Hinduism And Buddhism, Volume II. (of 3) - An Historical Sketch
by Charles Eliot
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The temples of Kamakhya leave a disagreeable impression—an impression of dark evil haunts of lust and bloodshed, akin to madness and unrelieved by any grace or vigour of art. For there is no attempt in them to represent the terrible or voluptuous aspects of Hinduism, such as find expression in sculpture elsewhere. All the buildings, and especially the modern temple of Kali, which was in process of construction when I saw the place, testify to the atrophy and paralysis produced by erotic forms of religion in the artistic and intellectual spheres, a phenomenon which finds another sad illustration in quite different theological surroundings among the Vallabhacarya sect at Gokul near Muttra.

It would be a poor service to India to palliate the evils and extravagances of Saktism, but still it must be made clear that it is not a mere survival of barbaric practices. The writers of the Tantras are good Hindus and declare that their object is to teach liberation and union with the Supreme Spirit. The ecstasies induced by tantric rites produce this here in a preliminary form to be made perfect in the liberated soul. This is not the craze of a few hysterical devotees, but the faith of millions among whom many are well educated. In some aspects Saktism is similar to the erotic Vishnuite sects, but there is little real analogy in their ways of thinking. For the essence of Vishnuism is passionate devotion and self-surrender to a deity and this idea is not prominent in the Tantras. The strange inconsistencies of Saktism are of the kind which are characteristic of Hinduism as a whole, but the contrasts are more violent and the monstrosities more conspicuous than elsewhere; wild legends and metaphysics are mixed together, and the peace that passes all understanding is to be obtained by orgies and offerings of blood.


[Footnote 680: See also chap. XXIV. as to Saktism and Tantrism in Buddhism. Copious materials for the study of Saktism and Tantrism are being made available in the series of tantric texts edited in Sanskrit and Tibetan, and in some cases translated by the author who uses the pseudonym A. Avalon.]

[Footnote 681: See Annales du Musee Guimet, Tome VIII. Si-Do-In-Dzon. Gestes de l'officiant dans les ceremonies mystiques des sectes Tendai et Singon, 1899.]

[Footnote 682: See Underhill, Mysticism, chaps. VI. and VII.]

[Footnote 683: See Dhalla, Zoroastrian Theology, p. 116.]

[Footnote 684: Specially Ath. Veda, XII. 1.]

[Footnote 685: Village deities in south India at the present day are usually female. See Whitehead, Village Gods, p. 21.]

[Footnote 686: Thus Candi is considered as identical with the wood goddess Basuli, worshipped in the jungles of Bengal and Orissa. See J.A. 1873, p. 187.]

[Footnote 687: Vaj. Sanh. 3. 57 and Taittir. Br. I. 6. 10. 4.]

[Footnote 688: Crooke, Popular Religion of Northern India, I. 63. Monier Williams, Brahm. and Hinduism, p. 57 gives an interesting account of the shrine of Kali at Vindhyacal said to have been formerly frequented by Thugs.]

[Footnote 689: This idea that deities have different aspects in which they practically become different persons is very prevalent in Tibetan mythology which is borrowed from medieval Bengal.]

[Footnote 690: Though there are great temples erected to goddesses in S. India, there are also some signs of hostility to Saktism. See the curious legends about an attendant of Siva called Bhringi who would not worship Parvati. Hultzsch, South Indian Inscriptions, II. ii. p. 190.]

[Footnote 691: There is a curious tendency in India to regard the male principle as quiescent, the female as active and stimulating. The Chinese, who are equally fond of using these two principles in their cosmological speculations, adopt the opposite view. The Yang (male) is positive and active. The Yin (female) is negative and passive.]

[Footnote 692: The Mahanirvana Tantra seems to have been composed in Bengal since it recommends for sacrificial purposes (VI. 7) three kinds of fish said to be characteristic of that region. On the other hand Buddhist works called Tantras are said to have been composed in north-western India. Udyana had an old reputation for magic and even in modern times Saktism exists in western Tibet and Leh. It is highly probable that in all these districts the practice of magic and the worship of mountain goddesses were prevalent, but I find little evidence that a definite Sakta sect arose elsewhere than in Bengal and Assam or that the Saktist corruption of Buddhism prevailed elsewhere than in Magadha and Bengal.]

[Footnote 693: But the Brahmans of isolated localities, like Satara in the Bombay Presidency, are said to be Saktas and the Kanculiyas of S. India are described as a Saktist sect.]

[Footnote 694: The law-giver Baudhayana seems to have regarded Anga and Vanga with suspicion, I. 1.13, 14.]

[Footnote 695: See especially the story of Manasa Devi in Dinesh Chandra Sen (Beng. Lang. and Lit. 257), who says the earliest literary version dates from the twelfth century. But doubtless the story is much older.]

[Footnote 696: Viratap. chap. VI. (not in all MSS.). Bhishmap. chap. XXIII. Also in the Harivamsa, vv. 3236 ff. Pargiter considers that the Devi-Mahatmya was probably composed in the fifth or sixth century. Chap. XXI. of the Lotus Sutra contains a spell invoking a goddess under many names. Though this chapter is an addition to the original work, it was translated into Chinese between 265 and 316.]

[Footnote 697: But he does mention the worship of the Divine Mothers. Harshacar. VII. 250 and Kadamb. 134.]

[Footnote 698: Hymns to the Devi are also attributed to him but I do not know what evidence there is for his authorship.]

[Footnote 699: As pointed out elsewhere, though this word is most commonly used of the Sakta scriptures it is not restricted to them and we hear of both Buddhist and Vaishnava Tantras.]

[Footnote 700: The Adhyatma Ramayana is an instance of Saktist ideas in another theological setting. It is a Vishnuite work but Sita is made to say that she is Prakriti who does all the deeds related in the poem, whereas Rama is Purusha, inactive and a witness of her deeds.]

[Footnote 701: XI. iii. 47-8; XI. V. 28 and 31. Probably Vishnuite not Saktist Tantras are meant but the Purana distinguishes between Vedic revelation meant for previous ages and tantric revelation meant for the present day. So too Kulluka Bhatta the commentator on Manu who was a Bengali and probably lived in the fifteenth century says (on Manu II. i.) that Sruti is twofold, Vedic and tantric. Srutisca dvividha vaidiki tantrikica.]

[Footnote 702: II. 15.]

[Footnote 703: See for full list Avalon, Principles of Tantra, pp. lxv-lxvii. A collection of thirty-seven Tantras has been published at Calcutta by Babu Rasik Mohun Chatterjee and a few have been published separately.]

[Footnote 704: Translated by Avalon, 1913, also by Manmatha Nath Dutt, 1900.]

[Footnote 705: Analysed in J.A.O.S. XXIII. i. 1902.]

[Footnote 706: Edited by Taranatha Vidyaratna, with introduction by A. Avalon, 1917.]

[Footnote 707: See Avalon, Principles of Tantra, p. lxi. But these are probably special meanings attached to the words by tantric schools. Nigama is found pretty frequently, e.g. Manu, IV. 19 and Lalita-vistara, XII. But it is not likely that it is used there in this special sense.]

[Footnote 708: Edited by Avalon, 1914.]

[Footnote 709: Satirical descriptions of Saktism are fairly ancient, e.g. Karpura Manjari, Harvard edition, pp. 25 and 233.]

[Footnote 710: Tantrism has some analogy to the Feng-shui or geomancy of the Chinese. Both take ancient superstitions which seem incompatible with science and systematize them into pseudo-sciences, remaining blind to the fact that the subject-matter is wholly imaginary.]

[Footnote 711: For what follows as for much else in this chapter, I am indebted to Avalon's translation of the Mahanirvana Tantra and introduction.]

[Footnote 712: Pasu-, vira-, divya-bhava.]

[Footnote 713: Avalon, Mahan. Tan. pp. lxxix, lxxx.]

[Footnote 714: "The eternal rhythm of Divine Breath is outwards from spirit to matter and inwards from matter to spirit. Devi as Maya evolves the world. As Mahamaya she recalls it to herself.... Each of these movements is divine. Enjoyment and liberation are each her gifts." Avalon, Mahan. Tan. p. cxl.]

[Footnote 715: Yair eva patanam dravyaih siddhis tair eva codita—Kularnava Tantra, V. 48. There is probably something similar in Taoism. See Wieger, Histoire des Croyances religieuses en Chine, p. 409. The Indian Tantrists were aware of the dangers of their system and said it was as difficult as walking on the edge of a sword or holding a tiger.]

[Footnote 716: Vamacara is said not to mean left-hand worship but woman (vama) worship. This interpretation of Dakshina and Vamacara is probably fanciful.]

[Footnote 717: Sometimes two extra stages Aghora and Yogacara are inserted here.]

[Footnote 718: Mahan. Tan. X. 108. A Kaula may pretend to be a Vaishnava or a Saiva.]

