The Praśnopaniṣat – Part 15
Continuing the Mantra 6.3, here is the discussion focused on the refutation of the Sāṅkhya doctrine by the Vedāntin.
The Vedāntin replies: No, just as the sentient and immutable Self of the Sāṅkhya is a bhoktā, experiencer of fruits of karma, so also is admissible, on the authority of the Veda, the creatorship of the Self of the Vedāntin.
Objection by the Sāṅkhya: Since the Vedāntin admits the creatorship of the Self, the defects of impermanence, impurity, multiplicity, etc. are inevitable to the Self which transforms into the world (in creation). On the other hand, in our case there is not any defect as the Self is a bhoktā within itself with only that much transformation.
Vedāntin: No such defect accrues to the Vedāntic Ātman. For, we admit the difference between the two states of the presence and absence of the avidyā-based name-form upādhis for the non-dual Ātman. Indeed we admit this difference, created by avidyā, to account for the scripture-posited parlance of bondage and liberation. In the absolute plane, however, the Ātman that is ever free of any avidyā-born upādhis, One only, is to be admitted. This Vedāntic Ātman that is unborn, partless and auspicious, is beyond the reach of all the logicians (tārkika). In that plane there is no doership, enjoyership or the distinctions such as action, agents and fruits of action since all beings are truly non-dual. The Sāṅkhyas, however, imagine doership, action, agents and fruits of action in the sentient being, the Puruṣa, since they (the Sāṅkhyas) are outside the range of the Veda. Frightened by the Vedāntic position, they admit the enjoyership, bhoktṛtvam, for the Puruṣa on absolute terms. By imagining that the pradhāna (the inert cause of the world as per the Sāṅkhyas) is an ontologically real entity distinct from the Puruṣa, the sentient entity, they fall in line with the other sophists such as the tārkikas and fall from their own supposedly unique position. So do the other sophists (fall) by siding with the Sāṅkhyas. Thus, akin to the carnivores fighting for a piece of flesh, these vādins take up mutually opposing positions and end up treading far away from the Vedāntic truth.
Hence, the true aspirants of liberation who are intent on realizing the Advaitic truth, should give up allegiance to such wrong philosophies and turn to the blemishless truth taught by the Vedānta. The defect in the method of the sophist is stated by Shankara solely with a view to guide these aspirants and not like the sophists who swear to undermine the Vedāntic method of enquiring and realizing the truth. It is said in relevance to the above point:
‘Let us assign the cause of the disputes to the disputants themselves and having perused the outcome of such disputes (amongst the dualists), the non-dualist, the Vedāntin, rests in peace.’
Also, the distinction sought to be made by the Sāṅkhya between the transformation pertaining to the enjoyership (bhoktṛtvam) and doership (kartṛtvam) is also untenable. What is that distinct transformation that is unique to the bhoktā (enjoyer) which is different from the kartā (doer), based on which the puruṣa (jīva) is admitted to be a bhoktā alone and not the kartā and the pradhānam is kartā alone and not the bhoktā?
Reply by the Sāṅkhya: Have we not said already that the puruṣa is just consciousness and he, while as the self, transforms, and while experiencing (joy and misery) he does not transform into any distinct form? On the other hand the pradhānam transforms into distinct entities and thereby it is manifold, impure, inert, etc. The puruṣa, however, is different from it.
Vedāntin: The above is not any distinction but a mere claim. Your thesis is thus constructed: The puruṣa is pure consciousness prior to the arrival of bhoga. If the attribute of bhoktṛtvam is to arise when the bhoga arises and vanish upon the end of bhoga restoring the puruṣa to its native state of pure consciousness, no distinction can be established of the puruṣa from the pradhāna. The nature of the pradhāna as per your thesis is: the pradhāna transforms into the entities such as the mahat and divorcing from that returns to its native state (of pradhāna). In this thesis there is no real distinction between the transformations of the pradhāna and the puruṣa excepting a mere claim to a distinction.
Sāṅkhya: What if we maintain that the puruṣa remains his native pure consciousness even during bhoga, experiencing the joys and sorrows?
Vedāntin: Then it is to be admitted that the puruṣa does not really have bhoga. (That is, the bhoga is a mere appearance).
