The plan of the Vedas is a very simple one. They are composed of Hymns addressed to different gods, Agni, Indra, Soma, Rudra, Heaven and Earth, the two Asvins, Varuna, Vishnu and Vayu, and a number of other gods and goddesses, all of whom represent but different ways in which the universe may be conceived to have been created out of the union of Purusha and Prakrti. Out of these have been formed the great systems of Hindu Philosophy and Religion; and so the idea of the Vedic gods has been extended to all post-Vedic sacred literature, and it is for this reason that the Vedas are regarded as the last word of authority in connection with all systems of Hindu thought.
Plan of the Mahabharata
Systems of Hindu Philosophy: The plan of the Mahabharata is equally simple, though more elaborately wrought. It is described as the fifth Veda; and so is conceived as an all inclusive work, containing the scientific, philosophical and religious speculations of the Vedas as well as all post-Vedic literature. We have seen that the ancients believed that all life is created by Purusha and Prakrti, the male and female energies of life; and, logically, the question of Purusha and Prakrti may be considered in three ways. We may hold that the universe as created by (1) Purusha alone; or (2) Purusha and Prakrti combined, united together from the very beginning; or (3) Prakrti alone; and these three give us the three principal philosophical systems of the Hindus, Vedanta, Yoga and Sankhya corresponding to which we have the three great systems of religion which had their birth in India of Vishnu, Siva, and Brahma, the last, in after years, associated with the name of Buddha, the Prince of Kapilavastu of these the first and third are simple and unambiguous, and each excludes the other completely; but the second may again be examined in three ways: If Purusha and Prakrti are two joint creators of life, we might have in its creation (1) more of Purusha than Prakrti; or (2) equal share of Purusha and Prakrti; or (3) more of Prakrti than Purusha. Thus we get five different ways of examining the problem of the creation of life. In the first Purusha is the sole creator; in the second, the chief creator is Purusha, but Prakrti is associated with him in a minor capacity; in the third Purusha and Prakrti have an equal share in the creation of life; in the fourth the chief creator is Prakrti, and Purusha is associated with it to a small extent; and in the fifth Prakrti is regarded as the sole creator of life; and corresponding to these five ways we have the five systems of Hindu philosophy Vedanta, Yoga, Vaisesika, Nyaya and Sankhya. Of these Vedanta is usually divided into two parts, Purva Mimansa and Uttara Mimansa; and we shall presently see the significance of this division.
Three Aspects of Each System of Philosophy: The relation of Purusha and Prakrti in the creation of life may be expressed in another way. We have seen that the universe may be said to have been created by (1) Purusha alone; (2) Purusha and Prakrti together; or (3) Prakrti alone; and this gives us the three chief systems of Hindu philosophy, Vedanta, Yoga, and Sankhya. Further we have observed that the ancient Hindus believed that there is the one unmanifest energy, the Heart, and seven manifests Buddhi, Mind, and the five elements. Of the elements Ether is the first and most important; and it has a twofold character, which in this volume is called Purushic and Prakrtic; corresponding to which there are five senses of knowledge and five of action linked together, and two kinds of motion, elliptical and in the form of a wave respectively, of the five elements Ether alone is creative, and it is characterised by magnetic energy. Thus we get five creative forms of energy (1) Heart, (2) Buddhi, (3) Mind, (4) Purushic Ether, and (5) Prakrtic Ether; and these constitute the basic energies of the corresponding systems of thought. Vedanta relates to Heart- energy; Yoga to Buddhi; Vaisesika to Mind; Nyaya to Purushic Ether; and Sankhya to Prakrtic Ether.
