
but when after birth the father takes care of the son always, he
is taking care only of himself, for it is through sons alone that
the continuity of the existence of people can be maintained. This
is his second birth. He makes this self of his a representative
for performing all the virtuous deeds. The other self of his after
realizing himself and attaining age goes away and when going
away he is born again that is his third birth" (Aitareya, II. 1-4)
[Footnote ref 1]. No special emphasis is given in the Upani@sads to
the sex-desire or the desire for a son; for, being called kama, whatever
was the desire for a son was the same as the desire for money and the
desire for money was the same as any other worldly desire (B@rh.
IV. iv. 22), and hence sex-desires stand on the same plane as any
other desire.

_____________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: See also Kau@sitaki, II. 15.]

58

Emancipation.

The doctrine which next attracts our attention in this connection
is that of emancipation (_mukti_). Already we know that the
doctrine of Devayana held that those who were faithful and performed
asceticism (_tapas_) went by the way of the gods through
successive stages never to return to the world and suffer rebirth.
This could be contrasted with the way of the fathers (_pit@ryana_)
where the dead were for a time recompensed in another world and
then had to suffer rebirth. Thus we find that those who are faithful
and perform _s'raddha_ had a distinctly different type of goal from
those who performed ordinary virtues, such as those of a general
altruistic nature. This distinction attains its fullest development
in the doctrine of emancipation. Emancipation or Mukti means
in the Upani@sads the state of infiniteness that a man attains
when he knows his own self and thus becomes Brahman. The
ceaseless course of transmigration is only for those who are
ignorant. The wise man however who has divested himself of all
passions and knows himself to be Brahman, at once becomes
Brahman and no bondage of any kind can ever affect him.

He who beholds that loftiest and deepest,
For him the fetters of the heart break asunder,
For him all doubts are solved,
And his works become nothingness [Footnote ref 1].

The knowledge of the self reveals the fact that all our passions
and antipathies, all our limitations of experience, all that is
ignoble and small in us, all that is transient and finite in us is
false. We "do not know" but are "pure knowledge" ourselves.
We are not limited by anything, for we are the infinite; we do
not suffer death, for we are immortal. Emancipation thus is not
a new acquisition, product, an effect, or result of any action, but
it always exists as the Truth of our nature. We are always
emancipated and always free. We do not seem to be so and
seem to suffer rebirth and thousands of other troubles only because
we do not know the true nature of our self. Thus it is that the
true knowledge of self does not lead to emancipation but is
emancipation itself. All sufferings and limitations are true only
so long as we do not know our self. Emancipation is the natural
and only goal of man simply because it represents the true nature
and essence of man. It is the realization of our own nature that

_____________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Deussen's _Philosophy of the Upanishads_, p. 352.]

59

is called emancipation. Since we are all already and always in
our own true nature and as such emancipated, the only thing
necessary for us is to know that we are so. Self-knowledge is therefore
the only desideratum which can wipe off all false knowledge,
all illusions of death and rebirth. The story is told in the Ka@tha
Upani@sad that Yama, the lord of death, promised Naciketas,
the son of Gautama, to grant him three boons at his choice.
Naciketas, knowing that his father Gautama was offended with
him, said, "O death let Gautama be pleased in mind and forget
his anger against me." This being granted Naciketas asked the
second boon that the fire by which heaven is gained should be
made known to him. This also being granted Naciketas said,
"There is this enquiry, some say the soul exists after the death
of man; others say it does not exist. This I should like to know
instructed by thee. This is my third boon." Yama said, "It was
inquired of old, even by the gods; for it is not easy to understand
it. Subtle is its nature, choose another boon. Do not
compel me to this." Naciketas said, "Even by the gods was it
inquired before, and even thou O Death sayest that it is not easy
to understand it, but there is no other speaker to be found like
thee. There is no other boon like this." Yama said, "Choose sons
and grandsons who may live a hundred years, choose herds of
cattle; choose elephants and gold and horses; choose the wide
expanded earth, and live thyself as many years as thou wishest.
Or if thou knowest a boon like this choose it together with wealth
and far-extending life. Be a king on the wide earth. I will make
thee the enjoyer of all desires. All those desires that are difficult
to gain in the world of mortals, all those ask thou at thy pleasure;
those fair nymphs with their chariots, with their musical instruments;
the like of them are not to be gained by men. I will give
them to thee, but do not ask the question regarding death."
Naciketas replied, "All those enjoyments are of to-morrow and
they only weaken the senses. All life is short, with thee the
dance and song. Man cannot be satisfied with wealth, we could
obtain wealth, as long as we did not reach you we live only as
long as thou pleasest. The boon which I choose I have said."
Yama said, "One thing is good, another is pleasant. Blessed is
he who takes the good, but he who chooses the pleasant loses
the object of man. But thou considering the objects of desire,
hast abandoned them. These two, ignorance (whose object is