[Footnote 719: Although the Tantras occasionally say that mere ritual is not sufficient for the highest religions, yet indispensable preliminary is often understood as meaning sure means. Thus the Mahanirvana Tantra (X. 202, Avalon's transl.) says "Those who worship the Kaulas with panca tattva and with heart uplifted, cause the salvation of their ancestors and themselves attain the highest end."]

[Footnote 720: But on the other hand some Tantras or tantric treatises recommend crazy abominations.]

[Footnote 721: Mahanir. Tant. X. 79. Bhartra saha kulesani na dahet kulakaminim.]

[Footnote 722: Ib. XI. 67.]

[Footnote 723: E.g. It does not prescribe human sacrifices and counsels moderation in the use of wine and maithuna.]

[Footnote 724: See Frazer's Adonis, Attis and Osiris, pp. 269-273 for these and other stories of dismemberment.]

[Footnote 725: See Frazer, Golden Bough: Spirits of the Corn, vol. I. 245 and authorities quoted.]

[Footnote 726: Images representing this are common in Assam.]

[Footnote 727: Hsuean Chuang (Walters, vol. I. chap. VII) mentions several sacred places in N.W. India where the Buddha in a previous birth was dismembered or gave his flesh to feed mankind. Can these places have been similar to the piths of Assam and were the original heroes of the legend deities who were dismembered like Sati and subsequently accommodated to Buddhist theology as Bodhisattvas?]

[Footnote 728: It is an autumnal festival. A special image of the goddess is made which is worshipped for nine days and then thrown into the river. For an account of the festival which makes its tantric character very clear see Durga Puja by Pratapachandra Ghosha, Calcutta, 1871.]

[Footnote 729: One explanation given is that she was so elated with her victories over giants that she began to dance which shook the Universe. Siva in order to save the world placed himself beneath her feet and when she saw she was trampling on her husband, she stopped. But there are other explanations.

Another of the strangely barbaric legends which cluster round the Sakti is illustrated by the figure called Chinnamastaka. It represents the goddess as carrying her own head which she has just cut off, while from the neck spout fountains of blood which are drunk by her attendants and by the severed head itself.]

[Footnote 730: Yet the English mystic Julian, the anchoress of Norwich (c. 1400), insists on the motherhood as well as the fatherhood of God. "God is our mother, brother and Saviour." "As verily God is our father, so verily God is our mother."

So too in an inscription found at Capua (C.I.N. 3580) Isis is addressed as una quae es omnia.

The Power addressed in Swinburne's poems Mater Triumphalis, Hertha, The Pilgrims and Dolores is really a conception very similar to Sakti.]

[Footnote 731: These ideas find frequent expression in the works of Bunkim Chandra Chatterjee, Dinesh Chandra Sen and Sister Nivedita.]

[Footnote 732: See Dinesh Chandra Sen, Hist. Beng. Lang, and Lit. pp. 712-721. Even the iconoclast Devendranath Tagore speaks of the Universal Mother. See Autobiog. p. 240.]

[Footnote 733: So I was told, but I saw only six, when I visited the place in 1910.]

[Footnote 734: Rudhiradhyaya. Translated in As. Researches, V. 1798, pp. 371-391.]

[Footnote 735: See Frazer, op. cit. p. 246.]



Philosophy is more closely connected with religion in India than in Europe. It is not a dispassionate scientific investigation but a practical religious quest. Even the Nyaya school, which is concerned chiefly with formal logic, promises that by the removal of false knowledge it can emancipate the soul and give the bliss of salvation. Nor are the expressions system or school of philosophy, commonly used to render darsana, altogether happy. The word is derived from the root dris, to see, and means a way of looking at things. As such a way of looking is supposed to be both comprehensive and orderly, it is more or less what we call philosophical, but the points of view are so special and so various that the result is not always what we call a philosophical system. Madhava's[736] list of Darsanas includes Buddhism and Jainism, which are commonly regarded as separate religions, as well as the Pasupata and Saiva, which are sects of Hinduism. The Darsana of Jaimini is merely a discussion of general questions relating to sacrifices: the Nyaya Darsana examines logic and rhetoric: the Paniniya Darsana treats of grammar and the nature of language, but claims that it ought to be studied "as the means for attaining the chief end of man."[737]

Six of the Darsanas have received special prominence and are often called the six Orthodox Schools. They are the Nyaya and Vaiseshika, Sankhya and Yoga, Purva and Uttara Mimamsa, or Vedanta. The rest are either comparatively unimportant or are more conveniently treated of as religious sects. The six placed on the select list are sufficiently miscellaneous and one wonders what principle of classification can have brought them together. The first two have little connection with religion, though they put forward the emancipation of the soul as their object, and I have no space to discuss them. They are however important as showing that realism has a place in Indian thought in spite of its marked tendency to idealism.[738] They are concerned chiefly with an examination of human faculties and the objects of knowledge, and are related to one another. The special doctrine of the Vaiseshika is the theory of atoms ascribed to Kanada. It teaches that matter consists of atoms (anu) which are eternal in themselves though all combinations of them are liable to decompose. The Sankhya and Yoga are also related and represent two aspects of the same system which is of great antiquity and allied to Buddhism and Jainism. The two Mimamsas are consecutive expositions of the teaching scattered throughout the Vedic texts respecting ceremonial and the knowledge of God respectively. The second Mimamsa, commonly called the Vedanta, is by far the more interesting and important.

The common feature in these six systems which constitutes their orthodoxy is that they all admit the authority of the Veda. This implies more than our phrases revelation or inspiration of the Bible. Most of the Darsanas attach importance to the pramanas, sources or standards of knowledge. They are variously enumerated, but one of the oldest definitions makes them three: perception (pratyaksha), inference (anumana) and scripture (sabda). The Veda is thus formally acknowledged to have the same authority as the evidence of the senses. With this is generally coupled the doctrine that it is eternal. It was not composed by human authors, but is a body of sound existing from eternity as part of Brahman and breathed out by him when he causes the whole creation to evolve at the beginning of a world period. The reputed authors are simply those who have, in Indian language, seen portions of this self-existent teaching. This doctrine sounds more reasonable if restated in the form that words are the expression of thought, and that if thought is the eternal essence of both Brahman and the soul, a similar eternity may attach to words. Some such idea is the origin of the Christian doctrine of the Logos, and in many religions we find such notions as that words have a creative efficacy,[739] or that he who knows the name of a thing has power over it. Among Mohammedans the Koran is supposed to be not merely an inspired composition but a pre-existing book, revealed to Mohammed piecemeal.

It is curious that both the sacred texts—the Veda and the Koran—to which this supernatural position is ascribed should be collections of obviously human, incongruous, and often insignificant documents connected with particular occasions, and in no way suggesting or claiming that they are anterior to the ordinary life of man on earth. It is still more extraordinary that systems of philosophy should profess to base themselves on such works. But in reality Hindu metaphysicians are not more bound by the past than their colleagues in other lands. They do not take scripture and ask what it means, but evolve their own systems and state that they are in accordance with it. Sometimes scripture is ignored in the details of argument. More often the metaphysician writes a commentary on it and boldly proves that it supports his views, though its apparent meaning may be hostile. It is clear that many philosophic commentaries have been written not because the authors really drew their inspiration from the Upanishads or Bhagavad-gita but because they dared not neglect such important texts. All the Vedantist schools labour to prove that they are in harmony not only with the Upanishads but with the Brahma-sutras. The philosophers of the Sankhya are more detached from literature but though they ignore the existence of the deity, they acknowledge the Veda as a source of knowledge. Their recognition, however, has the air of a concession to Brahmanic sentiment. Isolated theories of the Sankhya can be supported by isolated passages of the Upanishads, but no impartial critic can maintain that the general doctrines of the two are compatible. That the Brahmans should have been willing to admit the Sankhya as a possible form of orthodoxy is a testimony both to its importance and to their liberality.

It is remarkable that the test of orthodoxy should have been the acceptance of the authority of the Veda and not a confession of some sort of theism. But on this the Brahmans did not insist. The Vedanta is truly and intensely pantheistic or theistic, but in the other philosophies the Supreme Being is either eliminated or plays a small part. Thus while works which seem to be merely scientific treatises (like the Nyaya) set before themselves a religious object, other treatises, seemingly religious in scope, ignore the deity. There is a strong and ancient line of thought in India which, basing itself on the doctrine of Karma, or the inevitable consequences of the deed once done, lays stress on the efficacy of ceremonies or of asceticism or of knowledge without reference to a Supreme Being because, if he exists, he does not interfere with the workings of Karma, or with the power of knowledge to release from them.