Each of the three principal systems of thought Vedanta, Yoga, and Sankhya has a range of application, and may be looked at from three points of view. Thus Vedanta, holding that Purusha alone is the Creator of life, cannot, even for the sake of argument, agree that he does not exist, or is a mere spectator in the creation of life. But it may regard the following three positions as worthy of consideration, being associated with its own: (1) that Purusha is the sole Creator; (2) but if there is Prakrti, it is associated with Purusha in a very minor capacity; and (3) that even if the. Share of Prakrti is more substantial, it is still smaller than that of Purusha; and these are the three points of view of Vedanta, which we may call its higher limit, centre, and lower limit. Similarly the principal Yoga has three points of view. Its primary idea is that Purusha and Prakrti are joint creators of life; but this idea of joint creation may be looked at from three points of view, as we have already explained: (1) that the share of Purusha is greater than that of Prakrti; (2) that the two are equal; and (3) that the share of Prakrti is more than that of Purusha. In the same manner the principal Sankhya system has a threefold bearing. Holding that Prakrti is the sole creator of life, it cannot, even for the sake of argument, admit that Purusha is the sole creator, or that he has a larger share in the creation of life than Prakrti. But it may, for the sake of clarifying its position, consider the following three points of views: (1) that Prakrti is the sole creator of life; (2) but if. There is a Purusha, he is a mere spectator, and the whole work of creation is done by Prakrti; (3) or if the share of Purusha is more substantial, it is still less than that of Prakrti. Thus each principal system of thought has three points of view; and if we now consider them in terms of energies of life, principal Vedanta, based on the energy of the Heart, extends also to Buddhi and Mind; principal Yoga, extends to Buddhi, Mind, and Purushic Ether; and principal Sankhya to Mind, Purushic Ether and Prakrtic Ether. The whole idea may be represented as follows:
|CEATIVE||HEART ENERGIES||BUDDHI||MIND||PURUSHIC ETHER||PRAKRTIC ETHER|
|Principal Systems and their range|
|Sankhya||Mind||Purushic Ether||Prakrtic Ether|
Different Aspects of Yoga, Vaisesika and Nyaya: From this we see how from the three principal systems of thought we get five resultant ones; viz., resultant Vedanta, based on the idea of the Heart; resultant Yoga on that of Buddhi; resultant Vaisesika on that of the Mind; resultant Nyaya on that of Purushic Ether; and resultant Sankhya on that of Prakrtic Ether. Out of these the first and last are exclusive of each other; while the remaining three have different common grounds; and Vaisesika, based on the idea of the Mind, is common to all. Further, as we have noticed, pure resultant Vedanta, based on the energy of the Heart, is unequivocal; while resultant Yoga has two points of view: (1) as Buddhi is the first manifest form of Heart-energy, it is the first manifest form of Vedanta; and so, for practical purposes, identified with it; and (2) in itself, it holds that Prakrti is linked with Purusha in the creation of life, but in a very minor capacity. In the same manner Vaisesika, based on the idea of the Mind, has three points of view : (1) as the lower limit of principal Vedanta, it may hold that both Purusha and Prakrti are joint creators of life, but Purusha is greater than Prakrti; (2) as the centre of principal Yoga, it may hold that both of them are equal; and (3) as the higher limit of principal Sankhya, it may regard Prakrti as having a larger share than Purusha in the creation of life. Similarly Nyaya, based on Purushic Ether, has a twofold character: (1) as the lower limit of principal Yoga, it may hold that Prakrti has a larger share than Purusha; and (2) as the centre of principal Sankhya, it may regard Purusha as a mere spectator of Prakrti, which does all the work of creation. Resultant Sankhya, like resultant Vedanta, is unequivocal; it is based on Prakrtic Ether for its energy of life, and holds that Prakrti is the sole creator of the universe.
Pairs of Systems: Further we notice that, while each system has its own energy at the base, we get pairs of systems with an equal range. Thus, the centre of principal Sankhya (Purushic Ether) coincides with resultant Nyaya; the centre of principal Yoga (Mind) coincides with resultant Vaisesika; and so these may be said to form pairs of associated systems of thought. Vedanta stands apart by itself; and, as we shall see, pairs with itself. Its centre (Buddhi) coincides with resultant Yoga, indeed; and, in this respect, as we have remarked, resultant Yoga is the manifest form of the unmanifest energy of the Heart.
Systems of Philosophy in the Vedas: In the first volume, relating to the Vedas, we have dealt with only the three principal systems of Hindu philosophy, Vedanta, Yoga, and Sankhya; but the plan of the Mahabharata is a much more elaborate one; and in this Introduction we shall deal with all the resultant systems of thought.