60

what is pleasant) and knowledge (whose object is what is good),
are known to be far asunder, and to lead to different goals.
Believing that this world exists and not the other, the careless
youth is subject to my sway. That knowledge which thou hast
asked is not to be obtained by argument. I know worldly happiness
is transient for that firm one is not to be obtained by what
is not firm. The wise by concentrating on the soul, knowing him
whom it is hard to behold, leaves both grief and joy. Thee
O Naciketas, I believe to be like a house whose door is open to
Brahman. Brahman is deathless, whoever knows him obtains
whatever he wishes. The wise man is not born; he does not die;
he is not produced from anywhere. Unborn, eternal, the soul is
not slain, though the body is slain; subtler than what is subtle,
greater than what is great, sitting it goes far, lying it goes everywhere.
Thinking the soul as unbodily among bodies, firm among
fleeting things, the wise man casts off all grief. The soul cannot
be gained by eloquence, by understanding, or by learning. It
can be obtained by him alone whom it chooses. To him it reveals
its own nature [Footnote ref 1]." So long as the Self identifies itself
with its desires, he wills and acts according to them and reaps the
fruits in the present and in future lives. But when he comes to know the
highest truth about himself, that he is the highest essence and principle
of the universe, the immortal and the infinite, he ceases to have
desires, and receding from all desires realizes the ultimate truth
of himself in his own infinitude. Man is as it were the epitome
of the universe and he holds within himself the fine constituents
of the gross body (_annamaya ko@sa_), the vital functions (_pra@namaya
ko@sa_) of life, the will and desire (_manomaya_) and the
thoughts and ideas (_vijnanamaya_), and so long as he keeps himself
in these spheres and passes through a series of experiences
in the present life and in other lives to come, these experiences
are willed by him and in that sense created by him. He suffers
pleasures and pains, disease and death. But if he retires from
these into his true unchangeable being, he is in a state where he
is one with his experience and there is no change and no movement.
What this state is cannot be explained by the use of
concepts. One could only indicate it by pointing out that it is
not any of those concepts found in ordinary knowledge; it is not

_________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: Ka@tha II. The translation is not continuous. There are some
parts in the extract which may be differently interpreted.]

61

whatever one knows as this and this (_neti neti_). In this infinite
and true self there is no difference, no diversity, no _meum_ and
_tuum_. It is like an ocean in which all our phenomenal existence
will dissolve like salt in water. "Just as a lump of salt when put
in water will disappear in it and it cannot be taken out separately
but in whatever portion of water we taste we find the salt, so,
Maitreyi, does this great reality infinite and limitless consisting
only of pure intelligence manifesting itself in all these (phenomenal
existences) vanish in them and there is then no phenomenal knowledge"
(B@rh. II. 4. 12). The true self manifests itself in all the
processes of our phenomenal existences, but ultimately when it
retires back to itself, it can no longer be found in them. It is a
state of absolute infinitude of pure intelligence, pure being, and
pure blessedness.

62

CHAPTER IV

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE SYSTEMS
OF INDIAN PHILOSOPHY

In what Sense is a History of Indian Philosophy possible?

It is hardly possible to attempt a history of Indian philosophy
in the manner in which the histories of European philosophy have
been written. In Europe from the earliest times, thinkers came
one after another and offered their independent speculations
on philosophy. The work of a modern historian consists in
chronologically arranging these views and in commenting upon
the influence of one school upon another or upon the general
change from time to time in the tides and currents of philosophy.
Here in India, however, the principal systems of philosophy had
their beginning in times of which we have but scanty record, and
it is hardly possible to say correctly at what time they began,
or to compute the influence that led to the foundation of so many
divergent systems at so early a period, for in all probability these
were formulated just after the earliest Upani@sads had been composed
or arranged.

