Relation to Indian Philosophies
me ask you to think for a while on the place of Yoga in its relation
to two of the great Hindu schools of philosophical thought, for
neither the Westerner nor the non-Sanskrit-knowing Indian can ever
really understand the translations of the chief Indian books, now
current here and in the West, and the force of all the allusions
they make, unless they acquaint themselves in some degree with the
outlines of these great schools of philosophy, they being the very
foundation on which these books are built up. Take the Bhagavad-Gita.
Probably there are many who know that book fairly well, who use
it as the book to help in the spiritual life, who are not familiar
with most of its precepts. But you must always be more or less in
a fog in reading it, unless you realise the fact that it is founded
on a particular Indian philosophy and that the meaning of nearly
all the technical words in it is practically limited by their meaning
in philosophy known as the Samkhya. There are certain phrases belonging
rather to the Vedanta, but the great majority are Samkhyan, and
it is taken for granted that the people reading or using the book
are familiar with the outline of the Samkhyan philosophy. I do not
want to take you into details, but I must give you the leading ideas
of the philosophy. For if you grasp these, you will not only read
your Bhagavad-Gita with much more intelligence than before, but
you will be able to use it practically for yogic purposes in a way
that, without this knowledge, is almost impossible.
in the Bhagavad-Gita and in the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali the terms
are Samkhyan, and historically Yoga is based on the Samkhya, so
far as its philosophy is concerned. Samkhya does not concern itself
with, the existence of Deity, but only with the becoming of a universe,
the order of evolution. Hence it is often called Nir-isvara Samkhya,
the Samkhya without God. But so closely is it bound up with the
Yoga system, that the latter is called Sesvara Samkhya, with God.
For its understanding, therefore, I must outline part of the Samkhya
philosophy, that part which deals with the relation of Spirit and
matter; note the difference from this of the Vedantic conception
of Self and Not-Self, and then find the reconciliation in the Theosophic
statement of the facts in nature. The directions which fall from
the lips of the Lord of Yoga in the Gita may sometimes seem to you
opposed to each other and contradictory, because they sometimes
are phrased in the Samkhyan and sometimes in the Vedantic terms,
starting from different standpoints, one looking at the world from
the standpoint of matter, the other from the standpoint of Spirit.
If you are a student of Theosophy, then the knowledge of the facts
will enable you to translate the different phrases. That reconciliation
and understanding of these apparently contradictory phrases is the
object to which I would ask your attention now.
Samkhyan School starts with the statement that the universe consists
of two factors, the first pair of opposites, Spirit and Matter,
or more accurately Spirits and Matter. The Spirit is called Purusha--the
Man; and each Spirit is an individual. Purusha is a unit, a unit
of consciousness; they are all of the same nature, but distinct
everlastingly the one from the other. Of these units there are many;
countless Purushas are to be found in the world of men. But while
they are countless in number they are identical in nature, they
are homogeneous. Every Purusha has three characteristics, and these
three are alike in all. One characteristic is awareness; it will
become cognition. The second of the characteristics is life or prana;
it will become activity. The third characteristic is immutability,
the essence of eternity; it will become will. Eternity is not, as
some mistakenly think, everlasting time. Everlasting time has nothing
to do with eternity. Time and eternity are two altogether different
things. Eternity is changeless, immutable, simultaneous. No succession
in time, albeit everlasting--if such could be--could give eternity.
The fact that Purusha has this attribute of immutability tells us
that He is eternal; for changelessness is a mark of the eternal.
are the three attributes of Purusha, according to the Samkhya. Though
these are not the same in nomenclature as the Vedantic Sat, Chit,
Ananda, yet they are practically identical. Awareness or cognition
is Chit; life or force is Sat; and immutability, the essence of
eternity, is Ananda.
against these Purushas, homogeneous units, countless in number,
stands Prakriti, Matter, the second in the Samkhyan duality. Prakriti
is one; Purushas are many. Prakriti is a continuum; Purushas are
discontinuous, being innumerable, homogeneous units. Continuity
is the mark of Prakriti. Pause for a moment on the name Prakriti.
Let us investigate its root meaning. The name indicates its essence.
Pra means "forth," and kri is the root "make".
Prakriti thus means "forth-making ". Matter is that which
enables the essence of Being to become. That which is Being--is-tence,
becomes ex-is-tence--outbeing, by Matter, and to describe Matter
as "forth-making" is to give its essence in a single word.
Only by Prakriti can Spirit, or Purusha, "forth-make"
or "manifest" himself. Without the presence of Prakriti,
Purusha is helpless, a mere abstraction. Only by the presence of,
and in Prakriti, can Purusha make manifest his powers. Prakriti
has also three characteristics, the well-known gunas--attributes
or qualities. These are rhythm, mobility and inertia. Rhythm enables
awareness to become cognition. Mobility enables life to become activity.
Inertia enables immutability to become will.
the conception as to the relation of Spirit to Matter is a very
peculiar one, and confused ideas about it give rise to many misconceptions.