Even the Vedanta, although in a way the quintessence of Indian orthodoxy, is not a scholastic philosophy designed to support recognized dogma and ritual. It is rather the orthodox method of soaring above these things. It contemplates from a higher level the life of religious observances (which is the subject of the Purva Mimamsa) and recognizes its value as a preliminary, but yet rejects it as inadequate. The Sannyasi or adept follows no caste observances, performs no sacrifices, reads no scriptures. His religion is to realize in meditation the true nature, and it may be the identity, of the soul and God. Good works are of no more importance for him than rites, though he does well to employ his time in teaching. But Karma has ceased to exist for him: "the acts of a Yogi are neither black nor white," they have no moral quality nor consequences. This is dangerous language and the doctrine has sometimes been abused. But the point of the teaching is not that a Sannyasi may do what he likes but that he is perfectly emancipated from material bondage. Most men are bound by their deeds; every new act brings consequences which attach the doer to the world of transmigration and create for him new existences. But the deeds of the man who is really free have no such trammelling effects, for they are not prompted by desire nor directed to an object. But since to become free he must have suppressed all desire, it is hardly conceivable that he should do anything which could be called a sin. But this conviction that the task of the sage is not to perfect any form of good conduct but to rise above both good and evil, imparts to the Darsanas and even to the Upanishads a singularly non-ethical and detached tone. The Yogi does no harm but he has less benevolence and active sympathy than the Buddhist monk. It was a feeling that such an attitude has its dangers and is only for the few who have fought their way to the heights where it can safely be adopted, that led the Brahmans in all ages to lay stress on the householder's life as the proper preparation for a philosophic old age. Despite utterances to the contrary, they never as a body approved the ideal of a life entirely devoted to asceticism and not occupied with social duties during one period. The extraordinary ease with which the higher phases of Indian thought shake off all formalities, social, religious and ethical, was counterbalanced by the multitudinous regulations devised to keep the majority in a law-abiding life.

None of the six Darsanas concern themselves with ethics. The more important deal with the transcendental progress of sages who have avowedly abandoned the life of works, and even those which treat of that lower life are occupied with ritual and logic rather than with anything which can be termed moral science. We must not infer that Indian literature is altogether unmoral. The doctrine of Karma is intensely ethical and ethical discussions are more prominent in the Epics than in Homer, besides being the subject of much gnomic and didactic poetry. But there is no mistaking the fact that the Hindu seeks for salvation by knowledge. He feels the power of deeds, but it is only the lower happiness which lies in doing good works and enjoying their fruits. The higher bliss consists in being entirely free from the bondage of deeds and Karma.

All the Darsanas have as a common principle this idea of Karma with the attendant doctrines that rebirth is a consequence of action and that salvation is an escape from rebirth. They all treat more or less of the sources and standards of knowledge, and all recognize the Veda as one of them. There is not much more that can be said of them all in common, for the Vedanta ignores matter and the Sankhya ignores God, but they all share a conviction which presents difficulties to Europeans. It is that the state in which the mind ceases to think discursively and is concentrated on itself is not only desirable but the summum bonum. The European is inclined to say that such a state is distinguished from non-existence only by not being permanent. But the Hindu will have none of this. He holds that mind and thought are material though composed of the subtlest matter, and that when thought ceases, the immaterial soul (purusha or atman) far from being practically non-existent is more truly existent than before and enjoys untroubled its own existence and its own nature.

Of the three most important systems, the Sankhya, Yoga and Vedanta, the first and last are on most points opposed: both are ancient, but perhaps the products of different intellectual centres. In one sense the Yoga may be described as a theistic modification of the Sankhya: from another and perhaps juster point of view it appears rather as a very ancient science of asceticism and contemplation, susceptible of combination with various metaphysical theories.


We may consider first of all the Sankhya.[740] Tradition ascribes its invention to Kapila, but he is a mere name unconnected with any date or other circumstance. It is probable that the principal ideas of the Sankhya germinated several centuries before our era but we have no evidence whatever as to when they were first formulated in Sutras. The name was current as the designation of a philosophical system fairly early[741] but the accepted text-books are all late. The most respected is the Sankhya-pravacana,[742] attributed to Kapila but generally assigned by European critics to the fourteenth century A.D. Considerably more ancient, but still clearly a metrical epitome of a system already existing, is the Sankhya-Karika, a poem of seventy verses which was translated into Chinese about 560 A.D. and may be a few centuries older. Max Mueller regarded the Tattva-samasa, a short tract consisting chiefly of an enumeration of topics, as the most ancient Sankhya formulary, but the opinion of scholars as to its age is not unanimous. The name Sankhya is best interpreted as signifying enumeration in allusion to the predilection of the school for numbered lists, a predilection equally noticeable in early Buddhism.

The object of the system set forth in these works is strictly practical. In the first words of the Sankhya-pravacana, the complete cessation of suffering is the end of man, and the Sankhya is devised to enable him to attain it. Another formula divides the contents of the Sankhya into four topics—(a) that from which man must liberate himself, or suffering, (b) liberation, or the cessation of suffering, (c) the cause of suffering, or the failure to discriminate between the soul and matter, (d) the means of liberation, or discriminating knowledge. This division obviously resembles the four Truths of Buddhism. The object proposed is the same and the method analogous, though not identical, for Buddhism speaks as a religion and lays greater stress on conduct.

The theory of the Sankhya, briefly stated, is this. There exist, uncreated and from all eternity, on the one side matter and on the other individual souls. The world, as we know it, is due entirely to the evolution of matter. Suffering is the result of souls being in bondage to matter, but this bondage does not affect the nature of the soul and in one sense is not real, for when souls acquire discriminating knowledge and see that they are not matter, then the bondage ceases and they attain to eternal peace.

The system is thus founded on dualism, the eternal antithesis between matter and soul. Many of its details are comprised in the simple enumeration of the twenty-five Tattvas or principles[743] as given in the Tattva-samasa and other works. Of these, one is Purusha, the soul or self, which is neither produced nor productive, and the other twenty-four are all modifications of Prakriti or matter, which is unproduced but productive. Prakriti means the original ground form of external existence (as distinguished from Vikriti, modified form). It is uncreated and indestructible, but it has a tendency to variation or evolution. The Sankhya holds in the strictest sense that ex nihilo nihil fit. Substance can only be produced from substance and properly speaking there is no such thing as origination but only manifestation. Causality is regarded solely from the point of view of material causes, that is to say the cause of a pot is clay and not the action of the potter. Thus the effect or product is nothing else than the cause in another shape: production is only manifestation and destruction is the resolution of a product into its cause. Instead of holding like the Buddhists that there is no such thing as existence but only becoming, the Sankhya rather affirms that there is nothing but successive manifestations of real existence. If clay is made into a pot and the pot is then broken and ground into clay again, the essential fact is not that a pot has come into existence and disappeared but that the clay continuously existing has undergone certain changes.

The tendency to evolution inherent in matter is due to the three gunas. They are sattva, explained as goodness and happiness; rajas, as passion and movement; and tamas, as darkness, heaviness and ignorance. The word Guna is not easy to translate, for it seems to mean more than quality or mode and to signify the constituents of matter. Hence one cannot help feeling that the whole theory is an attempt to explain the unity and diversity of matter by a phrase, but all Hinduism is permeated by this phrase and theory. When the three gunas are in equilibrium then matter—Prakriti—is quiescent, undifferentiated and unmanifested. But as soon as the equilibrium is disturbed and one of the gunas becomes preponderant, then the process of differentiation and manifestation begins. The disturbance of equilibrium is due to the action of the individual Purushas or souls on Prakriti, but this action is mechanical and due to proximity not to the volition of the souls and may be compared to the attraction of a magnet for iron.[744] Thus at the beginning of the evolutionary process we have quiescent matter in equilibrium: over against this are souls innumerable, equally quiescent but exerting on matter a mechanical force. This upsets the equilibrium and creates a movement which takes at first the form of development and later of decay and collapse. Then matter returns to its quiescent state to be again excited by the Purushas and commence its world-making evolution anew. The doctrine that evolution, dissolution and quiescence succeed one another periodically is an integral part of the Sankhya.[745]

The unmodified Prakriti stands first on the list of twenty-five principles. When evolution begins it produces first Buddhi or intellect, secondly Ahamkara, which is perhaps best rendered by individuality, and next the five Tanmatras or subtle elements. Buddhi, though meaning intellect, is used rather in the sense of ascertaining or perception. It is the faculty by which we distinguish objects and perceive what they are. It differs also from our conception of intellect in being, like Ahamkara and all the subsequent developments of Prakriti, material, and must not be confused with the immaterial Purusha or soul. It is in fact the organ of thought, not in the sense of the brain or anything tangible, but a subtle substratum of all mental processes. But in what sense is it possible to say that this Buddhi exists apart from individuals, who have not come into being at this stage of cosmic evolution? This difficulty is not met by talking, as some commentators do, of cosmic as well as individual Buddhi, for even if all Prakriti is illuminated by Buddhi at this stage it is difficult to see what result can occur. To make the process of development coherent we must think of it not as a series of chronologically successive stages but rather as a logically connected series and an analysis of completely evolved beings, just as we might say that bones are covered with flesh and flesh with skin, without affirming that the bones have a separate and prior existence. Ahamkara, which is, like Buddhi, strictly speaking a physical organ, means Ego-maker and denotes the sense of personality and individuality, almost the will. In the language of Indian philosophy it is the delusion or misconception which makes the soul imagine itself a personal agent and think, I see, I hear, I slay, I am slain, whereas the soul is really incapable of action and the acts are those of Prakriti.