The systematic treatises were written in short and pregnant
half-sentences (_sutras_) which did not elaborate the subject in
detail, but served only to hold before the reader the lost threads
of memory of elaborate disquisitions with which he was already
thoroughly acquainted. It seems, therefore, that these pithy half-sentences
were like lecture hints, intended for those who had had
direct elaborate oral instructions on the subject. It is indeed
difficult to guess from the sutras the extent of their significance,
or how far the discussions which they gave rise to in later days were
originally intended by them. The sutras of the Vedanta system,
known as the S'ariraka-sutras or Brahma-sutras of Badaraya@na
for example were of so ambiguous a nature that they gave rise
to more than half a dozen divergent interpretations, each one
of which claimed to be the only faithful one. Such was the high
esteem and respect in which these writers of the sutras were held
by later writers that whenever they had any new speculations to

63

offer, these were reconciled with the doctrines of one or other of
the existing systems, and put down as faithful interpretations of
the system in the form of commentaries. Such was the hold of
these systems upon scholars that all the orthodox teachers since
the foundation of the systems of philosophy belonged to one or
other of these schools. Their pupils were thus naturally brought
up in accordance with the views of their teachers. All the independence
of their thinking was limited and enchained by the faith of the school
to which they were attached. Instead of producing a succession of
free-lance thinkers having their own systems to propound and establish,
India had brought forth schools of pupils who carried the traditionary
views of particular systems from generation to generation, who explained
and expounded them, and defended them against the attacks of other
rival schools which they constantly attacked in order to establish
the superiority of the system to which they adhered. To take an
example, the Nyaya system of philosophy consisting of a number
of half-sentences or sutras is attributed to Gautama, also called
Ak@sapada. The earliest commentary on these sutras, called the
_Vatsyayana bha@sya_, was written by Vatsyayana. This work was
sharply criticized by the Buddhist Di@nnaga, and to answer these
criticisms Udyotakara wrote a commentary on this commentary
called the _Bha@syavattika_ [Footnote ref 1]. As time went on the original
force of this work was lost, and it failed to maintain the old dignity of
the school. At this Vacaspati Mis'ra wrote a commentary called
_Varttika-tatparya@tika_ on this second commentary, where he tried
to refute all objections against the Nyaya system made by other
rival schools and particularly by the Buddhists. This commentary,
called _Nyaya-tatparya@tika_, had another commentary called
_Nyaya-tatparya@tika-paris'uddhi_ written by the great Udayana. This
commentary had another commentary called _Nyaya-nibandha-prakas'a_
written by Varddhamana the son of the illustrious Ga@nges'a. This
again had another commentary called _Varddha-manendu_ upon it by
Padmanabha Mis'ra, and this again had another named
_Nyaya-tatparyama@n@dana_ by S'a@nkara Mis'ra. The names of
Vatsyayana, Vacaspati, and Udayana are indeed very great,
but even they contented themselves by writing commentaries
on commentaries, and did not try to formulate any

_______________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: I have preferred to spell Di@nnaga after Vacaspati's
_Tatparyatika_ (p. I) and not Dignnaga as it is generally spelt.]

64

original system. Even S'a@nkara, probably the greatest man of
India after Buddha, spent his life in writing commentaries on the
_Brahma-sutras_, the Upani@sads, and the _Bhagavadgita_.

As a system passed on it had to meet unexpected opponents
and troublesome criticisms for which it was not in the least prepared.
Its adherents had therefore to use all their ingenuity and
subtlety in support of their own positions, and to discover the
defects of the rival schools that attacked them. A system as it was
originally formulated in the sutras had probably but few problems
to solve, but as it fought its way in the teeth of opposition of
other schools, it had to offer consistent opinions on other problems
in which the original views were more or less involved but to
which no attention had been given before.

