An essay by Mohini Shakti Devi.
aka Jïäna Yoga”
The real nature of the soul is to search after the ultimate truth.
In the Gita 2.39, the Lord explained two kinds of procedures—namely säìkhya-yoga and karma-yoga, or buddhi-yoga. Säìkhya-yoga, or the analytical study of the nature of spirit and matter, is the subject matter for persons who are inclined to speculate and understand things by experimental knowledge and philosophy.
O my Lord, Your name, form and bodily features are expanded in countless forms. No one can determine exactly how many forms exist, yet You Yourself, in Your incarnation as the learned scholar Kapiladeva, have analyzed the cosmic manifestation as containing twenty-four elements. Therefore if one is interested in Säìkhya philosophy, by which one can enumerate the different truths, he must hear it from You. Unfortunately, nondevotees simply count the different elements and remain ignorant of Your actual form. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You.
According to the Nirukti Vedic dictionary, “Saìkhyä” means that which describes things in detail, and “Saìkhyä” refers to that philosophy which describes the real nature of the soul.
An analytical study of the soul and the body has been very graphically explained by Lord Krishna in the Gita. And that descriptive knowledge of the soul and the body from different angles of vision has been described as Säìkhya, in terms of the Nirukti dictionary.
Säìkhya philosophy was expounded and compiled in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam by Lord Kapila, an avatara of Lord Kåñëa, the son of Kardama Muni, who explained it to His mother, Devahüti.
Lord Kapila clearly explained that the puruña, or the Supreme Lord, is active and that He creates by looking over the prakåti.
The description in the Vedas and in the Gétä indicates that the Lord glanced over the prakåti, or nature, and impregnated it with atomic individual souls.
All these individuals are working in the material world for sense gratification, and under the spell of material energy they are thinking of being enjoyers.
This mentality is carried over to the last point of liberation when the living entity wants to become one with the Lord.
This is the last snare of mäyä, or sense gratificatory illusion, and it is only after many, many births of such sense gratificatory activities that a great soul surrenders unto Väsudeva, Lord Kåñëa, thereby fulfilling the search after the ultimate truth.
Kapila the very explicitly explained not only the material world but also the spiritual world.
Lord Kapila delivered to His mother a highly analytical summary of all material and spiritual reality. It is significant that Lord Kapila did not discriminate against His mother because she was a woman, nor did He consider her incapable of understanding the most elaborate spiritual knowledge.
It is also significant that in the highly intellectual Säìkhya system enunciated by Lord Kapila, the solid conclusion is surrender to the lotus feet of the pure devotees and love of Godhead.
Kapila, the incarnation of the Lord, instructed His mother fully about the personal form of the Lord, and thereby she realized the personal form of the Lord and was able to achieve a place in the Vaikuëöhaloka.
The yoga system which relates to the Lord and the individual soul, which is meant for the ultimate benefit of the living entity, and which causes detachment from all happiness and distress in the material world, is the highest yoga system.
The stage in which the consciousness of the living entity is attracted by the three modes of material nature is called conditional life. But when that same consciousness is attached to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one is situated in the consciousness of liberation.
When one is completely cleansed of the impurities of lust and greed produced from the false identification of the body as “I” and bodily possessions as “mine,” one’s mind becomes purified. In that pure state he transcends the stage of so-called material happiness and distress.
At that time the soul can see himself to be transcendental to material existence and always self-effulgent, never fragmented, although very minute in size.
In that position of self-realization, by practice of knowledge and renunciation in devotional service, one sees everything in the right perspective; he becomes indifferent to material existence, and the material influence acts less powerfully upon him.
Perfection in self-realization cannot be attained by any kind of yogé unless he engages in devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for that is the only auspicious path.
Every learned man knows very well that attachment for the material is the greatest entanglement of the spirit soul. But that same attachment, when applied to the self-realized devotees, opens the door of liberation.
The symptoms of a sädhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.
