Narach Philosophy

GUNAS OR THE ATTRIBUTES OF THINGS


Let us now consider the character of Gunas or the inherent attributes of the objects of Nature. The different "elements" have their own attributes; and they are not eternal because the substances themselves are not eternal. All things are produced by means of a cause and through a process of development; and each is a separate entity.

The idea of small and large arises from certain special characteristics of things, and is obtained by means of comparison and contrast; so also that of eternal and non-eternal. In the same manner we can understand the idea of ignorance, ether, soul, mind, space, and Time.

The attributes of the "Elements": The attributes of form, taste, smell and touch, belonging to the "elements", are non-eternal, because the substances themselves are not eternal. The attributes of eternal things are eternal, and of non-eternal things non-eternal.

Production of things: Preceded by the attributes of their cause, all things on earth are produced by means of a process of ripening or development; and each is a single substance.

The idea of small and large: We can understand the idea of small and large in the same manner as that of the eternal. When we say that a particular thing is small or large, it is because it has certain special characteristics, and does not have certain other special characteristics.

Comparison and contrast: The idea of smallness or largeness is obtained by means of comparison and contrast with other things. Similarly, actions can be explained by means of other actions, and attributes by means of other attributes. Even so we can explain the idea of what is non-eternal by means of what is non-eternal, and of eternal by means of what is eternal. The eternal may be described as something round or circular.

Ignorance, ether, soul, mind, space and time: Ignorance or want of knowledge is itself a mark of knowledge. Ether is great because of its omnipresence; and so is the soul. The mind does not possess omnipresence, and is minute like an atom. Space (regions or the cardinal points of the compass) is explained by means of the idea of Gunas or the inherent attributes of the objects of Nature; and Time can be understood by means of the idea of a cause or an action.

We can get the idea of identity and separateness in the same manner, that is, by means of comparison and contrast. But there is no universal identity of actions and the attributes of things. We can understand the idea of the combination and division of things in the same manner. But it is not always possible to understand the combination and division of cause and effect.

Language is intended to express ideas correctly, and it is necessary to know how to interpret it. That will enable us to understand that the terms prior and posterior are relative terms; that actions can be understood by means of other actions, and attributes by means of other attributes; and we shall know the meaning of a thing being in a particular place, and the difference between substance and attribute.

The idea of identity and separateness: The idea of identity and separateness can be understood by means of comparison and contrast in the same manner as that of smallness and largeness.

No universal identity: There is no universal identity of actions and attributes, because they are innumerable, and each is different from the other; and the idea of universal identity would only cause confusion.

Combination of things: The combination of two things can be brought about in three ways, by the action of either of the two, of both separately, or of both together; and we can explain the idea of division in the same manner.

Means of understanding ideas: The idea of combination and division, as well as of action and attributes, can be obtained by means of comparison and contrast in the same manner as that of smallness and largeness.

Attributes and knowledge: If there is no proof of the union of things, we cannot see the combination or division of cause and effect; and that is so because Gunas (or the inherent attributes of things) are not the cause of the union or separation of things. But we can think of Gunas in a state of rest. This is called Prakrti by the Sankhya.

Language as a means of acquiring knowledge: Language is intended to express ideas correctly; but a word and its meaning are not always connected together. The idea of things is sometimes expressed by means of the consonants of a word; and the meaning of a consonant in a combination of consonants is what has been put into it by the author; while that of a word used in the common way arises from its own special characteristics. The proof of the meaning of a word is that there should be general agreement about it.

Relation between words and ideas: When we use a number of words in a sentence, one must come earlier than another, because they lie in the same direction. It is also possible that there is a cause for this; namely, that one idea precedes another.

Relative terms: The terms prior and posterior are relative terms, and can be understood in the same manner as small and large. Similarly, actions can be understood by means of other actions, and attributes by means of other attributes.

Relation of cause and effect: When we say that a particular thing is in a particular place, we get an idea of the inseparable relation of cause and effect.

Difference between substance and attribute: Substance and attribute are not the same thing, and we can understand the difference between them.

We can explain the idea of knowledge by means of substances, which include the soul and the mind, although they are not perceptible to the senses. But we should remember that the means of acquiring knowledge are part of the idea of knowledge. Indeed, attributes and actions are closely connected with substances; and the idea of what is general and special refers to all the three. Thus the idea of whiteness is closely connected with a white object; and we can get the idea of an object by means of a regular succession of a number of objects.

Knowledge and substances: We can explain the idea of knowledge primarily by means of substances; and the soul and the mind are included among the substances, although they cannot be perceived by the senses.

Knowledge and the means of acquiring it: The manner of acquiring knowledge is part of the idea of knowledge.