Different Points of View of Each System: Ether: In this connection it is necessary to remember that all these systems of thought are but interrelated parts of one great whole; yet each has its own point of view, corresponding to its basic energy, and its attitude to Knowledge or Action as the final goal of life. The chief questions refer to Heart-energy, Buddhi, Mind, and the twofold character of Ether, related to the senses of knowledge and action respectively. As all life is made manifest in Ether, corresponding to whose two aspects we have the senses of knowledge and action, a question may be asked, in which half of Ether is life made manifest? If it is made manifest in the Purushic half, the end of life must correspond to the senses of knowledge, and so Knowledge be regarded as the final goal. But if it is made manifest in the Prakrtic half, must Action be taken to be the final end? Similarly, each system has its own idea with regard to the, other energies of life, Mind, Buddhi, and the Heart. But all life is really made manifest in Prakrtic Ether; and yet each system has its own point of view. Thus Sankhya, based on Prakrtic Ether, holds that all life is made manifest in Prakrtic Ether, and so there is nothing but action and misery in life; and there can be no escape from sorrow and unhappiness till we escape from manifestation, Prakrti, Prakrtic Ether or action itself. Nyaya, based on Purushic Ether, holds that the end of life relates to Purushic Ether, or the senses of knowledge; that is, Knowledge itself. As Mind is the common factor of each system, it believes that the Mind is concerned with the senses of knowledge alone; and so, once again, the end of life is Knowledge and not Action. Vaisesika, based on a proper appreciation of Mind energy, realizes that the Mind is associated with both the senses of knowledge and action; and so regards action and inaction the same; and yet its idea must vary according as it is the lower limit of principal Vedanta, the centre of principal Yoga, or the lighter limit of principal Sankhya. Yoga, based on the idea of Buddhi, holds that Knowledge is the root of Action while Vedanta takes the view that Knowledge leads to Action, and Action to Knowledge.
Mind in Each System: As the Sankhya is based on Prakrtic Ether, it takes all energies of life in the light of this aspect of Ether; and so it regards the Mind as associated with the senses of action alone. Similarly, Nyaya, based on Purushic Ether, refers the Mind only to the senses of knowledge. But Vaisesika, based on the Mind, has a proper idea of its energy, as associated with both the senses of knowledge and action; and Yoga and Vedanta, being higher than Vaisesika, takes an equally correct view.
Buddhi in Each System: Similarly each system has its own idea of Buddhi. The Sankhya speaks of it as Mahat, the highest energy in this system; and, as Buddhi is characterised by knowledge, it regards Knowledge as the highest end, and accepts it as a means of escape from the bondage of life. The idea of Nyaya is the same, and Buddhi is referred to as both Mahat and Dharma. In Vaisesika too it is Dharma, regarded as the highest end and the means to attain to perfect felicity. But all these systems are based on energies lower than Buddhi, and so have an imperfect idea of its character. Yoga, based on Buddhi, understands it in its proper light; and conceives of it as Tapas, like the energy of the Sun, characterised by Knowledge; but leading, by its intensity, to Action. Vedanta goes a step further still, and regards it as a modification of self-conscious Prana, the energy of the Heart; and so as an instrument of both Knowledge and Action.
Heart-Energy in Each System: Again each system has its own idea of Heart-energy, Prana, or Breath. According to Sankhya, the Heart is characterised by Tamas or darkness, for that is the Guna of this system; and so it conceives of it as a dark substance; while it holds Prana or breath to be identical with physical Air. The idea of Nyaya is similar, for Tamas is the Guna of this system too. Vaisesika thinks of Heart-energy in terms of Mind and its corresponding Guna. Rajas and regards its energy as analogous to that of the Mind, and its character as a fluid substance8 Yoga, intermediate between Vedanta and Vaisesika, inclines to the views of both, but accepts the idea of Vedanta in the end, and for reasons we shall presently see, Vedanta alone, based on the energy of the Heart, has a proper perception of Heart-energy and Prana, and identifies the two. Prana, according to this system, is both Air and Heart-energy, the source of Action the centre of self-consciousness, and the seat of the individual soul. Thus we see that the Heart is looked at from three main points of view: (1) as a Dark substance; (2) as a Fluid, characterised by Mind or electric energy and (3) as Praia or Air, characterised by Action and self-consciousness. This corresponds exactly to the actual Heart: Its colour is dark; it contains blood (fluid); it is charged with electric (or super- electric) energy; and it is associated with breathing and action.
We have observed that Yoga refers to Heart-energy also in the light of Vedanta; and the explanation of it is a simple one. The Heart, as has been observed, is unmanifest, and its first manifest form is Buddhi, the basis of Yoga; hence the unmanifest in Vedanta is referred to in terms of the manifest in Yoga; and so Yoga understands Vedanta more than any other system. Indeed, Yoga is the manifest form of Vedanta; and it may be called Vedanta-Yoga; and, as we shall see, the Mahabharata holds, that this is the utmost range of human thought in the realm of the Manifest. But when Man transcends the Manifest and realizes the Unmanifest in the Manifest, he realizes Vedanta.