Such a sädhu engages in staunch devotional service to the Lord without deviation. For the sake of the Lord he renounces all other connections, such as family relationships and friendly acquaintances within the world.
Engaged constantly in chanting and hearing about Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the sädhus do not suffer from material miseries because they are always filled with thoughts of My pastimes and activities.
O My mother, O virtuous lady, these are the qualities of great devotees who are free from all attachment. You must seek attachment to such holy men, for this counteracts the pernicious effects of material attachment.
The sum total of the creative elements is twenty-four in all. Each and every one of them is explicitly explained in the system of Säìkhya philosophy. Säìkhya philosophy is generally called metaphysics by the European scholars.
The etymological meaning of säìkhya is “that which explains very lucidly by analysis of the material elements.” This was done for the first time by Lord Kapila, who is said herein to be the fifth in the line of incarnations of Vishnu.
In meditation, there are two systems of yoga, namely añöäìga-yoga and säìkhya-yoga. Añöäìga-yoga is practice in concentrating the mind, releasing oneself from all engagements by the regulative processes of meditation, concentration, sitting postures, blocking the movements of the internal circulation of air, etc. Säìkhya-yoga is meant to distinguish the truth from ephemerals.
But ultimately both the systems are meant for realizing the impersonal Brahman, which is but a partial representation of Näräyaëa, the Personality of Godhead.
Jïäna does not refer to ordinary research work. Jïäna entails receiving knowledge from the scriptures through the spiritual master by disciplic succession. In the modern age there is a tendency to do research by mental speculation and concoction.
But the man who speculates forgets that he himself is subject to the four defects of nature: he is sure to commit mistakes, his senses are imperfect, he is sure to fall into illusion, and he is cheating.
Unless one has perfect knowledge from disciplic succession, he simply puts forth some theories of his own creation; therefore he is cheating people.
Jïäna means knowledge received through disciplic succession from the scriptures, and vijïäna means practical application of such knowledge. Kapila Muni’s Säìkhya system of philosophy is based on jïäna and vijïäna.
Supposed authorities who declare that matter is the origin of existence, that the permanent qualities of the soul can be destroyed, that the self is compounded of separate aspects of spirit and matter, or that material transactions constitute reality—all such authorities base their teachings on mistaken ideas that hide the truth. The dualistic conception that the living entity is produced from the three modes of nature is simply a product of ignorance. Such a conception has no real basis in You, for You are transcendental to all illusion and always enjoy perfect, total awareness.
The true position of the Supreme Personality is a sublime mystery, as is also the dependent position of the jéva soul. Most thinkers are mistaken in one way or another about these truths, since there are countless varieties of false designation that can cover the soul and create illusion.
Less spiritually advanced conditioned souls submit to obvious delusions, but the illusory power of Mäyä can easily subvert the intelligence of even the most sophisticated philosophers and mystics. Thus there are always divergent schools of thought propounding conflicting theories concerning basic principles of truth.
In traditional Indian philosophy, the followers of Vaiçeñika, Nyäya, Säìkhya, Yoga and Mémäàsä philosophies all have their own erroneous ideas, which the personified Vedas point out in this prayer.
The Vaiçeñikas say that the visible universe is created from an original stock of atoms (janim asataù). As Kaëäda Åñi’s Vaiçeñika-sütras (7.1.20) state, nityaà parimaëòalam: “That which is of the smallest size, the atom, is eternal. ” Kaëäda and his followers also postulate eternality for other, nonatomic entities, including the souls who become embodied, and even a Supreme Soul.
But in Vaiçeñika cosmology the souls and the Supersoul play only token roles in the atomic production of the universe. Çréla Kåñëa-dvaipäyana Vedavyäsa criticizes this position in his Vedänta-sütras (2.2.12): ubhayathäpi na karmätas tad-abhävaù.
According to this sütra, one cannot claim that, at the time of creation, atoms first combine together because they are impelled by some karmic impulse adhering in the atoms themselves, since atoms by themselves, in their primeval state before combining into complex objects, have no ethical responsibility that might lead them to acquire pious and sinful reactions.
