Meenaradchagan Vishnu mvishnu at FORE.COM
Fri Jul 17 19:08:05 UTC 1998

'Mani Varadarajan' wrote:
> Here is a question that has been bothering
> me for some time.  In the Vedantic/sAnkhyA
> scheme of evolutes, what exactly is "mahat"?
> What few traditional manuals of philosophy I
> have consulted simply list mahat as that into
> which prakRti evolves.  Is there a more concrete
> answer?

Mahat (lit. 'great') means discriminative knowledge in Samkhya
philosophy.  Originallay (i.e., before interpolations) Samkhya was a
rational philosophy which advocated solving human problems not by
religious/mystical/ritualistic means but by rational means; i.e., by
using discriminative knowledge.

This is clear from the first two verses of Samkhya Karika of
Ishvarakrishna, the oldest surviving work on Samkhya philosophy:

Verse 1:  "The enquiry is into the means of precluding the three sorts
of pain; for pain is embarrassment: nor is the inquiry superfluous
because obvious means of alleviation exist, for absolute and final
relief is not thereby accomplished."

Verse 2:  "The revealed mode (vedic method) is like the temporal one,
ineffectual, for it is impure (because it spills blood); and defective
in some respects, as well as excessive in others.  A method different
from both (the temporal as well as the vedic) is preferable, consisting
in discriminative knowledge of perceptible principles (vyakta), and of
the imperceptible one (avyakta), and of the thinking soul (purusha).

(vyakta -- lit. clear, avyakta -- lit. unclear)

So the objective of the Samkhya philosphy is to preclude three sorts of
pain.  The three kinds of pain are: adyathmika (personal),
(adhibautika) social, and adhidaivika (cosmic).

Even though temporal methods such as taking a pill for headache,
drinking toxicants for mental worries exists, these temporal methods do
not give lasting solutions to the pain.

Neither the Vedic (ritual) method gives lasting solution for it is
impure and ineffectual.

So we need a method that is different from both the temporal methods as
well as the Vedic ritual method to preclude pain.  The Samkhya proposes
a method based on the discriminative knowledge (mahat, buddhi).

> Mani

Meenan Vishnu

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