The five subtle elements are the essences of sound, touch, colour, savour and odour conceived as physical principles, imperceptible to ordinary beings, though gods and Yogis can perceive them. The name Tanmatra which signifies that only indicates that they are concerned exclusively with one sense. Thus whereas the gross elements, such as earth, appeal to more than one sense and can be seen, felt and smelt, the subtle element of sound is restricted to the sense of hearing. It exists in all things audible but has nothing to do with their tangibility or visibility. There remain sixteen further modifications to make up the full list of twenty-four. They are the five organs of sense,[746] the five organs of action,[747] Manas or mind, regarded as a sixth and central sense, and also as the seat of will, and the five gross elements—earth, water, light, air and ether. The Sankhya distinguishes between the gross and the subtle body. The latter, called lingasarira, is defined in more than one way, but it is expressly stated in the Karikas[748] that it is composed of "Buddhi and the rest, down to the subtle elements." It practically corresponds to what we call the soul, though totally distinct from Purusha or soul in the Sankhya sense. It constitutes the character and essential being of a person. It is the part which transmigrates from one gross body to another, and is responsible for the acts committed in each existence. Its union with a gross body constitutes birth, its departure death. Except in the case of those who attain emancipation, its existence and transmigration last for a whole world-period at the end of which come quiescence and equilibrium. In it are imprinted the Samskaras,[749] the predispositions which pass on from one existence to another and are latent in the new-born mind like seeds in a field.

By following the evolution of matter we have now accounted for intellect, individuality, the senses, the moral character, will, and a principle which survives death and transmigrates. It might therefore be supposed that we have exhaustively analysed the constitution of a human being. But that is not the view of the Sankhya. The evolution of Buddhi, Ahamkara, the subtle body and the gross body is a physical process and the result is also physical, though parts of it are of so fine a substance that ordinary senses cannot perceive them. This physical organism becomes a living being (which term includes gods and animals) when it is connected with a soul (purusha) and consciousness depends on this connection, for neither is matter when isolated conscious, nor is the soul, at least not in our sense of the word. Though the soul is neither the life which ends at death (for that is the gross body) nor yet the life which passes from existence to existence (for that is the subtle body) yet it is the vitalizing element which renders life possible.

The Sankhya like Jainism regards souls as innumerable and distinct from one another. The word Purusha must have originally referred to the manikin supposed to inhabit the body, and there is some reason to think that the earliest teachers of the Sankhya held that it was infinitely small. But in the existing text-books it is described as infinitely large. It is immaterial and without beginning, end, parts, dimensions, or qualities, incapable of change, motion, or action. These definitions may be partly due to the influence of the Vedanta and, though we know little about the historical development of the Sankhya, there are traces of a compromise between the old teaching of a soul held in bondage and struggling for release and later conceptions of a soul which, being infinite and passionless, hardly seems capable of submitting to bondage. Though the soul cannot be said to transmigrate, to act, or to suffer, still through consciousness it makes the suffering of the world felt and though in its essence it remains eternally unchanged and unaffected, yet it experiences the reflection of the suffering which goes on. Just as a crystal (to use the Indian simile) allows a red flower to be seen through it and remains unchanged, although it seems to become red, so does the soul remain unchanged by sorrow or joy, although the illusion that it suffers or rejoices may be present in the consciousness.

The task of the soul is to free itself from illusion, and thus from bondage. For strictly speaking the bondage does not exist: it is caused by want of discrimination. Like the Vedanta, the Sankhya regards all this troubled life as being, so far as the soul is concerned, mere illusion. But while the Vedanta bids the soul know its identity with Brahman, the Sankhya bids it isolate itself and know that the acts and feelings which seem to be its own have really nothing to do with it. They are for the soul nothing but a spectacle or play originating in its connection with Prakriti, and it is actually said,[750] "Wherefore no soul is bound, or is liberated or transmigrates. It is Prakriti, which has many bodily forms, which is bound, liberated and transmigrates." It is in Buddhi or intellect, which is a manifestation of Prakriti, that the knowledge of the difference between the soul and Prakriti must arise. Thus though the Sankhya reposes on a fundamental dualism, it is not the dualism of good and evil. Soul and matter differ not because the first is good and the second bad, but because the first is unchangeable and the second constantly changing. Matter is often personified as a woman. Her motives are unselfish and she works for the liberation of the soul. "As a dancer after showing herself on the stage ceases to dance, so does Prakriti cease when she has made herself manifest to the soul." That is to say, when a soul once understands that it is distinct from the material world, that world ceases to exist for that particular soul, though of course the play continues for others. "Generous Prakriti, endowed with Gunas, causes by manifold means without benefit to herself, the benefit of the soul, which is devoid of Gunas and makes no return."[751] The condition of the liberated soul, corresponding to the mokska and nirvana of other systems, is described as Kaivalya, that is, complete separation from the material world, but, as among Buddhists and Vedantists, he who has learnt the truth is liberated even before death, and can teach others. He goes on living, just as the wheel continues to revolve for some time after the potter has ceased to turn it. After death, complete liberation without the possibility of rebirth is attained. The Sankhya manuals do not dwell further on the character of this liberation: we only know that the eternal soul is then completely isolated and aloof from all suffering and material things. Liberation is compared to profound sleep, the difference being that in dreamless sleep there is a seed, that is, the possibility of return to ordinary life, whereas when liberation is once attained there is no such return.

Both in its account of the world process and in its scheme of salvation the Sankhya ignores theism in the same way as did the Buddha. Indeed the text-books go beyond this and practically deny the existence of a personal supreme deity. We are told[752] that the existence of God cannot be proved, for whatever exists must be either bound or free and God can be neither. We cannot think of him as bound and yet he cannot be free like an emancipated soul, for freedom implies the absence of desire and hence of the impulse to create. Similarly[753] the consequences of good and evil deeds are due to Karma and not to the government of God. Such a ruler is inconceivable, for if he governs the world according to the action of Karma his existence is superfluous, and if he is affected by selfish motives or desire, then he cannot be free. It is true that these passages speak of there being no proof of God's existence and hence commentators both Indian and European who shrink from atheism represent the Sankhya as suspending judgment. But if a republican constitution duly describes the President and other authorities in whom the powers of government are vested, can we argue that it is not unmonarchical because it does not expressly say there is no king? In the Sankhya there is no more place for a deity than for a king in a republican constitution. Moreover, the Sutras endeavour to prove that the idea of God is inconceivable and self-contradictory and some commentaries speak plainly on this subject.[754] Thus the Sankhya-tattva-kaumudi commenting on Karika 57 argues that the world cannot have been created by God, whether we suppose him to have been impelled by selfishness or kindness. For if God is perfect he can have no need to create a world. And if his motive is kindness, is it reasonable to call into existence beings who while non-existent had no suffering, simply in order to show kindness in relieving them from suffering? A benevolent deity ought to create only happy creatures, not a mixed world like the one we see.[755]

Arguments like this were not condemned by the Brahmans so strongly as we should expect, but they did not like them and though they did not excommunicate the Sankhya in the same way as Buddhism, they greatly preferred a theistic variety of it called Yoga.

The Yoga and Sankhya are mentioned together in the Svetasvatara Upanishad,[756] and the Bhagavad-gita[757] says that he sees truly who sees them as one. The difference lies in treatment rather than in substance. Whereas the Sankhya is mainly theoretical, the principal topic of the Yoga is the cultivation of that frame of mind which leads to emancipation and the methods and exercises proper to this end. Further, the Yoga recognizes a deity. This distinction may seem of capital importance but the god of the Yoga (called Isvara or the Lord) is not its foundation and essence as Brahman is of the Vedanta.[758] Devotion to God is recognized as one among other methods for attaining emancipation and if this particular procedure, which is mentioned in relatively few passages, were omitted, the rest of the system would be unaffected. It is therefore probable that the theistic portions of the Yoga are an addition made under Brahmanic influence. But taking the existing Sutras of the two philosophies, together with their commentaries, it may be said that the Yoga implies most of the Sankhya theory and the Sankhya most of the Yoga practice, for though it does not go into details it prescribes meditation which is to be perfected by regulating the breathing and by adopting certain postures. I have already spoken of the methods and discipline prescribed by the Yoga and need not dwell further on the topic now.