Nor can the initial combination of atoms be explained as a result of the residual karma of the living entities who lie dormant prior to creation, since these reactions are each jéva’s own and cannot be transferred from them even to other jévas, what to speak of inert atoms.
Alternatively, the phrase janim asataù can be taken to allude to the Yoga philosophy of Pataïjali Åñi, inasmuch as his Yoga-sütras teach one how to achieve the transcendental status of Brahmanhood by a mechanical process of exercise and meditation. Pataïjali’s yoga method is here called asat because it ignores the essential aspect of devotion—surrender to the will of the Supreme Person. As Lord Kåñëa states in Bhagavad-gétä (17.28) “Anything done as sacrifice, charity or penance without faith in the Supreme, O son of Påthä, is impermanent. It is called asat and is useless both in this life and in the next.”
The Yoga-sütras acknowledge the Personality of Godhead in an oblique way, but only as a helper whom the advancing yogé can utilize. Éçvara-praëidhänäd vä: “Devotional meditation on God is yet another means of achieving concentration.” (Yoga-sütra 1.23)
In contrast, Bädaräyaëa Vedavyäsa’s philosophy of Vedänta emphasizes devotional service not only as the primary means to liberation but also as identical with liberation itself. Ä-präyaëät taträpi hi dåñöam: “Worship of the Lord continues up to the point of liberation, and indeed goes on in the liberated state also, as the Vedas reveal.” (Vedänta-sütra 4.1.12)
Gautama Åñi, in his Nyäya-sutras, proposes that one can attain liberation by negating both illusion and unhappiness: duùkha-janma-pravåtti-doña-mithyä-jïänänäm uttarottaräpäye tad-anantaräbhäväd apavargaù.
“By successively dispelling false conceptions, bad character, entangling action, rebirth and misery—the disappearance of one of these allowing the disappearance of the next—one can achieve final liberation.” (Nyäya-sutra 1.1.2)
But since Nyäya philosophers believe that awareness is not an essential quality of the soul, they teach that a liberated soul has no consciousness. The Nyäya idea of liberation thus puts the soul in the condition of a dead stone. This attempt by the Nyäya philosophers to kill the soul’s innate consciousness is here called sato måtim by the personified Vedas.
But the Vedänta-sütra (2.3.17) unequivocally states, jïo ’ta eva: “The jéva soul is always a knower.”
Although the soul is in truth both conscious and active, the proponents of Säìkhya philosophy wrongly separate these two functions of the living force (ätmani ye ca bhidäm), ascribing consciousness to the soul (puruña) and activity to material nature (prakåti). According to the Säìkhya-kärikä (19–20),
tasmäc ca viparyäsät
siddhaà säkñitvaà puruñasya
drañöåtvam akartå-bhävaç ca
“Thus, since the apparent differences between puruñas are only superficial (being due to the various modes of nature that cover them), the puruña’s true status is proven to be that of a witness, characterized by his separateness, his passive indifference, his status of being an observer, and his inactivity.”
acetanaà cetanä-vad iva liìgam
guëa-kartåtve ’pi tathä
karteva bhavaty udäsénaù
“Thus, by contact with the soul, the unconscious subtle body seems to be conscious, while the soul appears to be the doer although he is aloof from the activity of nature’s modes.”
Çréla Vyäsadeva refutes this idea in the section of the Vedänta-sütra (2.3.31–39) that begins, kartä çästrärtha-vattvät: “The jéva soul must be a performer of actions, because the injunctions of scripture must have some purpose.” Äcärya Baladeva Vidyäbhüñaëa, in his Govinda-bhäñya, explains: “The jéva, not the modes of nature, is the doer. Why? Because the injunctions of scripture must have some purpose (çästrärtha-vattvät).
For example, such scriptural injunctions as svarga-kämo yajeta (‘One who desires to attain to heaven should perform ritual sacrifice’) and ätmänam eva lokam upäséta (Båhad-äraëyaka Upaniñad 1.4.15: ‘One should worship with the aim of attaining the spiritual kingdom’) are meaningful only if a conscious doer exists.
