Does Purusha will?

Ferenc Ruzsa f_ruzsa at ISIS.ELTE.HU
Fri May 14 19:58:48 UTC 1999


some general after-thoughts inspired by this discussion.
1. How can it be that we do not know? Why is it not clearly stated in the
texts, what is the locus of volition? Part of the answer may be that the
writers and readers, the gurus and the ziSyas were not interested in
(wordly) desires any more; it might have even been impolite to talk about
them. They led a generally peaceful way of life, and volition occurred to
them only in its disruptive, crudest material form, (typically sexual)
desire: and a classification of this as material - perhaps even below the
antaHkaraNa, a mere function of the indriya upastha - could appear evident.
We also would talk about 'instincts' and 'drives' in this connection, not
about will or decision.
2. The problem is actually even wider. Does the puruSa think? Understand?
Remember? Decide? Imagine? Feel (happiness, pain, boredom)? Does it sense
time? Some of these doubts are reflected in Nanda Chandran's remarks:
> The question here is : is desire thought? ...
> desire can never be linked with consciousness. Consciousness is only
> knowledge - to be conscious, to know - The Purusha is only the knower and
> the silent observer - and cannot be linked to desire. ...
> The Purusha is MISTAKEN and identifies himself with
> PrAkriti. The removal of this ignorance, the right knowledge - to KNOW -
> what brings about liberation.
> We've to clearly distinguish between knowledge and thought (desire).
We really would expect an answer from a system that analyses the cognitive
faculties of man in such a detail: we have sattva, the indriyas, manas,
ahaMkAra, buddhi (also the karaNa and antaHkaraNa), in some places also
citta; and puruSa or kSetrajJa or draSTR.
Perhaps the questions are really unanswerable. Perhaps the sAMkhya went too
far with its analysis. That consciousness seems inexplicable in purely
material terms is a convincing position. That some cognitive processes of
humans are clearly dependent on material factors (notably the brain), can
easily be shown. BUT: the unity of the human mind is not only given in
experience, it seems to be presupposed by the logical structure of
If somebody is MISTAKEN ("deluded"), that means that he entertains a
proposition which is not true. When proper knowledgerises in him
(samyag-jJAnAdhigama) that again seems to be propositional knowledge ('I am
entirely different from anything in nature'), and that presupposes some
means of thinking this proposition - perhaps a kind of language, and a way
of referring to external things (prakRti). When within this body, the puruSa
suffers, or at least partakes of suffering.
Generally speaking, puruSa = consciousness (cetana), cannot logically be
zuddha, i.e. objectless. It can be zuddha, pure only in an ethical sense
(and also materially as 'unbound' to any part of nature).
If my intuition is right and the difficulties are really insuperable, then
possibly it is not mere chance that in some excellent texts we do not find
these topics (memory, volition, experiencing, speculation, imagination, ...)

With best regards,

-----Original Message-----
From: nanda chandran <vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM>
Date: Friday, May 14, 1999 5:19 AM
Subject: Re: Does Purusha will?

>Ferenc writes :
>>The credit should probably go to the SAmkhya for setting right early on
>>real definition of "eternal" - that it is changeless. If they did not
>>that reality was changeless, why would they 1. Work out a superimposition
>>theory and attribute all the work only to prAkriti?
>>>1. Work - bodily work - is done by matter and affects matter; soul cannot
>>>it for many reasons, e.g. because it is non-spatial.
>But what about the workings of the mind? The mind too is subtle matter
>according to the SAmkhya and thus, is prAkriti. And even a simple man with
>no special knowledge of psychology, would naturally link desire to thought.
>The question here is : is desire thought? If it is, then it has to be only
>the buddhi ie prAkriti, which desires.
>And desire can never be linked with consciousness. Consciousness is only
>knowledge - to be conscious, to know - The Purusha is only the knower and
>the silent observer - and cannot be linked to desire.
>And AFAIK, all the traditional SAmkhya and Yoga, commentators, interpret it
>this way.
>>2. Why would they define the Purusha only as pure consciousness?
>>>2. Pure means probably 'undefiled', and it is a rather general assumption
>>>in some corners that the
>>>spiritual sphere is superior, and defilements are bodily in origin
>>>("carnal" desires etc.).
>"carnal", "desire" -  even if carnal can be linked to the body, how can
>desire ever be? It's a thought - the buddhi - prAkriti.
>Consciousness always implies the subject object relation. The subject being
>conscious of the object. Here as long as the Purusha is conscious of
>prAkriti and is not aware of himself, then there's the normal psychological
>consciousness. When he has realized his ignorance, awakens and rests
>in himself, separate from prAkriti - then it's pure consciousness devoid of
>the subject object relation - liberation - moksham.
>>3. And finally why would they cite
>>ignorance as the true cause of bondage?
>>>3. If the soul is indeed superior it cannot be bound by what
>>>is inferior; and as it is conscience, some negative _mental_ property
>>>be the cause of bondage.
>If mental property belongs to Purusha, then the buddhi would have been
>defined along with the Purusha and not as prAkriti.
>Ignorance is not the opposite of knowledge, but wrong knowledge (if it was
>the opposite of knowledge, the Purusha would be forever ignorant and no
>liberation is possible). The Purusha is MISTAKEN and identifies himself
>PrAkriti. The removal of this ignorance, the right knowledge - to KNOW - is
>what brings about liberation.
>We've to clearly distinguish between knowledge and thought (desire).
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