That Buddhism has some connection with the Sankhya and Yoga has often been noticed.[759] Some of the ideas found in the Sankhya and some of the practices prescribed by the Yoga are clearly anterior to Gotama and may have contributed to his mental development, but circumspection is necessary in the use of words like Yoga, Sankhya and Vedanta. If we take them to mean the doctrinal systems contained in certain sutras, they are clearly all later than Buddhism. But if we assume, as we may safely do, that the doctrine is much older than the manuals in which we now study it, we must also remember that when we leave the texts we are not justified in thinking of a system but merely of a line of thought. In this sense it is clear that many ideas of the Sankhya appear among the Jains, but the Jains know nothing of the evolution of matter described by the Sankhya manuals and think of the relation of the soul to matter in a more materialistic way. The notion of the separate eternal soul was the object of the Buddha's persistent polemics and was apparently a popular doctrine when he began preaching. The ascetic and meditative exercises prescribed by the Yoga were also known before his time and the Pitakas do not hide the fact that he received instruction from two Yogis. But though he was acquainted with the theories and practices which grew into the Yoga and Sankhya, he did not found his religion on them for he rejected the idea of a soul which has to be delivered and did not make salvation dependent on the attainment of trances. If there was in his time a systematic Sankhya philosophy explaining the nature of suffering and the way of release, it is strange that the Pitakas contain no criticism of it, for though to us who see these ancient sects in perspective the resemblance of Buddhism to the Sankhya is clear, there can be little doubt that the Buddha would have regarded it as a most erroneous heresy, because it proposes to attain the same objects as his own teaching but by different methods.

Sankhya ideas are not found in the oldest Upanishads, but they appear (though not in a connected form) in those of the second stratum, such as the Svetasvatara and Katha. It therefore seems probable, though not proven, that the origin of these ideas is to be sought not in the early Brahmanic schools but in the intellectual atmosphere non-theistic, non-sacerdotal, but audaciously speculative which prevailed in the central and eastern part of northern India in the sixth century B.C. The Sankhya recognizes no merit in sacrifices or indeed in good works of any kind, even as a preliminary discipline, and in many details is un-Brahmanic. Unlike the Vedanta Sutras, it does not exclude Sudras from higher studies, but states that there are eight classes of gods and five of animals but only one of men. A teacher must have himself attained emancipation, but there is no provision that he must be a Brahman. Perhaps the fables and parables which form the basis of the fourth book of the Sankhya Sutras point to some more popular form of instruction similar to the discourses of the Buddha. We may suppose that this ancient un-Brahmanic school took shape in several sects, especially Jainism and Buddhism, and used the Yoga discipline. But the value and efficacy of that discipline were admitted almost universally and several centuries later it was formulated in the Sutras which bear the name of Patanjali in a shape acceptable to Brahmans, not to Buddhists. If, as some scholars think, the Yoga sutras are not earlier than 450 A.D.[760] it seems probable that it was Buddhism which stimulated the Brahmans to codify the principles and practice of Yoga, for the Yogacara school of Buddhism arose before the fifth century. The Sankhya is perhaps a somewhat similar brahmanization of the purely speculative ideas which may have prevailed in Magadha and Kosala.[761] Though these districts were not strongholds of Brahmanism, yet it is clear from the Pitakas that they contained a considerable Brahman population who must have been influenced by the ideas current around them but also must have wished to keep in touch with other Brahmans. The Sankhya of our manuals represents such an attempt at conciliation. It is an elaboration in a different shape of some of the ideas out of which Buddhism sprung but in its later history it is connected with Brahmanism rather than Buddhism. When it is set forth in Sutras in a succinct and isolated form, its divergence from ordinary Brahmanic thought is striking and in this form it does not seem to have ever been influential and now is professed by only a few Pandits, but, when combined in a literary and eclectic spirit with other ideas which may be incompatible with it in strict logic, it has been a mighty influence in Indian religion, orthodox as well as unorthodox. Such conceptions as Prakriti and the Gunas colour most of the post-Vedic religious literature. Their working may be plainly traced in the Mahabharata, Manu and the Puranas,[762] and the Tantras identify with Prakriti the goddesses whose worship they teach. The unethical character of the Sankhya enabled it to form the strangest alliances with aboriginal beliefs.

Unlike the Sankhya, the Vedanta is seen in its most influential and perhaps most advantageous aspect when stated in its most abstract form. We need not enquire into its place of origin for it is clearly the final intellectual product of the schools which produced the Upanishads and the literature which preceded them, and though it may be difficult to say at what point we are justified in applying the name Vedanta to growing Brahmanic thought, the growth is continuous. The name means simply End of the Veda. In its ideas the Vedanta shows great breadth and freedom, yet it respects the prejudices and proprieties of Brahmanism. It teaches that God is all things, but interdicts this knowledge to the lower castes: it treats rites as a merely preliminary discipline, but it does not deny their value for certain states of life.

The Vedanta is the boldest and the most characteristic form of Indian thought. For Asia, and perhaps for the world at large, Buddhism is more important but on Indian soil it has been vanquished by the Vedanta, especially that form of it known as the Advaita. In all ages the main idea of this philosophy has been the same and may be summed up in the formula that the soul is God and that God is everything. If this formula is not completely accurate[763]—and a sentence which both translates and epitomizes alien metaphysics can hardly aspire to complete accuracy—the error lies in the fact to which I have called attention elsewhere that our words, God and soul, do not cover quite the same ground as the Indian words which they are used to translate.

Many scholars, both Indian and European, will demur to the high place here assigned to the Advaita philosophy. I am far from claiming that the doctrine of Sankara is either primitive or unchallenged. Other forms of the Vedanta existed before him and became very strong after him. But so far as a synthesis of opinions which are divergent in details can be just, he gives a just synthesis and elaboration of the Upanishads. It is true that his teaching as to the higher and lower Brahman and as to Maya has affinities to Mahayanist Buddhism, and that later sects were repelled by the severe and impersonal character of his philosophy, but the doctrine of which he is the most thorough and eminent exponent, namely that God or spirit is the only reality and one with the human soul, asserts itself in almost all Hindu sects, even though their other doctrines may seem to contradict it.

This line of thought is so persistent and has so many ramifications, that it is hard to say what is and what is not Vedanta. If we take literature as our best guide we may distinguish four points of importance marked by the Upanishads, the Brahma-Sutras, Sankara and Ramanuja.

I have said something elsewhere of the Upanishads. These works do not profess to form a systematic whole (though later Hinduism regards them as such) and when European scholars speak of them collectively, they generally mean the older members of the collection. These may justly be regarded as the ancestors of the Vedanta, inasmuch as the tone of thought prevalent in them is incipient Vedantism. It rejects dualism and regards the universe as a unity not as plurality, as something which has issued from Brahman or is pervaded by Brahman and in any case depends on Brahman for its significance and existence. Brahman is God in the pantheistic sense, totally disconnected with mythology and in most passages impersonal. The knowledge of Brahman is salvation: he who has it, goes to Brahman or becomes Brahman. More rarely we find statements of absolute identity such as "Being Brahman, he goes to Brahman."[764] But though the Upanishads say that the soul goes to or is Brahman, that the world comes from or is Brahman, that the soul is the whole universe and that a knowledge of these truths is the one thing of importance, these ideas are not combined into a system. They are simply the thoughts of the wise, not always agreeing in detail, and presented as independent utterances, each with its own value.

One of the most important of these wise men is Yajnavalkya,[765] the hero of the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad and a great name, to whom are ascribed doctrines of which he probably never heard. The Upanishad represents him as developing and completing the views of Sandilya and Uddalaka Aruni. The former taught[766] that the Atman or Self within the heart, smaller than a grain of mustard seed, is also greater than all worlds. The brief exposition of his doctrine which we possess starts from and emphasizes the human self. This self is Brahman. The doctrine of Uddalaka[767] takes the other side of the equation: he starts with Brahman and then asserts that Brahman is the soul. But though he teaches that in the beginning there was one only without a second, yet he seems to regard the subsequent products of this Being as external to it and permeated by it. But to Yajnavalkya is ascribed an important modification of these doctrines, namely, that the Atman is unknowable and transcendental.[768] It is unknowable because since it is essentially the knowing subject it can be known only by itself: it can never become the object of knowledge and language is inadequate to describe it. All that can be said of it is neti, neti, that is no, no: it is not anything which we try to predicate of it. But he who knows that the individual soul is the Atman, becomes Atman; being it, he knows it and knows all the world: he perceives that in all the world there is no plurality. Here the later doctrine of Maya is adumbrated, though not formulated. Any system which holds that in reality there is no plurality or, like some forms of Mahayanist Buddhism, that nothing really exists implies the operation of this Maya or illusion which makes us see the world as it appears to us. It may be thought of as mere ignorance, as a failure to see the universe as it really is: but no doubt the later view of Maya as a creative energy which fashions the world of phenomena is closely connected with the half-mythological conceptions found in the Pancaratra and Saiva philosophy which regard this creative illusion as a female force—a goddess in fact—inseparably associated with the deity.