The contributions of the successive commentators served to
make each system more and more complete in all its parts, and
stronger and stronger to enable it to hold its own successfully
against the opposition and attacks of the rival schools. A system
in the sutras is weak and shapeless as a newborn babe, but if
we take it along with its developments down to the beginning
of the seventeenth century it appears as a fully developed man
strong and harmonious in all its limbs. It is therefore not possible
to write any history of successive philosophies of India, but it is
necessity that each system should be studied and interpreted in
all the growth it has acquired through the successive ages of
history from its conflicts with the rival systems as one whole [Footnote
ref 1]. In the history of Indian philosophy we have no place for systems
which had their importance only so long as they lived and were
then forgotten or remembered only as targets of criticism. Each
system grew and developed by the untiring energy of its adherents
through all the successive ages of history, and a history of this
growth is a history of its conflicts. No study of any Indian system
is therefore adequate unless it is taken throughout all the growth
it attained by the work of its champions, the commentators whose
selfless toil for it had kept it living through the ages of history.

______________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: In the case of some systems it is indeed possible to suggest
one or two earlier phases of the system, but this principle cannot be
carried all through, for the supplementary information and arguments
given by the later commentators often appear as harmonious elaborations
of the earlier writings and are very seldom in conflict with them.]

65

Growth of the Philosophic Literature.

It is difficult to say how the systems were originally formulated,
and what were the influences that led to it. We know that a
spirit of philosophic enquiry had already begun in the days of the
earliest Upani@sads. The spirit of that enquiry was that the final
essence or truth was the atman, that a search after it was our
highest duty, and that until we are ultimately merged in it we
can only feel this truth and remain uncontented with everything
else and say that it is not the truth we want, it is not the truth we
want (_neti neti_). Philosophical enquires were however continuing
in circles other than those of the Upani@sads. Thus the Buddha
who closely followed the early Upani@sad period, spoke of and enumerated
sixty-two kinds of heresies [Footnote ref 1], and these can hardly be
traced in the Upani@sads. The Jaina activities were also probably
going on contemporaneously but in the Upani@sads no reference
to these can be found. We may thus reasonably suppose that there
were different forms of philosophic enquiry in spheres other than
those of the Upani@sad sages, of which we have but scanty records.
It seems probable that the Hindu systems of thought originated
among the sages who though attached chiefly to the Upani@sad
circles used to take note of the discussions and views of the antagonistic
and heretical philosophic circles. In the assemblies of these
sages and their pupils, the views of the heretical circles were probably
discussed and refuted. So it continued probably for some time
when some illustrious member of the assembly such as Gautama
or Kanada collected the purport of these discussions on various
topics and problems, filled up many of the missing links, classified
and arranged these in the form of a system of philosophy and
recorded it in sutras. These sutras were intended probably for
people who had attended the elaborate oral discussions and thus
could easily follow the meaning of the suggestive phrases contained
in the aphorisms. The sutras thus contain sometimes
allusions to the views of the rival schools and indicate the way in
which they could be refuted. The commentators were possessed
of the general drift of the different discussions alluded to and
conveyed from generation to generation through an unbroken
chain of succession of teachers and pupils. They were however
free to supplement these traditionary explanations with their own

__________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: _Brahmajala-sutta, Digha_, 1. p. 12 ff.]

66

views or to modify and even suppress such of the traditionary
views with which they did not agree or which they found it difficult
to maintain. Brilliant oppositions from the opposing schools
often made it necessary for them to offer solutions to new problems
unthought of before, but put forward by some illustrious adherent
of a rival school. In order to reconcile these new solutions with
the other parts of the system, the commentators never hesitated to
offer such slight modifications of the doctrines as could harmonize
them into a complete whole. These elaborations or modifications
generally developed the traditionary system, but did not effect any
serious change in the system as expounded by the older teachers,
for the new exponents always bound themselves to the explanations
of the older teachers and never contradicted them. They
would only interpret them to suit their own ideas, or say new things
only in those cases where the older teachers had remained silent.
It is not therefore possible to describe the growth of any system
by treating the contributions of the individual commentators separately.
This would only mean unnecessary repetition. Except
when there is a specially new development, the system is to be
interpreted on the basis of the joint work of the commentators
treating their contributions as forming one whole.

