The main philosophic regulations of sanhya system

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Lotus positionYoga Philisophy. Part 1

Introduction. Patanjali’s “Yoga-Sutra”

The theoretical basis of Yoga classical philosophy is the small aphoristic work “Yoga-sutra” of Patanjali, an ancient Indian man of wisdom (before IV AD). With the advent of this paper, it wouldn’t be exaggerating to notice that every Yogi won the respect of all his mates after his translation and commentary of “Yoga-sutras”, or at least of the 2nd sutra “About the methods of Yoga implementation”. Vyasa, a middle-aged Indian Yogi (IV cent.), was the first to write the commentary for “Yoga-sutras” known as “Yoga-bhashya”. Below, we will consider the works of these philosophers together.

Patanjali’s text consists of four chapters:

Chapter 1 “About concentration” (Samadhipada)

Chapter 2 “About the methods of Yoga implementation” (Sadhanapada)

Chapter 3 “About perfect abilities” (Vibhutipada)

Chapter 4 “About absolute liberation” (Kaivalyapada).

In the first chapter, the philosopher expresses his understanding of Yoga essence (“Yoga is the cease of consciousness activity”). He considers the five main kinds of consciousness activity: real cognition, delusion, mental design (imagination, etc.), dream, memory. He points to the methods to cease the consciousness activity (Yoga practice and full impartiality). He makes it clear: what is conscious concentration and what is unconscious one. Then the methods of consciousness purification and the essence of concentration are considered.

In the second chapter, Patanjali explains the methods to implement practical Yoga (“Yoga of action”). Its purposes are to develop the ability of consciousness concentration and to deliver from consciousness affects. Vyasa illustrates that the affects are false (untrue) fillers of consciousness. They give birth to karma, in other words, the reason consequences being realized in the current and following lives of a person. The field of the affect development is ignorance. The affects and ignorance must be eliminated.

Then it becomes possible to liberate the Viewer (Spirit) from the link wit the Matter. The means of such deprivation is unshakeable differentiating comprehension. It is achieved due to regular practicing the eight auxiliary means of Yoga. In the second chapter Patanjali considers only five of them which are called “the outer means of Yoga implementation”.

In the third chapter, he explains the other three (“inner’) means – dharana, dhyana and Samadhi which together comprise the steps of controlling consciousness and are called sanyama. Different perfect abilities are described which are achieved due to the practice of sanyama. The highest of them is absolute isolation of Spirit from isolated consciousness.

The fourth chapter is devoted to the problem of absolute liberation. There Patanjali considers the different kinds of karma and the reason of human introduction into the cycle of sansara – that is into the endless cycles of birth and death (reincarnations) in the material and thin worlds. He believes that while eliminating affects and karma, liberation is achieved which leads to the return of consciousness energy (Spirit) to its original state – the highest spiritual isolation from the world of material forms with their eternal changes and karma.

In such a schematic form does the range of problems of Patanjali’s and Vyasa’s texts occur. Now we will consider it in more details in two principle aspects – philosophic and spiritually practical, or Yoga one.

The main philosophic regulations of sanhya system

The classical philosophic Yoga school represents the synthesis of philosophic ideas of sanhya-darshana and the Yoga methods of spiritual perfection. The word ‘sanhya’ is interpreted as the perfect knowledge and philosophic meditation reflecting it, or the cognition of the pure spirit nature. The word ‘sanhya’ is translated from Sanskrit as ‘number’. It means that the system of sanhya includes the enumerating and analysis of the basic principles and terms of metaphysical philosophy of the world order.

Darshana is one of the orthodox schools of ancient Indian philosophy. Whereas sanhya accentuates cognition, Yoga gives the practice of liberation where cognition is supported by the methods of overcoming the obstacles in the path of spirit liberation.

The founder of sanhya philosophic system is considered to be Kapila, an ancient Indian man of wisdom. He is believed to have lived a century earlier than the founder of Buddhism – Sidharta Gautama (Buddha), that is in about VI cent B.C. The treatise “Sanhya-sutra” is ascribed to Kapila’s authorship. The main source of philosophic ideas of sanhya-darshana having come down to nowadays is considered to be the authoritative paper of the ancient Indian scientist Ishvarakrishna named “Sanhya-karika”.

