Dr. Dinker B. Rai
In ancient India, there were six schools of philosophy. They are known as Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta. These were the creation of great personalities- venerable sages. It is impossible to give a chronological sequence as to when they developed. There are ample evidences to prove that they were formed a millennium and a half before the birth of Christ. From time immemorial, they were taught and practiced in well-organized institutions. When Swami Vivekananda says that he belonged to such a school of which Buddha was the most recent reformer, then we can easily guess the antiquity of these schools of thoughts.
Let, me share with the modern mind my thoughts on the SANKHYA philosophy of the sage Kapila.
Kapila’s influence on the Indian mind is profound irrespective of time, place and religion. Whether it was the Aryans in the Indus Valley or the Dravidians south of the Vindya Mountains or the vanished civilization of Mohenjo-Daro, Kapila’s thoughts rejuvenated the children of India, whatever religion they belonged to. Moreover, the words like Purusha (the ultimate reality or the Absolute), Prakriti (nature), Ahankara (ego), Mukti (liberation), Karma (action), Bhakti (devotion), Jnana (knowledge), Pralaya (dissolution), Yuga (the ages), etc. became house hold words in their day to-day use. It is as though that these words await the birth of a new philosopher for their proper explanation.
It is a fact that the theory of NIRVANA of Buddhism is based on Sankhya philosophy. The intellectual theology of the West with its offshoots of psychology or agnosticism finds its origin in Kapila’s Sankhya philosophy. Whether the masters or their disciples, all are indebted to this great sage Kapila for his philosophy.
Kapila originally wrote his doctrine as Sankhya Sutra. Later, it is said that he also wrote commentary on this as ‘Pravachana’. SUTRA (aphorism)is a form in which the founder gives out his theory in brief.
The origin of the word Sankhya, according to many thinkers, correlates with its word-meaning ‘Numbers’. Although this mysterious relationship between philosophy and mathematics originated in Kapila’s mind, it becomes more and more evident during the Greek era. Sankhya was split into two parts. The one which developed with the background of Vedas, remained in India and the other purely intellectual in nature went to the West. Even in India when the later intellectuals tried to interpret it without the background of Vedas, it showed its tendency to precipitate a kind of atheism. Let us now trace its journey to the West.
It is well said by the Western historians that enlightenment of Greece starts with the birth of Pythagoras. Till then their intellect was restricted to the nursery stories of Homer.But even well known western philosophers like Burtrand Russell etc. fail to note where did Pythagoras learnt his philosophy . I wonder many times if it is because of ignorance or a total disregard to India which is the birth place of philosophy . Pythagoras was born around 532 B.C and lived a long life of eighty and odd years. (Ref. Pythagoras: His life and Teachings by Thomas Stanley-1625-1678).Pythagoras, a great mathematician and a scholar of his time was also a seeker of knowledge and truth. He spent 15 years of his youth in Egypt learning Geometry, then in the Middle East under the Jewish Philosophers and later in India, especially in Ellora and Elephanta(Ref: Pythogoras, Essay Henry L. Drake P,VII ) There he studied in – depth Sankhya philosophy( Also Ref: Complete works of Swami Vivekananda and the records of Ellora ). He took home with him the concepts on subjects like mind, soul, creation, space, time, causation, the secret of knowledge and the most important ways of perceiving it.Above all the realization of Nada Brahma “The Sound that is GOD” . A perception of the Creator and the created in the form of Sound totally originated in India and Kapila is the first one to reveal it to human kind . Pythagoras later came to be known by his disciples as a Prophet enlightened in the land of the East known as “Indus”.(Alexander the Great States:That he heard the Galatae and the Bhrahmins,From Chaldae(faith Apuleius) he went to the Brahmanes ,these are wise persons, a Nation of India,for which reason he went to their Gymnosophists (Patashala).The Brhamanes conferred many things to his philosophy; What are the documents of mind, what the exercises of bodies, how many are the parts of the soul, how many the vicissitudes of life,what torments or rewards, according to their merits, are allotted to men after death ref: Pythagoras p 496 )
He taught his disciples that there is definitely a timeless, space less principle (Absolute) beyond the created matters. It can never be perceived by the senses but can be experienced by the intellect. He strongly believed in the theories of transmigration of souls, a philosophy solely developed in India. Teachings of Pythagoras later on resulted in Alexandrian School of Philosophy. Bertrand Russell in his book “A History of Western Philosophy” writes, “What appears as Platonism is, when analyzed, found to be in essence Pythagoreanism. But for him (Pythagoras), Christians would not have thought of Christ as the WORD”. But even Russell fails to explain the source from where Pythagoras got this idea- “GOD is WORD”. If analyzed from the historical point of view, it would be clear that the source for the above theory of Pythagoras was Sankhya of Kapila who in his theory on creation had put forth the concept that the eternal principle PURUSHA coming in union with PRAKRITI (Pradhana) sets in the motion of creation. According to him, till then Prakriti which is the universal matter or the universal energy, is in a state of equilibrium as a neutral force and then divides into its positive and negative qualities. These qualities are different Gunas or Dispositions named by Kapila as SATTVA (goodness), RAJAS (passion) and TAMAS (dullness). For the sake of understanding and put the contemporary scientific mind in proper perspective , we shall name them as neutral, positive and negative energies ( Neutrons, Protons and Electrons) . They undergo a series of different combinations and bring forth the following matters in a series of sequence from a state of subtlest among the subtle to the grossest among the gross matters. Subtlest among all is the MAHAT or the BUDDHI or Cosmic intellect followed by AHANKARA (self-consciousness). Mind and five organs of senses and five organs of actions and their respective sense objects which are formed as TANMATRAS i.e. Sound, Touch, Smell, Form and Taste (SHABDA SPARSA GANDHA ROOPA and RASA). Each one of the latter is the subtlest particle formed by different combinations of the three qualities (Gunas) mentioned. These are the building blocks for all matters in nature including the human body, mind and sense organs. Five different types of Tanmatras are basically present which correlate with five basic sense organs and their objects of perception.