The philosophy of the Upanishads, like all religious thought in India, is avowedly a quest of happiness and this happiness is found in some form of union with Brahman. He is perfect bliss, and whatever is distinct from him is full of suffering.[769] But this sense of the suffering inherent in existence is less marked in the older Upanishads and in the Vedanta than in Buddhism and the Sankhya. Those systems make it their basis and first principle: in the Vedanta the temperament is the same but the emphasis and direction of the thought are different. The Sankhya looks at the world and says that salvation lies in escape into something which has nothing in common with it. But the Vedantist looks towards Brahman, and his pessimism is merely the feeling that everything which is not wholly and really Brahman is unsatisfactory. In the later developments of the system, pessimism almost disappears, for the existence of suffering is not the first Truth but an illusion: the soul, did it but know it, is Brahman and Brahman is bliss. So far as the Vedanta has any definite practical teaching, it does not wholly despise action. Action is indeed inferior to knowledge and when knowledge is once obtained works are useless accessories, but the four stages of a Brahman's career, including household life, are approved in the Vedanta Sutras, though there is a disposition to say that he who has the necessary religious aptitudes can adopt the ascetic life at any time. The occupations of this ascetic life are meditation and absorption or samadhi, the state in which the meditating soul becomes so completely blended with God on whom it meditates, that it has no consciousness of its separate existence.[770]

As indicated above the so-called books of Sruti or Vedic literature are not consecutive treatises, but rather responsa prudentium, utterances respecting ritual and theology ascribed to poets, sacrificers and philosophers who were accepted as authorities. When these works came to be regarded as an orderly revelation, even orthodoxy could not shut its eyes to their divergences, and a comprehensive exegesis became necessary to give a conspectus of the whole body of truth. This investigation of the meaning of the Veda as a connected whole is called Mimamsa, and is divided into two branches, the earlier (purva) and the later (uttara). The first is represented by the Purva-mimamsa-sutras of Jaimini[771] which are called earlier (purva) not in the chronological sense but because they deal with rites which come before knowledge, as a preparatory stage. It is interesting to find that Jaimini was accused of atheism and defended by Kumarila Bhatta. The defence is probably just, for Jaimini does not so much deny God as ignore him. But what is truly extraordinary, though characteristic of much Indian literature about ritual, is that a work dealing with the general theory of religious worship should treat the deity as an irrelevant topic. The Purva-mimamsa discusses ceremonies prescribed by an eternal self-existing Veda. The reward of sacrifice is not given by God. When the result of an act does not appear at once, Jaimini teaches that there is all the same produced a supersensuous principle called apurva, which bears fruit at a later time, and thus a sacrifice leads the offerer to heaven. This theory is really tantamount to placing magic on a philosophic basis.

Badarayana's sutras, which represent the other branch of the Mimamsa, show a type of thought more advanced and profound than Jaimini's. They consist of 555 aphorisms—less than a fifth of Jaimini's voluminous work—and represent the outcome of considerable discussion posterior to the Upanishads, for they cite the opinions of seven other teachers and also refer to Badarayana himself by name. Hence they may be a compendium of his teaching made by his pupils. Their date is unknown but Sankara evidently regards them as ancient and there were several commentators before him.[772] Like most sutras these aphorisms are often obscure and are hardly intended to be more than a mnemotechnic summary of the doctrine, to be supplemented by oral instruction or a commentary. Hence it is difficult to define the teaching of Badarayana as distinguished from that of the Upanishads on the one hand, and that of his commentators on the other, or to say exactly what stage he marks in the development of thought, except that it is the stage of attempted synthesis.[773] He teaches that Brahman is the origin of the world and that with him should all knowledge, religion and effort be concerned. By meditation on him, the soul is released and somehow associated with him. But it is not clear that we have any warrant for finding in the sutras (as does Sankara) the distinction between the higher and lower Brahman, or the doctrine of the unreality of the world (Maya) or the absolute identity of the individual soul with Brahman. We are told that the state of the released soul is non-separation (avibhaga) from Brahman, but this is variously explained by the commentators according to their views. Though the sutras are the acknowledged text-book of Vedantism, their utterances are in practice less important than subsequent explanations of them. As often happens in India, the comment has overgrown and superseded the text.

The most important of these commentators is Sankaracarya.[774] Had he been a European philosopher anxious that his ideas should bear his name, or a reformer like the Buddha with little respect for antiquity, he would doubtless have taken his place in history as one of the most original teachers of Asia. But since his whole object was to revive the traditions of the past and suppress his originality by attempting to prove that his ideas are those of Badarayana and the Upanishads, the magnitude of his contribution to Indian thought is often under-rated. We need not suppose that he was the inventor of all the ideas in his works of which we find no previous expression. He doubtless (like the Buddha) summarized and stereotyped an existing mode of thought but his summary bears the unmistakeable mark of his own personality.

Sankara's teaching is known as Advaita or absolute monism. Nothing exists except the one existence called Brahman or Paramatman, the Highest Self. Brahman is pure being and thought (the two being regarded as identical), without qualities. Brahman is not intelligent but is intelligence itself. The human soul (jiva) is identical with the Highest Self, not merely as a part of it, but as being itself the whole universal indivisible Brahman. This must not be misunderstood as a blasphemous assertion that man is equal to God. The soul is identical with Brahman only in so far as it forgets its separate human existence, and all that we call self and individuality. A man who has any pride in himself is ipso facto differentiated from Brahman as much as is possible. Yet in the world in which we move we see not only differentiation and multiplicity but also a plurality of individual souls apparently distinct from one another and from Brahman. This appearance is due to the principle of Maya which is associated with Brahman and is the cause of the phenomenal world. If Maya is translated by illusion it must be remembered that its meaning is not so much that the world and individual existences are illusory in the strict sense of the word, as phenomenal. The only true reality is self-conscious thought without an object. When the mind attains to that, it ceases to be human and individual: it is Brahman. But whenever it thinks of particular objects neither the thoughts nor the objects of the thoughts are real in the same sense. They are appearances, phenomena. This universe of phenomena includes not only all our emotions and all our perceptions of the external world, but also what might be supposed to be the deepest truths of religion, such as the personality of the Creator and the wanderings of the soul in the maze of transmigration. In the same sense that we suffer pain and pleasure, it is true that there is a personal God (Isvara) who emits and reabsorbs the world at regular intervals, and that the soul is a limited existence passing from body to body. In this sense the soul, as in the Sankhya philosophy, is surrounded by the upadhis, certain limiting conditions or disguises, which form a permanent psychical equipment with which it remains invested in all its innumerable bodies. But though these doctrines may be true for those who are in the world, for those souls who are agents, enjoyers and sufferers, they cease to be true for the soul which takes the path of knowledge and sees its own identity with Brahman. It is by this means only that emancipation is attained, for good works bring a reward in kind, and hence inevitably lead to new embodiments, new creations of Maya. And even in knowledge we must distinguish between the knowledge of the lower Brahman or personal Deity (Isvara) and of the higher indescribable Brahman.[775] For the orthodox Hindu this distinction is of great importance, for it enables him to reconcile passages in the scriptures which otherwise are contradictory. Worship and meditation which make Isvara their object do not lead directly to emancipation. They lead to the heavenly world of Isvara, in which the soul, though glorified, is still a separate individual existence. But for him who meditates on the Highest Brahman and knows that his true self is that Brahman, Maya and its works cease to exist. When he dies nothing differentiates him from that Brahman who alone is bliss and no new individual existence arises.

The crux of this doctrine is in the theory of Maya. If Maya appertains to Brahman, if it exists by his will, then why is it an evil, why is release to be desired? Ought not the individual souls to serve Brahman's purpose, and would not it be better served by living gladly in the phenomenal world than by passing beyond it? But such an idea has rarely satisfied Indian thinkers. If, on the other hand, Maya is an evil or at least an imperfection, if it is like rust on a blade or dimness in a mirror, if, so to speak, the edges of Brahman are weak and break into fragments which are prevented by their own feebleness from realizing the unity of the whole, then the mind wonders uneasily if, in spite of all assurances to the contrary, this does not imply that Brahman is subject to some external law, to some even more mysterious Beyond. But Sankara and the Brahma-sutras will not tolerate such doubts. According to them, Brahman in making the world is not actuated by a motive in the ordinary sense, for that would imply human action and passion, but by a sportive impulse:[776] "We see in every-day life," says Sankara, "that certain doings of princes, who have no desires left unfulfilled, have no reference to any extraneous purpose but proceed from mere sportfulness. We further see that the process of inhalation and exhalation is going on without reference to any extraneous purpose, merely following the law of its own nature. Analogously, the activity of the Lord also may be supposed to be mere sport, proceeding from his own nature without reference to any purpose."[777] This is no worse than many other explanations of the scheme of things and the origin of evil but it is not really an explanation. It means that the Advaita is so engrossed in ecstatic contemplation of the omnipresent Brahman that it pays no attention to a mere by-product like the physical universe. How or why that universe with all its imperfections comes to exist, it does not explain.

Yet the boldness and ample sweep of Sankara's thought have in them something greater than logic,[778] something recalling the grandeur of plains and seas limited only by the horizon, nay rather those abysses of space wherein on clear nights worlds and suns innumerable are scattered like sparks by what he would call God's playfulness. European thought attains to these altitudes but cannot live in them for long: it demands and fancies for itself just what Sankara will not grant, the motive of Brahman, the idea that he is working for some consummation, not that he was, is and will be eternally complete, unaffected by the drama of the universe and yet identical with souls that know him.

