Narach Philosophy

THE ASCENDING AND DESCENDING SCALES OF THOUGHT


We have explained that there are five great creative energies of life, from the Soul to the senses of action, corresponding to which we have the five great systems of Hindu Philosophy, from Vedanta to Sankhya; and we have shown that the idea of each is to be found in a pair of Vedic gods and the different stages of cell development. But the problem of the ancients was not biological or scientific. It was essentially human, and they desired to build their conception of life on the broad and essential truths of science, so that the two, harmoniously blended, might be imperishable.

From Known to Unknown; the Sankhya: All knowledge is from the known to the unknown; and the known is the world of manifest life, conceived as creative in the Sankhya. Let us then begin with the Sankhya, holding that all life is created by Prakrti alone, and that there is no place for God in this world. The problem now is, how can a person, holding this view, rise from the Sankhya to higher forms of thought? The answer may lie in the actual working of the organic cell, but that can hardly be satisfactory to the average mind; and if all science and philosophy, language and life arise, as we have observed, from one common fountain source, we should be able to prove our position, not only by referring to the organic cell, but also to reason and common sense. This, as we shall see, is the problem of the Story of the Mahabharata, and the solution too is given there.

A World of Misery: Looking at life, as it is before us, we see that it is full of incessant change, bringing in its train sorrow, misery, and death. The desire to escape all this and to make ourselves happy is inherent in us, and the great problem of life is how to succeed in the task.

The Sankhya holds that all life is created by Prakrti, which is characterised by unceasing action, and it is this that causes sorrow and pain. We are all subject to the sway of Prakrti, and so doomed to eternal activity. How then can we escape? To solve this problem the Sankhya conceives of the individual soul as really actionless in essence, but made to act through association with Prakrti, when it is transformed into egoism or Ahankara. When this bond with Prakrti is broken, when the soul understands its true character as a separate entity, independent of Prakrti, that is, when it ceases from all action born of Prakrti, it will escape the bondage of birth as well as the trammels of sorrow and pain, and become free for ever; thus says the Sankhya.

But how can the soul escape from the activity of Prakrti? If the two can be separated, we should be able to explain how they came together in the beginning of time. But the Sankhya cannot account for the original entanglement of the eternal souls, once free, in an equally eternal Prakrti; and so it is impossible to imagine how the two, who have never been apart, can ever be so again. Besides, if all life is created by Prakrti, and if the latter is characterised by action, even as its name implies, how can we cease to act? Finally, we see that we cannot live even for a moment without performing some kind of action. How then is it possible for the soul to exist and yet not to act? To this the Sankhya has no reply, and we have to seek for light elsewhere.

From Sankhya to Nyaya: Thus we cannot accept the Sankhya position that all life is created by Prakti alone. All effects have a cause: the world of life is such an effect: why should we not suppose that it too has a cause or a Creator? Then, as we ourselves wish to be free from the bondage of Prakrti, together and yet apart, let us imagine that such a state is possible and that a Creator or God exists, who by his mere presence causes Prakti to act and create, and who himself is actionless and free. But, if this idea of God is difficult or impossible to imagine, let us conceive of God who creates, but who, though an actor, is yet free from the effects of action and this gives us the twofold conception of God according to Nyaya.

Sacrifice and Freedom from Effects of Action: But is it possible to imagine a God who acts and yet is free from the effects of action? Can human beings also act and be free from its effects? If that be so, can we still accept the position of the Sankhya that the soul may be free from all action? That obviously is impossible, for we cannot conceive of life without action of some kind, and the goal of the Sankhya is the renunciation of all action. Hence the only point for consideration is, can we act and yet be free from the effects of action?

What is it that binds us to action and its effects? We see from experience that when we act instinctively, under the sheer demand of our nature and the law of our existence, we do not feel the effect of such action; as for instance, when we breathe, or open or close our eyes when we wake or sleep. Further, we find that when we do not think of the, consequence of our actions, and act not for our own benefit but for the good of others, we do not feel the effect of our actions. This, in the Sacred Books of the Hindus, is the original idea of Sacrifice. In other words, all actions performed in the course of nature, and all actions conceived in the spirit of sacrifice are without any effect on the soul; and so we are told that actions performed for the sake of sacrifice do not bind the soul; all other actions do. Hence we might say that we can make ourselves free from the effects of action by means of performing it as a Sacrifice; and this is an essential idea of the Nyaya system of thought.

Sacrifice and God Idea: We have seen how we pass from the Sankhya idea of negation to the existence of God who, either by his mere presence, or acting in the way of Sacrifice, creates the world; and this takes us from Sankhya to Nyaya. Thus we might say that the idea of Sacrifice is closely associated with that of God. Indeed, the two are inseparable; for God, like man, to be free from the effects of action, must act in a spirit of Sacrifice. Hence we might say that the idea of Sacrifice gives us the idea of a living, active God.

We might look at the question also from another point of view. If Sacrifice means action meant for the benefit of others and not one's own, we should know the real significance of this benefit or good; and we have explained that the idea of God is inherent in that of Goodness or Sacrifice. Hence good or well-being implies also the idea of God.

From Nyaya to Vaisesika: But if the basis of all knowledge is the world of the known, from which we rise to the unknown, do we not see that all higher forms of animal life, are created out of the male and the female? Corresponding to this, may we not hold that all life is created out of the union of Purusha and Prakrti, the supreme Male and Female, united together in action? The share of the one might be more than that of the other, or vice versa, or else the two might be equal; but why can we not imagine that they exist together from the very beginning and are united together for all creative ends? If, as we have seen, Sacrifice takes away the effect of action, let us imagine both Purusha and Prakrti united together for purposes of creation and, acting in a spirit of Sacrifice, made free from all effects of action. This will be in harmony with the actual facts of creation, and yet give us a more perfect idea of God as creator, active and yet free from the effects of action. This line of thought takes us from Nyaya to the Vaisesika, and the three different ways in which we might conceive of the share of Purusha and Prakrti in the creation of life correspond to the three aspects of this system.