The fact that each system had to contend with other rival
systems in order to hold its own has left its permanent mark
upon all the philosophic literatures of India which are always
written in the form of disputes, where the writer is supposed to
be always faced with objections from rival schools to whatever
he has got to say. At each step he supposes certain objections
put forth against him which he answers, and points out the defects
of the objector or shows that the objection itself is ill founded. It
is thus through interminable byways of objections, counter-objections
and their answers that the writer can wend his way to his
destination. Most often the objections of the rival schools are
referred to in so brief a manner that those only who know the
views can catch them. To add to these difficulties the Sanskrit
style of most of the commentaries is so condensed and different
from literary Sanskrit, and aims so much at precision and brevity,
leading to the use of technical words current in the diverse systems,
that a study of these becomes often impossible without the aid
of an expert preceptor; it is difficult therefore for all who are not
widely read in all the different systems to follow any advanced

67

work of any particular system, as the deliberations of that particular
system are expressed in such close interconnection with
the views of other systems that these can hardly be understood
without them. Each system of India has grown (at least in
particular epochs) in relation to and in opposition to the growth
of other systems of thought, and to be a thorough student of Indian
philosophy one should study all the systems in their mutual
opposition and relation from the earliest times to a period at
which they ceased to grow and came to a stop--a purpose for
which a work like the present one may only be regarded as
forming a preliminary introduction.

Besides the sutras and their commentaries there are also independent
treatises on the systems in verse called _karikas_, which
try to summarize the important topics of any system in a succinct
manner; the _Sa@mkhya karika_ may be mentioned as a work of this
kind. In addition to these there were also long dissertations,
commentaries, or general observations on any system written in
verses called the varttikas; the _S'lokavarttika_, of Kumarila or the
_Varttika_ of Sures'vara may be mentioned as examples. All these
of course had their commentaries to explain them. In addition
to these there were also advanced treatises on the systems in prose
in which the writers either nominally followed some selected
sutras or proceeded independently of them. Of the former class
the _Nyayamanjari_ of Jayanta may be mentioned as an example
and of the latter the _Pras'astapada bha@sya_, the _Advaitasiddhi_ of
Madhusudana Sarasvati or the _Vedanta-paribha@sa_ of Dharmarajadhvarindra.
The more remarkable of these treatises were of a masterly nature in
which the writers represented the systems they adhered to in a highly
forcible and logical manner by dint of their own great mental powers
and genius. These also had their commentaries to explain and elaborate
them. The period of the growth of the philosophic literatures of India
begins from about 500 B.C. (about the time of the Buddha) and practically
ends in the later half of the seventeenth century, though even now some
minor publications are seen to come out.

The Indian Systems of Philosophy.

The Hindus classify the systems of philosophy into two classes,
namely, the _nastika_ and the _astika_. The nastika (_na asti_ "it is
not") views are those which neither regard the Vedas as infallible

68

nor try to establish their own validity on their authority. These are
principally three in number, the Buddhist, Jaina and the Carvaka.
The astika-mata or orthodox schools are six in number, Sa@mkhya,
Yoga, Vedanta, Mima@msa, Nyaya and Vais'e@sika, generally known
as the six systems (_@sa@ddars'ana_ [Footnote ref 1]).

The Sa@mkhya is ascribed to a mythical Kapila, but the
earliest works on the subject are probably now lost. The Yoga
system is attributed to Patanjali and the original sutras are called
the _Patanjala Yoga sutras_. The general metaphysical position
of these two systems with regard to soul, nature, cosmology and
the final goal is almost the same, and the difference lies in this
that the Yoga system acknowledges a god (_Is'vara_) as distinct
from Atman and lays much importance on certain mystical
practices (commonly known as Yoga practices) for the achievement
of liberation, whereas the Sa@mkhya denies the existence of
Is'vara and thinks that sincere philosophic thought and culture
are sufficient to produce the true conviction of the truth and
thereby bring about liberation. It is probable that the system
of Sa@mkhya associated with Kapila and the Yoga system
associated with Patanjali are but two divergent modifications of
an original Sa@mkhya school, of which we now get only references
here and there. These systems therefore though generally counted
as two should more properly be looked upon as two different
schools of the same Sa@mkhya system--one may be called the
Kapila Sa@mkhya and the other Patanjala Sa@mkhya.

