Does the puruSa will? (was: Re: A text dealing with Ayurveda)

Paolo Magnone p.magnone at AGORA.STM.IT
Tue May 4 07:18:02 UTC 1999

[In reply to Ferenc Ruzsa's message of 28 Apr 99]


<color><param>0000,0000,0000</param>Dear Ferenc,

it is hardly possible to pursue a discussion such as this through
this means. However, I shall try to make at least a few points.

First of all, we should carefully distinguish between the theoretical
and historico-philological import of the discussion. On the
theoretical side, we may regard a certain statement as
unwarranted or inconsistent, which must not in any way hinder our
recognition, whether or not such statement has been made, on the
historico-philological side.

In this connection, when in reply to Vidyashankar's contention that

<color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>> > to hold such a 'will' or 'desire' to be responsible for the

> > evolution of the tanmAtras is plainly non-sAMkhyan

</color>you maintain that it is <color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>

> Atypical, but not impossible. In SK 21 evolution (sarga) is said to

> occur for the puruSa to experience (puruSasya darzanArthaM). Here the

> puruSa seems to be the subject both of experiencing (darzana) and

> wishing it (artha, purpose). Else who could have that particular

> purpose?

<color><param>0000,0000,0000</param>I concede that on the theoretical side we may have misgivings
about the notion of a purpose without an intelligent subject
entertaining it. Still the interpretation of SK 21 is not as plain as
that, in my opinion. The first half runs "puruSasya darzanArtham
kaivalyArtham tathA pradhAnasya". If you regard the puruSa as the
 subject of both experiencing and wishing, then what about
pradhAna? The chiastic disposition suggests some sort of
symmetry, which, however, is not easily discovered. The
commentators, in fact, are at variance; but it is impossible to go
into details here. Moreover, even on the theoretical side, I should
just like to suggest that one does sometimes in fact speak about
purpose without any purposing one, e.g. rain may be (perhaps
loosely) said to serve the purpose of the seeds' growing, without
either (or perhaps even without anybody) actually purposing

<color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>> > I think "will" is explicitly denied of the puruSa itself already in the

> > kArikA, when the puruSa is styled *madhyastha* (19) and above all

> > *udAsIna* (20).

> Both terms imply impartiality, neutrality and inactivity. (There *is* an

> alternative interpretation, but I will not pursue it here.) I think it is

> fair to infer that the puruSa is without passion (or even without emotion?

> but cf. SK55: duHkhaM prApnoti puruSaH); so probably the locus of (some)

> emotions might be somewhere in the antaHkaraNa. It does not follow that

> the locus of volition is not the puruSa. <color><param>0000,0000,0000</param>

Here I will not pursue this point further, since I am satisfied with
your concurrence that in SK 19-20 the puruSa is described as
impartial, neutral, inactive and even impassive. This being granted, I
cannot envisage any more space for volition as I understand it.

This brings us to the question of adhyavasAya.

<color><param>7F00,0000,0000</param>> > it is nature herself who supplies the "deliberation" or adhyavasAya

> > element

> Clearly, SK 23.: adhyavasAyo buddhir; but adhyavasAya is a difficult term,

> meaning here probably grasping, understanding, judgement (not decision, as

> in the gauDapAda passage you quoted ad SK 20). Cf. the analysis in

> Oberhammer et al. (Terminologie der fr hen philosophischen Scholastik in

> Indien, Band 1, s. 29): "Es ist das sAMkhya, das (jedenfalls seit

> IzvarakRSNa) den *adhyavasAya* im strikt technischen Sinne nur f r dieses

> dem Erkennen eigene Erfassen des Gegenstandes als das, was er ist,

> verwendet" <color><param>0000,0000,0000</param>

As Larson (Classical SAMkhya, p. 182) notes, adhyavasAya is
akin to vyavasAya as used in BhG 2.41 with the meaning of
"resolution", a consideration (among others) which leads him to
suggest that buddhi should be best taken as "will", though not
quite in the sense of "conscious decision". This is perhaps going
too far; on the other hand, I do not think there need be an
irreconcilable opposition between Oberhammer's understanding of
adhyavasAya and the one implied here. What is essential is that
something that was fluctuating is "tied down", so to speak (ava-so),
 i.e. fixed or determined. A definite stance is taken in ascertaining
the object, which means at one and the same time determining
one's own relationship towards the object (on account of one's own
individual karmic dispositions etc.), hence ipso facto also
deliberating about it.


Paolo Magnone
Catholic University of Milan
pmagnone at
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