Attributes, actions and substances: Attributes and actions are closely connected with substances and we can acquire their knowledge by means of substances. The idea of what is general and special refers to substances, attributes, and actions; but the idea of substances attributes and actions can be understood only by reference to substances.

Thus whiteness and the idea of whiteness are closely knit together in a white substance; and that gives us the idea of whiteness. As a white substance is the cause of the idea of whiteness, the two are related as cause and effect. But we get the idea of substances by means of a regular succession of a number of substances; and that is possible because actions do not occur simultaneously, but only in a regular order of succession.

It is our intellect that enables us to understand the ideas and attributes of things. But certain attributes inhere in substances, e.g. smell in the "element" Earth. Similarly, Water, Fire and Air have their own attributes; and these "elements" may be said to be like Prakrti in respect of these attributes.

Function of the intellect: When we say "this that, done by you, feed him, etc.", we are able to do so because of the function of the intellect; and that is true of all things.

Prakrti and the "Elements": So far as our knowledge of smell is concerned, the Earth may be said to be Prakrti or its primary substance; and that is so because it is so large and possesses the attribute of smell. The same may be said of Water, Fire, and Air with reference to their respective attributes.

We can understand the idea of existence and non-existence in the same manner. Perception arises as a result of the union of the soul and the mind with a substance; and when substances are perceived, there can be a perception of attributes and actions. When there is perception of the soul, there can be a perception of its attributes too.

Existence and non-existence: When it is impossible to get any information regarding an action or an attribute, it is sometimes said to be non-existent. The whole universe that exists is also said to be originally non-existent. But it is really existent as well as non-existent even then; and there is no other meaning of existence or non-existence.

Existence and perception: We say that the past does not exist because it is not perceptible to the senses; but as soon as we recollect it, it becomes perceptible at once. Similarly, that which is non-existent becomes existent if it comes to be perceived.

Perception: When there is a special union of the soul and the mind in the soul, there is a clear perception of the soul. In the same manner, when there is union of the soul and the mind in connection with other substances, there is perception of those substances. When substances are perceived, there can be a perception of their attributes and actions too; and so when there is a perception of the soul, there can also be a perception of its attributes.

All this requires the use of language and the purpose of language is to describe the real characteristics of an object in a strictly logical manner. But that requires the function of the intellect too; and we can understand by its means how memory and dreams arise, and know the difference between ignorance and knowledge.

The purpose of language: A true statement, based on the characteristics of an object, should tell us all about its cause and effect, and what is combined with, opposed to, and inherent in it. This is the real purpose of language, to describe the real characteristics of an object in a strictly logical manner; and cause, statement of reasons, inference, proof, and the instruments of action have no other purpose than to tell us the characteristic marks of an object.

Function of the intellect: When we say that a particular characteristic belongs to a particular object, it is because the matter has been considered by the intellect.

Memory and dreams: Memory arises as a result of the union of the mind and the soul with the impressions of acts previously done. Dreams arise in the same manner; but they belong to a state that is near to sleep.

Ignorance and knowledge: Ignorance arises from a defect of the senses, of education, or of training; and it may be said to be defective knowledge. When knowledge ceases to be defective, it is called knowledge.

Knowledge of the sacred books: A proper understanding of the sacred books, composed by the Rishis, arises from a knowledge of the laws of life.

We can understand the difference between pleasure and pain, and doubt, certainty, and suspended judgement in the same manner. We see that the different parts of the body have a fixed place in the body, but the soul is different from all of them.

Pleasure and pain: Pleasure and pain are the opposite of each other, because of the difference in the motive of desirable and undesirable things: the one is excellent, the other bad.

Doubt, certainty and suspended judgement: The state between doubt and certainty is one of suspended judgement, and it is different from knowledge. Doubt arises because of dependence on sense perception; while certainty arises because of dependence on evidence. That which relates to the past may also give rise to doubt, especially when we do not perceive its effect. There is doubt also when we see the same object in a number of causes.

Body and the soul: The different parts of the body have a fixed place in it. But there is something different from all these and it has its own special characteristics; that is the soul.

We can have knowledge of the cause of a thing in the same manner; and so also of its form; and understand the idea of what is meant for the benefit of all.

Knowledge of a cause: The knowledge of a cause arises from its effect. It may also arise from some other combinations of things, which are the result of action.

Knowledge of form, touch, etc.: In the same manner we have knowledge of form, when we see how an object is subjected, to action, as a result of which it acquires a certain form. We have perception of touch, etc. in the same manner.

Action meant for the benefit of all: When in the case of well-known objects we are unable to say for what purpose they are being used, we should take it that they are meant for the benefit of all.