The Purva Mima@msa (from the root _man_ to think--rational
conclusions) cannot properly be spoken of as a system of philosophy.
It is a systematized code of principles in accordance with
which the Vedic texts are to be interpreted for purposes of sacrifices.

______________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: The word "_dars'ana_" in the sense of true philosophic
knowledge has its earliest use in the _Vais'e@sika sutras_ of Ka@nada
(IX. ii. 13) which I consider as pre-Buddhistic. The Buddhist pi@takas
(400 B.C.) called the heretical opinions "_ditthi_" (Sanskrit--dr@sti
from the same root _d@rs'_ from which dars'ana is formed). Haribhadra
(fifth century A.D.) uses the word Dars'ana in the sense of systems of
philosophy (_sarvadars'anavacyo' rtha@h--@Sa@ddars'anasamuccaya_ I.).
Ratnakirtti (end of the tenth century A.D.) uses the word also in the
same sense ("_Yadi nama dars'ane dars'ane nanaprakaram sattvatak-@sanam
uktamasti._" _K@sa@nabha@ngasiddhi_ in _Six Buddhist Nyaya tracts_, p.20).
Madhava (1331 A.D.) calls his Compendium of all systems of philosophy,
_Sarvadars'anasa@mgra@na_. The word "_mata_" (opinion or view) was also
freely used in quoting the views of other systems. But there is no word
to denote 'philosophers' in the technical sense. The Buddhists used to call
those who held heretical views "_tairthika._" The words "siddha,"
"_jnanin_," etc. do not denote philosophers, in the modern sense, they are
used rather in the sense of "seers" or "perfects."]

69

The Vedic texts were used as mantras (incantations) for sacrifices,
and people often disputed as to the relation of words in a
sentence or their mutual relative importance with reference to the
general drift of the sentence. There were also differences of view
with regard to the meaning of a sentence, the use to which it may
be applied as a mantra, its relative importance or the exact
nature of its connection with other similar sentences in a complex
Vedic context. The Mima@msa formulated some principles according
to which one could arrive at rational and uniform solutions
for all these difficulties. Preliminary to these its main objects, it
indulges in speculations with regard to the external world, soul,
perception, inference, the validity of the Vedas, or the like, for in
order that a man might perform sacrifices with mantras, a definite
order of the universe and its relation to man or the position and
nature of the mantras of the Veda must be demonstrated and
established. Though its interest in such abstract speculations is
but secondary yet it briefly discusses these in order to prepare a
rational ground for its doctrine of the mantras and their practical
utility for man. It is only so far as there are these preliminary
discussions in the Mima@msa that it may be called a system of
philosophy. Its principles and maxims for the interpretation of
the import of words and sentences have a legal value even to this
day. The sutras of Mima@msa are attributed to Jaimini, and S'abara
wrote a bha@sya upon it. The two great names in the history of
Mima@msa literature after Jaimini and S'abara are Kumarila Bha@t@ta
and his pupil Prabhakara, who criticized the opinions of his master
so much, that the master used to call him guru (master) in sarcasm,
and to this day his opinions pass as _guru-mata_, whereas the views
of Kumarila Bha@t@ta pass as _bha@t@ta-mata_ [Footnote ref 1]. It may not
be out of place to mention here that Hindu Law (_sm@rti_) accepts without
any reservation the maxims and principles settled and formulated
by the Mima@msa.

__________________________________________________________________

[Footnote 1: There is a story that Kumarila could not understand the
meaning of a Sanskrit sentence "_Atra tunoktam tatrapinoktam iti
paunaraktam_" (hence spoken twice). _Tunoktam_ phonetically admits of
two combinations, _tu noktam_ (but not said) and _tunauktam_ (said by
the particle _tu_) and _tatrapi noktam_ as _tatra api na uktam_ (not
said also there) and _tatra apina uktam_ (said there by the particle
_api_). Under the first interpretation the sentence would mean, "Not
spoken here, not spoken there, it is thus spoken twice." This puzzled
Kumarila, when Prabhakara taking the second meaning pointed out to him
that the meaning was "here it is indicated by _tu_ and there by _api,_
and so it is indicated twice." Kumarila was so pleased that he called
his pupil "Guru" (master) at this.]

