Re: [INDOLOGY] query on Sāṃkhya

Fitzgerald, James james_fitzgerald at
Mon Jun 3 19:50:53 UTC 2019

 Dear Matthew and colleagues,

I have enjoyed reading through this interesting discussion and would like
to add my following two cents.

I would suggest looking at the Manu-Bṛhaspati *saṃvāda* of the
*Mokṣadharmaparvan* (*MBh* 12.194-199) if you would like to see one of the
early “epic” attempts to articulate and use a doctrine of “evolution” in
the service of attaining the *summum bonum*. The text brings into the
foreground the matter of your question regarding the progression in the
*vikṛti*-s of the *mūlaprakṛti* from subtle to gross. The text poses many
terminological difficulties, and (to quote a recent paper I wrote on this
piece) “Though hardly perfectly smooth reading, the Manu-Bṛhaspati is not
as structurally problematic as some of the other texts of its
*Mokṣadharmaparvan* cohort. Frauwallner overstated matters when he wrote of
the Manu-Bṛhaspati:

‘Regrettably the text has been highly deformed. It displays no obvious

structure, nor any effective elaboration of its ideas. Thus it was

vulnerable to insertions and deformations. Nonetheless the main ideas can be

ascertained with certainty (Frauwallner, *Geschichte*, 1953, vol. 1, p.

"As we will see below, the text does display a clear structure overall,
though it is one that does fade about two-thirds of the way through, until
it is re-instated in several framing stanzas at the end. The Manu-Bṛhaspati
is a basically unified text, but one which I suspect had an interesting
compositional history . . .” (Fitzgerald, “The *Buddhi* in Early Epic
*Adhyātma* Discourse (the Dialog of Manu and Bṛhaspati), *JIP* (2017)

The ManuB text is not “Sāṃkhya,” but it is one contributing to what I call
the “Sāṃkhya” revolution against *yoga* that seems to have taken place
sometime around 100-200 CE and which is implied by 12.289-90 of the
*Mokṣadharma* (regarding which see my “The Sāṃkhya-Yoga ‘Manifesto’ at *MBh*
12.289-290,” in *Battle, Bards, and Brāhmins, *John Brockington, ed.
(Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2012): 259-300; for light remarks on “the
Sāṃkhya revolution” see too the end of my introduction to my selection “A
Prescription for *yoga* and Power in the *Mahābhārata,”* in *Yoga in
Practice,* David White, ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011):

Possibly directly relevant to the concern you raise, Matthew, are the
concluding remarks of my *JIP *discussion of the Manu-Bṛhaspati text (pp.
813-14): [Begin Quotation]

*Intimations of the Mythic Past and the Philosophical Future*

If these last remarks have been trying to suggest that the *buddhi* has a
more complicated career in the *mokṣadharma*s than might appear on the
surface, I turn now to an idea pertinent to the *buddhi* that comes from a
mythic past much earlier than the Manu-Bṛhaspati and which will form part
of its even more complicated philosophical future after not very long. Let
us briefly revisit the passage at 195.23, where Manu described the fateful
mis-taking [sic] of the psychological self for the true Self. Manu’s
language in that passage deliberately brings the *buddhi* into alignment
with the old stories of God’s (Prajāpati’s) recognizing himself as the
‘Great Self’ that is the totality of his new world-creation (*mahat ātman*;
van Buitenen’s paper “The Large Ātman;” (1964)133 explicated these
connections). This self-recognition by a being who stands on the limen
between the phenomenal world and the unmanifested transcendent principle of
all things is the reason that many other *adhyātma* listings of fundamental
principles (*tattva*s) identify the principle *buddhi* as the *mahat ātman*.
In a number of *adhyātma* texts besides the Manu-Bṛhaspati, and in later
Sāṃkhya philosophy, the *mahat ātman* is spoken of as both an abstract,
comprehensive reality that is impersonal, a neuter noun, “*mahat*” (“The
Whole,” “The Universal,” “The Large,” or “Extensive and Comprehensive
[Reality]”) and as a male personal being, “*mahān ātmā*” [in the nominative
singular] (“The Whole,” or “The Universal,” or “The Large,” or “The
Extensive and Comprehensive [Being, Self, or Person]”). At 195.23, when the
*buddhi*’s mistake that culminates the process of the embodied soul’s
calling into being a new embodiment is described, it is spoken of in terms
of a perceptual error in which a “large,” *mahat*, form was substituted for
something that is not really large, but small (*sūkṣma*).