Interconnected Cycles of Thought: We have seen how all these systems are connected with one another, and how we can pass from one to the other almost imperceptibly. Sankhya leads to Nyaya, and thence we pass into Vaisesika; and then the path to Yoga is easy; and from Yoga we enter the portals of Vedanta. But the cycle can move down as easily too. Pure Vedanta is unmanifest, and has its manifestation in Yoga; Yoga has the same range as Vaisesika; the latter is connected with Nyaya; and Nyaya is only one step removed from Sankhya; and, as the cycle moves up or down, the centre of the sacred "story" is correspondingly changed.
Names and Numbers of Systems: These systems are called in the Mahabharata by certain numbers and names, characteristic of the principal idea of each. For instance, Vedanta is described as Antar, referring to the unmanifest energy of the Heart, and its character is said to be Maya, which is a creative energy and not Illusion, as is commonly believed. Yoga is Tapas, referring to Sun or Buddhi-energy; but it is sometimes described also as Skill. Vaisesika is called Dharma, identified with Buddhi, because supreme happiness is said to be attained by means of Dharma in this system. Nyaya is also called Sankhya Yoga and described as Bala or Strength; and Sankhya is referred to as Mahat, identified with Buddhi, because that is the principal manifest energy of life according to this system. But for convenience and clarity of thought, these systems may also be described as Vedanta, Vedanta-Yoga, Vedanta-Yoga-Sankhya, Sankhya Yoga and Sankhya respectively, to indicate the threefold amplification of Yoga, the most intricate of all.
These systems are also described by means of certain numbers, and their significance has been explained in this volume. We have seen that each system of thought is based on one principal energy of life, and associated with two more; and the principal energy of Vedanta is the Heart; of Yoga Buddhi; of Vaisesika Mind; of Nyaya Purushic Ether and of Sankhya Prakrtic Ether. Further, we have observed that there are eight principal energies of life, Heart, Buddhi, Mind, and the five elements. Hence as each energy is believed to be a modification of the next higher one in order, the Heart may be represented by the number 8, Buddhi by 7, Mind by 6, and each of the two aspects of Ether by 5; and these are the creative energies of life, as has been explained. Hence their corresponding systems of thought are represented by these numbers. Again, each of these energies is made manifest in Prakrtic Ether, even as modern science holds that Heat, Light and Electricity are all characterised by magnetic energy, which is a property of Ether. As Prakrtic Ether is represented by the number 5, each of the principal creative energies of life might have a further addition of this number, and be represented by 13, 12, 11, 10, and 5 respectively. Prakrtic Ether cannot have any addition, because it is itself the place of manifestation.
Two Aspects of Vedanta: We see that Vedanta is based on the idea of the energy of the Heart. It conceives of it as Prana, which may be understood in two ways: (1) as physical Air, the element of Action, associated with Hands for its instruments and (2) as self-consciousness, the abode as well as the vehicle of Atman or the individual Soul. Hence Vedanta has a twofold character, one relating to Action, and the other to Atman or the Soul; and corresponding to this we have two parts of the system of Vedanta, Purva, Mimansa, associated with Action, and Uttara Mimansa, associated with the knowledge of Atman or the Soul. The two are supplementary, implying that the Soul manifests its self-consciousness through Action, In this connection we have observed that, according to Vedanta, Purusha is conceived as the sole creator of life; and it is said in the Rig Veda that he creates by means of Sacrifice; and the same idea is repeated in the Bhagavad Gita, and appears throughout the sacred works of the Hindus.
Hence Vedanta conceives of Action as a Sacrifice, performed for purposes of creation by the Supreme Purusha himself; and, conversely, as the individual soul is said to be of the same nature as the Supreme Purusha, all Action performed as a sacrifice, is regarded as Purushic in character, transforming that which appears to be Prakrtic into a Purushic energy. This is the idea of the Vedas, and the same is repeated in the Mahabharata.
Mind as a Meeting Place: We have seen that the meeting place of all systems of thought is the Mind, the basis of the Vaisesika system; and here is the centre of conflict of the "story" of the Mahabharata. It is associated with Vedanta-Yoga and Vedanta on the one hand, and Nyaya and Sank.hya on the other; and so the Mahabharata refers to all the systems of Hindu philosophy, comprehending all that is contained in Vedic and post-Vedic sacred literature.