70

The _Vedanta sutras_, also called Uttara Mima@msa, written by
Badaraya@na, otherwise known as the _Brahma-sutras_, form the
original authoritative work of Vedanta. The word Vedanta means
"end of the Veda," i.e. the Upani@sads, and the _Vedanta sutras_ are
so called as they are but a summarized statement of the general
views of the Upani@sads. This work is divided into four books or
adhyayas and each adhyaya is divided into four padas or chapters.
The first four sutras of the work commonly known as _Catu@hsutri_
are (1) How to ask about Brahman, (2) From whom proceed birth
and decay, (3) This is because from him the Vedas have come forth,
(4) This is shown by the harmonious testimony of the Upani@sads.
The whole of the first chapter of the second book is devoted to
justifying the position of the Vedanta against the attacks of the
rival schools. The second chapter of the second book is busy in
dealing blows at rival systems. All the other parts of the book are
devoted to settling the disputed interpretations of a number of individual
Upani@sad texts. The really philosophical portion of the work is thus
limited to the first four sutras and the first and second chapters
of the second book. The other portions are like commentaries
to the Upani@sads, which however contain many theological
views of the system. The first commentary of the _Brahma-sutra_
was probably written by Baudhayana, which however is not
available now. The earliest commentary that is now found is that
of the great S'a@nkara. His interpretations of the _Brahma-sutras_
together with all the commentaries and other works that follow
his views are popularly known as Vedanta philosophy, though
this philosophy ought more properly to be called Vis'uddhadvaitavada
school of Vedanta philosophy (i.e. the Vedanta philosophy
of the school of absolute monism). Variant forms of dualistic
philosophy as represented by the Vai@s@navas, S'aivas, Ramayatas,
etc., also claim to express the original purport of the Brahma
sutras. We thus find that apostles of dualistic creeds such as
Ramanuja, Vallabha, Madhva, S'rika@n@tha, Baladeva, etc., have
written independent commentaries on the _Brahma-sutra_ to show
that the philosophy as elaborated by themselves is the view of
the Upani@sads and as summarized in the _Brahma-sutras_. These
differed largely and often vehemently attacked S'a@nkara's interpretations
of the same sutras. These systems as expounded by them also pass by
the name of Vedanta as these are also claimed to be the real
interpretations intended by the Vedanta (Upani@sads)

71

and the _Vedanta sutras_. Of these the system of Ramanuja has
great philosophical importance.

The _Nyaya sutras_ attributed to Gautama, called also Ak@sapada,
and the _Vais'e@sika sutras_ attributed to Ka@nada, called also Uluka,
represent the same system for all practical purposes. They are
in later times considered to differ only in a few points of minor
importance. So far as the sutras are concerned the _Nyaya sutras_
lay particular stress on the cultivation of logic as an art, while
the _Vais'e@sika sutras_ deal mostly with metaphysics and physics.
In addition to these six systems, the Tantras had also philosophies
of their own, which however may generally be looked upon
largely as modifications of the Sa@mkhya and Vedanta systems,
though their own contributions are also noteworthy.

Some fundamental Points of Agreement.

I. _The Karma Theory._

It is, however, remarkable that with the exception of the
Carvaka materialists all the other systems agree on some fundamental
points of importance. The systems of philosophy in India
were not stirred up merely by the speculative demands of the
human mind which has a natural inclination for indulging in
abstract thought, but by a deep craving after the realization of
the religious purpose of life. It is surprising to note that the
postulates, aims and conditions for such a realization were found
to be identical in all the conflicting systems. Whatever may be
their differences of opinion in other matters, so far as the general
postulates for the realization of the transcendent state, the _summum
bonum_ of life, were concerned, all the systems were practically in
thorough agreement. It may be worth while to note some of them
at this stage.

First, the theory of Karma and rebirth. All the Indian systems
agree in believing that whatever action is done by an individual
leaves behind it some sort of potency which has the power to
ordain for him joy or sorrow in the future according as it is good
or bad. When the fruits of the actions are such that they cannot
be enjoyed in the present life or in a human life, the individual
has to take another birth as a man or any other being in order to
suffer them.