We shall dwell briefly on the ideas of sanhya philosophy. It will help us in further studying the philosophic regulations of classical Yoga. Sanhya system is formed on the analysis of 25 main principles or metaphysical elements of space. There is no God among them. That is why Kapila’s doctrine is called atheistic sanhya. There is also theistic sanhya which acknowledges the existence of some Supreme Absolute Being or Essence (Ishvara), i.e. God. This kind of sanhya is classical Patanjali’s Yoga.

The initial terms of sanhya are: Purusha – the spiritual substance containing consciousness and Prakriti – the unconscious active beginning which gives birth to all material forms and demonstrations. Purusha – something like Universal Consciousness or Supreme Ego – is the supreme state of being which is independent of all material and spiritual processes. It is identical to neither living beings nor their intellects or senses. It manifests itself as the eternal and unchangeable “Viewer” of the other eternally changeable material or objective being.

Prakriti – the origin of the material world – is subordinated to the purposes of Supreme Ego. It comprises three main elements of matter or power (gunnas): sattva (manifestation-balance), rajas (movement-activity) and tamas (quiescent-passivity) which are balanced in their original state. When the passive Supreme Ego is linked with Prakriti, the balance of the system is broken. Gunnas start moving and being linked in lots of forms and combinations give rise to the objective world. But this birth is not the creation of the world but its evolution.

At first, the interaction of Purushi and Pracriti derives the ideal prototype of the Universe in which the Universal Consciousness of the Supreme Ego is represented, like the Sun is reflected in the ocean. This great prototype called Mahat (i.e. ‘great’) comprises the world mental basis or intellect (butthi). Its further development derives ahankara- the illusion or principle of isolation which causes the development of one’s own sense of Ego in living beings. They start to perceive themselves as the independent active subjects of experience, though in fact they aren’t such.

Under the effect of this or that gunna, ahankara engenders the following: five organs of perception or cognition (djnyanendriya), five organs of movement (karmendriya), mind – the organ of cognition and activity, as well as five finest potential elements of sound, colour, sense of touch, taste and smell (tanmatra). The finest elements, in their turn, derive five material (substantial) elements: ether, air, fire, water and soil.

Thus, the philosophic system sanhya represents the realistic dualism. The origin and existence of the world is understood in it as the process of the interaction of two beginnings – Spirit (Purusha) and Matter (Prakriti), which give rise to different material forms. All of them, excluding Purusha, are contained in the depths of Prakriti. The appearance of the world is the result of the development process.

The understanding of the sense of human life is a very important aspect of sanhya philosophy. It consists in liberating spirit (kaivalya). It isn’t the liberation from slavery, povery, dependence of the powerful people: the social aspect isn’t considered in sanhya philosophy. It means the spiritual liberation of human spirit from the power of ignorance (avidya) and matter.

Ignorance and matter darken the spirit knowledge about its immortality, all-power and freedom. It identifies itself to the lowest elements and principles of matter – body, senses, mind. It is caught by the sensual and intellectual phenomena, joy and sufferings connected with them. Instead of the master, it becomes the servant of its body, its senses and thoughts. Submitted to karma, it has to be numerously born and die, and be born again in order to feel pain and joy, disappointment and loss, joy and pain again and again.

It happens until the spiritual Ego is able to recognize its true essence and its non-identity to body, senses and mind. Then consciousness acquires its original spiritual state, and the transcendent isolation of spirit from the world of matter occurs. This is liberation. Bodily, sensual and intellectual excitements don’t rule over spirit any longer. Spirit is above them like the Sun is above the wavy ocean.

Such a state, as the sanhya followers believed, can be achieved both during the earth life and after physical death. The path of such achievement is the cognition of one’s true spiritual Ego. In Yoga, this cognition is completed by the created practice of spiritual transformation and control over consciousness. This point in accentuated.

Sanhya is concentrated upon cognition of the true essence of things and one’s own spirit. Yoga gives the practice of liberation in which cognition is supported by the corresponding methods of overcoming the obstacles on the path of spirit liberation.

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