If you grasp it, the Bhagavad-Gita becomes illuminated, and all
the phrases about action and actor, and the mistake of saying "I
act," become easy to understand, as implying technical Samkhyan
three qualities of Prakriti, when Prakriti is thought of as away
from Purusha, are in equilibrium, motionless, poised the one against
the other, counter-balancing and neutralizing each other, so that
Matter is called jada, unconscious, "dead". But in the
presence of Purusha all is changed. When Purusha is in propinquity
to Matter, then there is a change in Matter--not outside, but in
acts on Prakriti by propinquity, says Vyasa. It comes near Prakriti,
and Prakriti begins to live. The "coming near" is a figure
of speech, an adaptation to our ideas of time and space, for we
cannot posit "nearness" of that which is timeless and
spaceless--Spirit. By the word propinquity is indicated an influence
exerted by Purusha on Prakriti, and this, where material objects
are concerned, would be brought about by their propinquity. If a
magnet be brought near to a piece of soft iron or an electrified
body be brought near to a neutral one, certain changes are wrought
in the soft iron or in the neutral body by that bringing near. The
propinquity of the magnet makes the soft iron a magnet; the qualities
of the magnet are produced in it, it manifests poles, it attracts
steel, it attracts or repels the end of an electric needle. In the
presence of a postively electrified body the electricity in a neutral
body is re-arranged, and the positive retreats while the negative
gathers near the electrified body. An internal change has occurred
in both cases from the propinquity of another object. So with Purusha
and Prakriti. Purusha does nothing, but from Purusha there comes
out an influence, as in the case of the magnetic influence. The
three gunas, under this influence of Purusha, undergo a marvellous
change. I do not know what words to use, in order not to make a
mistake in putting it. You cannot say that Prakriti absorbs the
influence. You can hardly say that it reflects the Purusha. But
the presence of Purusha brings about certain internal changes, causes
a difference in the equilibrium of the three gunas in Prakriti.
The three gunas were in a state of equilibrium. No guna was manifest.
One guna was balanced against another. What happens when Purusha
influences Prakriti? The quality of awareness in Purusha is taken
up by, or reflected in, the guna called Sattva-- rhythm, and it
becomes cognition in Prakriti. The quality that we call life in
Purusha is taken up by, or reflected, in the guna called Rajas--mobility,
and it becomes force, energy, activity, in Prakriti. The quality
that we call immutability in Purusha is taken up by, or reflected,
in the guna called Tamas--inertia, and shows itself out as will
or desire in Prakriti. So that, in that balanced equilibrium of
Prakriti, a change has taken place by the mere propinquity of, or
presence of, the Purusha. The Purusha has lost nothing, but at the
same time a change has taken place in matter. Cognition has appeared
in it. Activity, force, has appeared in it. Will or desire has appeared
in it. With this change in Prakriti another change occurs. The three
attributes of Purusha cannot be separated from each other, nor can
the three attributes of Prakriti be separated each from each. Hence
rhythm, while appropriating awareness, is under the influence of
the whole three-in-one Purusha and cannot but also take up subordinately
life and immutability as activity and will. And so with mobility
and inertia. In combinations one quality or another may predominate,
and we may have combinations which show preponderantly awareness-rhythm,
or life- mobility, or immutability-inertia. The combinations in
which awareness-rhythm or cognition predominates become "mind
in nature," the subject or subjective half of nature. Combinations
in which either of the other two predominates become the object
or objective half of nature, the " force and matter "
of the western scientist.[FN#7: A friend notes that the first is
the Suddha Sattva of the Ramanuja School, and the second and third
the Prakriti, or spirit-matter, in the lower sense of the same.
have thus nature divided into two, the subject and the object. We
have now in nature everything that is wanted for the manifestation
of activity, for the production of forms and for the expression
of consciousness. We have mind, and we have force and matter. Purusha
has nothing more to do, for he has infused all powers into Prakriti
and sits apart, contemplating their interplay, himself remaining
unchanged. The drama of existence is played out within Matter, and
all that Spirit does is to look at it. Purusha is the spectator
before whom the drama is played. He is not the actor, but only a
spectator. The actor is the subjective part of nature, the mind,
which is the reflection of awareness in rhythmic matter. That with
which it works--objective nature, is the reflection of the other
qualities of Purusha--life and immutability--in the gunas, Rajas
and Tamas. Thus we have in nature everything that is wanted for
the production of the universe. The Putusha only looks on when the
drama is played before him. He is spectator, not actor. This is
the predominant note of the Bhagavad-Gita. Nature does everything.
The gunas bring about the universe. The man who says: "I act,"
is mistaken and confused; the gunas act, not he. He is only the
spectator and looks on. Most of the Gita teaching
is built upon this conception of the Samkhya, and unless that is
clear in our minds we can never discriminate the meaning under the
phrases of a particular philosophy.
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