The Vedic belief that the mantras uttered in the correct accent
at the sacrifices with the proper observance of all ritualistic

72

details, exactly according to the directions without the slightest
error even in the smallest trifle, had something like a magical
virtue automatically to produce the desired object immediately
or after a lapse of time, was probably the earliest form of the
Karma doctrine. It postulates a semi-conscious belief that certain
mystical actions can produce at a distant time certain effects
without the ordinary process of the instrumentality of visible
agents of ordinary cause and effect. When the sacrifice is performed,
the action leaves such an unseen magical virtue, called
the _ad@r@s@ta_ (the unseen) or the _apurva_ (new), that by it the desired
object will be achieved in a mysterious manner, for the _modus
operandi_ of the _apurva_ is unknown. There is also the notion
prevalent in the Sa@mhitas, as we have already noticed, that he
who commits wicked deeds suffers in another world, whereas he
who performs good deeds enjoys the highest material pleasures.
These were probably associated with the conception of _@rta_, the
inviolable order of things. Thus these are probably the elements
which built up the Karma theory which we find pretty well
established but not emphasized in the Upani@sads, where it is said
that according to good or bad actions men will have good or bad
births.

To notice other relevant points in connection with the Karma
doctrine as established in the astika systems we find that it was
believed that the unseen (_ad@r@s@ta_) potency of the action generally
required some time before it could be fit for giving the doer the
merited punishment or enjoyment. These would often accumulate
and prepare the items of suffering and enjoyment for the doer in
his next life. Only the fruits of those actions which are extremely
wicked or particularly good could be reaped in this life. The
nature of the next birth of a man is determined by the nature of
pleasurable or painful experiences that have been made ready for
him by his maturing actions of this life. If the experiences determined
for him by his action are such that they are possible to be
realized in the life of a goat, the man will die and be born as a
goat. As there is no ultimate beginning in time of this world
process, so there is no time at which any person first began his
actions or experiences. Man has had an infinite number of past
lives of the most varied nature, and the instincts of each kind of
life exist dormant in the life of every individual, and thus whenever
he has any particular birth as this or that animal or man,

73

the special instincts of that life (technically called _vasana_) come
forth. In accordance with these vasanas the person passes through
the painful or pleasurable experiences as determined for him by
his action. The length of life is also determined by the number
and duration of experiences as preordained by the fructifying
actions of his past life. When once certain actions become fit for
giving certain experiences, these cannot be avoided, but those
actions which have not matured are uprooted once for all if the
person attains true knowledge as advocated by philosophy. But
even such an emancipated (_mukta_) person has to pass through
the pleasurable or painful experiences ordained for him by the
actions just ripened for giving their fruits. There are four kinds
of actions, white or virtuous (_s'ukla_), black or wicked (_k@r@s@na_),
white-black or partly virtuous and partly vicious (_s'ukla-k@r@s@na_) as
most of our actions are, neither black nor white (_as'uklak@r@s@na_),
i.e. those acts of self-renunciation or meditation which are not
associated with any desires for the fruit. It is only when a person
can so restrain himself as to perform only the last kind of action
that he ceases to accumulate any new karma for giving fresh fruits.
He has thus only to enjoy the fruits of his previous karmas which
have ripened for giving fruits. If in the meantime he attains true
knowledge, all his past accumulated actions become destroyed,
and as his acts are only of the as'uklak@r@s@na type no fresh karma
for ripening is accumulated, and thus he becomes divested of all
karma after enjoying the fruits of the ripened karmas alone.

The Jains think that through the actions of body, speech
and mind a kind of subtle matter technically called karma is produced.
The passions of a man act like a viscous substance that
attracts this karma matter, which thus pours into the soul and
sticks to it. The karma matter thus accumulated round the soul
during the infinite number of past lives is technically called
_karmas'arira_, which encircles the soul as it passes on from birth
to birth. This karma matter sticking to the soul gradually ripens
and exhausts itself in ordaining the sufferance of pains or the enjoyment
of pleasures for the individual. While some karma matter is being
expended in this way, other karma matters are accumulating by

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