From Vaisesika to Yoga: The idea of Sacrifice as a liberator from the bonds of action takes us yet further afield. We see around us a number of things happening without human intervention as a result of natural forces; but in many more, especially those which concern human beings, human action is required. If action, performed by the soul, is sometimes even more necessary for life than the forces of nature, why may we not hold that the supreme Purusha too has a much larger share in the making of life than Prakrti? And he would still be unaffected by actions because they are all performed as a Sacrifice. This brings us to the point of view of the Yoga system of thought.

An analogy to this may also be found in the working of the forces of nature themselves. We see that it is the action of the Sun on our Earth that causes all forms of life to grow and multiply. Our planet contains all the energies of life, and may easily be conceived as a picture of Prakrti. If the relation of Purusha and Prakrti be like that of the Sun and our planet Earth, we can easily see that the former has a much larger share in the creation of life; and this, as we have seen, is the idea of Yoga.

From Yoga to Vedanta: The passage from Yoga to Vedanta is more difficult of proof, and in the realm of the manifest we can only go as far as the point of view of Yoga. As we have explained, it is in its unmanifest state that the Centrosome is believed to create Ether or the substance of the cell, and this is the scientific foundation for the system of Vedanta, which teaches that the supreme Purusha (Centrosome) is the sole creator of life (Prakrti or Ether). But the unmanifest is beyond all proof acceptable to the senses or the Mind; and so it is difficult to accept the truth of Vedanta in the light of the actual phenomena of the world. Indeed, we have to prove that all that we see around us, all that we ascribe to Prakrti, is really of Purusha. Or, as Prakrti is represented as a Woman, and Purusha as a Man, we have to show that a woman (Prakrti) may, under certain conditions, be transformed into a man (Purusha); and this alone would convince the sceptic. It is asserted that such phenomena have actually occurred in life, and the science of Biology does not regard such a transformation as impossible. Indeed, in the lower forms of life, such as germs, insects and fishes, such changes occur more frequently, while the change of sex in human beings is rare. But it is believed to have taken place, and that would be a further link in the chain of proof that the supreme Purusha is the sole creator of the universe.

The Descending Scale of Thought: But this victory of Vedanta can only be short lived, for what belongs to the unmanifest can continue only in the unmanifest. Vedanta holds that the whole universe is created by God alone, and so he must act and create without stop or end, and his actions, performed as a sacrifice, do not affect him in any way. As the idea of the individual soul corresponds to that of the supreme Soul, the individual, according to Vedanta, must engage in action for ever in the same way. Now, we see in actual life that it is this action in the world that is the cause of all change, sorrow, and death; and so the individual soul in Vedanta must for ever be associated with pain and grief. It is little consolation to think that we might escape from the effects of action by means of Sacrifice. Hence it is difficult for the average man to agree to the position of Vedanta and all that it implies. He would more readily agree that there is another agency besides Purusha that acts that is, Prakrti; and by dissociating himself from it he can make himself free and so we get to a dual conception of the creation of life by Purusha and Prakrti together, first in the light of Yoga, then of the Vaisesika, and finally of Nyaya according to which God is a mere spectator of the work of Prakrti and this appears to satisfy the human soul more than the prospect of unceasing action. In this way we descend from Vedanta to Yoga, thence to the Vaisesika and Nyaya in the same manner as we rise from the one to the other. From Nyaya we can go down to the Sankhya if we give up the idea of Sacrifice, and end in the renunciation of all action and the negation of God; but once again, as we have pointed out, we shall be faced with a difficulty, and so have to abandon our extreme Sankhya point of view and resort to Nyaya for relief. It is for this reason that sometimes even the Sankhya is not regarded as purely atheistic, but as partly atheistic and partly agnostic, corresponding to Sankhya-Nyaya. Such, as we shall see, is Jainism, the system of religion based on this idea partly atheistic and partly agnostic.

Thus we see that the five systems of Hindu Philosophy give us five corresponding points of view in regard to the universe. Vedanta is purely monistic, holding that the universe is created by God alone; Yoga is a qualified monism, holding that the share of Purusha is much larger than that of Prakrti; Vaisesika is dualistic, holding that Purusha and Prakti are equal partners in the creation of life; Nyaya is agnostic, giving Purusha a small place; while the Sankhya is atheistic, holding that God has no place whatever in its scheme of thought.

The whole idea may be summarized as follows:

Creative Energies Soul Buddhi Mind Senses of Knowledge Senses of Action
Vedic Gods Vishnu & Vayu Agni & Indra Rudra & Soma Dyaus & Prithvi & Two Asvins Vrtra & Varuna
Systems of Philosophy Vedanta Yoga Vaisesika Nyaya Sankhya
Religious Thought Monism Qualified Monism Dualism Agnosticism Atheism

Thus we get the ascending and descending scales thought, and rise from Sankhya to Vedanta and come down to Nyaya or Sankhya once more and this process of the evolution of thought goes on without end, and it is impossible to conceive of anything beyond these points of view. As we shall see, it is this that is pictured in the Mahabharata in Story-form the evolution of Man from Sankhya to Vedanta, and then to Nyaya once more.