Sāṅkhya: The transformation of the pure consciousness (puruṣa) during bhoga is absolute (real) and thus the bhoga is indeed for the puruṣa.
Vedāntin: Not so. In that case since the pradhāna too undergoes transformation during bhoga (of the puruṣa), the attribute of bhoktṛtva is inevitable (for the pradhāna).
Sāṅkhya: Both the transformation as well as the bhoktṛtvam are for the puruṣa, the pure consciousness alone.
Vedāntin: In that case there would be no reason to hold that fire, etc. which are endowed with the unique attribute of heat, etc. are not bhoktā-s. [The idea is: If the puruṣa who is admitted to be of the unique nature of pure consciousness is also admitted to undergo transformation and is also a bhokta, then fire that is uniquely endowed with heat can also be a bhokta.]
Sāṅkhya: The pradhāna and the puruṣa are both simultaneously endowed with bhoktṛtvam .
Vedāntin: No; it would then be wrong on your part to hold that the pradhāna is there to serve the interests of the puruṣa. Just as two lamps (lights) cannot be held to be illumining each other, the two bhoktā-s (puruṣa and pradhāna) cannot be held to be mutually an overlord and subordinate.
Sāṅkhya: Bhoga is an attribute of the mind which is of the nature of sattva. The arising of the reflection of consciousness in that mind constitutes the bhoga of the immutable puruṣa. This is what is bhoktṛtvam.
Vedāntin: Not so. If the puruṣa is non-distinct (from the pradhāna), the admitting of bhoktṛtva to him (alone) is futile. If the puruṣa is devoid of the malady of the form of bhoga owing to the eternally unattributed nature of his, then what is it that is aimed at being removed for which the means in the form of the doctrine is composed?
Sāṅkhya: The doctrine is relevant as it aims at dispelling the malady of samsāra superimposed by avidyā.
Vedāntin: If such is the case, then the accepting, in your doctrine, of the puruṣa to be a bhoktā alone in reality and the pradhāna to be the kartā alone and completely distinct from the bhoktā the puruṣa, is outside the scripture, devoid of any utility and without any cause, and therefore not to be resorted to by aspirants after liberation.
Objection: Even if unity of the Self, ekatvam, is admitted, the endeavor involved in composing the doctrine (on non-duality), etc. is a waste.
Reply: No. Only in the presence of a proponent of the doctrine, the aspirant intending the fruit of the study of the doctrine, etc. as distinct from the Non-dual Self, will the question of whether the propounding of the doctrine is useful or useless arises. Indeed there are no proponent, etc. as distinct from the non-dual Ātman and hence such an objection as the above has no place in Vedānta.
The Vedāntin summarizes the upaniṣadic position:
The states of bondage and liberation are clearly demarcated by the Upaniṣad thus: The truth of liberation, the absolute state of Brahman-realization, is stated thus: ‘When to the knower of Brahman everything has become the Self, then what should one see and through what?’ (Bṛ.Up.2.4.14). The realm of ignorance is also specified by that very Upaniṣad, with a view to contrast the two states, thus: ‘Because when there is duality, as it were, (then one sees something), etc. (Br.Up. 2.4.14). Also, the Muṇḍakopaniṣad 1.1.4 has set apart the two states by teaching the two vidyā-s, knowledge-s, the means of the bound and the realized states, as the lower and the higher. The unassailable Vedāntic vision and the Truth verified by it cannot be ever set aside by any amount of logic. No logician can penetrate into the impregnable fortress of the Vedāntic Truth. From this well established Vedāntic position it can easily be seen that there is no defect in the construct that Brahman, the fundamental cause, does not need any external factor to be the cause of the creation constituted by the avidyā-born name-form duality and the differences caused by the various powers that lie superimposed in Brahman. Also is set aside the objection: ‘The Vedāntic construct is defective in the sense that it portrays the author of creation, Brahman, as inflicting pain/bondage on itself.’ When it is realized that there is absolutely none other than Brahman, the only sentient entity, that appears, owing to māyā, as the jīva in samsāra, there arises complete satisfaction and total rest, nay, freedom from the plethora of what would appear to be an eternal seeking-finding race.