If the modes of nature were the doer, these statements would serve no purpose. After all, scriptural injunctions engage the living entity in performing prescribed actions by convincing him that he can act to bring about certain enjoyable results. Such a mentality cannot be aroused in the inert modes of nature.”
Jaimini Åñi, in his Pürva-mémäàsä-sütras, presents material work and its results as the whole of reality (vipaëam åtam). He and later proponents of Karma-mémäàsä philosophy teach that material existence is endless—that there is no liberation. For them the cycle of karma is perpetual, and the best one can aim for is higher birth among the demigods.
Therefore, they say, the whole purpose of the Vedas is to engage human beings in rituals for creating good karma, and consequently the mature soul’s prime responsibility is to ascertain the exact meaning of the Vedas’ sacrificial injunctions and to execute them. Codanä-lakñaëo ’rtho dharmaù: “Duty is that which is indicated by the injunctions of the Vedas.”(Pürva-mémäàsä-sütra 1.1.2)
The Vedänta-sütra, however—especially in the fourth chapter, which deals with life’s ultimate goal—elaborately describes the soul’s potential for achieving liberation from birth and death, while it subordinates ritual sacrifice to the role of helping one become qualified to receive spiritual knowledge.
As stated there (Vedänta-sütra 4.1.16), agnihoträdi tu tat-käryäyaiva tad-darçanät: “The Agnihotra and other Vedic sacrifices are meant only for producing knowledge, as the statements of the Vedas show.” And the very last words of the Vedänta-sütra (4.4.22) proclaim, anävåttiù çabdät: “The liberated soul never returns to this world, as promised by the revealed scripture.”
Thus the fallacious conclusions of the speculative philosophers prove that even great scholars and sages are often bewildered by the misuse of their own God-given intelligence. As the Kaöha Upaniñad (1.2.5) says,
avidyäyäm antare vartamänäù
svayaà dhéräù paëòitam-manyamänäù
jaìghanyamänäù pariyanti müòhä
andhenaiva néyamänä yathändhäù
“Caught in the grip of ignorance, self-proclaimed experts consider themselves learned authorities. They wander about this world befooled, like the blind leading the blind.”
Of the six orthodox philosophies of Vedic tradition—Säìkhya, Yoga, Nyäya, Vaiçeñika, Mémäàsä and Vedänta—only the Vedänta of Bädaräyaëa Vyäsa is free of error, and even that only as properly explained by the bona fide Vaiñëava äcäryas.
Each of the six schools, nonetheless, makes some practical contribution to Vedic education: atheistic Säìkhya explains the evolution of natural elements from subtle to gross, Pataïjali’s yoga describes the eightfold method of meditation, Nyäya sets forth the techniques of logic, Vaiçeñika considers the basic metaphysical categories of reality, and Mémäàsä establishes the standard tools of scriptural interpretation.
Apart from these six, there are also the more deviant philosophies of the Buddhists, Jains and Cärväkas, whose theories of voidism and materialism deny the spiritual integrity of the eternal soul.
Ultimately, the only perfectly reliable source of knowledge is God Himself. The Personality of Godhead is avabodha-rasa, the infinite reservoir of unfailing vision. To those who depend on Him with absolute conviction, He grants the divine eye of knowledge.
Others, following their own speculative theories, must grope for the truth through the obscuring curtain of Mäyä. Çréla Çrédhara Svämé prays,
“For the bewildered soul wandering within the darkness of those exalted philosophies promoted by the harsh methods of false logic, the path of true knowledge of You, O Lord of magnificent glory, remains invisible. O Lord of Madhu, husband of the goddess of fortune, when will I become liberated by joyfully chanting Your names—Mädhava, Vämana, Trinayana, Çré Çaìkara, Çrépati and Govinda?”
säìkhya—by the säìkhya-yoga system (the analytical study of material conditions)