Conflict of Systems of Thought: Thus the Mahabharata is a conflict of all systems of thought, meeting in Vaisesika, in the region of the Mind. On one side we have Vedanta and Vedanta Yoga (toga); and on the other Sankhya Yoga (Nyaya) and Sankhya; and they all meet in the Vaisesika as a common ground. But Vaisesika has a threefold character and so long as this common factor is not eliminated, the result must remain undecided; and it is only when there is a straight issue between Vedanta and Vedanta-Yoga on the one hand, and the remaining systems on the other, that we can arrive at a definite conclusion. This, as we shall see, took place at the battle of Kurukshetra.
Place of Sankhya: It is necessary to mention here that the ancient Hindus did not believe that it could seriously be held that all life is created by Prakrti alone and that the Purusha did not exist at all. In other words, they gave only a passing thought to the purely Sankhya or atheistic system of thought; and the Sankhya of Kapila is really agnostic and not atheistic in character.
Place of Nyaya: But the point of view of Nyaya or Sankhya Yoga is something very different. It is opposed to the atheistic creed, and something more than agnostic. It holds that the Supreme Purusha exists; but as a mere witness and spectator of Prakrti, which does all the work of creation. Hence, as the individual soul is akin to the Supreme Creator, the goal before it is to become like the Creator himself a mere witness and spectator of life; abandon all actions, and devote itself to self-knowledge, whereby alone it can achieve its end.
Place of Vaisesika: From the point of view of pure Vedanta, the position of Vaisesika is more formidable still. It has three aspects, two of which are opposed to Vedanta and so, except where it is the lower limit of Vedanta, it adheres to the view that the end of life is Knowledge and not Action.
Place of Yoga: We have seen that Vaisesika and Yoga have an equal range, though their points of view and methods of approach are different. We have observed that. Yoga has two points of view and in one it is the manifest form of unmanifest Vedanta, and so identified with it. But, when considered in itself, it holds that the Supreme Purusha is the chief Creator of life; but he is also associated with Prakrti to a small extent. Further, it has Buddhi for its basic energy; and Buddhi is usually associated with Knowledge. Hence Yoga is related to both Knowledge and Action. As the manifest form of Vedanta, it accepts the necessity of Action; but in itself, it inclines to Knowledge as the final goal. Hence, except when Yoga is regarded as the manifest form of Vedanta, the question of Action is not finally settled by this system. But Tapas, the energy of Buddhi (Sun) or Yoga, does not at all imply a negation of Action. It rather means a deep concentration of energy stored up for purposes of Action, and not as an end in itself.
Place of Vedanta: According to Vedanta the Supreme Purusha is the sole Creator of life, and Prakrti too is made by him; and then, in union with it, he creates the universe. As Sankhya at one end is unambiguous in its conception of Prakrti as the sole creator, even so is Vedanta at the other; and in the light of this system all Action as well as all Knowledge belongs to Purusha alone. Actions, performed as a sacrifice, lead to Knowledge; and Knowledge is a means to the performance of Action. The connecting link between them is Prana. Or Breath, which is the energy of Action as well as self-consciousness; and self-consciousness, is identified with the Soul, and both are seated in the Heart.
Purusha and Action: The relation of the different systems of thought to Action may be expressed in terms of their relation to Purusha. Each system believes in Action in proportion to its belief in the Supreme Purusha as creator; and in Knowledge as the final goal in proportion to its belief in Prakrti as the supreme creator of the universe. Thus pure Sankhya, holding that Prakrti is the sole creator, and that the Supreme Purusha does not exist, desires to eliminate all Action, and believes Knowledge to be the final end of each individual soul, to enable it to set itself free from the bondage of Prakrti. Nyaya, giving a nominal place to the Supreme Purusha as a spectator, holds that the individual soul should act in the same manner as the Supreme Soul viz., as a spectator; and, if any actions are to be performed, they should be characterised by the control of the senses, so that the soul be not affected at all. Hence Knowledge and not Action is the final goal also of Nyaya. Vaisesika gives almost an equal place to both Purusha and Prakrti; and so regards Action and Inaction (Knowledge) to be the same; still it inclines to Knowledge as the supreme end. Yoga, holding that the Supreme Purusha is the principal creator of life, though associated with Prakrti to a small extent, emphasizes the necessity of the performance of all actions; but does not altogether eliminate the idea of Knowledge as the final goal. Vedanta alone, believing that Purusha is the sole creator, and that Prakrti itself is created by him, regards Action as the ultimate end; and takes Knowledge and Action to be but two aspects of the energy of the Heart or Prana.