*calaṃ yathā dṛṣṭipathaṃ paraiti sūkṣmaṃ mahad rūpam ivābhipāti* /

*svarūpam ālocayate ca rūpaṃ paraṃ tathā buddhipathaṃ paraiti* // 12.195.23

As when a moving object is passing out of the range of vision and yet one
preserves that now tiny object as if it were still large, so too does the
highest reality go beyond the purview of the intellect (*buddhipatha*) and
one intuits his phenomenal form to be his essential form.

The visual object moving out of sight, and now *sūkṣma*, is retained in the
*buddhi* as a “large *rūpa*,” and similarly the *sūkṣma svarūpa*, the true
Self, is intuited as a *mahat rūpa*. This opposition of the true *sūkṣma*
soul and the *mahat rūpa* of the newly (re-)constituted phenomenal self is
described here in language directly parallel to God’s recognizing his newly
fashioned “Whole” or “Great” world as himself. I suspect we have here an
echo of other texts and accounts that stood in the back of the mind of the
author of the Manu-Bṛhaspati. Or perhaps it is a deliberately subtle
inter-textual allusion to other *adhyātma* accounts. Either way, the
*buddhi*’s error in Manu’s teaching is directly linked to the verbal and
doctrinal parallelism of the *buddhi* and the *mahat* or the “*mahān ātmā*”
of other philosophical texts. It also aligns it with being the source (in
later *adhyātma* texts and in Sāṃkhya) of the new principle (*tattva*) yet
to come, the *ahaṃkāra*, “ego.”134 The truly remarkable “depth” of the
*buddhi* was going to grow much greater before long.

*Foot note 133:* One of van Buitenen’s truly inspired insights was his
tracing the broad  background of later *adhyātma *ontologies back to
Upaniṣadic narratives in which the creation of the world is accomplished by
a transcendent being’s willing itself to become many and then recognizing
the resultant creation to be himself. “This self-recognition, this
self-consciousness could be singled out as the first phase of a creation
process… completing itself through a number of phases each of which could
be identified as a station and later as a principle or a rubric” (van
Buitenen 1964, p. 108). Van Buitenen made an apt suggestion here that the
word *buddhi’s* basic sense of “awareness” suits it particularly well to
this critical node of cosmic and individual being (ibid., p. 114).

*Footnote 134:* It is important to note, however, that Manu’s notion of the
*buddhi* does not contain within its being any seeds of the physical world,
though the later developed theories of the *mahat* and the *ahaṃkāra* do.
[End Quotation]

On Wed, May 29, 2019 at 4:22 PM Edeltraud Harzer via INDOLOGY <
indology at> wrote:

> Dear Matthew,
> Given that the Sankhya theory of creation is not understood in terms of
> physics, rather in psychological/ spiritual(?) terms. It seems to stand to
> reason that creation will not start from a source that is a mere vehicle
> for the ultimate freedom. What may seem much more odd is that the ultimate
> freedom depends on the experience of being able to discriminate or isolate
> unintentional consciousness (पुरुष:) from materiality (प्रकृति:). This
> discrimination has to be embodied, hence the auxiliary “material/ gross”
> body.
> Best wishes,
> Edeltraud Harzer
> University of Texas in Austin
> On May 27, 2019, at 5:20 PM, Matthew Kapstein via INDOLOGY <
> indology at> wrote:
> Dear Indological colleagues,
> One of the peculiarities of Sāṃkhya thought is its unusual theory of
> "evolution" (though it might better be termed "emanation") which proceeds
> from the subtle modifications of the *mūlaprakṛti* to those that are
> increasingly coarse, namely the organs of sense and of action, and finally
> to their physical objects. This seems a very odd evolutionary path when we
> first encounter it and I am wondering if there has been any work that seeks
> to explain just why Sāṃkhya adopted what to us may seem a remarkably
> counter-intuitive framework. I do have my own theory about this, but I
> would not want to publish it if someone else has already come up with a
> similar idea. I would therefore be grateful for any suggestions you may
> have concerning scholarship that seeks to explain just why it is that
> Sāṃkhyaproceeds from top to bottom, as it were, rather than the other way
> around.
> with thanks in advance for your advice about this,
> Matthew
> Matthew Kapstein
> Directeur d'études,
> Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
> Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
> The University of Chicago
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