Even in India the austere and impersonal character of Sankara's system provoked dissent: He was accused of being a Buddhist in disguise and the accusation raises an interesting question[779] in the history of Indian philosophy to which I have referred in a previous chapter. The affinity existing between the Madhyamika form of Buddhist metaphysics and the earlier Vedanta can hardly be disputed and the only question is which borrowed from the other. Such questions are exceedingly difficult to decide, for from time to time new ideas arose in India, permeated the common intellectual atmosphere, and were worked up by all sects into the forms that suited each best. In the present instance all that can be said is that certain ideas about the unreality of the world and about absolute and relative truth appear in several treatises both Brahmanic and Buddhist, such as the works of Sankara and Nagarjuna and the Gauda-padakarikas, and of these the works attributed to Nagarjuna seem to be the oldest. It must also be remembered that according to Chinese accounts Bodhidharma preached at Nanking in 520 a doctrine very similar to the advaita of Sankara though expressed in Buddhist phraseology.

Of other forms of Vedantism, the best known is the system of Ramanuja generally called Visishtadvaita.[780] It is an evidence of the position held by the Vedanta philosophy that religious leaders made a commentary on the Sutras of Badarayana the vehicle of their most important views. Unlike Sankara, Ramanuja is sectarian and identifies his supreme deity with Vishnu or Narayana, but this is little more than a matter of nomenclature. His interpretation is modern in the sense that it pursues the line of thought which leads up to the modern sects. But that line of thought has ancient roots. Ramanuja followed a commentator named Bodhayana who was anterior to Sankara, and in the opinion of so competent a judge as Thibaut he gives the meaning of Badarayana in many points more exactly than his great rival. On the other hand his interpretation often strains the most important utterances of the Upanishads.

Ramanuja admits no distinction between Brahman and Isvara, but the distinction is abolished at the expense of abolishing the idea of the Higher Brahman, for his Brahman is practically the Isvara of Sankara. Brahman is not without attributes but possessed of all imaginable good attributes, and though nothing exists apart from him, like the antithesis of Purusha and Prakriti in the Sankhya, yet the world is not as in Sankara's system merely Maya. Matter and souls (cit and acit) form the body of Brahman who both comprises and pervades all things, which are merely modes of his existence.[781] He is the inner ruler (antaryamin) who is in all elements and all human souls.[782] The texts which speak of Brahman as being one only without a second are explained as referring to the state of pralaya or absorption which occurs at the end of each Kalpa. At the conclusion of the period of pralaya he re-emits the world and individual souls by an act of volition and the souls begin the round of transmigration. Salvation or release from this round is obtained not by good works but by knowledge and meditation on the Lord assisted by his grace. The released soul is not identified with the Lord but enjoys near him a personal existence of eternal bliss and peace. This is more like European theism than the other doctrines which we have been considering. The difference is that God is not regarded as the creator of matter and souls. Matter and souls consist of his substance. But for all that he is a personal deity who can be loved and worshipped and whereas Sankara was a religious philosopher, Ramanuja was rather a philosophic theologian and founder of a church. I have already spoken of his activity in this sphere.


The epics and Puranas contain philosophical discussions of considerable length which make little attempt at consistency. Yet the line of thought in them all is the same. The chief tenets of the theistic Sankhya-Yoga are assumed: matter, soul and God are separate existences: the soul wishes to move towards God and away from matter. Yet when Indian writers glorify the deity they rarely abstain from identifying him with the universe. In the Bhagavad-gita and other philosophical cantos of the Mahabharata the contradiction is usually left without an attempt at solution. Thus it is stated categorically[783] that the world consists of the perishable and imperishable, i.e., matter and soul, but that the supreme spirit is distinct from both. Yet in the same poem we pass from this antithesis to the monism which declares that the deity is all things and "the self seated in the heart of man." We have then attained the Vedantist point of view. Nearly all the modern sects, whether Sivaite or Vishnuite, admit the same contradiction into their teaching, for they reject both the atheism of the Sankhya and the immaterialism of the Advaita (since it is impossible for a practical religion to deny the existence of either God or the world), while the irresistible tendency of Indian thought makes them describe their deity in pantheistic language. All strive to find some metaphysical or theological formula which will reconcile these discrepant ideas, and nearly all Vishnuites profess some special variety of the Vedanta called by such names as Visishtadvaita, Dvaitadvaita, Suddhadvaita and so on. They differ chiefly in their definition of the relation existing between the soul and God. Only the Madhvas entirely discard monism and profess duality (Dvaita) and even Madhva thought it necessary to write a commentary on the Brahma-sutras to prove that they support his doctrine and the Sivaites too have a commentator, Nilakantha, who interprets them in harmony with the Saiva Siddhanta. There is also a modern commentary by Somanaradittyar which expounds this much twisted text agreeably to the doctrines of the Lingayat sect.

In most fundamental principles the Sivaite and Saktist schools agree with the Visishtadvaita but their nomenclature is different and their scope is theological rather than philosophical. In all of them are felt the two tendencies, one wishing to distinguish God, soul and matter and to adjust their relations for the purposes of practical religion, the other holding more or less that God is all or at least that all things come from God and return to him. But there is one difference between the schools of sectarian philosophy and the Advaita of Sankara which goes to the root of the matter. Sankara holds that the world and individual existences are due to illusion, ignorance and misconception: they vanish in the light of true knowledge. Other schools, while agreeing that in some sense God is all, yet hold that the universe is not an illusion or false presentment of him but a process of manifestation or of evolution starting from him.[784] It is not precisely evolution in the European sense, but rather a rhythmic movement, of duration and extent inexpressible in figures, in which the Supreme Spirit alternately emits and reabsorbs the universe. As a rule the higher religious life aims at some form of union or close association with the deity, beyond the sphere of this process. In the evolutionary process the Vaishnavas interpolate between the Supreme Spirit and the phenomenal world the phases of conditioned spirit known as Sankarshana, etc.; in the same way the Sivaite schools increase the twenty-four tattvas of the Sankhya to thirty-six.[785] The first of these tattvas or principles is Siva, corresponding to the highest Brahman. The next phase is Sadasiva in which differentiation commences owing to the movement of Sakti, the active or female principle. Siva in this phase is thought of as having a body composed of mantras. Sakti, also known as Bindu or Suddhamaya, is sometimes regarded as a separate tattva but more generally as inseparably united with Siva. The third tattva is Isvara, or Siva in the form of a lord or personal deity, and the fourth is Suddhavidya or true knowledge, explained as the principle of correlation between the experiencer and that which is experienced. It is only after these that we come to Maya, meaning not so much illusion as the substratum in which Karma inheres or the protoplasm from which all things grow. Between Maya and Purusha come five more tattvas, called envelopes. Their effect is to enclose and limit, thus turning the divine spirit into a human soul.

Saktist accounts of the evolutionary process give greater prominence to the part played by Sakti and are usually metaphysiological, if the word may be pardoned, inasmuch as they regard the cosmic process as the growth of an embryo, an idea which is as old as the Vedas.[786] It is impossible to describe even in outline these manifold cosmologies but they generally speak of Sakti, who in one sense is identical with Siva and merely his active form but in another sense is identified with Prakriti, coming into contact with the form of Siva called Prakasa or light and then solidifying into a drop (Bindu) or germ which divides. At some point in this process arise Nada or sound, and Sabda-brahman, the sound-Brahman, which manifests itself in various energies and assumes in the human body the form of the mysterious coiled force called Kundalini.[787] Some of the older Vishnuite writings use similar language of Sakti, under the name of Lakshmi, but in the Visishtadvaita of Ramanuja and subsequent teachers there is little disposition to dwell on any feminine energy in discussing the process of evolution.

