Bhagavadgita, cognition, Buddhism?

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Aug 29 06:20:06 UTC 2000

Dear Martin,

I have been ruminating over these two verses for quite some time, so here
are my 2 c. on it. It seems somewhat odd to think of the word sa.mghaata in
terms of contact of the senses with their objects. This would be better
conveyed by something like sa.myoga, or even spar;sa (in a general sense).
sa.mghaata implies a collection, or an aggregate, like skandha in Buddhism.
Sure, there is an expectation of contact between different things in
sa.mghaata, but not in the dynamic sense of sensory perception, at least to
my ears.

>Bhagavadgita 13.5-6 gives the following summary definition of prakriti
>         mahaabhuutaany aha.mkaaro buddhir avyaktam eva ca /
> dazaika.m ca pañca cendriyagocaraa.h //
>         icchaa sukha.m du.hkha.m sa.mghaataz cetanaa dh.rti.h /
>In their rendering of the last pada, most modern translators (some with a
>slight twist of their own) seem to follow Sankara's understanding of the
>three words as 'the body, consciousness, and endurance.' (Though one

Actually, such translations do not quite follow Sankara. Endurance of what?
Or rather, whose? It cannot refer to the permanence of the self, which is
the k.setrajna, whereas the verse talks only of the k.setra. And in this
verse, dh.rti cannot be endurance as titik.saa either. Else, why include it
as part of the k.setra, but not other qualities like amaanitva, adambhitva
and so on (13.7-11)? Nor does it seem like dh.rti in 13.6 can be equated
with that in 10.34 or 16.3.

In Sankara's commentary, sa.mghaata is not just the body, but dehendriya
sa.mhati, i.e. the aggregate of the body and the senses. And cetanaa is not
pure consciousness itself, but its appearance (aabhaasa) in the internal
organ. It therefore refers to a v.rtti of the internal organ, i.e. buddhi or
vijnaana. In this interpretation, cetanaa presumes contact between the
senses and their objects, but then, isn't such contact implied by the term
indriya-gocara in 13.5?

All that Sankara says about dh.rti is that it sustains the body and the
senses when they are fatigued (avasaada). My guess is that he must be
equating dh.rti with (mukhya?) Cf. the upani.sad account, where the
body survives when each of the senses leave, but neither the body as a whole
nor any of the senses individually can function in the absence of the Verse 13.5 enumerates the 24 principles of saa.mkhya (not including
the, none of which includes the praa.nas. None of the other terms
in 13.6 would correspond to the praa.nas, unless one includes them under the
term sa.mghaata.

In this context, refer to Gita 7.4-5. Sankara interprets the words "eva ca"
in 13.5 with respect to the a.s.tadhaa bhinnaa prak.rti, which is aparaa,
and he equates the jiivabhuutaa paraa prak.rti (7.4-5) with the k.setrajna,
which sustains the world by entering it (, yayaa
dhaaryate jagad anta.h pravi.s.tayaa), and which is And as the ;sariira is the k.setra, also
see his comments on 18.14, where adhi.s.thaana refers to the ;sariira,
listed in addition to the kara.nas (indriyas), while the term
p.rthak-ce.s.taa.h refers to the praa.nas.

>prefer Ramanuja's reading sa.mghaataz cetanaadh.rti.h 'the body, supporting

If the reading were cetanaa-dh.rta.h, this interpretation would hold, as it
would have been in apposition to sa.mghaata.h. It seems rather forced for
the reading dh.rti.h, which is an independent noun here. Even if
cetanaadh.rti.h were seen as one compound word, and interpreted as Yogic
dhaara.naa or ekaagrataa or citta-samaadhaana, it would still not relate to
sa.mghaata. Anyway, such a reference to Yoga  would be out of place when
only enumerating the parts of the k.setra.

>Presumably, the understanding of sa.mghaata as 'body' is based on MaiU 1.3.
>Nevertheless, with either reading, this last pada seems somewhat out

It seems out of place because there is no particular connection with
saa.mkhya thought. However, following Sankara's interpretation, 13.6 refers
not to saa.mkhya, but to nyaaya-vai;se.sika, where icchaa,, sukha,
du.hkha and jnaana are the marks of the self. Of course, in that school,
jnaana is necessarily relational, and one could equate cetanaa with such
jnaana. In nyaaya, perception involves not only contact between the senses
and their objects, but also contact between the senses and the internal
organ, and between the internal organ and the self. You might find something
useful in this connection in the N-V texts, more than in saa.mkhya texts.
Hope somebody comes up with useful references from Buddhist texts.

>of dh.rti as a term for mental retention in 18.29-33, as well as with
>13.5-6 as a whole.

It seems to me that saatvikii buddhi and avyabhicaari.nii dh.rti in 18.30-33
can be better correlated with dh.rti-g.rhiitaa-buddhi in 6.25, the
daivii-sampat in 16.1-3, and sama-cittatva, ananya-yoga and
avyabhicaari.nii-bhakti in 13.7-11. dh.rti in 13.6 is to be related only to
;sariira or k.setra and its components. I suppose it all depends on how one
views the words ;sariira and k.setra, but again, why include only dh.rti as
part of k.setra in 13.6, but not the other qualities of 13.7-11, which are
listed along with adhyaatma-jnaana and tattva-jnaana? The only difficulty is
that all this makes 13.6 unique in the entire text, in its usage of the word
dh.rti, but I see no easy way around it. Perhaps it is meant to be unique,
no matter how one looks at it.

Best wishes,

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