Bhagavadgita, cognition, Buddhism?

Martin Gansten Martin.Gansten at TEOL.LU.SE
Tue Aug 29 10:38:04 UTC 2000

Dear Vidyasankar,

Thank you for your comments. Let me begin with sa.mghaata:

>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.

I have to disagree with you there. The most literal sense of sam+han is
surely dynamic: 'clashing together (hence the meaning 'combat'), joining',
etc. The meaning 'aggregate' is  only secondary.

Next, cetanaa and dh.rti: Sankara's explanation of dh.rti as 'that by which
the body and senses, when fatigued, are sustained (dhriyante)' sounds like
'endurance' to me. And of course that is one possible meaning; but it does
not strike me as the likely one in this particular context. Equating dh.rti
with a also sounds rather far-fetched to me, and not supported by
text-internal evidence.

The Gita repeatedly juxtaposes dh.rti with words like buddhi, medhaa, and
cetanaa; cf. 6.25 (cited by yourself), 18.29-35, 18.51. This is not to say
that dh.rti has no other meaning in the Gita; but when it occurs several
times in a certain context ('thinking' words), my guess is that it has a
technical meaning in those passages. And that meaning seems allied to that
of dhaara.naa, from the same root: focussing on or holding on to a mental

>dh.rti in 13.6 is to be related only to
>;sariira or k.setra and its components ... why include only dh.rti as
>part of k.setra in 13.6, but not the other qualities of 13.7-11

In my view, precisely because dh.rti in 13.6 does *not* denote a character
trait like k.saanti or sthairya, but rather a link in the cognitive process
-- which in any case is indisputably part of k.setra.

Re. Ramanuja's reading:

>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.

Sorry if I was unclear. R. reads cetanaadh.rti.h as a compound of cetanaa +
aadh.rti.h = caitanya + aadhaara.h. I agree that this is unlikely, but at
least it has the merit of attempting to make internal sense.

>It seems out of place because there is no particular connection with
>saa.mkhya thought.

Not only that; it seems out of place because (with the 'standard'
interpretation) dh.rti 'endurance etc.' appears to be a mental quality
(anta.hkara.nadharma, as Sankara says) chosen completely at random, and
hardly on a par with such fundamental units as 'body' (sa.mghaata) and
'mind' (cetanaa).

You are right that there may be some clue in Nyaya-Vaisheshika texts;
thanks for pointing this out.


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