Of all the Darsanas the most extraordinary is that called Rasesvara or the mercurial system.[788] According to it quicksilver, if eaten or otherwise applied, not only preserves the body from decay but delivers from transmigration the soul which inhabits this glorified body. Quicksilver is even asserted to be identical with the supreme self. This curious Darsana is represented as revealed by Siva to Sakti and it is only an extreme example of the tantric doctrine that spiritual results can be obtained by physical means. The practice of taking mercury to secure health and long life must have been prevalent in medieval India for it is mentioned by both Marco Polo and Bernier.[789]


A people among whom the Vedanta could obtain a large following must have been prone to think little of the things which we see compared with the unseen of which they are the manifestation. It is, therefore, not surprising if materialism met with small sympathy or success among them. In India the extravagances of asceticism and of mystic sensualism alike find devotees, but the simple philosophy of Let us eat and drink for to-morrow we die, does not commend itself. Nevertheless it is not wholly absent and was known as the doctrine of Brihaspati. Those who professed it were also called Carvakas and Lokayatikas.[790] Brihaspati was the preceptor of the gods and his connection with this sensualistic philosophy goes back to a legend found in the Upanishads[791] that he taught the demons false knowledge whose "reward lasts only as long as the pleasure lasts" in order to compass their destruction. This is similar to the legend found in the Puranas that Vishnu became incarnate as Buddha in order to lead astray the Daityas. But though such words as Carvaka and Nastika are used in later literature as terms of learned abuse, the former seems to denote a definite school, although we cannot connect its history with dates, places or personalities. The Carvakas are the first system examined in the Sarva-darsana-sangraha, which is written from the Vedantist standpoint, and beginning from the worst systems of philosophy ascends to those which are relatively correct. This account contains most of what we know about their doctrines,[792] but is obviously biassed: it represents them as cynical voluptuaries holding that the only end of man is sensual enjoyment. We are told that they admitted only one source of knowledge, namely perception, and four elements, earth, water, fire and air, and that they held the soul to be identical with the body. Such a phrase as my body they considered to be metaphorical, as apart from the body there was no ego who owned it. The soul was supposed to be a physical product of the four elements, just as sugar combined with a ferment and other ingredients produces an intoxicating liquor. Among verses described as "said by Brihaspati" occur the following remarkable lines:

"There is no heaven, no liberation, nor any soul in another world, Nor do the acts of the asramas or castes produce any reward. If the animal slain in the Jyotishtoma sacrifice will go to heaven, Why does not the sacrificer immolate his own father? While life remains let a man live happily: let him feed on butter even if he runs into debt. When once the body becomes ashes, how can it ever return?"

The author of the Dabistan, who lived in the seventeenth century, also mentions the Carvakas in somewhat similar terms.[793]

Brahmanical authors often couple the Carvakas and Buddhists. This lumping together of offensively heretical sects may be merely theological animus, but still it is possible that there may be a connection between the Carvakas and the extreme forms of Mahayanist nihilism. Schrader[794] in analysing a singular work, called the Svasamvedyopanishad, says it is "inspired by the Mahayanist doctrine of vacuity (sunya-vada) and proclaims a most radical agnosticism by asserting in four chapters (a) that there is no reincarnation (existence being bubble-like), no God, no world: that all traditional literature (Sruti and Smriti) is the work of conceited fools; (b) that Time the destroyer and Nature the originator are the rulers of all existence and not good and bad deeds, and that there is neither hell nor heaven; (c) that people deluded by flowery speech cling to gods, sacred places, teachers, though there is in reality no difference at all between Vishnu and a dog; (d) that though all words are untrue and all ideas mere illusions, yet liberation is possible by a thorough realization of Bhavadvaita." But for this rather sudden concession to Hindu sentiment, namely that deliverance is possible, this doctrine resembles the tenets attributed to the Carvakas.


[Footnote 736: In the Sarva-darsana-sangraha, the best known compendium of Indian philosophy.]

[Footnote 737: J.C. Chatterji's definition of Indian philosophy (in his Indian Realism, p. 1) is interesting. "By Hindu philosophy I mean that branch of the ancient learning of the Hindus which demonstrates by reasoning propositions with regard to (a) what a man ought to do in order to gain true happiness ... or (b) what he ought to realize by direct experience in order to be radically and absolutely freed from suffering and to be absolutely independent, such propositions being already given and lines of reasoning in their support being established by duly qualified authorities."]

[Footnote 738: See Chatterji's work above cited.]

[Footnote 739: It is this idea which disposes educated Hindus to believe in the magical or sacramental power of mystic syllables and letters, though the use of such spells seems to Europeans incredible folly.]

[Footnote 740: See especially Garbe, Die Sankhya Philosophie, 1894; and Keith, The Sankhya System, 1919, which however reached me too late for me to make any use of it.]

[Footnote 741: E.g. in the Bhagavad-gita and Svetasvatara Upanishads. According to tradition Kapila taught Asuri and he, Pancasikha, who made the system celebrated. Garbe thinks Pancasikha may be assigned to the first century A.D.]

[Footnote 742: This appears to be the real title of the Sutras edited and translated by Ballantyne as "The Sankhya Aphorisms of Kapila."]

[Footnote 743: Or topics. It is difficult to find any one English word which covers the twenty-five tattvas, for they include both general and special ideas, mind and matter on the one hand; special organs on the other.]

[Footnote 744: Sankh. Pravac. I. 96.]

[Footnote 745: Garbe, Die Sankhya Philosophie, p. 222. He considers that it spread thence to other schools. This involves the assumption that the Sankhya is prior to Buddhism and Jainism.]

[Footnote 746: Ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose.]

[Footnote 747: Voice, hands, feet, organs of excretion and generation.]

[Footnote 748: Verse 40.]

[Footnote 749: Cf. the Buddhist Sankharas.]

[Footnote 750: Sankh. Kar. 62.]

[Footnote 751: Sankh. Kar. 59-61.]

[Footnote 752: Sankh. Pravac. I. 92-95.]

[Footnote 753: Sankh. Pravac. V. 2-12.]

[Footnote 754: Thus Sankh. Pravac. V. 46, says Tatkartuh purushasyabhavat and the commentary explains Isvara-pratishedhad iti seshah "supply the words, because we deny that there is a supreme God."]

[Footnote 755: Nevertheless the commentator Vijnana-Bhikshu (c. 1500) tries to explain away this atheism and to reconcile the Sankhya with the Vedanta. See Garbe's preface to his edition of the Sankhya-pravacana-bhashya.]

[Footnote 756: VI. 13.]

[Footnote 757: V. 5.]

[Footnote 758: Isvara is apparently a purusha like others but greater in glory and untouched by human infirmities. Yoga sutras, I. 24-26.]

[Footnote 759: It is a singular fact that both the Sankhya-karika-bhashya and a treatise on the Vaiseshika philosophy are included in the Chinese Tripitaka (Nanjio, Cat. Nos. 1300 and 1295). A warning is however added that they are not "the law of the Buddha."]

[Footnote 760: See Jacobi, J.A.O.S. Dec. 1910, p. 24. But if Vasubandhu lived about 280-360, as is now generally believed, allusions to the Yogacara school in the Yoga sutras do not oblige us to place the sutras much later than 300 A.D. since the Yogacara was founded by Asanga, the brother of Vasubandhu.]

[Footnote 761: I find it hard to accept Deussen's view (Philosophy of the Upanishads, chap. X) that the Sankhya has grown out of the Vedanta.]

[Footnote 762: See e.g. Vishnu Purana, I. chaps. 2, 4, 5. The Bhagavad-gita, though almost the New Testament of Vedantists, uses the words Sankhya and Yoga in several passages as meaning speculative truth and the religious life and is concerned to show that they are the same. See II. 39; III. 3; V. 4, 5.]

[Footnote 763: It is perhaps hardly necessary to add that there has been endless discussion as to the sense and manner in which the soul is God.]

[Footnote 764: Brihad Aran. IV. 4. 6; Ib. I. iv. 10. "I am Brahman."]

[Footnote 765: See above Book II. chaps. V and VI.]

[Footnote 766: Chand. Up. III. 14.]

[Footnote 767: Chand. Up. VI.]

[Footnote 768: See Deussen, Philosophy of the Upanishads.]

[Footnote 769: Ato'nyad artam. Brihad Ar. III. several times.]

[Footnote 770: Maitrayana. Brah. Upanishad, VI. 20. "Having seen his own self as The Self he becomes selfless, and because he is selfless he is without limit, without cause, absorbed in thought."]

[Footnote 771: There is nothing to fix the date of this work except that Kumarila in commenting on it in the eighth century treats it as old and authoritative. It was perhaps composed in the early Gupta period.]

[Footnote 772: Keith in J.R.A.S. 1907, p. 492 says it is becoming more and more probable that Badarayana cannot be dated after the Christian era. Jacobi in J.A.O.S. 1911, p. 29 concludes that the Brahma-sutras were composed between 200 and 450 A.D.]

[Footnote 773: Such attempts must have begun early. The Maitrayana Upanishad (II. 3) talks of Sarvopanishadvidya, the science of all the Upanishads.]

[Footnote 774: See above, p. 207 ff.]

[Footnote 775: The same distinction occurs in the works of Meister Eckhart († 1327 A.D.) who in many ways approximates to Indian thought, both Buddhist and Vedantist. He makes a distinction between the Godhead and God. The Godhead is the revealer but unrevealed: it is described as "wordless" (Yajnavalkya's neti, neti), "the nameless nothing," "the immoveable rest." But God is the manifestation of the Godhead, the uttered word. "All that is in the Godhead is one. Therefore we can say nothing. He is above all names, above all nature. God works, so doeth not the Godhead. Therein are they distinguished, in working and in not working. The end of all things is the hidden darkness of the eternal Godhead, unknown and never to be known." (Quoted by Rufus Jones, Studies in Mystical Religion, p. 225.) It may be doubted if Sankara's distinction between the Higher and Lower Brahman is to be found in the Upanishads but it is probably the best means of harmonizing the discrepancies in those works which Indian theologians feel bound to explain away.]

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