Even among the above five TANMATRAS, SHABDA (sound)is the first to manifest followed later by the rest. With different combinations, they initially form the five basic elements named as AKASHA (ether) VAYU (wind) AGNI (light or fire), JALA (water) and BHOOMI (earth). Whatever other objects are found in the universe invariably come out of these five basic elements. Hence Sound manifests first when Prakriti sets into motion and this sound (or Sunya or Brahman) or the word GOD was later recognized by all philosophies, religions and sects of the world. Whether in Christian Bible, or Muslim’s Koran or Jewish Talmud, one common claim is made – ‘There comes the WORD at the beginning of Creation’. Although none of them take into the task of explaining it, Kapila takes the credit of its explanation. This idea of ‘GOD is WORD’ is more vigorously taken by the Indian philosophers which later took various expressions, such as AKASHA BRAHMA, SHABDA BRAHMA and NADA BRAHMA but essentially everything is SOUND BRAHMA. This very manifestation of that eternal principle is symbolized as AUM by the Hindus, YAVE by the Jews, I AM THAT I AM by the Christians and ALLAH by the Muslems. Even our modern science-physics has taken our knowledge of matter from the grosser aspect to finer aspect. Ultimately the whole universe appears as Atoms. And what are these Atoms? Not the kind of matter we perceive but they are just combination of energies in a state of vibration isn’t it that all vibrations are nothing but sound.?
Although Bertrand Russell indicates Pythagoras as the source of the Christian theory “GOD is Word ,Word is JESUS so Jesus is GOD ”, let me put it this way that it is not Pythagoras but Kapila was responsible for bringing to the knowledge of mankind this unique and eternal concept of sound that WORD is ‘GOD’ or simply in his terms “NADA BRAHMA” .
The time has come for us not only to wake up but also to disperse the delusions of our Western scholars who are tuned into some of the thoughts like “Real civilization is only 2000 years old, sprung with the Greek race where the enlightenment dawned spontaneously and spread to the West by the Grace of God. Everything East to that is absolutely absurd, abstract and incompatible to the existence of civilized man”. It is far from true when the footprints of history are sincerely traced if we understand the inter-connection of events, we can clearly see, how the students of the early Hellenic world thirsting for knowledge renounced everything and wandered in the streets of Egypt and learnt Geometry and Astronomy, sitting by the side of Hebrew philosophers like Aristobulus and listened to the reasons of Moses and then spent years and years in India trying to grasp the ideas of Sankhya under the Brahmin scholars. This was how the enlightenment dawned and this was how the Grace of God came to that hitherto unknown land of the world. When Hellenic civilization and Roman Empire were brought down, still the Pythagorean ideas continued, it could be clearly seen in the teachings of some of the great Western philosophers who followed him, like Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza etc. So the religious philosophy that characterized Greece by the birth of Pythagoras continued in the middle ages and in modern times down to Kant. They all had one thing in common and that was the intimate blending of religion and reasoning, a moral aspiration with logical admiration of a timeless, space less and causeless eternal principle which itself is the knowledge Absolute. The PURUSHA of SANKHYA. After the Greek era during its journey into the West, not only the Purusha of Sankhya but also one of the most important contributions of Kapila was lost. According to Kapila ‘Philosophy is not just enlightenment but more than that Purusha for him is a state of experience itself. Hence Kapila’s philosophy is not just an intellectual game in the hands of theologians but an incommunicable knowledge that can be actually experienced by the dedicated disciple. He never calls it as GOD but names it as different states according to the context. He sometimes refers it as Jnana Svarupa-Pure knowledge and other times as Ananda Savarupa Pure Bliss or Consciousness.
For Kapila complete expression of Purusha through the Prakriti is the ultimate liberation. And this inherent quality of the Prakriti drives it continuously to change from one form to the other by which Purusha of the amoeba can gain liberation as Purusha of Buddha. It is merely the involved and evolved state of the same Purusha. All scholars describe the same phenomenon under different heads. Some explain it as Transmigration of Souls. Some as Cycle of birth and Death, some others as the Reincarnation of human being and the biologists in the modern time call it as Evolution of Species.
It is true-EKAM SAT VIPRA BAHUDHA VADANTI-Truth is One. Sages call it differently.