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Early Saa.mkhya in the Buddhacarita

Early Saa.mkhya in the Buddhacarita

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Published by Vishnu Arya
Samkhya influence on buddha and budhhism
Samkhya in buddhist litrature.
Samkhya influence on buddha and budhhism
Samkhya in buddhist litrature.

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Published by: Vishnu Arya on Jan 27, 2013
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Early Saa.mkhya in the Buddhacarita
Kent, Stephen A.Philosophy East and WestVol.32:3(July 1982)sP.259-278The University of Hawaii Press(C) by University of Hawaii PressINTRODUCTIONIn the twelth canto of the Buddhacarita (B)(1)A'svagho.sa describes the sage Araa.da's metaphysicalsystem, (2) and provides statements concerning theliberating knowledge that people achieve by workingthrough it. Araa.da's metaphysical system consistsof twenty-five principles, the highest of which isdistinct from the others. Liberating knowledgeinvolves the highest principle "knowing" itsseparation from the other consituents, and thetechnique by which the highest principle realizesthis knowledge is the cultivation of the powers of discrimination.Araa.da's metaphysical system bears strikingresemblances to systems that appear in other textsfrom roughly the same era. For instance, it has suchclose affinities with metaphysical systems in BookTwelve of the Mahaabhaarata(Mbh) , the Mok.sadharma,(3) that the translator of the Buddhacarita, E.H.Johnston, suspects both works have a commonauthority, possibly a text of the little-known
 
Var.saga.nya school.(4)Additional similarities existin certain passages of the Bhagavadgiitaa(Bvg),(5)but the difficulties over dating the latter textmake the question of influence between the twoimpossible to answer with certainty.(6) Another similar metaphysical description is elaborated inthe Indian medical text from the first century c.e.,the Caraka Sa.mhitaa(CS) , (7) and various resem-blances between Araa.da's reputed system, as well asseveral differences, readily can be identified. (8)Finally, several Upani.sads(U), especially the KathaUpani.sad and the 'Svetaa'svatara Upani.sad, containdescriptions of metaphysical systems that resembleAraa.da's.(9)Araa.da's system, along with the systems thatresemble it, often are referred to as forms of "early Saa.mkhya," (10) and therefore a prelude toII'svarak.r.s.na's classical Saa.mkhya(11) system of about the fifth century C.E.(12) Johnston, for instance, speaks in this manner. Franklin Edgerton,in contrast, argues that these so-called earlySaa.mkhya systems within the Bhagavadgiitaa and theMahaabhaarata are but aspects of "Upani.sadicBrahmanism," and do not represent doctrines of adistinctive school of thought.(13) His view,however, cannot explain all relevant passages in theMahaabhaarata, and therefore we must assume that anindependent tradition of nontheism was developingduring this era, and that it occasionally revealsitself in the texts.(14) Nonetheless, Edgerton'sargument has merit when we apply it to theBuddhacarita ¢w the metaphysics of the twelfth canto"are set in a framework which espouses the oldUpani.sadic notions of aatman and brahman." (15) Soit is in the Buddhacarita that Araa.da follows hisdescription of the path of knowledge (saa.mkhya,although he does not use the term itself) with adescription of "another P.260
 
 method [of] the same dharma, " that is, yogictrances. The two descriptions do not disagree over metaphysic, just method.(16) to refer, therefore, tothe metaphysics of the twelfth canto of theBuddhacarita as "early Saa.mkhya" is not to implythat Araa.da's reputed system was among those thatwere beginning to distinguish themselves fromorthodoxy. Our use of the term will be a heuristicone,(17) used to facilitate our efforts in examiningthe metaphysics of the tewlfth canto by bothcomparing them to the later classical Saa.mkhyasystem, and by contrasting them with the Buddhistcriticisms that A'svagho.sa levels throgh Gautama(as the Bodhisattva and the Buddha). When helpful,references will be made to appropriate sections of A'svagho.sa's story of Nanda's conversion, theSaundarananda (S),(18) as well as to passages fromthe Mahaabhaarata, the Bhagavadgiitaa, theYoga-Suutras (YS) (19) and the Upani.sads.A'SVAGHO.SA'S RENDITION OF ARAA.DA'S SAA.MKHYASYSTEMWithin verses 17-42 of the twelfth canto of theBuddhacarita, A'svagho.sa presents Araa.da's earlySaa.mkhya system, and in verses 69-82 offers thebodhisattva's subsequent rejection of it.(Verses43-63 present a means to salvation through trances[dhyaana-s] that actually have a closer affinitywith Buddhist yogic states than with orthodox Indianones, and verses 66-67 state the names of theprevious great sages of what Araa.da considers to bethe joint Saa.mkhya-yoga tradition.)(20)Araa.da's system consists of twenty-five principles(tattva-s) in which a distinction exists between onetattva, aatman(21) or knower of the field(k.setrajnna),(22)and the other twenty-four. Thetwenty-four are further divided into two groups: onegroup of eight called prak.rti(primary matter) and

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