Monday, August 13, 2012
For 30,000 years at least, since the emergence of our species on earth, man has struggled to understand truth. The self is the agent of experience and action says Nayaya, one of six systems of Indian thought that has engaged with the question. It is the knower, enjoyer, and actor. Its body is the organ of knowledge feeling and action.
What is knowledge? What is life? The pundits do not agree on a definition that is work-in-progress yet.
The vaisesika [of the six knowledge systems] regards life as a particular kind of effort or voilition of self (jivanayonipriyatna). Inhalation, exhalation and the like are its actions. They are due to the vital efforts of the self.
There is no permanent self says the Buddhist. A person is a mind body complex, an aggregate of thirty two kinds of organic matter and five constituent elements of being, outward form (rupa), feelings (vedana), ideas (samjana), dispositions (samskara) and consciousness (vijnana). There is no permanent ego or self. The self here is equated with ego.
The samkhya [knowledge system] regards the body, the sense organs, mind (manas), intellect (buddhi), and egoism (ahamkar) as the evolutes of prakriti constituted of sattava, rajas and tamas. There is interaction between mind and body in perception and volition but there is no interaction between self and body or mind. The self is conscious. The mind is unconscious.
According to Jaina the self (jiva) and the not-self (ajiva) are two entirely different substances. The former is conscious, incorporeal and immaterial, while the latter is unconscious, copereal and material. Matter (pudgala) is not-self. Every embodied self (samsara jiva) has a soul and body.
The advaita Vedanta [knowledge system] regards the gross body as composed of of five elements. It is the instrument of waking experience. The five external sense organs are produced by the five quintipuled elements. The auditory organ is produced by ether, the tactual organ by air, the visual organ by light, the gustatory organ by water, and the olfactory organ by earth. The four internal organs mind (manas) intellect (buddhi) egoism (ahamakara) and memory (citta) are produced by the five elements collectively with a predominance of sattava.
The five motor organs – the vocal organ, the prehensive organ, the locomotive organ, the excretory organ, and the generative organ – are produced by the five elements with a predominance of rajas. The organs themselves are insentient, producing their effect under the guidance of the conscious self.
The five vital airs – prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana are produced by the five elements collectively with a predominance of rajas.
According to sankhya, life is not physical (bhautika) force but the common function of all sense organs. It is sustained by the powers of the sense organs. The five kinds of vital forces – prana, apana, udhana, samana and vyana – are the modes of internal organs [ manas, buddhi, ahamkara]. They are airs because of their motions. The five vital forces are the common functions of the sense organs.
Samkara considers the five vital forces to be the different modes of one common life. Prana is the air that is inhaled. Apana is the air that is exhaled. Vyana is the air that pervades the body. Udana resides in the throat. It is the air that is belched out. Samana is the air that resides in the intestines and digests food and drink.
The Advaita Vedanta gives a materialistic view of the nature and origin of life. The Samkhya gives an idealistic view tending towards the materialistic because it regards the external and internal organs as evolutes of prakriti or primal matter. The Vaisesika takes an idealist view as it traces life to a voilition of self.
The Prapariscara Tantra [knowledge system] describes ten vital forces. Prana courses upward. Apansa courses downward. Samana assimilatesfood. Vyana distributes the chyle (rasa) all over the body. Udana accompanies prana (life) and and produces movement of the eyes. Naga is the cause of belching. Kurma is the cause of opening the eyes.Krkara is the cause of hunger. Devdatta is the cause of yawining. Dhananjaya causes various sounds.
As we can see knowledge is a variable across knowledge systems, none of which can seemingly claim infaliability. Sri Aurobindo however points out, “All knowledge lies within”. It can be accessed by anyone who has purified the lower modes of knowing of all its grossness through the yogic discipline.
[Excerpted from Indian Psychology Vol-II pages 13-21 by Jadunath Sinha, Motilal Banarsidas, New Delhi]